I recall there's a state of legality where Nobles police themselves and cannot be accused by a commoner of lesser social status of a crime. (If you know the name I'd be happy to be reminded of it.) Does this apply in the Warhammer Fantasy setting?

It's been suggested to me that I am refering to High Justice versus Low Justice

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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI: you may want to ask on English Language & Usage about the real-world terminology you are trying to recall here. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 28, 2019 at 10:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify: are you asking about a specific region/race or the entire Warhammer Fantasy world? There are four playable races in the core rulebook alone, and each of those races handle nobility in vastly different ways. In addition, Nobles from the Empire will behave differently from nobles in Bretonnia, and the Norscans may have Kings and Jarls, but they wouldn't really be considered "nobles" by any "civilized" nation. I am prepared to type at length about Warhammer Fantasy lore, but before I write a 10,000 word essay I want to be sure I know what you're asking. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 4, 2019 at 8:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The name for what you describe is "privilege" which derives from 'private law' \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Feb 19, 2019 at 2:54

2 Answers 2


Nobles are completely above common Law

It is mentioned in Law, Justice & Criminals chapter of Sigmar's Heirs (pg. 27) that nobles only answer to the Electors (kind of province governors), which then answered directly to the Emperor. This means that any accusation from a lower rank citizen could be easily disregarded. Only another noble could accuse a noble of any crime, and only the Elector Counts could decide if the nobles under their wing were guilty of anything.

Each noble, from the smallest landholder to the greatest, is theoretically beholden to one above him, up to the Electors, who answer only to the Emperor. In turn, those above owe protection to those below. Thus, if the Emperor has a problem with the Duke of Niebelwald, he has to make his complaint through the Elector of Averland, whose vassal the Duke is.

Not only that, but the Electors had the power to decide to ignore any Imperial decision they didn't like, which meant that unless the Emperors were in good terms with them, he couldn't get anything done or approved. The Electors are those who pick a new Emperor and had absolute power over justice within their domains. So, their power was absolute within their provinces.

As noted on the Law, Justice & Criminals chapter (pg. 27), nobles could bring a death sentence to any citizen below their rank:

The word of a noble often brings down a death sentence, whilst the unwritten rules of the thieves’ guilds are an unseen influence upon criminals and victims alike.

Their authority could sometimes defy the Inquisition's witch hunters:

The writ of a witch hunter supersedes any local authorities, though a powerful noble or clergyman may be able to defy them in a case of jurisdiction.

In Bretonnia it's a little different

The chapter Law & Justice of Knights of the Grail (pg.30) opens with this quote:

“There’s one law for the nobles, another for the rich, and another for the poor. We don’t bother learning the last because the poor cannot pay us.” - Louis Chamignon (nee Louise), L’Anguille lawyer

And describes how nobles are above peasants, even those of another lord:

A noble has a legal duty to protect, guide, and judge the peasants under his rule, but quite a lot is permitted under the guise of “instilling proper respect for the nobility,” and very few nobles bother to investigate reports of abuses. A noble who acts against another lord’s peasants is committing a crime against that noble but not against the peasants who are the actual victims.

But there are laws that apply to everyone in Bretonnia:

The royal laws forbid all standard crimes, such as theft, assault, and murder. Violence within the context of a legitimate grievance is permitted, however.

And laws that apply only to nobles:

The laws also forbid actions unbecoming to a noble, such as engaging in a trade.

Nobles may only go to trial if accused by someone of higher social position, normally only the King is above all the nobles, but there are nobles of a higher position that may act as judges for those nobles of lower position.

A court must be convened by the liege lord of the accused or by someone higher in the direct chain of fealty. The King, therefore, can convene a court to try any noble. The court must be publicly proclaimed three times on separate days, no more than two weeks before and no later than the day before. The convening lord sits as a judge, and seven other nobles of rank at least equal to the accused sit as a jury.

Their punishments, however, are hardly something to worry about:

Most sentences are symbolic; nobles are never subjected to imprisonment or corporal punishment. Fines are possible, but very rare, and mostly take the form of compensation. A noble who killed five of another noble’s servants in a drunken rage might be required to pay the costs of training replacements, for example. Common sentences include public apologies, specific services to the victim, particular limits on behaviour, or imposed quests of valour. In extreme cases, a court may petition the King to strip the noble in question of his fiefs, or even of his nobility.


The Old World is large and the cultures and peoples living there have different laws. I'll assume that you mean the default setting in both tags you mentioned, that is "The Empire".

Nobles are not above the law...

Nobles can be accused of anything by anybody. They are policed by... well, the local law enforcement agencies, whether that's the road wardens, city watch, military patrols or even witch hunters. All of those would be considered commoners.

In the chapter "the political structure of the Empire" in the first part of the "Enemy Within" campaign the section about the "Law in the Empire" (Page 18) states:

The various law enforcement agencies [...] have more than enough to keep them busy and often operate on the principle of being guilty unless proven innocent. [...] Characters need to be very careful when dealing with the law. Even if they are innocent, behaving with arrogance and condescension is the surest way to get arrested.

Characters may well be nobles, so that does not seem to grant special privileges. The paragraph goes on to talk about criminals being sentenced on the spot or killed while trying to escape.

...but probably wealthy enough to dodge trial

Unless there is incontrovertible evidence against a noble or wealthy merchant, these people often never come to trial, a few well placed Crowns being sufficient to have proceedings dropped.

So it is absolutely possible to accuse a noble of a crime, even as a commoner. It's just that nobles tend to be wealthy and the wealthy can get away with things.


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