Despite the fact that the Queendom of Lyria and Le Royaume de Beauclair share a lot of cultural idiosyncrasies and rules of behaviour and etiquette — due to a shared history, a shared economic market, and plenty of intermarrying of prominent families — Beauclair society has developed into its own, distinct direction.
The biggest difference between Beauclair and Lyria is that Beauclair has much stricter rules of etiquette and engagement. Their rules are much more granular, and as a result the subtlety of many significant gestures and behaviour is lost on all but the most well-groomed Lyrians.
Étiquette de Beauclair
When friends and family meet each other they greet each other with three kisses on the cheeks, starting with the right cheek. The first kiss represents the affection for the person, the second kiss represents the affection for their family, while the last kiss represents something different from region to region. Some will say it is to display their affection for their monarch, some will say it is for their lord, and others say it is for their god.
This greeting has always been an informal one, but even informal greetings can be performed in subtle variations which can convey meaning. For instance, the more one touches their mouth to the cheek of the other, the more sincere the greeting. A casual greeting is where the corner of one’s mouth touches the cheek, while during a cold greeting only the cheek touches the other’s cheek, and the kiss is mimicked.
Couleurs du Paon
Mirroring the natural world, Beauclairois men wear a much more colourful attires than Beauclairois women. Among the nobility, it is used in a way to assert one’s place in the peerage. This can become a complex game of bluff which is played out in front of the entire peerage; dress too boldly and you might be considered conceited, dress too modestly and you might be considered weak. Women have, wisely, kept themselves away from this posturing.
Flying Banners, Bearing Standards
When banners are flown or standards are borne while in the territory governed by another, it is customary to fly the banner of the governing faction (usually a noble house), above one’s own banner, or bear the standard of the governing faction higher than one’s own standard. It shows deference and subservience, and is meant say “we come and peace and abide by your governance.”
It closely resembles the Right of Hospitality, which is considered sacrosanct in all of the Verdant Kingdoms with a fair amount of superstition connected to it. Because of this it has some interesting consequences on where one sits in the peerage. It is not always as simple as comparing ranks. At first glance, a baron ranks above a baronet. But sometimes young money is worth more than old blood. Sometimes control of a river or mountain pass is more important than how many soldiers you can put to field.
While the Beauclairois cuisine is known for its daring and sophistication, where banquet tables are often laden with all manner of exotic dishes made with strange and to strangers often repulsive-sounding ingredients, the Beauclairois do not eat horse meat, under no circumstance! They take the offer of horse meat as great offence. The Beauclairois do not share many customs with the Silesians, but this is one that the people of both kingdoms passionately embrace.
A Subtle Language
The Beauclairois language has a complex honourific system baked into its grammar, style, pronouns and verbs. Like so many things in Beauclair, there are subtleties in the language that are incredibly hard for non-native speakers to learn. Because even native speakers struggle with it sometimes, a strong command of the language and its form is considered a sign of great intellect and wit, and as such, subtle word plays and puns are admired and applauded. At court, this skill is especially useful to convey deference and respect, as well as disdain and insult.
The Gifting of Rings
Another custom in which the importance of social rank is reflected is the use of rings when exchanging formal messages or making appointments. A gold ring is sent to a person who outranks the sender, a silver ring to a person of equal or undetermined rank, and an iron ring to someone who ranks below the sender. Choosing the correct ring is a delicate matter, because rank is not just determined by title, but also by influence, wealth, and favour.
The receiver of the ring is allowed to keep the ring and display it to show off their connections. Rejecting a ring is a grave offense, and returning a ring to its sender, while not expected, is considered a kindness, provided it is subtly done. One who is higher in rank can permit a recipient to wear their ring, usually temporarily, or for a special occasion, as a sign of servitude.
The rings themselves are often fashioned as signet rings, engraved with the personal banner of the person, or if they have none, with their name. This is so that others may recognise who a person has received rings from and what quality they are. Collections of rings are often put up on display in places where someone would receive guests. Rings that someone is especially proud of are neatly arranged in display cases, while others are loosely displayed together on a tray, often lined with velvet.
The custom is very old, and has existed among the common folk, the gentry and the nobility for generations. Rings of other materials have also been used, often with very specific meanings; green grass for courtship, leather for a promise of service, horn to convey enmity, and wood to show disdain. There are many others.
A powerful ring is one carved from the bones of a deceased family member. This signifies a profound and lasting debt.