The Imperial nobility is a narrow class of persons at the upper strata of society who hold, either personally or through their family line, noble rank from the Emperor. Noble rank serves two purposes: it rewards individuals for significant achievements, and it provides social station for the political leaders within the government.
Nobility is acquired through letters of patent (patents of nobility) issued by the Emperor. Traditionally, appointments are published in the Holiday List (appearing on the first day of the new year) and in the Birthday List (appearing on the Emperor's birthday; Strephon's is 202). Additional patents of nobility for political purposes or special occasions, are published when necessary.
All nobility forms part of the feudal system of Imperial government. Nobles, upon receiving their patent or upon confirming their inheritance when coming of age, swear continuing loyalty to the Imperium, to the Emperor, and to the Emperor's heirs and successors. There are three general types of nobles: honour (achievement), rank (position) and high (service) nobles. Only rank and high nobles are have real administrative functions with the Imperium.
Honour nobles receive patents for "heroism in the military, success in civil or commercial enterprise, or innovation and discovery in the services". Rank up to marquis may be awarded. Patents for honour nobles are not hereditary.
Rank nobles receive patents because of a citizen's position. Two sub-types exist. Local nobility represents the Imperium in systems not administered by high nobility. These nobles make up the majority of the Imperial nobility, and although they are only equivalent to barons and knights in precedence, they are hereditary members of the peerage. Administrators are citizens who hold Imperial office. Except in extraordinary situations, a person must be a peer in order to hold high office in the Imperial bureaucracy (although not all peers hold office). These patents are tied to a position, and are not hereditary.
High nobles belong to the smallest segment of the peerage, consisting of people belonging to old and powerful families entrenched in the Imperial system for generations. These nobles directly administer Imperial territories and are personal representatives of the Emperor. Patents are awarded for "political support in office, victory in the military, or contributions or economic assistance from the commercial sector" beyond any reasonable expectation. Patents are hereditary (upon confirmation by the Moot) and almost always include a fief or feudal estate granted by a letter of enfeoffment.
The lowest of the noble ranks (Soc B) is the knight, awarded by the Emperor or an archduke as an honourific rank in recognition of achievement or service. As such, a knighthood is coveted by non-nobles and is seen as more attainable than membership in the peerage. A knighthood entitles the recipient to be addressed as Sir (some females prefer Dame) before their name, and to suffix the initials of the order of knighthood after their name. An individual accorded a knighthood may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 10 square km.
Knights are not members of the peerage, and thus are not subject to all the protocols. Instead, they belong to orders of knighthood and are awarded privileges according to the order. Each order has its own code, and knights are expected to abide by these codes. Members of the peerage generally consider knights to be "separate but equal" members of the nobility, and it is considered a breach of protocol for a member of the peerage to treat a knight with disrespect.
Several dozen orders of knighthood exist in the Imperium. Some are restricted to specific classes of individuals; others are awarded for specific achievements or service; still others are broad-based orders. The most common are the Order of Starship and Crown (established in 17) and the Order of the Emperor's Guard (established in 52). More exclusive orders are the Order of Hlyuea (established to honour loyal Aslan citizens), the Order of Gvadakoung (established to honour loyal Vargr citizens), and the Honourable Order of the Arrow (established to recognise interstellar explorers). The domains each have their own orders: the Order of Antares , the Order of Deneb , the Order of the Gateway , the Order of Ilelish , the Order of Sol , the Order of Sylea , and the Order of Vland . Of these, the Order of Sylea is administered by the Emperor himself (as Archduke of Sylea ), and the Order of Deneb has never been used (no archduke exists).
Intermediate between the first and second level of noble rank is the baronet. This is a special form of baron awarded by an archduke. The Emperor can create baronets (either as Emperor or in his capacity as Archduke of Sylea); in practice, they are only created by one of the Archdukes.
They rank below barons in seniority and precedence, and do not generally receive fiefs of land. A baronetcy entitles the individual to use the prefix Baronet before one's name.
The second level of noble rank (Soc C) is the baron, and is the lowest level accorded membership in the peerage. Several styles of address are used, including attaching a prefix to the surname (such as von-, haut-, or hault-) or using the title Baron. When a barony includes a fief, the the title is generally followed by the fief's name (such as Baron Solvenos). An individual accorded a barony may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 100 square km.
The third level of noble rank (Soc D) is the marquis, a noble associated with a single world. The title consists of the world name after the title, as in the Marquis of Aramis (or alternatively, the Marquis Aramis). An individual accorded a marquisate may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 1,000 square km.
The fourth level of noble rank (Soc E) is the count, a "local area" noble associated with two or three worlds within a subsector. Counts are referred to by their title, followed by their surname or the name of one of the worlds within their county. An individual accorded a county may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 10,000 square km.
The fifth level of noble rank (Soc F) is the duke, associated with a subsector or sector. The noble is referred to by their title followed by "of" and then the subsector or sector name (for example, Duke of Regina). The power of the duke depends on circumstances and the situation within the sector, but generally one duke within a sector rises to power and comes to be the Sector Duke, who is the ruler that sector. An individual accorded a duchy may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 100,000 square km.
At the highest level of nobility (Soc G) are the archdukes, who exercise control over the six original domains. They act as intermediaries between the Emperor and the other levels of nobility (except for the Domain of Sylea , where the Emperor is also the archduke).
Above the range of noble ranks (Soc H) is the Emperor and the Imperial Family. The Emperor is the ultimate object of thousands of oaths of loyalty and fealty.
The current Emperor of the Third Imperium is Strephon Aella Alkhalikoi.
(SUPP-11, 1107; MT-ENCYC, 1120)
Return to Top of Page
TRAVELLER is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises.
Portions of this material are Copyright ©1977-2006 Far Future Enterprises.