The Imperial Nobility, collectively known as the peerage, not only forms the upper class and elites of the Third Imperium, but it also is the major source of administrators, military officers, and gentlesophonts of service and honor. While humans form the backbone of this class, increasing numbers of non-humans have claimed or earned Imperial Title.
Noble ranks in the Third Imperium are conferred for three reasons: Honour (for achievement), Ceremonial or Rank (for position), and Landed or "High Landed" (for service). In general, a noble's status is lower when he leaves his sphere of influence.
An Honour Noble receives a patent of nobility from the Emperor for heroism in the military, success in civil or commercial enterprise, or innovation and discovery in the sciences. Normally only patents for knights, baronets, barons, and (rarely) marquises may be issued for achievement, though there are rare exceptions for higher titles (usually as honors to already established Ceremonial and Landed Nobles).
Also, legacy titles of all levels which no longer have an associated Landed Fief or Administrative position are generally considered to fall under the "Honour" category, as well as those nobles with non-substantive "courtesy titles" arising from a close familial relationship to a higher-ranked noble possessing a substantive patent (though both of these are sometimes considered to overlap with the category of local ceremonial/rank tiles - see below).
Ceremonial or Rank titles are given because of a citizen's position. These are nobles with connections and obligations to the government of the Third Imperium, or who otherwise fulfill some official function within the Imperial governmental structure.
Local Nobility serves as Imperial representatives in systems that have a government somehow not conducive to administration by Imperial landed nobility. Patents for local rank nobles are typically hereditary, and are generally equivalent to barons, baronets, and knights.
Administrators are citizens who are appointed to an Imperial Office. Often they are administrators of worlds or territories with no formal Imperial representation or bureaucrats who hold leadership positions in the Imperial Bureaucracy and its many associated offices. These patents are not hereditary as they are tied to a position. If they retire from that position they are allowed to continue to use the title, but it is not generally heritable (though sufficiently high Ceremonial/Rank titles may have a lesser heritable honor title granted to the retired holder and their heirs as a courtesy and honor).
Landed & High Nobility
Landed and High Nobles are the smallest segment of the Imperial Nobility and constitute the peerage, generally consisting of people belonging to old and powerful families with voting privileges in the Moot. Landed noble titles are given for: "Political support in the office, victory in the military, or contributions or economic assistance from the commercial sector" beyond any reasonable expectation. These nobles directly administer Imperial territories and are personal representatives of the Emperor. They manage and direct the Imperial Bureaucracy.
Hereditary, landed nobles are trained from birth to lead. Their training includes instruction in several languages such as Anglic and Vilani, interstellar relations and diplomacy, the art of self-defense, advanced administration, fundamental literature, and a variety of other skills. High Landed Nobles have precedence in the Moot, though even landed barons are immensely powerful as compared to barons belonging to the other classes of Imperial Nobility.
Landed Nobility is always given a land grant from the Emperor in association with their fief, which entitles the holder the right to both oversee and draw revenues from the economic activity of the lands associated with the fief. Enfeoffment is a different process and is granted by a separate letter of enfeoffment. Note that while many nobles may be "landed" in the sense of having a land-grant associated with their title(s), the term is used herein a proper sense for those holding their land-grant as part of their duties of territorial administration and representation before the Imperial Moot.
Ranks and Titles
The lowest noble rank is knight; the highest level is archduke. Above the archdukes is the special station accorded members of the Imperial family, but they are not formally considered part of the nobility.
The standard ranks of Nobility are:
- Gentlesophont / Gentleman or Esquire
- Not actually a noble rank, but a courtesy title for the gentry. The title survives in some planetary nobility and still serves as an honorific designation of status on some worlds.
- Knight or Dame - Kiduunuuzi (Anglic: Kiduunuuzi)
- The lowest rank of Imperial Nobility granted by either the Emperor or an Archduke. Widely granted as an honor or ceremonial rank for service to the Imperium. All knights are members of one of the Imperium's numerous orders of knighthood. Knighthoods are not generally hereditary, the exceptions normally being for those Knights who act as the formal Imperial representative to a world. Fiefs almost never accompany knighthoods, but when included are always on a single world and are generally small. Other knights receive cash stipends or other financial rewards. Knights do not hold seats in the Moot, though some are present as proxies for other nobles.
- Baronet or Baronetess - Iishakku (Anglic: Iishakku)
- The next rank of Imperial Nobility granted by either the Emperor or an Archduke. Usually granted as an honor or ceremonial rank for service to the Imperium. The title of baronet is hereditary. Like knights, baronets often do not receive fiefs or specific responsibilities and are not members of the peerage. In general only Archdukes create Baronets, usually awarded to planetary nobility as a means of enhancing off-world prestige. Those baronets elevated as landed baronets by the Emperor in his role as Emperor usually are afforded representative and voting rights in the Moot, though they are still not properly considered peers. Such landed baronets generally are associated with worlds with the potential to become rich worlds or agro-production worlds. A landed baronet who manages to raise the trade-status of their pre-rich or pre-agricultural fief-world to that of rich or agricultural trade-status will often be elevated to Baron with the seigniorial land-grants of their baronetcy being directly converted and expanded into a baronial land grant (their seigniorial baronetcy title becoming submerged within the baronial title). Some lower Imperial admirals and generals are granted the honorary title of baronet without a fief or duties.
- Baron or Baroness - Iishakku (Anglic: Iishakku)
- The lowest rank accorded membership in the peerage and participation in the Moot. A baron in the landed nobility usually has a grant of land on a single world. Such landed barons generally are associated with rich or agricultural worlds. Planetary nobility who rule a world are sometimes granted a barony on that world, partly as a courtesy and partly to give them a stake in the ruling of the empire. Ceremonial and Honour Nobility Barons typically serve in Imperial administrations or planetary governments. Higher Imperial admirals and generals are often granted the honorary title of baron without a fief or duties.
- Marquis, Marchioness or Marquesa - Sarriiu (Anglic: Sarriiu)
- An intermediate rank of nobility, a landed marquis is normally granted a fief associated with a world with the potential to become an industrial powerhouse with proper long-term oversight. Landed marquises' associated land grants can extend to a few other worlds within their local subsector. A landed marquis who manages to raise the status of their pre-industrial fief-world to that of full industrial trade-status will often be elevated directly to Count (skipping over Viscount altogether), with their marquisate land-grants being directly converted and expanded into a comital land grant (their marquisate title becoming submerged within the greater title). Ceremonial and landed marquises are sometimes found in minor leadership roles in local subsector bureaucracies. The title of Marquis has not been applied uniformly throughout the history of the Imperium. Historically the title was granted for different and varying reasons as compared to today, and at one time held precedence above that of Count.
- Viscount or Viscountess - Shakkanakhu (Anglic: Shakkanakhu)
- Another intermediate rank and not used everywhere in the Imperium. Landed viscounts are generally assigned to oversee worlds whose population is sufficiently high enough that they might become major population centers and centers of trade with proper long-term oversight and development of local infrastructure. Viscounts' land grants are often found on small clusters of two or three core worlds (including the primary fief-world) and/or a few other worlds of lesser importance within a subsector. A landed viscount who manages to raise the infrastructure status of their pre-high population fief-world to that of high population trade-status will often be elevated to Count with their vice comital land-grants being directly converted and expanded into a comital land grant (their vice comital title becoming submerged within the greater title). Viscounts are sometimes assigned to a mainworld within a cluster of worlds that do not otherwise have landed-noble marquises or barons. A viscount in this situation may be the only landed noble responsible for the worlds in his demesne. Ceremonial and landed viscounts are often found in leadership roles in local subsector bureaucracies.
- Count, Countess, or Contessa - Shakkanakhu (Anglic: Shakkanakhu)
- The next full rank of Imperial nobility, landed counts generally oversee high population and industrial worlds. Counts' associated land grants are often found primarily on clusters of two or three core worlds (including the primary fief-world) and/or several other worlds of lesser importance within a subsector (usually including territory on at least one reasonably important or high population world), with additional territories located on a few other worlds of lesser importance scattered across the rest of the associated sector. Ceremonial and landed counts are often found in leadership roles at the core of the local subsector or sector government bureaucracies.
- Duke or Duchess - Saarpuhii (Anglic: Saarpuhii)
- High Landed Dukes oversee worlds that the Imperium deems Important, and/or are associated with the world designated as the Imperial Subsector Capital (and granted the Imperial governorship over the entire subsector in such cases). In subsectors with several important worlds, there is usually more than one Duke and in such cases, the one associated with the Subsector Capital is noted as the Grand Duke or Subsector Duke. Within a sector, one of the Dukes (usually a Subsector Duke) rises to the position of Sector Duke, governing the Sector as a whole. The territories of dukes' associated land grants are often found on clusters of core worlds (including the primary fief-world) and other fairly important worlds within a subsector and extend to other worlds of greater or lesser importance scattered across the rest of the associated sector. Ceremonial dukes are often found in important high leadership roles usually at the core of sector government bureaucracies, or in some domain-level bureaucracies.
- Archduke or Archduchess - Apkallu Kibrat Arban (Anglic: Apkallu Kibrat Arban)
- Archduke is the highest rank of nobility below the Emperor. Each High Landed Archduke oversees one of the seven Domains of the Imperium. An archdukedom includes a fief of an entire world, sometimes (but not always) retained as a private reserve, as well as associated land grants found on clusters of core worlds (including the Domain-capital) and other worlds of greater or lesser importance scattered across the associated Domain (usually including territories on various important worlds and sector and subsector capitals). Though exceedingly rare (extending back to precedents established by Emperor Cleon I), Ceremonial Archdukes can be appointed at the Emperor's pleasure to act as his personal advisors and direct (non-voting) representatives within the Moot.
- Prince or Princess - Karand (Anglic: Karand)
- The title of Prince is granted to some of the relatives of the Emperor. It is granted (and revoked) only by an Imperial proclamation. There is no fief associated with the title, and the Princes are not members of the Moot. The title of Grand Prince is granted to the one person who is the designated heir for the Emperor.
- Emperor or Empress - Karun (Anglic: Karun)
- The ruler of the Third Imperium, and the Archduke of the Domain of Sylea. The Emperor is not a member of the Moot, indeed has no right to attend any meetings of the Moot. The Emperor has no fief (the whole Imperium is their fief), though the World of Onon is held as a personal reserve of the Crown. Most emperors hold several titles (usually including the Archduke of Sylea and Marquis of Usdiki) and may have fiefs inherited from these other titles, and may attend the Moot using one of these other titles. In such a case the Emperor is only accorded the dignity and precedence according to the title he is using while attending the Moot proceeding.
All but the highest noble ranks (count, duke, archduke) can be awarded in recognition of achievement or preeminence in a field of endeavor, though all can be awarded as honor titles to existing lower-ranked peers at the Emperor's pleasure.
Several aspects of noble rank are governed by a strict protocol, including:
- Title (the formal reference to the person in print or by reference): The noble title includes the allowed prefixes (such as Sir) and suffixes (such as "of Yori") to a name and the order in which they are presented. Nobles are typically referred to by their titles and world holdings: e.g. Duke Regina or Duke of Regina. Note that while a Noble may hold more than one title of the same name, duplicate titles are conferred only rarely. 
- Style (the method of addressing the individual personality): The noble style dictates the manner in which a noble is addressed, including such honorifics as "Your Grace" or "Your Majesty".
- Precedence (the relative seniority of the individual among others): Precedence is accorded strictly on the basis of government position, with seniority by date of patent following. The date of noble rank is taken from the date of confirmation when an inherited rank is assumed.
The bulk of patents of nobility are published on one of two lists annually:
- The Holiday List is published on Holiday, the first day of the new year, and covers awards for achievement.
- The Birthday List is published on the Emperor's birthday (Strephon's is day 202) and covers awards for service.
Continuing awards for positions are given out as called for by circumstances.
The Nobility Lists are maintained by the Office of the Emperor.
The nobility includes within it a subset called the peerage, which consists of all landed nobles except knights and baronets (though Imperial Landed Baronets have access to and voting rights in the Moot). Except in extraordinary situations, to hold high office in the Imperial bureaucracy, a person must be a peer. Collectively, the peerage constitutes the Moot, the Imperial government's only deliberative body.
Noble Fiefs & Land Grants
Imperial nobility is based on fiefs: territories (usually worlds) that are assigned to nobles for their benefit and placed under their protection. Patents of nobility, especially for service, may include Land Grants as part of their fiefs. Land Grants are given out by the Emperor for two primary reasons :
- To encourage the economic development of the worlds of the Imperium
- To provide a measure of economic support to the nobility
A Land Grant is normally expressed in terms of economic control of one or more Terrain-hexes on the surface of Imperial member-worlds and/or the bodies in their respective star systems. Until claimed and improved, the Imperium pays the holder of noble lands Cr 1000 per Terrain-hex per year. 
The Land Grants associated with fiefs are granted in a Letter of Enfeoffment separate from the patent of nobility. Fief Land Grants are granted to the individual at the discretion of the Emperor and remain the Emperor's possessions. However, the fief conveys the right to use the land, to rent or lease it out and collect income from it. The land grant is a convenient method for the Emperor to reward certain nobles. The size of the land grant depends upon how great an income the Emperor wishes to award a noble and the location of the grant within the fief itself. A knight with a grant consisting of several hundred square kilometers of sparsely settled wilderness and one with a single hectare of the business district of a city can be considered to hold equal grants. Hereditary nobles have often had the fief and associated land grant in their family for generations, and have built it up in value and income potential. Some sites at the capital generate considerable income each year. Other land grants have been administered with great care to ensure that the territory is not only valuable but also tastefully used. Still, others have been exploited ruthlessly in mining or industrial pursuits. Completely separate from fiefs and land grants, a noble may own land obtained from other sources (inheritance, purchase, and so forth). These lands remain the property of their owner even if his title is revoked, and can be disposed of separately from the land grants of fiefs. Under most circumstances, each terrain-hex of a land grant also includes one local-hex of property gifted to the noble outright as personal property.
The noble who is responsible for a given fief is known as the "active noble"; other members of the noble family are known as "courtesy nobles". Note that it is generally considered impolite to point out this difference to a courtesy noble. Each world under the protection and control of a noble is considered a fief. Each world has a limit of one active noble of each rank (although there may be any number of courtesy nobles or inactive nobles on a world - see Honor Nobles and Ceremonial Nobles below). 
An interesting note is that the fiefdoms of higher ranks often include orbital or systemic "property" within a system.
In theory, the Imperium reserves for itself the "pentagons" (as opposed to "hexagons") on the geodesic maps of each undeveloped world (including the main world and every other world within a system). This territory may be developed by the Imperium, or it may be exchanged with the local government for another territory. Note that on previously settled worlds (i.e. those containing Native Intelligent Life), there are no consistently and specifically defined Imperial Lands. 
Nobility is usually hereditary. Once confirmed by the Moot, a title continues to be passed down to the succeeding generation. Titles need not pass through the firstborn (although this is the accepted practice), and individuals with several titles may divide them among their children as they see fit, along with their associated noble land grants. A specific noble title (and its associated lands) are normally indivisible and must be inherited by a single individual as a unit. 
Children of a noble are generally accorded a courtesy title of one noble rank lower. For example, the sons and daughters of a Count or Viscount receive a courtesy title of Marquis or Marchioness (although in some cases the heir of a Count may be permitted the use of Viscount). Upon the death of the Count or Viscount, the heir assumes the title of Count or Viscount (respectively), the other offspring remaining Marquises and Marchionesses. Note that the courtesy title one level lower for a Baron is Baronet, not Knight. 
Revocation of Nobility
- High Crimes: Reasons for such revocation are treason, murder, kidnapping, and extortion as well as other felonies.
- Incompetence: Extremely poor performance can also be a reason.
- Discontinuation: Occasionally, a noble rank will not be confirmed upon inheritance.
- All noble ranks within the peerage come from the Emperor.
- The ability to create Knights and Baronets (and in a few rare cases, Barons), however, is shared with the Archdukes of the Imperium, though such archducal appointments are never considered members of the peerage, and always rank equal to but behind those of similar title bestowed by the Emperor.