The foundation of interstellar government within the Imperium is the nobility.  The Imperium depends on nobles ranging from knights to archdukes to carry the chain of authority and the mantle of responsibility from the emperor to the people.

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 is a mark of high social status for citizens and serves two purposes: it rewards individuals for significant achievements, and it provides social station for the political leaders within the government.

The nobility includes within it a subset called the peerage, which consists of all nobles except knights and baronets.  Collectively, the peerage constitutes the Moot.

Nobility is usually hereditary -- a title continues to be passed down to succeeding generations.  This is explained in detail under the entry for Noble Ranks.

Nobility is acquired through letters patent (patents of nobility) issued by the emperor.  Traditionally, appointments are published in the Holiday List (appearing on the first day of each new year) and in the Birthday List (appearing on the emperor's birthday).  Additional patents of nobility for political purposes or special occasions are published when necessary.

All nobility is 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 successors.  Failure to do so can void the patent for the generation or even permanently.

Noble rank can be revoked by the emperor, personally or through the Moot.  Reasons for such revocation are treason, murder, kidnapping, and extortion as well as other felonies.  Incompetence can also be a reason for revocation of a title.

All noble ranks within the peerage come from the emperor.  The ability to create knights and baronets, however, is shared with the archdukes of the Imperium.  The archdukes, within their domains, have an authority to create knights and baronets that is subject to disapproval only by the emperor.  The purpose of the knighthoods (and baronetcies) is to allow the archdukes to create supporters and retainers for their own purposes rather than to depend on the emperor to do so.  The noble ranks created are not members of the Moot.

Under certain circumstances, archdukes may also issue patents of nobility for the peerage, but these are strictly subject to confirmation by the emperor; in practice, however, such confirmation is usually forthcoming, as an archduke would never presume to issue such a patent were it not clearly justified.

Responsibilities of Nobles

Nobles are expected to conform with social conventions.  For example, those of Cogri are blinded upon ascendancy in recollection of when actions of the hereditary nobility caused hundreds of citizens to be blinded by the intense rays of their sun.

A culture may be prejudiced against technologies like bionics, robots, regeneration, or other medical treatments.  They may have to use breath masks or wear eye patches, or use exotic technical solutions, such as powered grav chairs equipped with life support.  Most nobles have the resources to purchase these devices.  The Marquis of Inthe, when not in zero-G areas, must wear a delicate powered exoskeleton to counter his frail bone structure (reportedly due to inbreeding).

The upper crust of the Imperium is also expected to avoid psionics; the emperor will not publicly admit a psionic noble.

Sociocultural or religious traditions may hamper a noble.  Certain lifestyles or careers may be deemed "inappropriate."  A landed noble may not be able to travel far because of a required presence for some type of ceremony or event.

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