Gentlemen-at-Arms

The Gentlemen-at-Arms (郎, rang) are the formal retinue and bodyguard of the monarch of Themiclesia and officers of the Inner Court. Their duties including protecting the monarch and providing companionship, and they have diversified into several government departments in Themiclesia. First entering historical record around 200 BCE, they are by some regarded as one of the oldest military formations in Themiclesia and Septentrion in general. Their leader is the Gallery Marshal (郎中令, rang-trjung-ringh).

As a guard of honour, they are now unusual in that they are not a military body.

History

Menghean sources

The provenance of the Gentlemen-at-Arms is ancient. During the Warring States Period of Menghe (7th to 3rd c. BCE), rulers typically resided in halls located on elevated daises, with a gallery around the edges thereof and terraces on its walls. Gates, flanked by the terraces, were located on these corridors; these were a vital point of communication. The Gentlemen-at-Arms originated as cadets of the lesser nobility, retained as retinue. With the unification of Menghe by the Meng Dynasty in the 3rd c. BCE, martial prowess became secondary to other talents. During this time, the Gentlemen-at-Arms not only provided protection but company as well, probably in competition with other retainers. These officials, serving the monarch directly, were distinguished statutorily from those in the bureaucracy. The former were called the retinue or servants (宦, ghwranh), and the latter officials (吏, rjegh).

Pre-dynastic Themiclesia

Themiclesian history provides fragmentary accounts of the early monarchs' retinues, prior to unification under the Tsjinh Dynasty (265 – 421). It is assumed that the more important states have imitated the political structure of the Meng State, though specifics are controversial. Bronze inscriptions, which were productive in Themiclesia after obsolescence in Menghe, demonstrated that Gentlemen-at-Arms existed in the Tsjinh State and the Kem State; whether this is a copy of one from another, or both directly are imitations of Menghean analogues, is not clear.

Dynastic Themiclesia

The unification of Themiclesia with the assistance of Ghwjang Lus in the 260s lead to radical changes in its the political structure. Ghwjang himself possessed considerable knowledge of Meng Dynasty administration. His reforms brought Themiclesia's own government closer in line with that of Menghe by introducing a dedicated government council to centralize administration over the palatine states and a reinforced royal guard, based on militia levy. Since the gentlemen at arms were no longer the first line of defence against physical threats to the monarch, their military function gradually deprecated, encouraging their number to participate in the bureaucracy. Originally, this was clerical work, but proximity to the crown and familiarity to the procedures of government allowed their administrative functions to come to the fore.

It has been suggested that the Gentlemen-at-Arms of Themiclesia were originally hostages of vassal clans serving at the ruler's court. This view is challenged in that there is no explanation for placing individuals, from clans hostile or untrusted as to require taking hostages, in a position over the ruler's safety. Nevertheless, by the period immediately before Ghjwang Lus' time, they were instead voluntarily sent by regional clans to serve the ruler, who had sufficient authority his favours were a worthwhile pursuit. Being a Gentleman-at-Arms was a financially unprofitable (for some, ruinous) activity: one paid for one's own armour, weapons, and mount, and those in higher ranks had to pay for chariots' maintenance. Yet it was an alluring opportunity for those who desired advancement and were unwilling to rise through normal clerical work.

While being a gentleman at arms provided lucrative political possibilities in the Tsjinh court, that its members were not remunerated but charged for their service effectively limited these possibilities to the social and political elite. The gentlemen at arms were a key institution in the reproduction of the elite classes, since successful bureaucrats could place their offsprings into the gentlemen at arms, where they enjoyed a considerable advantage over commoners who joined the bureaucracy. However, service in the gentlemen at arms was not a guarantee to later success; the gentlemen were consistently assessed by superiors and peers for their character and abilities, and only those qualified acquired desirable appointments with better potential. Some historians conclude that the gentlemen at arms, as an institution, combined both meritocratic and aristocratic elements. For the former, it discerned and nurtured talent, and for the latter, it gave privilege and opportunity to the elites to participate in a centralized government. The gentlemen at arms thus became a bonding, stablizing force between the monarchy and aristocracy, serving the interests of both and supporting a lasting, stable form of government.

Role

Bodyguards

Today, Gentlemen-at-Arms, as military formations, are purely ceremonial. It has been argued that their function as bodyguards has been marginal since the very beginning of Themiclesian history, and that their use of bronze pole-arms is cited as proof of this matter, though not all of their armoury is bronze. As opposed to the Royal Guards, which have consistently been armed with the best technology, it seems the Gentlemen-at-Arms has been regarded as a pool for recruitment for the civil service, with a peripheral role of guarding the monarch, more than anything else. However, in spite of evolution of their organization, they are still an mustered every day, a troop present in the Enclosure to guard the royal presence. Another troop is stationed at the Gates of Rectitude, Thousand Autumns, and Myriad Springs, symbolically ensuring that the entrants are not armed.

Future civil servants

Though deprecated as a military force, their proximity to the throne and unique recruitment method has permitted them to retain an identity quite as long-lasting as major political institutions. Out of Themiclesia's prefectures, about 150 to 200 Gentlemen-at-Arms would be produced simultaneously to the members of the Protonotaries every three years. It is customary for Gentlemen-at-Arms, if they failed to acquire the largess of a government minister or similarly powerful figure during their six-year terms of service, to be appointed to minor positions in the civil service when that expires. A typical appointment is as a county's sheriff or alderman, at the very bottom of the civil service hierarchy. From this position, it is possible to work upwards, though successful ex-Gentlemen-at-Arms are few and far-between. As it was typical for regional clans to posit two or three candidates each triennial recruitment season, those that did not make it as Protonotary or Secretary to the Council were viewed their service as duty of the gentry and a necessary sacrifice; this did not stop them from complaining of poor salaries and prospect.

Courtiers

During their terms of service, the king (or emperor after 542) was at liberty to appoint his Gentlemen-at-Arms to certain position mostly at his discretion. One of the main ways for Gentlemen-at-Arms to acquire more influence was to be appointed as an official of the royal household, which at the time boasted a variety of offices that barely was second to the bureacracy. Commensurate positions also existed in serving the empress and the emperor's concubines. As retinue, however, they are also subject to competition from the Privy Council (中大夫省, trjung-dadh-pja-srêng′).

Diplomats

Themiclesian diplomatic practice required the initial envoy sent to any polity to be of the 2,000-bushel grade in the civil service, so that more power and gravity of office could persuade the foreign state of Themiclesia's sincerity and willingness to negotiate. After their friendly intentions have been ascertained, however, lesser officials could be sent when no negotiation is required, only transmitting information. During the 5th through 14th centuries, gentlemen-at-arms have fulfilled these minor diplomatic offices and usually formed an ambassador's guards. Despite the assignment, they were still expected to perform diplomatic duties at the ambassador's direction. After the 14th century, the protection of diplomatic missions devolved to the Colonial Army in Columbia and Meridia and to the Marines in Meridia and Casaterra after 1325, when Themiclesia's market colony of Portcullia was taken by the Yi dynasty of Menghe. While no longer functioning as bodyguards, gentlemen-at-arms still remained as advisors to ambassadors. When consulates were established in the 18th century, they were usually filled by gentlemen-at-arms. The opportunity to see diplomacy in action was an important attraction to aristocratic enlistment with the gentlemen-at-arms.

Ranks and structure

There are no ranks such as undersood in a modern military context; the ranks which are present are, for the most part, based on proximity to the emperor and vary by pay grade. Derived from the character as guardsmen, the innermost sections of the several palaces all have detachments of gentlemen-at-arms, and the same have been more elaborate in the past. Additionally, the House of Lords uses the gentlemen-at-arms stationed at Kaw-men Hall, its seat and former residence of the empress dowager, as guards for the house. The House of Commons, not sitting in a former royal residence, does not have gentlemen-at-arms as its guards. The Royal Guards were distributed at the perimeters and generally did not come into contact with royalty or officials in the palaces.

  • Gallery Marshal (郎中令, rang-trjung-ringh)
    • Captain of the Enclosure (中郎中司馬, trjung-rang-trjung-slje-mra′)
      • Gentlemen in Waiting (侍中郎, lje′-trjung-rang, strength c. 10)
    • Captain of the Gallery (郎中司馬, rang-trjung-slje-mra′)
      • Gallery Gentlemen (郎中, rang-trjung, strength c. 80)
    • Marshal of the House of Lords (高門司馬, kaw-men-slje-mra′)
      • Gallery Gentlemen (高門郎中, kaw-men-rang-trjung, strength c. 70)
  • Middle Gallery Marshal (中郎中令, trjung-rang-trjung-ringh, in the Empress' Middle Palace)
    • Gallery Captain (中宮郎中司馬, trjung-rang-trjung-slje-mra′)
      • Gallery Gentlemen (中宮郎中, trjung-rang-trjung, strength c. 85)
    • Inner Gallery Captain (中宮中郎中司馬, trjung-kjung-trjung-rang-trjung-slje-mra′)—usually female
      • Inner Gallery Gentlemen (中宮中郎中, trjung-kjung-trjung-rang-trjung, strength c. 45)—usually female

Gentlemen in Waiting

The Gentlemen in Waiting (侍郎中) enjoy the highest pay grade, at 200 bushels, guarding the Enclosure (禁中, krjemh-trjung). In the Kien-k'ang Palace, this corresponds to the area north of the Pavilion Gates (閤門, kap-men). They are led by two Captains-General (左右中郎將, dzuar'-gwjew'-trjung-rang-tsjangs), the first of whom is responsible for distributing the Gentlemen-at-Arms along the west side of the area, and the second, the east side. In each side, four stand guard at the Gate of Celestial Principles, which leads directly to the Emperor's personal quarters. Around the columnade that surround the edifice, two Gentlemen-at-Arms is stationed at each corner. When in the Enclosure, one Gentleman-at-Arms holds a shield, while the other holds a pole-arm. A strict rule is that they may not enter the Gate of Celestial Principles without an express order from the throne inside, the penalty for which breach was death before 1853, and eleven years in prison since.

The current strength of the Gentlemen of the Enclosure is 37, consisting of four officers (two Captains-General and two Lieutenant-Captains) and 32 men. In the 19th, the Marshal usually maintained numbers between 100–150, which lasted until the beginning of the Pan-Septentrion War. Primarily recruited from the households of senior civil servants, many left to fill new positions in preparation for total war or left without cause. After the War, membership remained low to the present day.

Gallery Gentlemen

The Gentlemen of Corridor, of 300 bushels, guard the Front Hall (前殿, dzên-den); they are also led by two Captains-General (郎中將, dzuar-gwjew-rang-trjung-tsjangs). The Front Hall is the area south of the Pavilion Gates and enclosed within a set of walls, with gatehouses to the east, west, and south of the grounds; within the walls, there is a wide columnade called the Corridor, even though it is not enclosed on the inward-facing side. The north is delimited by the Great Hall, the East Parlour, West Parlour, the East Pavilion Gate, and West Pavilion Gate, behind which is the Enclosure. As with the Gentlemen of the Enclosure, the two Captains-General are responsible for distributing the Gentlemen-at-Arms along the corridor, generally at the rate of one member per bay (space between two pillars). They are also stationed at the foot of the Great Hall, East Parlour, and West Parlour, lining the ramps that lead up to them. The Gentlemen-at-Arms are not permitted to set foot on the ramp or the pedestals themselves.

The Gentlemen-at-Arms stationed at the gatehouses are in larger groups of sixteen to twenty per gate, since the gatehouses are quite large and can easily accommodate them. The current strength of the Gentlemen of the Corridor is 109. The Gentlemen of the Corridor form the bulk of the Emperor's guards when in other parts of the palace, such as during hunting trips in the grounds.

Gallery Cavalry

Recruitment

Preferment

Any bureaucrat who attained to the rank of 2,000 bushels could furnish one of his sons as gentleman at arms. This could be done only once by the bureaucrat.

Donation

Aside from triennial civil elections, it was possible to enter through donation. While preferment allowed a senior bureaucrat to enter one of his sons, he had to donate if any of his other sons wished to join the gentlemen at arms. This was also available to the lower-ranked bureaucrats or gentry living in the countryside, not currently in office. However, donation was only available to those who were already gentry; commoners without at least a token connection to gentry could not donate to obtain entry. It is estimated that a majority of the gentlemen, during the Tsjinh to Mrangh dynasties, actually bought their positions. Different prices existed for various positions according to the fashion of the day or potential of gaining the Emperor's attention. The first listing of prices are found in the Ran-lang Collection, which date to the 1st c. BCE. The prices of Gentlemen position at later points in time are also provided.

(bronze cash,
thousands)
Ran-lang Tsjinh Sungh Rjang Mrangh Dzi Drjen 1800 1900 1940
(Int'l $, 1940)
At-Large 400 500 1,000 1,000 700 1,000 2,000 3,000 5,000 ($130,846)
Gallery 100 500 500 1,200 1,200 900 1,500 2,000 4,000 10,000 ($216,692)
Enclosure 200 600 800 1,500 1,500 1,200 2,000 4,000 5,000 15,000 ($392,539)
Attendant 5,000 10,000 10,000 10,000 6,000 6,000 35,000 40,000 100,000 ($2,616,924)

Election

The most highly-regarded way to enter was the civil election. Every three years, the gentry of a prefecture were consulted by a returning officer sent by the central government. Candidates recommended themselves to the returning officer and courted the gentle households for their support. At the end of the election season, the returning officer summoned the gentry to the prefectural capital and asked them to rank the candidates from First Class to Ninth Class. Those ranked Second Class would be appointed to the civil service immediately, while those Third and Fourth Classes were selected as gentlemen at arms.[1] Since this method of recruitment required the approval of the gentry, who themselves were involved in the civil service, it was also the most honoured.

Substitution

One son of a bureaucrat who died in public office was customarily appointed as gentleman at arms, to continue his family's legacy in public service. This is provided the bureaucrat who died was himself eligible to be a gentleman at arms.

Uniforms

Court Dress

The Court Dress, which is shared with the Civil Service, consists of the following garments and accessories:

  • Under robe (中衣, trjung-′jei), worn over a non-standardized undergarment that contacts the wearer's body. The Under-Robe is wholly white and double-layered, with a broad (about 10 cm), plain red trim. The sleeves are uniform in width and are long enough to run past the wearer's hand and fold back to reach the elbow.
  • Court robe (朝服, n′rjaw-pjek)
  • Over robe (袍, p′ru)
  • Inner hoses (中絝, trjung-kah)
  • Over hoses (大絝, dadh-kah)
  • Sash (綬, djus)
  • Ribbon (縌, nrjak)
  • Seal (璽, snji′)
  • Cap (幘, tsrêk)
  • Hat (弁, brjonh)
  • Shoes (履, rji′)

Recent reforms

The series of assassination attempts in 1940 – 41 on Emperor L′abh-tsung by Dayashinese infiltrators in the Themiclesian Marines caused a panic amongst the Privy Council abour security around the palaces. The gentlemen-at-arms on duty around the palace were unable to prevent the ingress of an infiltrator, who made it as far as the throne itself, where the emperor dinnered with his court. At the expense of 45 lives and injuries, the infiltrators were taken into custody. It was discovered that half of the gentlemen-at-arms on duty perished resisting highly-trained operatives armed with rifles and pistols with spears and shields, while the other half sought refuge in a storehouse.

Themiclesian views about social classes prevented ordinary soldiers from coming into contact with the monarch or even setting foot in his vicinity. Such was punished as lèse-majesté. At the same time, Parliament was against legitimating military presence around itself, for fear of any form of military influence on its deliberations. Since it sat inside the palace hall, soldiers were legally barred from nearing Parliament as well. During previous emergencies, either the emperor left the palace hall to seek refuge in other palaces, or Parliament voted for to permit soldiers in the palace hall. These rules were not broken during the reign of Emperor Goi, who was believed to be a strong Liberal about traditions like these, and starting in Emperor Hên′s reign in 1921, Conservatives surrounded the throne, eliminating any suggestion that the traditional arrangement might be changed.

Foreign influence

Camia

Until 1881, the Camian president and parliament were both protected by forces known as gentlemen-at-arms. Camian gentlemen-at-arms were structurally different from their Themiclesian counterparts but had a largely similar function initially. Into the mid-1800s, they became more detached from civil service and were more akin to protégés to politicians, though they were always recruited from families of reputation like in Themiclesia.

However, President Acker III had few allies in politics and grew paranoid of their cadets. Acker formed new units from the best-trained men of the army and marines to stand guard at the president's mansion, that his security would not be entrusted to either the War or Navy Secretary. The units could further check each other. When the Camian Air Service was founded, they were likewise added to the guard of the president. Since then, gentlemen-at-arms were retained only as ushers and then not always filled. While some have called for their revival in the 1950s, the practice was criticized as anachronistic and against the principles of equality.

Privileges

Nomen audiundum

The privilege of nomen audiundum (智名, trjêh-mjêng) literally means having one's name heard, i.e. introduced by name to the emperor. The Ran-lang Collection shows that individuals above the rank of 600 bushels and members of the royal household with nomen audiundum may not be imprisoned except for flagrant offences or with the assent of the monarch; when they are arrested, they were placed under house arrest instead. Traditionally, gentlemen-at-arms serve terms of six years before embarking on their bureaucratic careers, and after the fifth, a lord in waiting introduced them to the emperor with the recommendation that

the noble youth has diligently attended Your Majesty's levée and coucher and moreover stood guard in the galleries through rain and snow; he has excelled amongst peers for his knowledge of laws and rules of accounting. Before he leaves Your Majesty to enters Civil Service, the secretaries of state pray Your Majesty may be pleased to look upon his face and remember his name, so that five years of difficult and unpaid services may be compensated by Your Majesty's acknowledgement.

Notably, it was ultimately up to the Ministry of Administration to decide who was introduced to the emperor, and the candidate gentlemen-at-arms would have been hard-pressed to come up with interesting conversations to attract the attention of the ministry.

Notes

  1. First Class was not available by tradition.

See also