Valentia's history is a closed book to much of the rest of the continent. Originally a loose affiliation of rival city states, it was brought together to form the country of Valentia itself by means of force applied by the House of Chelan with the negotiated support of Pomerania and her allies. While the city states retain their regional names and governance, true authority over the country descends from the former state of Valena, now the seat of the Royal House of Chelan and Valentia's monarchs.
Valentia is unique in Meringia in its segregation of men and women in noble circles. It is rare to see women in the royal court itself - noblewomen and children under the age of sixteen live in quarters separate from those of their husbands and fathers. The most notable example of this is the royal harem; two separate palaces in the capital city of Iska, one of which is attached to the Kings Hall itself. This adjoining palace is open only to the king, and to the servants and ministers who administer it. It is under the control of the ranking woman - usually the king's mother or sister until he marries a consort and raises her to the rank of queen, at which point the former ranking lady will retire to the other palace by custom. This is not to say that women have no influence over the government of Valentia; an intelligent woman, by means of her connection with the king, may influence policies from the royal bed if she is sensible, and those with rank of their own may form their own network of connections among the various ministers and nobles who populate the king's court.
Slavery is illegal in Meringia, by order of the Church, and indeed, Valentia abides by this ruling, at least nominally. In truth, the women gathered to the royal harem come from many different places of origin, and it is true to say that not all of them arrive willingly. However, they are well treated and educated, and many have risen to positions of influence and even power over the centuries
When a king dies, his concubines are expected to retire to the Palace of Tears, so named because it is populated by women who have lost everything with the death of their king. Any female children they have borne will remain in the royal harem, along with the former queen-consort; the new king is expected to have any male claimants to the throne executed before he is crowned, to prevent civil war.