In respect of the assassination of Emperor Hengist Duval the planned article for this week has been moved to next week so that historian Sima Kalhana relates some of the key moments from his life.
Emperor Hengist Duval was the 15th in the Imperial Duval bloodline to lead the Empire and he saw a great deal of change in his comparatively short reign. He was born in 3163, only a few days before the death of his grandfather Hender Saik Duval. Some claim that the spirit of Hender had already passed to Hengist such were the similarities in looks and manner noted in Hengist’s later years.
When his father, Hesketh Duval, died in 3233, Hengist assumed his place on the throne. The live broadcast of the coronation created an impression of a serene transition. However lurking beneath this appearance lay significant tensions. Most significant of which was the growing power of the Senate which had developed during the extended period of his father’s illness. A parallel with the situation with Hengist’s coma can be seen in recent months.
At the start of his reign the cold war between the Empire and the Federation was starting to thaw, a process which continued for decades, although friction has recently resumed with the rise of certain powers like President Hudson and Senator Patreus.
Hengist’s reign witnessed a major technological advancement with the introduction of the new frame shift drive. This sped up travel between stars systems and even inside systems by an incredible margin. It created a more quickly shifting political, military and commercial landscape as reacting or causing changing became much easier.
Hengist fell ill early in 3300, and he managed to continue light duties throughout the first half of the year. His sickness worsened as the year progressed and during this time he remained in seclusion with only rare visits to the Senate. At the turn of 3301 he slipped into a coma. Many expected him to not awaken from the coma and it was a great surprise when he recovered several months later.
Near the close of 3300, Hengist decreed that his only legitimate child, Harold (who is Aisling Duval’s unmarried father), was not of sound mind and so unfit for rule, and in any case had no legitimate children himself. Following this announcement Arissa Lavigny-Duval declared that she was the illegitimate child of Hengist. The Emperor supported this claim by announcing his forthcoming marriage with Arissa’s mother, Florence Lavigny, and was expected to formally adopt Arissa and cement her claim to the throne.
With his murder and the marriage not completed the succession to the imperial throne is again not clear cut and many fear the potential instability this could cause to the Empire if not decided quickly after the Emperor’s funeral.
In this new series, exclusive to GalNet, the popular political commentator Marcus Macmillan looks at some of the movers and shakers in 3301. In this first article he examines the life of the popular darling of Imperial politics: Princess Aisling Duval.
Aisling Duval is Prince Harold’s eldest child, but has gained a substantial following on her merits. She appears to be a canny operator, although many would argue that her advisors provide her with a veneer of acumen. She is young at only 25, and very visible in the media. Her claim to the throne is technically nullified by the fact that her parents were not married, but her claim is no weaker than some of the other contenders.
The people’s princess (as she is sometimes known) is extremely popular with many citizens, clients and patrons. She regularly appears on lightweight chat shows, but tends to avoid anything where she might have to face tough questions.
At heart Aisling is a populist, taking many of her views from the public mood. She splits her time between managing her brand from Cemiess, and spending time with her father in Achenar. Her mother died of a drugs overdose when she was young which, combined with her father’s unfortunate legacy from a hedonistic life, has left Aisling with a passion for helping those whose lives have taken a turn for the worse.
Despite her youth, she enjoys considerable support from the people and also from elements who would benefit from shaking up Imperial society.
The Emperor's denouncement of his son Harold as mad, and announcement of his intention to marry childhood sweetheart Florence Lavigny, have served to confer legitimacy (in more ways than one) to Florence's daughter Arissa. She duly announced her intention to change her surname to Duval and appears to be positioning herself and Chancellor Anders Blaine as the continuity 'ticket'.
Aisling Duval, Harold's daughter, is meanwhile using her celebrity to court public sympathy and pick a fight with Senator Torval over the latter's slaving activities.
Imperial Senators Zemina Torval and Denton Patreus are both at large in the galaxy, Torval freeing unregulated Federal slaves over the holiday period and Patreus fighting a series of covert and overt wars in different systems (with varying degrees of success).
The Federation has had its share of problems too. President Halsey's denial of responsibility for the Onionhead farm bombings in Kappa Fornacis seems to have exposed divisions in the hierarchy that Shadow President Hudson has lost no time in exploiting.
Tensions between both Empire and Federation appear to be coming to a head over the Sanna system. Sanna wants to leave the Federation in protest over the recent tax increases, and Senator Patreus is only too willing to offer his particular brand of help.
For the first time Aisling Duval revealed a little of the state of mind of her father Harold, on "Late Night with Aaron Smith". He is no longer considered by many as heir to the throne, following the Emperor's formal declaration that he is not of sound mind.
"My father is a kind man. A gentle man. A thoughtful man. He has always loved parties, and some have criticised him for that. It has perhaps taken its toll on him too. He is only seventy, but does look a lot older now I'll admit, but that hasn't taken away his kindness.
His father has always disliked him, and that is something I can't understand. I suppose it is fair to say they dislike each other. I'm sure many of the things Harold said and did in his earlier years were to annoy Hengist, but rebelling against a parent is not such unusual behaviour for a youngster. Taking away his throne though is a spiteful act."
It is clear from the social media response to her comments that she has avoided the question of his sanity. More importantly it makes her claim to the throne more tenuous.
Commanders' assistance helped Imperial Senator Zemina Torval gain a crushing victory and 76% influence in the Sorbago system. Torval used the Mastopolus Mining Corporation as a front to acquire slaves and bolster her power base in the manoeuvring to succeed the ailing Emperor Hengist Duval.
Senator Denton Patreus was dealt a bloody nose in the Jera system, with Commanders weighing in to ensure that the incumbent Jera Social Democrats remained in power despite Patreus's best efforts.
The Emperor himself has been making quite an impact for such an allegedly frail man. Days after appearing in the Senate to pronounce his son and heir Harold 'not of sound mind', Hengist Duval announced his intention to marry his sweetheart from their younger years, Florence Lavigny.
Even in his condition, the Emperor will be fully aware of the focus this throws on his and Florence's illegitimate daughter Arissa. The soon-to-be Princess Arissa immediately announced her intent to change her surname to Duval, seemingly putting her in pole position in the succession race.
Undeterred by his defeat in Jera, Senator Patreus has declared all out war on the tiny feudal system of Durius for defaulting on massive loan payments to him. Commanders are taking this fresh opportunity to earn credits whilst influencing the wider battle for Imperial succession. Although support for the Durius government has risen slightly since Patreus's intervention, the outcome is still very much in the balance.
The Federation are also active. After blockading Kappa Fornacis and then apparently sending Federal dropships in to bomb its Onionhead farms, President Halsey yesterday surprisingly sought to deny responsibility for the outrage - she suggested Admiral Vincent was acting without her authority.
Rumours are spreading that the Emperor's illness has taken a turn for the worse. Speeders carrying medical experts have been seen entering the palace, and inadvertently last night an Imperial aide confirmed that one wing of the Imperial Palace has been turned into a hospital.
Critics of the Emperor have said that he should have taken genetic therapies long ago. With them he would have lived another fifty years, but the Emperor has always believed in clean living and avoided medications, drugs and narcotics. Those same critics also blamed him for his rebellious son's descent into debauchery during his early years as a response to his father's "puritanism" as Harold called it at the time. Others have pointed out that Harold would have rebelled whatever, and some say this rebellious nature explains Harold's stance on slavery.
The sick Emperor Hengist Duval has managed to appear in the Senate, albeit in a travel chair, to issue a decree.
He decreed Harold, his son, not of sound mind. This gives some credence to the claim in the more scurrilous news feeds a year ago that Hengist once referred to his son in not very regal terms in private.
"The little idiot is utterly bonkers. He couldn't find his own bottom with both hands."
This was of course, denied. This decree, as commentators have been quick to point out, means there is no clear successor to the throne. Unusually the event was excluded from newscasts, but those present said he looked frail.
Arguably the most powerful person in the galaxy, Emperor Hengist Duval, is sick.
He has ruled the Empire now for 67 years since his coronation in 3233 following the death of his father, Hesketh Duval.
Emperor Hengist is only 118, born only a week before the death of his grandfather, Hender Saik Duval. Some say Hender's spirit had already transferred to Hengist at that time.
The Duval Imperial line has been unbroken for almost a thousand years. There have been power struggles in the past, but the usurpers have been successfully dealt with behind closed doors.
This time is different.
Hengist has been not involved himself in politics for a long time, relying on his Chancellor, Senator Blaine and has taken a laissez faire attitude towards a handful of increasingly powerful and ambitious Senators whilst Harold, the current heir, quickly made a name for himself as a feckless playboy.
The warlike Senator Denton Patreus, last seen trying to destabilise the Eranin system during the conflict surrounding its 30th Anniversary of Independence from the Federation, continues his manipulative power-broking in the galaxy at large.
The preposterously rich Senator Zemina Torval is using her slaver corporation supporters and personal fleet of Majestic-class Interdictors to suppress revolts and to further her ambitions.
Commentators expect others to show their hand, too.
Much like in Imperial Rome on ancient Earth, Senators determine the tax rates of their supporters and both Patreus and Torval have become hugely popular back home as they have each used their huge wealth to lower taxation to zero.
There is a real prospect of the next Emperor not being a Duval. And the bitter fight for succession is about to spill out into the open.
Meanwhile, the Federation and Alliance of Independent Systems are watching with keen interest.