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Science-Fiction Adventure in the Far Future
The lowest of the noble ranks (Soc B) is the knight, awarded by the Emperor or an archduke as an honourific rank in recognition of achievement or service. As such, a knighthood is coveted by non-nobles and is seen as more attainable than membership in the peerage. A knighthood entitles the recipient to be addressed as Sir (some females prefer Dame) before their name, and to suffix the initials of the order of knighthood after their name. An individual accorded a knighthood may receive a fief of land on a single world, generally not more than 10 square km.
Knights are not members of the peerage, and thus are not subject to all the protocols. Instead, they belong to orders of knighthood and are awarded privileges according to the order. Each order has its own code, and knights are expected to abide by these codes. Members of the peerage generally consider knights to be "separate but equal" members of the nobility, and it is considered a breach of protocol for a member of the peerage to treat a knight with disrespect.
Several dozen orders of knighthood exist in the Imperium. Some are restricted to specific classes of individuals; others are awarded for specific achievements or service; still others are broad-based orders. The most common are the Order of Starship and Crown (established in 17) and the Order of the Emperor's Guard (established in 52). More exclusive orders are the Order of Hlyuea (established to honour loyal Aslan citizens), the Order of Gvadakoung (established to honour loyal Vargr citizens), and the Honourable Order of the Arrow (established to recognise interstellar explorers). The domains each have their own orders: the Order of Antares , the Order of Deneb , the Order of the Gateway , the Order of Ilelish , the Order of Sol , the Order of Sylea , and the Order of Vland . Of these, the Order of Sylea is administered by the Emperor himself (as Archduke of Sylea), and the Order of Deneb has never been used (no archduke exists).
Refs: SUPP-11, 1107; MT-ENCYC, 1120