Questions, reference, and curiosities


Postby Matt » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:40 pm

A question of the Harnforum made me think of this, and it's relevant to recent events in our campaign.

What is the style of the husband of a peeress in her own right? The answer is the male form of her title, which is a courtesy title, not an actual peerage.

This has been generally assumed by us, but without any explanation of the thinking behind it since it does not, in fact, accord with Terran usage. I tend to use medieval English precedents for a lot of this, and that is what I have done here for the most part. However, Harn is generally free of the more subtle forms of sexism that exist in a Terran context, and I see no reason to introduce them for their own sake.

The modern example I cited on the HF was that of Sir Denis Thatcher, who was made a baronet in his right, and thus became Sir Denis. When Margaret Thatcher was made a life peer, she became Baroness Thatcher, but he remained Sir Denis, not become Lord Thatcher. Oddly, she could be styled Lady Thatcher either in her right of being a baroness or in courtesy of being the wife of a baronet.

Thus, right now Ewen has been made a baron in his own right, which has made his wife Thilisa a baroness by courtesy. If she inherits her father's earldom, she becomes a countess in her own right, and Ewen becomes an earl by courtesy. They both retain their own peerages, and could use the style associated with either. In practice, of course, the tendency is to use the highest rank, whether by right or by courtesy. Note that both peerages remain separate, even if they were ultimately inherited by the same person. The monarch could, of course, agree to them being combined in some fashion, if there was some reason to do so.

This would lead to an interesting situation in the context of the council of tenants-in-chief. Both Ewen, as Baron of Ternua, and Thilisa, as Countess of Vemion, would be called, and both would have a vote.

As a matter of precedent, this is a rare, possibly unique situation which would no doubt engender some structural development of the system, establishing precedents, and acting as a template for the future.

As an aside, there are historically three broad ways to be granted a peerage, and they developed over time. The earliest is the feudal scenario where a landholder was generally considered a baron by holding a certain amount of land. This system was on the messy side in practice. Many Harn GMs, to the extent they think about or understand this at all, implicitly use this form. A later development, around the mid-12th century, was the writ of summons which is where I envision our campaign roughly situated. This system later developed into the House of Lords, and only those entitled to sit in that chamber were considered peers. (Certain legislative cleanup was necessary in later centuries to clear out some of the relics of the previous system. This was especially pertinent to the less formalized Scottish peerage.) Finally the way it is done today, is by the issuance by the monarch of what are called 'letters patent' naming the title and individual. That is a post-medieval development, and one we naturally do not use.

This could have some ramifications in game, or just make my thinking (hopefully) clearer on the subject. 8)
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