The Kingdom of Borealis , despite being an absolute, feudal monarchy, has a complex system of noble positions and ranks, with their checks and balances that keep the gigantic, almost continent-wide state crippling along.
A unifying trait of Borean high nobility is their large-to-immense land properties and rights to tax those below them, as well as maintain an standing fighting force that is, at least in theory, loyal to them first, before the Monarch.
The Monarch - absolute ruler of the Realm, at least in theory. In practice, government in duchies is done by the grand duke > duke > grafs. The Monarch rules by edict, collects tax and levies from the grand duchies and directly subservient marches and baronies. In return, it protects the balance of power between the grand duchies, distributes financial aid, assists during emergencies and rallies military to defend the Kingdom. Monarchic orders are absolute; in practice, since the arrival of the Feuerbrand dynasty, they are often delegated to the Annex to be implemented and communicated to lower administrative units.
The Monarch is also the supreme commander of its personal Royal Guard and, since the Feuerbrand uprising , the Kingdom's regular army - the Firestarters. As of the Age of Crimson Sail, that makes it the leader of the biggest individual armed force on the continent.
The position is hereditary and follows the rules of male primogenitor. The current Monarch of the Kingdom is Queen Alicia I Feuerbrand .
The Grand Duke/Duchess - rulers of grand duchies, the largest administrative unit of the Kingdom. Their powers in the regions are surpassed only by the Monarch and they are the direct superiors of the absolute majority of the Kingdom's landed nobility. Despite being technically subservient to the Monarch, it would be folly for the latter to try pushing them around, as the Grand Dukes may deny levies and tax at will. Thus a Monarch's ability to rule efficiently directly depends on the support of the majority of grand dukes - it's much harder to resist a royal order if you know the neighbours won't have your back.
Most Grand Dukes have a strong claim to the Borean throne in the absence of a direct heir. The current grand dukes are:
- Queen Alicia Feuerbrand of Volgen ,
- Franz-Ferdinandt ot-Rosencreuz of Placia (assuming Alicia does not produce a heir, the second in line to the throne after the Queen's cousin Athanasia),
- Vittorio Sforza of Frugia ,
- Varnava Kain of Transborea .
Dukes/Duchesses - are junior members of grand ducal families or rulers of duchies. Their allegiance is to a local grand duke. Historically, Borean rulers were eager to subdivide the land to reward loyal service and/or to make it easier to "divide and conquer" in royal and regional politics. As a result, there are not that many large duchies in the Kingdom. Two notable ones are Oris and Quies - the temporary units created in place of the Grand Duchy of Weideland until the region is fully pacified, following its devastation during the Feuerbrand uprising. Their rulers are:
- Duchess Athanasia Feuerbrand of Quies,
- Duke Georg Vyshnesvky of Oris.
Princes/Princesses - are junior members of the current royal house, often granted a reign over a duchy or two within Volgen. They hold a similar social status to Dukes - above grafs and well below grand dukes - except for crown princes/princesses, who are considered to be equal to grand dukes (and are sometimes given the Grand Duchy of Volgen to manage to officiate it).
Grafs/grafines - are the rank-and-file of high nobility. They serve their grand duke and hold dominion over counties - the second lowest administrative unit of a grand duchy, which nonetheless constitute the absolute majority of the Kingdom's land. While all grafs, individual privileges ignored, are about the same in the noble ranking, they still differ substantially in social status and influence in local politics based on a county's riches and a family's pedigree or favour with the Monarch.
Notable subdivisions of the title include:
- Landgraves - once rulers of strategically important cities and surrounding lands, this title now belongs to rulers of Borean autonomous free cities in Transborea and the Far Reach. As such, their power, wealth and influence are considerably higher than your average graf's. Because of the way the title is handled in various free cities, it is technically the highest noble rank a commoner can be granted.
- Markgraves - rulers of marks, border regions between grand duchies, often created to diffuse border tension between them or on the frontier of Borean influence. They bypass the noble ranks and pay tax and levies to the Monarch directly, although of course they have to pay lip service to their neighbouring dukes as well. Markgraves outrank normal grafs but are lower than dukes.
- Burghgraves - rulers of strategical castles and important cities plus surrounding territory within normal counties and duchies - the Kingdom's analogue to the free cities' landgraves. They are below grafs in the noble ranking and are the lowest high noble rank.
The lower echelon of Borean nobles are still to be addressed by those beneath them as "masters" or "lords", yet they don't own quite as much land (if any) and have very slim chances of ever advancing in ranks, save for exceptional service to the crown. Many of these titles are "trophy" titles, given by the Monarch or higher nobles in recognition of one's (usually military) service.
Freiherren (sing. freiherr/freifrau) - are the highest of Borean low nobles. Unlike the others, they do not serve the local sovereign, be it a graf or a duke, but instead own their land freely and answer (and pay tax) directly to the Monarch. Often these are distinguished knights and common-born officers who were recognised by the Monarch for their achievements.
Barons - are loyal to the higher noble within whose domain their lands are situated. Often distinguished knights and members of the diminished or small local houses. They usually own just an estate of two within local administrative baronies, sometimes established by high nobles to better govern their lands.
Ritters (Knights) - a title of nobility bestowed upon distinguished mounted warriors in service of the Monarch. The baseline and most common form of a noble title, the knights are summoned to serve the Monarch in times of war, although they often have an overlapping (and conflicting) duty of vassalage to their local lord. Many ritters forsake their lands and standing in order to seek quest for the betterment of the country (and their own social status), while some join militant knightly orders, which often have a specific purpose and a Royal Seal by which they operate. Most famous knightly orders of Borealis include:
- The Brotherhood of Talisman: based in Haivoron in the Far Reach, they originated as protectors of those who traverse the Moradin's Crown. What they later became is the biggest financial, banking and insurance institution of the Realm (and one of the Crown's biggest creditors),
- Knights of the Boundary: an order of mounted warriors who, in concord and by agreement with the Cult of Payton, guard the borders of the Great Steppe, prohibiting its savage denizens (and things far, far worse) from despoiling the Kingdom's land. Based in Northern Placia,
Edlers - the lowest, landless noble title, given in recognition to a civil servant or a very distinguished commoner soldier or officer.
Thane - the title usually refers to historical warlords of the Southern Thessea, whose thanedoms and kingdoms were the precursors to the modern duchies and the Kingdom of Borealis during the existence of Aluren. Thanedoms were abolished by Thormond I Boreale after foundation of the Kingdom; however, as Placia entered into an alliance with Volgen on equal terms, it preserved its ancient way of governance. The thanes of Placia still hold power today and are the only title of nobility within it - the relationships and subordination between thanes determined only by their political, military and economic prowess.
Elector - embroiled in a permanent Night War with its criminal element - the "noble" families - Frugian governance has always been a massive pain, as the grand duchy's rulers fell to poison, dagger and political assaults almost yearly within the last century of the Abendstern rule. As the final noble line who held the dukedom was extinguished in a vile mass assassination by (allegedly and unprovably) the Sforzas, the King was forced to return the region to a system of elector-counts and elected grand dukedom, which was at one point briefly and unsuccessfully used to elect the Kingdom's monarch. Electors of Frugia are equivalent in standing to grafs and choose, among each other, the Grand Duke of Frugia. It is this system that allowed the cunning Vittorio Sforza to seize the grand dukedom for himself.
Bonus round: name particlesEdit
Ot-, members of old and esteemed families, dating sometimes to the Age of Southern Thanes before the foundation of Borealis,
Is-, younger families, often distinguished by their military valour,
Li-, leftover title from the ducal period of Altaforte history, before the Borean system of nobility and electorship was imposed on Frugia. Thus, refers to genuine old Frugian merchant nobility (not to be confused with it's far more notorious "noble" families)