The standard ranks of Nobility are:
- Emperor / Empress
- Archduke / Archduchess
- Duke / Duchess
- Count / Countess or Contessa
- Viscount / Viscountess
- Marquis / Marchioness or Marquesa
- Baron / Baroness
- Baronet / Baronetess
- Knight / Dame
Worlds with the potential to become significant centers of industry are assigned to a Marquis.
- Equipped with enough of a land grant to theoretically kick-start an industrial surge all by themselves, Landed Marquises are also given control of enough off-world territory to see to supply chains where those are necessary.
- Ceremonial Marquises have administrative duties that generally encompass a Subsector or smaller grouping of worlds, depending upon the nature and importance of the office.
- The Vilani term for Marquis is variously rendered either Sarriiu or Shakkanakhu.
- The land grant of a Landed Marquis is known as a Marquisate.
History & Background (Dossier)
The Ziru Sirka
Under the Old Vilani Imperium, a Sarriiu was normally found as a governor in control of a number of lesser Shakkanakhu (literally "provincial governors"), and as a result Sarriiu is often translated “over-governor” or “supreme governor” by modern scholars. Historically on Vland there were never more than fifty sarriiu, and although the colonization of other worlds increased the number of sarriiu dramatically, they were still often referred to collectively as The Fifty. Their historical role on ancient Vland was significant, since they formed one of the two major assemblies of nobles, the Dagiia (the "Council of Fifty") which assisted the kings who ruled ancient Vland.
By the end of the Vilani Imperium, a Shakkanakhu or “provincial governor” was responsible for governing between one and twelve worlds. Modern authorities traditionally equate the Vilani shakkanakhu with a modern Imperial viscount or count, although this is not entirely accurate. The only thing that can be said for certain is that several shakkanakhu were under the general authority of the next highest noble rank.
The Vilani title sarriiu or “over-governor” is somewhat difficult to translate as there is no direct modern Imperial equivalent to the title. Various authorities have historically translated it as “marquis” or "viscount"/“count” depending on the magnitude of the fief or degree of authority involved, but both renderings are generally considered controversial.
The Third Imperium
Under the Sylean Federation the title of marquis was rather rare, and was little used during the early centuries of the Third Imperium. Most of the earliest marquises were actually Vilani sarriiu who were given the rank to distinguish them from barons. The rank became more common during the fourth and fifth centuries Imperial when the high-population worlds of the Old Expanses and Solomani Rim sectors were being absorbed into the Imperium in significant numbers. Today the rank remains somewhat of an oddity within the Imperial system of nobility, and there are large regions of the Imperium where there are fewer marquises than counts.
The marquises of the Third Imperium were virtually all landless in Year 0, often serving the Imperium as diplomats or in middle management positions within the Imperial Bureaucracy or upper ranks in the newly formed Imperial Navy. As the early years of the Third Imperium drew on, the marquis eventually became associated with a primary world (generally a reasonably important one with industrial potential and a good starport) residing within a cluster of associated worlds, while a count (and later the reintroduced title of viscount) was often associated with a single reasonably important world or a scattering of backwater worlds. During this period the titles of viscount and count were generally considered somewhat inferior to that of marquis. However, as the Imperium expanded, the viscounts and counts became increasingly important, especially as the importance of their associated worlds grew, and as they were given increasing authority over the administration of new associated territories. In particular, the old Vilani shakkanakhu families were critical to the continued functioning of the Imperium during the Civil War. Emperor Zhakirov conceded the realities of the situation that had evolved regarding the relative importance of the noble titles in question, and reformed the Imperial nobility in 669, promoting Imperial viscounts and counts in precedence to a rank senior to that of marquis.
In the Third Imperium the title of sarriiu has largely been replaced by marquis, or in some cases viscount or count, except in the oldest core sectors of Vland. Even there, it is more common as a title conferred to one’s heir on his coming of age, rather than the main title of nobility; however, it is still not uncommon to hear of a marquis or count being referred to as sarriiu. Interestingly, many worlds have adopted the term "The Fifty" as a modern term for “high society.”