Prophecy: Feudalism

Feudalism

The prevaling form of government in the civilized portions of
Oerth is feudalism. Under this system all land, theoritically, is
owned by the king. He in turn grants inheritable fiefs to trusted
families who then provide for local governance and defense and who
are responsible for providing for the defense of the kingdom should
the king request it. These nobles can, in turn, grant fiefdoms to
individuals they trust through a process known as
subinfeudation.

The distinction between nobles and commonfolk is in many ways
the most important distinction one can make. There are certain
rights and privilages that are allowed only to nobles such as the
right to bear arms, own and ride warhorses, organize military
forces, hold fortifications, and dispense justice. Nobles receive
better treatment in the law as well. The the case of a dispute
between a noble and a commoner, the result is rarely in
question.

Noblity is inherited. The child of a noble is a noble. The only
way that a commoner can become noble is through marriage, adoption,
or by a grant of knighthood. Socially, nobility by birth has more
status than acquired noble status.

Knighthood

Knighthood is not a feudal title such as king, baron, and earl
are (though anyone with those feudal titles is considered a
knight). Theoritically, anyone can be knighted, usually for
exemplary service to the crown or as membership in a prestigious
knightly order. Knighthood is an honor conferred on a person for
his or her lifetime only. While the child of a knight is considered
a noble, that status will lapse in the next generation unless
another knighthood is granted.

A knight is expected to adhere to a set of standards and
behaviors of morality referred to as chivalry. The chivalric
virtues are prowess, generosity, sourtesy, loyalty to one’s lord
and one’s clan, and service to church and society.

The number of knights in the Flannaes far outnumber the number
that can be granted lands. Thus, most knights are landless Knights
Bachelor. Some knights bachelor will realize their dream of owning
a fief, but most will be retainers to other greater nobles or
members of knightly fighting orders.

Manorialism

The power of the nobility is ultimately vested in its control of
the land. Agriculture employs and sustains most of the inhabitants
of Oerth, and feudal lords control most of the productive land. The
basic economic unit of rural lands is the manorial fief which can
range in size from hundreds to thousands of acres in size. A
typical keep has 10-30 manors within a fifteen miles.

Most manors are held by a knight who owes fealty and military
service to a baron or earl, or are held directly by that great
noble. Some manors are held by religious orders, most notably those
in the Theocracy of the Pale and in Veluna. A few manors around
chartered freetowns are held by wealthy simplefolk.

The vast majority of rural tenants are serfs.
These unfree (not slaves) people posses few legal rights. They are
bound to the land and lord and additionally may not marry without
the lord’s permission. They are however guarenteed the right to not
be deprived of their land or liberty without just cause and are
entitled to the lord’s protection and justice.

Some few freeholders work the lands of a manor.
They rarely own the land they work, but must rent it. They may come
and go as they please, grow whatever crops they like, and appeal
their lord’s justice to the king’s law. Naturally, ignoring the
wishes of the lord may be unwise, for it might lead to expultion
(or worse).

A few yeomen, a special form of freeman, will
be found at each manor. In exchange for some acreage, the yeoman
provides man-at-arms service for the lord. They assist with
policing and defense of the fief, and perform other duties the lord
and they agree upon.