Governmental organization in Santharia has a long tradition. Though the uniting of the ancient kingdoms through the ascension of Santhros the Wise to the Santharian throne brought a new governmental structure to the lands on the highest levels and also led to the re-naming for ranks and titles on lower ones, most parts of the power hierarchy lived on in the one way or the other when the new kingdom was formed. As the system of feudalism was the foundation of society in the ancient kingdoms, so it was continued in Santharia: In a pyramidical manner land was given from the topmost level, the Crown, to sub-oridinated landholders, who divided their portions to other sub-ordinated landholders below their level, and so forth, until the landholders on the other end of the pyramid are reached, who administrate the smallest parcels of land.
Picture description. A portrait of a typical Manthrian nobleman, Graven Rohbert do Sauvrij of Fief Mashdai, a famous patron and appreciated philanthropist. Picture drawn by Bard Judith.
Though rights and duties for the single levels of the hierarchy were defined in the King's Act back in the time of Santhros, the historical and regional differences and developments of course still reflect as well in specific titles and powers of regional leaders, who still may exert their independence from the King to a certain degree. The actual power constellations compared to the theoretical definitions therefore are much more intricate and complicated, but still they operate to a vast degree in the layed out confines. We try to give you a general overview here on how these governmental structures of Santharia have developed in the course of time, how the ranks hierarchy is defined, how it works and where there are the most important exceptions, adjustments and additions on regional level.
Historical Development. The Third Sarvonian War was perhaps the greatest turning point in Santharian history. Apart from marking the dawn of the modern era, it was perhaps the first time that all the races of Santharia had close and agreeable contact with one another, united by a common foe: first Coór'Melór, and then his son; the Móch'rónn, Saban Blackcloak. After the third great Sarvonian war, the human tribes were finally united under one King, Santhros the Wise. The advantages that good relations with their neighbouring races had brought during the war were not lost upon Santhros and as an extension of this new found and long sought after unity, it was decided that an inclusion of the other races into a United Kingdom would help to create a stable and prosperous environment. The King (since Santhros' follower also called the "Santhran"), to this day, presides over the Linked Hands, a great council, representative of all in Santharia. The Council is made up of the King, the eight Thanes who reside over the eight human provinces of Santharia, the elven Avá’ránn who resides over the High Elven Circle, various dwarven leaders and other additional leaders of other races may attend as is appropriate.
The dream of all men united under one King is an idea deeply rooted in the history of Southern Sarvonia. Gorm for example, a human foundling raised by the elves, sought to steal an important artifact, the blood of the former Erpheronian sovereign Maengolth, to achieve that very aim and in the process triggered the First Sarvonian War and the ensuing Age of the Blood. Far later, the Erpheronian king Thar achieved, to a limited extent, a unification of the human tribes. None, however, were as successful and persuasive as Santhros. Perhaps it was his powerful personality; perhaps it was simply that the tribes of Santharia needed a reason to unite. In Coór'Melór, the very incarnation of evil and destruction, and later his son the Móch'rónn, who sought to destroy the Earth Titan, that reason seemed to be provided by the Gods themselves.
However, humanity did not fight the war single handed. For the first time in Sarvonian history the elves, men, halflings and dwarves fought together, and were also joined by other minority races of Santharia, who to many had been thought simply to be nothing more than fairy tales. King Santhros was a shrewd man, and knew that unification of the human tribes had in the past (for example when Thar created the unification that was Tharania) unsettled and worried man’s elven neighbours. He was also aware of the great advantages that improved relations among the races had provided since an alliance had been formed. The best course of action, and a rather natural step by that time, was to include all races in the unification. Each race had its own reasons for joining and their own reservations about the system, but join they did, to form the united Santharia we know today.
Ranks Hierarchy. The organisation can be described in detail as follows. Note however, that knowledge of Santharian history is essential to understand how government works in such a vast kingdom:
The Santhran (Santharian King)
The King is the figurehead of the United Kingdom of Santharia. Since the death of Santhros the King also bears the title "Santhran" honouring the famous and by now legendary deeds of the first Santharian regent. The King's spouse is also referred to not only as "Queen" but as "Santhranna". In the course of the seventeen centuries of the Kingdom's existence males undoubtedly dominated the position of reigning Santharia. Nevertheless there were also several occasions when female Thanes were allowed to exert this power when elected by the gathering of Thanes, the Thanemoot.
The power of the Santhran however shouldn't be overrated. Due to the vast size of the Santharian Kingdom alone, the Santhran has only a very limited influence in the matters of the provinces themselves. Though he represents the kingdom and can prescribe decrees and laws for all of the provinces by his own decision, there have been several occurences when the Thanes refused to enforce these regulations or suspended already existing ones. Thus only very few decrees are actually passed out by the Santhran himself without the consultations of regional leaders, basically these are only slight amendments to already existing regulations. These difficulties demonstrate on how complex it is for the Santhran to govern over Santharia and also on how important it is to have a charismatic and convincing leader. It has proven to be essential for a strong Santhran to try to seek contact with the provincial rulers in order to strengthen his own position while at the same time guaranteeing cohesion within this vast realm and to nurture understanding of each other's needs.
To many the Santhran himself must seem little more than a fairy-tale. A citizen of Strata, or a peasant in Nyermersys, is unlikely to have ever seen the King, nor anyone who ever has. However, the King is held in a certain awe and wonderment, due to the myth and prestige associated with the unification of the human tribes throughout history.
While the King in the ancient kingdom of Tharania was used to be selected by his predecessor, thus making him a family member or an advisor for example, the Santhran is elected among the Thanes of the provinces in the so-called "Thanemoot", a gathering held usually shortly after the Santhran's death. At rare occasions, when the time of death of the regent is obviously imminent or the Council of the Linked Hands sees the necessity to elect a new Santhran, the Thanemoot will take place while the Santhran is still in office.
It has to be noted that the Santhran is always human. There are several good reasons for this. Firstly, elves simply do not have the same need or perception of leaders as humans. There are no leaders among elves, and in elven eyes, Ránns or Rónns are only required for three reasons: As a mark of respect to the eldest among them or for the tactical advantages that having a central figure provides, or because that individual is a great spiritual leader. As such, they do not wield the power that human kings do. To an elf, the human idea of monarchy is simply insanity, though they are a peaceful race, and are happy – with a certain amount of self-rule – to be governed by a human monarch.
Dwarves are much the same in that they do not share a human concept of monarchy. Dwarves are dreadfully clannish, fiercely spiritual, and rather independent-minded. They each have a clan leader (the Gornegron) who is chosen by election, who oversees to the daily running of the cavern, the trade lines, production levels, and so on. However, the main system of government might best be described as a theocracy with individual free will. Each cavern also has a Denirim, or spiritual leader, and many of the Thergerim's decisions, special days, and lifestyles are based on their belief in Urtengor (or TolBarol, Thergerim TolBarol, as they call him) and the Denirim's interpretation of His desires for their life. Everyone has a place in the system, everyone is content to serve in that place, and if Sthommur, "Rockfaith" (can be translated loosely as "honour", or "duty") is kept, the Thergerim will go peacefully into his Time of Stone and from thence to Urtengor's great halls. Since the dwarves are an underground nation who deliberately keeps themselves remote from other races by choice, a dwarven king of Santharia would simply not be practicable. They are, however, secretly rather proud of being on the Santharian Coat of Arms and enjoy having the other races depend on their smithing skills, and the resultant appreciation and cash flow.
Halflings on the other hand would simply fail to command the same prowess as a human king, for reasons of both myth and stature, while other races have their own individual reasons not to take the throne, though one majority reason must simply be that these races make up, even collectively a small minority of the Santharian population.
The Council of Linked Hands
The human Thanes meet together with the King at the Council of the Linked Hands to make national level decisions.
The Santhran is also the head of the Linked Hands, a council making national level decisions. The Council mandatorilly includes the leaders of the provinces, the Thanes. Other members of this council are the elven Avá'ránn, the leader of the High Elven Circle, who can speak for all tribes, and is usually the most respected, or perhaps the eldest elf among elven leaders.
Halfling leaders and dwarves are also represented. The dwarves usually send the Gornegrons (Clan Chieftains) to Linked Hand meetings or the Gorkavon (Underchief). This is partly for security reasons and also allows the subchief to familiarize him/herself with making priority decisions in lieu of the Chieftain, or in case of the Chieftain's incapacity. Sometimes a Denirim (Priest, Holy One) also accompanies the dwarven representative to ensure that will of the Hammerlord TolBarol is met.
There are also representatives of the more 'minor' races, the gnomes and occasionally the Brownies. The latter may attend at meetings, but don't have to - only the highest representatives of the races can influence decisions directly with their votes. The Council gathers usually annually, though important matters may require instant meetings ("instant" of course is quite relative, as preparations for an irregular Council meeting in a kingdom of the size of Santharia may take a few weeks). Depending on the issues, Council discussions can last from a few days to several weeks.
In this Council the Santhran instructs the Thanes of the eight provinces and proposing the laws of the land, though these laws mostly must be kept open, as each race has a certain autonomy of rule. The elves of the Aellenrhim have a saying derived from watching their human neighbours: "A law is passed, and a way past it is found", implying that to some extent, even humans are ruled more by provincial law than by the Santhran.
The Santhran's Orders
The Santhran's actual power comes from a series of orders, who swear an oath of loyalty to the kingdom of Santharia to preserve its boundaries and laws. More importantly they swear alligance to the Santhran. In return, the orders receive certain privileges and status.
There are many different branches of the King's Orders, doing various different jobs. Some of them are ancient orders, for example,
- The Order of the Fallen, who were so influencial and successful against the orcs during SW III so that it made them a natural choice as an order of the Kingdom. Other orders include the...
- Paladins of Armeros, who try to ensure peace in the realm by force and justice, but not necessarily by the kindest means!
- The White Knights are, however, an order focused around the deities of Eyasha and Nehtor. They also promote peace and justice and are respected diplomats.
The Santhran cannot "use" the orders directly, as such; the Santhran does not set the goals of the orders, but he does demand their loyaty and asks them to promote stability among Santharians. They provide the Santhran with his political might in areas far from the New-Santhala power seat, but are power structures that are not influenced by racial or tribal heritage, and thus can act for the Santhran for example in solving disputes or by reminding provincial leaders by exerting pressure that the Santhran has last say on certain issues.
Picture description. A document signed with the Thane's seal of the province of Manthria. Image drawn by Bard Judith.
The Dukes and Duchesses
Each of the eight Santharian provinces is split into further districts of administration, the Duchies. Large elven woods, however, which form a complete unity of their own (like the Auturian Woods in Manthria or the Sharadon Forest in Brendolan) are called "Stý'cáls" ("Lands of the Elves"). Dwarven or halfling territory usually is not as large as to reach the size of an elven Stý'cál in order to form a similar administration unit as a Duchy.
Constituting the second highest rank in the province just below the Thane, the Dukes govern over all the local lieges, the Gravens. They need to report to the Thane regularly, consult him and make sure to exert the kingdom's and the province's laws in their given counties. In general it can be said that the way in which local decisions are made by the Thane, the Duke or the Gravens varies from place to place, and tribe to tribe. The influences from the provincial governors are very dominant in certain regions, while in others (e.g. scarcely populated ones) the local autonomy plays a much larger role and is tolerated by the Dukes. Similarly certain races or tribes have their own form of independence.
The Gravens (Markgravens, Landgravens and Moundgravens)
The Gravens (male and female form is identical) are instated by the Dukes to maintain a certain fief they have been granted. The Gravens often have a close relationship to the Dukes, are relatives or personal friends and swear faith to them, just as the Dukes do to the Thane and the Thane to the Santhran. The fiefs are segmented by the Gravens, the lieges, and granted to subordinate landholders (nobles and aristocrats), their vassals. Sometimes these landholders can have a special privileged status as well (see Privileged Nobility below). Such a fief is not owned by the occupant, but is managed by the occupant for both, the superior landholder and the occupant's heir. There are different titles and functions for Gravens, the most popular are:
- Markgravens. Markgravens control 'marches', mostly border territories or passes and therefore are deemed as the most import lieges.
- Landgravens. Landgravens hold basically land and farmlands.
- Moundgravens. Moundgravens (in certain regions called Hillgravens or Mongravens in slang expression) are responsible for mountainous or heavily forested regions.
The advantages of this geographic system obviously is that the various areas can be more justly represented in terms of trade needs and business associations; the sizes of each region vary depending upon the resources available.
Privileged Nobility and Aristocrats (Barons, Viscounts etc.)
Barons, Viscounts and several other mainly province specific titles represent minor nobility who have special rights and/or duties. They often possess individual holdings - usually a castle, manor, or other fortified dwelling, and of course a substantial portion of land to go with it (given by the Gravens), which commonly exceeds the amount of land regular nobility possesses. They are responsible directly to the Gravens above them just like every other landholder and for the individual people who farm, herd, fish, or otherwise toil on their holdings. However, they may exert as well their special powers and freedoms in making decisions, granted to them by their liege. In some cases privileged nobility may act nearly independent in their given land.
The Landholders (Lords and Ladies)
The Landholders are the nobles and aristocrats at the lower end of the Santharian hierarchy, living in manors. They are responsible for ensuring that the land is being cultivated by the peasants, who produce and make income. The Landholders' duties are to show loyalty, honesty and usefulness to their liege - this includes to provide financial assistance, attendance at court if necessary, and military service. Usually the position of landholder is inherited or transfered to people through marriage. In other cases clerics or nobles may be granted a fief to maintain.
Finally there exist several titles in Santharia, which are not directly integrated in the described hierarchy. These include the following (these are just some representative titles picked from a large assortment):
- The Knight. The Knight owns his own horse, arms, and armour. He may have his own dwelling but usually is retained by a Viscount or Baron at the noble’s castle.
- The Mage. These magic users are formally educated and titled by Ximax but may be employed (and then paid) by the Crown as researchers or scholars.
- The Sage. A scholar who often has some magical abilities but not necessarily a graduate of Ximax, may be a retainer of the Crown.
- The Masterbard. Title granted by the Bardavos College or equivalent musical school - also can be ratified by the Crown and made a paid honorific.
- The Masterartisan. Masterartistans are artists and craftsmen who are held to be the highest representatives of their abilities may be granted this title by the Court.
Regional Ranks and Titles. To be added.