Knightly News — The Immortal Black Duke

The November 5 settee class witnessed a pair of unusual events.   On Thursday afternoon two knights were earled and then, one of them was duked.  To be earled a knight must have completed all courses taught at The Institute.  It was no more than an unusual coincidence  that the November 5 settee class was the final one for both Sirs Tony Passarelli and Gordon Keller.  That Lord Gordon would go on after to be duked was truly exceptional. 

As regular readers remember from my October 31 posting,  dukes have to help teach a sack back class.  Therefore, sack back classes typically witness dukings, not advanced classes.  His Grace Gordon was able to accomplish a duel earling/duking by virtue of a special dispensation granted by the College of Dukes.  The college granted that he could teach prior to his duking, as this would spare him an additional cross country flight. H.G. Gordon lives on the west coast. He  was here early last summer for the rocking chair class and  stayed on in Hampton for an additional week to help teach the first July sack back. 

The ceremony began with the candidates, the Honor Cordon, and the court assembling upstairs in The Institute’s library.  Dressed in full piper regalia and playing The Institute’s hymn “All Hail to Thee Windsor,” Sir Fred Chellis led the  Cordon down the staircase.  Headed by His Grace Don Harper, the Cordon formed at the band saw, while Sir Fred advanced to his place at the left of the throne.  

Dressed as the King of Windsor I descended next, while the Keeper of the Privy Seal played my theme music “If I Were King of the Forest.”   When  I came into view on the stairs I greeted the assembled multitude of peasants with the special wave taught to me by the crowned heads of Europe.  The peasants (who up to then had been the settee class) began to guffaw at seeing me dressed in my purple cape and glitter covered cardboard crown, carrying my scepter and the Royal Curly Maple Spoke shave crossed over my chest.    However, a stern glance returned them to proper decorum.

I assumed the throne (the Nantucket fan back from the showroom) and signaled for the Keeper to play the earls theme, Speedo by the Cadillacs.   Earl candidate Tony descended to this lively dance tune.  As he approached the throne he was carried away by the music and began to dance.  After a bit, he beckoned to his wife Yvonne, who joined him.  The couple was having so much fun I arose from the throne, and in an activity admittedly undignified for a king, joined them in bopping to the song.

Meanwhile, Candidate Gordon remained on the landing waiting for Speedo to begin a second time, as this was his cue to descend.  He certainly must have wondered what had tied up the ceremony.  At last, his time came and he too descended.  He joined Tony in kneeling before their liege, the King of Windsor.

At this juncture I called the court and the assembled  multitude to attention by loudly declaring “A Royal Proclamation.”  I then read the proclamation which elevated Lord Gordon as the 27th Earl of Windsor and Lord Tony the 28th.   The proclamations bestowed “upon said Earl all the rights, privileges, dignities, and honors appertaining to this  rank.”   I further placed said Earl “in dominion over, and in command of  any and all Knights of Windsor who are, or may come under his protection and suzerainty.”  I further pledged said Earl “to protect, sustain, and defend all and any said Knights.”  Then, I did “instruct, commend, and obligate all said Knights to pledge to said Earl their loyalty, fief, and devotion.” 

Next, I dubbed Lords Gordon and Tony with the Giant Spoke Shave,  a huge ceremonial wooden shave  25 inches long and 3 ¼ inches wide.  I always pretend to test the wooden blade with my thumb and comment that if provoked, I could position that shave so as to remove  most of an ear.  As I dubbed the two earls I invoked the blessing, “May your chairs stand forever, and may Shaker chairmakers always tremble at the sound of your name.” 

Next, I placed on them the badge of honor, suspended around the neck by a red ribbon.  The badge is the same as the Wizard of Oz gave the Cowardly Lion.  It bears in bold letters the word “COURAGE.”  I then gave them the final accoutrement, the plastic shield of an Earl of Windsor.  

This brought us to the moment so favored and anticipated by the Assembled Multitude.  Being mere peasants, they love crude sport.  The Long Kiss gives them one last  opportunity to torment their betters before they are elevated to a new level of dignity.  To perform the Long Kiss the candidate places his lips on the gaudy red bauble – the big glass ring on my left hand.  The rules are that the candidate’s lips must maintain contact with the bauble until all present have taken as many photos as they wish.   

Lord Gordon’s Long Kiss was reasonably uneventful.  However, Lord Tony’s wife is a photographer.  She was prepared to get lots of pictures, and drew out the ceremony’s conclusion. To top it off, a wag in the Assembled Multitude had hidden an electronic whoopee cushion somewhere under the bench nearest the kneeling Lord Tony, and activated the remote during his Long Kiss.   The sound of a loud imitation flatus sent Lord Tony into a fit of giggles.  This caused him for the first time in Royal Orders history, to break contact with the bauble.   According to the rubric, he started all over again, only to have our anonymous comedian again activate his hidden device.  Before he was done, Lord Tony broke contact five times.  When I called for the thumbs up vote for mercy all thumbs turned immediately up.  Everyone wanted to beat the wag’s finger, and bring the long and torturous Kiss to an end.   

Following the earling, Lord Tony joined the Cordon. Meanwhile, Lord Gordon went upstairs to prepare for his duking.  As a duke candidate, he descended to the dukes theme Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler.  When I read the proclamation, I not only proclaimed him His Grace Gordon, I bestowed on him the additional title of the “Immortal Black Duke.  His Grace Ed Fisher is the only other duke to be honored with a title. 

 Like everything else at The Windsor Institute, H. G. Gordon’s title has a story.  At his knighthood class His Grace was knighted along with a fellow chairmaker.  This man is the most kind, the most gentle, most pure of all the knights.  In his purity, we have to compare him to Sir Galahad of Arthur’s Court and the Round Table.  In fact, to protect his identity from the shame associated with this story, we shall call him Galahad.  

The only clue I shall give is that besides being a Knight of Windsor, Sir Galahad is one of the two living members of the Royal Orders also in the Chairmakers Hall of Fame.  The select group in the Hall are known as the Immortals, and we honor them for their innovations, which make chairmaking easier.  We recognize each of them as “a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well being of his/her fellow chairmakers.”  This is the exalted nature of Sir Galahad’s noble, and  unsullied character.   

The evening after their knighting, Sir Gordon invited Sir Galahad to Widow Fletcher’s restaurant to share a celebratory dinner together. There, Sir Gordon introduced the noble and pure Galahad to single malt scotch.  Like W.C. Field’s son Chester in The Fatal Glass of Beer, the taste of single malt scotch pleased Galahad’s  palate.  As the fiendish Sir Gordon twirled his mustache in ignoble delight, Galahad was unable to stop, and consumed more than prudent.  He certainly consumed more than a spirit and character so pure and so unsullied could tolerate.    

The next day, our beloved Sir Galahad suffered terribly from the affects of his night on the town with Sir Gordon.  His youthful and ruddy complexion was pallid, and even a bit gray. On Friday, he struggled to stay awake and to complete his chair. Sir Gordon, long ago having built up an immunity to the effects of strong drink, remained his normal self.  

Sir Gordon came to be called the “Black Knight” by those who had witnessed his shameless corruption of the pure and decent Galahad.  His classmates probably would have called him Voldermort, but the name was already taken.  As for Galahad, someone matching his description was recently spotted sprawled in a gutter in Richmond, VA clutching a nearly empty bottle of Ripple.  

However much of a blaggard Sir Gordon may have revealed himself to be in his corruption of Galahad, like Severus Snape, he has an heroic side.  This past summer Sir Gordon, the Black Knight was also inducted as a member of the Chairmakers Hall of Fame for his innovation Keller’s Colors.  By inducting him, The Board of Trustees recognized him too, as “a humanitarian, a philanthropist, and a chairmaker concerned with the well being of his/her fellow chairmakers.” The Trustees tacitly recommended all chairmakers to emulate Sir Gordon.  

His Grace’s complex personality incorporates  this impenetrable conflict, and it is  this contradiction that is recognized by his title.  For being capable of corrupting a noble and pure knight and fellow Immortal,  he is called the Black Duke.  For being so noble as to make chairmaking easier for his fellow chairmakers, he is in the Hall of Fame and one of the Immortals.  Thus, His Grace is now, and forever to be known, as the Immortal Black Duke.  

Following His Grace’s duking he posed for the official photos of him with his sovereign, and together with the entire court.  Finally,   His Grace Gordon Keller, the Immortal Black Duke of Windsor joined Lord Tony in sharing his cake with the assembled multitude.  The ceremony was indeed a rare and noteworthy event.

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