Tsar Wars: Return of the Alderaanians

Welcome to the final part of our royal team up with Eleven Thirty-Eight.  Jay and I have already discussed monarchy as a whole, Naboo, Hapes, and now it’s time for Alderaan.

Bria: I’d like to start by blaming YOU AND YOUR EMPIRE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF A PEACEFUL PLANET, YOU JERK.

Jay: it’s not my fault! It’s not my fault. It was all Tarkin’s doing. Seriously, if you don’t believe me, check out the old Radio Drama — Vader told Tarkin not to destroy Alderaan and basically said the Emperor wouldn’t approve, and Tarkin did it anyway. I’m super curious to see if Alex Bracken will use that part of the audio drama in The Princess, the Smuggler, and the Farm Boy because I *NEED* it to still be canon, otherwise I will hate myself.

Bria: She probably won’t just to spite you.  Yes, specifically you.

Jay: Considering how many people enjoy specifically spiting me, it wouldn’t surprise me. But I have hope yet, she’s a nice person. :p If not, well, um…. are you guys taking defectors or do I have to wait for the fall session?

Bria: We’ll look into seeing if we can arranging you non-explosive transportation.  Before it was so rudely and cruelly blown up, Alderaan actually seems to have had one of the more traditional monarchies in the Star Wars universe; at least in Earth terms.

Jay: Traditional, if confusing as heck. Under the EU, the Organas were the royal family of Alderaan. Bail Organa was the viceroy (which… doesn’t make any sense, as a viceroy is a monarch’s representative but words don’t mean anything in space I guess) and so his adopted daughter Leia was the Princess of Alderaan. Breha, who wasn’t Breha yet, was the Minister of Education. Until ROTS, when it turned out that *she* was the Queen of Alderaan and Bail was prince consort. Luckily for us, the EU already had the “Alderaanian Ascendency Contention” from the Zahn books and… Bria, this is getting complicated, isn’t it?

Bria: Well so much for one of these planets yielding a simple discussion.  Titles and figuring out who was actually the ruler aside, this is actually a very Earth-like situation.  Look at the War of the Roses.  Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York to solidify his claim to the crown of England as she was the eldest daughter of Edward IV.  Either way you look at the backstory, Alderaan solved its problem by letting both families win and therefore rule.

Jay: That’s right. The EU-movie conflict had a built-in solution that made perfect sense: Bail’s Organa family and Breha’s Antilles family were both claimants to the throne, and Zahn’s Ascendency Contention was perfectly suited to actually *be* that conflict between two rival lines. Instead of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, we have the Antilles and the Organas. And if you look at The Old Republic, it even looks like there were other vying royal houses in the past. You know, I think you were definitely on to something when you called it traditional.

Bria: Well, if you want to go further, let’s go with the assumption that Breha was the reigning Queen.  That lines up pretty well with… pick almost any reigning queen in Britain whose husband only held the Prince Consort title.

brehabailJay: Yeah it’s a contrast to the rest of Europe, or even the world we just discussed. The Hapans would’ve just passed the rule off to the (female) spouse of the hereditary successor if it was a male. The Alderaanian system doesn’t discriminate. Breha was queen, so she reigned.

Bria: And still found time to serve as the Minister of Education.

Jay: Why haven’t we had any books or comics about Breha, again?

Bria: Because I’m being personally victimized by Lucasfilm.  No, that’s not true.  They gave us the Princess Leia comic which was almost everything I ever wanted in the world.

Jay: Except perhaps a Princess Leia ongoing, which might end up being the best thing ever. We’ll definitely have to talk about that comic, but let’s talk about pre-explosion Alderaan for just a bit longer. We’ve talked about Alderaan as a traditional monarchy, with inheritance and everything… but it’s also a constitutional monarchy with a very democratic aspect to it. More shades of the UK, or do you see it as its own thing?

Bria: I see it as more of a… benevolent monarchy.  Is that a thing?

Jay: I think so, we talked about Arthurian monarchies a bit in our intro piece, after all. I definitely see a lot of benevolence in Bail, Breha, and Leia — the question is whether it’s a benevolence that’s a part of the Alderaanian system, or heavily dependant on who holds the throne. Could Alderaan have a Caligula? …or a Palpatine?

Bria: Maybe?  In thousands and thousands of years, every planet’s bound to produce at least one evil jerk.  I just feel like Houses Organa and Antilles seemed to really get it right.  It wasn’t a democracy but their people certainly seemed to love their rulers and be content.  Maybe Alderaan is the real utopia.

Jay: It may well have been. Benevolent rulers, trained from birth to do the right thing. A peaceful, non-violent society which focused its productivity on the arts and culture, on philosophy and learning, and somehow managed to merge human flourishing with protection of nature. And since “utopia” literally means “nowhere,” I guess Tarkin decided that it was too good to exist. Stupid Tarkin.

Bria: What I’ve always found interesting about Alderaan is how willing they were to accept an adopted girl as their future queen given how traditional we’ve already determined they were.  Bloodlines are HUGE when it comes to monarchies like this.

Jay: That’s true. Leia is neither an Organa or an Antilles — and if they went through all this fuss to merge two rival lines, why would they just allow an adopted child to take the reins? Leia definitely lives up to Alderaanian ideals, but nobody would’ve known that from the start. Did they just trust Bail and Breha that much? They must’ve.

Bria: I think it ties back to what you were saying about benevolent rulers being trained from birth to do the right thing.  Leia may have been the rebellious little child but she was certainly well instructed in the art of being a good leader by the Organas.  (And Sabé if you’re considering Legends.)

Jay: I love the Sabé thing, by the way. It makes a lot more sense of Leia’s ROTJ dialogue than certain other “fixes,” but I digress. The Alderaanians have a lot of trust and faith in their political system, and it’s something that’s just alien to us modern folks. Even after the destruction of Alderaan, people look to and trust Leia as their leader. It’s not engrained fealty but earned trust, and that’s fascinating. Especially since Star Wars is all about a war against a government that has gone way beyond being unworthy of trust.

Bria: Why wouldn’t they though?  Or no wait.  Even as I’m saying that, I can see the counter because it makes sense for a large chunk of Alderaanians to place their trust in Leia because she and her family have already earned that faith and because she’s all that’s left and they want the familiar.  On the other hand, I can easily see there being a strong minority who blame her for Alderaan’s destruction in their own way.

Jay: Exactly — Alderaan was destroyed because of her involvement in the Rebellion, some might say. They might ignore Bail’s responsibility since Leia’s the one alive, and they might ignore the fact that it wasn’t Leia who pulled the trigger either. People have a lot of strange ways of responding to tragedy, and blaming a fellow victim might be one of them. I am actually a little surprised that we didn’t see some of this in the Leia comic.

Bria: We did see it in Razor’s Edge though, right?  To a lesser extent?  Or at least people being all “House Organa’s involvement in the Rebellion caused this.  Leave us alone.”

Jay: There was a bit of that, true — they certainly thought that Organa would bring trouble on their heads. Metara was a bit different, but yeah. I think there was that angle. It’s been a while though.

Bria: Same.  It is Legends now though and… okay, we’ve been dancing around the Evaan in the room since the start of this conversation because she throws a huge wrench in the monarchy of Alderaan in this post-planet galaxy.

Jay: Right. So SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read the Leia comics (and if you haven’t, go buy them all and read them like yesterday!), but the miniseries ends with the Alderaanian refugees settling on a new world. Leia chooses to stay with the Rebellion, and she says that Evaan should make a bid to rule instead. Which… if you think about it, sort of suggests that Evaan is now the Queen of Alderaan, elected by its people. And that’s kinda the take we’re supposed to get, according to editor Jordan D. White. So uh, what??

princess evaanBria: Tradition must’ve gone boom too.  I think there are two key take aways here.  Well, three actually.  One: What’s left of Alderaan has switch to monarchy-democracy that’s more like Naboo.  Two: Leia’s support for Evaan’s candidacy clearly had an impact which ties back to what we said before about Alderaanians placing great faith in their monarchs.  And Three: we don’t actually see what happens next.

Jay: It’s remarkably consistent with the old, old pre-PT EU that had the Organas as quasi-elected rulers, but it’s definitely a switch from the hereditary Alderaan we see in canon. And I agree, Alderaanians wouldn’t have a particular reason to know Evaan from anybody else but Leia’s support has got to speak volumes. But the thing that is strange to me is that *if* Evaan does become queen (and you’re right, we don’t necessarily know that she does), what does that make Leia?

Bria: Dowager Princess, maybe?  Actually, do you want to know my theory?

Jay: I’ve been curious for your take on it since you pitched this series of articles, so I’m dying to know.

Bria: Evaan is Queen Regent while Leia’s off leading the Rebellion.

Jay: …why didn’t I think of that? I’m officially headcanoning it until further notice. That works quite well, and allows us to avoid the weirdness of supposing that Alderaan’s entire political system has changed *and* that Leia has “abandoned” (she didn’t really) her birthright.

Bria: Leia could never abandon her birthright.  I don’t care whether my theory is right or not.  She still cares very deeply about the Alderaanian people and doing right by her parents’ legacy.  She’d always go back and make sure they’re in good hands and advocate for their interests.

Jay: I agree, but the public perception might’ve been that she felt (rightly or wrongly) the Rebellion was more important. But I think Alderaan will always be dear to her, and I think she focuses on the Rebellion at a deep personal cost. The Rebellion is duty and passion, but I think her heart is with her people.

Bria: There’s no disagreeing with that.  But where does this leave us with Alderaan and its monarchy though?  We’ve gone from the most traditional monarchy we’ve looked at to one that suddenly spins around into a democratic-monarchy and then into… we just don’t know yet even if I will cling to my Regent theory.

Jay: The monarchy of Alderaan was a public trust, in many ways. Most hereditary monarchies use divine right or prosaic property law to justify the sovereign’s powers, but I think Alderaan may actually rest its sovereignty in the trust of its populace. That would help rationalize the highly traditional form and structure of the monarchy with its close relationship to the public, and maybe explain that Alderaan isn’t really changing its form of government per se.

Bria: But it’s now a government without a planet now which… honestly, I think that changes everything.  They have no planet, they barely have any people… maybe they need to move away from a monarchy entirely.

Jay: …I will forgive you because I know you didn’t mean to say something so shocking and awful.

Bria: Oh no I absolutely did.  Do I need to call an Uber and send over smelling salts?

Jay: I’ll live, luckily this hard floor was here to catch me as I fainted. Anyway — I can see the argument that without the institutional role of the monarchy, hereditary leadership isn’t going to be as effective for a small group. But on the other hand, would Alderaan lose an essential part of what make its society work if it introduces competition and ambition into the equation?

Bria: I suppose you have a point.  Even if that point does open up a whole ‘nother can of worms.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what The Force Awakens and other canon stories contribute to the state of Alderaan and revisit this in a year.

Jay: I think so! Alderaan will surely have a future in Star Wars, and whether it’s a story set on the planet itself (like I just pitched at ETE) or stories about the Alderaanian survivors I am sure we haven’t heard the last about Alderaan or its government.

Bria: To be continued then?

Jay: Count on it.

Bria: Any last thoughts as we come to the end of this very deep dive in the monarchies across the galaxy?  We’ve covered a heck of lot over the course of this series from the traditional Alderaan to the oddly complex Naboo to the oh-my-god-what-are-you-doing Hapes.

Jay: Just that the variety in Star Wars is always refreshing, and I’d like to see more of the same. That might even mean getting a chance to see worlds with unseen types of governments, but certainly more creativity in monarchical governments is appreciated. Though I’ll admit, I’ll usually always just be happy with the trappings of the hats, gowns, and palaces.

Bria: Why not both?  I feel like we deserve both.  There’s clearly already been some creativity when it comes to monarchy and they’ve all come with the pretty dresses.

Jay: You’ll see no arguments from me here, especially given how well-stocked Star Wars already is with monarchies. In fact, I remember one of the complaints about The Clone Wars was that each world became yet another monarchy. It might be interesting to see governments organized on different lines, and not just democracies but weird, odd governments — like a government where voters were like shareholders or something (not a corporation-ruled world, but just literally a conception of political rights we’ve never thought of). Star Wars is a galaxy far far away and doesn’t have to be bound to our expectations.

Bria: Absolutely agreed although the idea of a corporation-ruled world sounds intriguing…

Jay: I have this idea of the leader of the world being named something zany like “Optimal Chairman.” Just ham it up, this is Star Wars.

Bria: Exactly.  This is already a galaxy where they’ve had a ton of fun with just the concept of a monarchy.  Take it all the way… and maybe give us our next blog series.

And that’s all, folks!  Both Jay and I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed our mini tour around the monarchies of the galaxy even if we didn’t get a chance to look at all of them.  (It was difficult to not write an ENTIRE series just on Onderon.)  We can’t wait to see what new takes on monarchy the galaxy far far away has in store for us and hey… maybe we might return with a part five this time next year… 😉

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