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When did Palpatine first use a walking stick? I did't see him with it towards the end of Episode III and, since he wasn't shown on screen in IV and V, I would presume he started using it somewhere in between?

On the other hand, with him being a Sith Lord, I would assume that he wouldn't need it anyway. So was it used just to mask himself as being a frail, aged person?

5

According to the Wookieepedia article on the Emperor's cane:

Sometime before 0 BBY, the cane fell into the hands of Galactic Emperor Palpatine.3 Palpatine used the cane in order to appear to be weak instead of actually needing it.5 When he inspected the second Death Star in the days preceding the Battle of Endor, Palpatine carried the cane with him, and brought it into his throne room.1

And as behind the scenes notes:

The Emperor's cane first appeared in Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.1

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    The Wookiepedia article details information found in what is now "Legends" and is no longer canon. The idea that "Palpantine used the cane in order to appear to be weak" is an opinion and not supported by canon. However, it's a plausible explanation. – scott.korin Jan 30 '15 at 13:23
  • I'm curious who decides what becomes no longer canon when. Is there a Jedi council that meets up once a year? – Mikey Mouse Jan 30 '15 at 14:48
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    @MikeyMouse - close. Lucasfilm has a group dedicated to this, both post and pre Darth Mikey – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 30 '15 at 14:49
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    That's what I like about this site...ya learn stuff. I'm sure the folks on that group find a way to put that on their CVs too. Oh and I'm unrelated to Darth MiCkey – Mikey Mouse Jan 30 '15 at 14:55
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    Here's another obscure tidbit - Palpatine had his lightsaber concealed INSIDE the cane. That was mentioned in one of the no-longer-canon-now-called-"Legends" comics. – Omegacron Jan 30 '15 at 15:29
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Disney canon

Star Wars: Darth Vader (comic)

The Emperor has some form of cane / walking stick in the new Darth Vader comic - which is set between Episode 4 and Episode 5

enter image description here

There are a couple of other panels that have brief appearances of the cane, but this panel has the most distinct rendering.

(image from the Vol. 1 trade paperback collection "Vader". Appears to be Darth Vader #4 to be specific)

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