Holders are the ruling class of nobility in the Amarr Empire, sitting below the Royal Heirs in the feudal hierarchy. Holders directly govern the majority of the Empire and its affiliated areas. Having existed prior to the Empire itself, Holders are one of the oldest institutions in Amarr culture apart from religion itself.
Holders as a class predate the establishment of the Amarr Empire. The earliest Holders were the land-owning elite on the Amarr Island, ruling over fiefdoms of workers and bonded laborers. They possessed no official authority other than that which they were able to grab themselves, leading to frequent power struggles. Many early Holders were little more than warlords who raised armies and managed to conquer and hold onto a parcel of land. While some Holder dynasties formed in the early years, most fiefs fell apart upon the death of the Holder, to be gobbled up by opportunistic rivals and rising warlords.
Holders in the modern sense did not arise until the crowning of the first Emperor, Amash-Akura. Amash-Akura was a highly religious warlord who managed to unite the entirety of the Amarr Island under his rule. He established the Holders as a hereditary noble class and divided his empire into numerous holdings, granting them to his closest allies and using them to appease his enemies. At the same time, Amash-Akura used his influence to bring the secular and religious realms even closer together by founding the Council of Apostles. The Council was a group of highly religious Holders and trusted clergy who would assist him in ruling and, upon his death, choose his successor.
Within several generations, the Holder class had nearly completely merged with the church. Holders were expected to be educated in religious matters to the point where they could generally act with the authority and knowledge of Amarr priests, and indeed, many Holders were ordained members of the clergy itself. With their combined secular and theological authority, the Holders gained immense power and became the backbone of Amarr society.
It was during this time that the Speakers of Truth were founded, as an attempt by the Holders to maintain their religious and secular power in the event of an Emperor antagonistic to their own desires.
By the time the Udorians reached Amarr Island, the Holder class had been relatively stable for centuries. Contact with another civilization threw the group into upheaval. While the Holders had long been constrained by hereditary land ownership and the enforced peace of the Emperor and Council of Apostles, the Udorians shifted the balance of power. Holders in coastal regions grew in power, as did those who were savvy enough to engage in trade with the Udorians.
The older Holder elite, led by the Council of Apostles, felt they risked being undermined by the rising power of formerly-weak Holders, as well as those who welcomed the Udorian presence. This was one of many reasons that prompted the launch of the Reclaiming.
As the Amarr Empire conquered the Udorians and Khanid, the holder class underwent a shift. The more powerful Holders in the Empire were able to claim huge swathes of land and slaves. However, it soon became apparent that they would be unable to maintain these holdings on their own. It's at this point that the first subservient Holders arose, as the larger Holders gave lesser titles of nobility to underlings and had them rule the land in their stead.
At the same time, the massive overtaking of new land meant that new Holders were needed. For the most part, lesser branches of Holder families were made Holders in their own right. However, for the first time, commoners were afforded the opportunity to rise into the Holder class, as exceptionally skilled generals and war heroes were made nobility by the Emperor and granted titles, land, and slaves.
Additionally, it was at this time that the importance of Holders shifted from land-owners to slave-owners. At the time, the Amarr were ethnically the minority, with their Udorian and Khanid slaves outnumbering them. The task of transforming the slaves into members of Amarr society was given to the Holders.
The number of Holders exploded as the Amarr Empire conquered the entirety of Athra. Once the planet was firmly under the control of the Amarr, the class once again stabilized.
Expansion into Space
As the Amarr gradually rediscovered space flight and star gates, it became apparent that more holders would be required to govern the new Imperial territories. Much as it had during the early days of the Reclaiming, the holder class expanded in both number and complexity. At the highest level, Holders oversaw entire systems, with celestial bodies ruled by underlings who had their own subservient Holders that oversaw continents and other smaller divisions of territory.
The first non-Amarr Holders rose during this period as well. Collaborators among the Khanid and Udorians had always been given favored status by the Empire, but had never been made actual Holders. By the time the Empire was truly expanding into space, many Udorians and Khanid had been freed from slavery and the Empire was more tolerant of them in religious roles. Though always outnumbered by their Amarr masters, Udorians and Khanid families were granted titles of nobility and Holder status. The Tash-Murkon Family was one of the early beneficiaries of this expanded policy.
Following the Moral Reforms, the Council of Apostles was abolished, severely curtailing the power of the Holder class in the Empire. The Privy Council rose in its place. Five powerful Holder families who had supported the Emperor were named the Five Heir Families and became the royalty of the Empire. Each of the five families were given their own domains in the Empire, making all other Holders subservient to them.
This situation continues to the modern day.
Holders have an extremely complex and, at times, convoluted hierarchy. At the top of the ladder are the Five Royal Heirs, the descendants of the Privy Council who were made royalty and potential heirs to the Imperial Throne. Beneath the Heirs are a variety of less powerful nobles. The exact hierarchy of Holders differs from region to region and even system to system.
In general, at the lowest level are Holders who own a small parcel of land on a celestial body or portion of a system. These Holders typically own a small number of slaves and are in some ways little better than commoners. More wealthy and powerful Holders may claim continents or even entire planets under their domain. These Holders may or may not have a system of subservient Holders under them, depending on historical conventions. In general, the longer an area has been under Amarr control, the more likely it is to have a more extensive pyramid of leadership. As technology has advanced and allowed individual Holders to oversee larger and larger domains, the need for lesser Holders has been reduced, though the glacial pace of societal progress in the Empire makes it unlikely that lesser Holders in older territories will ever be fully eliminated.
Above the planetary Holders are system overseers. In densely populated or rich areas, system overseers only control a single system. In lesser regions, individual Holders may claim domain over several systems.
The only official title within the Empire for Holders is simply Holder. The title of Holder may be held by either a man or a woman, with Lord or Lady being the proper form of address. Some titles have indications of holdings, such as the title Holder of Dakba.
Certain Holders, for historical or traditional reasons, take more extensive titles, such as Duke. These titles may denote higher levels of authority.
All Holder titles are hereditary, passing from one Holder to his designated heir. In most circumstances, the heir is one of the Holder's children. Occasionally, a Holder will die without offspring; in this case, the title may pass to a sibling, cousin, or even a spouse. Very rarely, a Holder will die without any relatives. In these cases, the title may be passed to another noble who has been named heir. In the event of no viable heir, the title may be dissolved entirely, reassigned by higher authorities to another Holder, or kept in abeyance until the title can be awarded to a new Holder.
Holders are the absolute authority in their holdings. They make and enforce laws, set and collect taxes and tariffs, engage in diplomacy with corporations, other Holders, and foreign dignitaries, and oversee their own private businesses. Lower level Holders must also ensure that their local ordinances fall into line with those of their overseers.
Aside from rule, Holders are also responsible for the religious education and conversion of slaves. While many Holders see slave ownership merely as an opportunity for free labor, the Empire encourages Holders to bring slaves into the Empire as productive citizens. Of course, it is expected that many generations will pass before a slave line is considered properly indoctrinated, so Holders are under no pressure to turn all his slaves free. However, a Holder who owns a large number of slaves that are never freed into Amarr society will generally be looked down upon by his fellows for failing the calling of the Reclaiming and Scripture.
Traditionally, Holders are the sole legal owners of slaves within the Empire. However, the situation has become significantly murkier in recent years. Aside from slave owning Ammatar in the Mandate, the rise of the capsuleers has challenged the old order. Many capsuleers of Amarr descent use slave crews and others regularly engage in the slave trade and slave ownership. Some have privately grumbled about the erosion of Holder rights and responsibilities, but others have welcomed the increased revenue provided by capsuleers in purchasing slaves.
Virtual all Holders own their own businesses, with more powerful and wealthy Holders frequently having several. The majority of Holders spend most of their times dealing with their private business ventures. A Holder who makes bad business decisions can quickly find himself in debt to his fellow Holders and find his holdings quickly diminishing.
Historically, Holders acted as the primary religious and judicial official for their holdings. In modern times, this is rarely the case, as the Theology Council and Civic Court are more available to the public. Holders still retain the right to make binding judgments on secular matters and are expected to be respected in religious matters except in the gravest circumstances.
Relations between Holders
The sometimes labyrinthine interactions between Holders perhaps consumes more effort than anything else a Holder does. Politics between Holders is delicate and often dangerous, as Holders frequently look for ways to diminish rivals and expand their own power.
History is rife with stories of Holders ruining rivals and having them stripped of title and power. While the majority of conflicts between Holders is limited to backroom dealings and attempting to expose indiscretions, sometimes they turn violent. Holders have been known to attempt to assassinate rivals and, in times of chaos or with an approving Heir, open warfare between Holders has erupted.
All is not blood and deceit, however. Marriage between two families is a common way of increasing the power of Holders. Holders also occasionally sell individual holdings and titles in order to finance businesses or cover debts. They can also be transferred as the result of legal grievances. Holders can willingly transfer titles to other members of the nobility. Though such acts always require the approval of their ruling Heirs, such things are typically granted as a matter of course.
An unusual condition that is not often easily understood by outsiders is that of the destitute Holder. As a title cannot be lost except through act of law or intent from the Holder himself, there will occasionally arise a Holder who has lost the majority of his holdings and wealth through misfortune or poor judgment, yer retain his title. Such a Holder is known as a destitute Holder.
Destitute Holders have no property or wealth of their own and, as a result, have very little influence or method of restoring their family to prominence. In some ways, destitute Holders are worse off than commoners, as tradition and honor demands that they not take on "common" work, meaning they cannot turn to manual labor or other methods of establishing savings. Destitute Holders therefore rely heavily on the generosity of other Holders to house him and his family, provide his children with an education, and assist in recovering lost assets.
Despite popular tales telling of destitute Holders rising from the ashes to reclaim past glories, such stories are frequently little more than fiction. Destitute Holders may find a benefactor from time to time that attempt to help them recover, but such generosity only lasts so long before it wears thin. More commonly, the destitute Holders quietly die and their lines come to an end, with children married off to whomever will accept them and their title passed on to a more able Holder.
In modern times, destitute Holders are rare. They were more common in the past, particularly following the Minmatar Rebellion, when the Holders of various Minmatar planets were expelled from their holdings. The majority were left penniless and either absorbed into other holder families or simply died out. A few still remain; most notably the so-called Duke of Pator, who rents a small office in a station in Pator and regularly sends out pronouncements to his "people." Though the Duke is descended from a former Pator-based Holder, he is viewed as a harmless eccentric by the locals and largely ignored.
Holders and nobility
Though all Holders are nobility, it is not true that all nobility are Holders. A Holder's entire family, even distant cousins and aunts and uncles, are considered nobility, but only the title owner himself is considered a Holder. This is sensible, once the status of a Holder's children is considered. Only one can receive the title of Holder, but it would be unthinkable for the others to suddenly become commoners.
Such children are known as non-titled nobility. They frequently become theologians, professors, judges, military officers, or other acceptable noble lines of work. This is considered beneficial to the Holders, as their relations serve as important contacts within the Imperial bureaucracy.
A Holder can be stripped of his title for any number of crimes. These crimes are normally religious in nature, such as insulting the Empress, refusing an Imperial law, heresy, or any number of other offenses. Rarely, a Holder may be stripped of his title or demoted to a less prestigious title by an Heir for failure to adequately perform his duties.
A Holder who has been stripped of his title becomes a commoner, as does every member of his family. In the event the Holder has committed a heinous crime, he and his family may be enslaved. Former Holders are prized slaves among Holders, who view them as trophies.
New Holders are appointed rarely, especially in the modern era. Typically, such appointments are reserved for when the Empire conquers new territory and thus requires a new group of Holders to govern. New Holders are typically selected from the untitled nobility, especially if they are heavily involved in the conquest or have served the conquering leaders with distinction.
Occasionally, a commoner may be elevated to the rank of Holder. This typically occurs when the commoner has done a great service to the Empire or is of such wealth, distinction, and renown that it would be foolish to deny them. War heroes are among the most frequent commoners to be granted entry into the Holder class, a fact the Imperial Navy uses to its full advantage in recruitment.
The vast majority of all Holders are of the True Amarr bloodline. A small number of these Holders possess Udorian ancestry, though outwardly they are indistinguishable from True Amarrs. Though it is considered mildly disgraceful to have Udorian blood, the prejudice against it has slowly faded from all but the most conservative Amarr.
A significant minority of Holders are Khanid. As staunch allies of the Amarr during the early days of the Reclaiming, the Khanid did not suffer slavery for long. Many impressed their Amarr masters so much that they were given status equal to nobles. When the Reclaiming expanded into space, these noble and loyal Khanid were easy choices to become new Holders. Though they are only a fraction of their Amarr counterparts, and many fled to the Khanid Kingdom following the Khanid Rebellion, they still make up an important minority.
There are few Ni-Kunni Holders, though that number is likely to increase in the coming generations. The few Ni-Kunni Holders that exist are primarily the descendants of early collaborators during the Amarr conquest of Mishi IV. Most Ni-Kunni Holders remain in Aridia, a relatively poor and often-neglected region of the Empire. However, as more Ni-Kunni merchants gain influence in the Empire, and the current Ni-Kunni Holders gain in prestige, it is likely the number will increase and may one day rival the Khanid minority in size.
No Holders exist of other bloodlines, though the Ammatar leaders in the Ammatar Mandate have frequently been referred to as Holders in all but name. The recent emancipation of slaves by Jamyl I is likely to lead to a few Holders of Minmatar decent within several generations. Additionally, there is some pressure within the Mandate to have the Ammatar leadership made officially into Holders.
Holders in the Khanid Kingdom
Holders in the Khanid Kingdom are in many ways identical to their Empire counterparts. They retain many of the same governing and slave-owning functions. However, there are several main differences that set them apart.
The largest difference is the relative power of the Kingdom Holders. While in the Empire, all Holders are subservient to an Heir, in the Kingdom they must answer solely to the King. Khanid II has proven to be a somewhat hands-off ruler, allowing his Holders to rule in what manner they see fit. Additionally, there is no Theology Council or centralized religious authority in the Kingdom aside from the King, so the Kingdom Holders assume many of the duties undertaken by the priesthood in the Empire.
In many ways, Kingdom Holders resemble the Holders of the pre-Moral Reforms Empire.
Additionally, a larger portion of Holders in the Khanid Kingdom belong to the Khanid bloodline. Though the majority are still of True Amarr descent, a large number of Khanid Holders owed their loyalty to the Khanid Family and accompanied Khanid II in his revolt against the Empire.