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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Lords and Ladies, Barons and Baronesses

   
Author Topic: Lords and Ladies, Barons and Baronesses
RoxyL
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I'm looking for some advice from all you with far more experience in medieval fantasy settings than I.

In my WIP I've got a country that is ruled by a queen. Next under her, the country is split up into landholdings controlled by ... and this is where I have trouble. I'm calling them barons and baronesses now. They form a council with some sway over government, but the queen has ultimate control.

So, what's the correct name for these guys who control the various portions of the country - barons and baronesses? Lords and Ladies? Uh...that's about all I've got. My royalty knowledge is next to nothing. Help?

Thanks!

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MartinV
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This might be of some use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_titles

I'm still studying this topic as well and I can already tell you that there's no simple answer. It all depends on which country you're looking at so if you're writing fantasy, you can always make something up.

I think Game of Thrones has a rather simple way:
King
Liege Lord
Lord
Petty Lord
Knight (ser)
Hedge Knight

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angel011
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Maybe this will help?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_and_noble_ranks

EDIT: oops, looks like you already got the answer! [Smile]

Just please, whatever you do, don't put something like a Padishah, a Kaiser, Maharaja and a Pharaoh as belonging to the same culture. [Smile]

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extrinsic
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Sounds to me like a feudal situation. Starting from the lowest commoner rung, a basic pecking order:

Serfs
Villaines
Free men
Overseers
(The above are peasant commoners; below are nobility and clergy: the three estates of the feudal realm)
Laird or lord and lady of the manor and priest of the manor
Noble and abbess and abbot of the parrish
Knight and dame
Baronet and baronetess and bishop of the diocese
Baron and baroness
Viscount and viscountess
Count and countess
Duke and duchess and cardinal of the conclave
Archduke and archduchess
Grand duke and grand duchess
Monarch of a nation
Emperor and pope of an empire

[ April 06, 2012, 01:27 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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GreatNovus
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I like prefect myself, although thats probably not what you're looking for for your specific situation. Played too much Romance of the Three Kingdoms as a kid.
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redux
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Here's a good link about British Peerage that might jump start some good ideas for your story:
http://www.regencyresearcher.com/pages/peer1.html

And here's another one that can give you ideas about forms of address:
http://laura.chinet.com/html/titles12.html

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MattLeo
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The term "baron" was introduced to English with the Norman Conquest, and meant any man who was a direct vassal of the king (and who therefore was a peer who sat in Parliament). So all peers are collectively referred to as "barons". In practice "baron" applied to an individual applies to a junior peer.

Countries acquire their orders of precedence via historical events like the Norman Conquest that are peculiar to them, so there isn't a one to one correlation between titles in England and in France or the Holy Roman Empire. So making the system of fantasy country peerages exactly follow that of the modern UK makes no sense, but introducing ranks not in the English language is just a pain. So I'd keep it simple.

In its ancient form, a title would originally correspond to the geographic extent of a noble's authority the means by which he's entitled to the land. To wit:

King: somebody with authority of a territory (typically extensive) with no suzerain (feudal superior). Largely interchangeable with "prince", although "prince" is also a courtesy title given to senior members of the royal family.

Duke: In Latin a "dux" was what we'd call a general; in the feudal system that meant having a big territory (a duchy) with lots of vassals serving you. Dukes were in theory vassals, but were often as or more powerful than their suzerains. To this day Luxembourg is a "grand duchy", which is to say a kingdom that once was held as a duchy who has a sovereign who for historical reasons isn't called a prince.

Marchess/Margrave/Earl/Count/Comte: An count holds an extensive territory (a county); if that county is on the border (a march) he is a Marquess or Margrave. Being a Marquess is slightly spiffier than being an ordinary count, but the extent of the territories involved are comparable. In England the title "Earl" is used instead of "Count". In some places(Italy) a count might rule an important city.

Viscount: title introduced to England as feudalism was in decline; sometimes a senior baron, more often a courtesy title for the sons for more senior, non-royal nobles. No corresponding title in German, but where used on the Continent often the feudal ruler of a city who can't claim the more senior title of "count".

Baron: A nobleman who holds territory as a vassal to the king, typically less extensive than a county but still large enough to sub-let as fiefs to vassal knights. Some barons managed to acquire territory so extensive they were as powerful as dukes or kings (e.g., Sieur de Coucy, whose "estate" encompassed over 150 towns and villages).

Baronet: In England, originally a baron who lost his right to sit in the House of Lords, and is therefore not a peer. James I sold baronetcys, essentially making them knighthoods with a cherry on top. There is no corresponding title on the Continent.

Remember -- your kingdom almost certainly doesn't have titles that correspond exactly to English titles, and seniority doesn't equate to power. I would keep things simple. You don't need both "count" and "marquess". You can probably skip "duke" and definitely skip "baronet". Perhaps you might choose "count" instead of "earl" to emphasize this is not England. If you want a really antique sound, try "thane" instead of "baron".

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Merlion-Emrys
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The correct name for them is whatever you choose to have them called. It's a fictional world. You don't have to use real-world titles, but if you choose to do so they need not be used in the same way in your world as they were/are here.

And even in the real world, each country, region and time period had a variety of different levels, setups, titles, systems and hierarchies.

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shimiqua
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I agree with Merlion. If your instincts said Baron and Baroness, then go with it.

It's your world. You could have the world ruled by a Serf, and the poor population be called Queens and Kings. Why the heck not? All you would have to do as sell the attitude.

I think if your trying to sell magic, people come into the story with different expectations than if you were telling historical fiction.

~Sheena

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Great resources, everyone, and a great explication of the history of English titles, MattLeo.

Don't faint, Merlion-Emrys, but on this point I completely agree with you.

I also agree with MattLeo on keeping it simple.

By the way, I believe that the men who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta were referred to as barons, so that could be simple enough for you.

As for the term, "Lord," it might help if you consider it analoguous to "Mister," but for a noble; as if it's just a term of address that can apply to any of several levels of nobility. Don't worry about how it is/was used in England. Use it the way that works for you.

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RoxyL
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Oh, you guys are fabulous! This gives me a lot to chew over. Who knew the world of royalty was so complicated - scratch that, with thousands of years of history, how can it be anything but?

It's one of the things I love about writing - finding out all this new stuff.

Thanks much.

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MattLeo
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I would disagree slightly with Merlion-Emrys's otherwise excellent advice, in just this one point: it isn't *entirely* up to you what terms you use. If you do use a term, you should use it in a way that isn't confusing to those who know its real world meaning.

For example I don't like the above mentioned use "Liege-lord" as a substitute for "Duke", because in the real world "liege lord" has a meaning that could apply to persons holding a variety of ranks. It's confusing. Likewise having a baronet sit in your "council" would be confusing, since in the real world a "baronet" is somebody who does NOT sit in the House of Lords.

The goal should to avoid unnecessary confusion. If power is the only thing that you have to describe, you could have "great barons", "barons" and "petty barons". However if the difference between power and hereditary dignity is important to your story, then I'd use a stripped down system of real world titles, e.g. Duke, Earl, Baron, Knight, in which some of the "great barons" have power rivaling Dukes, but not status.

[ April 06, 2012, 09:25 PM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
I would disagree slightly with Merlion-Emrys's otherwise excellent advice, in just this one point: it isn't *entirely* up to you what terms you use. If you do use a term, you should use it in a way that is consistent with its correct use.

For example I don't like the above mentioned use "Liege-lord" as a substitute for "Duke", because in the real world "liege lord" has a meaning that could apply to persons holding a variety of ranks.

I'm not sure, though, how many people even among fantasy fans would really be aware of the difference. I don't really see much reason why a term would NEED to be consistent with its real-world use, save for possibly creating confusion in the reader...however, most people I know are already confused by such titles and things anyway as it is. Myself included...well, I'm not really CONFUSED by them but my knowledge of them is only middling.

Things like "Lord" and "Liege" especially can be weird because as you say, even in the "real" world they are often somewhat generic terms that may apply to people of a variety of standings.

What your saying is valid. However, I think its only likely to come up for a comparatively small percentage of readers and, at the end of the day I think the biggest first concern is that whatever is used in the story stay consistent in the story. I just personally tend to prefer that, unless the story has a historical setting, it not necessarily copy real-world history detail for detail. It is, after all, a different world.

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MattLeo
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Merlion-Emrys -- I did say it was a **small** point ;-)

Whether it causes confusion probably depends on whether your reader lives in a country with hereditary peerage.

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Merlion-Emrys
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And/or how much they've studied such things, yes. For instance, I find myself in that type of situation a lot with, say, esoteric symbology, angel and demon names, that kind of thing. I'll watch a movie or whatever where they use something in a way very different from the meaning I'm familiar with and I'm like huh, what? Why are they using that for that?

But usually once that passes I'm just interested in the new usage. It IS something worth being aware of, and certainly learning the intricacies of such things is worthwhile, whether one uses them precisely in a given story or not.

It's something I will probably have to become more aware of as I go on with my own WIP.

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Robert Nowall
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Not that I'm an expert---growing up in America, we all walk around like kings and queens---but some of what kind of nobility that falls under your queen, will depend on the nature of the office of queen.

Is this queen "first among equals," "divine being made manifest," or somewhere in between?

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