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Oliver


Let R = { x | x ∉ x }, then R ∈ R ⟺ R ∉ R... or is it?

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Jan
6th
2016

Random thoughts about canon #2: The nobility of Equestria · 11:50am Jan 6th, 2016

…Apparently does not exist.

No, seriously.

It is a very common fanon assumption is that Equestria has a thriving class of titled hereditary nobility, often land-owning. I have seen this in works too numerous to count, and in the grand majority of them, members of nobility are primary antagonists, or at least portrayed in a negative light. The degree to which fanfiction assumes actual feudalism varies, in some cases Equestria actually is a full-blown feudal monarchy, with the characters ranting or rebelling against this patently unfair social order, while in others the most actual power the title holders possess is a House/Stable of Lords. In almost all cases where this comes up, they are treated differently in the eyes of the legal system.

However, why exactly do we assume that? I’ve spent some time digging up canonical references and this is what I came up with:

  • 1. Which is clearly an entirely different ball of wax.
    2. Edit after the fact: Over time, my position on word of god for ponies has throughly deteriorated to the point where I am now routinely disregarding it. Lauren Faust outright trolling her Twitter readers is one of the reasons.
    3. Correction: In Games Ponies Play, Ms. Peachbottom addresses him as a “prince.” That it took well over a year since this post was published for anyone to notice – credit goes to hazeyhooves – is in itself telling.

    The only noble title mentioned in primary canon that is clearly attributable as such to an Equestrian citizen and is not related to the magical-alicorn-demi-deity thing1 belongs to Prince Blueblood. There is Word of God2 that Blueblood was originally meant to be a Duke until someone decided that children would not be aware what one is. But if that were indeed so, there’s no indication any other character would be a Duke. If I missed anything, please give me a reference – however, I’m pretty sure I did not. There is also Word of God that Blueblood is indeed Celestia’s multi-generation-removed nephew, and on-screen comment by Rarity that marrying him would give her the title of “princess”. Shining Armor also gets called a “prince” after his marriage, but the only clear case I can find is in Friends Forever #4 and even The One Where Pinkie Pie Knows does not have anyone call Shining Armor a prince.3

  • Stuck-up – literally, because they walk with their chins raised to the sky – idle rich are depicted in quantity. However, none of them use any titles to refer to themselves even in situations where such titles would be appropriate – Rarity’s invitation to Canterlot Garden Party in Sweet and Elite, otherwise quite formally written, is signed by “Jet Set and Upper Crust,” no titles given.
  • Countess Coloratura clearly has no noble title of any kind, the word “Countess” is part of her stage name. In a monarchy where the title of “count” had actual meaning, this would likely be illegal, or at least an unwise faux pas.
  • In demi-canon (Micro-Series #10, Luna’s issue) Luna mentions peons, serfs and peasantry, and is assured that usage of such terms is inappropriate. She is likewise assured that commoners is not appropriate either. In primary canon’s Luna Eclipsed, Luna liberally uses the royal “we,” but refers to ponies as citizens, and gives no indication that she would ever use any other form of address.
  • In further demi-canon, (Friends Forever #3) one Silversaddle is announced as “Duke of Appleloosa” and behaves contrary to the usual fanon nobility stereotype, complete with an Apple family accent, fulfilling a duty more like that which would be expected from a civil servant, i.e. delivering census reports in person.
  • Other examples of highly stuck-up ponies, like Diamond Tiara, clearly do not have a title.

In short we simply have no direct primary canon grounds to suppose the existence of titled nobility of pretty much any kind except royal family, and demi-canon is suspect due to being self-contradictory. It is probably sensible for a modern reader to suspect a multi-tiered system of hereditary aristocracy given royal rule, however, even the modern United Kingdom actually does not have one anymore – only members of the royal family receive new hereditary peerages, and no hereditary titles are bestowed on anyone else. Even those who receive titles for one reason or another do not ennoble their living relatives.

There is also a simple economic consideration: After colonizing Equestria, feudal systems based on carving up territory into lands rented out to tenants would naturally break down, since there is no way that Equestria would ever have not enough arable land for any ponies not satisfied with such an arrangement to pack up and leave. Appleloosa actually implies this is still true more than a thousand years since the colonization. It is far more likely than not that some equivalent of a Homestead Act exists and still applies to at least some land within Equestrian borders. Granny Smith’s story in Family Appreciation Day fits a more red-tapey version of such a law, which would make sense for land adjacent the Everfree Forest, the site of the ancient castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, and probably directly administered by the crown.

There are certain indirect indications in primary canon that it might be more complicated. We have the issue of Mi Amore Cadenza: Twilight fails to immediately make a connection between “Princess Mi Amore Cadenza” and “Princess Cadance,” even though she was clearly aware of Cadance being a princess when she knew her. If the title of “princess” were so rare as to only ever apply to alicorns, it would be impossible for Twilight not to make that connection.

4. Edit after the fact: They probably do. See further posts in this series.

My conclusion is that while titled hereditary nobility has probably existed before the settlement of Equestria, any notion of such has been extinct for a thousand years or thereabout, quickly made irrelevant by the new environment, and eventually, formally dissolved. The only remaining exception is the title of “prince/princess.” Which only applies to alicorns, their immediate family, whether by marriage or not, and whatever non-alicorn descendants of theirs that still exist. Possibly, to the remnants of the ancient unicorn royal family, though this is doubtful, and there are no canon indications those still exist at all.4 It is more likely than not, that the total number of such princes and princesses in circulation is twenty or more – enough for Twilight to think that the title is not that special and suppose the existence of a princess she has previously never heard about, as well as enough for various characters an alicorn-princess Twilight meets, like the Hoofingtons and McColts, not to suppose a princess is particularly big news. The distinction between a “princess” and an “alicorn princess” is important, but only remains on the minds of those who get a moment to stop and think about what being an alicorn actually entails.

What about the stuck-up class of idle rich high society, then? Old industrial, trading and financial money, and their obnoxious heirs, exactly the kind of people you find reported on in the high society column of a modern newspaper. Some might actually turn out to be unicorn supremacists longing for the ancient long-forgotten days when they could acquire a title that meant something, but hereditary nobility they clearly aren’t.

Report Oliver · 1,025 views · #canon research
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Comments ( 21 )

I can find no fault in your analysis.

Naturally, I have nobles, indeed, nobles by the bushel in my stories but I recognize they are moderately unlikely to exist[1]. The reason I have them is to, basically, further complicate my Equestria. In my (entirely non-canonical) history of Equestria, after the first fall of Discord Celestia and Luna united Equestria but didn't conquer it. Instead what they did was unite various semi-independent states[2] together by peaceful means, and those peaceful means included the acceptance of the ancient rights and privileges of various noble houses some of which claim descent from Classical Equestria[3].

These have remained, though their power is reduced partially due to natural reasons and partially because Celestia's been using every opportunity to erode it. The Civil Service helps.

[1] It's an American show, after all.
[2] Discord was not what you might call hands-on. He let local potentates handle the day-to-day.
[3] Which, in my head-canon, was a terrible place. A real, proper, empire with all the bloodshed and horror that implies.

3793061

Far be it from me to begrudge anyone their plot device -- but I do feel compelled to explain why I don't have them somewhere. :)

Speaking of Discord, primary canon never really describes just what Discord's rule was like or whether it even was, (my cleverest idea so far is that Celestia may actually have experienced a timeline different from current) or when. And I'm going to have to have a blog post on Discord's rule as well, now... But quasi-canon, namely, the "Journal of the Two Sisters," (the most problematic piece of canon ever, even though it does have some useful ideas) is pretty clear that, at least before Luna's banishment, 'Equestria' was a nebulous grouping of pony kingdoms (At least four, but the possibility that more existed remains mostly open.) united under the protectorate of Celestia and Luna, who played no significant role in their government except to mediate disputes. And this is even before Discord shows up for the first time, and in fact, before Celestia and Luna actually take over the sun and moon duties.

Whatever the pre-Exodus situation was, we really have no clue, but I have to agree that in all probability it has to have been fairly grimdark.

P.S. Speaking of American shows, though, Star vs. Forces of Evil, for example, does have some fairly reasonable nobility. Adventure Time, in turn, has tiny social groups that are called kingdoms, and is probably more typical...

Reading these brilliant blog posts after having just been introduced by Ghost of Heraclitus.

I think you're almost 100% right on the lack of real nobility in Canterlot. If anyone was going to be a non-royal noble it would be Fancy Pants, and we've heard him formally introduced without any titles. I rather favor the idea that Blueblood is descended from the House of Platinum, and they alone are allowed to keep their title (but no special privileges other than maybe free room and board at the castle).

I feel like there must have been nobles in Equestria at least a little bit, if only the unicorns who came over from Unicornia kept their titles and passed them on to their descendents. But with Celestia not giving noble ponies official status or recognition, I suspect it just kind of faded out over time. Like I bet Jet Set could trace his lineage 1400 years back to some small domain that makes him a Count in Unicornia, but the last pony with the right to be known as "Count Jet of That Piece of Land" that actually used their title died 600 years ago, because his son was tired of Celestia rolling her eyes whenever he was announced. Now ex-noble unicorns just refer to themselves as the "Canterlot Elite," and half of them are earth ponies anyway after their ancestors married wealthy earth pony industrialists.

I've also been introduced to your wonderful blog musings by Ghost of Heraclitus! I agree with you that Equestria doesn't have any meaningful nobility, save Blueblood and maybe some relatives of his. (Who aren't really that meaningful, as much as they'd like to think they are.) If we want to reconcile the "Duke of Appleoosa," we can say that they've decided to give the town mayor a fancy title for some reason, and everypony's just as fine with that as with a stage performer calling herself "Countess."

However, I do have one nitpick to make: The United Kingdom still does have a hereditary nobility. They aren't giving out any new hereditary titles anymore, and the bearers of current hereditary titles don't get to automatically sit in the House of Lords anymore, but the titles still exist and can be inherited.

3868580

I rather favor the idea that Blueblood is descended from the House of Platinum, and they alone are allowed to keep their title (but no special privileges other than maybe free room and board at the castle).

That's a very workable option too. We also know, if we accept the secondary canon, that Unicornia, Pegasopolis, "Earth" and Crystal Empire were far from the only pony nations that accepted the Two Sisters as their suzerains -- there's also Trot and Timbucktu at least, and likely, a lot more. I imagine lots of them had their own nobility, as well as kings and emperors...

One can imagine that after not inheriting their titles of kings, queens and emperors/empresses due to whatever centralization Celestia inflicted on Equestria when she started her solo reign, they got to keep being princes and princesses to thrones that no longer technically existed.

3868866

However, I do have one nitpick to make:

...Well, I concede the point.

How much time do you think has to pass before they're hesitant to mention the fact in public, though? :)

3869414 Shh, Princess Platinum doesn't like to be reminded of how she's not actually princess of all unicorns everywhere. :raritycry:

3869421

Come to think of it, she actually might have been, at some point.

As I've seen speculated somewhere, (Might have been TVTropes) the pony nation pre-Exodus is actually in the middle of a quiet revolution, where the existing social order, based on the economic and cosmological functions of each of the three tribes, as emphasised by their natural aptitudes, broke down under external pressure. So earth ponies elected themselves a leader, unicorns went with what remained of the old one, and pegasi chose to stick with the military chain of command. Before that happened, they had a unified, presumably feudal government, and there is little doubt that princess Platinum was the heir to that government (Journal of the Two Sisters also mentions her father king Bullion...) -- i.e. princess of all unicorns, and even, princess of all ponies.

After the exodus, though, it appears that ponies split into numerous groups and founded their own nations with vastly different structures -- tribe-based with Unicornia, "Earth," Pegasopolis and Timbucktu, but at least somewhat mixed with the Crystal Empire, and undecided with Trot -- so Platinum wasn't "of all unicorns" anymore and was probably mighty pissed about it. :)

Diamond Diara actually sounds like a cool name.

3980692

Make that a Diamond Daria. :) Fixed.

Please forgive me if this sounds flippant or rude, because it's a nice analysis and I like how much thought you put into this otherwise, but... canon nobility has been confirmed since the end of season four, with the Duke and Duchess of Maretonia. That's a pretty big thing to miss. As I said back on British Gentleman's blog, I don't think there's any evidence to assume that fuedalism is still a thing, and nobility in Equestria could very well operate somewhat like the UK, where it's kind of a carryover from an older time and doesn't mean as much as it used to, but... Equestria definitely does have nobility.

4065640

canon nobility has been confirmed since the end of season four, with the Duke and Duchess of Maretonia

Who engage in discussions with the princesses which are implied to be of diplomatic nature, clearly consider their status equivalent to Twilight, and the whole thing happens in the Crystal Empire, to boot.

Why do you think they are Equestrian subjects at all?

4065771

Well, they attended the Equestria Games in the previous episode, taking seats alongside the likes of Mayor Mare and Cherry Jubilee. The Games weren't shown to include representatives from non-Equestrian nations. Rather, they had representatives from every city of Equestria. Even the griffons, which at the time I assumed were from some unaffiliated griffon nation, later turned out to be Equestrian too - Twilight calls Griffonstone a kingdom in Equestria in season five. And this in turn backs up Journal's claim that Equestria is a kingdom of multiple semi-independant states. Equestria Games and Princess Spike do this too, treating Equestria's cities as if they were countries.

So the Duke and Duchess acting like foreign dignitaries isn't really anything out of the ordinary. Maretonia is probably just another place like the Crystal Empire - far from Canterlot, basically runs itself, but nevertheless a part of Equestria. And I don't really see any reason to assume that they aren't in context of that.

4065981

I wrote extensively on the subject of how the Journal's statement on Equestria's makeup ends up actually working, check my profile for a handy blog index. I wrote this post quite a while ago. :)

I think that on the total weight of evidence, Maretonia is more likely to be an independent grand duchy than any kind of subdivision of Equestria. (On the total total weight of evidence, the show staff does not care.)

4066004

If that's what you believe, then fair enough. But for my part, I don't get why they'd be sole foreign entity at an event which is otherwise composed entirely of Equestria's dominions. I disagree that there's evidence for this assumption.

Also, I've already gone through a few of your blogs, and I plan to get to the rest later.

4066033

But for my part, I don't get why they'd be sole foreign entity at an event which is otherwise composed entirely of Equestria's dominions.

Here's a theory for this one: Because this is an event that in a large part is repurposed to reintroduce the Crystal Empire to the world. Maretonia is the last surviving independent state Crystal Empire had ties and possibly, still valid international treaties with. Everything else has been absorbed into Equestria proper. Crystal Empire is in a unique position of being an Equestrian (or rather, the Sisters') protectorate when every other pony nation that originally was such is now a state-within-a-union. (as per Princess Spike) For them, the rules changed over time, but Crystal Empire was out of time while this has been going on.

4066042

It's a nice idea that I wouldn't mind seeing in a story. I just wouldn't take it as headcanon is all.

There has only been one pony or two ponies that are of a noble rank: the Duke and Duchess of Maretonia. We don't know anything about Maretonia. We don't know if it's a annex of Equestria like the Crystal Empire or an entirely independent nation like Saddle Arabia.

Ms. Peachbottom: My, oh, my... I never met a Prince before...
Shining Armor: [chuckles] I'm surprised. I'd think in your line of work you'd meet princes all the time.

Shining Armor confirmed as prince. and he implies that he knows the existence of at least 2 other princes in the world. from his casual tone, possibly dozens?!

4207055

Nice catch. And one more episode I missed when compiling my transcript collection. :)

*Hooffields, not Hoofingtons

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