Ranting and raving and carrying on

Just a few random thoughts about random stuff. Warning - may contain profanity

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Location: Toronto-ish, Ontario, Canada

Just a guy... Bit of a geek, but who isn't these days?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Royal We?

Historically, pretty much every country on the planet had a monarchy. These days, monarchies are largely a quaint reminder of those eras (although in some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the royal family is still incredibly politically powerful, and in many others the royal family is still very rich).

Here in Canada, the government is still technically led by the Queen through her representative (the Governor General), but the government (at least the previous government) tried hard to make people forget that little fact. They went so far as to deny Conrad Black his lordship, saying that the Americans didn't allow their people to take foreign titles, so they wouldn't either. The problem is that the Americans do allow their people to take foreign titles - Schwarzkopf was knighted after Desert Storm. The general consensus is that Jean Chretien just didn't like Conrad Black, and thus wanted to piss him off. C. B. dumped his Canadian citizenship in response, and is now Lord Black of Cross Harbour anyway.

The point of this (and yes, there is one) is that people have a bipolar view of royalty for the most part. If you ask a lot of people here about the royalty, they'll mostly be pretty ambivalent at best. But, if you told them that their family tree indicated that they were a baron or baroness or whatever, they'd probably be putting on airs all over town within the week. People like to feel "special", like they belong to an elite group, such as royalty or an order of knights.

Personally, I'm pretty cool with it. I'm not going to give up my vassals to my leige any time soon or any strangeness like that, but I do know a baron (he's a senior officer in my militia unit), and I'm pretty curious about my own family tree.

Family folklore indicates that (on my mom's side) we're descended from minor French royalty, and on my dad's side I have reason to believe we were a family of some minor importance in days past. So I'm halfway tempted to have someone research the family tree for me, and find out where the roots lead. If I found out for sure that I was "royalty", I would try pretty hard not to let it change me, but I think that I'd be more likely to get reservations at nice restaurants if I were "Baron G. of someplace-or-other" rather than just G.

There are also a lot of "title brokers" or "peerage brokers" out there. Be very careful of this - a lot of places claim they can sell you a title. Look very carefully if you're interested in that, because there are a lot of scams and there's a lot of misinformation. Again, the easiest thing to do is either get a title through hereditary means or have a fons honorum grant you a title. A fons honorum basically means someone who can grant titles - sitting heads of state and heads of some churches, generally. Unfortunately, there may even be fakes amongst the fons honorums out there, so you could pay an "investure fee" for a worthless title. Of course, if that makes you feel better about yourself, then maybe it's not so worthless, but you'd have to examine your own life to figure out why you need a title to have some self-worth.

This even extends to knighthoods. Now, first off, the Order of the Garter isn't the only game for knighthoods - not even in England. It's just the best known. But if you really want some letters after your name and a funky cape and necklace, it should take more than just an "investure fee" - knighthood is supposed to be an arduous process, proving you are worthy of the title.

The one trapping of royalty that people seem to like most is the "coat of arms". Lots of people buy their "family coat of arms" from vendors in malls all over the world (saw one in South Africa). There's just one problem with this - there's no such thing as a family coat of arms. A "coat of arms" is issued to an individual, and may (but it's not automatic) be passed down to a child on the death of the individual. There are rules for modifying arms to indicate lineage as well, but I believe that only extends down one generation. The point is, if someone tries to sell you your family coat of arms, while it may look cool hanging on your den wall it's not something you should be painting on the family car or anything, since you likely don't have the right to use it - unless it was granted to you personally, or passed down to you from a parent, it's not yours.

So, in summary, while I'm as interested in my heritage as anyone, and we all want to feel "elite", you should remember to check everything before you write a cheque!