[SotE] The Beard-Inspectors

A long time ago, both the Hanseatic cities and the Danish Union State tended to finance conflict through poll taxes. Since back in those days, there was no actual efficient administration to collect these taxes, there was a surprising amount of deaths in every community every time a tax collectors came around: after all, a dead person will not pay taxes.

A practice arose then, where tax collectors would demand to see the body of the recently deceased to examine it to confirm the death. Frequently, the aides of the tax collectors would pull the beard or the hair of the corpse to see if the dear departed had actually departed. So, the aides tended to be called Beard-Inspectors, which initially was insulting but the name stuck.

Over the years, a specific duty was given to the Beard-Inspectors: they were made responsible for investigating cases of death, because if someone had during poll tax time murdered an individual, they were not only responsible for the murder, but owed the state the poll tax money.

With reforms, the original duties of the Beard-Inspectors were no longer necessary, but the idea of having a specific group of people responsible for investigating murders where there was an economic interest in having it solved was still quite useful. Beard-Inspectors stopped being public officials and instead were chartered as a guild, initially in Denmark but now they have a presence all over the Eastsea.

Most large cities only have one or two Master Inspectors and a few Apprentices. Every local guild is completely independent, and thus only allowed to ply their trade in the cities where they are chartered. There’s no major cooperation between the various city guilds but most Beard-Inspectors tend to at least show some professional courtesy towards colleagues.

The people who end up as Beard-Inspectors tend to be a diverse lot: some are simply people looking for a paycheck, some have been government officials, some are former sellswords looking for easier work.

A Brief Comment About This Thing Here

The Beard Inspectors did not actually exist irl. Their origin story is this: a while back, I presented on the FB page for SotE the painting “Duke Karl (or Charles for you anglos out there) Desecrates The Corpse of Klaus Fleming”, which will probably be included as an illustration in the game, since it’s a lovely painting.

edelfeltThe story behind the painting is that Duke Karl waged war against his nephew Sigismund, because Sigismund was Catholic and Sweden was a protestant country, or at least that was his excuse. Personally I just think Karl really wanted to be king. The dude in the casket is Klaus Fleming, the Admiral of Sigismund who was the strongest man of Sigismund in what is now Finland. Karl laid siege to Turku Castle, which is located about two kilometers away from my computer chair and Fleming died of natural causes during the siege.

When Karl took the castle, he pulled the beard of Fleming and said “If you were alive, your head would no longer rest on your shoulders.” To which Fleming’s wife answered with a mad burn going “If my dear departed husband would live, you would not be standing here now.” One of my favorite stories, along with Karl’s brother Erik XIV going mad, stabbing a dude and running away to hide in the woods.

But I digress.  Anyway, a fan of the game made a joke about Beard Inspector being a class. Later someone commented that they had thought that Beard Inspectors were actually a typically strange title for someone collecting taxes or something. So I kind of ran with that idea. I am terrible.

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