How many Emperors did the Star Wars First Galactic Empire have?

Counting all versions and canon levels.

  • 1
    – Valorum
    Jan 30, 2017 at 19:01
  • On the personal fanfiction canon level we can't forget the Battle of The 47 Clone Emperors, this is the one with cameos of Starkey, Hutch, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Jan 30, 2017 at 19:08

2 Answers 2


BLUF: There was one in Canon, possibly 4 in Legends.

If you visit the Galactic Empire Wookieepedia page, you'll see that this answer depends on whether you're talking about the Canon Empire or the Legacy Empire. The Legacy Empire could have arguably had 4 different emperors, one of which was a clone of Palpatine himself.

In Legends, there was originally Palpatine, obviously, but then after period of infighting, Grand Admiral Thrawn reunited the Empire and brought back an Imperial Resurgence. After Thrawn was defeated, a clone of the original Emperor came into power and even managed to put Luke Skywalker under his control for a time. Later, Carnor Jax assumed control for a time, but due to a lack of consolidation, had little power.

However, the Canon Empire only had one true Emperor. While the Empire was most certainly not completely defeated after the destruction of the second Death Star (The First Order is one surviving part of the Empire in Ep. VII), afterwards the Empire no longer had the reach or cohesion it had had under Palpatine. Palpatine's death marked a splintering of the Empire into different feuding factions who were fighting not only the Rebels and the New Republic, but themselves. As such, "Declarations of a new Emperor were announced almost every day, but none were able to consolidate any substantial power."

Some of the Admirals and Moffs loosely worked together against the Rebellion and later New Republic, but they never all worked together behind one ruler, only cooperated in the form of a council.

There is one Canon contender for being considered a second Emperor, self-proclaimed Counselor to the Empire Gallius Rax. Originally a Fleet Admiral and organizer of one of the Imperial Councils, Rax proclaimed this title and managed to unite the Empire for a short time before his defeat in the Battle of Jakku, after which there was the signing of the Galactic Concordance, which signaled the surrender of the Empire. After the battle, the Empire broke up into different ruling factions more or less at peace with one another, and have to date never fully reunited.

While Rax did reunite most of the empire, he did so only for a short time, and did not rule as much territory as Palpatine had, and was therefore not a true successor to the title of Emperor.


In this online copy of Star Wars IV: A New Hope George Lucas (ghost written by Alan Dean Foster) 1976, page 77, Luke asks Kenobie how his father died.

"He was betrayed and murdered," Kenobie declared solemnly, "by a very young Jedi named Darth Vader." Kenobie was not looking at Luke. "A boy I was training. One of my brightest disciples...one of my greatest failures."

Kenobie resumed his pacing. "Vader used the training I gave him and the force within him for evil, to help the later corrupt emperors. With the Jedi knights disbanded, disorganized, or dead, there were few to oppose Vader. Today they are all but extinct."


So Vader served "THE LATER CORRUPT EMPERORS". Thus there were at least two emperors after the first one by the time of Star Wars IV: A New Hope.

Since the prologue to the novelization tells how the ambitious Senator Palpatine became the first emperor, and since this passage shows that by the time of Star Wars IV: A New Hope there had been at least two successors to Palpatine the first emperor, I was shocked to read the emperor at the time of Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi described as Emperor Palpatine in the novelization.

But I guess it could be explained by the Emperor in Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi being Palpatine the Second (or higher), named after the first Emperor of the Galactic Empire.

The actual copy of Star Wars IV: A New Hope that was scanned to make the online preview quoted says Ballatine Books", "Del Rey", and "Lucas Books".

According to this news item from 2/21/00:

"Lucasfilm and Scholastic have teamed up to form an imprint named lucasbooks...".


The LucasBooks logo on the title page indicates the online copy ofStar Wars IV: A New Hope may have been printed in 2000 or later. So even after The Phantom Menace was written and produced, and released in 1999, Lucasfilm apparently did not bother to change anything in the Star Wars novelization.

So in so far as Star Wars novelizations count as canon, there is a big inconsistency in the number of galactic emperors in Star Wars.

Added 03-27-2017.

The films may prove that the first and the last Galactic Emperors were the same person, but they don't prove that he was the emperor for the entire 24 year period.

It is possible that Palpatine was deposed by a usurper and later regained the throne.

Possibly the Galactic Emperor was supposed to be elective like the Queen of Naboo, so Palpatine could have "retired" and had a close associate under his influence and control elected for a term and "come out of retirement" and been elected to handle the emergency of the Rebel Alliance.

Porfirio Diaz (1830-1915) was dictator of Mexico from 1876-1911, but he was only President of Mexico from November to December 1876, from 1877 to 1880 and from 1884 to 1911. The President of Mexico from 1880 to 1884 was Manuel Gonzalez Flores, a close political ally of Diaz.

And Palpatine could have planned to alternate his terms as elected emperor with terms by his close political allies under his control and periodic crises engineered to have him called out of "retirement" when he desired. Possibly there was a term of "emperor Jar Jar Binks". Palpatine might have caused the formation of the Rebel Alliance in order to have a crises to recall him to the throne.

Of course this theory could be disproved by new Disney canon set during the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

  • The novels are only considered canon where they agree with the events that occurred in the film/s. In this case, the reference to there being multiple emperors (along with the other snippets about Kenobi being Owen's brother and hence related to Luke) would not be considered canon. The book was based on an earlier version of the screenplay, hence some slight oddness.
    – Valorum
    Jan 30, 2017 at 22:43
  • Valorum - So if the novels are now only considered canon when they agree with the movies, what happens when and if some future Disney executive decrees that the novels are fully canon? And some novels might say that Palpatine was the emperor all during the period from the foundation of the empire until the Battle of Endor, but no movie says that. So in movie canon Palpatine could possibly have been the first emperor but then retired, abidacted, or been deposed, and then after two or more succeeding emperors regained the throne before the Empire Strikes back. Jan 31, 2017 at 18:44
  • 1
    It seems highly unlikely that Disney will choose to 'canonise' something written several decades ago which conflicts with what happened in the films. What would their motivation be?
    – Valorum
    Jan 31, 2017 at 18:52
  • 1
    I may have misread what you've put, but it's pretty clear from the films that Palpatine is the first Galactic Emperor (III), survives until the Battle of Endor (VI) and is then killed. The new films (VII) indicate that the Empire collapsed shortly afterwards. There's no canon indication of a new undisputed Emperor however there were a few petty despots with delusions of grandeur
    – Valorum
    Jan 31, 2017 at 18:55
  • Valorum - The films make it clear that Chancellor Palpatine became the first Galactic Emperor in 20BBY and that the same Palpatine as the Galactic Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi a few years after the Battle of Yavin. But they don't prove that he was emperor for the whole time. Possibly the Galactic Emperor was supposed to be elective like the Queen of Naboo, so Palpatine could have "retired" and had a close associate under his influence and control elected for a term and "come out of retirement" and been elected to handle the emergency of the Rebel Alliance. Mar 27, 2017 at 21:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.