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 manpower are assigned to a Landed Viscount.
- Landed Viscounts are more focused on broad issues of infrastructure that will allow a world's population to expand.
- Ceremonial Visounts 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 Viscount is variously rendered either Sarriiu or Shakkanakhu.
- The land grant of a Landed Viscount is known as a County or Viscounty/Viscountcy.
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
The title of viscount was not initially a part of the Imperial system of nobility, but was a rank within the system of nobility in the Sylean Federation, which (along with the Sylean title of Earl) was absorbed into the Imperial title of count. The Imperial title of viscount was eventually reintroduced among the various titles of nobility several centuries after the founding of the Third Imperium as a lesser version of the rank of count.
When it was created, the Imperial count replaced both the Vilani shakkanakhu, and the Sylean earls and viscounts. Vilani counts still tend to use the title shakkanakhu or sarriiu (especially in the area of the old Vilani core regions of Vland, Lishun, Corridor, and Dagudashaag sectors), and where the title of count is used in these older sectors, shakkanakhu or sarriiu is often used as a subsidiary title that is often given to the heir to the main title when he reaches the age of majority. In the early years of the Third Imperium, former Sylean earls and viscounts tended to be jealous of their status in relation to one another (since a viscount traditionally outranked an earl in the Sylean system of nobility), and many feuds and personal duels were fought as a result.
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) often became 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.”