Knights of Solamnia
Political Structure of Solamnia
A Historical Essay of Solamnic Politics through the Ages.
Excerpts of lectures by Professor Gilbertus from Luinstat, Holder of the Chair of Feudal Law at the Free University of Solanthus; lecture notes diligently compiled by senior student Cornelius from Thelgaard.
Lesson 1 (Palast 5 Gildember): Concerning rise of Solamnia and Solamnic early politics in the Age of Right.
[Professor enters classroom. All stand. Tommy asleep, after yesterday night's revelries, snorting loudly. Professor stares at him in open disgust. He wears his eternal (and probably dirty) stiffelius. Sits on chair and waits for complete silence. Then begins]
As we all can easily figure out, even with our M-O-D-E-S-T intelligence [old boring owl that you are!], feudal laws and political structure of Solamnia have greatly changed over the ages. It is in fact prooved (by the works of G-R-E-A-T sociologists and historians, whose names he will kindly omit 'cause he probably doesn't remind them...) that customs and institutions change over the centuries [soooo cunning!].
We could define the "First Age" of Solamnia as the age under the Empire of Ergoth: Solamnia was a frontier land, too distant from the Imperial Palaces of Dalthigoth to be well governed: the various feudal lords complained about the heavy taxation, that impaired the growth of local economy and sometimes caused famine... the Imperial Prefects, whose authority was... [stares at the students, expectingly. From the first line of desks, Willy Weiser jumps on his feet, and proudly declares: "Superior to that of the local landlords!." Polemic applause from us fellow students after this performance...]... Exactly.
What I was saying? Ah, the Imperial Prefects, thanks... the Prefects were very rigid, and admitted no delay in the payment of the taxes... but very often, the feudal lords and their population were not able to pay them: failure to do so caused the alienation of the feud, that returned in the direct control of the Emperor... whose beurocrats, from Dalthigoth, could not see the conditions in which people lived, and insisted in collecting the same amount of taxes. Many fallen nobles united with their cousins who were still in control of their lands, and under the flag of Count Mytrandar the eastermost counties rebelled to the central power of the Emperor Thenkalin III, whose dinasty took the throne after the death of the just Quevalin XXV, last of the most revered Quevalin Line. But in 1850, after many deaths and a cruel repression, the Imperial authority was restored, and the five Counts executed or killed in battle. But after a few years, when the taxes were rised another time and the population was treatened by a new famine, almost all the Counts of the East embraced a new revolt, called "the Rose Rebellion" after the red rose of the blazon of Count DiCaela, who was the leader of the uprise. So general was the revolt, that after a few defeats the Imperial Marshal, GrandDuke Alyusandrus of Foghaven, deemed necessary the intervention of the élite troops: the Imperial Guard, led by a young and talented commander, General Vinas Solamnus, third son of the House of Vinasserre.
And so, the war began: in that winter, the flags with the Kingfisher, blazon of Vinas Solamnus, covered the Eastern Counties and the Imperial Palace Guards faced the guerrilla of the rebels in the lands of Vingaard: Solamnus suffered some losses, and won only one battle, on the Glade of Jansburg. Here, Gen. Vinas Solamnus captured two leaders of the revolt: the son of Count William DiCaela, Sir Gerald, and the old and virtuus Count of Jansburg, who had one year before abdicated to his son and was currently donning the white tunic of the priests of Paladine. After that battle, Solamnus advanced and besieged Vingaard. Here, at the beginnig of the spring, the last Count of Vingaard, Lord Harris, died in battle. Vingaard was taken, at the price of so many lives. Vinas Solamnus, who in the long siege had enjoyed the company of his two captives, was grieved by the cost of his victory. His determination was rapidly falling, and after the Year of Waiting, in which he occupied Vingaard without any offensive action, after that year of meditation and of inner struggle, he decided to join the revolt. In that cold winter morning, Vinas Solamnus spoke to his troops, and his tears froze on his stern and noble face. He offered his soldiers the choice to join the revolt or to come back home: very few returned to Dalthigoth. And so, after two years of battles against the decadent Empire of Ergoth, the War of the Ice Tears was eventually won, and Vinas Solamnus entered Dalthigoth as a conqueror to accept, a little embarassed, the Emperor's surrender.
All the Eastern Counties of the Rose Rebellion, as well as the Northern Wastes and many minor lands, pledged fealty to him, and made him King of a new-born State, Solamnia.
Solamnus was not a power-hungry man, and he had no heirs: so, he went in pilgrimage on the Quest of Honour, asking for the help of the gods, for he well knew that, after his death, the shadow of violence and misery could easily return on the land he had freed. And the gods responded, instructing him in the creation of a Knightly Order: the Knights of Solamnia [some of my fellow students mutter loudly the Oath... Professor seems not so disturbed, even when poor old Tommy eventually falls from his desk and awakes crying something concerning black dragons bearing bottles of elven wine... among the general laughter... ]
After the Quest of Honor, Solamnus instituted the three Orders; every ranking member of these Orders (let me point out that membership was initially distributed among his officers) received the charge of the feudal government of a territory, with different degrees of importance... simple villages were hold by simple Noblemen or Patrices, groups of towns by Barons, larger territories by Counts, Marquises, Dukes. Some dukedoms with historical places or key-point fortresses were held by Princes, always great heroes of the War of the Ice Tears, like the Lord of Justice, Lord Angus MarKennin, first Prince of Thelgaard.
By this process of infeudation, the whole of Solamnia had been divided into Provinces, each governed by a King with authority extended to "lesser" feudataries: the Princes, Dukes, Marquises, Counts and Barons that are his vassals and hold feudal lands in his Province. Every landlord, regardless of the title, can have, as valvassors, Noblemen of Patrice rank, who rule one ore more little villages and one castle or keep.
After this impressive and grand-scale reform - which at the oral exam you will kindly define "The Feudal Reform" and not, like some stupid and extravagant collegue of mine, "The Feudal Revolution," 'cause any revolution was ended with the capitulation of Ergoth, almost five years before! - after this R-E-F-O-R-M the Council of the Knighthood had been established, from that time on, as the higher authority to which every landlord, even kings, had to pay obedience, and his permanent head was of course... [Willy Weiser shouts:"the Grand Master!," Professor seems a little upset, than continues...]
...Well, yes, yes, the Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia who, as Lord of Knights, holds the supreme and permanent power (both militar and civil) over all the kingdoms and lesser feudal states. The Grand Master is elected by the Grand Council of the Knights of Solamnia, so the supreme authority is not hereditary like any other political position, but it's elective. Furthermore, the Feudataries are not automatically electors, 'cause they M-U-S-T be ranking knights of the three Orders. Fail in remarking this, students, and your exam will end not so well... [evil grin...]
At the death of Vinas Solamnus, the Provinces-Kingdoms were the following:
[and eventually that blasted bell is tolling! ... now sweet Elyane, the young apprentice dressmaker, is waiting for me... move your legs, you boring old man... oh, now! I'm free at last! ]
Lesson 2 (Majetag 6 Gildember): Concerning Solamnia in the Age of Might and in the Age of Darkness
[Blasted Abyss! I'm terribly late, and the old boring owl has stared hard at me when I entered the classroom...]
... and so, the political asset of Solamnia lasted for the whole Age of Rigth, and for the greatest part of the Age of Might, up to the years immediatly before the Cataclysm. As a matter of fact, starting from the year 476 P.C., Solamnia became the greatest ally of the rising power of Istar, whose predominance in commerce, art, and even religion was rapidly leading to a sort of supremacy over the still fierce and virtuous Solamnia. Sadly, from 80 P.C. on, in the Provinces closer to the borders with Istar, some Kings slowly lost the complete control of their kingdoms, and many castles and lands fell into the hands of the corrupted clergy of Istar, that arrogantly claimed possession of ancestral feudal lands whenever the rightful ruler died without politically strong heirs. In the core of Solamnia, though, the Knightly rulers never fell prey to such an insidious strategy.
The domination of the clergy of Istar was ruthless, even if "politically correct": the Kingpriest's Governors, called "Almoners," exerted a strong rule, albeith in a velvet glove. Taxes were very high, and failure to pay them resulted in the clergy confiscating the insolvent's properties: he was usually allowed to keep on his abitual job, and to live in his former house or land, but as a worker who received only a small salary from the Temple, who became the proprietor. Nobody died of hunger, yes, but those unable to fend for themselves were set in slavery. And, I want to point out, the greatest feudal lands (baronies, counties, and so on) became the prebends of High Priests, that used this privilege granted by the kingpriest to gather a constant income in order to support their expensive and luxurious life in Istar.
[I'm soooo tired... and you're soooo booooring.....]
And so, the gods decided to wage ruin on Istar, and the Cataclysm fell.Thus began the Age of Darkness, and darkness indeed fell over the fair lands of Solamnia: the ignorant peasants believed the Knights guilty of that disaster, and in the following three hundred years almost all Solamnia fell prey to anarchy: the rightful Lords were compelled to abandon their ancestral manors, and the mob waged ruin on their beautiful and strong keeps. The last to fall were Vingaard and Caergoth: at the eve of the War of the Lance, the main cities still in the hands of the Knights were Palanthus and Withestone, while all the others were ruled by parvenues, or worse.
And then, after that terrible, yet glorious carnage that was the War of the Lance, the Knighthood managed to free Solamnia once more, and almost all the lands returned under the protective mantle of the Order's rule. The reconstruction of our fair nation has begun, and many ancient ruling families have been re-installed in their ancestral domains. Some are extinguished, some others survive thanks to cadet branches that split centuries before. Others have utter continuity. What is important, Solamnia is now almost as it should be, as the great Vinas Solamnus wanted.
[And you're awfully rethorical and boring, when I'm just too exhausted to heed at you... and your poor wife, I wonder if she finds more interesting someone else, perhaps your gardener... oh, it seems that for today's finished...]
Lesson 3 (Bakukal 9 Gildember): Concerning Solamnia in our days, twenty years after the War of the Lance
[Well, well, this is the longest day of the week for our poor students... so, please come or we'll never finish! You're more than twenty minutes late, come on Professor Owl!]
Now, let's see exactly how our fair Solamnia is now governed, er... let me say, WELL governed!
Let's see, to begin, what has become of those provinces we started to talk about some days ago: in this first step, I'll be very schematic, and later we well deepen our vision.
[A snowball hits Professor straight in his face... he mutters something incoherently, when some last-year students, the daring marksmen, hold high their student's hat and begin to sing our students' hymn, followed by us all: it's the First Snow of the year, and as per the tradition of our University it's holiday for all the rest of the day!!! No more lessons!!]
Text copyright ©2001 Matteo Banchio. Dragonlance, Knights of Solamnia, and most of the names quoted are trademarks or copyright owned by TSR, Inc. and Wizards of the Coast. All Rights Reserved.