The main use of titles in the Midrealms is to specify where someone is on the social hierarchy that rules everything. Mainly this revolves around Houses and their ranks that have their records kept by the Family Register, but the Church of Rahn also hands out accolades and land to prominent members.
In relation to Medieval Europe
The Midrealms in Hökaland employs bastard feudalism that has grown up through the history of the world primarily influenced by the events of the Warlock Wars and their aftermath. The Family Register started as a helping organisation and has turned into a guiding hand with a slightly higher social movements up to and down from gentry.
An interesting difference between the system in the Midrealms and neighbouring realms (the Northrealms and Southrealms) is the culture and heraldic rule set that grew out of wars a long time ago. The more or less independent Family Register keeps track of lineages and rights, but because how it came about, it also opens up for low-ranking people to rise to nobility through noble actions (armed ones). Current houses then have to weigh the possibility of ignoring these rules, but since their house also started with glorious combat (or fortuitous trading), it would invalidate their own claim to power, which may lead to internal uprising or others ganging up on them.
So in a world of conflict, many things hinge on this mutual trust/distrust, and is not dissimilar to non-physical (or even some physical) currency exchange of the modern world. At the same time it is an unspoken promise of reward for good work, which is a lie most of the time (not unlike the American Dream or the thoughts behind people who buy lottery tickets), as very few actually do lift themselves out of villeinhood.
Areas of Influence
A person can be of a particular title without lands. Some wealthy merchants who officially and strongly ally themselves with a noble house may be risen above citizen/esquire to a higher noble rank. In many cases they skip the rank of Knight and jump up further, depending on the support the noble house has received. As such, a wealthy merchant can essentially buy his family into nobility.
Generally, higher ranks means the Duke or Royal family granting the title will allocate land for the new noble. Great deeds by nobles can also grant them higher ranks and more land. A noble family above Peer Knight rarely goes without a physical reward as well for long. The areas of influence granted by higher nobility are as follows:
- Villeinhold - The house and land of a non-free man working for his upkeep. Lords own many of these.
- Freehold - Sometimes called Freemanhold, this is usually a little larger house and fields owned by a Freeman that has sworn allegiance to a noble family.
- Smallhold (small) - Knights as well as Peer Knights often get a small Smallhold, little more than a farm and some supporting lands. Sometimes it includes a number of Villeinholds and can have Freeholds associated with it. Sworn allegiance
- Smallhold (large) - Very unlucky Baronets and average Peer Knights can be granted a larger Smallhold and a number of Villeinholds. There are often Freeholds associated with Smallhold.
- Estate - A word with varying meaning. Can mean a smallhold for a Firstknight but more often refers to a large house, a smaller fortification, up to a very large house. An estate usually accompany other privileges for slightly higher nobility (Baronet and up), but technically even a small, owned, house is an "estate".
- Tithing - Administrative unit rather than geological. A tenth of a Herad/Hundred.
- Thorpe - Somewhat lucky Peer Knights and very unlucky Baronets can be given the ownership and additional title of Mayor to a Thorpe and surrounding Villeinholds/Freeholds (Freeholds are of course not owned though!). Usually this includes a little larger at last slightly fortified building or a tower to reside in.
- Hamlet - Lucky Peer Knights and unlucky Baronets can be given charge over a slightly larger settlement and surrounding areas.
- Village - Baronets and very unlucky Barons can be given charge over noticeable settlements and accompanying lands.
- Herad/Hundred - Area smaller than a province, originally including around a hundred homesteads. Roughly equivalent to one or a few villages.
- Town - Towns have charters and more rights than smaller settlements, which includes small markets. Very lucky Baronets and average Barons can be given charge of a town. If they are more influential it could mean ownership of (as well as Mayordom) or perhaps only being Mayor in service of a more powerful lord. In the latter case the title usually includes actual lands, a small Estate.
- Stronghold - A fort/castle of meaningful size. Not always in direct connection with nearby villages or towns, but in control of one or a few hundreds or even the centre of a province. Held by Baronets, Barons or Viscounts.
- Province - A smaller area that is part of a County. A province has a number of Herads/Hundreds in it. Held by Barons and Viscounts.
- City - A very large settlement, usually also the power centre of a County. Can also be granted Mayordom. Held by Barons, Viscounts or controlled by County leader.
- County - A large part of a Kingdom, whith a few Provinces and many Hundreds. A variety of Lords as subjects and tens of thousands of people. Counts, Dukes, Archdukes and Princes hold these.
- Kingdom - The ultimate power as Kings, containing ALL subjects. All of which are subjected to the King, regardless of internal allegiances. Of course that is sometimes easier said than done.
Please note that all individuals of a Kingdom will swear allegiance to the King first and local lord(s) second. However, often the allegiance is stronger to the local lords.
The gender denomination is based on who most often holds the main title. Women can and do hold primary titles at a higher frequently than in Medieval Europe.
Order of Precedence
People of the nobility, also known as gentry, of different Houses belong to a hierarchy based on power, standing and relation to other Houses. Ultimately, the Family Register is the final arbiter of who is right and wrong, and they have earned this power through constant attention to precisely this one task. Everyone simply trusts them in a world where almost nothing can be trusted.
In essence, everyone is part of "the gentry", insomuch it is seen as the system itself. However, people of the lower social classes are not considered "of the gentry" or "of nobility".
Inheritance generally works in the same way for all people of all standings, it is a mainly primogeniture patrilineal inheritance but when no male member can be found, the female child is acceptable. In addition, the head of the family (which can be a female) can adopt willing individuals into the family (though it's rare this is done with adults) who lose their own family and gains the new one. This can be done to ensure the survival of a House or just to ensure other heirs do not inherit.
The heads of a family also have the opportunity to decide who gets what inheritance. A prioritisation order akin to the inheritence described below is usually applied, but "favourite children" can inherit more or less of monetary gains or land.
One difference between European Medieval Kingdoms is that it is quite specified how and when a woman can rule and it happens a little bit more frequently than in Europe, but not by a large margin. The reason for this is that these families suffer less from inbreeding and generally have larger families which in turn makes it more unlikely that the heir would be female. Though it does happen, and while there are social norms that look down upon it, it is seen as an acceptable necessity.
Regardless of the rank of a couple's child, for every social status from freeman and above, similar rules apply. This is much more important when this is inheritance includes a title, but it applies to general citizen rights, land and monetary items as well. First it is important to you determine the Head of the family (or House), which is the person with the higher social standing. This is most commonly the male, but can be a woman.
This is the prioritisation of inheritance:
- The spouse (until death or passing on the inheritance)
- Oldest male child of the couple.
- Second oldest male child.
- And so on.
- Oldest female child of the couple.
- Second oldest female child.
- And so on.
- Oldest male child of the couple's parents (sibling of the Head).
- Second oldest male sibling of the couple's parents.
- And so on.
- Oldest female child of the couple's parents.
- Second oldest male sibling of the couple's parents.
- And so on.
If any child of the previous couple was survived by children themselves, the same order is applied to them before moving another step up the family tree, applying the same method where male children have priority over female children. If no heir is found, the House or Estate has ceased to exist. If it had vassal Houses, these take over the titles and lands. This can be done through an election in the council or (more commonly) a small civil war or at least show of power in the Court. If it was a more common family, the Royal House takes over the titles, deeds, lands and monetary possessions.
Order of Precedence - Summary
|King*||Queen*||Majesty||Leader of House & Kingdom|
|Prince||Princess||Highness||Possible heir to House & Kingdom|
|Duke||Duchess||Grace||Royal family (extended) or given|
|Marquess||Marchioness||Lord/Lady||Border houses (more important)|
|Count||Countess||Lord/Lady||Leader of a county|
|Viscount||Viscountess||Lord/Lady||Good province, small county and/or city|
|Castellan/Captain||Sir/Dame/Title||Captain of guard|
|Peer/Hereditary Knight**||Sir/Dame||Low nobility - Estate/village|
|Squire**||Mr/Mrs/Ms||Servants of Knights|
|Esquire||Esquire/Sir/Dame||Gentry person such as a third son or daughter|
|Freeman/Franklin/Citizen||Mr/Mrs/Ms||Land owner ranked below gentry|
|Villein||Given name||An unfree man working the land|
|Cotter||Given name||An unfree man with no land|
|Slave||First name/"slave"||An owned person with no rights|
|* Royal titles are bestowed upon the spouse of the actual owner of the power, but|
their actual rank is that of "spouse/consort of King/Queen".
** These are required to fight (or assist), but can also perform heroic deeds to gain
Any two families of the same hierarchical rank can distinguish their ceremonial precedence through the age of the noble letters patent.
On a more practical scale the age of the house as it is also has relevance, as well as historical victories or events. A younger house can be more powerful or influential despite recently being raised to a particular rank.
Order of Precedence - Details
- King or Queen
The titles of King and Queen are used for the heads of larger Houses that rule over a Kingdom. These are relatively small by modern standards, but these Kings and Queens demand the respect they feel they deserve. There is one Regent and one Regent's Spouse/Consort. A governing Queen is called a Regent Queen or Queen Regent. These are not titles used by anyone other than scholars but it does matter in terms of authority. A woman marrying a King becomes Queen but a man marrying a Queen Regent becomes a Prince (as well as Regent's Spouse/Consort).
The Regent has final say in all things within the kingdom, but is expected to listen to the Regent's Spouse as well as any council that the Kingdom holds. The Regent's Spouse is the second most powerful individual to the Regent and is in charge when the Regent is away, but the Regent's Spouse is generally never involved in military decisions, this is instead taken care of by the General (a military title, not a gentry title, but often held by someone in the Royal family).
The inner workings of each Royal family varies a bit, but they do remain fairly similar.
- Prince or Princess
This is a more general title than the ones above and below it. The Crown Prince or Princess are going to become very important, but for many practical situations even the child minder has more power than a Prince. At the same time, some members of the family remains Princes and Princesses the rest of their lives, if their older brother produce children who inherit the actual title. The term is still their highest title, and they should be addressed as such.
It is also common to give Archdukedoms and Dukedoms to the close royal family. This means they are both Dukes of some region as well as Princes in relation to the royal family.
- Archduke or Archduchess
This is the highest title a non-royal can attain, though Duke families in turn often strive to become royals. Most commonly an Archduke has royal blood and may very well have been second in line to the throne at some point. It can also be related families who have done extraordinary deeds for the Kingdom, like saving the House from extinction in a battle.
Archdukes deal with large internal political and military issues and is only swearing fealty to the Crown. In turn, they usually have smaller houses that it is in charge of bringing in taxes or military support from secondary vassals that are sworn to the Crown (firstly) and to the Archduke (secondly). Primarily they are in charge of large lands themselves.
- Duke or Duchess
The title of Duke is very similar to the Archduke, but there is a difference in prestige, military might and/or responsibility and the size of their lands and secondary vassals. Dukes can also be of Royal blood, often not the immediate royal family, but perhaps well-though-of cousins or second cousins. There is a balance to be struck between keeping the allied Houses happy by providing titles for them as well as keeping as much of the essential power of a Kingdom within the Royal House.
- Hertig or Hertigess
A Hertig is a powerful noble family in charge of border regions (Jarldoms/Counties) of a Kingdom. This is especially important when the Kingdom has hostile neighbours. This positions means their forces will more often have to deal with possible threats and actual threats or even the first line of an invasion. As such they are granted more rights and status within the Court as their title reflects. Strongholds, Holds and Smallholds also, independently, swar fealty to the Hertig or Jarl/Count it resides in.
- Jarl/Count or Jarless/Countess
The title of Jarl is called Count in some Kingdoms, depending on preference, but their practical roles are indistinguishable and it's known for people in a Kingdom where one title is used to refer to titles in a land where the other title is used without causing offence. As the title implies, they deal with the Jarldoms/Counties of a Kingdom. They often swear fealty to both the King (primarily) and to a Duke (secondarily).
- Baron or Baroness
Barons are of high nobility that are Majordomos or in charge of a stronghold, hold or a city. A small amount of land is usually included in the area of power, and possibly a house or castle related to the holding. The main difference between this noble title and higher ranks is that it involves a lot more specific work to keep the daily operations running. A large city may have a council, but a small one will only have a Majordomo.
- Baronet or Baronetess
A slightly less prestigeous title to the Baron is the Baronet. It is essentially a Baron title for a smaller political and economical power such as being Majordomo of smaller cities or holds and in some cases even just for a town of some value. This is the lowest rank where significant noble responsibility resides.
- Peer Knight
- Low nobility / Mayor
- "Tyrospur"/"Hedge Knight"
- Servants of Knights
- Captain of guard
- Land owner ranked below gentry
- An unfree man working the land
- An unfree man with no land
Based on the word tyro for "new soldier" and "spur" being a nickname for lower ranking knights. Spur can be used both good and bad while "tyrospur" generally has a negative connotation. "Hedge knight" is mentioned as it is a popular culture reference in the real world.
There is a slight tendency for Kings and Queens to simply increase the rank of a useful noble family without significantly increasing their land ownership as a means to keep lords loyal at a low cost, but this isn't a dominant effect and most of the time lords' ranks are simply replaced as a family falls out of grace or in.
On Baron or lower ranks, this can be quite large changes, however.
Common heraldric symbols:
- Sword lily (fleur de lys) - Mixed symbolism where the middle leaf sometimes refer to sword or spear and the other leaves "veils" the possibility of violence in beauty. The whole symbol can also symbolise the capability of good as well as powerful of Rahn, the Father of Men.
Kingdom by Might
A family or force can claim sovreignity at any time, despite not being a noble family. They can claim it over a small piece of land, a city or a larger area and become King (or Queen). If this claim is made, it needs to keep power over the main part of their claim (a city or fort) for 1001 days before the Register considers it a legitimate claim, and at which point it starts keeping track of its family and heraldry.
Other kingdoms may not want to acknowledge the claim even after 1001 days, but most others will and it's often seen as bad form not to (since many other kingdoms come from similar origins).
Naturally, most such attempts usually fail as others would rather have more might themselves than another competitor, but the principle of Kingdom by Might has been so ingrained in the cultures of Midrealms that many view themselves as "inconvenienced Kings" and believe that it's possible for them to, one day, become a King themselves. A fact that keeps the status quo.
A “Count”, from the Latin ‘Comes’ meaning “companion”, was the governor of a city and the surrounding region, or a high official in the King’s entourage. A “Marquis” was the governor of a ‘March’ region at the boundaries of the kingdom needing special defenses. A “Duke”, from the Latin ‘Dux’ meaning “leader”, was the governor of a province, usually also a military leader.
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