Much of the Empire operates on a basis of feudal relationships, and members of the nobility are invariably at the top of this arrangement. Even in less feudal areas of the Empire, noble patricians and important individuals still occupy positions in the ruling aristocracy.
Not considered ‘true’ nobles by some, individuals in the minor nobility nonetheless have some modicum of rank and station.
Knight (style: “Sir,” “Dame”) – A knight is most often a professional warrior who has pledged military service to a liege, the Imperial Legion, or a knightly order. They are considered a cut above the common people in feudal areas, and afforded notable respect even in the heart of the Empire where they are considered to be of equestrian status.
Patrician – Important members of wealthy merchant families or influential political families are considered by some to be a type of noble. Such a position is respected more in Imperia proper, whereas feudal lords tend to give such individuals little more than token respect. Nevertheless, in most cases they are considered to be of higher social standing than knights. In Imperia, the heads of such households may be styled as “Dominus,” or “Domina.”
Baronet (style: “Sir,” “Dame”) – Above a knight, but not yet considered ‘true’ nobility. Generally, a baronet owns a significant amount of land, and is empowered to administrate it as a minor fiefdom.
The true nobility is vital to the functioning of most of the Empire. They are the land-holders and rulers of wide swathes of territory.
Baron (style: “The Baron,” “Lord,” “My lord,” Baroness: “The Baroness,” “Lady,” “My lady”) – The lowest rank of true nobility, a baron rules a barony. Generally, a baron is a vassal to a count or other noble of similar rank.
Viscount (style: “The Viscount,” “Lord,” “My lord,” Viscountess: “The Viscountess,” “Lady,” “My lady”) – A rare rank, a viscount (vice-count) occasionally arises as an administrative intermediary between a baron and a count, and rules a viscounty.
Count (style: “Count,” “Count of,” “Lord,” “My lord,” Countess: “Countess,” “Countess of,” “Lady,” “My lady”) – A count describes many nobles of middling rank who rule a county, and who may in fact use all manner of local variations. Earl and jarl are both common variations in some parts of the Empire. Margrave, marquis, or markgraf denote counts of border or frontier regions, and they are generally considered to be of slightly higher standing than ‘regular’ counts.
(Lesser) Duke (style: “Duke,” “Duke of,” “Your Grace,” Duchess: “Duchess,” “Duchess of,” “Your Grace”) – A ‘lesser’ duke is an uncommon rank, as distinct from an Imperial duke. Usually, lesser dukes exist in provinces whose ruler is styled as an Imperial prince or other title rather than an Imperial duke. A duke rules a duchy, and is almost uniformly a highly prestigious member of the nobility.
(Imperial) Duke (style: “Duke,” “Duke of,” “Your Grace,” “His Imperial Grace,” Duchess: “Duchess,” “Duchess of,” “Your Grace,” “Her Imperial Grace”) – An ‘Imperial’ duke is the ruler of a given province within the Empire, although in some cases the actual title may vary. In many feudal areas, Imperial dukes and ‘lesser’ dukes are one and the same. Other areas may have lesser dukes underneath the Imperial duke, where the Imperial duke goes by another title. Such variations include prince, archduke, or grand duke.
The Feudal Church
The Imperian Church operates across the Empire, and in many regions has considerable influence. Its land-holding members exist within the feudal power structures of the realm, and as such are de facto members of the nobility. Church holdings are frequently comparable to noble equivalents, with most bishops holding land and power similar to a baronet or even a baron.
(to do: titles and styles)
Imperia itself has little in the way of feudal lords, but it does nonetheless observe social hierarchies and all due decorum.
Citizen (style: “Citizen”) – In Imperia, the concept of citizenship is held in high regard. Travellers, visitors, and immigrants from other parts of the Empire are not automatically considered true citizens. As such, while most common citizens are not stupid enough to insult visiting lords and feudal dignitaries, the mutual disdain for conflicting notions of social class is usually clear: The citizen believes he is a true Imperian, above the distant, foreign lord, whereas the lord naturally considers the citizen to be a common peasant.
Equestrian (style: “Citizen,” “Equestrian”) – An equestrian is a citizen of higher wealth and standing, often those who come from wealthy families, or who have served extensively in the Legion or as a knight. It makes one eligible for high public office and prestigious positions in the Empire.
Patrician (style: “Dominus,” “Domina”) – Sometimes considered a minor noble in the rest of the Empire, in Imperia a patrician is a member of the aristocracy. Usually wealthy, patricians pride themselves on noble lineage and a great deal of political influence in Imperia. Most (though not all) Senators are patricians.
The Imperian emperor is theoretically a hereditary position at the top of Imperian society, but for the past several hundred years it has been held by the Empress. Her modern title is properly styled Her Serene Divinity, though the older Imperian form of address, Her Imperial Majesty, is sometimes still used.
Miscellaneous other titles arise for various reasons, though they are usually not hereditary or noble per se.
Quaestor – An administrator in many parts of the Empire, usually overseeing finances, treasuries, militias, and troops.
Aedile – An administrator charged with civic maintenance, public order, and ceremonies and holidays.
Praetor – A magistrate and judge who oversees matters of justice and law.
Tribune – A title held by many public servants in a variety of roles, including commanders and Senatorial representatives.
Consul – A largely defunct position in the Imperian Empire conveying wide-reaching legal authority and high status, analogous in many ways to a king.
Proconsul – An administrator who is granted the legal power of a consul with which to administrate a given region.
Magister Equitum (also Master of the Horse) – A military posting in a given realm, someone who serves a ruler as chief military advisor.