The following article was written by Her Majesty Avelina as part of the Gazette’s ongoing “How to…” series.
One question that people often have is how to help the Royalty. How do become a retainer? What do I need to do?
A great place to start is to check www.eastkingdom.org and see if Their Majesties or Their Highnesses have a website. It has become almost standard practice in the East that each set of Royalty has a website about themselves and their needs and wishes. If they have a staff page, look for contact information for a Chief of Staff or a Head Retainer. Those are two great people to start with. When you contact them, include your name, contact information and the type of service you would like to offer. The person managing retainers will often have some type of electronic media group that they will add you to to help coordinate staff. This could be a Yahoogroup or a Facebook group, or maybe even a mailing list.
What to do before an event as Retainer
If you have been scheduled as a retainer, check out the event and the weather at the event ahead of time. The Royalty rarely have the same flexibility as the rest of the members of the SCA, and the show must go on for them. Things to consider is the type of event. Is it indoors? Is it outdoors? If it is outdoors, will there be a lot of walking? Will you be out in the sun or the rain? Make sure you have packed good walking shoes and sunscreen or clothes that will do okay in the rain for yourself. As far as retaining supplies are concerned, check with the head retainer before the event to see if the Royalty have a retainer bag or basket that gets passed from shift to shift. This usually contains the items the Royalty will need throughout the day. If there is no specific bag or basket, the head retainer should let you know what you need to bring with you. It is a good idea to note if any of the Royals have a food allergy or severe food dislike in case you have to get day board for your Royal.
What to do as a Retainer
Retaining is not always a glamorous job, but it is necessary job. Ideally, two retainers would be on at any given time. This allows one of the retainers to run an errand for the Royal or go to the rest room if needed and not leave the Royal alone. When you get to the event you are scheduled to retain at, as soon as you get settled or unpacked, you should find the head retainer for the day and let them know you are on site. This person might be the head retainer listed on the website, or a designate for the day.
Your duties as retainer will vary depending on the type of event, but, in general, it is a whole lot of following the Royalty and being quiet and unobtrusive. Be available if the Royalty need their drink, but if it appears that they are having a private conversation, be respectful and give them space. As a retainer, you also need to help keep the Royalty on time, so do be aware of any meetings or appointments that they may have. From time to time, the Royalty may ask you to make a note of something – a gift, contact information or a reminder to do something when they get home. That should go in the notebook in the retainer bag or basket.
When Retainers are most needed
There are times when retainers are most needed that not many people realize. Load in and load out at events are critical times. When the Royalty arrive, there are often a variety of boxes that need to be unloaded and brought various places. The Royalty may have other things that need to be set up. That could be meeting space or the pavilion or what have you. Most people don’t think of this, but retainers are also needed during feast. It is okay to be on-board and be a retainer at the same time. Make sure you are seated at a table that has a good view of high table so if your Royal needs any thing, they can make eye contact with you or signal for you to come over. Retainers at the end of an event are important as well. The Royals often get caught up in conversations and are in a crunch for time to get out before the site closes. Some Royalty will want to pack their own containers, but having folks around to take the bags and boxes out to the vehicle when they are ready to go is always appreciated.
Each Royalty will have different needs and come from different sized personal households. When the Royalty are attending an event that is local to them or their household, they may find themselves with plenty of retainers. The Royalty will have more need of retainers the further they travel from their home base, so, don’t be afraid to offer to retain if you live in one of those areas.