- "A Royal Guardsman never seeks special privileges, ever. His entire goal in life is to serve the Emperor, and the New Order he created. This is his goal in life, and his desire in death."
- ―Grodin Tierce
The Emperor's Royal Guard, sometimes referred to as the Imperial Royal Guard or Imperial Guard, was an elite unit of the Galactic Empire's armed forces (specifically the Stormtrooper Corps) tasked with the protection of the Emperor, Palpatine. Palpatine was almost never seen without a detachment of Royal Guards at his side, so much that they usually accompanied him to his bed chambers and his office within the Death Star. The exact number of Royal Guardsmen serving the Emperor was unknown, with speculations ranging from less than fifty to tens of thousands, although their numbers were estimated to be at least four hundred at any one point. Like the stormtroopers of the Stormtrooper Corps, the Royal Guards formed a military unit independent of the Imperial Military and answered directly to the Emperor.
The Royal Guard was based out of the Imperial Royal Guard Academy on Yinchorr, a barren planet rendered lifeless by genocidal airstrikes by the Empire. Candidates for tutelage under the Academy, picked from various units in the Imperial Military, underwent rigorous training programs designed to build a sense of extreme loyalty to the Emperor, with students often being forced to kill each other in live combat. Guardsmen were trained in various forms of martial arts, including Echani. Guardsmen were commonly equipped with vibroswords and force pikes, in addition to heavy blaster pistols for ranged combat.
The Royal Guard was the successor of the Red Guard of the Galactic Republic, also taking influence from the Sun Guard, Palpatine's personal Sith military unit led by his alter ego, Darth Sidious. Following the first death of the Emperor during the Battle of Endor, the unit, without a leader, was scattered for several years. However, during the Emperor's subsequent reincarnations in the form of cloned bodies, the unit was reconvened on Byss, fighting for the reborn Palpatine and being nearly destroyed by the destruction of Byss by the Galaxy Gun and Palpatine's flagship, the Eclipse II. When a member of the unit, Carnor Jax, was implicated by Palpatine's personal physician with ensuring the failure of his clone bodies in a bid to become Emperor, he led a slaughter of the unit's survivors on Yinchorr, leaving only Kir Kanos. Jax made a bid for the empty throne previously held by Palpatine before being assassinated by Kanos, whose undying loyalty to the Emperor and his ideals led him on a crusade to murder anyone involved with his death.
Organization and philosophyEdit
- "There is a reason that Palpatine's guard were called 'the best of the best.'"
- ―Kir Kanos
This group was rumored for being a fierce fighting force and were personally hand picked by the Emperor to serve as his bodyguards. They were indoctrinated in the service of the Emperor to the point that they were completely subservient to his will. The members of this bodyguard detail were completely devoted to Palpatine and gladly gave their lives in his service. Those individuals that were part of the organization were trained to serve the Emperor loyally and completely. They would instantly turn against one another if commanded to do so and killed their fellow guardsmen without hesitation though they did feel remorse for doing so. They were so well trained that even when injured, they did not ask for mercy and none was afforded to them. Despite this loyalty, some guardsmen were known to gain their own ambitions as well as motives to the point that they plotted treasonous actions against the Emperor and even their comrades. Others were also loyal until the death of the Emperor after which they no longer identified themselves as members of the Royal Guard and believed the organization to have been destroyed. Some guardsmen also were capable of defecting as in one case, a member of the Royal Guard after participating in a terror attack became so horrified by his actions that he left the service and became a rebel. In addition, not all Guardsmen remained in service as some were capable of being promoted to the rank of General and continuing their service to the Empire in a different way.
It was never known how many members were present within the ranks of the Royal Guard because of the fact that they never fought as a unit. The knowledge of the number of these soldiers was made available to only the top Imperial officers and the Emperor himself. Speculation claimed that their numbers ranged from fifty to tens of thousands. All that was ultimately known was that they were a potent sub-unit within the Imperial military that was under the direct service of the Emperor. The only records regarding their exact number remained with Palpatine, in his private archives on Imperial Center, or Byss.
The primary duties of the Imperial Guard included the personal protection of Palpatine and those he designated as well as guarding his secret facilities and clone laboratories on Byss and the Emperor's Citadel. This task was considered the most prestigious and was usually reserved for the Sovereign Protectors. They were also involved with the security arrangements at the Imperial Palace. Being Palpatine's protectors meant that their mission involving stopping any assassination attempts on the Emperor's life as well as performing covert assault and even serving as assassins for their master. At least two guardsmen were always by Palpatine's side and within earshot of his Imperial Majesty at all times. Others operated the Guard training facility on Yinchorr or served at some of the Emperor's other safe-houses. In addition, Palpatine was known to loan detachments of the guard to his most trusted servants though many were not sure whether this was to genuinely protect their charges or to keep an eye on them for any signs of disloyalty.
During their service, they quickly became one of the most recognizable units within the Empire which was attributed largely to their unique armor. With their primary mission to protect the Emperor and any one he designated, the Royal Guard was never sent on combat missions as a corps. Instead, a few small elements of Royal Guardsmen were sent into combat on a rotating basis to keep them in fighting trim, appearing as and working alongside the usual stormtroopers. During such operations, they were always together as part of the same unit. This meant that they were never dispersed among the ordinary army units.
While the Royal Guard were elite soldiers within the Empire, there were in fact various ranks and even more elite groupings within this body. Part of the reason for doing so was because the Emperor did not feel it wise to limit the aspirations as well as ambitions of his subjects. Thus, he created near unattainable goals in order to watch his servants struggle in order to reach them and thus keep better control over them. This meant that by constantly creating more and more circles of elite status, he kept his followers constantly motivated and determined to push themselves in order to achieve these new positions.
One of the more elite positions was that held by the Emperor's Shadow Guard which were a unit that were evidently based on the Royal Guard. This division was a cadre that consisted of a special operations unit that was sent out on selective missions. They were evident for being based on the Royal Guard and wore black versions of their uniform though they made use of lightsaber pikes as their primary weapons. The Shadow Guard were rarely seen in public and dispatched on missions that were directed by the Emperor himself. Some of its members were being trained to serve as Palpatine's personal bodyguards. An added advantage to these guardsmen was the fact that they were Force-sensitive soldiers who were trained to use the Dark Side of the Force.
The highest ranking position within the Royal Guard consisted of elite warriors that were Force-sensitive known as the Imperial Sovereign Protectors. Once identified, these guardsmen were taken to be trained in the use of the Dark side of the Force which they received on worlds such as Prakith where they were mentored by the Inquisitorius. While wearing a similar uniform as the Royal Guard, the ranks of the Sovereign Protectors wore a dark colored version of the attire. Their tactics often involved them closing the distance to their foes in order to engage in melee combat where they used vibroblades in order to pin their foes against solid surfaces. This allowed them to attack incapacitated foes with their double vibroblades. Before the Emperor's final death, it was suspected that he had intended to create even further elevated positions but instead the Sovereign Protectors were the highest achievement for a member of the Royal Guard.
One of the most prestigious positions within the group was that of Master Instructor who consisted of the most experienced guardsmen that were charged with the training of new recruits at the Royal Guard Academy. Other notable divisions included the Imperial Senate Guard and the Imperial Senate Sentinel though it was not known whether these bodies were parts of the Royal Guard.
The myths that encompassed the Royal Guard outnumbered the known facts about them. The mystery that fell upon the unit meant that individuals were unsure of whether it consisted of clones, recruits or a mixture of both. Some myths that surrounded the guardsmen included that their reputation was only based on propaganda and that they were not an elite fighting force that they were led to believe. Another rumor that involved them was that a discerning individual was capable of telling a stormtrooper apart from an Imperial Guardsmen; whether they were in uniform or dying. However, neither myths were true as a guardsmen were highly skilled warriors and were easily capable of disguising their position within the Imperial hierarchy as was the case with one of them who maintained the guise of being a major for eight months with his identity only being discovered by a thorough examination of the Imperial records library. Another rumor was that not a single guard had ever been killed in battle.
Service to the EmperorEdit
The Royal Guard's origin dated to the turbulent years of the Galactic Republic before the outbreak of the Clone Wars. The Emperor's Royal Guard derives from the Red Guard which was created after there was an attempt made on Palpatine's life and there were allegations of corruption within the Senate Guard. The Red Guard was charged with the protection of Supreme Chancellor Palpatine and was comprised of soldiers all of whom were skilled at combat. Some of its members were handpicked from the militant Senate Commandos at the time.
When Palpatine presided over the trial of Ahsoka Tano, members of the Red Guard were on the dais with him standing watch. During the Battle of Coruscant, the Red Guard attempted to defend Palpatine from Separatist General Grievous but failed and were killed by the cyborg. When the Jedi Council learned that there was another Sith Lord known as Darth Sidious, they believed this Sith to be hiding within the higher levels of government. Some believed that the mysterious Sith was hiding in the ranks of the Red Guard. Anakin Skywalker was later allowed entry into the Chancellor's office by one of the Red Guard. After the Declaration of a New Order was made and the Galactic Empire formed, the Red Guard became the Emperor's Royal Guard who stood to safeguard the Emperor. They remained as silent warriors that stood as elite protectors for the Emperor during his visits to other worlds or during his meetings in the Imperial Palace on Coruscant. Many members of the decimated Sun Guard who had served Darth Sidious were later inducted into the ranks of the Royal Guard with Force-sensitive members joining the Emperor's Shadow Guard. The new Royal Guard along with the Coruscant Guard were in charge of the security arrangements in the capital. They often accompanied their master and inspected any items that were to enter his private chambers as part of their security checks. In 19 BBY, the Royal Guard stood in attendance in the Emperor's chamber when Darth Vader was called on an assignment to rescue Admiral Garoche Tarkin. Several were also the victim of Aorth-6, some even believing that Palpatine had died in the attack, with Vader simply commenting that they had failed their duty if such was the case. Two of them also personally accompanied Vader to an unknown moon to investigate and wipe out the Heinsnake Cult after the cult made an attempt on the Emperor's life.
In 1 BBY, the Royal Guard defended their Emperor from the members of the Anti-Sith conspiracy orchestrated by Grand Moff Trachta who used a bomb to kill half of Palpatine's accompanying guardsmen. Despite this being the case, the remaining cadre managed to slay the many stormtroopers that were allied with Moff Kadir who was part of the conspiracy. At the height of the Galactic Empire, the New Order faced some opposition from certain members within the government one of which included Bail Organa of Alderaan. In order to silence him, the Emperor had his daughter Leia Organa taken as a Senatorial Observer though in actuality she was a hostage. This led to her being taken by a pair of Royal Guardsmen to Kashyyyk where she was watched over by Ozzik Sturn. These guardsmen were later killed by the rogue Force user Galen Marek during his mission. A number of Royal Guardsmen were used to protect Palpatine onboard the Death Star I when it was under construction. These guardsmen were all killed by Galen Marek during his mission. At some unknown point during the conflict against the Rebel Alliance, Vin Northal of the Royal Guard defected to the Rebellion after witnessing the brutality of the Emperor's regime.
During the Galactic Civil War, a pair of Royal Guardsmen accompanied the Emperor onboard his Lambda-class T-4a shuttle to the planet Bothawui. This was due to the Emperor's awareness of the Bothan's secret allegiance to the Rebel Alliance. After confronting them, Palpatine along with his Royal Guards killed a great many Bothans to serve as an example for betraying the Galactic Empire. Later, as the Death Star came closer to an operational stage, a number of Royal Guardsmen were stationed on the facility and were present during the time a Rebel Alliance team led by X2 infiltrated the base. These Royal Guardsmen battled the clone trooper but were ultimately killed in the struggle thus allowing X2 to escape the Death Star I along with a number of captured Rebels. A number of Guardsmen were stationed in the Emperor Museum where they guarded his many treasures but were later killed during an incursion by Tyber Zann and his followers. Several members of the Royal Guard also accompanied the Emperor during his inspection of the Death Star II and remained at his side until their death in the Battle of Endor.
Following the Emperor's demise, the ranks of the Royal Guard scattered with some following various warlords that had risen while others retreated into the Deep Core. After the Battle of Endor, Royal Guards appeared as personal protectors of some of those who claimed Imperial power. Many of the rising warlords sought to add members of the Royal Guard into their entourage though this effect varied as some guardsmen joined various factions while others remained neutral. A number of guardsmen served the clone known as X1 during his bid for power though they were killed during the Battle of Mustafar. After the death of Palpatine, many of the Royal Guard decided to commit mass suicides. A number of these distraught guardsmen decided to follow Lord Shadowspawn's while others sought the Prophets of the Dark Side who claimed that the Emperor would return. Others such as Grodin Tierce survived the destruction of the Death Star II by being rotated into stormtrooper service in 4 ABY. In the same year, a number of members of the Royal Guard continued their service to the Grand Vizier, Sate Pestage and later escorted him to the planet Axxila during his attempts at negotiating with the New Republic. At least one member of the Royal Guard was present in the Central Committee of Grand Moffs when Grand Moff Bertroff Hissa claimed that the Supreme Slavelord of Kessel, Trioculus was the son of Palpatine in 5 ABY. After saying this, the guardsmen became vocal and stated that many claimed to be the heir of the Emperor and that Grand Admiral Josef Grunger seemed a more worthy ruler due to his military might. When Trioculus stated that he would rule by right of the blood in his veins, others criticized him for not possessing a symbol of authority such as the Glove of Darth Vader and the guardsmen stated that Trioculus lacked the blessing of the Prophets of the Dark Side. After hearing this, Trioculus let loose a powerful electric shock at the dissenters which included the Royal Guardsmen until they begged him to stop whereupon other Imperials pledged their allegiance to Trioculus.
A detachment of the Royal Guard was present on Coruscant in 6 ABY when the New Republic assaulted the planet where they worked with the Coruscant Security Force led by Tal Ashen. The guardsmen were seen fighting off the invaders but were ultimately killed by Rand Talor's forces. Later, in 7.5 ABY, Imperial Director of Imperial Intelligence Ysanne Isard managed to gain the allegiance of several members of the Imperial Royal Guard. These Guardsmen were noted to add a black hem to their crimson robes even after the official Year of Mourning for the Emperor's death. After taking stewardship of the Empire, a unit of Royal Guards appeared in turn as her personal bodyguard, and she would retain them later as Premier of Thyferra. They were known to flank the doorways of Isard's office where initially they attempted to enforce strict security procedures for Premier Isard treating anyone as a potential assassin but later relenting when the native Thyferrans reacted badly to the orders. Some of these were certainly genuine Royal Guards, but others may have been recruited from the elite cadre of black-clad enforcers which Isard had controlled since her days as a relatively junior field operative—hulking paramilitaries who she used as bodyguards, special operations troops, and casual lovers—all of whom had disappeared from everyday view when she took power. Isard would later loan a force of Royal Guards to her former Imperial Intelligence subordinate Shira Brie, now the Dark Lady Lumiya. Unlike most Royal Guards, who wore either their scarlet ceremonial uniforms or white stormtrooper armor, these two squads wore distinctive crimson stormtrooper armor in the field, serving their mistress as crack shock-troops. One of them, Carnor Jax, showed Force potential, and was trained by Lumiya as her Sith apprentice.
Unlike some of his comrades, Grodin Tierce decided that the death of the Emperor meant that the Royal Guard no longer existed and thus he remained as a stormtrooper major. He later joined Grand Admiral Thrawn though he did not reveal his existence as a former guardsmen. Despite this being the case, the Chiss Admiral deduced Tierce's origins and decided to use him as a prime clone in 9 ABY to create advanced clones that had Thrawn's mental genius implanted into them but the project was a failure. Thrawn did not, however, surround himself with a visible Royal Guard detail; instead, the original Grodin Tierce, followed by his clone in turn, served as officers with the stormtrooper force aboard Chimaera, supplementing the Grand Admiral's Noghri bodyguard. Tierce was later killed in action and his clone replaced him though he had forgotten his origin or the fact that Thrawn had discovered him. However, others such as Kir Kanos—refused to choose sides among the various Imperial factions. Several more remained undercover in their stormtrooper units, while some pledged themselves to Sate Pestage and his successors.
- "An Imperial guard! I thought they had all been destroyed."
In 10 ABY, however, they all flocked to Byss when summoned by the reborn Palpatine. They fought by his side until his final death the next year. It was later revealed that his death had been hastened by the sabotage of his clones by renegade Protector Carnor Jax. One of the guardsmen overheard the Emperor's physician confess to his involvement with Carnor Jax to Luke Skywalker. This guard later attempted to notify his brethren of the betrayal but was attacked by Imperial forces loyal to Carnor Jax. After Palpatine's final death, the remnants of the Royal Guard, much decimated by the disasters on Byss and Eclipse II, returned to Yinchorr, where they gathered to mourn Palpatine and form a plan to avenge him. The guardsmen that had learned of the conspiracy later returned to his brothers to inform them of Jax's betrayal. However, Jax had laid a trap, and they were slaughtered by his stormtroopers. Ironically, the Royal Guards suffered the same fate as the old Jedi Order. The Royal Guards were annihilated by the stormtroopers, just as the the Jedi were by the clone troopers decades before. Only Kir Kanos escaped, and eventually killed Jax during a Duel in The Squall. He later worked to eliminate all those responsible for the death of Emperor Palpatine. In 12 ABY, Admiral Natasi Daala made use of the Imperial Guard to heighten her commanding presence as she attempted to unify the various splinter factions. They accompanied her during her speeches at various armament factories and shipyards where she tried to boost the morale of Imperial forces. By becoming visible, she intended to portray herself as a charismatic leader attempting to lead the remnants of the Empire against the New Republic. Wherever she went, the scarlet robed guardsmen stood by her side. Several guards also served X1 during the Battle of Mustafar but were killed by X2.
Seven years later, four stormtroopers were promoted to the rank of Royal Guardsmen by Admiral Daala. These four were involved in the foundation of the Second Imperium movement which sought to bring back the dominance of the Empire. They perpetrated a ruse to the effect that Emperor Palpatine had again been reborn. The group then formed the Shadow Academy and used the Dark Jedi Brakiss to train an army of warriors to fight for the Second Imperium. Their plans were ultimately thwarted by the New Jedi Order and three of the four guardsmen were killed by Brakiss when he learned the truth of their deception. Upon discovery the guardsmen activated hidden explosive charges that destroyed the Shadow Academy around them though one of their number survived. This lone Guard later attempted to make use of deadly plagues from an Imperial storehouse as a weapon against the New Republic but was killed by Nolaa Tarkona of the Diversity Alliance. In the same year, Moff Vilim Disra used the Imperial Records Library on Bastion to learn of the existence of Major Grodin Tierce within his forces of the Imperial Remnant though he was unaware Tierce was a clone. Using the tactically brilliant Major and the impersonator Flim to form the Sinister Triumvirate they orchestrated the Caamas Document Crisis in order to bring down the New Republic. Their scheme was later uncovered revealing the clone Tierce's true origins and resulting in his death at the hands of the Mistryl Shadow Guards woman Shada D'ukal. The triumvirate was disbanded upon Moff Disra's arrest. Later, in 20 ABY, former guardsmen Chik Apla who had taken the life of an Imperial commando was charged by Moff Derran Takkar with the disruption of the wedding of Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker. Despite the surprise attack, Apla was easily defeated by Jedi Knight Mara Jade.
Equipment and trainingEdit
- "You have given your lives to a cause greater than yourselves. You have sacrificed much to attain a chance at the greatest honor the Empire can bestow on a man."
- ―Ved Kennede to his students
Royal Guards wore matching scarlet robes, battle armor (underneath a loose fitting tunic, as it was not visible under the robe), and helmets. Although ceremonial, the red armor did not hamper movement or fighting. The armor bore design influences from the uniforms of the Death Watch of the Mandalore system, the Sun Guards of the Thyrsus system, and the Senate Guards of the old Galactic Republic. The fact that their armor resembled these other groups was no accident and the mere sight of a guardsmen tended to invoke fear in even the most trained of warriors. The Royal Guard wore fully functional battle armor which was obscured by loose fitting ceremonial robes and provided superior protection to that of normal Imperial armor. When rotated into Imperial service, the guardsmen discarded their uniforms and instead wore the armor of stormtroopers making their true position in the Imperial hierarchy indecipherable. Though this was the case, it was known that they also possessed another set of combat uniform that resembled stormtrooper armor but was colored red in form.
Once accepted into the ranks of the Guard, they were exhaustively trained in many forms of combat. Their preferred weapon was the meter-long force pike; a weapon that was originally used by the Umbaran Shadow Assassin's of the Brotherhood of Darkness. While this was considered a modest weapon, in the hands of these trained soldiers it was used with deadly effect. These pikes were primarily for ceremonial reasons but were capable of being used for crowd control, self defense and even as tools for torture. In addition, they were also trained in the use many common and exotic weapons and martial arts, such as Echani art, or a double vibroblade. Guardsmen also utilized concealed heavy blaster pistols when ranged fighting was required. They were also known at times to make use of ARC casters as a ranged weapon against foes. Royal Guardsmen were furthermore taught a special "combat language" that only they understood, and part of the training included removal of fingerprints. In addition, they flew specialized red variants of the TIE/IN interceptor. Finally, a lesser known aspect of their training involved being taught techniques designed to sustain the Emperor until help arrived though there was no known case where this feat was performed.
Members of the Royal Guard were hand-picked from the ranks of the most elite stormtroopers. Each recruit was scrutinized to fit select size, strength, intelligence and loyalty requirements, as well as latent Force sensitivity. Recruits strong but not too strong in the Force were noted and pulled aside to test into a special class of Royal Guards known as Sovereign Protectors. If they passed these even more rigorous tests, they were trained by Dark Jedi to wield the Force. The names of the Royal Guardsmen were never uttered by anyone outside the Guard, including Palpatine. The exact number of Royal Guard was never accounted for on official records which meant that the true strength of the organization was unknown.
Equipment and training were lavished upon them at the Imperial Royal Guard Academy on Yinchorr. Classes consisted of forty students per course who attended a brutal training regime. Usually, by the end, there were only a handful of candidates left to become guardsmen and it was not uncommon for there to be only a single survivor. Students would train fencing and fighting in an arena called the Squall. Classes consisted of approximately forty students each, and trainees were partnered up into doubles. During a yearlong training program, recruits sparred against each other continuously to perfect their combat skills. A step away from the squad-based stormtrooper training received on Carida, by working both alone and in pairs, recruits learned how to rely on themselves or on a teammate to achieve victory. Training mainly centered on Echani hand-to-hand combat, and failure often resulted in death. Casualty rates were very high; out of Kir Kanos's class of forty-two, only two reached full Guardsman status—all others were killed in training. During their final test, trainees fought each other to the death before Palpatine himself. Only a handful would survive this final test in a display of their loyalty and skill. Kir Kanos regretted killing his sparring partner and upon looking up from his fallen comrade, he saw Vader swinging his lightsaber extremely close to Kir Kanos's face, leaving a scar. Vader told the young man that he is never allowed to question or regret an order given to him by the Emperor.
During training, the Guards were inculcated with the belief that Palpatine, and his every order, were beyond fault or question.
There were a few specialized variants of the Royal Guards, each serving special, sometimes clandestine, roles and were notable for being made up of Force-sensitives. These groups include:
Behind the scenesEdit
According to Randy Stradley, when writing Crimson Empire, they worked under the idea that all Royal Guards were clones, with the shot of the unmasked Jax supposed to show that he and Kanos were from the same prime clone. However, the establishment of Jax's father, and the fact that other Royal Guardsmen have been developed, seem to have vanquished that concept (unless they are all oblivious GeNode clones). Also, Star Wars: The Complete Visual Dictionary states that guards were chosen from non-clone military units.
Nilo Rodis-Jamero originally designed the appearance of the Emperor's royal guards through his early concept art of the Sentinels. These drawings of the guards varied from centurion-like warriors to monk-like priests, but ultimately all of the concept art the royal guards were given a crimson hue. One of the concept drawings by Rodis-Jamero later evolved to become two characters of the Expanded Universe, the Imperial Sentinel from Dark Empire and Atha Prime by Kenner Products.
There is a similarity in the design of the Royal Guard to the uniforms used by the Imperial Guard from the Sith Empire which operated in the years of the Great Galactic War as seen in the timeline video for The Old Republic.
In Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide, they are described as the Red Guard.
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Notes and referencesEdit
- Emperor's Royal Guard on Wikipedia