Bretonnia is a kingdom located in the Old World, west of the Grey Mountains and the Empire. Its current king is Louen Leoncoeur. Carefully protected by its brave and honourable knights, Bretonnia is a land of chivalry and honour. However this must be balanced against the poverty and oppression of its peasantry.
Goverment & organisation
Bretonnia is ruled by a king, and the throne is usually passed from father to eldest son. A new king is crowned by the Fay Enchantress and technically at least she outranks him. The kingdom is further organized in 14 dukedoms, each ruled by its own Duke.
Provinces & towns
There are no cities in Bretonnia. Most nobles live in mighty castles in the countryside surrounded by a village and only the castles of a handful of dukes protect developed towns, which sport the same name as the respective provinces. The people of Bretonnia consider the life in towns to be somewhat unnatural, fit only for the most desperate and poor. The largest towns are seaports, centres of trade and harbours of the Bretonnian fleets.
- The Marches of Couronne, not a dukedom but may eventually become one.
- Mousilion, seaport - considered currently lost to the kingdom
- Bordeleaux, seaport
- The Forest of Loren is officially part of Bretonnia; homeland of the Wood Elves it is de facto an independent kingdom.
Society & culture
The society of Bretonnia is formed by two classes, the nobility and the peasantry.
The noble class is ruled by the king and is composed by dukes, marquises, earls, barons, and knights. Bretonnian society is patriarchal but noblewomen seem to be respected. All fit male nobles are knights and follow a code of chivalry, holding noblesse oblige and honour in high regard. While using bows to hunt during peacetime, they refuse to use any distance weaponry in war, considering it dishonourable.
The peasants have nearly no rights at all, and are illiterate and uneducated. They are considered property, and must surrender 9/10ths of their crops to their feudal lord. As a result most of them will remain extremely poor throughout their entire lives.
They may also not leave their home province unless allowed; as a result a certain degree of inbreeding is quite common. Many peasants are afflicted by clubfeet, extra fingers, lazy eyes, or similar defects.
Bretonnian justice is harsh and any peasant who is caught stealing or poaching is usually hanged. An even harsher punishment is dealt to a peasant who attacks a noble. He and his family will be tortured and slowly dismembered, while all his friends and acquaintances will be crippled. Such is the price of rebellion.
The main priestess of the Lady of Lake is the Fay Enchantress who is respected throughout Bretonnia. Other 'minor' Prophetesses and Damsels roam the kingdom, advising noble families, and occasionally aid Bretonnian armies in battle through their magical abilities.
The peasants are not considered worthy enough to worship the Lady of the Lake directly. While they certainly respect and fear her, they usually worship the other deities of the Old World.
When a Bretonnian child is gifted with magical abilities it is usually taken by a servant of the Lady of the Lake. Some the female children eventually return as Prophetesses and Damsels of the Lady, but the fate of the male children is unknown as they are never seen again.
Some of the wealthiest families send their children to the Colleges of Magic in the Empire instead, where they will be taught and trained as wizards and magicians.
Knights are the backbone of the Bretonnian army. Forming lances, V-shaped formations, they are expected to punch through the enemy lines disrupting their unity and fighting spirit.
- Knights Errant are young and eager to prove themselves.
- Knights of the Realm are experienced and hardened warriors.
- A Questing Knight is a former Knight of the Realm who gave up his social position to follow a spiritual quest. Always searching for the Grail he will slay monsters and evil foes. If he succeeds, proving his faith, purity, and honour he may sip from the Grail, becoming a Grail Knight.
- A Grail Knight is a legendary saint and hero, blessed with an extreme long lifespan.
Only the most fit and able peasants will be recruited. They are allowed to use bows as they "evidently" have no honour to defend and uphold. In the dukedom of Bastonne every able peasant boy is obliged by law to train himself in the use of a longbow. However this ducal law is rarely upheld and few peasants have the means to buy or the skill to craft a bow, and even fewer have the strength to draw one. Presumably similar laws exist in the other dukedoms with similar results. Crossbows and gunpowder weapons are all but unknown in Bretonnia.
Notes & sources
When originally introduced into the Warhammer fantasy setting, Bretonnia was quite similar in its atmosphere and depth to the Empire. Its ruling class were uncaring, the least caring being the King himself (Charles de la Tête d'Or III). While corruption in every form was everywhere, the nobility (themselves sordidly decadent) were wilfully blind to it, preferring to hide their fear and corruption behind extravagance. (See: Bretonnia (outdated).
While this concept of Bretonnia lived on in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying, Games Workshop completely abandoned it with the 4th edition.
Bretonnia was retconned as a high-fantasy and resplendent legendary Arthurian kingdom; a bright land of plenty and goodwill for all.
A nobler king was introduced, and the Bretonnian army lost its cannons, taking on its Arthurian character with special rules to protect its knights from unchivalrous guns. The knights are champions of virtue and live by a code of chivalry.
Most telling, many knights embark on quests for the Grail and the goddess of the country is the Lady of the Lake. Gilles le Breton, who unified the tribes of Bretonnia into a single nation, fought 12 battles against the Orcs - mirroring King Arthur's 12 battles against the Anglo-Saxons. Another of the legendary figures of Bretonnia is the Green Knight, based in many ways on the character encountered by Sir Gawain.
This image of goodness and light acquired a slight tarnish with the advent of the 6th edition. The chivalric knights and the special rules survived, but the background has grown somewhat darker as the poverty and oppression of the peasantry is brought more into focus.
- Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (5th edition)
- Warhammer Armies: Bretonnia (6th edition)
- Knight Errant ISBN 978-1-84416-551-3