Nobles and Money

Nobles are always expected to live somewhat above their means. In other words, any noble who wants to avoid a bad Reputation will have a hard time getting away with saving any money. Given that, how does a noble go about increasing their wealth (from Poor to Average, or Average to Wealthy)? I guess it's mostly conquest and earning Gratitude so your liege gives you more?

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War (including Crusading)
Taxing those lazy commoners, whose existence is to provide for their betters
Imposing new fees on practically anything you can think of
Confiscating the ill-gotten wealth of Jews
Fining law-breakers
Expanding and improving land holdings by
-Confiscation of lesser nobles
-If needed, actual investment and converting marginal land into productive land

If you have rank you can also shift your living expenses to your vassals by visiting them. A tool of state for kings was to impoverish enemies by being a house guest for overly long.

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Except in Spain (and Italy, but that's another kettle of fish entirely), nobles cannot gain Wealthy status through money alone, unless the reason that they're not Wealthy already is because their estates are encumbered by debts. For a noble, wealth is land - a Wealthy noble is a noble who has knights serving him, which means he has manors that can support their upkeep.

So yes, either you conquer and Crusade, or earn Gratitude by being on the right side of your liege's wars. Shaking down Jews, commoners and vassals is what you do to keep your wealth where it is, pay off ransom debts or mercenary debts - not expand your personal assets.

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Definitely more taxes and acquiring more population to tax. Investing in increasing the productivity of those you rule was sporadic at best, not a systematic constant like today.

Heck, that isn't really being done today...

More to the point, Lords of Men decrees that if you don't tax the very life out of the peasantry and leave them with just enough to survive, they start to get restive.

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Which doesn't apply to covenants because... No reason at all, but Covenants said it doesn't apply to covenants, so we're going with it. :laughing:

Though that actually is an interesting point to make. If you're already taxing them halfway to death, then what good can your right of tally do? I suppose it's theoretically useful in places where lords keep the standard of living high enough to avoid flight to nearby towns, but... Well, then the lord has a likely bigger incentive to not take advantage of it. Lose-lose situation, there.

So yeah. It's mostly conquest and Gratitude, after all. Preferably a large burst of Gratitude, since most lords prefer smaller and more regular rewards if they can get away with it... That's fair enough, I suppose.

If you want to do it without causing revolt amongst your peasants...found new towns with charters of rights and rights to monopolies, and charge people rent to live in the town.

The tricky bit is balancing this just right. If your town is too good, other nobles/other towns will burn it down because all their peasants/townsfolk have fled to your town. If your town is not good enough, or the rent is too steep, no-one will come and live in your town. And, of course, if the rights are too liberal, your townsfolk might think they don't need nobles at all (possibly more a problem for your descendants).

In some parts of Mythic Europe this is considered such a good ploy that a noble needs the permission of the king to found a town.

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A covenant's peasant tenants are not covenfolk, they're an income source. Agriculture income means that you have manorial tax rights for agricultural labor, but covenfolk proper are usually paid and fed on the covenant dime, and ideally are loyal to the covenant, but they are not manor peasants (even the laborers who handle the kitchen garden). If a covenant does rule over peasants as an income source, then the covenant should indeed bleed 'em dry.

Fines are part of the expected tax income, really. If a serf looks like he's accumulating money towards paying for his liberty, then he's clearly being avaricious. Fine him!

Also remember that much of a noble's income was in the form of goods, services, and social prestige rather than literal coin. Much of their income would have gone directly into maintaining their armed retinue and network of clients., which was used to keep peasants villages in their grip.

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