Bright Ideas and True Confessions: How and What to Do and Why

An Argument Against Principalities
Ælflæd of Duckford

Atenveldt is the only kingdom in which all the territory is part of a principality as well as being part of the kingdom. There is no land that is "just in the kingdom," and it's been that way since Atenveldt consisted of the principalities of Meridies, Ansteorra, the Outlands and the Sun. At this writing, Atenveldt consists of the principalities of the Sun and Artemisia.

What is being written is nothing against principalities set up for reasons of distance, as Meridies was in those old times, or as Drachenwald was. The Mists is an evermore-shall-be situation; there's peace there and it's an unusual but long-stable situation.

I was seneschal of the Principality of the Outlands, and once Princess. When I was seneschal of Atenveldt, there were three principalities directly under the kingdom structure [1]. There are many serious problems with this, and every time people in the Outlands say "We ought to get some principalities" I cringe. For the benefit of people who have never lived in that situation and can't imagine it, and for the benefit of people who have always lived in it and can't imagine any other way, I'd like to describe some of the problems in Atenveldt in those days which were apparent to officers and royalty but may not have been to others.

  • The king had no kingdom to play around with. He had to mess with principalities.

  • The prince had no knights or other peers—they were all the king's. (If a knight chose to swear fealty to the prince rather than the king it was odd and awkward, and a few swore to both, which didn't make much sense.)

  • Scheduling was a problem, until we settled on all first weekends being for the kingdom, all third weekends for principalities, and all others (and leftover 1st and 3rds) for local groups. This was not elegant; it was irritating; it was not as irritating as the kingdom putting a crown tournament on top of a local event which had been planned for a year. The after-effects of this are still felt in the Outlands, years after the necessity had ceased to exist.

  • It was difficult for the king and queen to attend principality events when they were all being held in two or three parts of the kingdom at the same time.

  • When the king and queen didn't attend principality events it was sometimes seen as a slight; when they did attend they ended up with the biggest thrones, center of head table, etc., and the prince and princess didn't get their share of attention at their own events. If the sentiment was ever expressed that people were glad the king and queen weren't coming, it caused nasty bad feelings.

  • If a principality had a great war plan it invariably got changed by the king who, after all, had no army except those of the principalities.

  • A kingdom with only a few hundred members was filling four times as many offices as some larger kingdoms were—full slates of officers for the Kingdom and three principalities all came out of the same pool of people. The justification at the time was that the principalities were great training places for future kingdom officers. In truth, we were stretched pretty thin at times, and good officers never got vacations.

  • In addition to the kingdom and local newsletters, there was the principality newsletter to support, financially and otherwise. There were times that the event announcement in the principality newsletter was the more recent and current (since it went first class) but the announcement in the kingdom newsletter was more official (though perhaps outdated). People who sent arts or informative articles to the kingdom newsletter and not to the principality newsletter (or vice versa) were considered to be troublesome and uncooperative, when in reality they may just have been suffering unavoidable confusion and newsletter overload.

  • Some people would stay out of coronet tournaments in hopes of winning a crown tournament the next month, so there were times when the principality tournaments were very poor representations of the best fighters, and were composed of people who didn't feel competent to be king. Meanwhile, only one guy wins Crown tourney, and the other twenty might've made great princes. So the kingdom was generating Viscounts and Viscountesses at three times the rate we were getting Counts and Countesses (or Dukes and Duchesses), but being Viscount was considered less prestigious than it could have been because there was often the underlying stigma that the principality tournaments weren't that tough. (An exception to the generalization above was that when Grand Outlandish was always a principality coronet tournament, it had over 30 entrants some years when Aten Crowns were down to about 10 entrants. This may have been because it was the biggest event around and more people were there, or it may have been at a time when the crown tournaments were being held shortly before Outlandish, like in early April, so the desire to wait for Crown wasn't a factor.)

  • Local groups or officers would get one answer from the principality and another from the kingdom, or a baron would get one answer from a prince and the baronial seneschal would get a different answer from the kingdom seneschal, so this dichotomy was played out over and over, at every level.

  • Attendance at arts events was diluted by people not being able to attend two principality arts events and two kingdom arts events every year. Rules that said something which had won a category in another event couldn't be entered caused the arts events to be limited representations of people's work even if attendance was good.

  • Another level (a month or two, at the very least) was added to getting devices and names registered.

  • Awards were confused sometimes, with the king having a scroll prepared only to find out the prince had one too, or was planning to give a similar award at principality level.

If any of those seem petty, consider all of them at work at once, with all the resultant commotion, hurt feelings and clean-up.

The arguments for having principalities are often very good, when they have to do with distance, justice, or with gradually growing apart from the parent kingdom. Some arguments I've heard for dividing the Outlands, Atenveldt-style, into two or three principalities are not that good, but here are the best:

  • There would be more awards to get.
  • There would be more titles and coronets to win.
  • There would be more good tournaments to enter.
  • People would have more opportunities to hold office and receive recognition.

I think the number of people who would have to hold all those principality offices and the number of events to be autocrated, attended, cleaned up after, and the extra newsletters all add up to way too much work just for the benefit of the few who would become viscounts and viscountesses. Better to organize some more good tournaments to enter, and for the people of the kingdom to look around and make sure people's work is recognized than to have that whole structure and the grief it would generate just for those puny reasons.

My opinion on this is definitely strong, and it's based on certain personal experience, not on "gee whiz, wouldn't it be nice" wishful thinking.

The Best Argument of All

There are eight+ kingdom offices, and if we found twenty-four+ more competent officers for the three principalities [2], all the work done by those people, all the time going to events they might not have gone to but they have an obligation as officers, all the money spent on maintaining the offices, could have gone into

  • costumes
  • armor
  • reading history
  • writing articles
  • calligraphy
  • travelling to other kingdoms
  • organizing events
  • teaching or taking classes
  • learning music
  • building great weapons and shields
  • making chain mail
  • blackwork embroidery
  • carving chests
  • brewing mead
  • meeting people
  • finding new dances and music
  • tooling leather
  • making shoes
  • making great covers for the kingdom newsletter

A plan which causes us to do less of what we came here to do in the first place is not a good plan.


[1] My distaste for the wall-to-wall principalities started when I found that much of the problem-solving of that seneschal's office had to do just with issues between kingdom and principalities, and began to notice that no other kingdom in the known world had those problems, because if they had a principality it was off to one end (with the exceptions of the Mists and Cynagua). I served as principality chronicler years after the kingdom-seneschal stint, and was the first queen of the Outlands, so I have many perspectives, and all served to reinforce my thoughts that it's far from an ideal situation.

[2] Don't forget that the eight people being royalty would be ineligible to hold office.

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