Rank in the SCA, or Who are those people wearing crowns?
The SCA has an elaborate system of rank, awards, and honors to reward participants' accomplishments and service to the Society. Everyone is presumed to be minor nobility when they join the SCA, but any noble titles or honors used in the SCA must be earned in the SCA. These honors are bestowed by the King and Queen during their Royal Courts. You will find that the SCA's system of rank differs rather radically from that of Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Like many of the SCA's institutions, our system of rank wasn't so much planned as evolved.
The people wearing crowns are the reigning Kings and Queens. The heirs to the kingdom, the Prince and Princess, wear coronets which are usually a little less elaborate. In principalities, the reigning Prince and Princess wear coronets, as do their heirs.
After departing the thrones, former royalty become Royal Peers: Viscounts and Viscountesses (those who ruled principalities), Counts and Countesses (those who have reigned once as King or Queen), and Dukes and Duchesses (those who have reigned twice or more as King or Queen). The different Royal Peers are entitled to wear coronets in a specific style.
Another group of people entitled to wear coronets are Barons and Baronesses. They may be in charge of a Barony, or may have simply received the title of Court Baron (or Baroness) as a reward from the royalty.
Bestowed Peers are those who, through talent, hard work, and long effort, have earned recognition for their contributions and skills. There are three of these peerage orders. Companions of the Order of Chivalry are Knights and Masters-at-Arms, fighters who have achieved great skill on the tourney field and are considered by the other members of the Chivalry to be models of prowess, chivalry, and honor. Companions of the Order of the Laurel are craftsmen and artisans recognized for their research and skill in crafts practiced during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and their willingness to teach those skills to others. Companions of Order of the Pelican are those whose service has made a great difference to the SCA. Companions include those who have run Society-wide publications, organized our largest events, held kingdom offices, and managed complicated finances.
The above ranks are common to all the SCA Kingdoms. Each kingdom also has its own set of awards and honors that can be given to reward a variety of skills, efforts, and achievements.