Questions: Lords of Admiralty

Specialist290 asks:

In addition to my previous queries, an additional historical / etymological one:  Does the presence of “Lords of the Admiralty” in the Empire’s military hierarchy imply, like their *our*-world British counterparts, that their duties were once concentrated in a singular office of “Lord High Admiral” whose role eventually evolved into an office held in commission?

Well spotted, but alas, no. It’s just the best close approximation I could find to the actual title, noting specifically that in the Eldraeverse it is not short for “Lords Commissioners for Exercising the Office of Lord High Admiral”.

As for why that is the title… well, it works like this.

In Imperial practice, there are three kinds of what for want of a better word we shall call “nobility”: the runér, the praetorate, and the exultancy. The first, the runér, are the executive branch – your lairds, barons, counts, dukes, kings, etc., or for that matter your city managers, county commissioners, and state governors. The third, the exultancy, are titles of prestige awarded for loyal service, superior achievement, or otherwise great merit. Those don’t come with hard power, merely precedence, prestige, honors, letterheads, entrées, and the ability to get good tables in nice restaurants at short notice.

The second, the praetorate, includes titles like these – it being the general case that people who routinely interact at the highest levels with the highly-titled runér need equivalent honors, dignities, and precedence to support their offices. At lower levels of the table of ranks, usually it doesn’t apply, but at the uppermost levels – what I might call the Mandarinate if I needed a translation for that term, yet – most offices have some unique praetorate title with its own place in the big list of official precedence.

So in this case –

Well. The top of the Table of Ranks for the Imperial Military Service is grade O-14, which the Imperial Navy calls Admiral of the Fleet, the Imperial Legions call Captain-General of the Legions, the Home Guard calls Commandant of the Guard, and the stratarchies call Lord High Stratarch. Traditionally, that rank is reserved for Lords of Admiralty, so each service only has one of them except for the one that furnishes the First Lord of Admiralty, which gets two.

But that’s a military rank. It empowers them to head up their particular military service, but doesn’t mean anything outside that. (Those who remember The Core War will recall orders sent out from someone using the rank ADM/FLT, rather than from the First Lord of the Admiralty, for example…)

All of those people also sit on the Board of Admiralty, which actually runs the Imperial Military Service as a whole. Their military ranks serve for that portion of the job. For interfacing with the civilian government, however, each of them holds a unique title as one of the Lords of Admiralty, which is equivalent to grade XIII on the Table of Ranks for the Imperial Service (“Minister of State” or “Logarch”), except for the First Lord of the Admiralty, who is ranked as grade XIV (“Minister of the Throne” and/or other Great Officer of State).

Which in turn is because the other Lords of Admiralty sit only on the Board of Admiralty and in meetings of the Council of Ministers (the larger of the two bodies which includes the heads of all the ministries beneath the seven large ones as well as the seven, presided over by the Lord Coordinator of the Chancelry acting as the Minister President of the Council) whereas the First Lord sits on the Council of the Star (the top-level executive body which includes only the seven top-level ministries – of which the Admiralty counts as one – presided over by the Imperial Couple personally).

(If I were to make an analogy to US government here, I’d say that one could analogize the Board of Admiralty in Imperial practice to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the First Lord to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, except that the First Lord’s job is also that of the Secretary of Defense, which is why it’s also the functional equivalent of a Cabinet-level post.)

All of which is very involved, but then, I am attempting to simulate a somewhat evolved structure, here, not an unnaturally clean one…

So, to sum up, basically, they’re called that because it’s Translation Convention for the noble-equivalent title that comes with the job.


Military Matters

(Sorry, folks – I had really meant to give you the next section of Darkness Within today. Unfortunately, I’m feeling pretty plague-ridden right now and can’t really give it the degree of attention it deserves, so instead, I’m giving you some non-fic notes on the evolution of the Imperial Military Service.)

One of the minor things that came up with reference to Trope-a-Day: Semper Fi, in a comment on the G+ share of that post, was the traditional interservice brawl; and something mentioned in my answer to that was the Empire’s lack of any Army-equivalent to fight its Marines-equivalent legionaries. And this, I figured, might give rise to some curiosity as to Just How Things Got That Way, both with the lack of one, and which one turned up lacking.

So let’s look back in history a ways.

Specifically, let’s look back to the Union of Empires, which predated the founding of the actual Empire by 42 years or so. Among the many pieces of geopolitical reasoning that went into motivating this particular unification was a military one: one component, the island-bound Empire of Cestia, had – through its sub-polity, the Alatian Kingdom, the finest fleet on the planet. The other, the continental, mountain-bound Moon-Worshipping Empire of Selenaria had the finest army on the planet. If you were to compare the two, respectively, to the British Royal Navy and the Roman legions at their respective heights, you’d be in the right ballparks.

Naturally, the thought of putting the legions of the one onto the ships of the other, overcoming Selenaria’s geographical boundaries and Cestia’s difficulties operating away from water, and thereby conquering the whole damn world put many, many smiles on the faces of both the admirals in Ethring and the generals in Iselené.

These two organizations became the forerunners of the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions, respectively.

(Which is not to say those were the only contributions at the time of the Empire’s founding. Of the other founders, the Deeping had its appropriately terrifyin’ warrior-priests, Veranthyr had some of the best light forest scouts in the business, and the Silver Crescent, in particular Leirin and Telírvess, provided more than its share of what I believe are called quote deeply scary-ass axe-wieldin’ motherfuckers unquote, but the two big professional military elements were the above.)

And then, of course, things evolved over time.

The Legions became more of a Marine-like force very quickly, of course, given that amphibious backstory, and that most of the early Empire’s wars did involve close cooperation with the Navy. That in turn, induced something of a fragmentation: one of the first reorganizations split apart the legions that spent most of their time makin’ war offensively from those with a primarily defensive role, the latter of which became the Home Guard, which in turn evolved into a citizen militia with those units serving as its core and cadre.

And time passed, and the Empire expanded, and the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Legions basically borged all the new forces and their units they acquired in the process into their own organizations: sometimes via methods that required great restructuring and retraining, and sometimes by methods as simple as handing out a new Imperial Star to add to their battle standards and informing the Ancyran Devil Dogs that they were now “the Empress’s Hundred-and-Second, the Devil Dogs”.

And more time passed, and military technology were advanced, and portfolios were shuffled, and people invented the notion of an Air Force, which became the Fourth Lord of Admiralty’s purview for the next considerable time, and so it went on…

Up, at least, until the really big post-space-era reorganization. In which several large changes were made over a relatively short period – of which the most major was combining the Imperial Navy and its air forces – both of which had interests in space and relevant specializations – into a single unified force, filling each others’ competence holes, and whose primary business was space. (And, indeed, which lost most of its air-only and wet navy responsibilities, too.) The legacy of that reorg is still visible in their mixed set of traditions, and the quirk in rank structures that explains why an IN O-5 in the Engineering Branch is a Lieutenant Commander, but an O-5 in the Flight Ops branch is a Squadron Leader.

This also made the Imperial Legions even more Marine-y, as it were, because you can’t invade anywhere in space without the IN taking you there – and because it is sheerly impractical to invade planets across interstellar distances by main force, so the sorts of operations they are specialized for are much more in what we might consider the “marine” mode than the “army” mode. The Empire doesn’t have an army suitable for long-term warfare and occupation, because it is firmly of the opinion that it doesn’t need one.

(This also reassures more than a few of their neighbors, which is a nice side-effect.)

And that brings us up to the modern era. So how does it look now?

Well, the man on the street would probably say, all casual-like, that there are two main branches of the Imperial Military Service, the Navy (in SPAAACE!) and the Legions. And on a very casual level, he’d be right. But there are actually eight, under the nine Lords of Admiralty…

The First Lord of the Admiralty, Protector of the Starways, Warden of the Charted Void, Warlord of the Empire (all of which looks so much nicer on a business card than “Secretary of Defense”) is the one that doesn’t have a branch of his own. He commands the central Admiralty itself, (that having won the nomenclatural coin-toss with the General Staff, back in the day), filling both the equivalent posts of the SecDef and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Core Command, which oversees the Warmains, the appointed supreme-commanders-on-the-spot for each permanent or ad-hoc Theater Command. He’s the most senior military officer, who may be appointed from any of the eight branches, and has full operational command authority.

The Second Lord of the Admiralty is the most senior non-operational officer for the Imperial Navy, as the Third Lord of the Admiralty is for the Imperial Legions, usually both O-14s – Admiral of the Fleet and Captain-General of the Legions, respectively.

The Fourth Lord of the Admiralty is, in the modern era, the O-14 (Lord High Stratarch) in charge of the Stratarchy of Military Unification. That, in turn, amounts to the “department of misc” – in the final reorganization that created the IN and IL in their modern forms, this Stratarchy acquired all the military functions that didn’t fit in either of them: the Empire’s remaining specialized air forces and wet navy forces, for example, along with a variety of other functions too specialized to fit well in the IN and IL, along with some other oddity functions like “privateer liaison”, and so forth.

And then there are the stratarchies created by further modern-era additions.

The Fifth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Data Warfare, which is responsible for making the Empire’s enemies deeply regret that they ever plugged anything into the extranet, and quite possibly that they ever invented electronics.

The Sixth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Indirection and Subtlety, which is in charge of assassinations, sabotage, economic warfare, ecological warfare, financial warfare, and pretty much everything else from the big book of dirty tricks that doesn’t fall under the purview of…

The Seventh Lord of the Admiralty, whose Stratarchy of Warrior Philosophy houses war-lawyers and military memeticists whose function is to use misinformation, meme-attacks, psychological warfare, cultural propaganda, and outright toxic memes to find the strands holding an enemy’s morale, military, economy, society, religion, culture, etc., etc., together and basically unravel them. When your plans for a nice little war are rudely interrupted by a multi-way civil war breaking out at home, it’s the Seventh Lord who strokes his mustache and indulges in evil laughter.

The Eighth Lord of the Admiralty commands the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics, which is exactly what it says on the tin, and ensures that everyone else has exactly what they need when they need it, even – or perhaps especially – if it hadn’t occurred to them to ask for it yet.

And the Ninth Lord of the Admiralty, the Commandant of the Guard, commands the Home Guard (remember them?) in maintaining defensive garrisons, fortifications, and facilities and training services for the citizen militia.


From the Office of the Admiralty
with the Voice and Authority of those Appointed as
Lords of Admiralty
and charged with executing the Aforesaid Office under Power of Authority
descending From Their Imperial Majesties, under the Great Seal.

Ríän Múranios-ith-Murann Elisná

We do hereby constitute and appoint you to the rank of


in Their Divine Majesties’ Navy
Requesting and Requiring you in the Voice of their Divine Majesties
and in Accordance with the Imperial Charter
in that rank or in any higher rank to which you may be promoted
to comport yourself as an Officer of the Empire and a Daryteir,
to faithfully observe and execute the Imperial Rules of War,
and Admiralty Instructions for the Governance of Their Divine Majesties’ Naval Service,
and, as the exigencies of war require,
all such Orders and Instructions as you shall from time to time receive from Us
or from your Superior Officers for Their Divine Majesties’ Military Service;
and likewise Requesting and Requiring all Officers, Spacehands, and Spacecraftsmen
subordinate to you according to the said Rules, Instructions, or Orders
to conduct themselves with all due Respect and appropriate Obedience to you,
under the Rules of War.

Given under Our Hands and the Seal of the Office of the Admiralty
this day Gradakhmath 17 in the 7921st year of the Empire

Trope-a-Day: Easy Logistics

Easy Logistics: Averted, even with nanotech, cornucopias, and suchlike, because it’s not like they don’t still require supplies of feedstock and energy, not to mention being inefficient to use for bulk manufacturing of things like ammunition – which is not a good place to be if the other side isn’t obliging you by being equally inefficient.

There’s a reason why the Eighth Lord of the Admiralty has the biggest stratarchy (the Stratarchy of Military Support and Logistics), which works very hard to keep equipment, fuel, ammunition and materials standardized, and to maintain the largest set of depots and fleets of oilers, tenders and transports around anywhere.  Tactics win battles; strategy wins campaigns.  Logistics wins wars.

Trope-a-Day: Defcon Five

Defcon Five: Three of these systems, actually.  The Admiralty has its “strategic condition” levels, in both global and theater senses, ranging from Six (“all is peaceful, quiet, tranquil, and frankly boring”) to One (“full-blown war, or, if this is the global level, galactic armageddon”).

Likewise, the Emergency Management Authority has its “civil emergency states” on a matching scale, where Six is “everything’s working just like it should, no trouble”, and One is “did anyone get the number of that asteroid?”; and the Imperial Security Executive has its “exceptional security alertness” scale, colloquially known as the “recommended paranoia level”, which runs Blue, White, Amber, Red, Violet, Black, where Blue is “nothing to see here” and Black is “total shitstorm, kill anything vaguely suspicious on sight, apologize later”.

Trope-a-Day: Disproportionate Retribution

Disproportionate Retribution: The Empire’s defense and anti-terrorism, etc., policy runs on Disproportionate Retribution – defined as, as we said back in Combat Pragmatist, “the ideal response is one which precludes any possible necessity of its repetition”.  The Empire is painfully aware that being nice is not enough to make you universally liked, particularly since being nice in the eyes of all, or even most, of the more restrictive polities out there – which is just about all of them – would involve trying to exert all kinds of arbitrary prior restraint on Imperials, and there’s no way that’s going to happen.

Which is to say that while maintaining an overall foreign policy of friendly neutrality, their defense, etc., policy is based much more on oderint dum metuant, Making an Example of Them, and so forth.  By this doctrine, every time an act of war against them is responded to with an actual war, every time (successful) government-sponsored terrorism gets the sponsoring governments’ facilities turned into a scattering of glass-lined craters, every time popular support for (or celebration of) these sorts of things gets Admiral Caliéne “Kill ‘Em All Today, Boys, And We Can Take Tomorrow Off” Sargas called out to educate the bloody savages in common decency, and so on and so forth, is an object lesson to the next dozen idiots who might get similar ideas.

(And, as a side note, it also satisfies the mob of very angry, very heavily armed people who might otherwise be inclined to privatize the retribution in a manner even more disproportionate, and potentially less careful about avoiding collateral damage.)

It wouldn’t work without the carrot, of course.  The foreign policy chaps at the Ministry of State & Outlands work hard to maintain the standard position of “a neutral power, friendly with the world – well, much of the world, and largely indifferent to the rest”, whatever certain individuals and branches may do, and are always polite and civilized and emollient and delighted to help you work out trade deals (to such extent as they’re necessary, given the unilateral free trade policy that the Empire never – and indeed can’t – deviates from, but they can put you in touch with various useful people) and technology transfers and mediate treaties and generally get business done, and would never dream of trespassing, as a polity, on your sovereign rights.

Even if they have to give the occasional more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger speech on the Conclave floor on the general theme of how much they regret the necessity of the recent incident, but nevertheless, “the first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from aggressors”…

…and somehow the underlying message always goes home: if you want to live, if you want to prosper, if you want to see your cause do either – do not fuck with Imperial citizen-shareholders.

Trope-a-Day: Combat Pragmatist

Combat Pragmatist: Despite their reputation for honor, the eldrae in general and the Imperial Legions in particular are very much the combat pragmatists.  (An immortal life, after all, is a very precious thing, both individually and demographically.)  So while they would much prefer to resolve conflicts through other means, including delightfully fair and stylized “game war”, if it actually comes down to it – well, let’s just say that no-one ever told them that war ought to be sporting, and that idea would be good for a laugh at the Admiralty any day of the week.

The general view of said Admiralty is that in a real war, if you’re not cheating, you’re fixin’ to lose.  Special operations (including assassination) are pretty much the best ways to make war, with sneakiness, ambush, infiltration, deceptiveness, preemption – and only a complete idiot or a lunatic would announce to the enemy that they’re about to attack them in advance – and avoiding a fair fight at all costs making up most of the rest of the doctrine.  While in regular warfare, they take pains to preserve civilian lives and local property values, that’s because it’s also moderately stupid to destroy the asset value of whatever you’re fighting over – if you care to keep military assets around your civilians, provoke them to a no-rules war, or engage in asymmetric warfare, you can find out for yourself that this is not an absolute rule, it’s merely a moral preference – and in the latter case learn that Disproportionate Retribution is also the order of the day (on the grounds that the ideal response is one which precludes any possible necessity of its repetition).

Much the same principles apply to individual-level combat; most of the Empire’s prized schools of armed and unarmed martial arts explicitly include a wide number of moves which humans would call, ah, “ungentlemanly”, including the virtues of the Groin Attack, shooting people in the back, and other extracts from their millennia-long collection of dirty tricks.  Of course, what they’ll tell you is that if a gentleman is required to fight, he’s fighting for something, and that that something is not going to be served by voluntarily conceding the advantage.  He is, therefore, obliged to use all the means he has available to win it.

(That the contrast between their general “honorable” behavior and combat pragmatism causes cognitive dissonance in a remarkably large number of species and cultures is, incidentally, something else that they shamelessly use to their advantage.)