I ended up in a long conversation about Star Wars yesterday which made me wonder what Star Wars histories would read like long after the events of the movies. Specifically, how would historians view characters like Palpatine, or even minor ones like Valorum?
I think historians would see that the Galactic Republic has a documented run of ten thousand years, in which case it relied mainly on the monastic Jedi Knights, a religious order that produced people with reportedly amazing abilities. Jedi Knights allowed the Republic to be free of maintaining a standing army.
The man who would bring down the Republic came from humble origins. He was a minor aristocrat from the world of Naboo, a sparsely settled but mineral rich world. His early political career was unremarkable, there was nothing in his demeanor as a young man that would indicate that he would eventually be the person to dissolve the senate some forty or fifty years later. What’s significant was that he was elected to be the Senator for Naboo in the Galactic Senate, where again he served, if not with distinction, then certainly carefully enough that he was rarely noticed in documentation we recovered.
It should be noted that some historians of a following era noted that Palpatine’s family died under mysterious conditions. Some claim Palpatine sacrificed his family, as fits the “Palpatine as an evil wizard” mythos that seems to surround the man, but we have no contemporary sources that confirm this.
It was Naboo that would first propel him into the Senate and again it was Naboo that would prove to be a pivotal moment in his career. The Trade Federation, spurred by tax reforms that worked against their favor, blockaded and later invaded Naboo as a retaliatory gesture. The Senate in this period was known for its deadlocks and was unable to provide a strong response, so Chancellor Valorum dispatched Jedi Knights to act as peace negotiators.
However the Trade Federation attempted to murder the Jedi Knights, who escaped from the Trade Federation ships to Naboo, where they rescued the elected monarch of Naboo, the future Senator Amidala, and there fled to Tatooine. During that period it’s speculated that Palpatine was using the plight of his homeworld to drum up support through the various factions in the Senate, particularly the more hawkish groups.
Amidala and the Jedi Knights who escorted her, including the future successful general Anakin Skywalker, arrived at Coruscant where Amidala, possibly at the prodding of Senator Palpatine, initiated a vote of no confidence in the Chancellor Valorum, which allowed an emergency election of the chancellor and who should become chancellor? Palpatine.
With that, Amidala, in a move that would secure her political career on Naboo, led a counter invasion of Naboo, allying herself with the reclusive Gungans, and led an army against the Trade Federation, resulting in a great victory. Anakin Skywalker himself, though but a child, is reported to have flown a fighter ship during the battle.
Palpatine had reached the highest position in the Senate, possibly because he was considered not a threat by most of the Senate. And he might have died having been an unremarkable chancellor much like Valorum, had not the Trade Federation and other allies, began the War of Secession (or the Clone Wars) during which Palpatine was to become even more popular and the most powerful Chancellor in generations.
Senator Amidala, for by that time she was the senator of Naboo, was driven into hiding by assassination attempts. Since she was the leader of a pro-conciliatory faction within the Senate, without her guidance and presence, tensions escalated quickly between the Separatist factions and the Pro-Republic factions.
Amidala would later leave seclusion and travel covertly to the world of Geonosis where she would discover the growing armies of the later Confederacy of Independent System. There she would be taken prisoner and later rescued by Jedi Knights and the first Clone Army in the Battle of Geonosis, which would mark the opening shots of the Clone Wars. With the declaration of the Clone Wars, Chancellor Palpatine both managed to award himself new executive powers, but also declared the Grand Army of the Republic would be raised to defend the Republic. In a single move, Palpatine leveraged the crisis to gain more power than any Chancellor in memory.
During the Clone Wars Amidala would find herself at odds with the Chancellor Palpatine, who while measured in his approaches, favored more heavily the technocratic military factions, later exemplified in the controversial figure of Grand Moff Tarkin. Jedi Knights, reinforced by clone armies, proceed to wage a war across the entire galactic rim, in which would be the largest scale war in galaxy’s recorded history.
During this period Anakin Skywalker would make a name for himself as a successful general, conquering numerous regions, and defeating Separatist armies on numerous occasions against incredible odds. His success was so great, and his skill was so evident, that Palpatine brought him to his inner circle, allying himself with the charismatic young general.
During the dying days of the war the Separatists launched a desperate attack on Coruscant itself, and Palpatine himself was even captured, but Anakin Skywalker, in a counter-attack, no only rescued the Chancellor, but also killed Count Dooku, the executive head of the Separatist movement and, ironically, a former Jedi Knight.
The records indicate that Anakin Skywalker was a Jedi Knight, but this conflicts with known age restrictions enforced by Jedi Knights of this period. It’s more likely that he had many Jedi Knight associates, and later became Palpatine’s liaison to the Jedi Council based on his good relations with them.
After the death of Count Dooku, and the subsequent death of the Great Separatist General Grievous on Utapau, the Separatist movement nearly ground to a halt.
In a controversial move during this period, following an assassination attempt on Palpatine’s life by the Jedi Knights who were convinced that the man was becoming a threat to the Republic, Palpatine ordered the purging of the Jedi order. The move resulted in thousands of deaths, including possibly loyal Jedi Knights, but Palpatine of this era was slowly revealing his true, ruthless nature. Later era Palpatine, unlike the earlier more conciliatory Palpatine, would brook no threats to his power.
Anakin Skywalker led the attack on Mustafar that led to the capture and capitulation of the Separatist leadership, and with that Palpatine, in a move that in retrospect was uncharacteristically bold for Palpatine at the time, declared a Galactic Empire to replace the Galactic Senate, and this is the time that historians usually mark the end of the Republican era, though the Senate itself would continue to function in a administrative position for decades to come.
The Battle of Mustafar is significant that Palpatine’s favored General, Anakin Skywalker, reportedly died. From this point forward Palpatine would come to rely on a rogue Jedi Knight, Darth Vader, himself a controversial figure in this period but would later become one of the most hated political figures of his time, to act as his general.