A Brief Guide to Gandria – the Setting of Nobility Among Us

To those who may be interested in the setting of Nobility Among Us (and why the book is categorized as an alternative history novel), here is an appendix I originally wanted to include in the book, but later decided against, as the kingdom seemed to take on a life of its own without needing to directly refer to our own world. (Appendix B was the Noble Hierarchy Chart which did make it in, I include it below).

Appendix A – A Brief Guide to Gandria

(All entries in this guide describe the situation at the beginning of the story)

The kingdom of Gandria is ruled by a monarchy where the chain of authority is highly structured, and all the major cities have their own ruling noble with his own castle (with the exception of baronets, who have only a fortified manor house). These castles increase in splendour as you go up in the structure, though some are significantly more elaborate than the average. For example, Fristead Castle is way above average for a Baron, because it lies on a major trade route and is near extensive silver mines.

Noble Hierarchy and Administration

There are three Dukes under the King, a Duke rules over three Marquesses, a Marquess over six Earls, an Earl over six Viscounts, a Viscount over six Barons and a Baron over six Baronets. Each noble oversees the land belonging to all the nobles below him as well as having his own central capital. Each region is named after it’s capital, which gets its name from the noble family that rules it. The noble is expected to act as both administrator and chief judge of the region they oversee, they can do pretty much anything they like with their region, but may be overruled by someone higher up.

Economy

The Currency of Gandria is the shilling (worth about half a dollar) and the farthing (20 farthings to a shilling). A relatively free market economy is in place, including stock markets at the Viscountcy level and above, though there is a lot of reluctance to try new things. All banks are fully owned by the ruling noble of the region they cover. Each noble is expected to collect taxes from their subjects to support themselves and any programs they run. The tax rate is 20% of individual income, and each noble must hand over 40% of their tax income to their direct superior. They are permitted to make changes to the taxation system in their regions, but the amount they hand over to their superior must not go down as a result of those changes (they can experiment, but at their own risk, so most tend to keep things as they are)

All utility companies (water, gas, electricity, transport, communications) are 100% owned by the Marquess of the region they cover, with those running the kingdom-wide distribution networks being owned by one of the dukes. In practical terms, however, any request by a lower noble to expand or modify part of their local network is usually granted automatically, so such applications are generally made to the immediate local authority.

An automatic monitoring system is built into the telecommunications network; all calls are recorded and archived and any conversations in which certain keywords are mentioned (such as the name or title of a member of the nobility or of a prison institution) are then flagged to be analysed by a member of the Royal Intelligence Service to make sure that the participants are treating the authorities with the proper respect.

Judiciary

There are no barristers or trial lawyers, the only work lawyers are hired to do is to draw up or examine contracts; people are expected to represent themselves in court, though they can bring advisers with them. There are no juries, just the judge (a ruling noble) who hears the case and decides on the verdict and punishment, or he can decide to refer them up or down to another noble above or below him, should such a noble exist with jurisdiction over the case. Once a decision is made, either party can choose to appeal to a noble higher up if they think they have not been dealt with fairly, though this is rarely done, as most nobles are unlikely to overturn the ruling of another unless it was a highly controversial decision, a very rare occurrence indeed. It is not a good idea to try and take a noble to court with his superior, since offences by nobles are usually swept under the carpet, and having your ruling noble angry at you can make life extremely unpleasant for you and your family.

Geography

As for the geography of the kingdom, it covers roughly the area of Europe plus the old Soviet Union, with the same geological formations and rivers, but significantly more forests than in Modern Europe. There is a fifteen-kilometre demilitarised zone around the whole kingdom, equipped with considerable ground and anti-aircraft defences and signal jammers ensuring that no unauthorised radio transmissions go in or out, so that the people are cut off from all outside influences, though the kingdom has industrial spies in all the surrounding nations, which is how it obtains most of its technology.

Diplomacy

The kingdom’s international policy is one of total isolationism and has been for the last 450 years (the kingdom reaching its current extent about a century before that, and the philosophical restrictions were introduced half a century later). The border is closed and very heavily defended – all trade is internal to the kingdom (they have more than enough resources to do so). Most citizens have no idea that there are any other civilizations outside the kingdom.

Some manage to escape (though the number of successful attempts (and attempts at all) has tailed off to almost nothing over the centuries), the most popular route being sneaking through the naval patrols in the North Sea and then heading round the north of Marlovia (the British Isles) and then West towards this world’s equivalent of Iceland, Greenland or North America, though many lose their lives on the dangerous seas in doing so. This is also one of the ways in which the kingdom plants spies in the surrounding nations, by having them pose as refugees.

Philosophy

The King is the absolute ruler, whatever he says, goes. All philosophies that would place an authority higher than the king are outlawed, as is criticism of him or the monarchy as a whole. Punishments for these offences are severe.

Date

Approaching the year 2300, technological progress having been slowed down by the oppressive regime, though the surrounding nations are slightly ahead, since they are freer. Approximately today’s level of technology with a very different political system and culture. They count their years from the founding of the kingdom, which occurred at their equivalent of 800 AD. It is as if this world’s equivalent of the Holy Roman Empire (which, as Voltaire noted, was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”) did not collapse under its own weight, but instead grew ever more powerful and absorbed all other monarchies around it before finally isolating itself from the kingdoms it failed to conquer. Before this point, this world’s history is relatively close to our own.

Population

The population of individual regions vary widely depending on a variety of factors, approximate averages for the various region types are given below:

Baronetcy: 100,000 subjects (central town with satellite villages).
Barony: 900,000 subjects (capital of 300,000)
Viscountcy: 6 million subjects (capital of half a million)
Earldom: 36 million subjects (capital of 800,000)
Marquessate: 220 million subjects (capital of one and a half million)
Duchy: 660 million subjects (capital of two and a half million)
The overall population of the kindom is just under two billion, Gandria City is its capital and has a population of approximately ten million.

The Contest

The ‘Nobility among us’ contest was born in the aftermath of a prolonged period of political tension culminating in an uprising that was eventually crushed by the authorities approximately ten years before the story begins. The nobles then organised this annual media stunt to win back the hearts and minds of the people, as well as pacify them with the sheer escapism it offered. It is a ‘reality’ show where the contestants are young women of ordinary birth aged 18-24, chosen from hundreds of thousands of applicants according to their beauty, charm, eloquence, knowledge of etiquette and diplomatic skills. They are chosen by the public in a series of rounds via SMS vote, although the lords of each region have secret block votes that count as 40% of the total of their subjects, with all other numbers appropriately reduced to avoid suspicion, so far successfully.

The five finalists are invited to the ball of the year, each of them assigned a personal tailor from the royal court to adorn them in the finest possible way, and at least one of them will end the evening married into a noble family. The ball must last until midnight, but is not permitted to end until at least one of the guests of honour is engaged, and the wedding(s) occur immediately afterwards in the presence of the king in the throne room. Those who emerged from the evening unmarried are given ten changes of the finest clothes from the tailor assigned to them, including the outfit they wore to the grand ball and it’s accompanying jewellery, a modest guaranteed income for the rest of their lives, and their newfound fame usually ensured them a successful career in modelling, public relations or the media.

In essence, the nobles take the most desirable lowborn girls in the kingdom for themselves while the people feel they are now represented within the nobility and many become so engrossed in following the progress of their favourite candidate that they forget their troubles and complaints against the authorities.

While meeting with great success in this regard, this new approach has slightly weakened the position of the nobles in the public eye, they now have to walk something of a tightrope between the new public image and the need to maintain their absolute supremacy, which is enshrined in law. The repression of dissident groups and individuals goes on, but more discreetly, hiding such moves is still possible because all media organisations are tightly controlled.

Heredity

Every noble title is hereditary, where the official ruling positions are held until death or disownment (which is extremely rare). The rules for who succeeds in that position are as follows:

1. You are not considered eligible to rule unless you have reached twenty-one years of age.
2. The first in line is the eldest surviving son, followed by the next eldest, or the eldest daughter if there are no eligible sons, though only if she is married to a currently non-ruling noble, and it is her husband who actually rules and takes on the ruling family name in doing so.
3. If all children of the dead ruler are not yet of age, then a guardian rules in their place until the first eligible child comes of age. This is usually a brother of the deceased, but can be a trusted member of the house staff named in the noble’s will if no such relative is available.
4. If there are no children and the widow of the deceased does not remarry another non-ruling noble, then the eldest remaining brother of the deceased takes over, or eldest married sister as in 2.
5. If there are no living siblings, then the family line has come to an end and the first family in line under that takes over. e.g. the Earl of Jorland, the 1st Earldom of Marlovia would become the Marquess of Marlovia should the Marquess’s family line come to an end, and his eldest son (or appropriate relative as in 1-4) would take over his place. Whenever any noble is promoted in this way, their new position automatically becomes last in line for another such promotion (in this example the marquessate of Marlovia would drop from being the 1st marquessate of Antaria to the 3rd, since there are only 3 marquessates in a duchy).

However, the duchies work differently, as they are always filled by the sons of the current king (or their guardians if they are not yet of age) as soon as whoever is ruling them dies, irrespective of whether they have any relatives to succeed them. Their normal successor is demoted to the 1st marquessate under their current position, which remains the 1st marquessate after their demotion. If the noble holding that postion is the child of the demoted noble, then they merely become successor to their father, otherwise another set of demotions occurs to the 1st Earldom in that marquessate etc.

Cities

The major cities in the kingdom correspond to major modern cities (this is Earth with a different political history), though they retain much more of their historical structures (city walls, castles etc.) and differ in their populations as above.

Gandria – Capital of the kingdom – Vienna

Antaria – 1st duchy – Paris
Marlovia – 1st marquessate of Antaria – London
Winuria – 2nd marquessate of Antaria – Barcelona
Teloria – 3rd marquessate of Antaria – Berlin

Altoria – 2nd duchy – Istanbul

Dromia – 1st marquessate of Altoria – Athens
Farlicia – 2nd marquessate of Altoria – Belgrade
Cerlia – 3rd marquessate of Altoria – Ankara

Prosaria – 3rd duchy – Moscow

Baracia – 1st marquessate of Prosaria – Warsaw
Linocia – 2nd marquessate of Prosaria – Omsk
Kifonia – 3rd marquessate of Prosaria – Tblisi

Drefland (earldom’s all end with -land) – 4th earldom of Teloria – Prague

Draishire (viscountcies all end with -shire) – 5th Viscountcy of Drefland – České Budějovice (though Draishire Castle is actually a distance away from the City, moreso than most castles)

Fristead (baronies all end with -stead) – 1st Barony of Draishire – Český Krumlov

All baronetcies end with -ville, e.g. Plurville

Castles

Fristead Castle – Český Krumlov Castle (South-western Czech Republic, near Austrian border)

Draishire Castle – Hluboka nad Vltavou Chateau, (north of České Budějovice (Budweis), Czech Republic)

These are two of the key locations in the story, and are used essentially ‘as is’, because they are very well preserved in the real world, other locations are more heavily modified, e.g. Gandria Castle is an expanded and fortified version of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna.

Appendix B – Noble Hierarchy Chart

Nobility Hierarchy Chart for the kingdom of Gandria

I hope this was of interest to people. For those who haven’t read the book, click the image below to start reading the kindle ebook version.

all cover_f1_v13_frontsmall

To purchase the paperback version, go here.

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