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When Leia is brought to the bridge of the Death Star, she clearly knows who Tarkin is, and clearly knows that he is just the kind of person to be involved in the Empire. What prior relationship do the two have?

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    She's a Senator and he's a major military leader in the Empire. It would be like Mitt Romney knowing who General Randy A. George is.
    – Valorum
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:37
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    @Valorum He’s a governor. Also a Grand Moff (is that the military position?) and I think originally a Sith Lord before those were retconned. More like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez knowing who Greg Abbott is, IMHO. Nov 25, 2023 at 13:41
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    @ToddWilcox Looks like Grand Moff had also military position - something like a viceroy of British Empire, perhaps? He was maybe the third most powerful man in Empire. All in all, I don't see how Leia could have not know who he was.
    – Mithoron
    Nov 25, 2023 at 14:25
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    @ToddWilcox A Sith Lord? Got a citation for that? It sounds very interesting.
    – J. Mini
    Nov 25, 2023 at 22:42
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    @Mithoron Not a military position, but they have executive authority over the military forces within the regions they govern. It’s just like how the provincial governors of the Roman Empire were not in a military position, but had authority over the military forces in their provinces. Nov 26, 2023 at 14:54

2 Answers 2

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Leia has known about Tarkin from early childhood, and encountered him before she became a Senator.

Canon

The very first thing Leia’s father had ever told her about Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin was that she was to stay away from him. He had made an official visit to Alderaan right around the time Leia had turned thirteen—which, coincidentally, was also about the time when Leia had made it her mission to do the opposite of whatever she was told to do. So she’d crept along the halls of the palace behind the two men, listening to the cold, tense words they exchanged.

As she’d slipped out of her hiding place, one thought had blasted through her mind: he is a snake. A man who kept slaves. A man who wrapped around his victims and slowly, mercilessly crushed the life from them.

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy

She subsequently met him at a function for apprentice legislators on Coruscant.

Applause began as the guest speaker took the dais. It was a man Leia had never met before but one she had heard a great deal about…none of it good.
[...]
So many of the apprentice legislators were nervous to meet a grand moff. She observed that feeling without sharing it in the slightest; she had been no more than six the first time she met a king. While the others trembled, stammered, and shifted awkwardly from foot to foot or tentacle to tentacle, Leia stood straight, glad she’d braided her hair in a coil atop her head to provide the illusion of extra height, and waited her turn. When at last she was face to face with Grand Moff Tarkin, she took his hand with assurance. “Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan.”

“Your Highness,” Tarkin said. His hand tightened around hers—only slightly more than would be customary, but enough that she felt he was holding her there. That lasted for only an instant, however, as did his brittle smile. “I look forward to discovering whether you’ll be the same kind of senator as your father.”

Leia - Princess of Alderaan

Legends

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The Princess Leia Diaries - Star Wars Tales #11

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    To be noted, that book was published in 2015.
    – Stef
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:39
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    My point is that Star Wars evolved a lot between the 1977 film and today; some things in the original film are pretty inconsistent with things that came later; so a 2015 novel retelling the story of the 1977 film is worth what it's worth, no more, no less, so I think it's important to mention the date. (The fact that this novel is "canon" or "non canon" is certainly relevant as an internal Disney policy to decide what to stay consistent with and what not to stay consistent with when publishing new stuff, but not really relevant to the public deciding to read it or not).
    – Stef
    Nov 26, 2023 at 19:54
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    FWIW, Back in 1977, when I saw the movie for the first time, I was not at all surprised by the idea that an adult "princess" whose father apparently ruled over some "kingdom" within a larger "empire" might know somewhat of the reputation of a key player in a plot to strip her family of their power. Nov 27, 2023 at 0:13
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    To me, "canon" in the Star Wars universe has become arbitrary and changeable to the point that it doesn't really mean much. The validity of anything is more a matter of opinion. Nov 27, 2023 at 2:29
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    Agreed with those saying that canon doesn’t really matter that much, since it's arbitrary "marketing policy" at this point. A better wording of the question might have been "when the script for Star Wars was written, how did Lucas suppose Leia knew Tarkin?". However, as a kid I never asked myself this question: it was obvious to me Tarkin was a major player/villain and everyone would know who he was.
    – Andres F.
    Nov 27, 2023 at 4:42
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He is a regional Governor of “numerous outlying Imperial territories”1. They are politicians who have served in the same government, more or less.

I suspect it’s similar to a federal legislator knowing a state or provincial executive of a rival political party.

  1. Star Wars novelization, chapter III
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    Is there a relative ranking of Galactic Empire commanders/officials? It always seemed to me (without reading Wookieepedia, I value my sanity) that Tarkin was very high up in the hierarchy. I mean, he can boss Vader around! Much like second to the Emperor or close to that, anyway. So he would be well known.
    – Andres F.
    Nov 27, 2023 at 4:47
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    @AndresF. Note that if you watch the first Star Wars film and no other material, it looks very much like Vader is just a general in the Empire, rather than the Emperor's direct apprentice and closest ally; and Tarkin appears to be the Death Star's commander, with authority over everyone aboard.
    – Stef
    Nov 27, 2023 at 16:38

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