Once Upon A Time In The Empire
“What is a knight without his steed? But what is the steed without the knight? Knight and steed, noble and peasant; on such relationships is Bretonnia built”
-King Louen Leoncoeur
Bretonnia is a kingdom located in the Old World, west of the Grey Mountains and the Empire. Its current king is Louen Leoncoeur. Carefully protected by its famously brave and honourable knights, Bretonnia is a land of chivalry and honour. However this must be balanced against the poverty and oppression of its peasantry.
Bretonnia is a vast land, upon which the mark of Chaos is slightly less apparent than the forests of the Empire or the tundras of Kislev. That is not to say it free from the same dangers; Chaos is everywhere, vampires and necromancers are littered throughout Bretonnia’s tumulatous history, the grey mountains are, and always have been, brimming with greenskins, there is only an uneasy alliance with the Elves in the forest of Loren, and like anywhere else, Brettonia is usually at war with at least one of its neighbours.
Still, the rolling hills and serene valleys of Bretonnia produce abundant crops, animal stockbreeding and fine wines, whilst the forestlands provide solid timber and good hunting. The Bretonnians are well known for their Knights, whom are said to be the best in the world, and for their patron deity, the Lady of The Lake.
The lands that were to eventually become Bretonnia were first settled by the Elves eons ago. Although most of them left the Old World, a number of them, the Wood Elves, chose to remain behind in the forest of Loren. While today they’re still technically within the boarders of Bretonnia no one really believes that.
The humans belonging to the Bretonni tribe settled down in the lands surrounding Athel Loren in the years around -1000, following the Imperial Calendar. As they made their homes there, they ceased to exist as a united tribe, and small independent towns and villages were created. Due to a lack of unity, the Bretonni began to fall apart from constant Greenskin attacks, untill, in their darkest hour, Gilles le Breton led an army from the burgeoning city of Gisoreux on a campaign of conquest. A campaign which was only concluded some 70 years later by his grandson, Guillaume Barbenoire, when the foundations of the nation were truly laid. Bretonnia has been ruled by a system of absolutist monarchy ever since, with only the occasional dynastic crisis. Lacking any obvious external threat, the Kings of Bretonnia have had little difficulty in maintaining their control of the country.
Politics and Structure
The noble class is ruled by the king and is composed by dukes, marquises, earls, barons, and knights. While Bretonnian society is patriarchal, noblewomen are still respected. All fit male nobles are also knights on top of whatever station they hold, and follow a code of chivalry, holding noblesse oblige and honour in high regard. On occasion, a knight may give up his lands and social position to follow a spiritual quest; going forth in solitude to test their honour, through combat and deed, slay monsters and evil foes, and always searching for the Holy Grail.
Each Knight of the Realm (including the higher nobles) has his own force of Men-at-Arms chosen from the most physically-able peasants. In return for serving his knightly lord, each peasant is given a small tract of land for his family and can be expected to be called upon for service in times of war. The Knights’ forces typically consist of the stronger Men-at-Arms and the more lowly Bowmen levies. While using bows to hunt during peacetime, Nobles refuse to use any distance weaponry in war, considering it dishonourable and below their station.
The peasants serve the knights in return for protection, while the knights are obligated to militarily serve their lords for certain rights and titles. The peasants have nearly no rights at all, and are illiterate and uneducated. They are considered property, and must surrender 9/10ths of their crops to their feudal lord. As a result most of them will remain extremely poor throughout their entire lives. They may also not leave their home province unless allowed; as a result a certain degree of inbreeding is quite common. Many peasants are afflicted by clubfeet, extra fingers, lazy eyes, or similar defects.
Bretonnian justice is harsh and any peasant who is caught stealing or poaching is usually hanged. An even harsher punishment is dealt to a peasant who attacks a noble. He and his family will be tortured and slowly dismembered, while all his friends and acquaintances will be crippled. Such is the price of rebellion.
Magic and Religion
The Lady of the Lake, considered the national patron deity of chivalry, bravery, honour and justice, is worshipped by the nobility almost exclusively, and has been since well before the nations founding. The peasants are not considered worthy enough to worship the her directly, but still regard their patron god with a healthy amount of respect and fear. (The other deities of the Old World are acknowledged and presumably worshipped on occasion, particularly by peasants and other low bornes). During Gilles le Breton’s great crusade, the Lady of the Lake manifested in person before him, blessing him and his knights before their famous victory over the Greenskin invaders that would result in the founding of the Kingdom of Bretonnia.
Separate to noble hierarchy, Bretonnia also has spiritual and mystical leaders – the Fay Enchantress, her Damsels, and the Grail Knights – who are all devoted to the Lady of the Lake. The Fay Enchantress crowns a new king at his coronation and is respected throughout Bretonnia as the main priestess of The Lady, while other ‘minor’ Prophetesses and Damsels roam the kingdom, advising noble families, and occasionally aid Bretonnian armies in battle through their magical abilities. When a Bretonnian child is gifted with magical abilities it is usually taken by a servant of the Lady of the Lake. Some the female children eventually return as Prophetesses and Damsels of the Lady, but the fate of the male children is unknown; they are never seen again.
Knights of The Grail are rare, and only those questing knights who have successfully sipped from the Grail become these legendary saints and heroes, blessed with an extremely long lifespan and mystical powers of The Lady.
Basically France, but it’s history and culture is entirely made up of Arthurian Legend.