Just a word or two about stereotypes.
In the last post, the well-meaning Friend of Gort made the assertion (with all good intentions) that most nobles left their lands in the hands of stewards and such, and spent their lives involved in court intrigue and other things (not his exact words).
This is, in fact, a load of shit. No disrespect intended ... it is the same load of shit that Hollywood and many modern-written tales would have you believe, based upon the one court in all the universe, that of Louis XVI in the 18th century. It isn't even true of the Sun King Louis XIV, though many poorly educated scholars would have the gentle reader believe it is.
I don't venture to say that there were LOTS of nobles wandering about court, attending to the King and his household, filling up the Royal Apartments and so on, or that the Versailles wasn't a literal playground of intrigue and other man-on-woman sports. I am only saying that this would not include the 'majority' of nobles.
How do I know this? I read books.
If you read books of the actual period, you'll find that very often the noble is very much in his castle, mostly because the noble is flat broke, trying to make a go of a business that isn't very forthcoming, in some obscure part of Gascony, Leon, Naples, Mother Russia and so on. From art history we know that the Medici spent most of their time at home, that the Borgia's certainly did, and so did the Estes and the Sforzas ... largely because to step away from their homes in Northern Italy would mean immediate seizure of said homes by brother or son, not to mention that most of these fellows were not all that popular outside their immediate environs. During the Mongol hegemony in Russia (13th to 15th century) the nobles certainly weren't sucking up to the Tatar court on the Volga, and collections of nobles anywhere else in the great expanse would have been poor planning. Novgorodian nobles certainly stayed in their backyards, as did those of the Galician kingdom under David, who had to be on hand to protect his people from the Magyars ... who were a very rural, dispersed tribal people through most of their history and really not free to wander about Budapest (or Buda & Pest, as purists insist). Most of the German Princes had no court to attend, since the Emperor's Court wandered considerably. The Teutons, the Swedes, the Finns and the Norwegians were made of tremendously isolated provinces and did stay at home.
In literature, Shakespeare repeatedly describes the local nobles preferring to be at home, not to the court, such as in Much Ado About Nothing or Twelfth Night; the feuding families of Romeo & Juliet are living at home; the King and his companions are where they can fall in love with country wenches in Love's Labours Lost; and of course the Duke isn't actually stupid enough to leave the city in charge of Claudio in Measure for Measure. Comedies? Of course. But set in the life and times of people who could see such things without pointing and shouting, "They'd all be a court!"
Pick any writer of the period, take the life story of any significant person ... Francis of Assisi's father lived at home and tried to encourage his son to take over the state; Voltaire preferred his estate to anywhere and so did Kant. Hundreds of nobles preferred the pursuit of personal interests to court life, and in fact many courts had to make it a law that nobles must attend court a certain part of their lifetime - because nobles would rather not do so. If this is not enough convincing, try Simon Schama's Citizens, which is in large part about the oppression of the world's most popular court making it impossible for nobles to live their own lives AT HOME, bringing about the French Revolution ... and ultimately how very, very long it takes to find all the various nobles and have them executed.
In short, there are many, many more nobles in the world than those who happened to prefer court, and to argue that MOST of them did not attend their own estates shows a gross ignorance of the subject material. Time to go read more.