Aerion

About what do you think are the levels of nobility not depicted clearly in the books?

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When I ask this, I mean the tiers below bannermen-tier houses like the Royces or Daynes. George has said in the past that he didn't want to overcomplicate the system of nobility and so decided to call the head of every noble house a lord in some capacity, though this does make it difficult to judge the strength and influence of anyone who isn't the absolute most powerful. Because of the inherently complex nature of feudalism, my guess at these tiers would probably only serve as a rough model, but here's how I picture it:

First, I'd like to base populations on the 1% rule on military mobilization rates and use the Vale for the tiers. Their estimated strength is estimated to be about 45K so that pegs them at around 4.5 million. There are 13 bannermen-tier houses that would have dominion over an average of 350 thousand people, though given House Arryn is disproportionately much more powerful than any of its vassals, we'll reduce this to just 300 thousand. Now we finally get to the next tier, the bannermen-tier lords for the bannermen. At each tier the predominant house will likely directly control over more lands than any of its vassals, so let's assume about a dozen or so lords at this level controlling two thirds of the population under a House Royce or Redfort amongst themselves. Even these lords will have tens of thousands of people serving under them, ~20000 in this example and. This, I believe, is enough to offer plenty luxurious lives for the houses at such a tier. Hundreds of such unheard of houses likely exist in Westeros, giving you a sense of just how big the place really is. These houses are the backbone of any major army we see, sustaining the strength and power of the major lords named in the series. Using the same 1% rule, these lords would be able to field hundreds of men themselves, enough for them to man at least one average sized castle.

Beyond this tier we'd enter petty lord territory. With fewer people and lands to divide up to, maybe only half a dozen lords would swear to this tier of lord. As the lands get smaller, the fraction that lords over it will be able to directly govern over themselves will get larger. Consequently only half of the land and people would be divided over the next set of vassals (to clarify, sworn to the bannermen of the major bannermen lords) Only about a few thousand people would serve under these lords. A canon example of such a house in my mind is possibly House Webber, though you might argue that this is a rough fit. Regardless, these lords would still govern over a whole town while those more rurally situated would rule over several miles surrounding their seats of power, these being smaller castles. Even these houses would be decently wealthy, perhaps in an upper-middle class segment of the overall economy with a few knights and a dozen or so guards in their permanent employ. These lords would contribute around 20-30 troops to a united Vale army. Any tiers lower than this compose the House Baelish's or Tollett's of the world, classic petty lords with maybe a single stone tower as their seats. These will govern over a dozen or two families/ a small village's worth of people and will be the most common rung of nobility peasants will interact with, forming the most directly involved layer of feudalism on Westeros. Of course this is all conjecture and George could have a totally different and less well defined structure to it in his head that he just hasn't revealed to us yet, if he ever should decide to at all. Still fun to think about!

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read this; I'd love to hear any thoughts anyone else might have on the issue. Maybe names that might be appropriate for each tier?

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King or Queen of the Seven Kingdoms= Emperor or Empress

Lord/Lady Paramount = King/Queen

I'm assuming bannermen-tier houses like the Royces, Daynes, Bolton, Florents, and Freys are Equal to Dukes.

And anything below them counts, Earls, viceroy(Lyonel Tyrell would have been the Viceroy of Dorne following the Conquest of Dorne) Baronet and Knights(Landed).

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Hi. Guess what I had to do for my story? Yup! I had to look into nobility and how it worked. Here is my Opinion (cause I'm no historian

While Martin doesn't go into much detail, it's actually a good choice. Why? Cause noble ranks are not as straightforward as you think. Here's an example. 

Before the war of roses was the 100 years war. During that time, the king if Britain was technically a vassal of the king of France. Yes that happened. How? 

Let's say I'm in charge of two lands and so are you. I'm Duke of land A and Baron of land B. I hold both titles at the same time. You are Earl of land B and I am your vassal despite holding a higher rank. You are also a baron of land B. You can technically call me to aid you in war of you were bold enough. This was the case with the two kings. The king of Britain also held some land in France. Hence, he was a vassal. 

So with that in mind you see why naming ranks would confuse things a bit. So why name them? Just make them all lords and be done with it. 

The above assessment is a good one. I'd go different in some cases, but it's all just opinion so I can't claim to be correct. My only change would be to add in the rank of dukes and and marquis. But again, that's confusing as hell. 

Example. 

Dukes can be sovereign. The idea that kings and above alone  are rulers if countries is false. Some countries today are founded by sovereign Duchys. And again, Archdale and grand Duke are a thing. You also have prince's who are sovereign too. It's one huge mess to be honest. You have to remember, people made all these titles up as they went. 

So best not for look too deep into it cause it could honestly be many things. If Martin really wanted to mess with people he'd make a lord paramount a king, but have that king hold land to a count and be sworn to him, and have that count also have land that is a principality so he'd be prince along with the crown prince, but sworn to another Duke. 

One last thing. IRL, the amount of soldiers you command is important, bit doesn't effect your title. The land is where your title comes from. And a county/March could be tiny, to larger than a Duchy. There is really no hard and fast rule for all this. 

 

Edited by MrJay

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To echo what @MrJay said, I think trying to match the positions to titles will be more misleading than it is illuminating.

Obviously, you could just pick one country's system—say, England's—and just start from the top down:

  • King = King
  • Lord Paramount = Duke
  • Lord directly under a King or LP = Marquess
  • Lord under a Marquess: Earl
  • Lord under an Earl: Baron
  • Quasi-hereditary landed knight, master, castellan, steward, etc.: Baronet

But what does that tell you? None of the laws that apply to English Marquesses will apply to their supposed Westerosi equivalent. None of the historical or foreign-language or other connotations that go with being an Earl will fit their Westerosi equivalent. And so on.

In fact, the lords of Westeros really do act as if they have a system without hierarchical titles. Nobody ever pulls rank, or insists that a certain lord is at too low a level to deal with. They judge each other all the time based on their practical power, wealth, and connections, but never on how many levels down the feudal chain they are from the King.

Also, things are actually even more complicated than @MrJay suggested. Even without getting into the tangle of French vassalage that he alludes to, let's just stay within England. Obviously, nobody was sovereign but the King, right? But they did have two counties and one duchy that were palatinate, meaning the ruler had "palace prerogatives" within his territory—separate Parliament, law courts, etc. The Earl of Chester was supreme over anyone within Chester but the King, but below any Marquess or Duke in the rest of England. And if anyone from outside Durham had ever needed to sue the Bishop of Durham, that would have been a constitutional crisis.

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To agree with the prior, grrm does seem to simplify a lot of medieval things (to my knowledge of England especially, etc.)

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I'm thankful GRRM didn't over complicate the nobility I like it simple, I imagine a lords rank goes by how much land he owns and how many soldiers he fields. When maesters teach children about the other noble houses of Westeros they always include how many men they field so I'm assuming this is an important bit of I formation for a young lord to possess. 

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To eliminate the

6 hours ago, MrJay said:

Let's say I'm in charge of two lands and so are you. I'm Duke of land A and Baron of land B. I hold both titles at the same time. You are Earl of land B and I am your vassal despite holding a higher rank. You are also a baron of land B. You can technically call me to aid you in war of you were bold enough. This was the case with the two kings. The king of Britain also held some land in France. Hence, he was a vassal. 

So with that in mind you see why naming ranks would confuse things a bit. So why name them? Just make them all lords and be done with it.

1 - IIRC GRRM eliminated the mess caused by "I am YOUR vassal for Fief A but YOU are my vassal with Fief B" by rulling out the accumulation of lands/titles.

Example - if Edmure Tully gets himself killed before he begets a (true)born child, then Catelyn's children are first in line for Riverrun. However Robb, as he already is the Lord of the North/King in the North does not get it, but it moves down to Bran or Rickon.  Or to the girls by seniority.

Or maybe a better example (if the system works as I believe it does):

Imagine thart Sandor Clegane marries Lollys Stokeworth and they have children. With their elder siblings not leaving issue, Sandor and Lollys' children inherit both Clegane Keep and Stokeworth. The former is "Landed Knight" fief and the latter is a "Lordship". In OTL their heir would inherit both, being both a landed knight - either sworn to some Lord who in turn would be sworn to Casterly Rock, or directly to Casterly Rock), and at the same time a Lord of the Crownlands, with greater legal powers and sworn to the Iron Throne.

But if the Westerosi system works as as I believe it does, then one child inherits the Stokeworth lands and another Clegane Keep. Much, much simpler ... :)

2 - I do miss an intermediate level between "Lord" and "Landed Knight/Master". Houses like Glover, Tallhart or Connington are not "lords" yet are a stratosphere higher than Poole, Cassel or Clegane.

3 - I also would like more clarity on "knight" - sometimes it is "landed noble" sometimes it is "heavy cavalryman". I know that that there is overlap, but still ... I'd be happy with Junker or Vidame or some other obscure historical term for Landed Knights/Master.

Edited by TMIFairy

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A classic Crusader Kings 2 classes:

Emperor - Iron Throne

King - Lord Paramount

Duke - most of the houses known to the readers

Count - smaller know houses

Baron - Baelish for example, one small castle and few villages in possession

Landed knights

Landless knights - Ser Garlen Tyrell

Ministerials - landless nobles but not knights

Edited by Tygett Greenshield

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How much power castellans and stewards have? For instance castellan of Winterfell commanded army about 2000 men ( and lost it). Or could castellan or steward of senior lord give orders to junior lords?

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4 hours ago, Loose Bolt said:

How much power castellans and stewards have? For instance castellan of Winterfell commanded army about 2000 men ( and lost it). Or could castellan or steward of senior lord give orders to junior lords?

Castellan is designated regent of one castle, can only command the garrison when lord is gone. 

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On 10/17/2017 at 4:57 AM, TMIFairy said:

1 - IIRC GRRM eliminated the mess caused by "I am YOUR vassal for Fief A but YOU are my vassal with Fief B" by rulling out the accumulation of lands/titles.

Example - if Edmure Tully gets himself killed before he begets a (true)born child, then Catelyn's children are first in line for Riverrun. However Robb, as he already is the Lord of the North/King in the North does not get it, but it moves down to Bran or Rickon.  Or to the girls by seniority.

Yes, this is a major difference between Westeros and most European peerages, and that has to be intentional. That not only simplifies a lot of things, it's also an interesting idea in its own right, so I'm glad he did it. The only problem is that it means we often can't extrapolate from real life to fill in the cases where we don't know enough, but that's fine; only a few of us nerds on sites like this really care. :)

On 10/17/2017 at 4:57 AM, TMIFairy said:

2 - I do miss an intermediate level between "Lord" and "Landed Knight/Master". Houses like Glover, Tallhart or Connington are not "lords" yet are a stratosphere higher than Poole, Cassel or Clegane.

Oddly, when asked whether or not he was happy with the flat structure, GRRM suggested he might like one more title—but on the higher end, not the lower end. I don't think he needs anything there (other than being consistent on whether "Lord Paramount" only means the three who weren't kneeling kings, or all eight, especially since there are actually four who weren't kneeling kings).

Anyway, I think this is intentional in the case of the landed knights. He's clearly put a lot of thought into it, as expressed in at least one SSM, and in the background he gave for the RPG. Knighthood isn't hereditary, but since you can always knight you own son, if you have a lot of land to pass down, you can be a hereditary lord in all but name. That makes sense, and he deliberately explored the consequences of it for his world: you'd expect that over time some of these de facto "knightly houses" are more powerful than the lesser lords, and they are.

The Conningtons are the opposite—not knights who grew to be as powerful as lords, but lords who had their title, their privileges, and much of their land stripped away, while being allowed to keep their castle, so at least they can use the quasi-title "Knight of Griffin's Roost".

I think GRRM said somewhere (although I can't find it) that his concept for knighthood grew out of reading tales about hedge knights (an Irish term for knights errant, like those in Arthurian and similar legends, but with the twist that they're Welsh or Irish but under English rule, so they're so poor they have to sleep in the hedges), and wondering what he could do with them if they didn't have to fit into the whole British system.

Beyond the landed knights, though… Having a couple of unique special cases (like a cadet branch of the Royces traditionally being castellans for the Arryns' lower castle) adds realistic flavor to a system that goes back long before things were standardized, but I think the rest may have been a mistake.

In particular, the "masterly houses" Glover and Tallhart are not lords, but they have noble houses as vassals. How does that work? We do finally see Asha think that one of those vassals is more a clan than a noble house, which lets us retcon things—the Northern peerage is a mess because most people in the North don't really care about the peerage system. But that really doesn't work, since when you reread the first novel, it's full of Northerners taking lordship deadly seriously and talking about what it means. I think it would have been better to just have Glover and Tallhart be lords—if the Flint is, why not them?

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16 hours ago, Loose Bolt said:

How much power castellans and stewards have? For instance castellan of Winterfell commanded army about 2000 men ( and lost it). Or could castellan or steward of senior lord give orders to junior lords?

A castellan runs a castle (or maybe a town) while the lord is away. So, he may be able to command that castle's garrison, but that should be it.

Steward is a more general term—they can run anything from a household to an entire kingdom while the lord is away, or they can assist the master/lord/king in running it while he's there. So, they might have authority over most of the realm's troops (Harlen Tyrell surrendered on behalf of the entire Reach when King Mern died), or just the household guard, or no troops at all.

Anyway, IIRC, we're told that Rodrik gathers a force that's not limited to the Winterfell garrison. But I don't think that mean he can actually call the banners (and especially not when the reason he's in charge is that the lord already called the banners and marched off to war). But he can call for volunteers. And when you're marching off to rescue Lady Hornwood from Ramsay, or to attack the invading Ironborn, or to retake the capital after it's been lost, those are all cases where I think you could expect volunteers out of altruism, anger/disgust, or their own political interest. I think we even hear about the Cerwyn lordling volunteering his men for Torrhen Square, but I can't remember for sure.

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1 hour ago, falcotron said:

A castellan runs a castle (or maybe a town) while the lord is away. So, he may be able to command that castle's garrison, but that should be it.

Steward is a more general term—they can run anything from a household to an entire kingdom while the lord is away, or they can assist the master/lord/king in running it while he's there. So, they might have authority over most of the realm's troops (Harlen Tyrell surrendered on behalf of the entire Reach when King Mern died), or just the household guard, or no troops at all.

Anyway, IIRC, we're told that Rodrik gathers a force that's not limited to the Winterfell garrison. But I don't think that mean he can actually call the banners (and especially not when the reason he's in charge is that the lord already called the banners and marched off to war). But he can call for volunteers. And when you're marching off to rescue Lady Hornwood from Ramsay, or to attack the invading Ironborn, or to retake the capital after it's been lost, those are all cases where I think you could expect volunteers out of altruism, anger/disgust, or their own political interest. I think we even hear about the Cerwyn lordling volunteering his men for Torrhen Square, but I can't remember for sure.

I'm not sure if I'm arguing here...

As Robb already called the banners, is Rodrik not taking the stragglers from that call (those that haven't gone south at the beginning) and,... re-purposing them? You mention volunteers, I mention stragglers...

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3 hours ago, Wild Bill said:

As Robb already called the banners, is Rodrik not taking the stragglers from that call (those that haven't gone south at the beginning) and,... re-purposing them? You mention volunteers, I mention stragglers...

Stragglers as in, say, Medger Cerwyn calls up his men and whatever vassals he has, but some of them only show up after he's already left for Winterfell, so they stick around at Castle Cerwyn, and that's who Cley is able to offer for Cassel later in the assault on Torrhen's Square? I suppose that's possible.

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One example of how far it goes; Targaryen>Tyrell>Rowan>Webber>Inchfield.

It is usually like this though:Baratheon/Targaryen>Tully>Mallister

With the occasional: Baratheon/Targaryen>Stark>Cerwyn>Condon

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11 hours ago, falcotron said:

Oddly, when asked whether or not he was happy with the flat structure, GRRM suggested he might like one more title—but on the higher end, not the lower end.

Low end, high end - regardless of level an additional tier would be helpful :)

My country had an absolutely flat - in legal terms - structure :D

 

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Martin says in the quote below, that the vassal of the vassal of the vassal contributes men to the call of the banners, right down to the guy who can raise a few friends:

Question:

I am also a bit curious as to the social structure of westeros. I understand the seven high lords, and the slightly lower lords (ie. Boltons, Karstarks, Freys etc.). However, do these lords also have sub lords below them? Lords who maybe raise 10 or 20 men for the Karstarks?

Martin:

Yes, it is a feudal system. The lords have vassals, the vassals have vassals, and sometimes the vassals of the vassals have vassals, down to the guy who can raise five friends.

End quote

However, I think that in the books, George skipped a few levels to get from the super powerful lord down to petty lord level fairly quickly.

For example, let's take the North, where the lordships are fairly easy to distinguish based on geographical distribution.

The Starks would be the equivalent of Kings.

The Karstarks, Umbers, Boltons etc. would be the equivalent of Dukes, ruling over large "provinces/duchies" of the Kingdom. (Note that some of the areas ruled by these Dukes, like the Karstark, Umber or Dustin lands are larger than the entire England, for example.)

I would argue that the next level down should be the "Counts", ruling over individual counties that make up each duchy. Again using the North as an example, the duchy we have the most information on is that of House Manderly, which is stated to have 12 such petty lords. To me it seems like this is where Martin skipped a level, because if a Duchy is the size of England, it seems kind of difficult to accept that lords who might rule up to 1/12th of such a duchy could be considered "petty lords". These "Count" equivalents are much more powerful than the manner in which House Stout for example has been portrayed. Perhaps House Webber is a better example, but even so, you would think that these Counts must be pretty powerful.

The next step down from these Counts would be the "Manor lords". These are the Landed knights/Masterly Houses, of which Lord Manderly has 100 sworn as vassals to himself. Note it might be that each of his 12 petty lords also have various numbers of Landed Knights sworn to them, and that these are excluded from the 100 who are sworn directly to Lord Manderly. Nevertheless, these  Manor lords would rule a keep with land and villages around it. The most powerful ones rule a lot of villages, and the less powerful ones would be the equivalent of House Osprey who had three small villages under their control only.

Some Manor lords appear to be disproportionately powerful, at the level of Dukes even in terms of the lands and numbers of people that they rule. Here I think of Houses Glover, Tallhart and Templeton. But in general, this level is less powerful than the Petty Lord/Count level.

So the hierarchy is then as follows, in my view:

King - House Stark

Duke - House Umber/Karstark/Bolton

Count - House Stout/House Webber

Manor Lord - House Glover/Tallhart/Osprey

I think that's as simple as Martin made it. My one criticism is that the level of Count has been portrayed as too weak, considering the territory these guys rule. There should have been another level below Count, where Petty Lords are placed.

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

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16 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

However, I think that in the books, George skipped a few levels to get from the super powerful lord down to petty lord level fairly quickly.

I don't think he "skipped" any levels. Things really are different than in Spain or France or HRE. All of the lords having the same rank has real consequences for their society. The more important lord isn't the one who's three levels down from the king instead of four (with a rank to prove it), it's the one who can raise more men, or who knows the king better, or who can throw the best parties, or who's married into the best other houses, etc.

And that's why I think this whole thread is so misguided. The levels don't really exist in Westeros, so trying to name them can't do anything but misguide us.

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1 hour ago, falcotron said:

I don't think he "skipped" any levels. Things really are different than in Spain or France or HRE. All of the lords having the same rank has real consequences for their society. The more important lord isn't the one who's three levels down from the king instead of four (with a rank to prove it), it's the one who can raise more men, or who knows the king better, or who can throw the best parties, or who's married into the best other houses, etc.

And that's why I think this whole thread is so misguided. The levels don't really exist in Westeros, so trying to name them can't do anything but misguide us.

That's partially true, yes. However, a vassal House sworn to House Karstark (a petty lord in our example) is still subservient to House Karstark, no matter how rich or powerful they are. For example, House Manderly is richer than House Stark, and can almost certainly raise more men too, but they are still a level below House Stark.

Conversely, and supporting your point, House Glover are Landed Knights only, but they are far more influential than a petty lord sworn to House Manderly, for example.

The thing I would like to know is whether there are any petty lords sworn to Houses Glover or Tallhart, who are both Masterly (Knightly) Houses only. I'm not sure how that would work. And yet, the alternative is that there are no petty lords in the hundred thousand or so square miles ruled by these two Houses. I find that difficult to believe. In fact, if I recall correctly the Telltale game (non-canon, I know) has House Ironwood or some such petty lord sworn to House Glover. Which kind of seems like a logical setup, even if it is not official.

Surely there must be petty lords all over  the North, so how does the vassal setup work in the areas controlled by the Glovers and Tallharts? Unless those petty lords are sworn directly to House Stark, with the Glovers and Tallharts just exercising administrative control over them on behalf of Winterfell.

 

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1 hour ago, falcotron said:

The levels don't really exist in Westeros, so trying to name them can't do anything but misguide us.

Yes and no ...

I would like to know - for my own convenience, whether a "non-Lord" is like a Tallhart or Connington (post Rebellion), or a Clegane or Cassel.

Not a "must have", but a "nice to have" ....

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