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In monarchies and feudal societies the line of succession was extremely important, having an heir was one of the primary goals and creating familial connections was important to creating alliances. In a world where there are multiple races, and none of them can interbreed, what type of systems would arise?

Because of the importance of marriage alliances and lineage in medieval-style monarchies, would it be possible to have these separate races (again non-interfertile) share some amount of power within the kingdom? I can't really think what systems would stop one race from trying to dominate the others, and that most races wouldn't accept a king/queen that isn't of their race (probably because of racism, but also that it limits how far they can rise within a feudal system).

I do think having races (or at least certain cultures within the race) accepting rule under a different species isn't unbelievable. Obviously there tend to be minorities in all sorts of kingdoms (Roma, Jews etc.). As well, I understand that there are likely to be at least a few countries that attempt to keep a fairly mono-race attitude. But I don't want every kingdom to have to be black and white where a species is either the ruling species of their country or they are an oppressed group within the kingdom.

As an example, in Brian Jaqcues world of Redwall, there are many races that live together but the only 'Kingdoms' seen are all pretty mono-species. None of the species are interfertile and I was trying to think of a way that a kingdom of say mice, rabbits and squirrels could exist without one species being completely dominant. Anywhere shown to be fairly multi-racial tends to either be very small in scale (Redwall itself) or are hordes of 'vermin' where they have no real structure besides might is right.

Would it be possible to have a multi-raced feudal kingdom where there isn't a singular dominant race, and if it is, what systems could ensure that any race can not only rule as a lord but has a chance of putting their line on a throne?

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    $\begingroup$ Ah, and in the actual for real medieval monarchies there was exactly one line (or maybe two in particulary weak monarchies) with chances of putting a representative on the throne. I would say that if England or France could endure while the overwhelming vast majority of family lines had no chance whatsoever to elevate one of theirs to the throne, then this is definitely not something to be concerned with. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:06
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    $\begingroup$ You don't seem to understand how monarchy worked in medieval europe, 'Royalty' only married within their class so could easily have functioned with the royalty as an entirely separate species, in addition the common folk / peasants had hard limits on how far they could rise in a feudal system so your concerns there simply make no sense, that's as far as I could bother reading, your question just doesn't really make any sense when compared to the reality that actually existed. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Actually, the "royalty marries only royalty" was more modern European than medieval. Many royalty married members of the nobility. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Aug 7, 2020 at 22:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Royalty marrying nobility is still not marrying only within royalty. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Aug 7, 2020 at 23:24
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    $\begingroup$ A lot of nobility was, in fact, not royal -- and the amount that was "second sons that didn't inherit the throne or royal daughters married off to lords" was vanishingly small. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Aug 8, 2020 at 0:34

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I think it can work, but that your mindset is a little too modern/meritocratic.

If you are born as a serf in a medieval kingdom, then you are supposed to remain a serf, and your children and their children. If you or they don't something has gone wrong, that is not how things are supposed to operate. It doesn't matter if you are a genius, your role is hitting that wheat. God said so when he made you a serf.

You are not supposed to breed with people above your station. The princess can't marry you. That would be scandalous. If you try eloping her dad will cut your head off and probably punish her too.

So, now we introduce multiple Redwall races. You are a mouse-person serf. Maybe your kingdom has a mouse king, maybe a ferret or a weasel. Who cares? Even if they are a mouse you can't hope that you will be king or your children will be. You are supposed to accept your place.

Any system that "gives people a chance" would not be feudal.


However many other historical systems exist that are close to feudal. Sparta had two royal families so there were always two kings (one from each). Maybe you have a similar system with N royal families and some are of different species. Maybe you go the way of Athens or Rome with some early form of democracy, although I suspect a democracy would be less stable. You can get votes by stirring up division which may lead to inter species conflict. What is the voting age? If it is 20 then maybe the shrews who usually only live to 18 complain. In a more oppressive regime people would conceivably be too preoccupied with your class (serf, knight, pleb, ...) to care much about whether you are a mouse or a shrew.

Yes, with multiple kings or councils or elected people no one has absolute power, but the idea of a leader with absolute power is kind of mythical anyway. No leader of any government at any point has been able to do anything. Even Stalin (a close contender for this badge) could not have ordered every Soviet citizen to kill themselves and had any realistic prospect of such a thing actually happening. This reflects the fact that even people who are powerless in theory have collective power in practice, and that even people with absolute power in theory have to respect that if they want to survive.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like the idea of the multiple kings, or an elective monarchy based around a few ruling families (like Tyler MC suggested below). I understand that most people in a feudal society would never change their position but I don't necessarily think most people would be completely indifferent to their ruler. Scots/ Irish hated rule under the British and I can't help that different species with differing strengths and needs would only further this divide. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2020 at 2:03
  • $\begingroup$ But your answer, and the others has given me a lot to think about in this regard and I don't think it would be as hard to explain species living peacefully under other species as I originally thought. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2020 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ I could easily see a country ruled by a handful of powerful "Noble houses/clans" where each house is a racial or ethnic group. Together, the matriarchs or patriarchs of each house would hold a council to rule the land $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Aug 9, 2020 at 11:23
  • $\begingroup$ @JackFredricton. The Scottish dislike of English rule was not as universal/simple as you might think. Some of William Wallace's opponents were Scottish. People divide the world into any two "sides" they want. It doesn't have to be rats vs. mice, or English vs. Scottish. It could be Proletariat vs. Bourgeois. Or Hindu vs. Muslim. Locals vs. Foreigners. Everyone vs. Jews has been historically popular. There is no "right" answer as to which of these divisions are important (I would say they are all wrong). The cynic in me thinks the best way to inter-species unity is division on some other axis. $\endgroup$
    – Dast
    Aug 12, 2020 at 11:33
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I feel like this could be possible. There could be multiple systems and ways to choose someone even if familial connections are important. The Holy Roman Empire elected its leaders despite being around during the feudal era (the empire began 800 with Charlemagne) and his coronation as "Emperor of Rome" by Pope Leo III. The HRE was a confederal elective monarchy. However, it was preferred that a member of the House of Habsburg royal family be put in charge and even then, members of the royal family could adopt children to be placed in charge. Emperor Maxilimian I was adopted into the House of Habsburg by Duke of Austria Sigismund. Maximilian was the son of Emperor Frederick the Third, but the lands of the Habsburg dynasty were divided at the time so Maximilian would have only been able to inherit the lands of the Leopoldian family at the time. This adoption allowed all of the holdings of the Habsburg line to be held under one ruler, including the Leopoldian holdings. So, you can have a feudal kingdom that either:

  1. Allows anyone to be elected as a leader, but prefers members of the family. People of different species can be elected emperor even the best members of the ruling family are unavailable or unfit to rule, allowing different species to be in charge while a family of one species generally has the highest chance of being in charge.

  2. Have the family adopt people of different species as children for whatever reason (infertile, child is smart and has marks of good ruler, help with relations with other species and increase holdings of one family,, etc.) and these adopted children - even if they are part of a different species than their parents - can become ruler. This new ruler can then adopt someone of a different species or have a biological child with a member of the same species.

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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP It was a monarchy. It was an confederal elective monarchy (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. The First emperor was Charlemagne from 800 - 814. While 1452 was the end of the Middle Ages, the feudal era has been considered by some to have lasted in Europe to some degree until the 1790s in certain parts of Europe(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. $\endgroup$
    – Tyler Mc
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Charlemagne was emperor of the Carolingian Empire. That empire has nothing to do with the HRE. There is no continuity between the Carolingian Empire and the HRE. Their territories were different, their structure was different, the ruling dynasties were different. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP Well according to Encyclopedia Britannica, Charlemagne was the first emperor of the HRE and his coronation as "Emperor of Rome" by Pope Leo III in 800 CE led to the foundations of the HRE (britannica.com/biography/Charlemagne/Emperor-of-the-Romans, britannica.com/biography/Charlemagne). $\endgroup$
    – Tyler Mc
    Aug 7, 2020 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Tyler Mc Emperor Maximilian I was the son of Emperor Fredrick III and was elected King of the Romans and future emperor in 1486 7 years before his father died. The Childless Archduke Sigismund was a cousin and I have not yet found a statement that he "adopted" Maximilian I. $\endgroup$ Aug 8, 2020 at 17:22
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Slavery  Humanity's own belief that races shouldn't intermarry led to institutionalized slavery for a very long time. Even before that, strong nations frequently turned the conquered into a convenient (and expendable) labor force. I frankly can't even imagine that slavery wouldn't be a substantial component of both your cultures and their politics. This is especially true when you note that feudal systems were strongly caste-based: and another species would almost always be perceived as something less for whatever reason ("they're so stuck up!" is no different from "they eat with their hands!" when it comes to the desire to hate).

However, it's worth noting that what this could morph into is a form of indentured servitude that serves the same basic purpose of a political marriage. Unions in days past had concubines as well as wives/husbands. That servitude could take the form of a basic house servant all the way up to a sanctioned relationship second only to the spouse.

Cross-species marriages could happen You're right, there will always be the basic need for an heir to drive the throne — but that's a limiting way of looking at things. I suspect a cursory look at history would show that nieces, nephews, lesser children (not direct heir), etc., were married off for the purpose of alliance or bonded association between cultures. Those marriages don't require children. In fact, it could set up a method of assigning land and titles that automatically revert to the crown once the two lives have ended and the purpose has been served.

Birds of a Feather There's a long-standing fantasy trope of multiple species getting along just fine, even to co-mingling socially and politically. If human history has proven anything, it's that we can barely stand to be in the same room with other humans who differ from us in only superficial ways — what on earth would make anyone believe that it would be better with actual species? Nope. I suspect that the only way borders wouldn't be anything but constant war zones (from angry farmers shanking each other's dogs to formal armies) is a strong application of M.A.D.. Call me a pessimist (optimism is for the young... really! Then they grow up and discover the all the details they've been missing or couldn't understand), but inter-special (pronounced "spee-see-ah-l" not "speh-shal") relationships will generally be tense in all but uncommon circumstances (see those notes about marriage and indentured servitude).

The Law would have Greater Importance The one thing that would bind everyone together is a greater dependence on the law. That would be required to bridge cultural and special differences. Think about it: you can fundamentally believe that all humans, regardless of race, think/act/behave the same way. Oh, there are minor social differences between cultures, but nobody's really eating Gah, right? Dealing with, for example, people who expect Gah for dinner falls square into the lap of protocol, which inevitably becomes policy, and finally law. I would expect your world to be more legally dependent than medieval Europe (despite medieval Europe making incredibly great strides when it comes to law).

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Specialized roles governed by specialists:

I think the only really practical way to get this to work is if each species has a role they clearly perform better than the others; unambiguously, without doubt or question. Humans are clever at making things, Elves are utterly wise and trustworthy, Orcs are superb soldiers and a Halfling can grow crops in a shoe and serve you the shoe afterwards in a fine restaurant.

Each race would need to govern the choices relating to their own field. If there were any doubts or conflicts about what belonged in who's control, there would need to be an unimpeachable judge to decide the issue. If orcs are great soldiers, they run much of the army. But what if humans are better generals? Go to the Elves for a ruling, and the Orcs better trust the Elves, or you'll have a civil war.

If different races had fundamentally different opinions about what was or wasn't best, they would inevitably come into conflict. To have these races in a group, you'd need autocratic rulers to enforce one viewpoint or another. If not, have a confederation of states where compatible groups live under a collective agreement. The Orcs and Elves can't stand each other, but everyone agrees the trolls aren't to be trusted and they can form a confederation if the humans are between, since the humans can tolerate the smell of orcs and the arrogant presumption of superiority from the Elves.

I agree that absolute laws would be needed without ambiguity (possibly without mercy, depending on the rule). Dwarves and goblins must NEVER live in the same city, and the poor orphaned dwarf child adopted by humans in a town with goblins creates awkward issues. Orcs can't eat allies; EVEN IF they agree to it, or the orc is starving. Better a hungry orc than a civil war.

In some subtle ways, I think multiple species might get along BETTER than some species do internally. No one expects good manners from an Orc, or respect from an elf, or an honest human merchant. And people might appreciate their own species more from the alien behavior of the others. After all, did you SEE the table manners of those lizard men? It makes Uncle Otto seem downright neat and tidy.

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I think it is entirely possible to make it work.

From what you've said you want to avoid the situation where you have a human kingdom where elves and dwarves (for example) live but they have no real power or rank and cannot gain any because the noble bloodlines are all human.

There are a couple of possible options based on a similar premise. Your kingdom should be founded on an alliance or agreement between however many different species you have or want to be involved. Depending on your history this could come about in a variety of ways, the various species fight together to defeat a common enemy, they find that their natural advantages and disadvantages complement each other and they are more successful when they work together etc.

Either a single starting ruler grants lands and titles to an equal number of families from each species or the nations land is divided up and titles are created for the powerful families. So each species has it's own noble families and bloodlines, as time goes on they will grow, expand, split and die off until there is a network of different houses as you would expect in a feudal monarchy.

If you want to maintain roughly even power division between species you could say that only elves can inherit elven land, only humans inherit human land etc. so if a line or family dies out completely their land is passed on to other members of their species and balance is maintained. Or you could say that balance is less important and inter species relations and politics could be an important part of your world or story and let land be taken or inherited by members of other species.

As for the actual monarch;

  1. A king is elected by the most powerful families in the kingdom, these might be individuals holding a certain title (Dukes), the current heads of the original noble family lines, individuals who hold the most titles or land or whatever system works for you. This way power is passed around the various species democratically. You might have four human kings in a row but only if the other species agree and vote that way.
  2. The crown passes amongst a set group of families in a predetermined way. So each species has a royal family and humans get the crown first, then elves, then dwarves etc. This system means power is shared completely equally (possibly with allowances for age, it might be a number of years rather than an individual's life span if elves lived three times as long as humans for example) and no single species can dominate the others.
  3. Actual bloodlines aren't seen as important and the royal family frequently adopt members of other species (probably from prominent noble families) who then inherit the throne. This is less fair and even than the other systems, but as monarchies and feudalism weren't renowned for being fair that probably isn't an issue. There might be some kind of precedent or law that would govern when the royal family might adopt or when an adopted child might inherit over blood children.
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I really like the answer by Dast. But there are some minor points:

  • The system will be more stable on the long run if there is a way to co-opt successful commoners and minor nobility into the leadership. A mouse-squire could become a baron under a cat-king, just as a cat-squire might be promoted.
  • Making a relative of the King the Lord Chamberlain or whatever is a double-edged sword. Sure, he has a powerful incentive to fight any change of dynasty, but he might also drag up some dusty old documents and claim to be the rightful heir to the throne if there is a succession crisis. Or scheme to marry his daughter to the infant king and become the power behind the throne instead of a servant of the crown. If there is a cat-king with a kitten heir, having a fox-chancellor might be the safer option to ensure that the prince lives to come of age -- any legitimate-looking substitute would have to be another cat, after all.
  • Of course the cat-king could be reduced to a figurehead with the fox-chancellor holding the real power, like a Merovingian majordomo or a Tokugawa shogun.
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The system needs a number of high positions that balance out the power of the king, and ARE race-bound and heritable (Ministers, Marshall of the armies, ... ). The holders of these offices then elect the king from among their number. To make this work, there need to be strong constitutional protections in place: The king cannot have the ministers arrested, or executed, or removed from office.

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