Royal Knights (Etrand)
|Active||110 AEKE - present|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Etrand|
|Type||Titanist/Royalist military order|
|Commander||King of Etrand|
The Order of Royal Knights is an order of knighthood in the Kingdom of Etrand, best known for being the personal bodyguards of the kings, best known for their somewhat "eccentric" oath to always be loyal to the living king/queen, even if he/she is legally deposed or abdicates on his/her own. The order was founded under the second reign of King Hereric the Blood-Handed around 110 AEKE, although what was founded at the time would be unrecognisable to today's Etrandish: the order started taking up its current shape in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, when - presumably under the influence of the Knights of the Blood Red Light, the golden standard of knightly orders even to this day - the order went through a series of reforms and went from simply being elite bodyguards to being actual spellcasting paladins, effectively taking up its current shape that we recognize it in.
Royal Knights don't just swear to their very lives to defend the monarch: they swear to serve and be loyal to the least recently crowned living monarch of Etrand. In other words, if King A is deposed or abdicates voluntarily in favour of King B, the order's oaths still oblige them to be loyal to and serve Ex-King A, not King B - that is, until Ex-King A dies, then they are expected to automatically swear fealty to King B.
The king who orchestrated the order's founding, Hereric believed that this was a sure-fire way to prevent - or at least cripple - any attempts to depose him and his descendants, and he was right: even though Etrand would see instability and rebellions every now and then, legally crowned kings would never be deposed again and all attempts to depose them would end up as stillborn failures. And while there were still attempts later to depose legally crowned monarchs - such as the Etrandish Succession War of 718, and earlier the time period between 195 and 222 when the anti-kings Carolus Brynling and Hereric Brynling effectively ruled over half of Etrand as independent warlords - the threat of the best of the best warriors Etrand has to offer breathing down one's neck seemed like a threat sufficiently strong enough to deter potential usurpers.
This might explain why after the 4th century, would-be-usuerpers instead chose to become political manipulators who infiltrated the high circles of the monarchs they wanted to depose, and made them their own puppets instead of all-out deposing them, in order to avoid the wrath of the Royal Knights.
Those who join the order renounce many of their civil rights - they accept that the Monarch may order them to death or have them arrested without any excuse or formal trial (when ordering the arrest of an ordinary citizen or noble, the King/Queen must provide and excuse and is obliged to have the courtesy to at least give the illusion of a fair trial). They also accept that the monarch's life is the most important thing to protect and they must do everything in their power to protect the well-being of their monarch, even if it costs them their lives.
While the rulers of Etrand have always had bodyguards, they were never a formal institution... before Hereric made them to be around 110. It is important to know that Hereric was already deposed once - by his younger brother Osric the Usurper, interrupting Hereric's rule by two years - and as a result has grown paranoid about being deposed. He was especially disappointed in the royal bodyguard that did nothing as he got deposed and swore the same oath to his usurper brother as to him before, and then swore the exact same insincere oath to him again. Hereric - who also attempted to get the Church's support by accusing Osric of being a heretic - was also disappointed in the Church and the Inquisition, who also sat by and did nothing as he was deposed and struggled to get the throne back.
As a result, Hereric came up with the idea of creating his own order of bodyguards who would swear an oath to him and only him, and be as discipled as they can be. He sought out the best warriors Etrand had to offer - as well as quite a few foreign, mostly Hulran and High Elven mercenaries - and offered them beautifully decorated armour and royal levels of luxury in exchange for complete loyalty to an eccentric oath. These new bodyguards were difficult to control, and under supposedly tormented the civilian population and abused their special position to get away with such abuses.
It was under King Sighard the Builder that the order was tamed by having their own quarters built for them, so that they could enjoy luxury without having to abuse the civilian population. Complete loyalty was ensured by having servants spy on the bodyguards and comparing what bodyguards report about their behaviour to what the servants observe - lying was punished by execution in front of every other bodyguard, to serve as an example to the rest of them. After every such execution, lavish feasts would follow to remind the bodyguards that while treason is punished without mercy, loyalty is rewarded generously. Church service for these bodyguards would be also lessons reminding them that if they do not get their punishment for treason or rewards for loyalty in this world, they will surely get them in the afterlife, so they better not think they can get away with treason.
While this expensive model was effective at bodyguard the king, this was viewed as "not enough" by the late 3th century Tondbertids, who saw the rise of the Knights of the Blood Red Light and similiar orders as the sign of a new age to come. Under the belief the spellcasting and highly zealous paladins were the future of warfare, the order that Hereric was founded was reformed into a knightly order, where members would be subjected to asceticism instead of luxuries, and would be indoctrinated to have absolute belief in the King of Etrand as one of the representatives of Titanius on Artograch. Under this absolute belief, the Royal Knights would gain access to powerful Clerical Magic, empowering them when loyal to the King, weakening them when disloyal to the King - traitors would lose their magical powers entirely.
This new knightly order would be effectively immune to treason, unless directly influenced by darker forces - however, this is not to say that the order would not step outside their own boundaries: during the times of the Late Tondbertid Decadence, when Tondbertid monarchs became mere figureheads that were more concerned with lavish feasts than actually ruling the country, high-ranking members of the Royal Knights became de facto military leaders and political decision-makers, while at the same time paradoxically having religious devotion to said monarchs.
Due to the unique situation of de jure succession and the oaths of the order, King Bryant I of Etrand could never take advantage of the order's service, and neither could his heir King Cairbré I of Etrand until his mother Queen Mythela of Etrand died (as a matter of fact, the secularist-minded Bryant looked down upon the fanaticism of the order). In fact, by the times of King Calhoun I of Etrand, the order was considered to be a shadow of its former self: weakened and underfunded, lacking in numbers, barely relevant, considered little more than a ceremonial group. During the rule of King Calhoun however, the order got restored to its former order: recruitment went into full swing, the best warriors of Etrand and their families were sought again, a (medieval equivalent of) "public relations campaign" of sort was conducted to raise the prestige of the order and make it honourable and prestigious for spare children of noble families to join. By the king King Calhoun died, the order would number 250 knights, a number higher than even at the order's best in the past, meaning that Calhoun's actions not only restored the knighthood to its former glory, but pushed it beyond that.