A short history of Michael of Boarshaven
By Master Brusten de Bearsul OL OP
Michael of Boarshaven had been in the SCA for about 16 months when he won the Crown Tournament. He was squired to Sir Merowald shortly after he joined the SCA, with the understanding on all parts that should Polidore Haraldsson be knighted, Michael would transfer to be Polidore's squire. When King Dagan knighted Polidore , Michael was duly transferred to Polidore, but both retained their memberships in House Sylveaston although they left Merowald's immediate household. This left the author of this history (Brusten) as the senior squire to Merowald.
Michael had fought in 2 crown tournaments before winning the third he entered. Since he was putting himself though school as a full time student by working full time as a security guard, and part time as a bar bouncer, he was not widely known in the SCA, as he rarely traveled outside his home group of WurmWald. He was a competent brewer and a good armorer, but was lacking in most of the more gentle arts practiced at the time. In order to make up in part for his lack of knowledge of the arts, he had asked to fight for the kingdom Mistress of Arts, Zarina, who had agreed to be his queen if he won.
Michael was using a shield that was for the time considered very large (22 inch wide by 42 inch long, and dished about 4 inches) when he won the crown, which caused some resentment amongst those using the then standard 24 inch round shields. In fact, at least 4 WurmWald fighters were using that shield design, but Michael (a non-belt) won, defeating several belted fighters in the list. In at least one fight, Michael had dropped, admitting defeat, when his opponent told him get up, the blow was flat and shouldn't be counted. This was later used by his enemies as proof Michael was not acknowledging blows and won crown by cheating. Michael won crown by being the best fighter that day, (with the best equipment, it's true, but built by himself as most fighters armor was built by the individual fighters at that time in SCA history).
Michael did not get along well with King Rolac while he was Crown Prince, in part because Michael had broken up with a lady in WurmWald who then started dating Rolac's squire, Coley Cuthbert. Michael's girlfriend problems in fact were to contribute to many of his problems. Rolac's refusal to allow Michael to fight at Pennsic 4 further poisoned their relationship. (By the war rules, there was 1 point for winning the battle, and 1 point each for killing the opposing King and Prince. Rolac didn't want to risk Michael's point, so he ordered him to retreat from the field, which didn't count as a death, immediately after the battles started. This didn't go over well with Michael).
Between Pennsic and Michael's coronation, the warehouse Michael was guarding was broken into, and Michael was beaten so severely when found he was at first believed to be dead. He was in a coma for 6 days, and when he regained consciousness had no memory of the assault or the week before it. 1
At Rolac's last court, Rolac knighted his squire Coley immediately before Michael came forward to claim the throne, without telling Michael in advance he was going to do so. Rolac then left court singing "Parcel of Rogues in a Nation", a Steel-Eye Span song which slammed the crown of Scotland for selling out to England, which was probably the most insulting act to a new crown I have seen in my time in the SCA. Rolac then refused to swear fealty to the crown as is required of the knights. Michael forbade Rolac to fight at any Midrealm event until and unless he swore fealty. As any fighter must be acceptable to the crown to enter the list, Michael was entirely within his rights when he did so.
Lady Fern de la Foret became the first woman to authorize to fight in the Middle Kingdom in November at an event in Northwoods, after fighting Michael for her authorization fights. The fact that Michael supported the right of women to fight had been another sore point with Rolac, as Rolac was extremely opposed to the idea of women fighting. 2
Michael had hoped Zarina would be an exemplar of the arts, as she had been Kingdom Minister of Arts, in which position she had written the first MOA’s handbook, a several-hundred-page work. She was also, as Kingdom leader (Noyon–Khan) of the Dark Horde, in a unique position to create and support a reign. But her relationship with Michael soured early in their tenure as Prince and Princess, and her early cooperation in the reign became less and less possible. She did reign later with great credit, with Master Moonwulf. There were numerous troubles between the monarchs, culminating in Zarina's abdication at the Festival of Maidens in WurmWald, on January 31, 1976. The last item of business at the court before Zarina announced her abdication was an AoA given to Brusten de Bearsul called Boarsbane, which scroll featured amongst other decorations a Boar with an axe in its head.3
At the St. Valentine's Day event in Three Hills in Michael's reign, Rolac appeared (he had skipped most events up to then in Michael's reign) and fought. When Polidore, who was attending and was to hold court that night as Michael's regent, attempted to forbid Rolac from fighting per the orders of the King, all the remaining Chivalry supported Rolac and allowed him to fight. They did so in violation of the rules of the list of the SCA, which gave the King the authority to ban anyone from fighting, as Michael had banned Rolac. 4 Michael was extremely irate at this treason by the Order of Chivalry, and abdicated the next month, fittingly on the Ides of March. 5
Much has been made of the "fact" that Michael in a fit of anger destroyed the King's throne and bent the crown so badly some of the jewels popped out. Unfortunately for the rumormongers, Michael normally left the throne, crown, and other regalia in the trunk of his car, and the week he abdicated his car was rear-ended causing the damage to the regalia.
Michael was not a good king, but he was far from the worst king the Midrealm has ever had. He was blunt, without the political savvy or social skills of his enemies, but was unwilling to be a figurehead for others who wanted to be the powers behind the throne. His reputation has suffered greatly, as he left the SCA and his enemies remained to write the histories. Still, some of his legacy remains to this day. He was the first monarch to institute an invitation-only crown list, and the first to authorize women to fight in the list. He was the first monarch to experiment with combat archery and siege weapons in melee combat, although all such experiments ended with his abdication and it was many years before either activity returned to the Midrealm. He banned the use of hardwood in spears and mace handles, and despite the howls of outrage the ban initially brought forth hardwood shafts have never again been allowed in weapons on the list.
1). I believe he sustained brain damage in the beating, as he was never the same after. I know the doctors determined he was suffering from traumatic amnesia which is one of the prime symptoms of organic brain damage. I don't remember a single pun after he was assaulted, and bad puns were a near constant with him before it.
2) When Lady Fern authorized (or qualified, as it was termed in those days) she was fighting for me. I had fought earlier in the day, but (at Fern’s request) I had disarmed when she authorized, and was watching from the edge of the list as she fought the rest of the day, attempting to spin with a drop spindle.
3) I have sometimes claimed that the reason she abdicated was remorse over the realization that they had just given an AoA to me, and that Michael abdicated a month and a half later because he was a little slow realizing what they had done. The "Boarsbane" on my AoA comes from Rolac giving me the name "Boarsbane" along with a Boars head medallion at the war maneuvers at Withermoor before Pennsic 4. It remains, I think, the only augmentation of device ever given because, while I had been squire to a reigning king (Merowald), deputy to the Dragon Herald, and was deputy Kingdom Chronicler at the time I had never been given an AoA.)
4) I do not know how they managed to reconcile this with their oaths of fealty to the Crown.
5) The procedures laid down in Kingdom Law at the time said that the next tournament listed in the Pale should become a crown list, with the winner of it to be crowned immediately. The winner would serve as King until the scheduled coronation of the existing Crown Prince and Princess. This law was not followed due to the short time remaining until Coronation on May 8th; instead the Crown Prince and Princess reigned as sovereigns until their scheduled coronations. Had the law been followed, Aldric Northmark, who won the next tournament held in the Midrealm, would have been King from March 22 to May 8th, with Annora de Sylveaston as his Queen.