St. Michael’s Old Peculiars is the name given by long custom to the Brothers of St. Michael, who form the bodyguard of the Archprefect of S’Mary’s World. The Old Peculiars existed from the colony’s earliest days; its initial members were drawn from the security force carried by the colony ship Our Lady of Loreto. (The reasons for the inclusion of such a large force on the Loreto are unclear from the historical record.)
The name “Peculiars” derives from the force’s legal status. During the Hard Times, the society of S’Mary’s World consisted of many small holdings run on a feudal basis. Strife was not unknown, and a ruler’s subordinates were bound to aid him with both men and materiel at need. The men of the Old Peculiars, though drawn originally from one or another feudal fief, were held to be “peculiar to” the service of the Prefecture and hence could not be called upon by any secular leader.
The force became known as the “Old” Peculiars around 427 YOE, during the Wars of Irreligion, when Archprefect Michael III unwisely chose to take a hand in the fighting and recruited a new company of troops using “modern” weapons. (The Old Peculiars were never a mobile force.) From its beginning, this new force was known jocularly as “Michael’s New Peculiars,” which naturally led to the name “Old Peculiars” for the existing bodyguard (the two bodies were entirely separate). At the end of the Wars the Prefecture was stripped of the right to field mobile forces, and the New Peculiars, much reduced, were disbanded altogether; but the name “Old Peculiars” stuck, and continued to be used long after the New Peculiars were forgotten.
Since the end of the Times of Exile, the Old Peculiar’s role is largely (though by no means purely) ceremonial, the Archprefect having little need of force; however, the Peculiars serve as a recruiting pool for the Knights Particular, and occasionally provide support and manpower to a Knight who requires it.