As far as I can remember (and I can't find anything on the internet to refute this), the name "Palpatine" is never used in the original Star Wars trilogy (he's just called "the Emperor"). Despite this, I remember knowing that the Emperor's name was Palpatine long before the release of Episode I, where the name is used. My question is, how did I know Palpatine's name? Was it in the original trilogy somewhere after all? Was the name common knowledge? Any sense of what the original source was?

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    As a side-line to this: His name is now officially Emperor Sheev Palpatine. It seems he gets a new part of his name in each generation of movies. Emperor in the originals, Emperor Palpatine in the prequels and Emperor Sheev Palpatine in preparation for the new one currently in production.
    – Dan Hanly
    Nov 3, 2014 at 10:03
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    Like how we all knew Wicket's name, even though none of the Ewoks' are named in the film. I believe Wicket is named in the script and end credits, but what eight-year-old was reading those in 1983? Toys and merchandising. Nov 3, 2014 at 16:52
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    @Michael: Or, for that matter, the name of the Ewoks themselves. The word "Ewok" appears nowhere in the movies. Nov 4, 2014 at 2:21
  • Did you play X-Wing or Tie-Fighter? I'm almost sure the name was mentioned there, but don't have a reference.
    – nikie
    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:05
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    @MichaelItzoe: The Ewoks at least had a bunch of spin-off movies and a cartoon series with their names mentioned. Palpatine was stuck in the books until 1999. Nov 4, 2014 at 10:28

6 Answers 6


His name was mentioned in :

  1. Alan Dean Foster's A New Hope novelization in 1976:

    Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic. Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears (George Lucas [Alan Dean Foster], Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker (paperback; New York: Del Rey, 1976), p. 1, ISBN 0-345-26079-1.)

  2. the 1983 novelization for Return of the Jedi by James Kahn:

    The Emperor sat, regarding this view, as Vader approached from behind. The Lord of the Sith kneeled and waited. The Emperor let him wait. He perused the vista before him with a sense of glory beyond all reckoning: this was all his. And more glorious still, all his by his own hand.

    For it wasn't always so. Back in the days when he was merely Senator Palpatine, the galaxy had been a Republic of stars, cared for and protected by the Jedi Knighthood that had watched over it for centuries. But inevitably it had grown too large - too massive a bureaucracy had been required, over too many years, in order to maintain the Republic. Corruption had set in.

It was also mentioned in 1998 Star Wars Visual Dictionary as per Wookieepedia, but I can't find a cite.

  • I left the dictionary out of my answer - which you beat me to by about 5 minutes - because it's a clear-cut 15 years after ROTJ, which has the Emperor referring to himself as Palpatine. If we push it back to ANH, which has Palpatine's name but treats him as an entirely different character, that's over twenty years. Still before the prequels, but given the amount of EU material that used the name Palpatine in that time, it seems pointless to mention the SWVD and not, say, The Last Command. Nov 3, 2014 at 1:31
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    "Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office" what a weird line
    – Andrey
    Feb 24, 2020 at 19:37

Palpatine was a name that was decided upon and used in the EU a long time ago.

The first name used in early notes is the ridiculous Emperor Ford Xerxes XII, quickly changed to Alexander Xerxes XII, because, as Jar-Jar Binks and "Imperial Centre" (Coruscant) prove, George Lucas is terrible at names.

The name Cos Dashit was also used in early scripts. While The Phantom Menace is the first time Palpatine's name is spoken on-screen, it was first mentioned in the novelisation of A New Hope, and confirmed in the novelisation of Return of the Jedi. Whether this is Palpatine's first or last name has never been established until The Sequel Trilogy, when his first name (Sheev) was revealed, but a popular fan theory at that time was that Palpatine was 'Cosinga Palpatine, Jr,' due to the mention of his hatred for his father and refusal to use "his name," in the book Darth Plagueis. His father was Cosinga Palpatine, apparently. I've not read that particular book, and Wookieepedia's article on Palpatine is, as you will see if you click on my above link, quite large. Skip to "Behind the Scenes" for the information I've provided.

There was still the chance, until Revenge of the Sith aired (or rather, when the novelisation of that film came out, since it came out before the film aired), that Lucas might pull an M. Night Shyamalan out of his hat and make Darth Sidious and Palpatine separate characters, but it didn't seem likely. Revenge of the Sith confirmed what old-school Star Wars fans like you and I had known for decades; that the Emperor's name was Palpatine.

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    I'm not sure it was his hat Lucas pulls things out of Nov 2, 2014 at 23:50
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    @DVK: Nor M. Night Shyamalan, for that matter. Nov 3, 2014 at 1:27
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    I have to wonder at which point they realized "Cos Dashit" is an extremely unfortunate name.
    – Andres F.
    Nov 3, 2014 at 6:41
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    @AndresF.: But the Emperor caused the sh... Oh, I see the problem. Nov 3, 2014 at 23:33
  • I wonder if his middle name was "He".
    – TVann
    Jan 21, 2017 at 15:54

I used to play the Star Wars Customizable Card Game back in 1996 and every card had a little history written on it.

I will not make you go through all of these cards, but this is how I learned about his name. It is written "Emperor Palpatine". As soon as I heard about the Senator Palpatine I automatically made the link.

Emperor Palpatine card

This said and all of the other answers, there were many ways to get the information about episode 1,2 and 3 before episode 1 came out.

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    These cards were printed well after the novelisations.
    – Valorum
    Dec 27, 2015 at 19:55

In the late 80's I played West End Games tabletop Star Wars RPG and that clearly stated all the info 'revealed' in the prequels, Palpatine being Emperor, Anakins fall to becoming Darth Vader, etc... All that was New in the prequels was making the Force a disease, and Jar Jar Binks...

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    At first I read that last line as Jar Jar Binks being a disease also. Mar 4, 2016 at 23:13
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    @AngeloDeMichaels Then you read it correctly.
    – DCShannon
    Sep 27, 2016 at 20:01

The name was first mentioned in the prologue to a novelization of Star Wars and Luke uses the name once in the novelization of Return of the Jedi. So he had his name at least as early as 1976.

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    This doesn't add anything not already present in the nearly-5-year-old accepted answer.
    – chepner
    Aug 17, 2019 at 14:58

Yes! It was in a small booklet that accompanied one of the X-Wing/TIE fighter games. Up the post Nikie is right. It told the story of the Star Wars characters including Palpatine. I’m so glad someone else (nikie)remembers this. Not only was it told that Palpatine became the Emperor but I believe it also mentioned a very important Star Wars lore point which many have forgotten. In the booklet it mentioned that Emperor Palpatine foresaw his own death and that it was Anakin Skywalker who would kill him. That’s why he tried so hard to change Anakin to the Dark Side, in an attempt to escape his destiny. When he found out of Anakin Skywalker’s son Luke, he thought Luke Skywalker might be the one who kills him. That’s why in ESB and ROTJ he spends all his resources (like having his fleet go through an asteroid field in ESB) to find Luke and turn him to the Dark Side. I hope someone else remembers this cause apparently Lucas took this out of Star Wars lore.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you provide a reference for this, or at least a year, so we can see how it relates to the other sources listed here?
    – DavidW
    Jan 27, 2020 at 2:14
  • Most important, Vader tells Luke in ESB:“Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen it...”
    – Rana Patel
    Jan 27, 2020 at 7:24
  • Well, like I said, it was in a booklet that came in one of the X-Wing/TIE fighter games, and I don’t think many of us who were young at the time read or memorized the booklet as we just wanted to play the game. I think it was in X-Wing vs.TIE Fighter Part II. There wouldn’t be an ISBN number as it was released with the game and not as an individual book, just like a game manual doesn’t have an ISBN number. I’m just happy that the contributor named Nikie in this thread has some memory about it being released with the game.
    – Rana Patel
    Jan 27, 2020 at 7:49

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