In the end of Rogue One, it was obvious that the Death Star plans just had to end up in the hands of Princess Leia. It was a necessity in terms of continuity and storyline.

But from the in-universe point of view, it was confusing that she participated in the Battle of Scarif in the first place. As we saw earlier in the movie, her (step) father Bail Organa left for Alderaan from the rebel base on Yavin 4, specifically to send Leia a mission to meet Obi-Wan Kenobi. He even expressed his unconditional trust in her; that she would carry out the task. Still, she Leia joined the fleet in the space battle and endangered both her life and her mission.

Why did she do that?

  • It wasn't planned. When the Rebels get the transmission, Admiral Radus immediately left to Scarif. I think she was initially going to Tatooine but all Rebels ships were rerouted then. Note that the Tantive IV was not directly in the battle but docked into Raddus' ship, so probably the safest place. – Neow Dec 21 '16 at 8:59
  • @Meow the safest place was away from battle. It could make sense for Leia to be there to add his ship firepower (even if small) to the rebel effort, but getting in the middle of the battle only to dock her ship does not seem like a good idea. Of course, there are other options (the ship docked only to get the data, Leia's original ship was another but had to move into the flagship and flee in the Tantive IV, etc.) – SJuan76 Dec 21 '16 at 9:06
  • @SJuan76 I meant "the safest place for a Rebel during the battle of Scarif" :) – Neow Dec 21 '16 at 9:24
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    Step father or adoptive father? – Jeremy French Jan 18 '17 at 15:30
up vote 21 down vote accepted

Alexander Freed's official novelization explains it.

  • Leia's ship (Tantive IV) was being repaired from earlier (unspecified mission caused) damage
  • As it was docked in Produndity's hangar; it was carried to Scarif when Admiral Raddus urgently took entire fleet to Scarif
  • As it wasn't in a condition to fly, Leia had no means to evacuate even assuming she wanted to (and being "let me take the blaster from Han Solo and shoot the wall and jump", I doubt she would have wanted).

The Tantive IV wasn’t ready to fly, let alone fight. It had been the subject of frantic repairs during the lightspeed voyage from Yavin to Scarif, secure in the hangar of the Profundity where it had lain, stubbornly malingering, since its last mission. Even after its host vessel had arrived in-system and joined the battle against the Imperial armada, Captain Raymus Antilles and his engineers and droids had worked desperately to make the corvette spaceworthy—to seal the leak in its hyperdrive motivator and clean the buildup in its exhaust ports. Admiral Raddus had made the situation clear: Every ship in the fleet had a part to play.

Raymus loved his ship. He’d nearly lost it once. For the Rebel Alliance, he would risk losing it again.

But the battle over Scarif had ended before the Tantive IV could join the fray. Just as the corvette’s reactor had come to life, the Profundity had screamed with punctured metal lungs. The Tantive IV had rocked in the hangar bay, nearly dislodging the boarding ramps clamped to its air locks.

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    I've been working on an answer along these lines, but I'm stuck on why Leia wasn't evacuated from the ship; they didn't expect to send the plans to her, so there's no reason for her to be in a warzone – Jason Baker Dec 21 '16 at 14:54
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    She had nomeans to evacuate – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 21 '16 at 14:56
  • @DVK-in-exile Great explanation! But does this mean, Leia was also on Yavin 4 during the strategic meeting prior to the Rogue One's take-off? Why didn't she attend to it? Or why didn't she leave for Alderaan with Bail Organa? Does the novel tell us anything about this? – Essen Dec 21 '16 at 18:51
  • @Essen - as far as I can tell, aside from oblique mention by Bail, Leia isn't mentioned prior to the very last scene, at all. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 21 '16 at 19:53
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    @JasonBaker At the time of the Battle of Scarif, the entire fate of the fragile Rebellion hinged on the acquisition of the Death Star plans. Why wasn't Leia evacuated? Because if the Rebels failed and the Rebellion subsequently crushed, her fate would be irrelevant to them. What good is the face of a dead rebellion? – b1nary.atr0phy Dec 10 '17 at 14:30

If Leia joined the battle from somewhere else, how did C3P0 and R2D2 get on board?

There may be more time between R1 and ANH than we think.

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