The Government of Vlandia
The Kingdom of Vlandia can best be described as one entering the earliest stages of feudalism. This stems primarily from a synthesis of Jumnish tribalism and Calradian absolutism - the right to govern most of the country has been conferred on individual clans and families, their authority cemented by ancestry and the mere fact a title has been bestowed on their line. Nobles, however, still only comprise a portion the country’s leadership - churchmen, tribal chieftains, and nobody at all preside over as much of Vlandia as the highborn.
The better part of Vlandia’s nobles can trace their lineage back to one of Wilund the Bold’s warriors, whom he rewarded with property for one or another feat in battle. A minority were ennobled by later kings, and it’s not unheard of for even King Amalreiks to raise a commoner’s condition to one of nobility if he feels so inclined. All nobles, as property owners, must render unto their liege lord taxes, and swords when called upon. Those nobles who govern do so autonomously, without the involvement of other nobles unless such is entreated by themselves. Vlandia’s noble hierarchy is as follows:
(Calradic - Dux/Vlandian - Duc)
Dukes govern the largest administrative unit in the kingdom, the duchy, whose borders are derived from those of a kingdom or Calradic province annexed by Vlandia some time prior - eight duchies make up Vlandia. The duke’s job is to apply the king’s justice and carry out his will, in return having been vested with an often substantial estate. Dukes are charged with administering the realm’s laws throughout their duchy, which includes a fair few baronies and even more seigneuries and gastaldies. In practice, however, dukes don’t often extend their authority beyond their personal fiefs, often large cities, lest in times of crisis - such is, however, well within the duke’s right, and more energetic bearers of this title can be very keen to avail themselves of this privilege. The exception is disputes between lords, which is often the duke's responsibility to resolve. Vlandian law states that dukedom is not a noble’s title, but an appointment accorded to a bureaucrat, its holder installed as such by the king. It’s only de facto hereditary. Dukes often name their sons as successors, and the king never has much reason to raise objections, dukes being relatives or in another way connected with the king’s line - for much of Vlandian history the dukes were the king’s sons, their descendents many of today’s dukes. Dukes are therefore more administrators than feudal lords, and are excused the vassal’s burden of taxes, although are obliged to raise men for the king’s wars and make available their own service.
(Calradic - Comes/Vlandian - Gaugraf)
An office nearly identical to the duke, spare that counts aren’t often members of the king’s retinue, and make their homes in port-villages and regional centers of commerce instead of sprawling cities. Although it might be easy to suspect a count is the duke’s subordinate, the truth is although their jurisdictions often overlaps, they possess equal authority - Vlandian law, however, does recognize that dukes bear a more important charge. What this means, though, is if a count and duke find themselves amidst a disagreement, this’ the king’s duty to settle. Counties often include a few baronies and their seigneuries. Dukes, for lack of a better term, may be thought of as urban authorities, in contrast to the counts who might best be described as rural authorities.
- Counts and dukes are both assisted by scabini (Vlandian - rachimburg), trained experts on Vlandia's laws.
Barons rule over baronies, which are often made up of a few hamlets and lesser demesnes based around a more developed estate which acts as the barony’s capital and economic pivot. Barons are authentic feudal lords - they have no liege lord, though, but the king, and it’s to him they owe their taxes and men. Baronies often fall within the jurisdiction of count, however while it’s hardly unusual for a baron to lodge complaints to the count or ask of his assistance, the count almost never interferes with the barony’s affairs unless bid so either by the baron or the king.
Seigneurs are ordinary feudal lords, their estates never including more than a few hamlets if not only one. In addition to the king, they owe their fealty to the baron, and it’s to the baron he tenders his taxes and service.
(Calradic - Castaldus) Nobles sent by the crown to govern a “royal demesne” - territory belonging to the crown, often but not always untamed hinterlands not yet claimed by another noble. Akin to a bailiff, were the bailiff acting on his own behalf instead of a lord’s. May simply be defined as a “governor.”
- It should be noted not all Vlandia’s nobles are governors and rules. A fair portion aren’t much more than simple land-owners, perhaps more appropriately freeholders if not for the martial heritage they share with those titled highborn. Some know this variety of nobles as ecuyers, or “shield-bearers.”
The King And His Court
The King of Vlandia is Rex Amalreiks Vlandi, who makes his home in Praven. The King of Vlandia enjoys absolute power over his realm, and every adult in the kingdom swears an oath of loyalty to his person. As any good king, though, Rex Amalreiks has devolved much of the responsibility to a large coterie of advisors and scholars, many of whom are found in his court. The Vlandian king’s household is itinerant, and only spends a share of the year in the king’s palace in Pravend. The rest, it devotes to the traveling the entire realm, making sure all’s as it should be both amongst the nobility and their subjects. While it may be easy to think the occupies a station simply too lofty to lend his hear to the common man's grievances, the truth is many of the king's visits saw him settling disputes and remedying problems among villagers who weren't afraid to freely share them with His Majesty. It should suffice to say, however, the king has not the time to see all the realm. For the parts of Vlandia too far removed for the king’s personal attention, the royal court sends the so-called missus dominicus - palace inspectors. These are officials tasked with seeing to the correct interpretation of the king’s laws among those lords and governors of Vlandia the king cannot often enough visit himself.
Known otherwise as the Marchfield, this is an assembly held every year to talk over the realm's most pressing matters and settle on a plan of action. All the realm's most important men must attend.
Village Life In Vlandia
The typical Vlandian village is peopled by perhaps thirty to forty persons, occupying between six and ten households. Most villages keep with the so-called toft system, of residences strung close together and farmland mantling the surrounding land. Service features, such as barns and latrines, are a recent development and are for the most part found only in more developed villages. The same goes for field enclosures. Apart from the lord, at least two or three families are of “elite” extraction, a quality derived from either:
- Generations of service to the lord.
- Generations more of settlement in the area.
Those belonging to the former grouping likely constitute the lord’s bodyguard, called the “gasind,” although it’s not unheard of for their service to take the form of advising the lord or even producing his physicians. The latter category represents many of Vlandia’s old, landowing warrior clans, who a century or few ago were guedoned with property for service to one or another king/lord - some however, especially in Vlandia’s hinterlands, simply settled the area of their own accord and have bided since unshackled by homage to a lord. It is a fair assessment to look on both ilks as “vassals” of the lord in their own right, although “freeholder” or “shield-bearer” may still be a more appropriate designation. A common theme in Vlandian society is the blood-feud between elite clans, which very often culminates in fighting between the two families. Blood-feuds are next to never settled before either the paying of the “man-price” (Vlandian - wergild), a hefty sum of money which rises with the death toll, or arranging of a marriage.
The better part of a Vlandian village’s inhabitants are always farmers, sowing wheat, barley, and flax and raising pigs, poultry, and goats. The scenario thankfully takes place long before the advent of serfdom, however, and it therefore wouldn’t be truthful to describe the small-holding, farming majority as “serfs.” Although only large, commercial centers are home to a wider range of professions, specialisation with regard to trade is a feature of most Vlandian villages - these could mean a concentration of miners, smiths, and even cobblers and fletchers.
All villages are property of a lord. All villagers owe their lord a sum of their earnings, as well as service in the levy when called (barring of course invalids, children, and women). The lord typically delegates administration of the village to two individuals - these are the reeve, and the bailiff. The bailiff enforces the lord's laws, hears grievances, and acts as an arbitrator between villagers and their lord. The reeve supervises work, looks after cattle and produce, as well as hands out jobs.
Written by Conchobar