There are four principal ranks, all are gender neutral:
Highness - The current supreme ruler of a nation, elected by vote of the council of Arls as soon as the old Highness dies. They are addressed as either “Your Highness” or as “Highness [First name] the [1st/2nd/3rd/etc]” So HIghness Lizabetta the second (or Highness Lizabetta II)
Arl - The most senior nobles who each control a large section of the nation on behalf of the Highness. They are addressed as Arl [First name] of [Region] So Maria Garcia would be Arl Maria of The Western Marches.
Lairde - Who rule individual provinces and cities in the name of their Arl. They usually control a city or a province and are address as Lairde followed by their first name and the name of their holdings. So Jane Doe would become Lairde Jane of Highwater.
Knights - The lowest level of nobility Who execute the will of the Lairdes and are given status, their own property and coin by their Lairde in exchange for their service, but do not control the land that is owned or worked by others. They are address as “Saer” (seɪ.ər) followed by their first name and the name of their Lairdes holdings. (So James Smith would become Saer James of Highwater).
[Lesser Title] - Presumptive [Greater Title] - When a noble has in theory got a higher title (Usually by right of birth), but there is no space to accommodate them in the current hierarchy, they will occupy a lower rank until the opportunity arises and they will "understudy" the current holder of that rank. (e.g. "Saer Kay, Presumptive Lairde of Blackwater" is technically a knight, but works as the direct assistant to the Lairde of Blackwater, because as soon as the current Lairde dies, they will assume the title and would generally be treated better than a normal knight would.)
Their main duties are: Edit
- To collect taxes
- To maintain and enforce the law of the land as it applies to peasants.
- To defend their Lairde’s holdings (usually by training and raising militia forces)
- To defend the Faith.
- To provide for the citizens under their protection (usually bringing the citizens complaints to the Lairde or using resources from the Lairde to solve problems that arise.)
Becoming a noble Edit
You can gain a noble title through two methods and can only lose it by death or dismissal..
- Birthright - All children of a noble automatically gain a noble title that is one lower than that of their parents (So the child of a Highness would be born an Arl and the child of a Lairde would become a Knight) - Most of the time this means that most noble titles are filled by the children and blood relations of the Highness. However a child does not inherit this title until they are at least 18.
- Promotion - This is usually done on merit, acts of valour, wisdom or learning are always appreciated, but so is outright bribery. Lairdes can promote peasants to knights, Arls can promote peasants to Knights or Knights into Lairdes, The Highness can do both of the above as well as promoting a Lairde to an Arl. The council of Arls can promote one of their number to become Highness upon the death of the existing Highness. (By tradition the Arls are locked in a room together immediately after the Highnesses death, with no food or water until they can reach a unanimous verdict. This ensures that the selection is as rapid as possible, but usually an appropriate candidate is groomed for the role well in advance.)
Revocation of title Edit
Noble titles are usually held for life. However noble titles can sometimes be revoked. A noble title can be stripped by the noble immediately above you (So a Lairde can dismiss a Knight in their service who committed a crime and they go back to being a peasant, but they can’t dismiss a knight in another Lairdes service.
There can be a theoretically unlimited number of Knights, limited only by the Lairdes ability to house and pay them. However as Lairdes and Arls are tied to areas of land there are a finite number of positions available.
Children who inherit usually find that the position is not vacant when they hit 18, so they become the “Lairde-apparent” or the “Arl-apparent”. They live with the current Lairde or Arl until the elder retires or dies and in that time they act as apprentices in the arts of statecraft but are otherwise treated as being one rank lower than the title that they will one day assume.
So the daughter of Highness Lizabetta II, whose name is Tabitha, is due to become Arl of Westhaven. However Arl Peter of Westhaven is currently alive and well, so he takes Tabitha under his wing on her 18th birthday and she is titled Lairde Tabitha, Arl-apparent. She would stay with the Arl for a few years under normal circumstances until a Lairdship becomes available and she would run that. When Arl Peter dies, she would automatically assume his title.
As she is an Arl by birthright any children would become Lairdes (even if she did not become Arl in her lifetime) and they would be a Lairde apparent on their 18th Birthday. Until a Lairdeship becomes available (Possibly their mothers in this case) they would train under a knight or shadow the current Lairde until that happened...
Children of a Lairde are usually trained and raised as assistants to knights until they are 18 and are known as Squires