- "Although surely it isn't that hard to qualify as a count of Barrayar. Look at some of the odd ducks who sit on the Council now. Or fail to show up, in some cases. How long did you say it's been since Count Vortienne cast a vote?"
"Vortienne is an unfairly horrible example. It's only because of the extraordinary dedication of so many of the counts that the Council functions at all. It consumes men."
- ―Cordelia and Aral discussing the Council of Counts[src]
The Council of Counts was a major part of the government of the planet Barrayar, serving as its upper house: it was composed of the 60 District Counts, who were themselves members of the Barrayaran Vor warrior-aristocratic class. The Council was also traditionally all-male, never officially having had a woman serve as a voting member (except for one time during the Time of Isolation when a woman was legally declared a man to enable her to serve as a count; there was later a "bizarre suit" regarding her marriage).
The Council of Counts met in Vorhartung Castle, within Vorbarr Sultana, the capital of Barrayar and the Barrayaran Imperium, and often in joint session with the Council of Ministers. The ruling Vorbarra Emperor presided over Council meetings.
During Council sessions, order was maintained by the "Lord Guardian of the Circle"; during the timespan covered by the Vorkosigan Saga, he was sometimes known to obey hand-signalled suggestions from Count Aral Vorkosigan.
Miles Vorkosigan was heir to the seat in the Council of Counts held by his father Aral Vorkosigan until Aral's death at the end of Cryoburn. In post-Memory books, Miles often substituted for his father in Council meetings due to Aral serving as Imperial Viceroy of the planet Sergyar.
Trawling through the canon and, to a degree, the AO3 texts, a quantity of Count's names can be found. Some Russian in style, some French, some possibly Greek and so on.
Voralys Vorbarra Vorbataille Vorbohn Vorbretten Vorevreaux Vorfolse Vorgarin Vorguriyev Vorhalas Vorinnis Vorkalnis Vorkosigan Vorlakial Vormercier Vormoncrief Vormuir Vorolney Vorpatril Vorpinski Vorriviere Vorrutyer Vorsmythe Vortaine Vortala Vortalence Vortien Vorville Vorvolk;
The status of Vorclarence, Vordarian & Vordrozda is not given.
Political Parties in the Council
Over time, the political makeup of the Council of Counts changed.
At the time of Barrayar, there were five major parties in the Council, of which the "Old Vor" party was known as the second-most-conservative: they were described as being "not the back-to-the-Time-of-Isolation loonies, but, shall we say, those honestly fearing all change is change for the worse." At that time, the War Party was only recently defunct, and the People's Defense League (not precisely an officially recognized Council party, and with no representatives in the Council) was still active. Count Vortala had only recently created his Progressive Party, but he was only trying to attract fellow Vor to it.
At the time of The Vor Game, factions were fewer and stronger. The Centrist Coalition was headed by Aral Vorkosigan; it was probably a combination of parties that included the Progressive Party. Count Vorinnis was important in a "military right" faction; there was a group referred to as "the anti-centralization liberals"; and there were language-group-based factions, such as French speakers, Russian speakers, and Greek minorists. The isolationist loonies were still in evidence, as was a group described as an "anti-Vor pro-galactic faction" (this last group probably had no representation within the Council).
By the time of A Civil Campaign, the Council of Counts appeared to be predominantly partitioned into the Progressive Party and a more traditional-minded but weaker Conservative Party. There were, however, small parties that were separate from these, of which Vorfolse's party-of-one was considered an extreme example.
Behind the scenes
Regarding voting deputies versus cadet members of the Council, on the dendarii.com listserv from January 13, 2006, titled "Council of Counts was German titles (was cover chat)":
- "A cadet member is a Count's heir who has been pre-approved in the Count's lifetime as his successor; in other words, when Aral dies, Miles will not have to go through a process like Dono's, because it's already a done deal. Miles will succeed Aral automatically and instananeously. Counts, with their excessive and dispersed duties in modern times, have various ways of delegating authority when they can't be on the spot -- I believe voting deputy was one, where the Count has his alternate in Council who is not, actually, his heir but his appointee voting proxy. I forget if I gave a name to the Count's representative in his District when he has to be in the capital. A cadet member is normally a voting deputy for his father/whoever, apprenticing his way into the job.
- So all cadet members are Count's heirs (and authorized voting deputies), but not all Count's heirs are yet, necessarily, cadet members.”
Many books mention the Council of Counts. Particularly useful references can be found in: