Heraldry of Korovia
Korovian Ranks of Nobility
King / Queen, root word of King is "Ko-Tibing" which refers to ancient titles of chieftains "Ko" and "Tibing". The first King (King Margus I) was originally known as Ko Margus of the Wolfkin Tribe and his defeat of Tibing Boris of the Flintrako Tribe allowed him to solidify his command over what was then known as the Two Tribes. The Two Tribes would later settle Oraknev. The origins of the word Queen is believed to come from the word Krena, which meant "the wife of a Ko". Queen Aliya, the first Queen, was known as Krena Aliya before her husband became Ko-Tibing Margus. Historians now call him "King Margus the Conqueror".
Right: "Portrait of King Margus the Conqueror", painted millennia after his death. The painter took artistic liberties in depicting him in a crown of silver and gold with the traditional antlers, despite the fact that such a royal crown would not exist until the end of the Bronze Age.
Duke / Duchess, root word of Duke is "Duking or Duko-Tibing". The title was created by King Margus I after the War of the Two Kings and given to one of King Margus I's relatives. The Dukingdom of Weyvin became a large swath of land over which the Duking had command of. The territory would later become known as the Dukedom of Weyvin.
Prince / Princess, the origin of this word is believed to be Lavordian, from the word Princept which means "Prime Son" or firstborn son. As a title it is usually applied to the children of royalty, but has also been used as an elvish title to indicate an elf of royal blood who is loyal to human royalty. Usually the elf in question rules over a city-state and the neighbouring area. Princes and Princesses usually rule over a large region of Korovia, but don't actually own the land in question. Instead they are usually afforded a small chunk of land to build a palace upon and live a life of luxury, waiting in the line of royal succession. They are also usually expected to be part of the military and to live out the early part of their life in servitude to the realm, often marrying to serve the realm when they are ready to leave the military. Siblings of whichever descendant is named King or Queen are usually given a Dukedom upon their parent's death.
Marquis / Marquess, was originally a title created to indicate a combination of royal and religious status. Created by King Margus II (Justus Margus or Margus the Just), the title was first given to the venerable Habbel priest of Metrequia known as Sturum. Sturum was then given a plot of land on which the modern day city of Sturvek stands. The area of land is sometimes known as the Marquisdom of Sturumvek. Several other Marquisdoms were created / abolished in the millenia since. A Marquisdom of land is roughly equal to a County, see Count further below. A Marquis is roughly equal in rank to a Yarl/Earl or Count, but often is implied to also be a holy person.
Earl or Yarl, dates back to an ancient title for chieftains similar to "Ko" and "Tibing". The Yarls were chieftains who lived in or near the Snowfell Mountains in northern Korovia. To this day some chieftains still call themselves such. Further south, the term Earl is more common for chieftains. Unlike other ranks of nobility, Yarls usually gain their titles through one-on-one combat. Anyone can challenge a Yarl for their title, and if successful gains the new title. Further south, Earls rarely use such methods and the title of Earl usually is transferred from parent to child. As such the line of succession of earls and yarls can sometimes vary dramatically. The region a Yarl or Earl controls is usually ancient tribal hunting grounds, the borders of which are sometimes hazy and not well defined, resulting in territorial disputes. The titles of Yarl and Earl are gender neutral and can become occupied by either sex. There is no clear territorial size of a Earldom or Yarldom.
Count / Countess, is a large noble landowner who has gained land roughly equal to that of three Lordships. Some historians believe the term "Count" refers to the greediness of such landowners and how they like to "count" all the property they own. The area of land is referred to as a County.
Viscount / Viscountess, refers to a medium-large noble landowner in possession of approx. 2.5 Lordships. The title essentially means "Lesser Count".
Baron / Baroness, refers to a medium noble landowner in possession of approx. two Lordships worth of land. The first Baron was Baron Bogdan, who was awarded a section of land east of his Lairdship following the War of the Two Kings. The land became known as the Barony of Bogdan. Laird Ivar, the second person to become a Baron, gained additional land after his father-in-law Laird Vorstag died, creating the Barony of Ivarstag.
Baronet / Baronetess, refers to a medium-small noble landowner in possession of approx. 1.5 Lordships worth of land. The term was created decades after Baron Bogdan, to refer to any Laird who owned more land than a Laird, but less than a Baron.
Lord / Laird / Lady / Lairdia, refers to a small noble landowner in possession of 1 Lordship of land. A "Lordship of land" or "Lairdship of Land" is referred to as a region that takes approx. 8 hours to walk across, which may be roughly circular or squarish. The ancient title of Laird was usually conferred by a king's royal decree, but could also be bestoyed upon a successor by the old Laird upon death.
Landgrave, a non-noble landowner who owns land equal to approx. half of a Lordship or less. They collect/pay their taxes directly to the king.
Yeomen or Yewmen, a warrior (often an archer with a yew longbow) sworn to a local Lord. In payment for their service they are gifted with land within the Lordship. Failure to show up during a battle can result in them forfeiting their land. Yeomen are considered to be equal in rank to Knights, but also own land.
Knight, Sir or Dame, a noble title from the root words Ko-Night, Sire and Damsel. A knight is often referred to as a sir or dame. Having a knighthood does not confer land, but instead usually are sworn to a local Lord or noble. Knights can sometimes own a small piece of land given to them by the noble they are sworn to. The ancient title of Ko-Night refers to a warrior sworn to a Ko chieftain.
Gallant, a non-noble title which refers to someone who behaves like a knight or "nobly", but lacks the actual title. They are sometimes referred to by the title of Sir Gallant, which is both honourific but can also be seen as sarcastic. They are not actual Sirs or Dames, but simply behave as such and wish to be treated as such. Gallants are not sworn to any lord or noble, but instead wander aimlessly. Many popular folk songs refer to Wandering Gallants or "Knight Errants" who lack a noble title, but instead go wandering in search of noble deeds which could ultimately bestoy upon them a greater title.
Esquire, a squire who has been gifted a small amount of land. Usually a sign that they have served their local Lord admirably and has since retired. The title literally means "ex squire".
Squire, a young warrior in the service of a knight or gallant, but also sometimes sworn to the protection of their local Lord. A squire's primary duties are to care for their sire's horse, shield, weapons and armour when they are not in use. They may also be called upon to fight in battle. In ancient times a squire was often the eldest son of their sire (father) and the process of being a squire was considered to be like an apprenticeship for later becoming a knight. If they never became a knight, but managed to serve a local Lord faithfully then they would hope to be retire as an esquire. The word "squire" is originally from Lavordia and refers to a person who tends horses or equines.
Warden of the North, a title given to impoverished warriors who have sworn to protect Korovia and have taken a vow of poverty. Wardens travel the land much like Gallants do, but without any expectation of reward or title. Instead they refuse such things and donate it to the needy. Having taken their vow of poverty, they are often given a free bed and food in any temples they stop to visit, receive donations of arms and armour from those temples, and often maintain a celibate life. Inns will often also house Wardens for free, provided they stay on their best behaviour. They are often treated equal or better than Gallants, who are seen as a bit of nuisance, whereas Wardens protect the people without any sign of greed or arrogance. Wardens have no interest in gaining land. Wardens always wear splintmail armour, carry whatever weapons they own, are shabbily dressed (often in a black or brown cloak). Any wealth they accumulate they give away to local temples or the needy.
Town Councillors, local leaders who are elected or chosen to govern over a small to medium size town. Larger towns are usually governed by a Lord or Lady directly.
Burgomaster, a local leader in charge of a small village, hamlet or "burg". They typically report to the local Lord in the nearest town or fortress.
Land Ownership / Debts / Taxes
Land effectively has two owners: The noble owner who owns everything in a specific region, and the owner gifted the land and a hereditary ownership. The noble owner has the right to tax the land, but can also revoke the gift of any land and give it to someone else. This effects farmers most of all. Hereditary gifts of land can be bought and sold, making the new owner responsible for all monthly taxes owed by that land. Typically land is only revoked if a person refuses to pay their taxes or has committed somekind of heinous crime. Lords are not immune to this, as a portion of all taxes collected goes to the royal coffers. If a Lord does not pay their taxes, the Royal Financier can recommend to the King or Queen that the Lord in question have their land revoked.
Sometimes noble titles change when the nobles involved buy, inherit, conquer, and/or are bestoyed extra land sufficient to equal multiple Lordships. Merely gaining the land does not automatically confer the title however, which must be confirmed by royal decree. The titles of Count, Viscount, Baron and Baronet all fall into this category. Losing territory can also reduce a Noble's title, but that is often accompanied by their death in a significant battle, thus resulting in any descendants having either no title or a smaller title if they managed to retain some small portion of their land. Titles can also be revoked by royal decree, resulting in the land and title being given to nearby neighbours or to an upstart noble. Baronets and Viscounts usually gain those titles by being given additional land, or by conquering it in conjunction with someone else and splitting the land in half (usually the border is a river or geographical feature).
Some nobles can also rack up debts, resulting in them later being forced to sell their title and land to the debtee. The debt must first be registered with the Royal Financier before money exchanges hands. Afterwards the debtor must pay the debtee an agreed upon amount (or more) every year until the debt is repaid with 20% interest, with the King being given a small percentage (5% interest) to act as Guarantor of the Loan. If at any point the noble doesn't pay, they forfeit a portion of their land as payment (usually half a Lairdship, unless it is a very large debt). If the land is forfeited, the King is honour-bound to confer the land and any title worthy of the amount of land being given.
Nobles divide up the control of their land as they see fit, often giving tiny portions of their land to knights, esquires and yeomen as payment for their services / rewards for their loyalty. The noble still retains ownership of the land and may even require their knights, esquires and yeomen to collect/pay taxes. The rest of the land is usually controlled by the peasantry, primarily farmers and townspeople.
Taxes on residents is typically a head tax between 4 to 7 silver pieces per month for every person (including children and the elderly). Often people who cannot pay will live on the edges of civilization, as hermits in the woods, vagabonds, bandits and so forth. Depending on the noble's generosity/greed they might charge more or less, or they might make the tax collectors ignore collecting taxes on elderly people or children. The tax is essentially a rental fee for allowing residents to live on the noble's land. People who do not pay may have some of their goods/livestock confiscated by the taxcollector or may be forcibly evicted from their homes and told to leave the Lordship's land. During times of war taxes will often skyrocket, but during times of peace if the local noble is kind they will often keep the taxes fairly low. Too many taxes can lead to rebellion, whereas too little can result in the degradation of local roads, lawlessness, and a lack of a justice system. Smart nobles will often forego a head tax in favour of some kind of tax on bridges, rivers, canals, entering a fortified town/city, etc so that the only people paying the taxes are wealthy merchants and travellers.
Nobles can become quite wealthy if they have a large populace living on their land, but having such a large populace is more difficult to control due to larger amounts of criminal activity. Maintaining law and order is key to stifling any rebellions, but so is being a just lord who does not oppress their peasantry.
Each noble of Lord or higher rank bears a mark of heraldry, often a combination of ancient family symbols dating back to specific tribes, famous heroes, family heirlooms, specific skills the family is known for, etc. Heraldric symbols are usually shown on flags, banners, coats of arms, shields, tabards, signet rings, clothing, weapons, armour, and decorative items.
Dwarven heraldry often contains hammers or axes, elvish heraldry often contains arrows, bows or swords - but these are not necessarily strong signifiers as some noble families may have adopted other symbols over the centuries. Some families may also have specific religious affiliations, such as three flames to indicate they worship Triquirius. Their heraldric symbols may change over time too, if the family changes any religious affiliations.
A common practice is to also adopt any symbols of nearby nobles they are sworn to and make those symbols part of the larger whole to indicate who the bearer holds their allegiance to.
Ancient heraldric symbols are often very different from modern symbols, having been changed many times over centuries or millennia. Thus the original banners of Baron Bogdan for example would be unrecognizable to his modern counterparts, and it would take an expert herald or historian to recognize them.
Royal Admiral, a military leader with significant naval experience. They command any and all naval units loyal to the crown.
Royal Assassin, an unofficial post occupied by a person who primarily works as the royal thug for killing enemies of the crown.
Royal Bodyguard, the master of the royal guard who protects the royal family. The Royal Bodyguard rarely leaves the sovereign's side.
Royal Cleric, a holy man or woman who advises the king or queen on matters of faith. They are also responsible for the good health of the royal family.
Royal Field Marshal, a military leader with significant war experience. They command all armies loyal to the crown.
Royal Financier, a person who manages the coin of the King or Queen, but also manages how those coins are spent on the military, building roads, bridges, etc. The Royal Financier has considerable power, but are expected to obey the orders of their liege.
Royal Heralds, responsible for spreading the word of the King or Queen. They are also experts of heraldric symbols and will announce visiting Lords at court by recognizing the symbols they are wearing. Heralds also act as historians and storytellers, and masters of propaganda. The leader of the Royal Heralds is sometimes referred to as the Royal Historian or Arch-Herald.
Royal Mystic, a wizard of great renown who advises the king or queen on matters of magic. They are responsible for protecting royal family from magical attacks and assassinations. Sometimes referred to as the Royal Wizard or Royal Archmage.
Royal Seer, a diviner, prophet or prophetess that works to prevent foul prophecies from hurting the royal family.
Royal Tax Collectors, report directly to the Royal Financier. They are responsible for traveling from town to town to collect taxes from the various lords / local tax collectors.
Local Tax Collectors, report to local lords and are responsible for collecting taxes on all who live within the Lordship's land.
Royal Vizier, a title originally from Al-Kazar the Vizier is a royal advisor. Sometimes called the "Royal Visor" or "the Eyes of the King". The Royal Vizier is sometimes called upon to act as a general in times of war.
Note - A person with the word "Royal" in their title is 'sometimes' considered to be part of the Royal Council, and often has other titles. Exceptions: Royal Tax Collectors and Royal Heralds can sometimes be called upon for their council, but are not members of the council. Also note that many of the above titles didn't always exist. They were created over time to deal with various issues the king or queen were too busy to deal with themselves, and so they delegated the task to someone else. Over the centuries some titles were dissolved and later brought back again.