Up From the Mud
“Coiner Prince” is a derogatory term for the wealthy commoners who purchased titles from indebted nobles of Balos in the years following the Decree of Free Access. Though legal by royal decree, the practice was seen by most as a flagrant violation of the Custom, which had long held the nobility as well as the peasantry to be bound to the land, literally by blood. According to Rhys of Dewcroft, the most prominent writer of the Crofter movement:
No man ever drew plow in sight of his masters’ house and thought his lot fair. But all could well say before this ruinous Decree that their lot was just. The master’s house was not equal, but he suffered his piece in lean times and the peasant farmer prospered in times of bounty alike, just as the master’s officers would lead the peasants’ sons in defense of the very land. Today, the very foundations have been whisked asunder in the leanest of lean times, whereby the master can flee, can even lay himself down in gold while merchants of foreign stock heap the full burden on peasants who know no such route of escape. These coiners feigning nobility suck the last ounces of prosperity from our lands and cache it up in distant vaults while our sons and daughters starvel and freeze in the waste lands. They who commit this travesty believe their debts to this land, to her people and ti her King paid in full, and we implore his majesty to remind them that the only coin which can buy land is that which flows in the veins of its people.
The idea that commoners of sufficient means should be considered equal to the Quality of the six kingdoms arose during the Long Peace, a time when merchants in their south greatly increased their own fortunes in a time of favorable trade. Despite this success, many found themselves locked out of formal channels of power, as the peerage system demands a title (or at least the voucher of a titled noble) in order to claim right of audience. Ironically, though many nobles found themselves indebted to merchants during this period, few were willing to vouch for one in court for fear that it would call attention to these debts; some radical merchants toyed with the idea of a mass opening of ledgers, to show the entire society just how bankrupted the nobility was, though none of these merchants could get enough others on their side for such a scheme to take hold.
The Long Peace was ruinous for much of the nobility, but for those of Balos moreso than most. Without any significant conflict, lords were left with a choice between maintaining (and funding) unnecessarily large armies or disbanding and letting their fighters return to lands overloaded with common folk; many former soldiers turned to banditry, adding to the strain on noble coffers. Meanwhile, the same excess of fighting men, as well as ships left over from the war, made it more lucrative than ever to engage in sea trade…so long as one was in the sea where all those ships actually_were_. Trade across the Northern bight dwindled as newer, faster, better-armed ships traversed the Southern more effectively, and as northern seamen traveled south to command those ships. With an uncomfortably large amount of its treasure gleaned from taxes on shipping, the Tiplis throne as well as its vassal houses declined more rapidly than most.
At the same time, the open question of succession in Chritain which has started the previous war made it quite fashionable for the quality to fund large expeditions to prove their birthright, just in case some jumped-up bastard child showed up one day to claim lands thought to belong to someone else. The expense of these expeditions, as well as the gala performances of historical plays which recited key points in these recovered histories accelerated the ruin of the nobility.