The nobles of the Empire exist as a class of hereditary aristocrats. In a feudal system, the nobles act as stewards of lands and castles in the name of the Empress. They are able to outfit and raise their own armies and tax the peasants living on their land. In turn, they pay a portion of those taxes to the crown and must add their armies to the Imperial legions in times of war.
In addition to these powers, the nobility enjoys various other privileges that set them aside from the common people. The nobility of the Empire have the following rights.
The right to look upon the Empress without having to avert their gaze.
The right to own lands.
The right of taxation.
The right to maintain an armed force of more than 50 men, though certain guilds, trading enterprises and mercenary companies are also allotted this right.
The right to hunt in the Imperial woods.
The right to call upon the services of their serfs, though the commoners are expected to be compensated fairly.
The right to be judged only by their peers.
The right to act as a judge over their serfs.
The right to demand shelter from any commoner.
Any lord with the title of Count or higher has the right to sit on the royal council.
Though nobles are typically far wealthier than the common people, there is a burgeoning class of common traders and merchants that have a knack for making more money than the nobles are able to collect through their taxation. This group of “new money” is often looked down upon by the old guard of nobles, though some enterprising lords and ladies have made investments with these merchants to expand their wealth.
The ranks of nobles exist in descending order in the Empire from Emperor or Empress to Prince or Princess, to Duke/Duchess, Count or Countess, to Baron or Baroness, to Knight or Dame. There are several classes of Duke within the Empire, with eight Archdukes presiding over 8 of the Empire’s 9 grand cities. The capital city is the direct property of the Empress and is presided over by a Chancellor in her stead. While all land in the kingdom is considered the property of the Empress, the lands of the nobles, and the people living on those lands are governed by those nobles in her name.