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"Everyone thinks that Nobles have it easy, but it's a treacherous life and you're always standing in someone's way. I'd rather take my chances out here with you lot than risk assassins back home. Give me a herd of Beastmen any day."
—'Lugner' Rodziner, Tenth of his Line.[3a]
Noble

A Noble.

The most important Noble families are those of Imperial Electors and of course the Emperor himself. There are hundreds of others though, and they all vie for more money and more power. Some seek their fortunes in war, others in business or politics. None would sully themselves by practising a common trade. The most contemptible nobles do nothing at all, merely live off their family wealth and attend an endless array of parties, dances, and gala events.[1a]

The younger children of noble houses, however, do not have it so easy. Since inheritance goes to the eldest, they must often make their own way in the world.[1a] Some gain an official commission in a state's armies or navies, others join a cult's priesthood, others join the employ of a higher ranking noble,[2a] and still others slum amongst the lower classes and fall in with adventurers and ne'er do-wells.[1a]

Noble Hierarchy

The importance and wealth attached to apparently similar titles varies greatly. For example, the Countess of Averland rules a vast area lying between the river Aver, the Upper Reik, and the Black Mountains, while the Countess of Bylor rules a Sylvanian bog in Eastern Stirland that would barely support half of a poor baronet of the Reikland. This diversity is noticeable in the wealth of the more important families, particularly among the Royal Houses who hold Electoral positions.[4a]

Rulers of Principalities are styled as Princes or Princesses, while rulers of Duchies are known as Dukes or Duchesses. Rulers of Counties are known as Counts or Countesses, and rulers of Baronies are known as Barons or Baronesses, as are heirs to Counties and Duchies. Rulers of Marches (borderlands) are called Margraves. Heirs to Baronies are known as Baronets, and heirs to Principalities known as Crown Princes. The ruler of the League of Ostermark is known as the Chancellor.[4b]

However, local customs ensure that no two parts of the Empire have a consistent standard, and that there are many more titles than the few already listed. In Nordland, heirs to coastal estates are titled Master or Mistress. Down the Reik, many Prime Estates are ruled by Reikgrafs and Reikgravins. In many parts of the Empire, ‘Hochadel’ Noble Houses, those who have been counted as noble for over 1,000 years, use the title graf and gravin rather than duke and duchess or count and countess; that said, in Middenland they prefer the title grafina to gravin, which they see as somewhat effeminate.[4b]

In general, the prefix ‘Grand’ signifies that the title holder is also an Elector — thus Emperor Karl-Franz is also the Grand Prince of the Reikland. However, not all rulers choose to use it: Graf Boris Todbringer of Middenheim, for example, is not styled ‘Grand Graf ’ or ‘Grand Duke’ largely because he doesn’t like the way either title sounds. Instead, he is universally known as ‘the Graf’.[4b]

A Day in the Life

Upon waking in a sumptuous bedroom the noble calls for servants to help him groom, dress and bring him breakfast. He may wish to hear some music, and a lute player will be summoned. He may wish to visit the town, in which case servants prepare his carriage and drape a green velvet cloak about his shoulders.[2a]

Most of the people the noble meets seek his favour through sycophantic shows of obedience, but he may have to deal with less deferential individuals. A farmer may complain about taxes, or a bereaved woman whines that if the Cult of Shallya had better funding her infant need not have suffered. Occasionally there might be a moment of drama as an angry young man flings something unpleasant at the noble before dashing off. If the local watch are alert enough the noble may have the satisfaction of seeing the churl hung.[2a]

All are distractions from the business of the day – statecraft and socialising. He will meet with magisters, guild masters, priests and burgomeisters, and review the performance of his underlings, bailiffs, heralds and watch sergeants. He may draft a new law or decide to instigate some military adventure. The evening might be spent amongst his noble peers at a high class club, enjoying the latest Sierck production at a theatre, or dancing an elegant waltz at a ball.[2a]

Social Responsibility and the Nobility

Whilst agitators might decry them as corrupt parasites, many nobles realise they are expected (though not required) to act as paragons of virtue. Nobles with a social conscience, or a deeper understanding of politics, know that every time they behave in a less than exemplary manner they provide ammunition to those who seek to attack the nobility. Such nobles try their best to set an example to those below them. They court public opinion by donating to Shallyan orphanages, or by taking a prominent position in the ranks of the military during times of conflict.[2a]

More selfish or ignorant members of the nobility don’t bother themselves with such a burden of responsibility. This obnoxious behaviour is most notable in the archetypal "rake". These are usually young and foppish nobles who takes pleasure in inflicting all manner of childish and humiliating pranks on their social inferiors, knowing they will be able to buy or intimidate himself out of any trouble they might get into as a result. Gangs of such rakes can be encountered "slumming it" in many cities of the Old World, drunk on expensive liquor and looking for entertainment.[2a]

Sources

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 1a: pg. 46
  • 2: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Career Compendium
    • 2a: pg. 153
  • 3: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Core Rulebook
    • 3a: pg. 73
  • 4: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th ED -- Enemy in Shadow Companion
    • 4a: pg. 55
    • 4b: pg. 56

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