Amber Social Classes
The Royal family is the top of the tree as far as social structure goes in Amber. But except for certain areas of personal interest most of the Royals have little day to day interaction with the other social classes of Amber.
Oberon was King and his rule was absolute. While he could and did when required intervene directly in the management of the Kingdom he preferred to rely on well established organisations and mechanisms to take care of the day to day management of detail.
Most of Oberon's children showed little consistent interest in being actively involved in management of the Kingdom. The most obvious exceptions being Caine, Julian and Gerard. Benedict had a recurring, but not continuous interest in Amber's armed forces and Eric dabbled in various roles, but didn't focus too long on any one of them.
Oberon has been succeeded by Random, who so far seems less restrictive and draconian in his rule than Oberon. On going problems have kept everyone who is willing to be involved busy so what Random's style will be like when things are running smoothly is yet to be seen.
The other way Royals have traditionally influenced Amber society is by Patronage. The backing of a Royal can give a Noble or Merchant an initial investment to get a project started, a promise of support should things go wrong or can open connections that might not be available. The ultimate prize in the Patronage business is that if you become sufficiently interesting and useful to a Royal they might chose to keep you around rather than have to train a replacement, providing near immortality as long as you can maintain your usefulness.
Nobles – Landed, Mercantile
Nobility in Amber is based mostly on birth, with only a few titles being handed out as rewards for services. The Ranks of Nobility are Prince, Duke, Count, Marquis, Baron and Knight. Within the Kingdom of Amber only the Royal Family is granted the title Prince, or Princess.
Landed Nobles either hold their lands as a direct grant from the Crown or though another vassal of the Crown. Major vassals who have large grants of land or large businesses may chose to divide them into more manageable sections and place them under the control of other members of their family. Such division generally results in the sub vassal being given a title at least two ranks lower than their superior.
The Crown of Amber has dominion over areas in several Shadows in the Golden Circle and has transplanted it's feudal system of management to those areas. Newer, less developed and less populated lands are placed under the control of Nobles of lesser rank.
Early in it's development it was obvious that Amber's well being relied on a constant and manageable flow of trade. Unwilling to leave such an important thing uncontrolled Oberon granted Trading rights to several Noble families, exempting them from duties and harbour fees in exchange for some monopolies and a requirement to aid the Navy in times of emergency. Most of those monopolies have long since expired, but several Amberite Noble families retain their harbour and other privileges and the tradition of seafaring Noble Merchants remains strong.
Under Oberon, the Church of the Unicorn was maintained as a state church, with himself as titular head vetting promotions (something like the Church of England). The general character of the institution of the Church was such as to support a pseudo-medieval society. The Church usually had a monopoly on religious buildings, wedding and so on. The technically illegal status of other cults was enforced only if their followers were unpopular on other grounds. It wasn't a real problem as Amber has few immigrants as opposed to visitors.
Random doesn't care. He seems to regard foreign priests as colourful sidewalk entertainers and a building application for a temple as a sign of economic activity with no wider implications. A few clergymen of Golden Circles Churches such as the Church of the Four Elements seem a bit happier about the new royal policy. Most people don't care.
The Church of the Unicorn continues to exist, maintain decorative ancient buildings, perform colourful antique ceremonies, and provide a social safety net, catering for the poor, of whom there are few since Amber is rich. The Church maintains its own finances on rent: it owns high quality land, and has nursed some "blue chip" investments over long ages.
The Church has long maintained a strong control over the training of Magicians and Sorcerers. While not a strict or recognised monopoly the Church has managed to dominate the area of Magic. By being the best resourced and best organised training institution and the judicious condemnation and burning of impudent rivals the Church has maintained a strong grip on the use of Magic in the Kingdom of Amber.
The Church can also provide magical healing, usually for a fee which is discounted for active, tithe-paying members of the Church. Magical healing has nothing to do with the Unicorn, and everything to do with the Church subsidizing the magical education of any cleric with magical talent. Other Magical services are generally not available for sale, although they can be obtained by use of influence or favour.
There are some regional variations in the trappings of the Church. The Cabran Orthodox Church has developed a much more highly decorative style in both buildings and liturgical costume. The Katangan Church is if anything more austere than Amber's own, and includes a greater liturgical involvement from lay member of congregations.
The Merchant classes of Amber were late in developing and partly spurred on from their small shop owner and craftsmen positions by interaction with the more entrepreneurial counter parts from other Shadows. As Amber became more prosperous and the volume and value of trade grew it left more trade that could not be controlled by the Mercantile Nobles and rather than allow it to fall under the control of foreigners Oberon allowed the growth of a middle class of non noble entrepreneurs.
This class covers a wide range of individuals from those whose riches match the higher nobles and who make there residences within a few minutes of the wall of the Royal Palace to those trying to get another cargo to port and make enough to keep a roof over their heads. The Merchants and Nobles have a strong degree of dislike for each other, particularly those Merchants who have done well and who rival the Noble families for riches and influence.
The distinction between a Merchant and a Townsman is that between someone who trades and someone who works. While some Townsmen have become rich and widely known for their high level of craftsmanship they fall below Merchants in terms of Amber's social ladder.
Townsmen dislike Merchants because they feel that as the Merchant class developed from craftsmen like them there is no reason that they should be given more favour than the Townsmen.
Non craft workers, mostly agricultural, have enjoyed traditional rights and protections since the founding of the Kingdom. Large land owners, almost exclusively Nobility, are required to provide for injured workers, provide minimum working conditions, allow some freedom of movement and access to legal processes for resolution of disputes.
Most peasants and villagers have a comfortable life filled with hard work and simple pleasures built around the agricultural ebb and flow of the year, the festivals of the Church.
On to Amber's Military Forces.
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