Act as a Noble in a Noble Court (essay)
Title: Act as a Noble in a Noble Court
Author: Lady Viria Ra'Ashpir
The scrolls from which this information was taken were imported from the estates of the Ra'Ashpir family. The exact dates of creation are unknown, but it is believed that they go back to just before the Faendryl were banished. As one who is familiar with the Elven court knows, customs often change from patriarch to patriarch, and this scroll was written before the Ra'Ashpir line was created in Ta'Nalfein, their ancestors still being in power whereas in more recent years they were cousins to the patriarch. If one produces other scrolls that show discrepancies, most likely it came from another time in history when another patriarch was in power.
--Lady Viria Ra'Ashpir
When waiting for an audience with royalty or nobility one must exude manners, poise and courtesy. Dress is formal. When presenting yourself there is a specific order to follow when announcing. You do not announce yourself, you give your name to a crier who repeats it when it is your turn to address His Graciousness. For example:
"High Lady of the House Ra'Ashpir; Cousin to His Graciousness, Patriarch XXIIVII; Daughter of the Lord Da'tar Serev and the Lady Efrinda Sa'Tourin; High Lady Endira Ra'Ashpir."
In this example, you can see that your personal title goes first. (If you carry more than one title, the most important comes first, and the others follow.) Next comes the listing of any noble relatives you have, in accordance of rank. The names of your mother and father then follow. The name of the father is announced as is, even if he holds no titles, but the mother is listed with her husband's name unless she herself held a title of nobility, in which case she is listed with her maiden name and title. Lastly comes your name without the family name, with your "common title," the one you use most often. (i.e., General, Lady, Lord; without listing the family name). The crier pauses between each of these for several seconds, to allow the addressed to absorb the information. There are several reasons to do this, most quite obvious. The first is for the noble being visited to know exactly who is visiting them. The confusion of two people having the same name is resolved by the names of the parents being stated as well. In case the noble wishes to know what family allies one holds, all of the caller's powerful relatives are listed. As you can see this resolved many potentially embarrassing social situations, as well as military ones. The level of respect you are treated with will depend on the status of your title to the status of another's title, and how much noble blood runs in your family. Even a minor noble can hold his eyes up to a High Lord if the minor noble carries patriarchal blood and the High Lord does not. (Though this rarely happens as the higher bloodlines intermarry or choose partners from outside the nobility or from another province.) A peasant, if addressed formally at all, would be read as:
"Daughter of Smith Tahan Veriak and Seera Veriak; Sheeai Veriak."
Even though no titles are held by this peasant's parents, sometimes the father will be addressed according to his profession, if he is known and well-respected in it, or if the peasant addressing the court is especially vain and above themselves. To lie to the court about yourself is considered a personal insult from you to the noble you are visiting. It does not need to be said that nobles do not take well to insults, especially from those of lower stations, where lies would most often come from. The penalty for this, if the noble chooses to execute punishment, can range from a verbal reprimand, to lashings, to life imprisonment. This depends on the seriousness of the claim and the noble's temperament. Though, claiming to be the patriarch or matriarch would likely get you sent to a home for those deranged of mind.
Speaking in a Noble's Court
When you first enter a court with the intent to address, you give your name to the crier. When it is your turn to speak, your name will be announced. You must then step forward to the platform designated for speakers, or if there is none, stand before the noble. After you have come to a complete stop, you must wait three to five breaths. Then, if the noble is above your station, you must bow. Young, unmarried girls may curtsy. After five more breaths you may speak. Unless you intend to be miserably rude, you first address the noble by his most important title. They will then nod to you. You then clearly explain why you have come, the fewer the words, the better. The noble will then do something in response: If he nods, you may then continue. If he dismisses you, you will be escorted by a page back to your seat or out of the building. He may also choose to talk. If he speaks through a servant, he considers you less than him or unworthy, and you must wait for permission to speak again. If he speaks to you himself it shows he respects you, and you may speak freely. Always remember to be polite, even if what you are saying is not to the noble's liking. Remember that you are in public, and do not let your personal feelings hamper your self-control. Do not embarrass yourself by being rude, stammering, shouting or acting below yourself. Be humble, this is very important. Remember that you are the guest and you are in another's area of power, and act accordingly.
Leaving the Court
When you have finished speaking or presenting your case, you wait for the noble's response or answer, and then if there is nothing further to be said, you will be dismissed. Many noble's have their own unique way of dismissing, as greeting, citing age old sayings or battle cries. As in coming, you bow if you are below station, but now you also bow if you are equal or slightly above. You then wait for the noble to motion his attendants. They will escort you back to your place. If you wish to leave once you are at your place, you stand up quietly and walk unobtrusively out. If you were sitting with friends or acquaintances, you say your good-byes before standing. As you reach the entrance, you give your name once again to the crier. All the names of who came and went as well as times are recorded in the estate records of the noble.
The most honorable title would of course be Patriarch and Matriarch, respectively the male and female leaders of an Elven nation. The titles are passed down through families. A High Lord or High Lady would be the sisters, and brothers to a patriarch. This is also passed down hereditarily, but in the case that this group is becoming too numerous, it may be limited to one child of each family, or nobles will be demoted, etc. To even have a chance at being the leader, you must be a High Lord or Lady. The rest of the nobility, Lords and Ladies, can trace some amount of blood to one of the past leaders. The term "minor noble" refers to one who is very distantly related to any patriarchs. Those raised to nobility by acts of valor and honor are not referred to as minor nobles, however. Some military titles are also considered above minor nobles, some can even be considered equivalent to a High Lord or Lady. When you marry, you inherit the title of the person with the higher rank, and may live on their family estates, carrying on their name. Often, a man will be too proud to take their wife's names and family, thus the higher title is relinquished for him, his wife and their children. However, it is possible under certain conditions for each marriage partner to retain their own names and titles, with the children receiving the more illustrious titles. The most common example of this is when noblewomen take multiple husbands for political and monetary reasons.
Gestures and Expressions
When presenting yourself, always try to appear calm and serene. Sweating, drooling, spitting, smoking, fidgeting, scratching, or any other unseemly habits must be avoided at all costs. Maintain proper poise and use the eye contact that is befitting to your social class. Do not stare, glare, squint, snort, snicker, smirk in any way at the noble you are addressing if you wish to have any kind of civil experience. Much can be determined from the hand gestures and facial expressions of the nobles and court officials you visit. It is common for nobles to develop special "signal languages" with their staff. This enables them to communicate quickly and effectively without using words and across large rooms. It also helps for giving orders one does not wish heard, or gossiping about visiting individuals. The hand signals differ from noble to noble, and it is nearly impossible to figure one out unless you sit in on months of court activity. There are a few common and well-known signals. One is running the ring finger across the throat. If the left hand is used, it means the person addressing the court is to be thrown out and then searched for valuables. If the right hand is used, the person is to be thrown into the dungeon and stripped of his possessions. If the thumb on either hand is drawn across the throat, this indicates that the speaker is to be put to death.
While these are only a few aspects of the very intricate system of nobility, they should be enough to allow you to act respectable in a court of nobility. Even if they are outdated, some things will always remain constant, such as courtesy and honor. The information also gives one a sense of what it was like to visit in the heart of the Elven Empire many, many years ago
Taken from the House Chesylcha library, c.1999.