Monday, October 11, 2010

RPT's Oz: Tiny Kingdoms

I have always loved tiny kingdoms, mini states which once spread over the Rhineland and British India, or the realms which reproduce by symbol the family drama of our childhood. Such a grouping of petty rulers arises when soverignty is divided, whether by policy or by weakness at the center. A Holy Roman Emperor might make a grant of Reichsfreiheit to any person or entity, thus freeing them from all liege lords save the emperor himself. A landholding, a convent, or even an individual could be reichsfrei. Pressure from Napoleon forced the 1803 Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, consolidating these somewhat, and the Congress of Vienna settled the rest down to a manageable number, all of which were swept away (except Liechtenstein) in the Revolution of 1918. In India, the maharajas arose as the Mughal Empire contracted and the East India Company expanded. They flourished under the Viceroyalty (1870s to 1947) and were swept away when the Republic of India decided that it could do without them. It is still a hobby of mine to compile lists of the rulers of these micronations. from the Gaekwars of Baroda to the Reichsf├╝rstin (princess-abbesses)
Ruth Plumly Thompson was the successor to L. Frank Baum as Royal Historian of Oz. She wrote a book a year from 1921 to 1939. Her favorite fantasy setting was the tiny kingdom, and I hope to examine some of these in the future. How did there come to be so many tiny realms in Oz? Did a strong center collapse or give away soverignty? Or did they arise independent of a central authority, and were gathered into the center as the realms of India were by the British? Oh, it doesn't really matter. For in the realm of Faerie, what is, is. We are not going there to dig archaeologically, but to enjoy ourselves thoroughly.

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