The Kingdom of Bretonnia is a land of pageantry and poverty, a realm where glittering knights ride into battle beside serried ranks of lowly peasants, where the lofty ideals of chivalry and nobility clash against the reality of human ambition and greed.
Ever since Games Workshop announced the return of Warhammer: The Old World, the return of the Bretonnia miniature range has been hotly anticipated. Bretonnia was one of just two Warhammer fantasy ranges fully discontinued to make way for the launch of Age of Sigmar, so it seems poetic that it’s among the first Warhammer: The Old World factions to release with the new edition of the game.
Here’s the core of the lore you need to understand the Kingdom of Bretonnia:
- Bretonnia map
- Bretonnia Lady of the Lake
- Bretonnia knights
- The King of Bretonnia
- Bretonnia Green Knight
Bretonnia is located to the South and West of the Empire of Men. Its coast abuts the Middle Sea. In the era in which Warhammer: The Old World is set, High Elf enclaves stand along its coasts, forming trade routes between the Old World and the Elven isle of Ulthuan.
Bretonnia is a diverse land. The great range of the Grey Mountains separate its northern provinces from the Empire, while its south eastern province abuts the Wood Elf realm of Athel Loren. It is a parochial realm, with few great cities but many castles, each one commanding a mean territory of peasants and their hovels. Tribes of Orcs and ravening Beastmen lurk in the mountains and forests.
Bretonnia Lady of the Lake
Since the founding of the kingdom there has been a compact between the nobility of Bretonnia and a mysterious and holy being known as the Lady of the Lake. The Lady embodies both the spirit of the land of Bretonnia, and the true virtues of chivalry to which all its knighthood inspire.
But the Lady is no mere metaphor or absentee goddess. On the eve of battle, Bretonnian knights gather in prayer, and the Lady appears before them in a vision, bidding them sup from her sacred grail. Golden light suffuses the gathered host, and for as long as their hearts hold true, the warriors will fight as more than mere men, their flesh turning aside blows that should lay them low.
This is even reflected in wargame rules. In exchange for taking the second turn in the battle, Bretonnian Knights may receive the Blessing of the Lady. This grants them a 6+ ward save, or 5+ against attacks with a Strength of 5 or higher. Should the knights flee or decline a challenge they will besmirch their honor, and lose the Blessing of the Lady.
Bretonnian nobles train from childhood to fight in the saddle, and the kingdom is renowned for its uniquely devastating knightly charges. Bretonnia is the only realm to employ the powerful lance formation – more than a mere military maneuver, the lance symbolises the chivalric ideals of Bretonnia, united of will and unbreakable in purpose.
While every Bretonnian nobleman is entitled to his rank within the nobility, to earn respect he must first demonstrate his valor and chivalry. Knights Errant are noble youths in pursuit of fame and glory.
They aim to demonstrate their honour through deeds of heroism on the battlefield and beyond. Well armed and armored, they are nevertheless impetuous and untested, as prone to ride headlong into danger as they are to acquit themselves valiantly on the field.
Knights of the Realm
Once a Knight has demonstrated his valor and chivalry, he will be recognised as a Knight of the Realm, and gifted with land appropriately. It will be his honour and duty to protect and rule the peasants within his domain. When his Lord Duke calls, he will muster for war, and ride forth in the defense of the realm.
Not every Knight is content with his status as a mere ruler of the Realm. Some choose to renounce their land and titles, families and worldly possessions, even the lance that symbolizes their Knightly virtue, and go on a quest to seek the favour of the Lady of the Lake.
Wielding a two-handed great sword, such Questing Knights can be found throughout the Old World, facing the most challenging of foes and performing the most noble of deeds. They are driven on to acts of ever greater valor by visions of the Lady of the Lake proffering them the sacred grail.
The rare few Knights who complete their quest to find the Lady of the Lake and sip from the true grail are imbued with her holy majesty. Living saints of Bretonnia, they are endowed with incredible strength, longevity, and purity of purpose. Their very blades are magical, and their hearts incorruptible.
The King of Bretonnia
The first king of Bretonnia was Gilles of Bastonne, a great warlord who united the scattered tribes of the Bretonni people and drove the Orc and Beastmen that plagued the land into the depths of the mountains.
It was Gilles, and his loyal companions, to whom the Lady of the Lake first appeared, and who first drank from the sacred Grail, sealing the compact between the Lady and the nobility of Bretonnia for all time.
Though long-lived, Gilles was mortally wounded by the vile greenskins. It is said that King Gilles yet lives on a secluded isle, awaiting the day when the Lady will call him and the other Grail Knights to the final battle.
In the period at which Warhammer: The Old World is set, the King of Bretonnia is Louen Orc Slayer. Louen earned his title during an Errantry war in the year 2201 IC, but is still the King of Bretonnia in 2276, the “start date” for The Old World setting, suggesting he too has been granted the long-life of a Grail Knight.
During the End Times, when Archaon the Everchosen led the forces of Chaos to destroy the Old World, the King of Bretonnia is Louen Leoncoeur, Duke of Couronne and Knight of the Grail. He is a powerful and charismatic leader, though – like all the great forces of good – doomed to fail in the end.
Bretonnia Green Knight
The final challenge that faces a Questing Knight before he is granted a sip from the Lady’s Grail is to duel the Green Knight. This supernatural entity is the Lady of the Lake’s Champion. Ornately armored, and armed with the dreadful Dolorous Blade, the Green Knight is one of the most powerful combatants a warrior could face.
The Green Knight is also a guardian of the sacred sites of Bretonnia. It is not unknown for it to ride to war beside the Knights of the Realm – or even to emerge, unbidden, in the midst of a hopeless battle, and drive the enemies of the realm to their ruin.
Brand new to the world of wargaming, or returning after a long hiatus thanks to the return of Warhammer fantasy? Check out Wargamer’s guide to painting miniatures to get up to speed, and have your knightly host’s pennants flying high in record time.