Tales of the Three Tanks
Ranks of Nobility
Noble titles are generally inherited, passed from parent to the eldest child. This is not an automatic process, however. If a probable heir does not show the necessary leadership abilities, he or she is likely to be passed over. Should a noble family produce no worthy heirs, their liege can grant the title to another. All appointments and inheritances involving land (meaning Knights and Patricians are excluded) must be approved by the Emperor, but a decision is very rarely overturned. Men hold most noble titles, but women do hold a significant minority of them. A nobleman’s spouse, and any children too young to have their own rank or be named heir apparent, lack the power of an actual title, but receive the same respect. An heir apparent has basically all the same rights as the holder of a title, but cannot actually assume a position until the Emperor grants it to them.
Ruler of the as-of-yet nameless empire; liege of all other nobles.
The Emperor is addressed as “Your Highness”, “Your Majesty”, or similar impersonal terms of respect by the lesser nobility and gentry. The high nobility use his titles, with more possessive terms, such as “My Lord”, “My Liege”, or “My Emperor”. The peasantry does not address the Emperor, but generally refers to him in the terms used by the gentry.
The high noble ranks are in an official hierarchy, but in reality the standing of each high nobleman is based on his own actions and family’s history. Each high noble is liege of several lesser noble families. The higher ranks generally control more land and vassals, but otherwise there is little practical difference between high noble titles.
The high nobility is addressed as “My Lord” or “My Liege” by those of lesser rank. High nobility address each other by title or holding in formal situations; depending on their relationship, they are generally less rigid in more casual situations. Lesser nobility of close personal relation may also use less rigid terms in casual situations.
Each rank of the lesser nobility is distinct in power and privilege. A Knight or Patrician with prestigious lineage or particularly high achievement may garner more respect in court than a little-known member of the next rank, but in all other respects the lesser noble ranks assume a strict hierarchy.
- Vidame – Control lands directly beneath a high noble. Liege of a few Patricians, and may also have some Knights under his command. This is the lowest rank of noble that can claim ownership of land.
- Knight – The noble warriors, protectors of their lands and leaders of their armies. Generally noble children without other inheritance, but occasionally exceptional adventurers are granted Knighthood. Serve a high noble, but may also answer to a Vidame, especially if one is the head of their family. Might also act as a Patrician in their area, but carry their higher rank.
- Patrician – The lowest noble rank, holding only political power. Do not claim any actual land of their own, but are given authority over it by their liege. Act as mayors of towns or sheriffs of counties under a Vidame.
A Vidame is addressed as “My Lord” by all his subjects and all peasants, and by his title or holdings by his superiors. Knights, Patricians, and personally respected gentry may use “Sire” for a Vidame that is not their liege. Knights are referred to by all levels as “Sir” followed by his full name, or simply “Sire” or “Sir Knight” by non-nobility who do not know his title. Comrades-in-arms generally use a the Knight’s given name outside formal circumstances. Patricians are referred to by their specific title (“Mayor”, “Sheriff”) and his family name or jurisdiction, or as “Sire” by those he presides over. “Your Honor” is also an acceptable honorific for the peasantry and gentry to give any lesser noble. “My Lord” is also acceptable for the particularly cautious, though it is appropriate for a Knight or Patrician to make his status clear after receiving such address.