Persona development within the SCA varies from rudimentary to intricately in-depth. For those interested in more fully understanding the historical context of their assumed fictional persona, checklists such as these are a helpful tool to provoke questions, inspire research, and catalogue known information.

I will be continuing to fill out and add to this checklist to better document what I know of the life, upbringing, socio-economic standing, cultural context, and known world of my chosen persona and historical focus: a member of the rural lesser nobility in the Dutch province of Overijssel from roughly 1575-1590. When the question demands a specific year, I will assume 1582 as a set reference.

As such, consider this very much an ongoing work in progress.

    Birth, Family, & Upbringing

  1. What is your name? How did you get it?
    Hugo was named after one of his two godfathers, a member of the ridderschappen from Gelders and a humanist scholar in his own right. The surname “van Harlo” was passed down from his father and grandfathers. It originally described the family’s lordship of the heerlijkheid of Haarlo, a very small village in Gelders some twenty miles east of Zutphen.
  2. Do you have other localized versions of your name when and if you travel?
    In England, he is known as “Hugh Harlowe.” In certain scholarly circles, he is known in Humanist Latin as “Hugonis Harlonii de Daventria,” which is something of a twisting of Latin spelling conventions to fit the names and places of the day (a common practice).
  3. When and where were you born?
    In his family’s primary manor in the countryside of Salland, in the Lordship of Overijssel. I am attempting to date my persona and material goods to the early 1580s, so the historical Hugo’s birthdate will shift. As of 2018, I’m in my mid-thirties, so that would place Hugo’s birth year in the mid-1540s.
  4. Who are your parents?
    Answer outstanding.
  5. Who are or were your grandparents?
    Answer outstanding.
  6. How many generations of your family are you really aware of?
    Answer outstanding.
  7. How important is knowledge of your lineage?
    As a member of the lagere adel, or lesser nobility, proof of one’s noble lineage was exceptionally important, as it was one of the requirements to meet your lawful claim to noble status and the right to sit in the local ridderschapen, (a Low Countries legislative structure – the regional assembly of knights and lords).

    That lineage was generally proven by documenting at least “four quarters of nobility,” that is showing all four grandparents were nobles. However, by the late sixteenth century, that requirement was trending towards a more strict criteria of eight or even sixteen quarters: extending back to a noble’s great and great-great-grandparents.
  8. Any siblings or other close (or important) familial relationships?
    Hugo has a younger sister who took vows and entered a convent, where she is known as a musician of some note.
  9. What was your daily life like as a child? Were you given specific tasks?
    Answer outstanding.
  10. What kind of toys did you have or games did you play?
    Answer outstanding.
  11. Were there distinct stages of childhood acknowledged in your society?
    Answer outstanding.
  12. At what point did you stop being considered a child?
    Answer outstanding.
  13. What important near-contemporary historical events occurred before your birth that you were taught about?
    The long Gelders Wars were a profound influence on Hugo’s parents’ generation, both in the chaos across the countryside and the political changes that came from them.
    In 1528, Bishop Henry of Utrecht sold over his secular powers to Charles V; this divided what was the Prince-Bishopric into the Lordship of Utrecht and the Lordship of Overijssel (the latter home to the larger of the family holdings). Fifteen years later, the 1543 Treaty of Venlo consolidated the Duchy of Geulders and the County of Zutphen in conceding dominion of them to Charles V.
    Finally, Charles V’s attempts to consolidate the government of the fragmented Low Countries through the Burgundian treaty of 1548 and the creation of the “Seventeen Provinces” via the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 paved the way for the first embers of a Dutch national identity.
  14. Have any events made a profound difference in your life growing up (natural disasters, wars, plagues)?
    The early years of Hugo’s life were largely pieceful, but Charles V’s abdication of the thrown and then the subsequent appointment of Cardinal Granvelle as Margret of Parma’s chief advisor in 1559 (when Philip II departed the Low Countries to rule from Spain) set in motion the chaos that would be come the Dutch Revolt.
  15. Marital & Social Status

  16. Are/were you married? To whom?
    For the purposes of mirroring the fictional historical Hugo’s life to my own, the Dutchman is single by virtue of being widowed (while I have never married).
  17. How did you come to be married to this person?
    Answer outstanding.
  18. Is this your first spouse? If not, what happened to your first spouse?
    Answer outstanding.
  19. How is sex outside of marriage viewed? The offspring of such a relationship?
    Answer outstanding.
  20. Do you have a lover who is not your spouse? Have you ever had one?
    Answer outstanding.
  21. What is your (family’s) status, class, or station in society?
    Members of the lesser nobility with small holdings primarily in Overijssel, but also Gelders to the south.
  22. Is this the same as the station or class you were born to?
    Yes.
  23. Is it likely to change in the future?
    Legally, no, but the fortunes and wealth of the nobility were greatly taxes during the period on account of the war.
  24. Are you wealthy, poor?
    Hugo is not wealthy, but neither is he impovershed. While the changing of hands of Deventer and the Spanish garrisons impact his financial interests in the city, he still brings in enough income through the rent of his rural lands to maintain a decent standard of living.
  25. Do you or members of your immediate family hold authority (officially or by influence) over anyone?
    As the lord of a manorial holding, yes.
  26. If so, how did you or your family come by that authority?
    Answer outstanding.
  27. How would you be addressed by non-family members of equal rank? Higher rank? Lower rank?
    Answer outstanding.
  28. Who are your friends or social acquaintances?
    Answer outstanding.
  29. Current Life & Daily Activities

  30. What is your occupation?
    Answer outstanding.
  31. What are your typical weekly tasks?
    Answer outstanding.
  32. Where does your money come from?
    Answer outstanding.
  33. Are you a member of any professional, class-based, or other formal organizations?
    As a member of the gentry and landowner, Hugo is entitled to membership in the ”Sallandse Ridderschap,“ the formal body of nobility in Salland. The Ridderschap sends representatives to vote in the provincial meetings of the Estates and the provincial court, known as the klaring. Information on sixteenth century Dutch sociopolitical terms can be found here.
  34. Where do you currently live? What manner of building (or estate) is it?
    Answer outstanding.
  35. Where do you sleep at night, and what do you sleep on?
    Answer outstanding.
  36. Who owns the house you live in? The land it is on?
    Answer outstanding.
  37. What is your position within the household hierarchy?
    Answer outstanding.
  38. Who lives in your house besides you and your immediate family (e.g. servants, staff, retainers, clergy)?
    Answer outstanding.
  39. How do you keep clean, and how often do you bathe?
    Answer outstanding.
  40. Do you employ anyone?
    Answer outstanding.
  41. What celebrations and festivals are observed?
    Since at least the fifteenth century, the eve of St. Nicholas’ day (5 & 6 of December) has been observed with a large public market, candies & cakes, and the exchanging of gifts, with children getting their shoes filled with goodies (perhaps even in this period brought to children by Sinterklaas himself).

    The rising influence of the Reformed Church may have seen that tradition formally outlawed as a superstitious myth and immoral Papist influence, likewise for the raucous public celebrations of Shrovetide (i.e. Mardi Gras) and Pinkster (Easter Sunday and the following Monday). However, these cultural traditions were hardly stamped out by the law. Across the eastern provinces, Easter Sunday or Monday itself is marked by large bonfires known as paasvuren.
  42. What are the closest big cities or towns?
    Deventer, one of the three major cities of Overijssel along the River Ijssel, is a day’s ride away to the southwest. Groningen – and Emden beyond that – are the large cities to the north. Amderstam and Utrecht are to the southwest, and the German cities of the Rhine are to the southeast.
  43. What nationality of people other than your own are you most likely to come into contact with?
    “Low Germans” from the Rhineland would be the most common foreigner to be seen in times of peace, but given the war, soldiers in the employ of both Habsburg Spain (Spanish, Italians, and Savoyards) and the States-General of the Union of Utrecht (English, Scots, French Hugenots, and Germans from beyond the Rhine).
  44. What meals do you eat, and what is your typical menu?
    Answer outstanding.
  45. What kind of medical care is available to you if you fall sick or injure yourself?
    Answer outstanding.
  46. Local Environment

  47. What is the local terrain and plant-life around where you live?
    Answer outstanding.
  48. What manner of animals are found where you live (livestock, game, or dangerous predators)?
    Answer outstanding.
  49. What are the seasons and local climate like?
    Answer outstanding.
  50. What are the most notable or prominent natural landmarks (rivers, oceans, highlands) and how far away are they?
    Answer outstanding.
  51. What plants are grown in your garden?
    Answer outstanding.
  52. Any distinctive local foods or beverages?
    Varieties of spiced bread known at pepperkoek or ontbijtkoek are popular. Salted herring from the North Sea is widespread, as are many varieties of local cheeses. Beers and the local distilled spirit known as jenever are the most popular drinks.
  53. Government & Warfare

  54. What form of political system do you live under?
    As of 1582, the answer to that is… complicated.
  55. Who or what rules the local area you live in?
    While the du jure answer is ultimately the provincial stadhouder (a position of delegated authority used by the Habsburg nobility – who rules the Seventeen Provinces – to represent and act on behalf of themselves while away in matters of law, order, and executive power), the practical, legislative, and judicial power is exercised by the Provincial Estates. This body is composed of representatives of the three primary IJssel river cities (Deventer, Zwolle, and Kampen) and the “ridderschap,” or local nobility and gentry, of the three rural regions (Twente, Salland, and Vollenhove). As a member of the gentry, Hugo would have had the right to sit on the ridderschap of Salland. From 1577-1580, the stadhouder of Overijssel was Georges van Lalaing, Count of Rennenberg. However, when he betrayed the United Provinces and returned to the Spanish side in 1580, the position appears to have sat vacant until Adolf van Nieuwenaar was appointed in 1584 following the assassination of William of Orange.
  56. Who or what is the highest or ultimate ruler over you?
    By 1582, Francis, the Duke of Anjou (and then Duke of Brabant and Count of Flanders) could be considered Hugo’s highest or ultimate ruler. The French nobleman had made a treaty with the States General as “prince and defender of the Netherlands,” but this does not take into account Overijssel’s complicated relationship with the States General.
  57. What is the name of the highest ranking person you personally know?
    Hugo would have met William, Prince of Orange, on several occasions in a political context (as an Overijssel nobleman) and military (as a captain of an infantry company), but it is debatable whether or not the Prince would consider Hugo someone he “personally” knows in return. Likewise with the former stadhouder of Overijssel, George de Lalaing, Count of Rennenberg. Ultimately, the most powerful man Hugo is in regular contact with is likely to be Eggerik, Vrijheer Ripperda who since 1570 has been the drost (sheriff) of Salland and lieutenant stadhouder of all Overijssel.
  58. What is the heraldry of your ruler? Your local lord?
    The arms of the powerful Ripperda family are “Sable, mounted on a horse rampant, a knight maintaining a sword Or”
  59. What obligations are owed to you by those in authority, and you to them?
    Answer outstanding.
  60. What kind of legal system exists, and who make the laws?
    Answer outstanding.
  61. What is the punishment for lawbreakers?
    Answer outstanding.
  62. Who are your neighbors? Who rules them, and are you allies or enemies?
    Answer outstanding.
  63. Have you fought in war or are under a military obligation?
    Answer outstanding.
  64. Who taught you to fight?
    Answer outstanding.
  65. What armor and weapons do your people use? Do you personally use?
    Answer outstanding.
  66. How do people of your time & place get weapons and armor?
    Answer outstanding.
  67. Education & the Known World

  68. How were you educated (formally, informally, a mix of both)?
    Hugo would have been first educated by a private tutor or, if his gentry family couldn’t afford it, at Deventer’s well-known Latin School, then sent to University. Depending on his family’s religious disposition at this time, that university would have been dependent on their confession: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed (Calvinist). However, as a member of the gentry – and a rural one at that – it is not likely that Hugo would have stayed long or graduated from university.
  69. What is your level of education compared to those around you?
    Answer outstanding.
  70. What is your native language?
    The eastern provinces of what became the United Provinces spoke Low Saxon – a Germanic dialect different than the Burgundian-Brabanter-Hollander variety that became modern Dutch. Although in modern times there has become a distinct difference between Dutch Low Saxon and German Low Saxon (i.e. Low German) due to the past several hundred years of linguistic development courtesy of the international border, in the late 16th Century, Hugo could have conversed with people from Munster, Bremen, or Hamburg just fine.
  71. What other languages do you know?
    Owing to his Latin school early education and his upbringing amongst other members of the low and high nobility, Hugo would have have been able to speak and write in Latin, Hollander Dutch, Low German, and likely the dialect of French used by Flemish nobles (e.g. William of Orange). English and/or other German dialects are a likely possibility, as well.
  72. Can you read and write?
    Yes. Latin and varieties of Flemish-Hollander Dutch and Dutch Low Saxon (although spelling would have been inconsistent). Perhaps French, as well.
  73. If so, what books, poems, tales, have you read or are popular?
    Answer outstanding.
  74. What do you know about history?
    Answer outstanding.
  75. Who are the heroes (contemporary, historical, or legendary) of your culture?
    Answer outstanding.
  76. Who are the most famous people of your day and age?
    Answer outstanding.
  77. What do you know about geography?
    Answer outstanding.
  78. What is the most distant country you have heard of? The most distant country you have met someone from?
    Answer outstanding.
  79. What “mythological” beasts, monsters, or supernatural beings do you know about or believe in?
    Answer outstanding.
  80. Religion & Worldview

  81. What is your religion?
    The majority of Overijssel’s nobility and rural population at this time were moderate Roman Catholics (that is, not members of the pro-Spain or ultra-Catholic factions). That said, there was a growing population of crypto-Protestants that slowly began to grow in influence. However, the 1580 defection of the Catholic Walloon stadhouder Count Rennenberg to the Royalist side proved to be something of a religio-political tipping point. By the middle of the decade, political power was firmly in the hands of the hardline Calvinist faction, and so more and more nobles began to convert. It is likely that Hugo would have been one of the moderates who – if he had not already as part of his military participation in the Revolt – would have become publicly Reformed during this period.
  82. What objects do you have in your house or on your person that are connected to your religious beliefs?
    It is up for debate whether the private chapels in his rural manors would have remained equiped as Roman Catholic items or if, as a part of the conversion to the Reformed religion in private and then public, he would have stripped the art and whitewashed the walls.
    He would have owned a copy of the Latin Vulgate as well as Jacob van Liesveldt’s Dutch translation of the “Luther” Bible. It is also highly appropriate that he would have had a copy of the recent 1580 translation of the Psalms by Philip van Marnix – something he likely carried with his person.
  83. Does everyone around you practice the same religion?
    Answer outstanding.
  84. What church/religious space is closest to your house?
    The van Harlo’s manors would have attached private chapels of their own.
  85. Who is your religious leader/advisor?
    Answer outstanding.
  86. Who is the head of your religion, if any?
    Answer outstanding.
  87. Have you ever gone on a pilgrimage? If not, would you?
    Answer outstanding.
  88. Who is currently Pope?
    In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII is the Bishop of Rome.
  89. Who rules in Jerusalem?
    As of the early 1580s, the Ottomans have ruled the Holy Land for over sixty years. Jerusalem is fiefdom of their emperor, Murad III.
  90. What superstitions are common to your culture?
    Answer outstanding.
  91. When you die, what are the common funerary rites and mourning habits of your culture?
    Answer outstanding.
  92. Goods, Services, & Entertainment

  93. What is the local system of money?
    Answer outstanding.
  94. What other currencies or systems of trade/commerce do you use?
    Answer outstanding.
  95. How much do a pair of shoes cost?
    Answer outstanding.
  96. How much would an artisan make in a year?
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  97. What spices do you use? Are they imported? Are they expensive?
    Answer outstanding.
  98. What utensils and tableware do you use?
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  99. What kinds of table or card games do your people play?
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  100. What kinds of physical games do your people play?
    Answer outstanding.
  101. What entertainments are available to you?
    Answer outstanding.
  102. Do you provide entertainment for others? How?
    Answer outstanding.
  103. Measurement & Systems

  104. What units of measurement do you use for distance, length, and weight?
    Answer outstanding.
  105. How do you travel?
    Answer outstanding.
  106. What calendar do you use?
    Answer outstanding.
  107. By what method do you reckon the time of day?
    Answer outstanding.