It has been a while since I’ve done a From the Ground Up Article. I stopped in the middle of Feudalism, so I figured I’d pick it back up and have a go at it. So, here we are, a small article on Feudal and noble titles.
The Positions of Wealth and Rank
As I mentioned during the series on Feudalism and society, There are multiple layers to the feudal cake. Here we are focusing on the more uncommon positions, that are not always nobility. We’ll also take a look at some of the known ranks in order to get a feeling on where these positions fall.
At the top of the heap is the King or Queen. These are, originally, simply titles granted to strong and powerful leaders, but through the desire of nepotism and stability, they often become hereditary. By the time the Feudal System comes around, almost all of them are hereditary through the male bloodline. This male-centric view generally discarded in favor of a more inclusive world, where players and characters are not readily denied rights or discriminated against due to genetics.
The ruling monarch is often part of a dynasty of some sort, one that can claim direct blood relation to a specific individual revered in the past. The Romans traced their bloodlines back to Aneas, the Spartans to Hercules, and the Carolingians to Charles Martel. Sometimes, these rulers will not be related to the previous, and will instead, in open rebellion, claim the throne as their own, thus becoming and Usurper. With a false claim on the throne, many usurpers face challenges from the far fringes of the former monarch, each reaching for their chance at the Throne and Crown.
Similar to the King and Queen, we have the Reagent. A regent holds the power of the kingdom until their Ward comes into age of majority. Sometimes, this is the offspring directly related to the former monarch, but it can just as often be a cousin, niece or other relation. The Regent holds as much power as the Monarch would, and is often grooming their ward to take the throne, giving them advice and taking advice in return.
Stewards are similar to Regents and Monarchs, and are given the power to rule a manor or kingdom while the monarch or lord is absent. This power is granted to trusted persons and family of the monarch, due to its sensitive nature. While the Regent is a tutor of a younger, future monarch, the Steward is simply the voice of the current monarch. I wouldn’t say one or the other is more or less powerful, but it very much depends on the circumstances. The Regent of a very small or incompetent person would wield near absolute power, and be able to directly rule in many situations. The Steward, on the other hand, has to contend with the concept that the monarch will return and could be unhappy with the decisions made, but often has free reign to do as they please, knowing that they speak with the authority of the ruler.
The Castellan’s are close to a steward, but instead of being put in charge of land or country, they are instead put in charge of a single castle, or fortress. Castellan’s speak, just as a steward would, with the voice of their monarch and are imbued with plenty of power when it comes to running, maintaining and defending their keep. While powerful, they are limited in scope of power, where stewards and regents are not.
Going even further, The Warden is a title given to someone who enforces the laws on a geographical area. They are responsible for maintaining the monarchs rules and laws on a location, sometimes a specific borderland, some times a game reserve, or sometimes even a whole region. They, too, speak with the voice of the monarch, ensuring that the realm remains orderly.
What is interesting about the above titles – Castellan, Steward, Warden, and Regent, is that they can be used down the line of nobility with a parallel structure. A Lord or Duke can have a Castellan just as well as a Queen, and your Viscount might need a regent for their child once they have passed. Its an interesting and strange situation.
Other Positions of Privilege
Chamberlain’s are similar to both Castellans and Stewards, but they are placed in charge of a household. While a steward runs the day to day of an area, the house itself is run by the chamberlain. They are the ones given the duties of making sure the house itself it taken care of, properly maintained, and maintains its financial responsibilities. Like the other positions on this list, this can be an extremely powerful position or a meager one. The Chamberlain of the King is a powerful individual, but the Chamberlain of the Mayor of a small town is likely no more prestigious than they mayor himself.
A Chancellor is the supreme judiciary office in many areas, and keeps the law over a great area. Their main priority, though, was the production and distribution of written documents, charters, and writs. As the overseer of this domain, they had the ability to create and draw up the exact specifications of those charters, and were sometimes viewed with suspicion. These Chancellors were the keepers of the seals of the houses and kingdoms, the official signatures of the times, giving them even more weight behind their positions.
The Constable has a fairly short descriptor of powers, but, like many on this list, wields a great deal of power. Constables were, unsurprisingly, responsible for the law and order of a given town, manor, or household. This clearly gave them great clout. While they were not judges, they worked toward collecting evidence and procuring proof that one or another of those accused were guilty. While anyone seeing a crime being committed could act as the law in the moment, the constable was responsible for ensuring that the facts were found and reported.
While there are many, many more positions, these are ones I found the most interesting and easy to slide into an adventure or story. Its always interesting to see how a game plays out without a king or queen as the major villain or patron. These positions give more depth to positions which are often neglected.
Until next time,