Authored by Synnolian Catanius, Advisor to the Count of Kvatch
Throughout the history of Tamriel and its civilizations, no form of government has become as widespread or as long-lasting as the monarchy. One would struggle to name a single republic for the innumerable kings, queens, and emperors that have reigned throughout Tamriel’s history. With the concept of the monarchy so ingrained into our great societies, few have come to question exactly why such a system is in place. More, though, have come to challenge their monarchs for their positions. After all, without a reason for the monarch to be in their role, why should they be the ruler instead of anyone else? That is the question that brings most monarchs to create justifications for their positions, and what I have come to write about today.
While the justification of their rule differs heavily from culture to culture, the inherent reasoning does not. The underlying reason is apparent whether the justification be lineage or something more abstract. The monarch must be the best in their society, or held to their role by some greater force. They must be the most fit for their role, or else they would not be in their position. While the monarch is not always perfect and may not actually fulfill this requirement, this is generally the rule and what most monarchs declare themselves to be. How this underlying rule is applied heavily depends on which region is being discussed. In this document, I will go between each region of the Empire and give a brief description of how it is applied.
The justification monarchs use within Cyrodiil may be the easiest to understand within Tamriel. The Emperor is Dragonborn, chosen by Akatosh, and is able to wear the Amulet of Kings. If an emperor was not able to fulfill these rules, they would be decried as illegitimate and be unable to claim the title. It is perhaps the simplest justification used within Tamriel due to the Amulet of Kings automatically showing that the monarch is legitimate.
The counts and countesses of Cyrodiil use similar justifications, though it is not as clear-cut due to the lack of an object such as the Amulet. The counts justify their position by claiming that their rule is willed by the Divines, such as how the rule of the Emperor is willed by Akatosh. This necessarily dictates that the monarchs must be followers of the Divines, and if it became clear that a count had abandoned their faith it would clearly follow that the count must be illegitimate.
Due to the fact that Akatosh willing the rule of the Emperor is clearly shown through the Amulet while the counts simply rely on the belief of their people, it has been theorized by several scholars that the Emperor may be justified in replacing counts through the reasoning that their rule was unjustified by the Divine, the Emperor using their own approval by Akatosh as proof. This, however, has thankfully never come to pass, and would likely result in heavy unrest.
It is said that all Nord kings are descended from Ysgramor. The validity of the statement is heavily disputed, but it is popular for Nordic monarchs to claim that they are descendants of the legendary hero in order to gain legitimacy and fame. Lineage from former rulers and heroes, especially former High Kings, is extremely important to the Nords. It is a common tradition for Nordic monarchs to go on perilous adventures or to perform heroic feats in order to earn prestige and legitimacy for their clan. Especially favoured are warriors of the clan and their feats in battle, and it is common for these monarchs to join their soldiers in order to gain favour among their citizens.
Early Nordic societies especially favoured the strong above all else. The monarchs of these civilizations were the strongest and most feared among their people. If the strength of a monarch was disputed, they could be challenged in battle by anyone who wished to claim the throne. This tradition has been mostly lost over the millennia since these early societies, but it is still upheld in the capability of a lesser Jarl to challenge the High King for their position, even if it is rarely used.
The legitimacy of the High King is derived from the support of the Jarls below them. Many times Skyrim has been fractured due to the position falling under dispute. Legitimacy was often historically derived from various crowns, such as the Jagged Crown, but these artifacts have been lost to time.
High Rock, though heavily entrenched in the concept of monarchy and its systems, largely lacks a coherent justification for its rulers as much as the other provinces have. Different kingdoms within High Rock have different ideas on why they are justified to rule, and some have none at all. A loosely-unified concept of heroism unites them all, believing that only the most just and heroic will become nobility and rulers. It is common for those lower in society to take up a life of heroism and adventure in hopes to eventually become nobility or even kings. Though these efforts are usually in vain, it has helped create a culture of altruism within the province, with each Breton helping the other in their goal to progress themselves.
Many Breton monarchs claim to have done impossible feats, quickly passing from the realm of what most could accept as reality into simple and obvious myth. Still, many of these claims are widely accepted by their populace, and these supposed accomplishments pass into legend alongside those who claimed to have done them. When studying historical Breton rulers, it is often difficult to tell fact from falsehood or exaggeration. Some Breton scholars base their entire work on dispelling these ancient myths. Even with these false claims, Breton monarchs and those below them have accomplished many heroic deeds, and the culture of heroism within High Rock has done more good for the province than it has done harm.
The province of Hammerfell is largely divided between the two major factions of Crowns and Forebears. With such a large cultural divide there is sure to be a difference between the two peoples on a topic such as this, and that has proven true in my research into the topic.
Forebears, having shifted away from the ancient and rigid traditions of Yokuda, have adopted much of the same beliefs commonly found in Imperial and Breton lands. Most Forebear monarchs rely on their actions along with approval by their priesthood to receive support from their populace. Though they have little in the way of their own traditions for justifying the rule of their monarchs, that is not to say there is little respect for the institution in Forebear lands. A brief period on Stros M’Kai saw a republic of merchants and traders rise to prominence on the island, but this government was soon overthrown by the people of the island after they became familiar with the innate failings of such a government.
Some Forebear monarchs hold a tradition of choosing the child who is the best warrior as their heir instead of simply their eldest child, and this tradition dates back to the Ra Gada. The majority of Forebear monarchs hold children of theirs that they consider stronger in higher regard than children of theirs that they consider weaker. Similar to ancient traditions in Skyrim, it is relatively commonplace for the monarch’s position to be challenged through a duel.
Crown monarchs, similar in ways to the Nords of Skyrim, trace their lineage back to the Na-Totambu of Yokuda. There is little room in their society for new nobility, and most staunch Crowns would be abhorred at the idea of a monarch who could not count their family among the ancient kings of their old continent. Similar in ways to the Altmer of Summerset, many Crown monarchs hold dedicated scholars in their courts who work tirelessly to document the history of their dynasty leading back to Yokudan times, with some fabrication here and there if necessary. With the ever-growing decline in Yokudan historical texts, it has become harder and harder to prove the validity of these claims. Even with the best efforts of Redguard monarchs and their nobility, much has simply been lost to time.
Lhotunics are not as consistent in their beliefs as the two major factions and many hold a mixture of both views, but with this culture being such an extreme minority and many of their beliefs having been completely manufactured by the King of Sentinel it is barely worth documenting here. It serves as an interesting example of how much one ruler can shape the beliefs of their citizens if anything, though.
It could easily be said that ancestry stands above all else for the Altmer of the Summerset Isles. It is no coincidence, then, that the ancestry of the monarch is considered above all other factors when discussing legitimacy. The purity of the ruler is considered first, then their distance to the gods (a factor that will be discussed in more detail later), then their direct age. For example, most Altmer within Summerset will not tolerate a ruler who is not directly Altmer themselves, or an Altmer who is related in some way to non-Altmer (such as in the case of King Reman Karoodil of Firsthold). An Altmer several more generations removed from the gods will be considered lesser than an Altmer more directly related. An older Altmer is generally considered wiser and more suitable to be a monarch than a younger Altmer.
As stated earlier, a major factor of consideration for Altmer monarchs is how directly they are related to the gods, that is the original et’Ada. This is generally just how many generations there are between them and the et’Ada. Altmer who are more closely related to the gods are widely considered more pure and held in a higher regard than Altmer who are further separated, and many higher positions within a monarch’s court are restricted to those within a certain amount of generations. As a result of this, Altmer nobles mostly wait until late into their lifespans to begin having children in order to ensure that there are fewer generations between them compared to those who have children early. It is common for the lower classes of Altmer society to have many more generations compared to Altmer nobility due to them not observing this rule. A surprisingly large amount of Altmer monarchs will choose their youngest child as their heir in order to preserve this generational difference.
Counter to this, older Altmer are seen as wiser and more fitting for the role of monarch compared to young Altmer. This is less important than what was described earlier, but in order to preserve the supposed wisdom that comes with the age of an Altmer ruler, an older relative of the monarch generally serves as an important advisor to any young Altmer monarch. If a ruler chooses their youngest child as heir and they die while the child is still too young to properly rule, their oldest child is usually selected as an advisor.
It is never simply enough for an Altmer monarch to just state that they fulfill these requirements, and a degree of proof is always necessary. It is a long-standing tradition for Altmer to hire scholars to research and document their heritage, and monarchs usually have a team of these scholars in their courts. Fabrication of evidence is sometimes done but is never tolerated, and there is no larger embarrassment for an Altmer noble than to discover that a part of their family history was a lie, something that can sometimes lead to dire consequences. There have been a large amount of historical cases of Altmer nobles challenging their liege as to them being more suited for the role as per these requirements. It rarely results in any change, though.
An interesting result of these circumstances is the creation of great ancestor-libraries within many Altmer cities. The largest of these is perhaps the Cloudrest Library of Ancestors, an ancient institution created by one of the city’s rulers. These libraries historically were created by Altmer rulers to document and prove their ancestry, but they have grown much larger than ever could have been expected. In modern times, these libraries solely document the ancestry of Altmer families, dating from newborn children to as far back as records could be found. The majority of Altmer, and certainly all Altmer nobility, can find their own family documented within these structures.
The majority of Altmer outside of Summerset do not observe these traditions, largely due to most foreign Altmer having been dissidents to these rules in the first place.
The beliefs of Morrowind are mainly divided between the Great Houses that dominate its political landscape. Each house seeks to uphold different values, and so it only makes sense that each would seek a leader that stands to champion these values themselves. Some values, though, are almost universal between the houses. The vast majority seek a leader who is supportive of the Tribunal Temple, though this is less important to the Telvanni. None of the houses would support an outlander as ruler, though a house such as Hlaalu is more accepting of non-Dunmer within higher positions. Many of the more xenophobic Dunmer within Morrowind are highly unsupportive of rulers with ties to foreign institutions such as the Empire, which can especially be seen in the case of the current King of Morrowind, Hlaalu Helseth.
House Redoran tends to support rulers who are military-minded and pious. Many historical rulers of House Redoran previously served within Redoran’s military, and previous commanders and tacticians are especially favoured. Duty to the house is valued above all else. It is said that those holding the highest ranks within Redoran are incorruptible due to their infallible loyalty, but this is likely propaganda. Duty to the Tribunal Temple is valued second. Redoran also tends to only support rulers who hold a certain seriousness in all matters of their life.
House Hlaalu tends to support rulers based on their wealth and connections above most other factors. It is essential for anyone seeking to become leader of the Hlaalu to know the right people and be willing to spend a Septim or two on bribes whenever necessary. High-ranking positions within the house, especially within its leadership, are usually restricted to only the wealthiest members of Dunmer society. The general population under Hlaalu’s governance support rulers mainly on their reputation, and traders and merchants are usually supported over others. House Hlaalu is particularly vulnerable to corruption due to their support for wealth over other factors.
House Telvanni tends to support rulers based on their magical prowess above all else. The political landscape of the house is dominated by ancient wizard-lords, and political power is usually reserved to these mages, making it difficult for new members of the house to break into the higher-ranking positions without showing an extreme aptitude for magic. Strangely, the Telvanni tend to be one of the most meritocratic houses as long as one is skilled with magic. Telvanni citizens do not care much about who rules them as long as they are a powerful mage.
House Indoril supports rulers based on piousness above all else. The politics of House Indoril are dominated by the priesthood and the most faithful of Dunmer society, and they all hold a special hatred for those with connections to the Empire. Any Dunmer who is affiliated with the Empire or who does not worship the Tribunal would stand no chance at becoming leader, and a revolt would certainly take place if any such ruler took power. Indoril rulers are usually directly affiliated with the Tribunal Temple or have many connections with the leaders of it.
House Dres tends to support rulers based on their existing position and power within society. Dres has mainly been ruled by powerful plantation owners and slavers, and those who do not already hold power within society stand little chance at making any headway in Dres politics. With the recent abolition of slavery within Morrowind, the politics of House Dres have been thrown into chaos. It shows no signs of recovery any time soon.
Elsweyr, similar to Cyrodiil, has a relatively simple method for deciding its greatest ruler. The Mane, born under a rare alignment of the moons, is destined to rule. Beyond this, the laws of Elsweyr are much more complicated. What the northern Anequinian culture supports is much different than what the southern Pelletinian culture supports. Anequinians generally support more warrior-like rulers while the Pelletinians support much more commerce-minded rulers. Since Elsweyr was unified under the Elsweyr Confederacy, this has led to much conflict. Most rulers of the Confederacy are only supported by one group. Though the nations of Elsweyr are now unified, its people are not.
It is a widely-held tradition within Elsweyr that certain types of Khajiit may not become ruler. Species such as Alfiq, Senche, and Pahmar are typically disqualified from being heir just due to being supposedly unable to complete many tasks that are required by a monarch. Ohmes were sometimes disqualified from being heir during the greatest times of conflict with Valenwood due to their similarity to Bosmer, but this was rare. There used to be a widespread superstition that Tojay were gifted by the Lunar Lattice to be the best rulers beneath the Mane, but this has widely died out in modern times.
The Clan Mothers have historically served to advise Khajiit monarchs and aid in them upholding Khajiiti traditions. They have a large amount of influence over the monarchs they serve and the people beneath them. The support of the Clan Mothers can decide whether a Khajiit monarch’s reign is peaceful or wracked with revolts and unrest. Several times has a monarch been overthrown for losing their support, and many times have unruly citizens been calmed from a revolution by the Clan Mothers declaring their support for the monarch. Any Khajiit who reigns must carefully balance their own interests alongside the interests of the Clan Mothers to maintain peace.
The traditions of Tamriel’s monarchies are varied, but their purpose remains the same. The monarch must rule their people wisely, and they must serve their people before themselves. I hope that my writings have enlightened you as to this fact. I leave out the provinces of Black Marsh and Valenwood for they are barely civilized to the point where they are worth discussing here, but having covered the rest of Tamriel, I conclude this book.This piece was originally posted to thje Teslore subreddit. See the original here.
Dwarven Lord | Illustration courtesy of IgorLevchenko, DeviantArt