"Be without fear in the face of your enemies. Be brave and upright, that God may love thee. Speak the truth always, even if it leads to your death. Safeguard the helpless and do no wrong; that is your oath."
- – Godfrey of Ibelin, Kingdom of Heaven
"We have political systems like this in the Empire. We call them 'protection rackets'."
- – Matthias von Pfeildorf, former Imperial Envoy to Couronne.
"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"
- – Dennis the Constitutional Peasant, Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Bretonnia is one of the main factions in Warhammer Fantasy Battle. It is a human nation roughly modelled on a combination of medieval France, a tiny pinch of England and every medieval tale of chivalry ever (especially the legends of King Arthur). At a glance, they could easily be Games Workshop's least creative race, in any game, ever. And yes, that includes
Judge Dredd Adeptus Arbites. One of their special characters is called The Green Knight, and their goddess is the Lady of the Lake (later revealed to also be part of the Elven pantheon). Even the name of the kingdom is derived from Britannia (Roman Empire-ruled Britain) and Brittany (part of northwestern France). It's pretty lazy, all things considered.
However, it is still inventive in one way: In Bretonnia, the ideals of medieval chivalry and high honour is presented side-by-side with horrible, almost hilarious black-comedy level of oppressive government. The greatest heroic knights could also at the same time be the sort of charmer who worries about soiling their poulaines while stepping over starving peasant orphans, and your armies will be made of equal parts saintly knightly warriors and wretched peasants who get sent to die in droves in the name of feudal responsibilities. It's gotten to the point where a large part of the charm of Bretonnia is in its black comedy value, in terms of social commentary.
At least for some people anyway, and in a particular edition. Like with most Warhammer lore post-End Times, there's a significant fan divide between which "version" of lore is best, with the main contenders for Bretonnia being 5th edition - written by Nigel Stillman - and 6th edition - written by Anthony Reynolds. Stillman's take on Bretonnia was significantly lighter than that of Reynolds, with a more generic Arthurian kingdom but lacking in what many called grimderp lore decisions by Reynolds; on the other hand, defenders of the latter say Stillman's was lacking in realism, and Reynolds' is more interesting. Basically, 5th edition fans argue 6th's tone is too dark and that's bad, while 6th edition fans argue 5th's tone is too bright and that's bad. It's an argument that's went on for over 15 years, until the entire army and country was eliminated in The End Times, paving the way for Age of Sigmar, where the faction still hasn't come back in any form as of 2023.
Bretonnian armies basically consist of knights. Lots and lots of knights. And everyone, from the lowliest Knight Errant to the living-god Grail Knights, rides the same. Damn. Horse. Except for the ones that ride Pegasi. There are also some lowly, filthy peasants that support the knights (by which we mean they're very cost-effective meatshields).
The army is currently very old and very out of date, although still readily available, there are some rumours concerning them though. This is unfortunate since WFB 8th edition nerfed cavalry pretty hard. They're still workable, but they're hurting pretty badly. Some denizens of /tg/ argue that Bretonnia should just be squatted, as they don't have anything over any other army. Seriously, the Empire (ostensibly an infantry-based army) has better cavalry than these guys.
For what it's worth, they're still a major player in the fluff, arguably sharing the "protagonist" stage with the Empire (or at least being the co-star) in the Glottkin End Times book, though the plot material of "Thanquol" seems to have finally done in the nation as an independent entity.
As of March 26th, 2016, the entire Bretonnian range has been added to Games Workshop's 'Last Chance to Buy' section, so it seems like the Brets are finally gone for good. Though due to the aforementioned fading relevance as an army, lack of creativity and stand-out characters, some actually arguing for squatting, and all that even before the End Times and Age of Sigmar, few can honestly say they didn’t see this coming. Compared to Tomb Kings, outrage over the loss seems to be rather lukewarm. But maybe this was because the Tomb Kings were the first to get axed, and one of GW's more creative races to boot, whereas the Bretonnians were designed by watching Excalibur and moulding one horse. Some may say it's also because the Tomb Kings were more popular than the Brets but that's subjective.
Long before the land now known as Bretonnia was founded, it was inhabited by the Lizardmen, but they were driven back by Chaos; later, the High Elves from Ulthuan created a vortex to keep the demons at bay, and settled on most of the non-mountainous regions in the Old World. Since the region of soon-to-be-Bretonnian is the only Old World region closest to Ulthuan(that and because the Elves' favorite tree friend lives in that region as well), it was colonized the most, and its capital city in the Old World: Tor Alessi (soon to be L'Anguille) was built there for the Elves to govern their other Old World's settlements from there. But then the
War of the Beard War of Vengeance happened, and the land became a major battlefield between the Dwarves and High Elves. The conflict weakened the High Elves so much that Caradryel, the successor Phoenix King, ordered the retreat of all High Elves back to Ulthuan. Some High Elves refused, and moved in to live with their aforementioned tree friends' forest and became the Wood Elves. With no Elves in sight, humans began to settle the land. It was first inhabited by some pagan hippies who play with rocks(aka pacifist tribe who worships Rhya). Then the Bretonnian's ancestor: The Bretonni tribe, arrived to their future homeland after fighting through the Worlds Edge Mountains against a bunch of Greenskins and other rival human tribes, and conquered the aforementioned pansy-pacifist tribe. These Bretonni were of similar martial prowess to the Unberogen (Sigmar's tribe), who fought both humans and orcs on daily basis and managed to avoid going extinct. Like every human tribe, the Bretonni were given an invitation by Sigmar to be united as a whole, but they refused and chose to keep to themselves because they were pretty much a mockery of the real-life French stereotype and believed through sheer arrogance that their culture was inherently superior. Seriously, the Bretonni are a backward medieval stasis tribe that couldn't even evolve to use metalwork without consulting Dwarves who lived in nearby mountains.
The Bretonni were later raided by a clusterfuck of nearby Orc WAAARGH, in addition to Tomb kings led by Settra(who was after the lost shiny bling stolen from his kingdom). Unable to properly unite to face the threats, the Bretonnis were facing annihilation (much thanks to the sheer arrogance towards Sigmar that led to their doom). But an awesome guy named Giles Le Breton rallied every Bretonni warrior he could find, including his best friends Duke Thierulf d'Lyonesse and Duke Landuin d'Mousillon, to fight the Orc menace. Still, they failed due to the horde's size and were forced to retreat to a nearby forest. Wandering wearily in the forest, Giles stopped to drink from a lake and found himself watched over by a strange woman of ethereal form: the Lady of the Lake. Le Breton, facing desperation and madness, asked this Lady to bless him with strength and he was fully restored. Duke Thierulf d'Lyonesse and Duke Landuin d'Mousillon did the same thing, and the three of them became
Lileath's puppet the first three Grail Knights.
With the power to finally pull some awesome ass-kicking, Giles and his tribe kicked the shit out of the Orcs, returned to their settlement, united the Bretonni tribesmen under one banner, and founded "Bretonnia," with their benefactor the Lady of the Lake as the centre of their newly created society.
After the unification, Breton was dubbed the "Uniter" and became the first Royarch. Unfortunately, Breton was killed (or we thought) by a cunning git with SpearChukas in one of his many campaigns against the Greenskin. His son Louis the Rash was then crowned the king, and founded the Questing Knight tradition. Many evils like the Tomb Kings and Greenskins were pushed out of the borders of Bretonnia during this time.
There were invasions from Araby where they invaded Estalia. Estalia were desperate, so they sought help from Bretonnia and many Empire provinces. A combined holy crusade of Bretonnia and the Empire was formed to kick them back to their sandy home.
After that, a joint army of undead led by Heinrich Kemmler and Krell plus the Skaven invaded but was crushed after the Skaven ran away with their tails between their legs in the middle of the fight.
During the End Times, it was revealed that the Lady of the Lake was indeed the elven goddess Lileath. The Bretonnians present during this revelation abandoned her, but through some convoluted nonsense
all Grail Knights and Damsels are saved in a new World, the "Haven" and probably live untainted from chaos as immortal rulers of a new Bretonnia (HURRAH!). BUT Bel'akor found out and smothered it in its crib, dooming everyone in there (hurroo...). It was later mentioned that they may have simply lost contact with this Haven, as the Warhammer World was becoming increasingly saturated with Chaos.
The Kingdom of Bretonia is located to the West of the Empire with the Grey Mountains acting as a natural border between the two. Located to the East of Bretonia and West of the Grey Mountains lies the forest of Athel Loren, inhabited by the Wood Elves. They enjoy coming and murdering peasants in Quenelles every Springtime. South of Bretonia is Estalia and the Vaults Mountain Range. To the West of Bretonia is the Great Ocean and Ulthuan. To the North is the Island of Albion and Norsca.
Within the Kingdom itself lie multiple dukedoms. These are each ruled by a Duke, who has to have at least become a Knight of the Realm.
- Couronne - Located to the North of Bretonia and bordering the Wasteland and the Sea of Claws. Its lands lend themselves to horse-breeding, and has the best horses in all of Bretonia, no mean feat. Due to being more horse crazy than a Furry at a brony con, even the peasants ride horses, even if they don't own them per se. Currently the ruling Dukedom of Bretonia.
- Castle Couronne – The ducal capital of Couronne, famous for being the capital and seat of power of Louen Leoncoeur, current Royarch of Bretonnia. Also host to Brettonia's most famous tournament grounds, The Lion Ring, where nobles race their horses and participate in jousts and melee. Also home to the largest temple of Shallya, which houses a healing spring inside.
- L'Anguille - Bordering Couronne and Lyonesse, it is one of the smallest Dukedoms. Known primarily for coastal trade. There are no cities beyond Castle L'Anguille, as both Castle L'Anguille and Castle Couronne are so close so as to be impossible to compete with.
- Castle L'Anguille – Originally founded by the High Elves back when they were colonising the Old World, and originally called Tor Alessi. The most impressive and enduring building from this time is the Great Lighthouse, which rises to be 300 feet tall. The main castle itself lies on an island in the middle of the harbour.
- Lyonesse - This Dukedom lies upon the north-western shores of Bretonnia. One of the larger Dukedoms following its annexation of Mousillon several centuries earlier, the lands of Lyonesse are infamously known for their rivalry with not other Bretonnian realms, but amongst their own nobility. The main divide in Lyonen politics is that between the north and the south. Whilst the southern nobles were happy to be liberated from the rule of the mad and bloodthirsty Dukes of Mousillon, they were less happy when the Lyonen claimed many prime fiefs and proceeded to keep the “Old Mousillese” out of the corridors of power. Any attempts to work as a bloc are undermined by the feuds that exist between the Old Mousillese, but they do believe that they should work together to claim their rightful place.
- Castle Lyonnesse – One of the smallest Ducal Capitals in Brettonia, it is built into the walls of the very coast itself. According to folk tales, the inhabitants angered Mannan, who proceeded to flood the city leaving only the castle of the virtuous lord intact. Whatever the truth held in the story, adventurers have found ruins and golden items on the surrounding coast.
- Mousillon - A former Dukedom that has now been mostly absorbed into Lyonesse. It is the smallest and poorest of Brettonia's Dukedoms. It is filled with swamps and bogs, and the inhabitants are mainly inbred mutants. The Dukedom has become a haven for Vampires, witches, and other ne'er-do-wells who prey on the remaining peasantry. Currently unofficially ruled by Mallobaude.
- Artois - The only Dukedom to be completely covered in forest, Artois has a bit of a Beastmen problem. It is common for newly anointed Knights of the Realm to be given a large portion of land in Artois. If they succeed in taming it, a new bastion has been established against the chaotic braying hordes. If not, then nothing of value was really lost. As a result, there are large amounts of ruins dotting the forest landscape.
- Castle Artois – Notable for being the only Ducal Capital without an accompanying city/village surrounding it. The building is simply a large fortress, used as a staging post by the Duke to return to after hunting beastmen.
- Gisoreux - This Dukedom lies within the treacherous slopes of the Pale Sisters and upon the low woodlands of the Arden Forest. Unlike in other parts of Bretonnia, where much of the land is one type of landscape and one type of people, the diversity in the geography of this Dukedom has also created diversity in cultures and customs. Those living within the arable plains to the south contain the typical farmers and peasants that are universal within all the realms. To the east, the lands are filled with harsh woodlands, where different people live life as expert trappers and wild woodsmen. Finally, to the north, those people that can eke out a living within the Pale Sisters are seasoned mountaineers who can brave harsh conditions.
- Castle Gisoreux – The city of Gisoreux is a busy place filled with traders and travellers. There are more Imperial merchants in Gisoreux than in any other city in Bretonnia, and it may be the only place in the world where people do not immediately think of sailors when they think of Marienburg; a number of land traders come from the Wasteland through the Gisoreux Gap. The city has fine merchant houses pressed right up against decaying slums, many of which used to be fine merchant houses. For some reason, merchant families in Gisoreux rarely maintain their prosperity for more than one generation. The castle itself is currently almost entirely abandoned, as the ruling Duke spends most of his time in Couronne. Only one wing is currently inhabited by the Duke's Steward.
- The Gisoreux Gap - One of only three locations within the entire Grey Mountains that allow passage between Bretonnia and the Empire.
- Bordeleaux - Known as the largest exporter of wines within the entire Kingdom, Bordeleaux is a beautiful land filled with many farms and vineyards. Such is the Dukedom's reputation for wine that even peasants and nobles alike are given the luxury of drinking it on a consistent basis. Being one of the few coastal Dukedoms, Bordeleaux has also a tradition of seafaring similar to L'Anguille. This has resulted in fierce competition over the sea trade and sea routes that link the large port-cities together, such as Marienburg and Erengrad to the north and Barak Varr and the Tilea city-states to the south. Unlike L'Anguille, the coastline is not treacherous to navigate, and as such many small cities and villages also act as trading ports.
- Castle Bordeleaux – A vast and rich city filled with almost every nationality in the Old World. It contains the First Chapel, the holiest of sites in the cult of the Lady. However, the most important temple to the Bordeliens is that of Manann, which is not exactly in the city. Rather, it is housed in an enormous ship, permanently moored near the entrance to the harbour. It is exposed to storms, but the priests say that Manann protects it, and it has survived for many years. Worshippers travel out by boat, and if possible they are supposed to help row or sail across. Grail Knights, Damsels and Prophetesses of the Lady are forbidden to set foot on board. Duke Alberic, the current Duke, is the first Duke of Bordeleaux in generations to visit the temple.
- Aquitaine - A pretty peaceful kingdom in the big scheme of things, and actually a pretty nice place to live in the Warhammer world. It is nothing but rolling hills and farms, punctuated with small woods and small castles of the nobility. It hasn't got any internal invaders like Orcs or Beastmen, and as such on the whole is a pretty nice place. This lack of external enemies has caused the leading nobility to turn to internal division, with small battles and wars being constant with the feuding of the leading knights. With no natural defences or trade routes, the dukedom itself doesn't have much in the way of riches or extremely defensible areas.
- Castle Aquitaine – A fairly small Ducal capital. It is famous for the Lace Tower, a tall spire built with so many windows that it looks as though it is made from stone lace. Uniquely amongst the capitals of Bretonnia, Castle Aquitaine is in fact the second keep to bear its name, standing exactly twelve miles from the ruins of the original fortress. The old castle had been used by the Red Duke, and when he was defeated King Louis the Righteous ordered the old castle razed and a new fortress-city built far away from the original site.
- Bastonne - Bastonne was at one time the very heart of all Bretonnia, its founding Duke being none other than Gilles le Breton, first Royarch of Bretonnia. It is in many ways the spiritual heart of the Kingdom, for the Cathedral of the Cult of the Lady is situated within the walls of Castle Bastonne. It is also said that the Sacred Lake where Gilles and his Companions first met the Lady, can be found somewhere deep within Bastonne's Forest of Châlons. The Chapel of Bastonne also houses the very codes of chivalry created by Gilles' son, Louis the Rash.
- Castle Bastonne – The town has the feel of somewhere preserved for the pilgrim trade, and it is a very popular destination. Peasant pilgrims are guided to the outside of a number of significant locations and to the inside of taverns that pay the guide a cut. Nobles can expect a personal tour, including opportunities to pray within most places. At a minimum, visiting nobles go to Gilles' personal Grail Chapel, and almost all Grail Knights have visited it at least once. The largest revered structure is the Water Tower in Castle Bastonne. This was reputedly Gilles' personal residence. Most nobles are not allowed to go beyond the entrance lobby, and peasants can be whipped for looking at it too much.
- Black Chasm - A giant hole in the ground, from which mysterious vapours rise periodically. Home to the Skaven of Clan Pestilens, it is here that they released the Red Pox onto the kingdom of Brettonia. Currently, the Skaven are stuck in a war between Clan Pestilens and Clan Flem against Clans Eshin and Moulder for control of the pit and any treasures that lay within.
- Montfort - the Dukedom of Montfort acts as the central buffer state between the lands of Bretonnia and those within the Empire of Man. Almost all of Montfort lies within the Grey Mountains, with what little arable land being devoted totally to agriculture.
- Castle Montfort – This Ducal capital guards the Brettonian end of Axe Bite Pass. It displays one of the finest examples of fortification within the Old World, five tiers of stone walls guard the pass at the western-most end, another just slightly smaller fortress-garrison town sits at the pass's eastern end as well. The city is primarily a trade centre charging a toll upon all who enter through the gates of the pass, going both ways, even its own citizens. It is claimed Montfort's original foundation was Dwarfen, abandoned either during or soon after the War of the Beard.
- Axe Bite Pass – At either end of the sheer-sided valley stands a mighty fortress, spanning the gap. On the Bretonnian side is Castle Montfort; on the Empire side is Helmgart. Countless battles have been fought in the valley between the two castles.
- Parravon - Forming one of the three ducal barriers between the lands of the Empire and other Ducal lands, Parravon commands the southern territories centred around the Grey Lady Pass, one of three routes that allow trade between Bretonnia and the Empire. Just like the Dukedoms of Montfort and Gisoreux, the Dukedom of Parravon lies almost exclusively upon the rocky peaks of the southern Grey Mountains, with what little flatland being devoted to agriculture. As such, many of Parravon's castles are built upon cliffs and peaks amongst the mountain range. Such a high altitude has ensured that Parravon is particularly noted for having a large number of Pegasi and Pegasus Knights amongst their ranks. In fact, they are known for their founding Duke befriending Glorfinial, lord and sire of all Royal Pegasus.
- Castle Parravon – Famous for being carved directly from the rock of the mountain, Parravon is the only city in Bretonnia with a substantial population of Dwarfs. There are now some Dwarf families who have lived there for generations, though they still keep themselves somewhat apart from the Human citizens. Bretonnia’s sumptuary laws state only nobles can use stone in buildings. However, the Dukes of Parravon have never wanted wooden buildings messing up their glorious city, so they have long maintained that a peasant living in a carved stone building is no different from a peasant living in a cave. Actually, given the quality of many peasant homes in Parravon, the difference really is minimal.
- Quenelles - Quenelles is the largest of the dukedoms of Bretonnia, stretching over most of the middle of the land. Between the Massif Orcal and the River Gilleau is a part of the Forest of Châlons. This area seems almost completely free of monsters: one or two small groups of Beastmen or Orcs are seen in a year. Small groups of hunters, charcoal burners, or woodsmen can work in the forest unmolested. All attempts to establish villages have failed, ending in the complete destruction of the village. The village is replaced, overnight, by a bare depression in the soil, as if something had scooped up the entire settlement and taken it away. The southwest of Quenelles was once, before the founding of Bretonnia, the land of Cuileux. The knights of Cuileux were wiped out by Goblins and their lands absorbed by Quenelles. However, the courage of the last stand of the Cuilen has made them legendary. A large area is known as the Grave of Cuileux and is not farmed.
- Castle Quenlles – The City of Quenelles sits right on the border of Athel Loren. Indeed, the walls do not guard the eastern edge of the city: instead, the walls run up to the trees and stop. A broad stone road runs along the border of the forest. This used to be the eastern wall, but it was cut down over a thousand years ago at the command of the Wood Elves.
- Massif Orcal – A large desolate place that only Greenskins call home. Ruined watchtowers dot the landscape. No mineral wealth or plants grow on this desolate place.
- Brionne - Being surrounded by powerful allies and far away from major threats, Brionne is famous for its beautiful and tranquil landscape, second only to its brethren within Aquitaine itself. Brionne is famous for its emphasis on making everything, from mighty castles to small towns as clean and beautiful as possible. This beauty comes at the cost of practicality and common sense. They build mighty castles are beautiful in style but horrible at their purpose.
- Castle Brionne – Unlike the rest of Brionne, the architects of this castle combined beauty with functionality, being incredibly aesthetically pleasing whilst also good at its job of being a fort. It also contains the Hall of Minstrels, a building with perfect acoustics that always has minstrels performing no matter the time of day or night.
- Carcassone - A highly marshalled Dukedom, even in comparison to other Bretonnian Dukedoms, Carcassonne is a heavily militarized land that focuses its efforts on eradication of the Greenskin tribes that infest the Irrana Mountains in its southern border, especially the Iron Orcs, a subspecies of Orc even tougher than Black Orcs but stupider than Savage Orcs, who have iron armor as a part of their body.
- Castle Carcassone – Castle Carcassonne stands on an island surrounded by the River Songez, the westernmost of the tributaries of the River Brienne that lie wholly within the dukedom. The attached town is small and exists to provide services to a large number of "shepherd" companies who come to the castle to take jobs with the Duke.
KNIGHTS. Want something besides knights? BETTER KNIGHTS. Seriously. If there was a culture in the Old World that was more of a one-trick pony, (HA!) then the Bretonnians would probably declare a crusade for cramping their style. Bretonnian culture is all about fancy soldiers on fancy horses making fancy war. Based on the WHFRPG splatbook on the place, Bretonnia loves horses more than is strictly sane. Even peasants at least know how to ride and there's an entire sub-breed of horses designed to be easily ridden and cheaply fed, like a medieval Honda Civic. One of the most common punishments for nobles who manage to commit a crime serious enough for anyone to care is to be forced to ride in a carriage rather than on a horse like a manly man.
Outside of horses and the people with sharp metal that ride them, pretty much any French stereotype you can think of will probably be accurate aside from and surrendering. They like fancy cheese, they like wine, big on romantic themes and they never use one vowel when five will work. The splatbook also says they like truffles. So much so that they breed a special truffle hound for finding them. There's a highly suspect bit (from the 2e Warhammer RPG sourcebook on Bretonnia) that says that once a Bretonnian truffle hound gets a taste of some, he'll go psycho-territorial and try to bite off the junk of anyone nearby. Sadly no game rules exist (yet) to allow Emperor Karl Franz to lose his Sausage of Sigmar to a horny dog.
Ironically, Bretonnians actually changed quite drastically between editions before being all but abandoned. The original rendition of Bretonnians, before they became the "Chivalric Romance Knights In Shining Armor" faction was basically the French under Louis XVI - incredibly corrupt, self-centred aristocrats (with a massive problem with Slaanesh cults) ruling over dirty, downtrodden peasants. And, well, the abysmal lot of the peasants remained, but the aristocrats themselves got polished up brighter, to try and present a more sympathetic/heroic interpretation of them. Further, with the introduction of the Herrimault (aka Merrymen), you essentially have men in
tights [ TIGHT tights] hoodies running around fucking the more tyrannical nobles, that is, except when Chaos comes around, at which point Robin Hood fights alongside King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. Just long enough to avoid execution, presumably by truffle hound.
Aside from being strictly feudal, the biggest difference between Bretonnians and the Empire is that the Bretons worship mainly a single deity; the Lady of the Lake, a mystical woman who gave their first ruler the power to forge the united kingdom of Bretonnia. They do pay homage to other gods and in fact, have the seat of power of the cult of Shallya, it's just that those gods are significantly less important and are only called upon when the Bretonnians need something from them. Editions have insinuated to varying degrees that the Lady of the Lake may, in fact, actually be a Wood Elf mage and that the Wood Elves are secretly manipulating the entire Bretonnian culture to use them as expendable pawns. This is why, for example, they are subtly biased against the higher technologies used in the Empire, which would make them more inclined to cut down Athel Loren for firewood.
Their honor code has been used against them many times in battle one example is how in contrast to their neighbors they cannot under any circumstances use mercenaries (though Carcassonne nobles in particular are known for hiring entire regiments of "shepherds" to protect a single sheep...). And how promises done in a duel must be kept. One example of the duel rule backfiring on them is the story of Calard of Garamont long story short his fiance was defiled by a Norscan warlord and in arrogance the knights bet on who would keep the half norscan child. The knights lost and they gave away the child to the norscans granting the slaves of chaos a claim on bretonnian lands.
- Knights Errant: You thought you started your career as being a squire? Nope. Nobles who are old enough to wear their armour and sit on a horse are designated as Knights Errant and told to go off and earn glory however they can. Usually by dying. Of course, a few Knights Errant manage to survive, which earns them the rank of...
- Knights of the Realm: Your basic knight. Someone who's gotten some combat experience and respect already, they're given a bit of land to look after and some peasants to work it. This is often as far as anyone will go, unless they're obscenely rich or lucky, in which case they become...
- Pegasus Knights: Though not technically higher in rank than Knights of the Realm, these guys are fuck-off rich/batshit crazy enough to afford/find and tame a giant, bloodthirsty flying horse instead of your garden variety land-bound kind. Bretonnians are not known to be exactly healthy when it comes to their love of horses, but it gets really insane with the winged ones: peasants can't even touch the animals, and one of the dukes actually killed any peasant that looked at his steed. Ferrari's owner bullshit all around, gentlemen!
- Questing Knights: For any number of reasons, a knight may give up all his lands and titles (like a Slayer), lay down his lance, vow to seek honour and greatness above all else (like a Slayer), and become a Questing Knight. These guys spend the next 10 years or so wandering around the world (like a Slayer), looking for the Lady of the Lake while slaying big, nasty stuff along the way (like a Slayer). Most die. Horribly, alone, and far from home (like a Slayer). Fortunately, they all carry giant weapons, mostly greatswords, so their death is guaranteed to have a minimum amount of win (like a Slayer). But, if they are skilled, heroic, and lucky enough, they can succeed in their quest (unlike a Slayer); they find the correct Lake and meet the Green Knight. If they manage to defeat him (okay, he's holding back a lot), they get to see the Lady, drink some Powerthirst from the grail, and if they genuinely believe in the knightly ideals they claim to follow (drinking kills you otherwise), become...
- Grail Knights: The living gods of Bretonnia, they get to live for several hundred years and kick all kinds of ass. All kings have to drink from the grail, which means that unlike in other nations there is always a badass in charge. In fluff Grail knights can have all sorts of awesome powers, from killing evil creatures with a touch to healing wounds almost instantly, but on the table, all they get is magical attacks (except for the king, he also gets regeneration). Apparently, even their rotten and dried out corpses keeps some sort of magical powers and divine protection, considering that grail reliquae are a thing.
Questing Knights and Grail Knights are technically outside the usual hierarchy (with the exception of the Grail Knights who decide to regain all their titles after completing their quest, as all kings do) but, especially in the case of the latter, their word carries great weight, because they are closer to the Lady of the Lake than all others (with the exception of damsels and prophetesses of the lady, the magic-users of Bretonnia). Knights also tend to have a superiority complex that would put most high elves to shame, which means that no Questing Knight would allow himself to be directly led by a Knight of the Realm and Grail Knights only accept other Grail Knights as leaders (usually the king or a duke). Knights that actually deign to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with peasants are so rare they are considered exemplars of empathy.
Incidentally, there's only one restriction on being a Duke or lord of Bretonnia: you have to have proved yourself first. That is, you have to be at least a Knight of the Realm, but after that, it really doesn't matter. It's worth mentioning, too, that you don't inherit solely based on your parentage. If you're at least slightly capable, you'll inherit, but if a lord's son is a complete pussy, someone else will take over. This at least prevents the similar issues faced by planetary lords in the Imperium in 40k then, as this acts to weed out at least the worst of the worst (if not all the worst).
"Thou shalt give unto thine glorious liege the taxes that he requires. Thou shalt labour all but feast days, and no more than a tenth-share shall you keep for kith and kin. Rejoice! For a knight of Bretonia provides your shield..."
- – The Peasant's Duty
It's not easy being a peasant in Bretonnia. Peasants can only ever keep one-tenth of what they earn, which means that either peasants earn a lot or they are all, in fact, undead, which would explain their lack of skill at arms; otherwise they wouldn't have enough to sustain themselves. The other 90% goes to the Knights and Nobles, and any leftovers they have go back to the peasants. The splatbook for playing the first edition of the WHFB RPG in Bretonnia would go on to clarify this a little: as a peasant, your lord does indeed take 90% of your harvest, but then redistributes part of it back to you so you can survive (sort of). It's also said that some lords classify the harvest as 'weeding' meaning the peasants get to keep the 'weeds'. He's probably still going to give you just enough to survive and don't think just because you grew something really nice he's not just going to give you a bag of low-quality grain and some knight spit to cook it in. So basically feudalism with a nice big flavouring of Stalin-era socialism. The reason for this "Giving nine-tenths of everything you grow to your lord" lore error actually comes from a myth of the real-life Medieval peasantry (the reality was closer to one-tenth, and even that still left people mostly starving), which has been perpetuated by people who don't fucking check their sources, or bother to apply logic or reason to anything they read.
If you are a peasant, you also live in complete filth with other peasants in disgusting holdings and you can't ever change your miserable position. But hey, things are not so bad, you can always join your Lord's men-at-arms and receive enough shinies to set you for life! Or so they told you at the time, but they forgot to mention that you had to pay for all your equipment, so you were left with squat. Still, if you work hard enough, you might become a yeoman, which may earn you the privilege of riding the retarded/maimed horses no noble would dare to look at.
Naturally, under such conditions, many peasants simply snap. Some become bandits, but those who do not wish to be hunted down for the rest of their likely short lives instead find a ragtag band of other loonies, a dead grail knight and a pointy stick to become pilgrims, hoping to earn the blessing of the Lady (usually reserved only for nobles) by fighting for truth, justice and the Bretonnian way while carrying the dead knight around. If there is no dead grail knight around, I am sure that one over there won't recover from his wounds... (don't confound them for flagellants though. Pilgrims are known to cause unrest and be coward enough to run when things look really bad, so they are not as fanatical as they want for you to believe)
The 2nd edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay splatbook dedicated to Bretonnia, "Knights of the Grail", provides a lot more of a look at the peasant lifestyle, and expands upon the details a lot. In particular, because peasants (often quite rightly) don't trust their local lords not to resolve peasant disputes in the most brutally expedient manner possible, they tend to cover up their problems and try to resolve them purely amongst themselves. This usually works, but it also reinforces the fiction that the peasants actually are a happy, contented lot who live idyllic lives... aka, the complete rubbish that the vast majority of Bretonnian nobles genuinely believe because they've been spoonfed that crap their whole lives. When peasant revolts do happen, and we're told they're not that rare, this contributes to why the nobles put them down so harshly; because the uprising only happens as a last resort when the peasants just can't take it anymore, the nobles usually have no idea why it's happening - to them, it just sees to come out of nowhere, and this supports their narrative that peasant uprisings are caused by greed or base ingratitude.
Ironically, although the nobles typically blame foreign agitators for these outbursts of revolutionary sentiment, the truth is that the most common cause (other than just the nobles being assholes) is... nobles stirring up the peasants of a rival noble's land to distract their forces so the agitating noble can more easily conquer their rival. It's actually noted that foreign powers who do want to weaken Bretonnia have far more effective means than just agitating a bunch of feeble peasants. Chaos likes to stick a tentacle in when it has the opportunity, and Chaos-backed revolts are noted as extremely dangerous, far more so than usual - ordinary peasants may easily fall before the armoured might of Bretonnian knights, but a vengeful horde of mutants, often supplemented by beastmen and warlocks? That's a whole different story! Undead invaders use armies, magic, turn peasants and nobles into vampires or "recruit" dead Bretonnians to fight for them.
Technically the King or the Fay Enchantress, the hot female pope of the Lady, can raise you to nobility, but this has only happened thrice in all history of Bretonnia and your children will still be peasants. The first was a peasant named Huebald who saved a noblewoman from Beastmen; he was killed in his first battle because pretentious nobles will dislike the upstart and arranged him to die. The second was Repanse de Lyonesse AKA Joan of Ark. The third was a farmer's son named Geg, who avoided Huebald's fate by being the only peasant to ever drink from the Lady’s Grail to become a Grail Knight, making other nobles know when to quit.
Suddenly, Total War
"When the clarion call is sounded, I will ride out and fight in the name of Liege and Lady. Whilst I draw breath the lands bequeathed unto me will remain untainted by evil. Honor is all, chivalry is all. Rejoice, for we, the Knights of Bretonnia, will be your shield."
- – Knight's vow
"I set down my lance, symbol of duty. I spurn those I love. I relinquish all and take up the tools of my quest. No obstacle will stand before me. No plea of help shall find me waiting. No moon will look upon me twice lest I be judged idle. I give my body, heart and soul to the Lady whom I seek."
- – Questing vow
"That which is sacrosanct I shall preserve. That which is sublime I will protect. That which threatens I will destroy. For my holy wrath will know no bounds."
- – Grail vow
Damn good writing.
Ahem, although the Bretonnians got squatted twice over (first by being removed from the game, and then by the entire game being removed from the game), they've recently got a new lease on life from their appearance in Total War: WARHAMMER, where they're not only playable, but also get entirely new units that they never had in tabletop, including Hippogryph Knights, Blessed Trebuchets loaded with holy water, and Foot Squires. Even better, they have an awesome campaign that discourages mindless empire-building and instead rewards you with points of Chivalry for being a gallant Lady-fearing crusader. Every non-legendary lord must take up one by one all the aforementioned vows if they want the Grail. Want immortality, perfect vigor and your nifty divine powers? Earn it.
UNSQUATTED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
After an update, it has been confirmed that Bretonnia will be making its glorious return in Warhammer: The Old World. The setting will be taking place during the time of King Louen Orc Slayer, who ruled around the time of The Age of Three Emperors. Knights and dirty peasantry rejoice for the lands of Bretonnia are making their glorious comeback!
In a recent (and long overdue) update for The Old World some pieces of art were shown off, and among them was a picture of a dirty peasant bowman and a less dirty Knight of the Realm, both wearing the heraldry of Lord Gastille who seems to have been duke of Brionne at some point during the last 100(ish) years of the Age of the Three Emperors (you can see his heraldry on the Bretonnia map). The artwork looks pretty good and shows that Bretonnia is staying true to it's chivalrous roots and aesthetic.
Of Knights, Lore, And Major Retcons
For all that recent lore has Bretonnia as a place where being a peasant means you exist at the pleasure of the local nobility and can never hope to rise higher in life, this wasn't always the case. The 5th Edition Army Book, in addition to introducing the Lady Of The Lake, described becoming a knight as something that anyone could do provided they followed the ancient Bretonnian custom by which they earned it. Any area that needed a knight to protect it would designate a "perilous task" that the would-be knight had to complete, most likely involving the death of some local monster that had been eating people and causing a ruckus.
This task was traditionally chosen by "the fairest maiden in the village", who was destined to marry the one who succeeded at her task. Any brave or reckless youth was allowed to attempt it, with the volunteer being dubbed a Knight Errant and equipping themselves as best they can with whatever arms and armour they can beg, borrow, or scrounge. If they succeeded they were made a Knight of the Realm, gifted with the best armour and finest warhorse the village could afford (which, judging by the models, would make any Brettonian village ridiculously rich by real-life Medieval standards), along with lordship over the village itself and whatever lands and castle were considered part of it to defend as their own property.
There are several interesting details about this system, such as how Knights Errant are not technically knights; a Knight Errant is not a true knight, but an aspirant, the title meaning they're trying to become a knight by accepting an errand to complete. This leads directly to the tradition of the Errantry War when the king declares open season on a particular enemy and the war itself becomes an errand. Because you usually only get the chance to become a knight when your village doesn't currently have a knight, an Errantry War is a great opportunity for ambitious peasants and noble scions alike to seek knighthood, as well as a good way to raise a big army very quickly.
Of course, this also makes an Errantry War into a double-edged sword, because you have to give out the knighthoods afterwards. If you haven't conquered enough land to go around...well, you're in a lot of trouble. So kings don't declare Errantry Wars very often. And, of course, to make sure there are “openings” for knighthood the peasants aren’t going to miss the fact there are too many knights already...
Another interesting detail is that the Bretonnian system of knighthood was functionally meritocratic, with knighthood something you achieved by completing an errand rather than inheriting the position. A lord's sons start out as Knights Errant and have an advantage over most peasants because they probably have access to much better training and equipment, but even so, they still have to follow the rule. No errand means no knighthood and no domain.
The system essentially worked from the bottom up, with the village as the basic unit of social organisation, and in many ways, you became a knight through social consensus. The person who succeeds at the errand is probably going to be the person with community support because the village provided the weapons, equipment, and other essential aid he needed to complete his errand. A knight was essentially a village champion, with the next level up being a champion chosen from among the knights, then you build another champion on top of them, and so on until you reached the King.
In this sense it would probably be fair to characterise 5th edition Bretonnia as a meritocratic aristocracy. You ascend to the aristocracy by performing errands, and if you were born to a noble family but fail to complete an errand then sorry, son, you're not a noble. While not perfect, the close association of the knight with the village probably helped to safeguard against abusive knights as well.
After all, who sets the errand? Who decides who the 'fairest maiden' is, and how does she decide what to do? What stops a village from agreeing to set a suicidal task if they hated the foremost candidates for knighthood, waited for those candidates to get killed and then set an easier one for the guy they liked?
Even the identification of a particular maiden as 'the fairest' had to do with social consensus. It's entirely possible that the potential knight and the maiden are already a couple and the system is gamed ahead of time. You don't get knighted by an existing knight, a lord, or the king, the whole system hinged on the local community.
Lastly, the knightly errand system made Bretonnia into what is essentially a land of D&D adventurers with a culture that puts a strong emphasis on individual heroism, serving as a nice contrast to the Empire. If you want social success, then you just had to go kill a monster! There were also no rules about how the errand is completed or any judges watching you, so it's entirely possible to complete the errand through cleverness.
Of course, Games Workshop didn't think that was grimdark enough, and for Sixth Edition decided to flip the system on its head so that instead of rising from the bottom up, it hangs down and drips faeces all over everyone unlucky enough to live at the bottom. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay's Knights of the Grail follows the 6th edition model and provided a strict legal definition of nobility codified by Louis the Rash, the second king of Bretonnia. He made a big list of names called the Peer List: if your family name was on the list you were noble, and if all your ancestors in three generations were nobles then you were a noble, but even one peasant would disqualify you. That means that even if ennobled peasant marries a noble, their children would still be peasants. In theory, all Bretonnian nobles should be able to trace their lineage back to the List, and while the king has the power to add a name to the List, he has only done so three times in all of Bretonnia's recorded history. No word on how exactly Bretonnia has even survived to this day considering how dangerous a life of a knight is. In stark opposition to the egalitarian system of 5E based on deeds, 6E Bretonnian nobility is purely a matter of ancestry. Nobles then claim fiefs and rule over villages, but are not required to interact with them in any way, and the village has no power over them.
In 5E, the knight springs from the people. In 6E, the knight dominates the people. Aren't retcons nice?
As things stand, it mostly depends on whoever is the Lord who holds suzerainty over the village in question and in most cases it's somewhere in-between. It's also very likely that at least some people dodged the Peer List requirement over the years (it's not like anyone can tell perfectly after all the time that has passed) and got nobility and it just doesn't get exposed because not everyone is inclined to become a Questing Knight (Grail Knighthood cannot be loopholed, the Lady knows whether you are a true noble son of Bretonnia or not).
That said, looking at the 2e supplement for the RPG shows a more nuanced take. While greedy or corrupt nobles absolutely exist, most Duke are fairly reasonable, and anyone that completed the Grail Vow is a nice person who genuinly wants what's best for the peasantry... but cannot relate to them and treat them with paternalistic condescending compassion.
Bretonnia debuted for the very first time in the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, making them one of the youngest human factions - for comparion's sake, the Amazons and Cathay debuted in 2nd edition, whilst Norsca, Araby and Nippon all hailed back to 1st edition. The only other human factions to debut this late in the game where Tilea and Estalia.
At this point, Bretonnia had something of a dichotomy. The lore presented in the corebook presents them as something of a pre-French Revolution hellhole, where a spoiled and vainglorious king rules over decadent aristocrats whilst the benighted peasantry struggles to survive - this is the lore that Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st edition would also include, though it never visited the region.
The Grand Army of Bretonnia in Warhammer Armies, on the other hand, is almost like something out of the Arthurian Mythos, being made up of knights and peasants. A female Bretonnian hero could ride a Unicorn and any Bretonnian hero could ride a dragon (either flightless or winged), but apart from those and the presence of war altars and cannons, it was basically just knights and peasants with very, very French names. They could supplement their armies by taking Halflings, Old Worlders and Wood Elves as allies and Dwarfs, Half-Orcs, Norse, Ogres and Old Worlders as mercenaries, as well as take a monstrous host containing a dragon, giant frogs, giant leeches, giant snails, and swarms of frogs and toads, though. though.
This interpretation didn't last long. Bretonnia went unvisited in 4th edition, but when it returned in 5th edition, it abandoned its corrupt and jaded lore for something far closer to the Arthurian Mythos its army had been built around. Whilst 6th edition would grimdark it back up, it'd still build from the 5e version of the lore, rather than the 3e version.
Whilst Bretonnia was introduced with a fairly sizable list of special characters in its 5th edition sourcebook, most of them didn't make it into subsequent editions.
- Louen Leoncoeur, the Lionhearted
- Repanse de Lyonesse
- Baron Odo d'Outremer, avec Suliman le Saracen
- Roland le Marechal
- Tancred, Duc De Quenelles
- Betrand the Brigand and the Bowmen of Bergerac
- The Knight of the Perilous Lance
- Tristran le Troubadour avec Jules le Joungleur
- Reynard le Chasseur
- Armand D'Aquitaine
- Jasperre le Beau, Dragonslayer
- Bohemond Beastslayer, Duke of Bastonne
- The Green Knight
- Morgiana le Fay, Fay Enchantress of Bretonnia
Unique Fauna and Flora
- Tactics/Bretonnia, in which we explain to you how to best bash skulls in, chaos warrior style, only from a horse.
- Bretonnian tactics for the glorious 6th edition
- Court of Bretonnia - a tumblrfaggot with a new, but good blog on Bretonnia.
- FUCK YEAH BRETONNIA - tumblrfaggot redeems self with a decent topical blog about Bretonnia.
- The Roundtable of Bretonnia
- Warhammer Wiki - Bretonnia - Dah Wikis
- Total War: Warhammer Bretonnia Trailer
|Regions and Areas of the Warhammer World|
|Areas of The Old World:||The Empire of Man - Bretonnia - Albion - Estalia - Tilea - Kislev - Norsca - Border Princes - Worlds Edge Mountains - Karak Eight-Peaks|
|Areas of The New World:||Naggaroth - Lustria|
|Areas of The Eastern Lands:||Cathay - Nippon - Ogre Kingdoms - Dark Lands - Kingdoms of Ind - Khuresh - Eastern Steppes|
|Areas of The Southlands:||Nehekhara - Araby - Badlands - Marshes of Madness|
|Other Areas of the world:||Ulthuan - Athel Loren - Chaos Wastes - Skavenblight - Lost Isles of Elithis|
|Main bodies of Water:||The Great Ocean - The Far Sea - The Sea of Dread - Inner Sea of Ulthuan|
|Playable Factions in Warhammer Fantasy Battle|
|Human Kingdoms:||The Empire of Man - Bretonnia|
|Elves:||High Elves - Dark Elves - Wood Elves|
|Dwarven:||Dwarfs - Chaos Dwarfs|
|Undead:||Tomb Kings - Vampire Counts|
|Heirs of the Old Ones:||Lizardmen|
|Greenskins||Orcs - Goblins|
|Servants of Chaos||Warriors of Chaos - Daemons of Chaos - Beastmen|