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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 4:09 pm 
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higgins wrote:
And if a baron builds ships and starts a commercial enterprise of trading, does this mean he ceases being a "noble" while retaining their "title"?
Ian.Plumb wrote:
A nobleman might buy boats and rent them to a captain. He might buy them and hire a captain. But if he buys a boat and starts sailing it up and down the river selling trade goods his days as a peer are over. Culturally-speaking this would be a fate worse than death.

In our world labour and productivity and being a self-made men are held in high esteem, but this ethos did only manage to oust a much older after the French Revolution, and in portrayng medieval society one has to firmly grasp this earlier ethos:

You cannot be a gentleman if you work for a living.

It doesn't matter what work you do. A nobleman could be an artist, but only as a hobby - if he drew revenue from his art and lived off this revenue, he would not be a gentleman. He could be a general, but if he drew wages for serving as a general and lived off these wages, he would not be a gentleman. He could be God Almighty himself, but if he drew wages for being God Almighty and lived off these wages, he would not be a gentleman.

Work, any work at all, is dirty, undignified, and demeaning, whether you are cleaning out sewers or running a multinational banking house; it makes no difference. If you want to be a gentleman, you must have a labour-free income, either from land or from investments - provided you don't work the land yourself and don't administrate your investments yourself.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 6:42 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
higgins wrote:
And if a baron builds ships and starts a commercial enterprise of trading, does this mean he ceases being a "noble" while retaining their "title"?
Ian.Plumb wrote:
A nobleman might buy boats and rent them to a captain. He might buy them and hire a captain. But if he buys a boat and starts sailing it up and down the river selling trade goods his days as a peer are over. Culturally-speaking this would be a fate worse than death.

In our world labour and productivity and being a self-made men are held in high esteem, but this ethos did only manage to oust a much older after the French Revolution, and in portrayng medieval society one has to firmly grasp this earlier ethos:

You cannot be a gentleman if you work for a living.

It doesn't matter what work you do. A nobleman could be an artist, but only as a hobby - if he drew revenue from his art and lived off this revenue, he would not be a gentleman. He could be a general, but if he drew wages for serving as a general and lived off these wages, he would not be a gentleman. He could be God Almighty himself, but if he drew wages for being God Almighty and lived off these wages, he would not be a gentleman.

Work, any work at all, is dirty, undignified, and demeaning, whether you are cleaning out sewers or running a multinational banking house; it makes no difference. If you want to be a gentleman, you must have a labour-free income, either from land or from investments - provided you don't work the land yourself and don't administrate your investments yourself.


Ian.Plumb wrote:

Most noblemen are not in the personal service of a Baron or Count. They live on their own domain and perform duties for their liege lord according to the personal contract they have with their liege lord.

For those that are, they are paid a daily rate (10 sols for example, mentioned above) which is enough to support them and their household. Some will head down this path because it is the only alternative to losing their nobility (as their lands are insufficient to support them and their family). Some will head down this path in order to try to gain political advantage.


Is a knight then in such a position considered lesser for having this arrangement?

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 7:07 pm 
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KazianG wrote:
Is a knight then in such a position considered lesser for having this arrangement?

In a way, yes. And this answer is already in Ian’s carefully chosen wording (empasis mine):

Ian.Plumb wrote:
For those that are, they are paid a daily rate (10 sols for example, mentioned above) which is enough to support them and their household. Some will head down this path because it is the only alternative to losing their nobility (as their lands are insufficient to support them and their family). Some will head down this path in order to try to gain political advantage.

This does already correctly imply that the only reason for entering a lord’s employ, apart from having political aspirations one may hope to be better able to pursue with constant access to the lord and at the place of decision-making (his court), is because it is one’s last resort. Still, it is not demeaning, because the function one fulfills in a lord’s service is a knightly/noble one. You certainly see that there is a huge difference between a knight being paid (supported, really) for being a knight and a knight being paid for being, say, a merchant.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 8:12 pm 
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If it is assumed to make them something "lesser" in their own right, how does this fit in with the "some do this for political advantage" bit?

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2011 10:04 pm 
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KazianG wrote:
If it is assumed to make them something "lesser" in their own right, how does this fit in with the "some do this for political advantage" bit?


Ah, the tangled web of the world of perception and largesse.

In essence, because the reason for being in the Lord's employ is well known to all. That is, he needs the money (scandal!) while he does it out of love for his Lord.

We probably need to discuss the idea of largesse.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 12:47 am 
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As in "the difference is Knight A is looked down upon because people know he is being paid, while knight B is paid just as much and honored because he is perceived to be doing it out of virtue"?

And I know the dictionary definition for Largesse but I'm guessing that such a definition doesn't convey the social significance of it very well. By all means, lead us in good sir.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 4:40 am 
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KazianG wrote:
And I know the dictionary definition for Largesse but I'm guessing that such a definition doesn't convey the social significance of it very well.

Largesse is a concept that does ultimately derive from the sets of values of “barbarian” civilisations like the Celts and Germans, and it is via the Germans and the warbands and personal retinues of German warlords that it entered the stage of the failing Roman Empire and lived on in the emerging medieval society. It is the idea that a lord has to be generous to his retainers.

Largesse means supporting a lord’s retainers in style and without any condescension on the lord’s part. It entails feasting them with ample and good food, giving them frequent and lavish gifts (especially weapons, horses, fine clothes and similarly useful and conspicuous items), not exploiting them, and maybe even covering private debts they should happen to accrue. This has to be done because it is simply the done thing that everybody expects. A lord who does not display largesse will either be thought to have a really bad character or else does not unable to afford largesse, i.e. near broke. And neither being viewed as a creep nor as impoverished is desirable and further a lord’s standing.

With the Chrisitan ideal of charity another avenue was opened for largesse, namely charitable works, especially being charitable to the church.

So a rich and powerful lord displays his wealth and good character by giving his wealth away liberally – which of course has the added benefit that he will attract more people eager to follow him then a poor and/or stingy lord.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 10:03 am 
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I find the various traditions surrounding "hospitality" and things in the ancient world very interesting. I can see where the links would flow from one to the other.

Not attempting to divert the conversation's flow entirely, but would anyone know at what point plate began to supplement mail armor? photo-references would be pretty dandy as well for the transitional periods - I'm actually working on something of a "Campaign Sketchbook" which is my normal modus operandi for working through concepts. I'm a very visually-oriented person.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 11:52 am 
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Grettir wrote:
Largesse means supporting a lord’s retainers in style and without any condescension on the lord’s part. It entails feasting them with ample and good food, giving them frequent and lavish gifts (especially weapons, horses, fine clothes and similarly useful and conspicuous items), not exploiting them, and maybe even covering private debts they should happen to accrue. This has to be done because it is simply the done thing that everybody expects.


Yes indeed. Being noble is about demonstrating that you don't need money -- by implication, that you have money. To be seen to be pursuing the accumulation of wealth is the opposite of the behaviour a nobleman displays.

I want to talk about a proverb that exists in Lyon during this period. It translates roughly as:

Quote:
Wherever a Varey sits, that is the head of the table.


The Vareys are one of a handful of senior patrician families. The patrician families are seen as the founding fathers. The city is, in a sense, built on the bones of their forefathers.

The Vareys aren't necessarily the wealthiest family in Lyon. They are, however, the most noble, the most respected, the ones that are always deferred to by lesser patrician families. They are well connected (as are all the patrician families, intermarried for generations) and they are at the political hub of the city.

The idea that any member of this family would risk their position, their families' position, by pursuing the accumulation of wealth as a daily activity is a false one. There is a modern saying -- money is power, power is money. It doesn't hold true at this time. The Italian banquers in Lyon are amongst the wealthiest people in the city -- but they hold little power in the city. They're not even seen as citizens of the city. Whenever they are seen as overstepping their position they are refused the right to exchange coin for a period. They are very much at the beck and call of the city.

Another classic plot of Hollywood is the poor nobleman who marries the wealthy merchant's daughter under sufferance -- and no doubt proceeds to treat her badly. In 1350s Lyon, this nobleman has doomed his family -- as in he and his descendants -- to a minimum of four generations of being on the outer edge of noble society. That's a hundred years.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 1:10 pm 
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How much infighting is there among nobles? Is internal struggle a matter of simply lobbying for favor with the king, heated arguments over territorial rights, or all the way up to dueling or an outright assault on another's holding with men at arms?

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 9:06 am 
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KazianG wrote:
How much infighting is there among nobles?


It is constant.

KazianG wrote:
Is internal struggle a matter of simply lobbying for favor with the king...


No, the king is largely irrelevant in Lyon. More likely the Archbishop, the hierarchy of the Cathedral, and/or the leaders of the senior patrician families. For less noble, more commercial interests there are the city aldermen comprised of the heads of the larger guilds.

KazianG wrote:
... heated arguments over territorial rights...


Yes, but not territorial per se -- ownership disputes, contractual disputes -- that are settled in a court of law.

KazianG wrote:
... or all the way up to dueling ...


Drawing steel on a Christian would result in a murder/attempted murder charge. Please understand that there is no such things as 'self defense' in Lyon's statutes. A man set upon by a group of thugs, who responds by drawing steel and killing one would be arrested and charged with murder. Lyon is a peaceful place.

KazianG wrote:
... or an outright assault on another's holding with men at arms?


Absolutely no way. The conduct of war in this fashion is a right reserved to those far higher up the food chain than a simple Lord.

However, conflict does occur. The Archbishop conducted open hostilities against one of the Abbeys in the region, and occupied their castles and fortifications. The King occupied the castle of Pierre-Scize when the Archbishop denied his judicial officers the right to hear cases in Lyon. So it does happen -- but it is for big things, serious things, that involve many people not individuals.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 12:00 pm 
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KazianG wrote:
... or an outright assault on another's holding with men at arms?
Ian.Plumb wrote:
Absolutely no way. The conduct of war in this fashion is a right reserved to those far higher up the food chain than a simple Lord.

Very true.

But especially in this case I would like to point out for KazianG’s benefit that this well-ordered state of late medieval France is already one arrived at through centuries of legislative struggle, and not yet the final stage, but simply one in an ongoing process.

There is a strain to medieval history that can be regarded as the government’s (usually the crown’s) ongoing attempt to monopolize violence, a state finally attained with the outlawing of the legal duel between gentlemen. Earlier than the 14th century, bloody private feuds with warbands clashing where not at all unusual. During the 10th and 11th centuries, such petty, private warfare was commonplace, and it was only during the 11th century that governments began to make real headway in clamping down on such outbursts of violence.

Of course, even when violent feuding had to be tolerated by a crown that was powerless to curb it, it was always a privilege of the knightly class and not of commoners.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 12:17 pm 
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Grettir wrote:
But especially in this case I would like to point out for KazianG’s benefit that this well-ordered state of late medieval France is already one arrived at through centuries of legislative struggle, and not yet the final stage, but simply one in an ongoing process.


Yes, can't be emphasized enough -- and this is why transplanting a culture into an instant fantasy setting creates the situation where the players scratch the surface and everyone is disappointed with the holes that appear in the veneer. 1350s Lyon could only have followed from 1200s Lyon, and so on. This is no more true than with the legal profession.

By this time 'Knights of the Church' in Lyon are all lawyers -- every one. By this time it has no military connotation at all.

Grettir wrote:
There is a strain to medieval history that can be regarded as the government’s (usually the crown’s) ongoing attempt to monopolize violence, a state finally attained with the outlawing of the legal duel between gentlemen. Earlier than the 14th century, bloody private feuds with warbands clashing where not at all unusual. During the 10th and 11th centuries, such petty, private warfare was commonplace, and it was only during the 11th century that governments began to make real headway in clamping down on such outbursts of violence.


Time to mention 'The Peace of God' and 'The Truce of God' movement?

Grettir wrote:
Of course, even when violent feuding had to be tolerated by a crown that was powerless to curb it, it was always a privilege of the knightly class and not of commoners.


Absolutely.

While we're here I thought I'd mention -- the Lyonnais is a small place. Occupying a river valley largely bordered by the Saone and Rhone rivers (which meet at the city of Lyon) it is about 30km north/south and around 10km east/west. That's a fairly small area and, as I've mentioned, quite peaceful.

Within this space there are many, many villages. On the roads the villages are separated by a few kilometers. The valley has been settled for millenia, farmed for millenia, and so it is quite densely populated. There are also many castles and lesser fortifications, bridges and tollways, and the rivers have larger population centers on them (as mentioned, Anse with 2k people is but a short distance from Lyon).

A large feudal entity -- say one of the Abbeys -- will have been established for hundreds of years. The Abbey of Ainay, which isn't part of the city of Lyon yet it's northern perimeter is the southern perimeter of the city, is approach it's millenial (!) anniversary by 1350.

The Abbey of Saint Pierre -- 32 nuns, each with four generations of nobility -- is structured such that each of the nuns is a Prioress. So the nun runs her own priory, lives there unless called to attend the Abbes in Lyon. She is responsible for the running of the priory -- in charge of the priories' staff, responsible for the rents of the priories' tenants. Simply put, the wealth of the priory is hers to administer and is used to support her.

There's no vow of poverty here. These nuns are the scions of noble houses and they are kept in the manner to which they are accustomed. And they know how to defend their rights and privileges.

The larger the feudal entity, the greater their possessions. There are of course examples where assets are forgotten about...

In one such example the French and English were exchanging the same territory regularly, as the ebb and flow of the war in other parts of the country saw treaties and ransoms affect the area. The seneschal of a powerful Count at one point hires a man to be responsible for a particular seaside dock and the fortified gate that protected it. As was customary a perpetual contract was put in place, describing his duties and his remuneration. in time, the ebb and flow of the war took the Count's attention away from this particular sleepy hollow.

Later, the man-at-arms turns up at the Count's seneschal. He explains that he has faithfully carried out his duties as can be attested by the people of the nearby fishing village. However, through ill health he feels he is unable to continue performing these duties to the satisfaction of the Count. The seneschal, unaware of who the man is, checks the records and confirms the fellow's tale. He then asks him when he was last paid -- to which the fellow responds that he has never been paid. With a look of horror the seneschal realises that the man is owed 18 years pay!

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Wed May 18, 2011 2:02 pm 
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Ian.Plumb wrote:
(...) and this is why transplanting a culture into an instant fantasy setting creates the situation where the players scratch the surface and everyone is disappointed with the holes that appear in the veneer. 1350s Lyon could only have followed from 1200s Lyon, and so on.

And this is also why, when I was playing around a bit with Weyrth’s Seat of the Xanarian Empire, I was starting out with its history – not just because I am a historian by trade and this is second nature to me, but mostly because a society is the product of its history in the same way that each of us is a product of his personal history. Transplanting a historical society, even one te creator of the setting happens to know really well, into a fantasy setting will almost invariably create an oddity. A society’s present is shaped by its past, and this history is in turn the result of a complex interplay of foreign and domestic influences and events.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
Time to mention 'The Peace of God' and 'The Truce of God' movement?

That would depend how closely KazianG would like to model his game setting on the real middle ages and Roman Catholicism – which is really indispensible if one follows medieval society to even a middling degree. And of course also whether he’d like a 10th century or a 14th century game.

Ian.Plumb wrote:
With a look of horror the seneschal realises that the man is owed 18 years pay!

And I would like to add to this very enlightening tale that simply refusing to pay “the lowly commoner” would not be a likely solution. The late middle ages were not an era where might made right, but a lawful era – not to the same degree as our ow, but still to a far greater extent than most people realize or would even deem possible. Apart from catastrophic times when civil order breaks down completely, members of the knightly class can’t just ride roughshod over commoners.

Things were of course different in the early and to some degree in the high middle ages, but this difference is not just of the simple “commoners had less rights” type.

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 Post subject: Re: Of the Feudal System(AKA Michael - er, Ian! explains, ep
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 4:22 pm 
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I'm fairly familiar with the Peace of God movement - at least in it's broadest strokes. More or less the Church's attempts to curb some of the violence (at the very least) and in the best case scenarios they gave the knights and such a new image (protectors of the faith and whatnot). How well that worked in general is debatable.

I enjoy playing with the histories of settings quite a bit, particularly when throwing something together myself.. Even if it frequently results in a pile of write-ups that no one but myself will ever read. I'm okay with that though.

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