In pre-Imperial times the nation of Dawn was ruled over by a monarch elected by victory in a grand tourney. The First Empress successfully won victory in the tourney becoming Queen of Dawn and brought Dawn into the Empire. In so doing she ended the constitutional position of the monarch as the ruler of Dawn - but the title endured as an important symbol in the years since.
Most Dawnish troubadours agree that the first monarch of Dawn, was a tall blond-haired warrior-king called Tristane the Golden. Under his banner of a rising sun, the warriors who followed him carved out the nation of Dawn, driving the orcs east into the marshes and away from the rich fertile lands that are now Weirwater and Astolat.
According to legend, Tristane's heir was an enchantress named Circe, but often simply referred to as the Swan. The Swan refused to take the throne after her father's death claiming only the most worthy should be crowned monarch of Dawn. She challenged her rivals and allies alike to a grand tourney offering the crown to the victor. The troubadours concur that the tourney was won by Arwaine the Bold, but most disagree on whether Arwaine was the Swan's sister, her brother, her lover or both. When Arwaine the Bold died without an heir, the tradition of a tourney to elect the next monarch was established.
A string of monarchs followed. The most infamous was Penni the White, who seized the throne with the assistance of heralds of the Winter Realm. Accounts are confused, but it is likely that these beings may well have been creatures in service to the Wendigo. Penni's rule lasted a bloody decade; he slaughtered the orcish enemies of Dawn, but legends claim he killed as many Dawnish as orcs. With terrifying strength drawn from the Winter realm, Penni's knights challenged and slaughtered any who opposed their liege. His rule was finally ended when Simone of House Fayer, a knight-errant charged with ending tyranny, seduced the king and murdered him in his bed.
Perhaps the most popular monarch was Igraine, Queen of Roses. There are countless tales of her triumphs beginning with her Test of Mettle. While born a de Rondell, she surprised many by seeking her nobility in House Rousillon. Igraine's notable talent was horticulture, she grew and bred exotic roses. House Rousillon was militarily and politically powerful - and Igraine's choice seem unwelcome and ill-fated. Unimpressed with the beauty of her flowers, the Earl Rousillon challenged her to create a fortress his knights could not conquer in a year and a day. According to legend, Igraine defeated the Earl's knights by raising an impenetrable tower formed of animate thorn bushes. In the years that followed, Igraine grew in power and status. She eventually became Earl of Rousillon and - with the military might of both Rousillon and de Rondell behind her - Queen shortly thereafter.
As Queen, she is credited with raising the Castle of Thorns, as well as encouraging the first weaver cabals. She ruled for nearly four decades inspiring love from yeofolk and noble alike. According to legend she wed four husbands at the same time - one for each season. When she died it is claimed that a herald of the Summer Realm stole her body away leaving only a white rose in its place.
Rodric the Lame is described as the last King of Dawn. Although he was followed by the First Empress, who became Queen of Dawn after Rodric stepped down, her first decree was to bring Dawn into the Empire - effectively disbanding the throne as the seat of power. As such Rodric was the last true ruler of Dawn - after his time legal authority was vested in the senators.
The First Empress continued to use the title of Queen of Dawn throughout her reign. After her death Giovanni the Peacemaker became Emperor - but most accounts agree that he did not become King of Dawn. Despite this no other Dawnish monarch is recorded at this time and it may well be that this development set the pattern that continues to this day. The title had became inextricably linked with The Throne - only an occupant of the Imperial Throne could be crowned King or Queen of Dawn - but not all Emperors or Empresses have been granted that honour.
Although the title of monarch of Dawn no longer holds any legal authority or power, the honorific title remains deeply significant to some Dawnish houses. To be crowned, the Throne must win victory in a grand tourney of Dawnish nobility. Although The Throne is the only candidate in this tourney, any noble who does not feel that The Throne is also entitled to bear the title of King or Queen of Dawn may take the field against them. As is usual with a tourney, only Dawnish nobles are eligible to take part. This often complicates the situation - if The Throne is not a Dawnish noble, they cannot fight on their own behalf and must instead seek allies and champions in the noble houses.
Empress Richilde of course, was Queen of Dawn - she exemplified the glorious traditions of her homeland. When her tourney was organized, not a single knight could be found to oppose her. To ensure that the tourney could still go ahead, fourteen knights covered their shields with black cloth to hide their device and took the field against more than a hundred knights and witches arrayed against them. Rather than end the tourney ignominiously, Richilde's supporters put forwards a single combatant for each of the black knights to fight. The melee continued for many hours, but with near half their number defeated only one black knight remained and she was so badly wounded, it was clear she would die if the fight continued. Richilde begged the mysterious knight to stand down, but she refused, insisting that only a glorious victory was worthy of Dawn. According to the legends the knight was buried in her armour insisting that the only name that history would record was Richilde's.
Only two Thrones have attempted the tourney and lost in recent history. The first was when the claim of Emperor Nicovar was almost unanimously opposed by the nobility of Dawn. Although many nobles later claimed this was great prescience on their part, the truth at the time was that most felt his undeniable skill as an administrator did not make him worthy to sit on the throne in the Castle of Thorns.
Still, this example is inevitably quoted whenever any individual tries to claim that it would be disloyal to take the field against The Throne. What Nicovar firmly established in the eyes of many Dawnish earls was that any Imperial citizen could claim the Throne but to become Queen or King of Dawn, the candidate must adequately reflect the glorious traditions of Dawn. The view at the time was that there is almost no point in continuing to bestow the title of King or Queen of Dawn if every occupant of the Throne was automatically granted it. It is only by the act of choosing whether The Throne may also use the title of Dawnish monarch that the nobility can indicate their support - or disapproval - for The Throne.
The only candidate to be defeated since Nicovar was Empress Mariika who followed Nicovar to the Throne. She challenged for the title of Queen of Dawn three times but was defeated on each occasion. It is commonly alleged that Mariika was more interested in the identity of those who took the field against her, than in actually claiming the crown, apparently using the contest as a means to measure the depth of her support among the noble houses. Although she was publicly rebuked for abusing Dawnish traditions in this way she was only narrowly defeated on the third attempt.
The last Throne to be crowned Queen of Dawn was Empress Brannan. Like many of her predecessors, Brannan initially elected not to pursue her claim to the title. She declined to attend a grand tourney organized in her honour - citing her commitment to leading Imperial forces against the Jotun (although some scholars believe she wished to avoid comparisons to Emperor Guntherm who had achieved a resounding victory on the tourney field and carried the title of King of Dawn proudly whenever he fought alongside the Dawnish). When she came east to begin the war against the Druj, however, she was forced to meet with the earls who made clear that if The Throne wanted the whole-hearted support of the armies of Dawn, she should start by showing her support for Dawn. In the end her supporters won the tourney easily, but for a while the Dawnish troubadours took to referring to her as Empress Brannan the Eager.
After Brannan, no occupant of the Throne has chosen to stake a claim to the title of King or Queen of Dawn. A few genuinely had little interest in the title, but most were more keen to avoid the ignominy of defeat. Others had more complex reasons. Emperor James is widely considered to have refused to seek the title out of respect for his erstwhile friend Jonty deWolfe for example, while Emperor Hugh was urged by many to seek the crown but refused out of a sense that he was not entirely worthy of the title - and allegedly suspicion of the motivations of some of his close supporters.
This changed during the Spring Equinox 381YE, when Dawnish nobles supporting Imperatrix Lisabetta were victorious on her behalf, leading to the first crowned monarch in over a hundred-and-thirty years.
It doesn't matter if you want it - the only thing that matters is if you deserve it. If you want to lead our people to war, if you want them to bleed for you then you will put your banner on that tourney field. Dawn will always fight for the Throne - but we'll die for our Queen.Morgaine the Enchanter
The Monarchy in Play
Although purely ceremonial, the Dawnish monarch is still important to many Dawnish and to the politics of the Empire as a whole. Claiming the title is not a decision for The Throne to take lightly, as it requires The Throne to submit themselves to the approval of the Dawnish nobility. To avoid the kind of humiliation heaped on Nicovar, a wise Throne is advised to discreetly inquire on which side of the tourney field the Earls are likely to stand before staking their claim.
Despite their determination to ensure that their King or Queen preserves the tradition of being the most glorious among them, most Earls are also shrewd enough to understand that the title of monarch of Dawn creates a unique relationship between Dawn and The Throne. It allows Dawn to claim a Throne - even one from another nation - as one of their own and some have even suggested that the title may influence the way The Throne treats Dawn.
The Dawnish nobles have to consider very carefully whether to support an aspirant to the monarchy of their nation because they keep the title for life. They can only be replaced by a new monarch once they are dead (and a new Throne has been appointed, obviously).
After the Autumn Equinox 381YE, we received a number of questions regarding the traditions of the Dawn monarchy. We created a Dawn monarchy update page to address these questions.