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Old 03-01-2021, 01:16 PM   #1
Pragmatic
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Default Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

I'm kind of curious what sort of courtiers and other hangers on existed at a royal court. Does there exist any records that show the variety available?

And how about the various offices to run an efficient court, as the world drifted into centralized monarchies? (E.g., Louis XIV of France.)

Thought experiment is, I'm imagining what an interstellar imperial court may be like. I really only have seen (fictional) glimpses, generally of Asian-style civilizations.

What do courtiers do? It looks like a lot were nobles who were required (or chose) to be absent landlords for their estates.But also various staff and advisors (going by Wikipedia). Also probably lots of poets, musicians, artists, fools and jesters, and other entertainment.
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Old 03-01-2021, 01:32 PM   #2
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Baldassare Castiglioni wrote a book about it, which is still available, centuries later. He actually was a courtier and had some authority on the subject. I was amused by his rant about how the French nobles who came to Italy was uncultured hicks who cared only for war and hunting.

There is some material on this is Norbert Elias's Power and Civility. The first volume quoted from manuals of etiquette aimed at noblemen who were going to be presented at medieval royal courts.
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Old 03-01-2021, 03:38 PM   #3
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

One thing I wonder about is if historical bureaucratic governments like in China or the Eastern Roman Empire were constantly being reorganized every decade or so like happens a lot nowadays.
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Old 03-01-2021, 05:06 PM   #4
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

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Originally Posted by Pragmatic View Post
I'm kind of curious what sort of courtiers and other hangers on existed at a royal court. Does there exist any records that show the variety available?

And how about the various offices to run an efficient court, as the world drifted into centralized monarchies? (E.g., Louis XIV of France.)

Thought experiment is, I'm imagining what an interstellar imperial court may be like. I really only have seen (fictional) glimpses, generally of Asian-style civilizations.

What do courtiers do? It looks like a lot were nobles who were required (or chose) to be absent landlords for their estates.But also various staff and advisors (going by Wikipedia). Also probably lots of poets, musicians, artists, fools and jesters, and other entertainment.
A fair number of them might essentially be hostages; famously the Shogun required the great lords to spend half their time at the capital so that they could not effectively plot rebellion, and if they did, their families would be vulnerable as bargaining chips (as they, too, were required to live at the capital. (IIRC)
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Old 03-02-2021, 01:41 AM   #5
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

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What do courtiers do? It looks like a lot were nobles who were required (or chose) to be absent landlords for their estates.But also various staff and advisors (going by Wikipedia). Also probably lots of poets, musicians, artists, fools and jesters, and other entertainment.
The point is that the two were, ideally, one and the same.

First thing, the ideal Renaissance man was good at everything, or at least at every lofty enterprise. You wouldn't have a nobleman who also was a jester or actor, but a nobleman should be able to entertain the king, other nobles, the whole court with poetry, witticism, possibly music, games etc.

Likewise, in due time professional advisors, managers and administrators would become more and more common; but ideally, the king would want a clever, nice, court-residing nobleman to supervise the royal porcelain factory or the like. Naturally the noble would delegate all the hard work, but if the factory did well, he'd gain both the king's favor and some pretty money.

So to go back to the question of what did they do: anything that would make them noticed and liked by the king. Curry favor. Get cushy appointments.
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Old 03-02-2021, 12:05 PM   #6
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

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So to go back to the question of what did they do: anything that would make them noticed and liked by the king. Curry favor. Get cushy appointments.

So what's the unemployment rate for a courtier then? as in how many people are looking for appointments rather than already having them? It will vary by court and king, of course, but a rough idea would be nice.
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Old 03-02-2021, 05:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

I recommend the movie Ridicule. It's fiction, but has a very good portrayal of the court of Louis XVI.
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Old 03-03-2021, 01:44 AM   #8
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So what's the unemployment rate for a courtier then? as in how many people are looking for appointments rather than already having them? It will vary by court and king, of course, but a rough idea would be nice.
No idea, sorry. But keep in mind that (presumably by design) court life was absurdly expensive, and as I mentioned, royal appointments are probably best described, in GURPS terms, as Independent Income - you have some hireling to do the real work. That means that even if you already have an appointment as Royal Postmaster for the region of origin of your noble family, you might well wish to also become the Royal Appointee for Locks and Canals.

You would also vie for posts that did not bring a direct monetary remuneration, but that would give you influence. For instance, a true wine professional would actually run the court's winery, but there would be a nobleman with a title such as Overseer of the Royal Winery who would be the professional's boss. His job would actually be recommending wines and talking about wines with the King - which meant access to the King, therefore influence.
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Old 03-03-2021, 10:50 AM   #9
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

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No idea, sorry. But keep in mind that (presumably by design) court life was absurdly expensive, and as I mentioned, royal appointments are probably best described, in GURPS terms, as Independent Income - you have some hireling to do the real work. That means that even if you already have an appointment as Royal Postmaster for the region of origin of your noble family, you might well wish to also become the Royal Appointee for Locks and Canals.

You would also vie for posts that did not bring a direct monetary remuneration, but that would give you influence. For instance, a true wine professional would actually run the court's winery, but there would be a nobleman with a title such as Overseer of the Royal Winery who would be the professional's boss. His job would actually be recommending wines and talking about wines with the King - which meant access to the King, therefore influence.
Plus, the person who actually provides the wine can then tell other customers that he provides the King's wine and charge them a premium, making up for the fact that the King doesn't actually pay him for the wine.

Re: Unemployment rates, I understand they were fairly high. A lot of people with a title but not much else trying desperately to get some kind of post that pays or gets bribes or otherwise will get them out of hock. They're in debt to their tailors, their grocers, and everyone else who provides for their needs, and only their titles are keeping large men with clubs from discussing their debts in an alley somewhere.
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: Real life hangers on at Renaissance royal courts?

The unemployment rate is strongly tied to age, too. In pre-Revolutionary France, every family who was anybody sent the oldest son to Court as soon as he could be trusted out of his parents' sight (or perhaps slightly sooner). There he would engage in the sort of loutish behavior that a noble young man thinks impresses kings, trying to secure an appointment or three. By around 30, he either has a sinecure or two, or he slinks back to the family estate in the country. Middle-aged courtiers with no defined portfolio or duties were rare; but at the same time, something rather like the fraternities in Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds is going on in the King's vicinity.
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