Tammy: In a country where they have things like the Books of Gold and Silver to track bloodlines, there’s no way a commoner can fake nobility–everyone knows everyone’s bloodlines. Alan takes a lot of sneerage in his training as a page and squire, because his father is newly ennobled, even if his mother is bluer blooded than the King.
Money, of course, is a big issue for equipping a knight, and for that matter, joining the King’s Own. Those rich merchant’s sons have to be able to afford two riding horses, plus pack horses, the equipment, outfits, etc. If their families can’t do it, then they need a rich patron (as Myles was Alanna’s; as Alanna as mystery friend and Raoul were Kel’s).
Jon and Thayet aren’t just liberal for creating the Own (which anyone can join, not just women, meaning Bazhir and immigrants), but for creating schools and liberalizing a lot of laws, as well as opening the ranks of the knights to noblewomen once more. And they’re instituting other reforms as carefully as they can. But they aren’t going to turn into anything we would recognize as liberal in the next few hundred years. They can’t. Their nobility and their merchants are already strained as far as they can go without popping, and they can’t satisfy their own wishes and ignore those of a majority of their people, not without civil war.