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Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future
The Imperial nobility is a narrow class of persons at the upper strata of society who hold, either personally or through their family line, noble rank from the Emperor. Noble rank serves two purposes: it rewards individuals for significant achievements, and it provides social station for the political leaders within the government.
Nobility is acquired through letters of patent (patents of nobility) issued by the Emperor. Traditionally, appointments are published in the Holiday List (appearing on the first day of the new year) and in the Birthday List (appearing on the Emperor's birthday; Strephon's is 202). Additional patents of nobility for political purposes or special occasions, are published when necessary.
Honour nobles receive patents for "heroism in the military, success in civil or commercial enterprise, or innovation and discovery in the services". Rank up to marquis may be awarded. Patents for honour nobles are not hereditary.
Rank nobles receive patents because of a citizen's position. Two sub-types exist. Local nobility represents the Imperium in systems not administered by high nobility. These nobles make up the majority of the Imperial nobility, and although they are only equivalent to barons and knights in precedence, they are hereditary members of the peerage. Administrators are citizens who hold Imperial office. Except in extraordinary situations, a person must be a peer in order to hold high office in the Imperial bureaucracy (although not all peers hold office). These patents are tied to a position, and are not hereditary.
High nobles belong to the smallest segment of the peerage, consisting of people belonging to old and powerful families entrenched in the Imperial system for generations. These nobles directly administer Imperial territories and are personal representatives of the Emperor. Patents are awarded for "political support in office, victory in the military, or contributions or economic assistance from the commercial sector" beyond any reasonable expectation. Patents are hereditary (upon confirmation by the Moot) and almost always include a fief or feudal estate granted by a letter of enfeoffment. Ref: SUPP-11, 1107; MT-ENCYC, 1120