Author Topic: A Guide to the Nobility of the Serene Republic of Dementlieu  (Read 8458 times)


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A Guide to the Nobility of the Serene Republic of Dementlieu

By DM Arawn*

I. What is a noble, anyway?

A noble, somewhat tautologically, is someone who has been ennobled, or someone who has inherited the legal status of a noble. While in some less-civilized countries the dignity of nobility is passed through the female line, in Dementlieu (as in that fabled place, ancien regime France), the dignity of nobility can only be conferred in three ways: either to inherit it from a male parent, to marry a male who holds a title, or to have it conferred by a decree of the Council of Brilliance. Women may inherit the status, but they may not pass it on except in a few specific situations.

In Dementlieu, it is rare that anyone is ennobled without the grant of a title and degree of nobility, such as Comte or Vicomte. Note that there are titles that are not noble, primarily that of maître and that of chevalier, and do not confer nobility upon their recipient. Knights in Dementlieu are not noble by virtue of their knighthood, though they may concurrently be nobles (and many knights are).

With the grant of a noble title usually comes a territorial designation, which harkens back to a mythological past when the realm was divided entirely into feudal vassalage and sub-vassalage. Though this artifact of the old Empire has long since become more nominal than real, there are still certain legal powers of justice and militia that belong to a feudal lord. Usually, the lord will make his estate (or seat) in or near the place that gives name to his title, and his House forces will be recruited from and trained in that region.

II. How do I become a noble?

You can become a noble either by inheritance, by marriage, or by conferral. To confer a degree of nobility, the Council of Brilliance acting collectively (in the place of the long-departed Emperor) issues letters patent (always in the plural) which give the name of the recipient, the degree of nobility to be conferred (i.e. what title) and the territorial designation of the title. Thus a man might be raised to nobility as (monsieur) Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marquis de Quercy. This is not at all uncommon in the Republique; indeed, any family which attains a certain amount of wealth, marries into the proper families (noble or not), and provides services or support to the Council may manage to secure ennoblement by petition. Whether or not the new nobles are completely and immediately accepted by the old is another matter.

To inherit a title you must be the eldest male son of the holder of the title. A woman may inherit a title only if she has no brothers, and even then, unless a woman’s husband and children are noble in their own right (they do not become ennobled by virtue of her nobility), the title will after her death pass to the seniormost male relative in male-line descent from the most recent common ancestor. The only way to get around this is to have the Council abolish and re-confer the title on the eldest son of a titled woman, effectively ennobling him. This, if done (it is frowned upon in many circles, but not terribly uncommon), is often done while the woman is still alive, as after her death male relatives will often attempt to prevent this from occurring. The act of re-conferring the title confers noble status on the new holder, but not on his siblings—this has led to there being multiple branches of certain houses, some of whom are noble, some of whom are not.

When a woman marries a titled noble, she acquires noble status (if she does not previously possess it) but not a noble title. However, a wife will use the female version of her husband’s title as a courtesy title; i.e. the wife of the Marquis above would be known as the Marquise de Quercy. The husband of a titled woman does not acquire a courtesy title, as he is not ennobled, although he is usually addressed with the respect due to the consort of a peer (e.g. a noble).

III. How do I become not a noble?

Noble status can be lost in a variety of ways. The simplest is to be a noblewoman and to marry a commoner. At the instant the marriage is legally formalized, she will lose the status of noble, and her husband and children will not be ennobled by the action. The only exception to this is when a woman is the holder of a title in her own right (i.e. by inheritance): she will retain her own status but still not pass it to her spouse or children (see above).

Because it confers distinct rights and privileges, entry into and maintenance of noble status is tightly regulated both by ancient law and by social convention. Many of these laws date from the old Empire, and are not strictly enforced: for example, they contain provisions barring adultery (to prevent the conferral of noble status on the bastards of common women, or to prevent uncertainty as to the noble status of the bastards of noblewomen), barring certain occupations (artisan crafts and trades, mostly), and making criminal certain conduct towards the state (treason, for example, is an immediate loss of noble status and your title is considered attainted, which means that none of your descendants may inherit either it or your status). These laws are usually only invoked when useful for a political purpose: thus rivals can be dismissed for pseudo-legal justifications which circumvent the need for more open conflict.

More rarely, nobles may request that their status be revoked by an act of the Council. This is done for a variety of reasons: personal preference, desire to be free of the duties of nobility, desire to serve another government leery of taking a Dementlieuse noble, etc.

IV. Why does it matter if I have noblestatusif I don’t have a title?

In Dementlieu (as in ancien regime France), “nobility” can be used either in the specific or the general. Used generally, it means all those of noble status and their descendants and close associates, meaning the body of aristocrats that supplies officers of state, local lords, and so forth. Specifically, it refers to those who are legal inheritors of the status of nobility as originally granted to an ancestor by letters patent. It is not uncommon for someone to have their nobility challenged in a court of law, and they will have to provide copies of the letters or at least testimonials to their existence and accuracy.

Those who hold noble status have certain rights in the Republique not conferred to others. Those who hold noble status have certain rights in the Republique not conferred to others. Nobles alone hold the right to elect the Lord-Governor of the Republique, and the Lord-Governor must be from among their number. Nobles, by law, may be tried for crimes only before the Council itself, although in practice the Council delegates this authority back to the magistrates. Still, a noble may in theory demand that his trial be held before the Council, though since some magistrates are seen as mostly an extension of the Council’s will and others are easily bribed, this rarely occurs. When victims of crime, furthermore, nobles are accorded a greater worth than commoners, as assault upon a noble and certain other crimes are viewed as violations of the sanctity of the orders of society, and punished more severely.

Finally, noble status opens some doors in Dementlieuse society. Although there has always been some confusion due to the presence of upstart commoners who have made their fortune in trade and commerce, some of Dementlieu’s oldest social institutions (clubs and associations) restrict membership to those of noble status. Some offices of state are by law only held by nobles, and others by convention.

V. What kind of noble titles are there?

In Dementlieu, there are a series of degrees of nobility in an order of precedence. In order of descending precedence, they are Duc/Duchesse (Duke/Duchess), Marquis/Marquise (Marquis/Marchioness), Comte/Comtesse (Count/Countess), Vicomte/Vicomtesse (Viscount/Viscountess), Baron/Baronesse (Baron/Baroness), and Baronet/Baronetess (Baronet/Baronetesse). It is worth reiterating here that the honors of maître/maîtresse and chevalier/dame are not titles of nobility and do not by themselves confer nobility on their holders. These titles originated to designate those bound to service to the Emperor in one way or another (civilian or military), and since they originally dealt only with specific rights and obligations, are not considered noble in and of themselves.

A distinction must further be drawn between titles by right and titles by courtesy. A title is held by right when the holder is either the individual named in letters patent of ennoblement or his direct legal successor and heir (regardless of the number of intervening generations). By convention, should a noble hold multiple titles at once (not at all uncommon in old families), the lesser-ranked titles (usually known as subsidiary titles) can be used by the eldest son (never daughter) of the noble in question until such time as he enjoys it in full. Thus if Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marquis de Quercy, is also the Vicomte de Chaussac and the Baron d’Autrefoille, his eldest son might be styled by courtesy as Pierre Basquiat, Vicomte de Chaussac. Subsidiary titles may only be held by the heir and the heir alone.

The wife of a titled noble is entitled to use the female version of his title as a title by courtesy. This also applies to the wife of a man who holds a title by courtesy from his father: thus the wife of Pierre Basquiat could be styled la Vicomtesse de Chaussac.

VI. If I meet a titled noble, how do I talk to or about him or her?

This is perhaps the most complex part of the nobility in Dementlieu, and thus the most important to master. Mistaking the title of an aristocrat, or referring to his children incorrectly, can be an instant sign that someone is a pretender and does not belong in Dementlieuse high society. In a country where nobles feud endlessly with each other, even the smallest slight is noted and remembered.

A titled noble may be addressed by his title alone on first encounter (Duc, Vicomte, etc.) but this is considered somewhat abrupt and best for familiar or urgent situations. More properly he should be addressed as monsieur le Duc or monsieur le Vicomte (for a woman, madame la Marquise, etc.), and always with the article. In less formal situations, after the first address, it is considered normal to revert to the shorter form, and to fail to realize to do this is often seen as obsequiousness. It is not strictly speaking incorrect to address a titled noble as monsieur alone, but this is best reserved for deference: “Oui, monsieur,” is fine when acknowledging an order, but to greet a Duc with “Bonjour, monsieur,” if he had not spoken to you first would be considered rude. A titled noble may never be addressed with his surname; you’d never call him monsieur Basquiat, but only monsieur le Marquis or even monsieur de Quercy (though this is generally used only by other nobles). Monsieur followed by a surname indicates a non-titled individual, and to a titled noble this would be a mortal insult. You should never place a surname after a title: Marquis Basquiat would be seen as uneducated and potentially confusing. Preference should always be given to the individual’s full name and title when unsure. When speaking of a titled noble, it is perfectly correct to not use either part of their legal name, but if used it may come before the title (monsieur Jean-Michel Basquiat, Marquis de Quercy), but never in the middle (monsieur le Marquis Jean-Michel Basquiat de Quercy is incorrect, though monsieur le Marquis de Quercy Jean-Michel Basquiat is not impolite, though it is odd).

Similarly, one should never, under any circumstances, address a titled noble by his first name, with or without his title, unless in private and with specific permission to do so. In public, titled nobles refer to each other casually not by their forenames but by the name of their title. Thus, Stefan d’Auze, Vicomte Parailly, would call his old friend Quercy and be called Parailly in response. Forenames (Stefan, Jean-Michel) would be used between them only in private. Indeed, because most noble wives and children call their husband and parents monsieur and madame, even monsieur le Comte/madame la Comtesse, this close male private friendship in the aristocracy is one of the only times a titled noble might hear his forename spoken aloud.

Any non-titled individual of noble status should be referred to as monsieur if male or madame/mademoiselle for first-born married and unmarried women, followed by their surname. It is customary when referring to a noble who is not the eldest child of his gender to have his first name specified. Thus you would address Pierre, the first-born son of the Vicomte de Chaussac, as monsieur Basquiat, but you would address or speak of his younger brother as monsieur Henri Basquiat. You would also never address any non-noble with any part of a noble title, so the son of the Vicomte de Chaussac is always monsieur Basquiat, never monsieur Chaussac (not least because the last sounds far too similar to monsieur de Chaussac, which refers to his father).

VII. Nobility and the Clergy

Dementlieu is, at least nominally, an Ezrite nation, as are all of Mordent’s children. Indeed, the capital’s very form is dictated by the towering shape of the great Ezrite cathedral of St.-Mere-des-Larmes. The aristocracy are largely dismissive of the Church, however, and excessive piety or zealous sentiments are frowned upon in this nation whose only religious presence is the contemplative and reserved sect of the Erudites. Service in the Church is seen as at best an acceptable career for minor sons or daughters of the nobility (the heir learns his future estates, the second learns arms and combat), sometimes taking over local vicarages on their family's lands. This is generally regarded as "a waste," since a son or daughter dedicated to religious pursuits is rarely able to work actively for the betterment of their House.

It is relatively rare that a titled noble would hold the degree of Toret or Sentire, as the exercise of those offices would almost necessarily conflict with his duties as a noble, but it is not impossible, nor is it impossible that a Toret or Sentire might be entitled to hold a subsidiary title of his father as a courtesy title. Usually the latter will be renounced as unbefitting, and usually the former will resign their clerical position. A Toret has no particular style of address beyond, informally, mon pere or monsieur l’Abbe, and, formally, monsieur le Toret, so they will tend to be simply Pere Jacques Cozin, Toret de Chelinne or, rarely, Toret Jacques Cozin de Chelinne or Toret Cozin.

A Sentire, however, is entitled to be addressed as Monseigneur and then votre excellence, and other forms of address are inappropriate, regardless of dignity or title. Thus Monseigneur Henri de Suisse, Sentire de Coubanville, who would be addressed as Monseigneur in speech or, more formally, monseigneur le Sentire or monseigneur le Sentire de Coubanville if necessary for specification, and thereafter as votre excellence. He will often be referred to as Monseigneur Henri, Sentire Henri de Suisse or even just Sentire Henri, but these would never be used as forms of address. A female Sentire, while still entitled to be called votre excellence, is simply madame la Sentire.

VIII. Military and Academic Titles

Many nobles seek service in the military; others become scholars and teachers in the mighty University of Dementlieu. In doing so they acquire additional titles; it is important to realize how they might fit together with other titles they possess.

The Dementlieuse do not use postnominal letters to indicate a person is the holder of an academic degree. Instead, they give them their entire formal title, so Monsieur Thadeus de Fois, maître de divinité. Docteur (doctoresse if female) is a legally controlled title, usable only by those who have earned it from the University, and may be used before the name or surname, though more commonly afterwards, so: Madame Frederique Cansony, Doctoresse de Medécine, but also (especially for medical doctors) Doctoresse Frederique Cansony, or even Doctoresse Cansony. In cases where a titled noble is also a doctor, the other title comes first, then the noble title, so Madame la Professeur la Vicomtesse de Gourthe, afterwards madame or madame la Vicomtesse, or Monsieur le Docteur le Baron des Felanges, afterwards monsieur or monsieur le Baron. You would never mix their personal name with their academic name.

Military ranks are not dissimilar. When discussing a titled person who bears a military rank, say that of Lieutenant, the rank formally occurs before their title of nobility, so formally Lieutenant le Vicomte du Puy, but in military records the title is often added at the end: Lieutenant Charles d’Escy, Vicomte du Puy. However, an officer who is also a noble must be addressed by his subordinates by his title, never his rank, and all other forms of address must be observed. So Charles d’Escy would be addressed by subordinates as monsieur le Vicomte or Vicomte, but never as Lieutenant. A superior officer might address him as du Puy, or even Vicomte, but almost never Lieutenant.

IX. Maître, Chevalier, and Ecuyer

By some abnormality in the distant and mythical past, there are a handful of chevaliers whose titles are hereditary, but the vast majority of chevalier titles are not. Furthermore, perhaps by design, all of the hereditary chevaliers are also titled nobility, so the point is moot unless meeting one of those specific individuals. The chevalier title for all intents and purposes, therefore, is a non-hereditary title that does not confer nobility on the individual upon which it is conferred, though the process of conferral is broadly similar. Along with the title of maître, it is granted to individuals for distinguished service to the Republique in one of several areas: military service, the arts, trade and commerce, and so forth. Originally it meant a noble who was obliged to provide a certain number of troops to the national defense and lead them himself, but the advent of the gendarmerie and the generalization of noble military service to all houses means that this title is more honorary than specific. Maître, unlike its martial cousin, is never bestowed for military accomplishment, but only for civic achievement. It is often given to civic officials who have retired as a reward for their service, or artists of various types given special commissions by the Council.

A chevalier who is not a noble generally writes his title as Sieur Jean Dupuis, chevalier. If he is also a seigneur, he might append his territorial designation to his title, so Sieur Jean Dupuis, chevalier d’Ecrolle. Note that (as will be discussed later) this does not make him a noble, though he can hold noble status concurrently. A titled noble who is a knight never uses sieur, but instead his proper title as a noble, noting chevalier before his primary title, so, monsieur Gascon des Feuilles, chevalier, Vicomte de Gazier.

A non-noble knight may be addressed as monsieur le chevalier d’Ecrolle, monsieur le chevalier, or monsieur quickly (with the same caveats as for nobles above). He may also be addressed as Sieur Jean or Sieur Jean Dupuis, but never as Sieur Dupuis. It is common for a chevalier without a territorial seigneurie to use simply chevalier de la Republique, but this is not mandatory.

Maîtres are rarely nobles, as nobles tend to prefer the more warlike (and higher-ranked) title of knight. Instead a maître will simply be referred to as Maître Francois Cressen (addressed as Maître, or Maître Cressen), and occasionally (in high formality), as monsieur le maître (madame la maîtresse). Maîtres never have territorial designations, nor do they add anything to their title.

A female knight is referred to as a dame, which is also the title for the wife of either a knight or a maître (the wife of a maître is never a maîtresse). However, the title is differentiated by the use of the first name—a female knight is Dame Helene, but the wife of a male knight or maitre is Dame Corvoisier. The husband of a female knight has no title beyond simply monsieur.

Ecuyer is a title with imprecise meaning and no legal standing, but one often used by those of knightly or aristocratic descent but no clear title or seigneurie, sort of a “catch-all.” There are no legal prescriptions for how it must be used, but using it when one is of little status can lead to accusations or implications that the user is pretending above his station. There is no female equivalent. It is never used before a name, but after, so monsieur Pierre des Enfants, ecuyer.

X. The title seigneur

Someone might note that nowhere else in this guide is the word “lord”—seigneur—used. Unlike in other places in the Core, in Dementlieu seigneur is simply a role—a seigneur is someone who holds feudal rights to justice and taxation in a certain place, and it is not unknown that this could be held by someone who is not even a noble. Holding this right does not automatically confer nobility on its holder, but this title is commonly used by those of the nobility who hold no other such distinction, so monsieur Philippe de Cazan, seigneur d’Ormand. It is not correct to address a seigneur as “seigneur” or “monseigneur” unless the individual is a noble, however, and the shorter form “monsieur” is preferred for commoners, despite their exercising functions which would otherwise be that of a noble. It is correct to address a seigneur as monsieur le seigneur de Cazan though not as just monsieur de Cazan, since that implies nobility. In general using simply “monsieur le seigneur” would be confusing unless the context is clear; it would be like addressing the mayor of Bristol as “mayor” in India. In general, it is perfectly acceptable to address a seigneur only as monsieur or seigneur, whichever is appropriate.

XI. The title baronet.

As Dementlieu's relatively scant territory has been parceled out to the aristocracy, it has become more commonplace for nobility to be conferred without an accompanying grant of land. This ennoblement almost always comes in the form of the title Baronet, with their baronetcy existing only on their letters of patent and frequently sharing the surname of the family to which they were granted. Others may be granted an estate house along the Domaines de la Vie Éclairée or in the Savant, though in such cases the baronetcy in question extends no farther than the holder's doorstep. In the latter case, the conferred Baronetcy might have a name distinct from that of the holder's family, and loss of the physical residence may imply loss of noble status. This arrangement, while less prestigious than a proper land grant, is nonetheless advantageous to those ennobled who might not otherwise be able to bear the financial burden of unproductive or ill-managed holdings. Such titles are invariably more transient than their more established equivalents, tied as they are to the names and fortunes of their associated houses. For instance, Baronetcies without accompanying residences are always dissolved should the holder acquire a greater title. The title of Baronet follows the same manner of address as other noble titles.

Appendix. Abbreviations

M.    Monsieur

Mme    Madame

Mlle    Madamoiselle

P.    Pere

Fr.    Frere

*Edits made by DM Indolence
« Last Edit: February 12, 2022, 06:54:44 AM by DM Indolence »
Hir yw'r dydd a hir yw'r nos, a hir yw aros Arawn.