Bretonnia

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Bretonnia, land of chivalry
"Heavily armoured, gilded, decked out in layers of steel that an Empire warhorse would have struggled to carry, let alone charge with. Formidable. Not for nothing did men across the Old World fear the onslaught of the knights of Bretonnia." -- Reiksmarshal Kurt Helborg, observing Bretonnia's Knights.

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, regarded as the greatest in the old world. Bretonnia is a land of chivalry and honour. However this must be balanced against the poverty and oppression of its peasantry.

Government and 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 into 14 dukedoms, each ruled by its own Duke.

Provinces and Towns

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 their 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.

  1. Couronne
  2. L'Anguille
  3. Lyonesse
  4. Artois
  5. Gisoreux
  6. Mousilion, seaport - considered currently lost to the kingdom
  7. Bordeleaux, seaport
  8. Bastonne
  9. Montfort
  10. Aquitaine
  11. Brionne
  12. Quenelles
  13. Parravon
  14. Carcassone

The Marches of Couronne is not a dukedom but may eventually become one.

The Forest of Loren is officially part of Bretonnia; however, as homeland of the Wood Elves it is de facto an independent kingdom.

Society

The society of Bretonnia is formed into two classes, the nobility and the peasantry.

Nobility

The noble class is ruled by the king and is composed of 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 ranged weaponry in war, considering it dishonourable.

Peasantry

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.

Culture

Bretonnia has a rich and ancient culture revolving around the ideals of honour, chivalry and glory. Gilles le Breton and his mighty Grail Companions are at the centre of these ideals, and many events and days of rest are held in their honour.

  • Peace Tide is dedicated to Gilles and his Comapnions final victory against a vast horde of various armies.
  • Grail Day is a day of great festivity and drinking, honouring the Holy Grail itself.
  • King's Sleep honours the belief that Gilles shall eventually return to Bretonnia.

Religion

The nobles largely worship the Lady of the Lake, considered the national patron deity of chivalry. However the other deities of the Old World are respected and presumably worshipped on occasion.

The main priestess of the Cult of the Lady of the Lake is known as 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.

Magic

When a Bretonnian child is gifted with magical abilities, he or she 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.

Military

The Bretonnian military is a powerful army formed around a core of brave Knights supported by scores of low-born peasants. They are a warlike and valiant people who willingly seek out battles as a way of securing personal honor and pride. The Knights of Bretonnia are feared and respected throughout the known world. Men of valour and honor, they are exceptional warriors and guardians who protect a land founded upon the most heroic of ideals. In the name of the lady of the Lake and for the glory of the Dukes and King, they sweep aside evil on the field of battle, for none can stand against their glorious charge upon the field of battle.

Knights

  • Knights Errant are young and eager to prove themselves. these young nobles are the lowest ranking members of most Bretonnian cavalry squadron as well as within the hierarchy of Bretonnian nobility. In the prime of youth, these ill-experienced but highly enthusiastic warriors comprise a significant portion of many armies on the field of battle. Fighting on horseback, these Knights often engage the best enemy regiments in their eagerness to earn the title of a Knight of the Realm.
  • Knights of the Realm are the backbone of nearly all Bretonnian armies and as such, they are the most common members of the ruling elite. They have distinguished themselves in errantry and have thus received a fief or a position of power within noble society. They are expected to honor and defend their lords and kingdom from the depredation of all those that seek to destroy it, fighting on horseback, with lance in hand and their unwavering faith in the Lady of the Lake
  • Pegasus Knights are elite knights who ride into battle atop a Pegasus, diving from the skies to bring destruction upon the enemy. Unlike traditional mounted warfare, those Knights that can tame and ride the mighty Pegasus into battle are warriors without equal. Flying across the battlefled with wings of angelic appearance, the Pegasus Knights take to the sky and fight the flying monstrosities the enemy has unleashed upon them with lance and swords.
  • Questing Knights are former Knights of the Realm who give up their social position to follow a spiritual quest. Always searching for the Grail they will slay monsters and evil foes. If they succeed, proving their faith, purity, and honour they may sip from the Grail, becoming a Grail Knight.
  • Grail Knights are legendary saints and heroes, blessed with exceedingly long lifespans and power beyond mortal men. These Knights are the very pinnacle of Bretonnian chivalry, honor, and bravery. To obtain the position of a Grail Knight is the ultimate goal for all Knights, and to become one is to be the very embodiment of a Holy Warrior. It is said that these Knights are one of the greatest of Mankind's warriors to ever walk the earth, their superhuman skill and fearlessness making them an almost unparalleled cavalry.
  • Grail Damsels, lesser servants of the Lady not as long in service as a Prophetess. They specialize in protective wardings, purification's, healing and the dispelling of hostile magic, coming to the aid of armies and questing knights at need. Moving always from place to place at the Lady's will so as to root out evil and corruption, whilst hunting down potentially gifted children and guiding heroes to holy sites in need of protection.
  • Prophetesses, the most favored devotees of the Lady are those whom have served their divine mistress faithfully for much of their lives. They are highly potent spellcasters and their magic can dramatically affect the outcome of any battle, their magic is elemental in nature controlling air and water, plants and animals, calling down raging storms thick cloaking mists and mighty bolts of lightning.
  • Paladins are mighty knights who act as champions and a source of inspiration for Bretonnian armies. They are powerful warriors renowned throughout Bretonnia for their chivalry and feats of arms in combat against all evil, and are often as respected and noble as a Knight can become.
  • Bretonnian Lords are the greatest of Bretonnian nobility and act as elite commanders in battle. They are powerful noblemen whose deeds are recounted throughout the lands, warriors unparalleled in combat and the stout follower of the Codes of Chivalry. These Bretonnian Lords includes the mighty Barons and the Dukes that occupy much of the higher nobility. Proud and powerful warriors all, Bretonnian Lords are excellent warrior-generals.

Other

  • The Sons of Bretonnia, are mysterious Knights who acted as The Lady's personal courtiers and servants. These were young male nobles, taken from their parents as children for exhibiting magical abilities.

Peasants

Only the most fit and able peasants will be recruited into the military. 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.

  • Peasant Bowmen, commoners that are not fit to join the men-at-arms companies are often press-ganged at need into military service as basic support units. As such, archers are a common and readily formed unit within most Bretonnian military armies as all peasants and commoners within Bretonnia are required to maintain a proficiency with the bow, their willingness being reinforced by the promised bounty of a single copper coin for any who survive the campaign, an exception from tithing and the right to loot the enemy fallen, which is to any peasant a potential princely fortune. Unfortunately, as with most Bretonnian infantry units, these men aren't very reliable soldiers.
  • Men-at-arms are the basic front-line infantry that comprises most Bretonnian armies. These men have been chosen from a very young age to be trained and equipped with basic weaponry and gear and fight on the behalf of their Lord. Wearing mostly chainmail armor, these reluctant but adequate soldiers are responsible for defending a noble master's castle, or holding the line against the enemy with shield and spear, whilst the Knights upon their mighty warhorses attack from the flanks and bring victory.
  • Battle Pilgrims, although not considered an official part of Bretonnian armies, these "Pilgrims" are either feral peasants or fanatic and pious followers of the Grail Brotherhoods, all whom believe zealously in the holiness of their chosen Grail Knight, they will flock in their dozens to join and bask in their master's reflected glory. Equipped with the discarded weapons and armor of the Grail Knight, and whatever handmade items they can craft for themselves, these units provide a Bretonnian army with a much more reliable source of stalwart near unbreakable shocktroop infantry, and sacrificial arrow fodder.
  • Mounted Yeomen are experienced soldiers provide the Bretonnian army with dedicated skirmishers or fast light cavalry and scouts. These veterans have fought and survived many battles with only the skills of their arms and their unwavering bravery. Such is their combat experience that Yeomen are almost as skilled in combat as any Knight of the Realm, but such a boast is often ignored and even suppressed by the nobility.
  • Foot Squires are the greatest of Bretonnian peasantry, equipped to the highest standards and trained to act as personal retainers for their lords.

War Machines

Bretonnia does not rely heavily on Warmachines and other seige weaponry for battle, considering them to be cowardly and dishonourable. They only make use of one such device out of necessity.

  • Trebuchets are immense siege engines used to lob large projectiles at enemy formations from a safe distance. The machine itself can vary greatly in design, and the projectiles thrown can range in weight from a cannon ball sized rock, up to something as large as a peasants hovel. Due to it's reputation as a dishonorable weapon and the lack of any proper education amongst the common people, only a handful of craftsmen have the skills and knowledge to build such expensive and time-consuming devices.
  • Blessed Trebuchets are superior to the regular kind. Blessed by Priestesses of The Lady to hurl huge enchanted boulders at the enemy.

Famous Bretonnians

  • The Green Knight, Gilles le Breton in his form as Avatar of the Lady.
  • Duke Jerrod of Quenelles, successor to Tancred II and Hero of the End Times.

Historical Figures

  • Merovech of Mousillon, powerful Vampire, destroyed by Calard during his invasion of Bretonnia.
  • Baron Lucus of Brilloinne
  • The Red Duke a former Duke and brother of the King, he would become one of the greatest Blood Knights in existence.

Notes

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 Roleplay, Games Workshop completely abandoned it with the 4th edition.

Bretonnia was ret-conned 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.

Sources

ISBN 978-1-84416-551-3