Estalia in Flames
The Land of Bretonnia is a feudal, traditional society where the peasants serve the knights in return for protection, while the knights are bound to militarily serve their lords in return for certain rights and titles. At the top of this feudal hierarchy is the King. Beneath the Kings are the Dukes. Beneath them is another layer of nobility, the Marquesses, the Earls, the Viscounts, and the Barons in descending order. The King, Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons are also each the lord of a number of Knights, who are the lesser nobles. Each Knight (including the higher nobles) has his own force of Men-at-Arms chosen from the most physically able peasants. In return for serving his knightly lord, each peasant is given a small tract of land for his family and can be expected to be called upon for service in times of war. The Knights’ forces typically consist of the stronger Men-at-Arms and the more lowly Bowmen levies. The lands of Bretonnia are also ruled by spiritual and mystical leaders, the Fay Enchantress, her Damsels, and the Grail Knights, who are all faithful servants to the Lady of the Lake. The Lady of the Lake gets her servants by stealing all children with magical ability by the age of three. The girls become wizards in service to the Lady, her damsels. The males are never seen again. For reasons of religious devotion parents allow this awful custom.
The Knights of Bretonnia are divided into four categories. Knights Errant are young sons of nobles who must prove themselves in battle. If successful, they become Knights of the Realm, are granted their own small plot of land to govern, and are obliged to defend Bretonnia should they be called. Questing Knights are brave individuals who renounce their titles and worldly possessions and journey to faraway lands in hopes of being deemed worthy by the Lady (of the Lake) to become Grail Knights. Grail Knights are the most powerful and revered individuals in all of Bretonnia, second only to the Lady. They are living saints who represent the fearsome power of Bretonnia and answer only to the Lady herself.
The Kingdom of Bretonnia is made up of 14 dukedoms: Couronne, L’Anguille, Artois, Lyonesse, Mousillon, Gisoreaux, Montfort, Bastonne, Bordeleaux, Aquitaine, Parravon, Brionne, Quenelles, and Carcassonne. Each of these, with the exception of Mousillon (see below), is ruled by its own Duke, who in turn has various nobles and knights who serve under him. The great castle of the King is in the fortified city of Couronne, traditionally the capital. The Forest of Loren is within the borders of Bretonnia, but is considered to be the forbidden realm of the Wood Elves.
Bretonnia is, in many ways, similar to the fairy-tale kingdom of Lyonesse or Logres under King Arthur, with noble knights who live by a series of vows (to uphold the virtues of honor and chivalry) and beautiful damsels who are rescued by courageous, dragon-fighting heroes. The degree to which Bretonnia reflects this image varies from between editions of Warhammer. In the most recent edition (7th), there is a darker side to Bretonnia: The divide between the luxurious lifestyle of the knights and the miserable poverty of the peasants is exaggerated well beyond the historical truths of the Middle Ages. In the 5th edition, however, things were exaggerated the other way, with the knights being far more noble and caring for their peasants more than in the real world. In 6th edition their behavior was more balanced, with the knights dedicated to protecting the lands of Bretonnia and its subjects, but still holding a dim view of commoners.