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The Vor class is the warrior aristocracy of Barrayar and the ruling class of the Empire. Within the Vor class, the High Vor - that is, the sixty county families - is the most economically and politically powerful social group. The nobility might be either inherited or conferred by the Emperor. Being Vor is an acknowledged pre-eminence that is hereditary, i.e. all legitimate, male-line descendants of Vor people are Vor. While Vor men are generally involved in military or government service, Vor women are traditionally responsible for running the estates and household.
Being Vor is transferred by inheritance or is bestowed by the Emperor. It can be subdivided into two major classes: the High Vors and the other Vors. The highest among these classes, the High Vors, retains feudal rights and full political representation, while the other class has less (but still consistent) privileges. All High Vors are Tenants-in-Chief.
Counts and their heirs cannot be tried in standard courts: they can only be tried in the Council of Counts. However, they face tighter rules in their everyday lives. For instance, the charge of mutiny in the military becomes treason when applied to a Count or his heirs.
Even now, in the Vors' world, the military service within the Army (or the ground forces) is considered a more prestigious career than the Navy (or the spaceborne forces). There is a descending order of occupations which a Vor (a lesser Vor) or a son of an high officer could aspire to: military service within the Army (or the ground forces), the Navy (or the spaceborne forces), Law occupations, bureaucratic service and related politics, local politics, Farming and landowning, Medicine, Trade. However, a trade occupation is not considered as a dishonourable profession and Vor tradesmen or industrialists are respected.

Vor inheritance Edit

During the Time of Isolation, the Vor class developed a formula that founded a hierarchy of what each boy was expected to do. Vor of Barrayar, although trace their origins to accountants and financial auditors, also have strong military and warrior roots: today the military service is seen as the ideal career for the sons of the Vor class, especially those who would not inherit their fathers' titles or estates.
The first son serves in the military and then inherits, the second serves n the military. Therefore, it kept the the military supporting the ruling families. The list uses to go: military service within the Army (or the ground forces), the Navy (or the spaceborne forces), Law occupations, bureaucratic service and related politics, local politics, Farming and landowning, Medicine, Trade. The modern Vors are way more open to trade.

Honour Above All Edit

The Concept of Honour Above All is a concept-complex which rules most of Vors' life in terms of honour. The concept is primarily occupied with courtesy to the people around one. The Vor ideal is that their lives are made for sacrifice in defence of their people. It is to be made clear that Barrayaran Vors are only partially and secondarily bound to ideals of combat honour and of combat glory. Being a warrior caste, the ideal Vor is a warrior ready to fight dirty, endlessly and mercilessly, for whom nothing is more important than victory: a Vor cannot muster out. This merciless feature arose mainly during the First Cetagandan War, but it was well present also before the end of Time of Isolation.

Vor Oath Edit

Most of the Vor have a high ideal of honour. The Speech is a form of sacred oath within Barrayaran aristocracy. It has legal value, and moral as well. In Barrayar the word is seen as breath and life, that is, albeit figuratively, contains the spirit of a person. The expression «My Word as Noble» is widely used to swear or promise something strongly.
The Vor, as well as the Officer, swears allegiance to the Emperor and the Empire to enter the Imperial Service, as well as Armsmen in each District swear lifelong fidelity to his master when entering their service. Swearing by the name of the House is an even more serious form.

Armsmen Edit

An Armsman is an armed liveried soldier sworn to a District Count. The armsman gives into service his own body and soul for the duration of life. Since under the Vorlopoulous' Law Counts are permitted to have up to twenty Armsmen each, being an Armsman is an highly coveted honour and a reward: they are often retired servicemen with illustrious personal records, but they could be also distinguished policemen or otherwise worthy individual. Moreover, it's not been totally unknown for an Armsman to catch the eye and marry junior Vor young women, if his military background is good enough.
A sworn Armsman has the right and privilege to following his liege-lord's orders to the letter: because Armsmen are essentially liege-soldiers, the unconditional fealty and obedience requires that an armsman does not have the right to unilaterally resign: therefore the Lord has the right to prevent them from getting married and to instantly execute the armsman for disobeying orders in combat, in an analogous way with the military. If an armsman marry without the permission of his lord Count, his Lord could nullify the marriage or dishonourably dismiss the Armsman. On the other hand, an Armsman is sworn to the protection and the safety of his lord, and therefore he has to take all actions he deems necessary to protect him, including taking initiative and even moderately reproaching his lord.
In respect of his Armsmen, the lord has some obligation to provide food, clothing, shelter, defence and armament and to support and aid his family. Furthermore, they can appeal to their lord for protection. The protection to be granted to Armsmen has its roots in the vow of obedience: subordinates, even if free willingly subordinates, have not the right to abandon or desert a criminal or treasonous action which is enacted by their lord, master or superior. Therefore, they are legally assumed to have no free will to do differently: an Armsman who commits a crime goes free if he did so at his Count's command. Instead, the Count is punished according Imperial law.
It is to note that the limit of twenty Armsmen is set up for active duty Armsmen, not for retired ones: the latter ones are still bound by their oaths, but are no longer required to actively serve. However, since they did vowed their fealty, they could be recalled in service as mere bondsmen: the only requirement is that no more than twenty armed Armsmen could stand with each Count's family.

Armsman's Oaths Edit

In the most formal occasions, Armsmen are required to take an oath. This is the case when an Armsman begins his service to the Count. The form differs according the different conditions of the Armsmen who take the Oath.

If the future Armsman is a subject who is an unsworn subject, the oath takes the following form:
I, [Armsman's name], do testify I am an unsworn freeman, and take service under [District Count's name] as an Armsman, and will hold him as my liege commander until my death or his releases me.

If the future Armsman is a retired soldier or a retired police officer, the oath differs slightly:
I, [Armsman's name], do testify I am a forsworn military vassal of [Reigning Emperor's name], and take service under [District Count's name] as an Armsman, and will hold him as my liege commander until my death or his releases me.

The lord being sworn to responds as follows:
I, [District Count's name], vassal secondus to [Reigning Emperor's name], do accept your Oath, and pledge you the protection of a liege commander; this by my word as [District Count's name].

When an armsman wishes to marry, the formula is:
My lord, I ask your permission and aid to marry [Person to be married's name] that my sons may serve you.

A favourable response takes the form:
Yes, may they all serve me as well as you do.

Military ethos Edit

From the earliest times, Barrayaran Vors subscribe, in their role as commanders and cavalrymen, to an ethos of personal heroism and glory. This is in part motivated by the desire to justify their privileged status to the lower classes that provided the infantry ranks, to enhance the renown of their family name, and to augment their chances of subsequent political advancement in a martial society. A focus of the heroic ethos is the quest for military spoils, the stripped weapons of a foe whom they killed in single combat: the higher the rank of the opponent killed in combat, the more prestigious the spoils.

High Vor Edit

The High Vor is used to refer to the upper-most, aristocratic portion of the Vor. The Vor are a military caste, and while all Vor have certain legal privileges and responsibilities Vor status does not necessarily denote wealth or political power. All aristocrats are Vor, but only a small portion of Vor are aristocrats.
While the strict definition of High Vor is related only to District Counts and their families, other Vor can be regarded as High Vor, as a mark of other form of authority or historical idiosyncrasy.
High Vor are in charge of lordships, while ordinary Vor - both of ruling families and ordinary Vor families - are (or they should be) mere warriors, low ranking nobles serving as soldiers or as administrators within others' Districts.
High Vor are closer related to the District Count than the other Vor, who anyway mostly have their hands between one of the 60 counts, who have their hands between the Emperor. Each Vor, however unimportant, automatically owes allegiance to his 'familial' or District Count: they take an oath when they become twenty. A junior and lesser Vor is not able to simply move to another District like and ordinary freeman.
Vor Houses are clan-like structures with a few dozen to a few hundred or more members. Every High Vor House has both Lesser Vor of its own House and several smaller ones, called Lesser Vor Houses (or Vor Sept, especially within British-descent Vors), that mostly reside within their Districts and through centuries have sworn loyalty to them and are supposed to support them in case of need. At the same time, the High Vor House protects its members and associated Houses.

Counts Edit

Count is a title and position in the government of Barrayar. There are 60 Districts on Northern Continent of Barrayar, each governed by a Vor with the title of Count. On Barrayar, Count derives from accountant, as they were originally Imperial Tax Collectors and Accountants.Each Count must maintain two official residences, one in the capital Vorbarr Sultana, and another in his District capital. An ordinary Count family has at its disposal a Town House in Vorbarr Sultan (Vor- House), a District Capital House and a Country House.
It is keen to underline that the Count office, although with several feudal features and traits, still remains a State office.

Count Districts Edit

Only the Counts exert feudal control, government, protection and administration of the District of the title, with an extension that varies depending on the time and circumstances.
For the administration of the District is never allowed the allocation of the powers of legislation, administration, jurisdiction of the imperial agencies and institutions.
Within his district, a Count's power is absolute: His word and his parole are law, and every public official is his servant, sworn to obey his orders: his jurisdiction is his personal property. Within their districts, Counts have a monopoly on both legal and effective force.
In particular, each Count has the duty/right to enforce law and security through his own forces and finances. Each Count is permitted a maximum of twenty Armsmen allowed to carry weapons and serve as bodyguards and security force, although Counts can deploy armed police forces. The Armsmen are often recruited among the most brilliant Imperial officers and soldiers originating from the District, but the entire organization both of administration and the security apparatus is entirely under the Count's own discretion: he has the right to run his District as he sees fit, unless reined in by the Emperor or his brother Counts. Each Count can create local laws, structure District government to suit himself, impose taxes, provide public services, and so forth.
Districts vary from the modern to those with large backcountry populations; some provide modern social services, such as medical care and education, while others are more restrictive or old- fashioned. The degree of industrialization also varies widely. Almost every District has an industrial shuttleport.

Hereditary and political matters Edit

The hereditary axis of a Count is on three different levels.
The first level, which is essentially governed by public law, concerns the transmission of the right of government. The Government of the District is indivisible and inalienable and, therefore, the Count cannot in any case divide public law functions across multiple successors.
The second level consists of essentially private law functions, but closely linked to the government of the District. Each District has, within its territory, some estates owned by the ruling Count. They are considered not belonging to the functions of government, and therefore the Count can dispose of by private law transactions. These estates could be subdivided across multiple successors.
Finally, every Count, as well as any other person of the Empire, may possess personally, personal properties and real estate. The Count, as well as any other person in the Empire, may have personal property through customary instruments of private law.
A Count has to appoint formally his own successor, who usually is his eldest living son. The chosen heir must be formally presented to the Council of Counts and approved by a simple majority of present members. If the Count fails to appoint an heir, or some dispute over the named heir surfaces after the Count’s death, the Council of Counts shall settle the matter. It is keen to underline, however, that a Count doesn't have to be the previous Count's son: the Barrayaran history is plenty of nephews, cousins, skips to other lines, complete breaks due to treason or war or even other reasons.
A Count's heir speaks with the Count's authority and under his own responsibility and, in the absence of the Count, can vote in the Council of Counts. He may also pronounce justice in the District, if authorized to do so. A female relative cannot be named a Count’s heir, though she may act as guardian (with voting rights) for an infant heir, if there are no other male relations to do so and if authorized by the Emperor.
In their capacity of House Chiefs, Counts are the ultimate civil authority - with the exception of the Emperor - for what regards civil cases of their own House's members. Moreover, they are the ultimate civil and criminal authority for what regards cases within their own Districts.

Vorbarr Sultana extraterritoriality Edit

Each Count has his own official residence in Vorbarr Sultana: this residence is legally part of his district, and enjoys extraterritorial rights, retaining them since the Time of Isolation. During this age, Counts forced past Emperors to give them extraterritorial rights for their Houses within the capital city: this permitted the building of several castles and fortresses.
In more recent years, near to the unification of the planet under the Vorbarra Emperors, castles were mostly replaced by large houses, with some of the old castles being passed to the Imperium: the Council of Counts itself meets in Vorhartung Castle.

Titles Edit

There are sixty Ancient Districts on Barrayar, each governed by a Vor with the title of Count.
Members of a Count's immediate family also have titles. The heir, usually the eldest son of the Count, is Lord (Surname); his wife is Lady (Surname). The second in line of succession is called as Lord (Forename). Other children of a Count are called Lord or Lady (Forename) (Surname).
The High Vors who are not in the immediate line of succession are referred to as Lord (Surname).
If a military rank is used together with Count's or Lord's title, the rank precedes the title. In some cases the title is tied to a position, notably the Imperial Auditors are styled Lord Auditor (Surname).

House Uniforms Edit

House uniforms are formal wear, for donning when visiting the palace or the Council of Counts, and for high-society balls. Anyone who can claim a Lord title (any son of a Count or previous Count, Count's heir, heir of count's heir, and other lords) is entitled to wear his correct House uniform, as well as their Armsmen and their servants; District clerks and guards and other public employees can, if required so by their own regulations, wear an uniform with the District colours. Only Lords and their retinue wear house uniforms. An House Uniform has four dresses, according to the rank of the wearer: there are uniforms for the Count, his heir, cadet lords, and the Armsmen's livery. In the case of the Heir, only a Confirmed Heir could wear the Heir's uniform, while the pretenders or the unconfirmed Heirs wear the Cadet Lord Uniform, while other Vor do not wear Uniforms, although they could wear a plain clothing which recalls their House's colours.
Each House has a pair of colours (which do not follow the Heraldic rule: they can be a pair of Tinctures or a pair of Metals) which constitutes both the Coat of Arms and the uniform motif. All sets of "colours" consist of a main colour and a trim colour, exactly two colours. No House can wear an uniform which is identical to other House's one, although swapping the main colour and the trim colour creates a different set. There are 60 sets, to provide a distinct set for each of the members of the Council of Counts.
Two sets that are technically distinct but easily confused by the eye can be made more distinctive by specifying colours as different members within the same family, such as counting scarlet, carmine, and (basic) red all as implementations of "red".
The Counts in the most solemn votes in Council of Counts, such as the designation of a Lord Regent or a trial for treason, wear Red and silver robes over their uniforms. The Counts who are still in active Service, wear the ultra-formal parade uniform, the Red-and-blues. Military Red-and-Blues, Red-and-Silvers and the ministerial robe Red-and-Blacks are not part of the set.
Each House and each rank have different House Uniforms for different social occasions: the mourning House uniform is black, with the House symbol in black silk.

Council of Counts Edit

The Parliament of Barrayar is the supreme legislative body in Barrayar and its colonies. At its head is the Sovereign. The parliament is unicameral, constituted of the Council of Counts, with the secondary presence of a lower house, the Council of Ministers.
The Council of Counts includes the Counts or their delegates. The Council of Counts performs the supreme judicial role against the Counts and their heir. The Council meets in Castle Vorhartung, Vorbarr Sultana. The ruling Emperor presides over Council meetings.
The Council exercises ordinary legislative competence with Sovereign. With some exceptions, no law can be passed without the assent of the two parliamentary bodies. The Council of Counts exercises competences competing with the Sovereign:

  • Affairs related to Barrayar and to the Barrayaran Imperium in its entirety, while the affairs of Viceroyalty of Sergyar and of the Imperial Consortium of Komarr are entrusted to local bodies.
  • Institutional review
  • Policy orientation of the government

And, in an autonomous way, the Council of Counts exercises the supreme judicial function. Membership in the Council is birthright of hereditary Counts.
While during most of Gregor Vorbarra's reign the Council of Counts was divided into a Progressive Party and a more traditional-minded Conservative Party, currently it is politically fragmented. Conservatives and Progressives still exist, but they are only two among other factions, and they are not the largest ones. Nowadays, it mainly exist a big centre-right faction, which calls itself "Loyalist" (composed of hard-liner supporters of Emperor Serg Vorbarra). These centre-right loyalists are flanked a centrist "Moderate" faction and an hard-liner traditionalist faction, the "Conservatives" themselves. There are also Progressives and Technocrats.

Carrying weapons Edit

One Vor privilege is the right to carry weapons, a stunner hunting weapon, sword or knife. Even low Vor women carry a "Vorfemme" knife, to defend their honour from rapacious males.

Marrying issues Edit

Within Barrayaran Vor class, marrying issues reflect the male-oriented political inheritance and form of transmission of formal political power. When a non-Vor woman marries a Vor husband she becomes Vor. If a Vor woman marries a non-Vor husband she assumes the husband's class and status, and therefore ceases to be a Vor. Legally, she is still a Vor's daughter, and therefore she still exercises her property hereditary rights, but political rights expire. Family and affective connections, however, are unlikely to expire too. Until early years of Gregor Vorbarra's reign, it was a dishonouring act if a Vor woman married a non-Vor man. If the Vor woman has a personal title, she usually retains it, but the husband doesn't gain any title and her children cannot claim any property outside the strict hereditary axis. However, if a Count decides to proceed with designation of a non-Vor grandchild (or a relative, or anyone else) as heir, he de facto raises that person to High Vor class and hereditary membership for their male descendants; in such cases, the newly designated Heir takes his maternal grandfather's surname before of his father's one. E.g., if Count Vor-something's grandchild is designated as Count's heir, the grandchild's new surname becomes Vor-something-Father's Surname.
Intra-Vor marriages between different Vor ranks follow similar lines. Princesses keep their titles when they marry a Vor and their sons keep the title of Lord (by special dispensation if they are born outside a Count's immediate family), but have the same rank of their fathers.
On the other hand, for non-High Vors' daughters who marry proles and plebs, the hereditary axis is the only inheritance that they and their children may get from their mother, whatever the marriage their mother may make.

Related voices Edit

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