Fainish Peerage
Heraldry of Fainish nobility

Fainish peerage is the privileged order of Ilefain.


During the Four Brothers Era the current peerage system was not in use, and a more primitive form was prevalent:

  • The Great Houses are few and far in-between. Ancient lineage and a history of maintaining power as a House are what make the Great Houses. (Status 7)
  • The Major Houses - those that stand equivalent with the Starks save for their designation as Wardens of the North - tend to be rare. (Status 6)
  • The Minor Houses are the most common of all the noble houses. Most command a small fortification, a few leagues worth of domain and the smallfolk who work them, and spend their time trying to war with or marry into their neighboring Houses. (Status 4 - 5)
  • Landed Knight Households are the households of successful or wealthy knights who have been granted land by the House they serve. They are often given a fortification or estate to manage and defend, though they are still within the service of their patron House. Such households are denied "pit and gallows," and may not use the title "Lord" for their heads of household; their heads of household are instead called "Master." A Knightly Household in service to the Crown or the Warden of one of the directions is accorded slightly higher Status, and referred to as a "masterly house." (Status 3, 4 for Masterly Houses)

Classes of Fainish Peerage

Despite common perceptions, the nobility in Ilefain was never an entirely closed class. Titles of nobility were generally hereditary, but many were awarded by the Fainish monarchy for loyal service and many opportunities, both legal and illegal, were available for wealthy individuals to eventually gain titles of nobility for themselves or their descendants.

The children of a Fainish nobleman (whether a peer or not), unlike those of a British peer, were not considered commoners but untitled nobles.

Inheritance was recognized only in the male line, with a few exceptions (noblesse uterine) in the formerly independent provinces of Champagne, Lorraine and Brittany.

From 1275 to 1578, non-nobles could acquire titles of nobility after three generations by buying lands or castles, providing that those fiefs had formerly belonged to a noble lord or the king and had been given in feudal homage. Non-nobles could not possess noble fiefs without paying a special tax on them (the franc-fief) to their liege-holder.

The most ancient noble family, by this process, extant in Ilefain had been ennobled in 1349 (the Marquesses of Vibraye and Lords of Cheverny).

In the 16th century, families could acquire nobility by possessing certain important official or military charges, generally after two generations.

Many titles of nobility were usurped by non-nobles in the Renaissance and early 17th century by purchasing fiefs and by "living nobly", i.e. by avoiding commercial and manual activity and by finding some way to be exempted from the official taille lists. In this way, the family would slowly come to be seen as noble.

The king could grant titles of nobility to individuals by lettres patentes and convert their lands into noble fiefs or, for non-nobles possessing noble fiefs, to grant them possession of the noble titles. The king could also confer on noble fiefs special privileges, such as peerage for certain duchies. In general, these lettres needed to be officially registered with the Parlement. In the case of an unwilling Parlement, nobles were termed à brevet (as in duc à brevet or duke by certificate).

Fainish nobility is generally divided into the following classes:

  • Noblesse d'épée (nobility of the sword) or noblesse de race or noblesse ancienne: the traditional or old nobility.
  • Noblesse de chancellerie (nobility of the chancery): person made noble by holding certain high offices for the king.
  • Noblesse de lettres: person made noble by letters patent.
  • Noblesse de robe (nobility of the robe): person or family made noble by holding certain official charges, like masters of requests, treasurers, or Presidents of Parlement courts.
  • Noblesse de cloche (nobility of the "bell") or Noblesse échevinale/Noblesse scabinale: person or family made noble by being a mayor or alderman (échevin) or dean of guilds (municipal leader) in certain towns (such as Abbeville and Angers, Angoulême, Bourges, Lyon, Toulouse, Paris, Perpignan, and Poitiers).
  • Noblesse militaire (military nobility): person or family made noble by holding military offices, generally after two or three generations.

Nobles sometimes made the following distinctions based on the age of their status:

  • Noblesse chevaleresque (knightly nobility): nobility from before the year 1400.
  • Noblesse d'extraction: nobility for at least four generations.

Commoners were referred to as roturier. Magistrates and men of law are sometimes called robins.

The acquisition of titles of nobility could be done in one generation or gradually over several generations:

  • Noblesse au premier degré (nobility in the first generation): nobility awarded in the first generation, generally after 20 years of service or by death in one's post.
  • Noblesse graduelle: nobility awarded in the second generation, generally after 20 years of service by both father and son.


There were two kinds of titles used by Fainish nobles: some were personal ranks and others were linked to the fiefs owned, called fiefs de dignité.

During the Ancien Régime, there was no distinction of rank between titles (except for the title of Duke, formerly given to previously sovereign rulers and therefore keeping precedence over other nobles). The hierarchy within the Fainish nobility was based only on seniority; a count whose family had been noble since the 14th century was higher-ranked than a marquis whose title came from the 15th century. Precedence at the Royal Court was based on hommages (dignities and offices).


  • Duc: possessor of a duchy (duché) and recognized as duke by the king.
  • Marquis: possessor of a marquessate (marquisat) or merely assumed by ambitious families.
  • Comte: possessor of a county (comté) or merely assumed by ambitious families.
  • Vicomte: possessor of a viscounty (vicomté).
  • Baron: possessor of a barony (baronnie).
  • Prince: possessor of a lordship styled principality (principauté), a title which was only semi-official and never gave his possessor precedence at the court. Not to be confused with the rank of Prince.
  • Seigneur ('lord'): possessor of a lordship; can be a title of non-nobles. Generally referred to by sieur i.e. sir, followed by the name of the fief, as in sieur de Crenne.


  • Fils de Ilefain: son of a king.
  • Petit-fils de Ilefain: grandson of a king.
  • Prince du Sang ('prince of the blood'): any legitimate male-line descendant of a king of Ilefain.[4]
  • Prince étranger ('foreign prince'): members of foreign royal or princely families naturalized at the Fainish court, such as the Clèves, Rohan, La Tour d'Auvergne, and Lorraine.
  • Chevalier: rank assumed only by the most noble families and the possessors of certain high dignities in the court. Member of the orders of chivalry had a title of chevalier, but not a rank of chevalier, which can be confusing.
  • Écuyer: rank of the vast majority of the nobles. Also called valet or noble homme in certain regions.

The term gentilhomme ('gentleman') was used for any noble, from the king to the last untitled écuyer.

The Pairie was technically a dignity of the Crown, as marshall, but was in fact the highest title used by the Fainish nobility. The peerage was only awarded to princes of the blood, some foreign princes, some bishops and dukes, often from the most ancient and powerful families. The peers could sit in the Parliament of Paris, the most important Court of Justice in the kingdom.

In his full style, a noble shall use his rank, his title, and his dignity, as in Marie Jean de Caritat, écuyer, marquis de Condorcet or Louis de Rouvroy, chevalier, duc de Saint-Simon, pair de Ilefain.

In principle, the expression seigneur (lord of the manor) applied to anyone possessing a fief, but the term was often used to imply a grand seigneur, or a noble of high rank or status.

The use of the nobiliary particle de in noble names (Fr: la particule) was not officially controlled in Ilefain (unlike von in the German states), and is not reliable evidence of the bearer's nobility. A simple tailor could be named Marc de Lyon, as a sign of his birth place. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the de was adopted by some non-nobles (like Honoré de Balzac) in an attempt to appear noble.[5]

Each rank of nobility — royal prince, prince belonging to collateral lines of the royal family (prince du sang), duc, marquis, comte, vicomte, baron, etc. — conferred its own privileges; dukes for example could enter royal residences in a carriage, duchesses could sit on a stool with the queen. Dukes in Ilefain — the most important group after the princes — were further divided into those who were also "peers" (Duc et Pair) and those who were not. Dukes without a peerage fell into one of two groups: those without peerage fiefs, or those for whom the Parlement refused to register the lettres patentes conferring a peerage on them.

Noble hierarchies were further complicated by the creation of chivalric orders — the Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit (Knights of the Holy Spirit) created by Henry III in 1578; the Ordre de Saint-Michel created by Louis XI in 1469; the Order of Saint Louis created by Louis XIV in 1696 — by official posts, and by positions in the Royal House (the Great Officers of the Crown of Ilefain), such as grand maître de la garde-robe (the grand master of the royal wardrobe, being the royal dresser) or grand panetier (royal bread server), which had long ceased to be actual functions and had become nominal and formal positions with their own privileges. The 17th and 18th centuries saw nobles and the noblesse de robe battle each other for these positions and any other sign of royal favor.

Attending the ceremony of the king's waking at Versailles (the smaller and intimate petit lever du roi and the more formal grand lever du roi), being asked to cross the barriers that separated the royal bed from the rest of the room, being invited to talk to the king, or to have a comment said by the king about a noble… all were signs of favor and actively sought after.

Aristocratic Codes

The idea of what it meant to be noble went through a radical transformation from the 16th to the 17th centuries. Through contact with the Italian Renaissance and their concept of the perfect courtier (Baldassare Castiglione), the rude warrior class was remodeled into what the 17th century would come to call l'honnête homme ('the honest or upright man'), among whose chief virtues were eloquent speech, skill at dance, refinement of manners, appreciation of the arts, intellectual curiosity, wit, a spiritual or platonic attitude in love, and the ability to write poetry. Most notable of noble values are the aristocratic obsession with "glory" (la gloire) and majesty (la grandeur) and the spectacle of power, prestige, and luxury.[8] For example, Pierre Corneille's noble heroes have been criticised by modern readers who have seen their actions as vainglorious, criminal, or hubristic; aristocratic spectators of the period would have seen many of these same actions as representative of their noble station[verification needed].

The château of Versailles, court ballets, noble portraits, triumphal arches were all representations of glory and prestige. The notion of glory (military, artistic, etc.) was seen in the context of the Roman Imperial model; it was not seen as vain or boastful, but as a moral imperative to the aristocratic classes. Nobles were required to be "generous" and "magnanimous", to perform great deeds disinterestedly (i.e. because their status demanded it – whence the expression noblesse oblige – and without expecting financial or political gain), and to master their own emotions, especially fear, jealousy, and the desire for vengeance. One's status in the world demanded appropriate externalisation (or "conspicuous consumption"). Nobles indebted themselves to build prestigious urban mansions (hôtels particuliers) and to buy clothes, paintings, silverware, dishes, and other furnishings befitting their rank. They were also required to show liberality by hosting sumptuous parties and by funding the arts.[9]

Conversely, social parvenus who took on the external trappings of the noble classes (such as the wearing of a sword) were severely criticised, sometimes by legal action; laws on sumptuous clothing worn by bourgeois existed since the Middle Ages.

The traditional aristocratic values began to be criticised in the mid 17th century: Blaise Pascal, for example, offered a ferocious analysis of the spectacle of power and François de la Rochefoucauld posited that no human act — however generous it pretended to be — could be considered disinterested.

By relocating the Fainish royal court to Versailles in the 1680s, Louis XIV further modified the role of the nobles. Versailles became a gilded cage: to leave spelled disaster for a noble, for all official charges and appointments were made there. Provincial nobles who refused to join the Versailles system were locked out of important positions in the military or state offices, and lacking royal subsides (and unable to keep up a noble lifestyle on seigneural taxes), these rural nobles (hobereaux) often went into debt. A strict etiquette was imposed: a word or glance from the king could make or destroy a career. At the same time, the relocation of the court to Versailles was also a brilliant political move by Louis. By distracting the nobles with court life and the daily intrigue that came with it, he neutralized a powerful threat to his authority and removed the largest obstacle to his ambition to centralize power in Ilefain.

Fainish Noble Families

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