This week is our fourth and final look at the Fresian Merchant League, where we explore the third tier of the Merchant League and look at the workhorses of the League.
This week we look at the Jonkheer Families.
Jonkheer is an old Fresian title for the lowest rank of nobility and it quite describes this tier in the League. There are many, many more families below the Jonkheer Families, but they are in most cases actual literal families of a mere handful members that have become wealthy enough to buy their way into the League. Those families are called the Hearth Families and when a powerful trading family boasts of controlling a few dozen families it is of the Hearth Families they speak.
The Jonkheer Families are a different story. Not only do they have the money and power to sit where they are on the League totem pole, but in most cases they have history. It takes a lot for a family to even get to this tier, so even the newly inducted Jonkheer Families have a long history behind them. Some were wealthy farming families that have grown large and gained vast territories, others were old merchant guild members, having gained control of their guilds and lined their pockets in that manner.
That is not to say there aren’t some proper bastards in this tier. Quite a few families have risen from the Hearth Families through banking, investments and moneylending. They sit and do nothing while other men work hard to pay off their exorbitant interest rates. Investors, however, are much needed in the Merchant League. A favourite League saying is ‘the money must flow’ and flow is does. More money pass through League hands in a day than some nations see in a month, all thanks to their investors and bankers.
True to the name of Jonkheer, these families are like the old barons and knights of Middelburg’s past. They sit in their manors overseeing their workers and take their pound of flesh. While the families in the upper two tiers manage other families, the Jonkheer Families manage the guilds, the workhouses, the farming collectives, and the range of stores to make their money. They are not so low as to merely own one or two stores or farms, that is left to the Hearth Families and below. The Jonkheer Families each can own dozens of stores, handfuls of farms, a merchant guild here and there and perhaps a lucrative investment in the military.
The Jonkheer families are the faces of the League most often seen but rarely recognised. They do most of the work, yet get little of the credit.
In the image from left to right, top to bottom: For the bloody stag: Aalmer, Bauwer, Heeren, Mulder, Rosenwind, Schuttman, Sneijder, van Dal, Wilms, Wouters. For the iron eagle: De Boer, De Schild, Keil, Lauwens, Leitner, Sturm, Tiedeman, van Leeukop. For the shining gold: De Wit, De Wolf, Jonckers, Pender, Reinier, Roggeween, van Aard, Verhoeven, Voss. For the brass ship: Appeltuin, Hoekstra, Koolen, Lamar, Lavoie, Mercier, Rousseau, van Kwaad.