medieval moments in the modern world, and reveal just how medieval we still are sometimes, so this is my little contribution to that discussion - in the funny vein. Miss E and Miss I were asked to bear the crowns for the Homecoming King and Queen at the football game yesterday afternoon. (Actually, Mister O was asked, too, but recused himself, citing "too many eyes" upon him - he is, as I write this, working out a spy communication code for he and his best friend, so that all makes perfect sense.) The girls jumped at the chance and you see them here moments before the crowning, Miss E in ambitious expectation (she had just said to me "For the queen to get her crown, she'll have to kneel before me" - yikes!), and Miss I in total preparedness (the sunglasses, I was told, was to make sure her vision was "sharp" for her to find the king to crown). And behind them is this crowd of football go-ers (a peoples I know exist, but am always stunned to find out exist in such numbers), and before them, was the court assembling - six young men and six young women, all of whom have done really good things (one young woman had worked with orphans in Ecuador) and want to do more really good things (oh please, oh please, do).
What we might call "deep" medieval in American popular culture are those events that are not even recognized as medieval - they just are. You just crown a Homecoming King and Queen, that's all there is to it. And, actually, if I were a better medievalist/art historian, I could tell you the iconography of those crowns: when modern medieval queens started sporting tiaras, and why the guys always have to wear those fur-trimmed numbers. As with most of these events, I'd have to look to the 19th century as well. I also love the idea of a court: Camelot! and someday will get a student who wants to research how JFK's court obtained the title. Homecoming itself, of course, is a late 19th-century tradition, inviting alums and former members of the community back - is this part of the reason it went medieval? Medieval being such a signifier of nostalgia on college campuses (nostalgia for what is where it gets interesting: a company of valiant companions, for starters, but there's wonderful more). That the court would be voted on by college students was also an earliest tradition. I love "medieval democracy" - my favorite being the young woman at the ticket booth at Medieval Times who told me: "For $10, you can upgrade to royalty." Best medieval-modern ever. Back to the game: was medieval the format chosen because it could accommodate both genders? Was a Roman Senate too male? There were plenty of single-gender Homecoming courts until schools became co-ed, so that's not the answer. Was a Greek array of deities too close to the Greek fraternity and sorority systems emerging? Was anything else (Norse gods?) too ethnically specific? Renaissance and Enlightenment courts too problematic, rigid? What were those first 19th-century discussions that, in some long weird way, resulted in my daughters walking crowns out to the middle of a football field? It's a strange and harmless tradition (and there's a place for those!), and I like to think about it. Meanwhile, the girls had a blast and are looking to crown other people - come over!