Noble Ranks

Imperial Noble ranks range from Knight to Emperor.  Those nobles of rank Baron or above are considered the peerage, and the title carries with it a seat in the Moot.  Each rank carries with it a certain implicit social standing, as shown in the table below:

Social Standing Rank Title(s) Land (if landed)
B Knight Sir, Dame --
Baronet, Bart.
Lord, Lady
C Baron Baron, Baroness, von, haut, hault (system-dependent)
D Marquis Marquis, Marchioness System
E Count Count, Countess Cluster of systems
F Duke Duke, Duchess Subsector, Sector
G Archduke Archduke, Archduchess Domain
H Emperor Emperor Imperium

Note that the actual social standing may vary depending on particular circumstances.  The Marquis of Nexine carried almost equal weight to that of a Count for many years before Emperor Gavin legitimized that standing with the title of Count and official responsibility for the Nexine Cluster.

Types of Nobility

A Landed title is linked to an area of the Imperium for which the noble has responsibility.  For example, the Duke of Vilis is responsible for the entire subsector of Vilis / Spinward Marches, while the Marchioness of Edenelt is responsible for the system of Edenelt.  Lower "lands" which do not have a direct Imperial noble over them revert to the lowest noble whose "land" encompasses them.

The title also includes a fief or feudal estate granted by a letter of enfeoffment.  While the fief stays with the title, most nobles also hold additional estates which often enclose the original fiefdom.  Thus the extent of the estates of a given noble depend on the actions of preceding generations: they may expand or contract as they are passed along with the title.  The original fief, however, is granted to the noble by the emperor -- it may not be sold, given away, used as collateral, or otherwise disposed of, and the emperor may reclaim it along with the title.

The landed nobility (also called the High Nobility) is the smallest segment of the peerage.  It consists of people belonging to families which are (or will become) entrenched in the Imperial system for generations.  Because of this, these nobles are the most powerful, but they do carry certain responsibilities of office.

These nobles directly administer Imperial territories and are personal representatives of the emperor.  Members of the high nobility have enormous personal power to sustain the responsibility of holding together an interstellar community.  Landed nobles have precedence in the peerage and are thus the most powerful of the nobility.

By contrast, an Honorific title is not associated with any land.  While the noble may well own estates and be associated with a particular world, he is not within the landed chain of command.  So Marquis Crestworthy of Pallique has no direct jurisdiction over or responsibility for the system of Pallique, and the noble responsible for Pallique in terms of Imperial jurisdiction is actually the Count of Nexine.

Landed nobles rank slightly higher than Honorific nobles of the same nominal rank.  It's a subtle difference, but to those who are aware of the nuances, the difference is vital.  Also, of course, in matters relating to the Land of a particular noble, he would outrank all other nobles of similar rank.

Rules of Succession


Peerage titles are hereditary.  Imperial rules of succession by default pass the title on to the eldest child of a marriage, although that child can decline the title in favor of the next person in line of succession.  If there is no child, the family tree is followed back to find an appropriate successor; if there is no successor, the title becomes vacant until appointed by the Emperor (or by the local Archduke at the Emperor's request).  All titles of the rank Baron or above, landed or not, are hereditary.

In exceptional circumstances, a child may be denied inheritance by the current noble publicly renouncing that child's birthright, and at the same time designating a new successor.  This invariably causes a horrific scandal, and if a child really is unsuitable for inheritance it is much preferable to convince him or her to decline the title voluntarily.

Knight is not hereditary.  Although it may be "inherited" in the sense that it is a privilege of birth, it does not pass on through succession.  The title is therefore never associated with hereditary lands.

Lord is a special case; while not in itself landed, and not hereditary (not passed on through succession), it indicates a particular standing in the structure of hereditary landed titles.  A person who declines a title under the rules of succession retains the title Lord (Lord of place if landed) to separate them from the lower ranked honorific nobility.  The title is also be used to indicate the heir to a landed title, prior to the assumption of the higher title; in this case the definite article may be used with the title, although never would the Lord of Adabicci be addressed as Adabicci, although the eldest child of the Duke of Adabicci may also be referred to as Eduard, Lord Adabicci.

Succession becomes complicated in the case where multiple titles come together by marriage.  It is traditional to attempt to split titles where a direct line of descent is available -- this preserves the Emperor's intent that a noble be responsible for just one Land, as appointed originally.  So once the hypothetical Count and Countess of Kinorb in our example of marriage below have children, the title associated with Kinorb would pass to their eldest child, the Lady of Kinorb.  Their second child would be heir to the title Marquis of Moran, and thus  be the Lord of Moran.  Often such a Count and Countess would abdicate their lesser title once the Lord of Moran reaches the age of majority, and so at that point the noble family would be titled thusly: the Count and Countess of Kinorb; their eldest child the Lady of Kinorb; their second child the Marquis of Moran.


Hereditary titles can also transfer by marriage.  The specifics depend primarily on whether either partner is landed.

Where either spouse has an Honorific title,  both partners assume the highest title either has, retaining the same Landing (if any).  So if the Marquis of Moran were to marry Duchess Maria, they would become the Duke and Duchess of Moran.

When both partners are landed, they assume both titles.  So if the Marquis of Moran were to marry the Countess of Kinorb, they would become the Count and Countess of Kinorb, while also holding the responsibilities of Marquis and Marchioness of Moran.

When one partner is elevated in rank, the other follows suit.  If Countess Fostriades were to be elevated to Duchess, her husband would not be mentioned in the ceremony or announcements -- they would all mention only the Countess.  Nevertheless, when she became Duchess Fostriades, her husband would automatically assume the title Duke.

A commoner marrying a noble assumes the title of the noble.

Children of a hereditary title are born into honorific titles; Lord (or Lady) if the heir apparent, Knight if not the direct heir.  So the three children of the Duke of Adabicci are: the eldest, Eduard, Lord Adabicci; the middle, Dame Arahani; and the youngest, Sir Geoffrey.

Protocols and the Law


The nobility regulates itself through standard codes of behavior known as protocols, which exist at multiple levels.  At the Imperial level there is standardization, but within local nobility one can find a wide diversity in protocols to accommodate variant cultures and their traditions (including alien ones).

At best, violation of the protocols is a breach of taste and ethics; at worst, it may be cause for patent review, which could lead to a recommendation that a patent be revoked.  Recommendations from local peerages carry much weight with the emperor.

Protocols aside, nobles have few obligations in terms of provision for each other, notwithstanding the payment of taxes, attendance of summits, and settlement of disputes that fall within each other's jurisdictions.  Members of the peerage are largely autonomous and have few restrictions on their activities, especially if they are in a backwater.

In most cases, the intelligent noble will follow the local dictates of a peer simply out of respect and courtesy.  Unless the visiting peer is in the chain of command above the local peer, the visitor will defer to the local regardless of difference in rank; such is the traditional power of landed nobility within their own Land.

Nobles and the Law

The rights nobles have under local law is of major concern.  Nobles are subject to all the Imperial laws that any other citizen is.  Local laws may be another matter.

Where a noble is not acting under the auspices of a landed noble's local laws or the protocols, he is accorded the rights of any Imperial citizen.  With regard to personal safety, he is allowed (applying to retinue and bodyguards) to "bear arms" to his content, as long has he is armed (with respect to any peers in mind) discreetly.

Bearing arms in the presence of a superior may be a serious breach of protocol.  On the other hand, cultural influences (as in the case of Archduke Dulinor and his Dlani heritage) within a landed peerage might dictate that a noble must bear arms in the presence of another peer.  Failure to do so could be a form of disrespect, as serious a breach as bearing weapons when inappropriate.  Thus while the Duchess of Mora must go unarmed when attending an audience with the emperor, Archduke Dulinor would actually be required to be armed appropriately as tradition demands.

Additional privileges might include the ability to set and revoke local laws and trade policies.  Preferential (or occasionally free) starship passage is another noble privilege offered by some lines.  Nobles may accept diplomatic gifts from neighbors, whether Imperial or alien; they may also call for Imperial justice or trial by peers.  Certain rank nobles may be able to mete out Imperial justice or grant pardons.  As the ultimate Imperial power, a noble might even carry an Imperial Warrant.

Aspects of Rank

The lowest noble rank is knight; the highest is emperor.  Several aspects of rank are governed by strict protocol, including the title (the formal reference to the person in print or by reference), style (the method of addressing the individual personality), and precedence (the relative seniority of the individual among others).  In addition, customary prerequisites for each noble rank vary widely.

The noble Title includes the allowed prefixes (such as "Sir") and suffixes (such as "of Yori") to a name and the order in which they are presented.

Landed nobles are referenced using subtly different language to that referring to Honorific nobles.  Landed nobles can be called "the X of Y", such as the Count of Nexine, or less commonly Count Nexine or may even be addressed as (among very high social circles) Nexine; he would never be called Count Gratha of Nexine.  In contrast, Honorific nobles are named without an article and with a name, so that Marquis Crestworthy of Pallique would never for a moment be considered to have responsibilities for or jurisdiction over the Pallique system, and would never be addressed directly using the name of the system; he would be called Marquis Crestworthy or in sufficient social circles by his first name, as in Marquis Marc or simply Marc.  It is considered a grave insult to address a Landed noble as if he were an Honorific, and just as large a social gaffe to address an Honorific noble as if he were Landed.

The noble Style dictates the manner in which a noble is addressed and includes such honorifics as "Your Grace" or "Your Majesty."

Precedence is accorded strictly on the basis of rank, with landed nobles ahead of honorific.  Lord or Lady counts as landed for these purposes, and thus outranks Baronet, which in turn outranks other Knights.


The lowest of noble ranks is knight, which is awarded 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.

Knights are not members of the peerage and are thus not subject to all protocols.  Knights instead belong to orders of knighthood and are awarded privileges according the the order.  In addition to the use of the title Sir or Dame, the knight may suffix the initials of the order of knighthood after the name.


At the first level of noble rank, but ahead of honorific knights, is the baronet.  This is a special form of minor baron awarded by an archduke of one of the domains of the Imperium.  Although the emperor can create baronets (either as emperor or in his capacity as effective Archduke of Sylea), in practice they are created only by the archdukes.  Baronets are never landed.

Baron or Baroness

The second level of noble rank is the baron, the lowest level accorded membership in the peerage.  Barons are referenced in several different styles, which include the use of prefixes to the surname (such as von, haut, or hault) and the title Baron.  The fief associated with landed baronies is on a single world, generally not more than 100 square kilometers.

Marquis or Marchioness

The third level of noble rank is the marquis, who if landed is associated with a single world.  The fief associated with landed marquisates will be on a single world, generally no more than 1000 square kilometers.

Count or Countess

The fourth level of noble rank is the count, who if landed is associated with a cluster of worlds (usually no more than two or three).  The fief associated with a landed county will be on a single world, generally no more than 10,000 square kilometers.

Duke or Duchess

The fifth level of noble rank is the duke, who if landed is associated with a subsector or sector.  The power of the duke depends on circumstances and the situation within the sector, but generally in the absence of an archduke, one duke within a sector rises to power and comes to be the sector duke, who is the ruler of that sector.  The fief associated with a landed duchy will be on a single world, generally no more than 100,000 square kilometers.

Archduke or Archduchess

Each of the six Imperial domains has an archduke exercising overall control and acting as an intermediary between the Emperor and the other levels of nobility.  Archduke, therefore, is always a landed title.  The Domain of Sylea is ruled directly by the Emperor; there is no Archduke of Sylea as such  The fief associated with an archduchy will be an entire world, generally retained as a private reserve.

Emperor or Empress

Above the range of noble ranks is the emperor and the Imperial family.  The emperor is the ultimate object of thousands of oaths of loyalty and fealty.


Patents of landed nobility will included fiefs of land.  Fiefs are granted in a Letter of Enfeoffment separate from the Patent of Nobility.  Nevertheless, the fief is associated directly with the title, and reverts to the emperor should the title drop into disuse.  The fief conveys the nominal ownership of the land (except that it may not be sold, gifted, used as collateral, or otherwise disposed of) and the right to use it, rent or lease it, and to collect income from it.

The size of the fief depends on how great an income the emperor wishes to award a noble, and on the location of the fief itself.  A baron with a fief consisting of several hundred square kilometers of sparsely settled wilderness, and one with a single hectare of the business district of a city could be considered to hold equal fiefs.

Landed nobles have often had the fief (along with titular estates) in their family for generations, and they have built it up in value and income potential.  Some sites at Capital generate considerable income each year.  Other fiefs have been administered with great care to ensure that the territory is not only valuable but also tastefully used.  Still others have been exploited ruthlessly in mining or industrial pursuits.

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