Feudalism is a structured form of society where the human resource of people and the natural resource of land are each allocated and used, with individual people being grouped into various classes and parcels of land being divided into estates. Specific customs and protocols based upon the relationships between the classes of people and their relationships to land estates is the essence of feudalism. The customs, protocols and relationships of feudalism are all based upon the use of land – who owns it, who has rights to use it, who is entitled to income derived from it, etc. This leads to exchanges of power among the classes and reciprocal rights derived from these relationships.
In Arvedian feudalism, all people are divided into five classes. They are:
Peasantry, Gentry, Chivalry, Nobility, and Royalty
The Peasantry accounts for essentially two-thirds of the entire kingdom population. Peasants work the land on all the estates of the kingdom and, when necessary, provide untrained manpower for military use in the form of peasant levees and unskilled labor for large construction projects.
The Gentry consists of skilled workers and merchants. The Gentry have freedom of movement, but in exchange for this freedom they must provide their own income, deriving sustenance from plying their trade. Gentry who achieve great wealth from their trade may be invested with a single manorial estate (see the description of manorial estates, below).
The Chivalry consists of all recognized ‘knights of the realm”, (also called ‘chivalric knights’). The primary goal of a knight is to impress a titled nobleman (a member of the Nobility who holds title to a land estate) enough with his character and skills at arms to be invested with a manorial estate for his income.
The Nobility consists of those who hold title to various noble estates in the kingdom and their immediate families. The specific members of the Nobility who hold titles to land estates are referred to as ‘peers of the realm’, or collectively as the Peerage.
The Royalty are the sovereign (king or sovereign queen) and his or her family, including both immediate and extended family (also called ‘cadet’ branches). With the death of a sovereign (or if the rightful sovereign is determined to be unfit to rule due to poor health) a new sovereign is crowned – whomever among the Royalty is considered to have the closest kinship to the deceased (or unfit) sovereign. Members of the Royal Family who hold title to land estates are referred to as Royal Peers.
Note: The Royalty and Nobility, taken together, are all considered Nobility (although it is considered a grave insult to refer to a royal person as being ‘merely’ noble).
All land in the kingdom is divided into discrete parcels and each parcel is called a fief. Each fief is also considered to be an estate, or more specifically, a manorial estate.
Note: The primary difference between Arvedian Feudalism and the feudalism of our own history is in the type of hierarchical structure used in each. In our ‘real’ world, feudal estates existed completely independently of each other. Consequently, these estates might be raised or lowered in rank; i.e. a barony could be raised in status to a county or a county might be raised to a duchy. In this way, noble families could be rewarded (or punished) by having their fief(s) raised (or lowered) in status. In Arvedia, feudal estates do not exist independently of each other, but instead are nested within each other like Russian dolls, i.e. the kingdom contains multiple duchies, each of which contains multiple counties, which contain multiple baronies, with each barony containing multiple manorial estates.
The Barony is the fundamental noble estate, also referred to as a baronial estate. To make the administration of land easier, contiguous manorial estates are grouped together to form baronial estates, or baronies. A single baronial estate consists of the various manorial estates that comprise the barony (at least four). One manorial estate is set aside for the exclusive use of the nobleman who holds the title to that barony. This manorial estate is called the baronial manor. Another manorial estate, although it would be manned and worked by the baron, the income derived from it must be set aside for his liege lord. The income from a third manor is set aside for the sovereign. The income derived from the fourth and any subsequent manorial estates goes to the baron.
A nobleman who holds title to a baronial estate is styled a Baron – his wife a Baroness. The Baron and Baroness live in the baronial manor with their attendant household, coordinating the work of the various manorial estates and overseeing the administration of the entire Barony.
Baronial estates are also grouped together for increased ease of administration, just as manorial estates are. At least four contiguous baronial estates (themselves composed of at least twenty manorial estates between them) are required to create a comital estate called a county.
The nobleman who holds the title to the county is styled a Count – his lady wife, a Countess. Alternatively, if the comital estate covers an unusually large geographical area, the estate may be styled instead as an earldom rather than a county and the holder of the comital title would instead be styled as an Earl (although his wife would remain styled as a Countess).
The Count must occupy and administer at least one baronial estate under his own banner, called the comital (or Count’s) barony. The Count’s barony would in its turn have one manorial estate designated as both the baronial manor and the comital (or county) manor; if he owns more than one baronial estate in his county (or earldom), he must designate which of his baronial manors shall serve as his county manor. The Count is also required to set aside the income from another baronial estate for his sovereign king, and a third for his liege lord. The income from all remaining manorial estates is his.
Again, comital estates are, in turn, grouped together. At least four contiguous counties comprising a minimum of one hundred manorial estates may form a ducal estate, called a duchy.
The nobleman who holds this title is styled as a Duke – his wife, a Duchess. The Duke must own and administer at least one comital estate under his own banner, called the ducal (or Duke’s) county, and set aside another for the sovereign.
The Duke must occupy and administer at least one comital estate under his own banner, called the ducal (or Duke’s) county. The Duke’s county would in its turn have one baronial estate designated as the Duke’s barony, and the Duke’s barony would, in its turn, have one manorial estate designated as the ducal, comital, and baronial manor; if he owns more than one comital estate in his duchy, the duke must designate which of his comital baronies shall serve as his personal barony, and which manor estate will be his court. The Duke is also required to set aside the income from a second comital estate for his sovereign king, who will also be his liege lord. The income from all remaining manorial estates is his.
In areas where the Crown has recognized that the population is too sparse to justify forming a county, baronies may be grouped together to form a viscounty, which has unique criteria. While a county requires four contiguous baronies and a total of twenty manorial estates, only three baronies and a total of ten manorial estates are required to form a viscounty and the baronies need not be strictly contiguous – though they may not be more than a single day’s ride apart and the land between them must be wilderness. The nobleman who holds the title to the viscounty is styled as a Viscount – his wife, a Viscountess. The viscounty is somewhat on par with the county in that they are both comprised of baronies; the difference is that the requirements to create a viscounty are different, as stated above. The wilderness area between the non-contiguous baronies is called a riding, and a viscount is required to maintain the King’s Law in his ridings.
A nobleman who holds title to multiple viscounties may group them into what is called a march estate. The march estate, called a march, is on par with the duchy in the same way that a viscounty is on a par with a county. The criteria for forming a march estate is three Viscounties (which need not be contiguous) and fifty manorial estates. No viscounty may be more than a day’s ride from at least one other viscounty within the same march, and the nobleman must be able to administer all lands within the same march inside a single week. A nobleman who holds the title to a march estate is styled as a Marquis – his wife, a Marquess.
All the estates in the Arvedian feudal system, when taken together, form a Kingdom: the Kingdom of Arvedia. The Kingdom is ruled by the King who establishes Kingdom Law by edict and is the ultimate arbiter of justice in the realm.
Note: A single fief is titled as a manorial estate and is more often referred to colloquially as a manor. The entire manorial estate is comprised of a small village for the peasantry, a small place of worship (often with housing for the local clergy attached), and the surrounding fields and pastures which the peasants work. A nobleman who holds the title to a manorial estate will usually be a baron, but could be a count or a duke, or perhaps even the king, himself. Otherwise, the manor may be held by a knight or a member of the gentry (known as a gentleman). In these cases, the knight is styled Sir, his wife as Madame, and the gentleman is styled a Lord – his wife a Lady.
The Lord and Lady of the manor live in a manor house (which is typically set apart from the rest of the estate) where they and their household staff coordinate the work of the manor and administer the estate.
The ranks of peerage within the Arvedian feudal system, then, look like this:
Duke / Marquis
Count / Viscount
The King rules his Kingdom and is responsible for his subjects through the nobles who are obliged to render service to him. Each noble is required to supply, to his liege or to the king, one knight for each manorial estate he holds title to, upon demand. If the nobleman lacks for knights to send, he may send payment in lieu of the knight, called a knight’s fee, at a rate stipulated by the terms of his investiture agreement. A common method used by many barons to satisfy this agreement is to invest manorial estates upon knights that they find favorable, then make the agreement with the knight that military service will be rendered upon demand of the noble, his liege, or the king in return for the income provided to the knight by the estate. Another popular option is to invest manorial estates upon successful and wealthy members of the gentry and collecting a tax from the gentleman lord of the estate, allowing the baron (or other noble) to have sufficient funds to pay the knight’s fee.
Each noble is also required to administer one domain of the next lesser rank beneath his highest ranking estate directly. In other words, each duke must set aside one county for himself which he may not invest with another noble; each count must then set aside one barony for himself and each baron, a manor for himself. Each noble is also required to similarly set aside one domain of the next lesser rank for the sovereign’s income and another for his liege. Thus, each estate must contain a minimum of three estates of the next lesser rank: one for the sovereign, one for his liege, and one for himself. Any beyond the minimum of three, the noble may dispense as he pleases by working it himself or by investing it upon another noble.