Knight of the Realm
The Knights of the Realm (Burgoignesc: Chevaliers de Royaume, East Gothic language: Reichsritter) were Knights who had sworn fealty to the Grand Counts and later Grand Dukes of Yonderre. An early example of a standing army, the Knights of the Realm were obligated to serve the Grand Counts and later Grand Dukes of Yonderre for a minimum of 12 years. In return for their service they were awarded the title Knight of the Realm, a prestigious title that was not inheritable and thus had to be earned. They were also fed and accomodated by the Grand Count or Grand Duke and paid a salary while in his service. The Knights of the Realm were generally not landed, but enjoyed the same privileges as Barons. The Knights of the Realm were reorganized into the Ducal Lifeguard of Horse in 1644.
The office of Knight of the Realm was established in 1476 by Joanus de Martigueux, the later Grand Count of Yonderre. The establishment came in the aftermath of the Order of the Obsidian Sparrow's conquest of the East Gothic lands and the de facto establishment of Yonderre. As there was no longer any need for the Crusader force to remain in the region the Crusader armies were disbanded, and many began to turn home. de Martigueux, seeking to retain a strong military presence, decreed the establishment of the office of Knight of the Realm.
Controversially, the title of Knight of the Realm was attainable by nobles and lowborn alike and was even open to Christian East Goths. Candidates were screened by select Knights of de Martigueux to ensure that only the most suited were knighted. Initially, a total of 182 Knights of the Realm are known to have been raised to bolster the 72 Barons and 8 Stewards that had been established to rule the lands. This original cadre came mostly from the ranks of the Crusader army.
Reorganization into Ducal Lifeguard of Horse
After 168 years of service, the Knights of the Realm were reorganized into the Ducal Lifeguard of Horse as part of the creation of the Grand Ducal Army on June 10th, 1644 by decree of Grand Duke Auguste II de Houicourt. Those in service as Knights of the Realm at the time were allowed to keep their title, but no new Knights of the Realm were appointed.
The Knights of the Realm acted much like a modern standing army in that they were a permanently mobilized force ready to react on short notice. In times of war their purpose was to defend Yonderre and buy time until levies could be raised, after which they would form the heavy cavalry of the levy.
It was possible for Knights of the Realm to work as mercenaries in peacetime, provided they recieved a waiver to do so from the Grand Count or Grand Duke. While working as mercenaries, Knights of the Realm did not recieve any salary from the Grand Count or Grand Duke but were exempted from taxation of the money they earned. Siegmar von Willing did so notably, forming the Black Company with fellow Knights of the Realm Gilles de Gabion and Henri de Famichez and partaking in the Great Confessional War. The gens d'armes of the Black Company's success was noted by many not only for their military success, but also because they were not invested in the local politics and land squabbles. Being mercenaries they were classified as milites gregarii (non-noble cavalrymen). This helped maintain the fragile balances in the small courts of Kingdom of Dericania. As opposed to the milites nobiles (landed noble knights) or (Burg: Eques) who were constantly squabbling over land. For those princlings who could afford the services of the Black Company (Burg: Centes neirs), their services were crucial. The Vilauristre Conference and the Bishopric of Bonavix in particular used their services.
Burgoignesc Foreign Legion
A spiritual descendant of the Knights, The 100 Chevaliers of Joanus (Burg: Les Cent Chevaliers de Joan, commonly Les Cent Chevs) is an independent Assault pioneer company of the Burgoignesc Foreign Legion's I Greater Levantine Division. Formed in 1852 by the County of Bourgondi-Estie as part of their army for the assault on Vorena the Chevaliers were recruited as a Cuirassier regiment of 1200 mounts. They were commanded by Bergendii officers and formed a vanguard for the advancing armies of Bourgondi-Estie and Marialanus. They served valiantly but they suffered from a lack of Yonderian recruits to fill the ranks of the fallen and by the end of the First Fratricide the unit has been reduced to a squadron and then a company. After the treaty had been signed a single combat took place in which the squadron of Yonderian chevalier were ambushed by Derians and despite a fierce defense were massacred until only 102 men remained alive and all of their horses had been slaughtered. The survivors limped back to Estia and their tale almost drew the newly formed Burgundie back into war with the Deric states. It is speculated that if the men of the unit had been Bergendii that it would have been enough to tip the scales. They were however venerated as heroes of Bergendii and the unit was officially capped at 102 men as an homage to those who survived. To justify their independent status as an independent unit despite its size it was retrained as an assault pioneer company and attached to the command staff of the I Greater Levantia Division during the Great War.
The number of Knights of the Realm varied widely over the years, depending largely on their percieved need. While the initial cadre was only 182 Knights of the Realm, there were at the height of the Great Confessional War in the 1560s more than 6,500 Knights of the Realm, putting a strain on the Yonderian treasury.
The Knights of the Realm continue to be one of the cornerstones of Yonderian national romanticism, reinforcing the romantic image of knights in shining armour. The Guard Cuirassier Division of the modern Yonderian Armed Forces traces its lineage to the Knights of the Realm.
Notable Knights of the Realm
Louis d'Arconne (1591 – 1660), loyalist leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Richard de Blaise (1598 – 1643), rebel leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Florian von Bromstadt (1608 – 1677), loyalist leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Michael von Bromstadt (1609 – 1642), rebel leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Rémy Devereaux (1437 – 1489)
Henri de Famichez (1519 – 1602), Lieutenant of the Black Company
Gilles de Gabion (1521 – 1599), Lieutenant of the Black Company
Erich von der Heydte (1612 – 1643), rebel leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Auguste de Houicourt (1467 – 1520)
Filip de Houicourt (1536 – 1562)
Fabian Löwenschiold (1611 – 1643), rebel leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Lothar von Koop (1584 – 1619)
Sören Vergelter (1599 – 1642), rebel leader in the Yonderian Peasants' War
Siegmar von Willing (1522 – 1607), Captain of the Black Company