Emperor Palpatine (82 BBY–4 ABY, spirit destroyed 11 ABY, pronounced /'pælpʌtiːn/), also known as Darth Sidious, was the last Chancellor of the Galactic Republic (32 BBY to 19 BBY) and the self-declared Emperor of the Galactic Empire (19 BBY to 4 ABY), which he established after orchestrating a full-scale galactic conflict known as the Clone Wars to seize dictatorial powers through special emergency measures. Considered by most, including himself, to have been the greatest Dark Lord of the Sith in the history of the Sith Order, he was the only Sith Lord in a thousand years to achieve the ultimate goal of the Sith—to eradicate the Jedi Order, and to bring the Galaxy under the rule of the Sith, a feat he achieved through political machinations, his mastery of the Force, and the help of several powerful apprentices, including the Chosen One.
Early days (82 BBY to 32 BBY)
Information about Palpatine is difficult to come by, since most records on his homeworld concerning his ancestry, his immediate family and his upbringing had "mysteriously vanished" by the time he became a Senator, and were possibly deliberately destroyed in order to hide his true identity as a Sith Lord. It is known that Palpatine was born on the eleventh day of the eighth standard month, in the year 82 BBY. His birthplace was the peaceful planet of Naboo, in the Chommell Sector of the Mid Rim, and he claimed the capital of Theed as his home city.
Being Force-sensitive, Palpatine was eventually trained in the ways of the dark side of the Force by a Sith Lord named Darth Plagueis under the name Darth Sidious. Plagueis was an excellent mentor, preparing Palpatine for the ultimate revenge of the Sith. According to Sidious, Plagueis had the ability to manipulate midi-chlorians to create new life, as well as to sustain existing life and keep people from dying. It was speculated that either Plagueis or Palpatine used this technique to create Anakin Skywalker.
Over the years Palpatine had grown extremely strong in the Force, and his knowledge of the ways of the Sith became exceptional. Eventually, Sidious decided that he had nothing more to learn from his master. Palpatine would later imply that he killed his master after learning from him the secret of stopping death, although since other statements from Palpatine contradict this it is possible he may have been lying. Sidious murdered Plagueis while he was asleep and later claimed to revel in the irony of his master's ability to save anyone from death but himself. While still Plagueis's apprentice, Sidious had also taken an infant Zabrak from Iridonia to be his own apprentice. He dubbed him Darth Maul and molded him into a deadly unquestioning tool who lived only to serve his master's wish of destroying the Jedi and claiming the Galaxy for the Sith.
The beginning of Palpatine's political career (70 BBY to 52 BBY)
Outside of his second existence as a Sith, the course of Palpatine's life is somewhat easier to trace. At a young age, Palpatine began his political career, carefully hiding his true persona of Darth Sidious. On Naboo, public service is mandatory from the ages of twelve to twenty, and he began his road to power here (70–62 BBY). Unlike most Naboo, however, he elected to stay on in politics beyond the normally accepted age, when others would move on to more refined cultural pursuits. They saw public service as an obligation; he saw it as something to be enthusiastically pursued. It was but the first instance of his habit of staying on in office longer than his due time.
Palpatine entered his full-fledged political career in local Naboo politics (62 – 52 BBY), working upwards through the lower levels of power. Although not every fact of this period is known, what is certain is that he did not begin with grandeur. He lost more elections than he won, missing out on a string of political appointments. There is no way of determining how much these failures were due to the natural learning process, and how much was deliberate on his part: he may have had to suffer more defeats than victories, so as not to seem extraordinary. At this point, it was probably important for him not to be seen as a political superman, as someone who could threaten other, more powerful people who could become impediments to him before his position was firmly entrenched.
Whatever the real reasons, though his initial years in politics were disappointing by any standard, he learned valuable lessons, which he would put to use with consummate skill. When Senator Vidar Kim, Naboo's representative in the Galactic Senate, was assassinated by a gunman on a passing airspeeder (52 BBY), Palpatine stood for election to succeed him. The people of Naboo elected him as their sectorial Senator, to represent Naboo and more than thirty other worlds in Chommell Sector. There is strong suspicion that the assassin had been contracted by Darth Sidious—or perhaps Darth Plagueis—to kill Kim specifically to ensure Palpatine's election. He was thirty years old.
Palpatine's career as a Senator (52 BBY to 32 BBY)
Originally regarded as unambitious and unassuming by his peers, Senator Palpatine surprised everyone as he became increasingly popular, cultivating friendships with respected public figures, military commanders, and even Jedi Masters. Palpatine wrote extensively, his notes on power becoming popular texts among political and military science students, his theories even taught at leading universities throughout the galaxy. Despite this growing influence, Palpatine remained unassuming, and would spend many hours alone reflecting in his modest quarters. It was rumored that he orchestrated the abdication of Naboo's King Veruna, possibly hoping that his successor, Queen Amidala, would be too young to make rational decisions and would primarily rely on Palpatine during her reign.
During his time as Senator, he met and became acquainted with a remote sector lieutenant governor named Wilhuff Tarkin, who shared many of his sentiments on government. Although not friends, they became as close as people with their personalities could. In 33 BBY, Tarkin helped Palpatine engineer the murder of the Trade Federation Directorate, which were on Tarkin's Eriadu for a trade summit. The pirate raids on the Trade Federation that had led to the summit had also been orchestrated by Palpatine, as was Nute Gunray's rise to power as Trade Federation viceroy.
Shortly afterwards, Palpatine secretly funneled several million credits, believed to have been stolen by the Nebula Front, through the Bank of Aargau, and into the accounts of the Valorum family. Palpatine's aid, Sate Pestage, ensured that the exchange was uncovered by Valorum's political enemy, Senator Orn Free Taa, who revealed it to the Internal Activities Committee, thus critically weakening Chancellor Finis Valorum's already tenuous hold on power.
According to Supreme Prophet Kadann, Palpatine produced a son named Triclops some time during this period and banished him to the spice mines of Kessel. The validity of this story is not known and is hard to determine due to Palpatine having altered or destroyed records of things in his life such as immediate family members, but it was commonly believed by high-ranking Imperial officers in 5 ABY.
The Naboo conflict (32 BBY)
Palpatine secretly engineered the Blockade of Naboo for one purpose: to become the Chancellor of the Republic.
In 32 BBY, Sidious convinced the Neimoidian leaders of the Trade Federation to blockade the planet Naboo, in protest of the taxation of certain trade routes. Sidious kept his identity of Palpatine unknown to the Neimoidians, although he revealed that he was a Sith Lord and made it quite clear that he held some power in the Senate. Upon the arrival of two Jedi ambassadors and the escape of Queen Amidala, Sidious ordered Viceroy Nute Gunray to invade the planet. Amidala escaped from Naboo bound for Coruscant, to try to secure the Senate's help.
The Senator commands the Monarch
Palpatine requested an audience with Queen Amidala in his apartments at 500 Republica to go over strategy. Their conversation was a masterpiece of psychological manipulation, and it marked the beginning of a gradual transition from a Republic that was weakened but salvageable, to one that was crippled past the point of rescue. He had spent the last six months cultivating the new queen's trust, knowing she would heed him better than the stubborn Veruna would have. It was all for this moment, when, in a pressing crisis, she would have to rely on him. She came believing the Senate would help her, but Palpatine slammed the door in her face by announcing, with mock disgust, that the Senate was long past caring about the common good. Worse, the corruption scandal had weakened Chancellor Finis Valorum worse than she had thought. Both the Senate and Valorum were closed off to her as options. That left her with nothing but the options Palpatine gave to her.
He gave her two: she could move for a Vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Valorum, and push for the election of a more effective leader, or she could take the matter to the courts. In offering her this choice, Palpatine risked nothing. He knew Amidala was not suited to betraying her friends and allies, but he also knew she was pinning all her hopes on a quick resolution of the crisis. Naboo was being starved under Federation occupation, while she sat comfortably in a luxurious apartment on a distant and unfamiliar planet. The longer her homeworld was held, the more of her people would die. If there was to be a solution, it had to be now. And the courts took even longer to decide things than the Senate. He had given her the option he knew she would never choose, could never choose.
As Palpatine had foreseen, time was the deciding factor for her. She could either work in the courts, while the death toll on Naboo rose to unimaginable numbers, or she could heed her trusted senator's advice. Simply put, she had to choose between Valorum or Naboo. She chose Naboo, as he knew she would. He had callously used her love for her people against her, and she believed him. Only fourteen and still new to the throne, she had all the qualities of the great leader she would eventually become, but little experience. If Palpatine, who knew the Senate in ways she did not, said that Valorum had become an obstacle, that was enough for her. It was perfect. She would remove Valorum for him, while keeping his hands clean. She would be the hammer to nail the coffin shut on the Valorum government, and at the same time pry the door open for himself. On the other side of this door lay the Chancellorship.
The fall of Chancellor Valorum
The long-anticipated special session of the Senate–the last to be held under the Valorum government–had only two items on its agenda: a hearing of the Naboo delegation's case, and a debate on the Trade Federation's continued opposition to taxation of the free trade zones. Few expected it to be anything other than routine. Palpatine alone knew what was coming; for him, it was but a great drama written by himself, with all the actors' lines dictated in advance. As Darth Sidious, he knew that the Federation representative, Lott Dod, would try to stall the proceedings with every procedural tool at his command (he may even have insisted that this be Dod's tactic, implying that it was the way to ensure an eventual repeal of the taxation measure). He also knew that the Senate vice chair—his servant Mas Amedda, one of the few to be aware of the true agenda—would keep Valorum shackled to procedure no matter what. And, as Palpatine, he knew that, in the face of an attempt to stall, Amidala would have no choice but to act as he had suggested.
Again, it happened exactly as he had foreseen. The actors all performed splendidly. Dod and his allies threw up objection after objection; Amidala could not even finish her plea. The queen grew more and more frustrated. Finally, Dod moved that a Senate committee be created to go to Naboo to determine if her "accusations" were valid, citing senatorial procedures that Amidala had no hope of understanding. Then, Amedda—exactly as expected—pulled Valorum aside, and when he had finished, Valorum was forced to concede that Dod was within his rights. "Enter the bureaucrats," Palpatine whispered in the queen's ear, "the true rulers of the Republic." When Valorum asked Amidala if she was willing to defer her motion to allow the committee to do its work, it was the last straw. She had seen with her own eyes that Palpatine had been right–Valorum was ineffective–and she had nowhere left to go. Palpatine hid his satisfaction as, next to him, Amidala delivered the words that sealed the fate of Finis Valorum—and the Galaxy itself.
"I will not defer. I have come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now. I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee. If this body is not capable of action, I suggest new leadership is needed. I move for a Vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Valorum's leadership."
Valorum was thunderstruck, but by the time he could recover his wits, events had passed him by. Senator Edcel Bar Gane of Roona seconded the Naboo delegation's motion, and the vote was on the floor. The Senate as a whole had waited for this for months, perhaps years, and so unpopular was Valorum that they fell on him with abandon. The Senate disintegrated into a constant uproar, calling out, "Vote now! Vote now! Vote now!" It was all the Chancellor could do to postpone the vote until the following day. Palpatine already knew it would be a vote the Valorum government would not survive. It now remained only for him to ensure that he would be the one chosen to fill Valorum's shoes.
The scramble for the Chancellorship
The sudden power vacuum left a choice for the two major factions in the Senate. The loyalists, those Senators who had maintained their integrity, saw the danger of an unstable government and decided that it was time to elect a strong leader to truly clean up the corruption in the Senate. The corrupt Senators wanted stability too, if only to allow them to continue plundering the system, and they sought a figurehead who would provide the appearance of stability and just look the other way while they fattened themselves. It is likely that Bail Antilles, representative of Alderaan, was the choice of the loyal Senators, while Ainlee Teem, representative of Malastare was the choice of the corrupt Senators. These two nominations came as no surprise; both had been campaigning for months, even before the corruption scandal had weakened Valorum to the point that such a nomination was possible.
Much of the backroom politicking that led to the nomination of Palpatine has been lost to history. What is known is that he had been working for months to capture the attention of an influential clique in the Senate, led by Senator Orn Free Taa of Ryloth. Taa was satisfied neither with Teem or Antilles. Possibly he knew that neither of them had a chance of forming a majority for election, and that the result would be a government in deadlock. As early as the breaking of the corruption scandal, Palpatine had caught Taa's eye as a potential compromise candidate. And from Taa's point of view, it made sense: Palpatine had few enemies in the Senate, and many friends, ensuring that all factions could work well with him. He was satisfactory, if not exactly spectacular. He was selfless, humble, but at the same time confident and assured. He would be able to meet the demand for leadership.
For months, then, Taa's clique had been considering Palpatine as a candidate. This is likely why, as the day darkened over the Senate building, either Taa or one of those Senators in his circle nominated the Senator from Naboo. Palpatine returned to his apartments with Panaka in a jaunty mood. He was confident–indeed, was certain–that the tide was with him, and that the situation on Naboo could not help but create a strong sympathy vote that would make the difference over Teem or Antilles. "I will be Chancellor," he told Amidala back at 500 Republica. And he meant it. After all, he had arranged things just so.
The election of Chancellor Palpatine
When the Senate convened the following day to vote on the no confidence motion, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Valorum's government had few friends left to it, and the Senate so badly wanted him gone that they did not hesitate. Finis Valorum was swiftly voted out of office in a humiliating political defeat. His political career in ruins, he was left to his own devices, to start his life over from scratch. He spent the next two years in seclusion, waiting for the public's distaste for him to wear off. It never did. He contributed where he could and received no thanks for his trouble. By the time he realized just what role his removal had played in Palpatine's grander scheme, it was too late.
As for the Senate, the delegates quickly proceeded to the vote on a successor. Yet again, they all unwittingly did Palpatine's bidding. Probably, neither Antilles nor Teem could garner enough votes to achieve a majority to govern effectively. Neither side could overcome their hatred of the other side's candidate enough to vote for him for the sake of stability. In the face of a voting deadlock, the Senate eagerly embraced the third option. Antilles' supporters could take heart that Palpatine had kept his distance from the corrupt Senators during his tenure. Teem's supporters were encouraged by his seeming docility. Each side believed that Palpatine would further their interests.
But the ultimate deciding factor, as Palpatine had intended, was the groundswell of sympathy for the representative of besieged Naboo. Palpatine could rightfully claim to have been betrayed by Valorum, who had promised to do all he could to aid Naboo in a time of crisis. Perhaps it was right and just that Palpatine himself should be given the chance to make things right. With such weight behind him, there could be no other outcome. Palpatine received the most votes by far, becoming Chancellor—the last being ever to hold the title—by an overwhelming margin. After taking the oath of office and vowing to preserve the Republic—an oath that by any standard must be considered an act of perjury—he promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and restore the remembered glories of the Republic. No one could have realized that they had elected the leader of an order dedicated to destroying the Republic.
The liberation of Naboo
Even before the final election, Palpatine was in a triumphant mood. When Amidala made clear her intentions to return to Naboo to reclaim it from the Trade Federation, he made a show of concern and tried half-heartedly to keep her from going. She was not to be swayed. She left, taking both Jinn and Kenobi with her for protection. It was perfect: she had taken all their enemies with her into what could only be a death trap, and all those who could link the Sith to the greater scheme would vanish at a stroke. It was satisfying to see all his plans fall into place, due to his own guile and the stupid, unwilling cooperation of his pawns.
He summoned his apprentice Darth Maul, and brought him up to speed on Amidala's movements. Then he contacted the Neimoidians on Naboo, with orders to kill Amidala when she arrived, and a word of notice that Maul would be joining them to deal with the Jedi personally. Stifling his humor at their transparent attempts to act excited at the thought of Maul's imminent presence, he cut the signal and laughed. "Soon the Neimoidians will no longer be useful to us," he told Maul. "What a happy day that will be." Then he sent his apprentice off, with orders to make certain their cowardly tools killed the queen, and that the Jedi fell by his own hand.
Even while Sidious stayed on Coruscant, managing his election as Chancellor, he made time to go over reports sent from Maul on Naboo. As they came in, Amidala's behavior seemed more and more baffling: not only did she manage to escape Gunray's reach, but she had forged an alliance with the Gungans and assembled an army in the Lianorm Swamp. He gave his approval to Gunray's plan to meet the Gungans head-on. "Wipe them out," he commanded. "All of them."
In truth, the outcome of what would be called the Battle of the Great Grass Plains mattered very little to him. The only reason he had even sent Darth Maul to Naboo and ordered Gunray to destroy the Gungan army was to keep up the facade that he had an interest in controlling Naboo, to keep the Neimodians from realizing his true motives. But regardless of who won the battle, Palpatine would be the true victor. After all, if Amidala and her defenders fell, she would become a martyr he could use to justify further and more definitive actions against the Trade Federation. If they succeeded, he could use her victory as a symbol of the new take-charge attitude the Republic would be showing under his guidance. Either way, he would be seen as a decisive leader, exactly what the majority of Senators were clamoring for.
The aftermath of the Naboo crisis
Amidala triumphed, and the Trade Federation was forced to retreat, with Gunray and Haako taken into custody to face the courts. Of the possibilities he had forseen, Palpatine did not expect this one to come to pass, but that was fine with him. The occupation had already served its purpose. And his state visit to Naboo after the battle tied himself firmly with that victory. He suffered a far more serious loss when he learned that Darth Maul, after claiming an admirable kill in the person of Qui-Gon Jinn, had fallen in battle against the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. But he ended up gaining far more than he had lost. Palpatine promised to the young Anakin Skywalker, about to be apprenticed to Kenobi, that he would be watching his career with great interest. Whether he suspected at that time that Skywalker may have been the product of the late Lord Plagueis' experiments is unknown and, perhaps, unknowable. But he would keep his promise.
Returning to Coruscant after the celebrations, he could not help noting that he had much to celebrate himself. True, the Jedi were now aware of the Sith's involvement, and had even claimed his apprentice. But he was not made for grief; another could be found to take his place, someone far more appropriate for the tasks ahead, and the boy, Skywalker, showed remarkable promise. Plus, the Jedi were now afraid, and that gladdened him. And, no matter what losses he had suffered, the greatest prize had still been won. The precious "civilization" that the Jedi so zealously tried to defend had already fallen to him. The Galactic Republic was now under the control of the Dark Lord of the Sith.
The Republic under Palpatine (32 BBY to 24 BBY)
The new Chancellor kept himself busy during the eight years of his legitimately-elected tenure. The greater part of this work was an intrigue that would eventually cause catastrophic bloodshed, the Clone Wars. But he had other projects, smaller but effective, to aid him in his ultimate goals, the end of the Jedi and the Republic they served. Many were designed to whittle away the Jedi ranks, a few at a time, to make his task much easier when the time for the Great Purge came. As he carried out these murderous intrigues, always he cloaked himself in the image of a responsible leader. And the people were never the wiser. This was the Republic under the Palpatine government.
The offices of the new Chancellor
Palpatine maintained his private apartment at 500 Republica as his main residence, but as was customary, he also moved into the Chancellor's Suite in the Senate Office Building. Exercising the traditional prerogative to decorate the office as he saw fit, he purged all traces of Finis Valorum from it and made it practically a mirror image of his senatorial apartment. Within weeks, no one who had spent any time in the Suite during the Valorum government would have recognized it.
Yet again he hid his true Sith nature in plain sight. The color red now dominated the decor, and priceless object d'art—actually Sith heirlooms too obscure to be recognized as such—were moved in. These were mainly relics from Yavin 4 dating to the days of Naga Sadow and Exar Kun, such as a pair of bas-relief depicting a battle from the Great Hyperspace War, or an ancient Sith chalice, an incense burner used in meditation rituals. Some of them had been procured for him by his servent, his vice chair Mas Amedda, an antiquarian who knew Sith history and had the funds to spend to scour the galaxy for such baubles. There were also bronzium statues of Sistros, Faya, Yanjon, and Braata, the Four Sages of Dwartii, the controversial quartet of philosopher-lawgivers who lived in the early days of the Republic.
But there were two most favored pieces which Palpatine brought in. The first was a new Chair of Office, black, thronelike, armored with ultra-dense lanthanide alloy. This chair, with certain modifications, would be his seat of power for more than four decades, and copies of it would be installed in every ship, outpost, and facility Palpatine was likely to visit. The second, and even more important piece, was the neuranium sculpture of Sistros, concealing the even more beautiful object within it - one of his Sith lightsabers, sealed within the sculpture at the time of its forging. This he placed in the anteroom, to wait for the time when he would at last release it, and release his true self.
The coming of the Red Guard
It was at this time that there first appeared a prominent symbol of the New Order to come. This was the controversial and crimson-robed Chancellor's Guard, or simply Red Guard, supplanting the blue-robed Senate Guard, who were removed from the Chancellor's protection detail and now relegated to the protection of Senators only. A personal guard for a chief of state was seen as a violation of the Republic's values, and as such, some in the Senate were bound to object. Palpatine, of course, wanted a bodyguard unit, but he could not be seen as directly advocating it. So he created a situation where it could be forced on him.
His instruments for this change were two people. The first was a Captain Prid Shan, possibly the being who oversaw the Senate Guard. As the Republic continued its downward spiral, funds for continuing the Guards at then-current levels must have dwindled proportionately. And, as potential threats to the Chancellor’s person increased (there were at least two attempts on a Chancellor's life in the past year alone—both ultimately his own handiwork) Shan recognized that the Guard needed better equipment and training. He began rocking the boat and insisted that the Senate fund measures to reform the Guards and make them adaptable to the current situation. Publicly, Palpatine feigned embarrassment at the notion of trained soldiers protecting his person, but he devised a means to make clear to all that Shan's concerns were valid.
This is where his second instrument came into the picture. This was Jedi Ronhar Kim, son of his predecessor as Naboo's representative and one of his first allies in the government. He arranged for his "friend" Kim to be present for a terrified warning from Senator Viento, concerned that Palpatine's proposed reforms had angered some enough to want him dead. At that moment, the Senate Guards flanking him raised their rifles. As expected, Kim's lightsaber was out and ignited before they could fire. What arcane Sith methods Sidious used to compel the Guards to act, and then to kill themselves with a fast-acting poison before they could be questioned, are not known, but they were effective. Even Kim's use of the Force could not make them say anything. There was only the fact that the Senate Guard had failed at a crucial moment, and Captain Shan's words, backed by the voices of Viento and other Senators, were now given enough weight to carry the argument. The Red Guards were quickly formed and placed under Palpatine's personal authority. There was some criticism, but as the years passed, new security laws, imposed a step at a time, and the rise of a greater threat, made certain there wasn't too much criticism.
The search for a new apprentice
After the untimely death of Darth Maul, Sidious was faced with an urgent task. Before he could continue in his plans to divide and conquer the Republic, he needed an apprentice who could be counted on to make the necessary preparations, to sow dissention among the Republic's member worlds. Maul clearly had not had the kind of political acumen needed; of the many skills he had possessed, subtlety and oratory were not among them. So, deciding the loss was to his ultimate benefit, Sidious set about searching for a replacement.
Obviously, the ideal method would have been to locate another Force-sensitive youth to mold according to his desires, but that was impossible now. As a Senator from a less-than-prominent world, he could afford the time to train Darth Maul from infancy, but now the daily schedule of a sitting Chancellor precluded any attempt to do the same for Maul's successor. He needed a trained apprentice immediately, or else his entire timetable could be critically endangered.
But fortune played a part in giving him the perfect candidate, in the form of a disaffected Jedi Master named Dooku. As befitting his needs, this Jedi was already well trained in the ways of the Force and was a superbly accomplished swordsbeing, though not exactly in the same flamboyant style as Maul's. He was also patient, intelligent, and charismatic. All of these were qualities Sidious would need for the next phase of the plan. And, most importantly, there were other qualities in him, weaknesses that Sidious could exploit to make a Sith out of him.
The seduction of Dooku
Dooku, always a maverick, made the process simple. He had been appealing to the Jedi Council to take the threat of the Sith more seriously. If there were always two Sith, and one had been killed on Naboo, why were the Jedi not devoting their best efforts to finding the second Sith? But to Palpatine's satisfaction, they remained plodding as ever. Their shortsightedness repelled Dooku, introducing to him the idea that his ideals and theirs might not necessarily be the same. There may even have been an arrogance in him that caused him to believe that he, rather than some untrained child named Skywalker, might be the Chosen One. Torn between a certainty in his success and doubt that it would make a difference, Dooku decided to find the missing Sith.
Had Dooku been a Jedi of the old tradition, Sidious would have remained unfound. But he already knew that Dooku met the requirements he had set for a new apprentice, which was why Sidious approached him. It soon became clear that this discontented Jedi was fascinated by the Sith. Or at least, he was now firmly convinced that the Jedi were not the ones to rescue the galaxy from itself. Dooku was receptive to Sidious' words. They both believed that the Republic was collapsing under its own weight, that a new order was needed to improve things. After much discussion, Sidious gradually persuaded Dooku that their separate visions of improving things were actually quite similar. They needed each other. It was not long before Dooku decided to accept Sidious' offer: in exchange for Dooku's service, Sidious promised to teach him about the dark side and how to use it to achieve the positive changes they envisioned.
The Clone Army
Master Sifo-Dyas, a former Jedi Council member and a friend of Dooku's, had become concerned for his friend's sudden change in spirit. Sifo-Dyas was already convinced that very dark times were ahead, but neither the Senate nor the Jedi Council paid much attention. Desperate, he secretly contacted the elite cloners of Kamino, and ordered a massive army of clone soldiers, intended to defend the Republic in the future.
Sidious was quick to discover the request for the clone army, and knew that the army would become very handy in the future. In order to keep the army secret, Sidious ordered Dooku to eliminate his old friend Sifo-Dyas. Without hesitation, Dooku murdered the Jedi Master, proving that he had truly embraced the dark side. Sidious awarded Dooku the title of Darth Tyranus, and commanded his new apprentice to remove all records of the planet Kamino from the Jedi Archives.
Sidious' next mission for his new apprentice was to select an exceptional warrior to be the template of the clone army Sifo-Dyas had ordered. After much consideration and a brutal trial, Tyranus selected Jango Fett as the perfect candidate. On Bogg 4, Tyranus offered Fett a generous payment for being the prime clone. Fett accepted, on the condition that he received an unaltered clone of himself, whom he would make his own apprentice, and son.
The Clone Wars (22 BBY to 19 BBY)
Under Palpatine's direction, Count Dooku united several commercial organizations—foremost among them the Trade Federation that had been Sidious’ tool for seizing the Chancellorship—into the Confederacy of Independent Systems, thus forging the Separatist movement. These organizations pledged the massive armies they had used to protect their profits to Dooku, thus making the Confederacy capable of overthrowing the Republic, and a threat in the eyes of the Senate.
In 22 BBY, Palpatine used his powers to convince the Senate to grant him emergency powers to deal with the growing threat of the Separatists. What both the Jedi and the Senate failed to realize was that both the Separatists and the Republic were now under the control of Palpatine, and the coming war was little more than a plot for Sidious to seize more power. Palpatine's insidious nature and supreme mastery of the Force also allowed him to conceal himself from the Jedi Masters, even when sharing the same room.
Palpatine used his emergency dictatorial powers to legalize the clone army secretly built on Kamino, calling it the Grand Army of the Republic, and use it to combat the Confederacy. This would later provide the basis for his Imperial reign, based largely on the military.
During the Clone Wars, Palpatine further consolidated his power. He continued to control the Confederacy through Count Dooku, eventually having General Grievous, the cyborg android who answered to his other persona of Sidious, 'kidnap' him from his office in 19 BBY. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker led a rescue, eventually meeting with Palpatine and Dooku in the General’s flagship, the Invisible Hand. Whilst Obi-Wan was rendered unconscious, Anakin was able to defeat Dooku, and beheaded him upon the Chancellor’s urging. By this point, Palpatine had long desired and plotted to take Anakin as an apprentice, and he needed to have Dooku removed to do so. Over time, the Jedi began to grow distrustful of Palpatine, fearing what this ever-increasing power might mean for the Republic.
End of the Republic
At the same time, Sidious was sowing similar seeds of doubt into the mind of Anakin. Young Skywalker saw a vision of his wife, Padmé Amidala, dying after giving birth to their child. Palpatine, who could have planted this vision of the future in Anakin’s mind himself, promised the young Jedi to open his mind to the Sith knowledge of sustaining or creating life, which—as he claimed—was the only way to escape Padmé's death. Eventually the inevitable confrontation emerged, and Anakin delivered the revelation that Palpatine was really Darth Sidious, the Sith master for which they had been searching for over ten years, to Jedi Master Mace Windu.
Mace ordered Anakin to remain in the Jedi Temple, while he and a team of Jedi went to arrest the Chancellor. Palpatine quickly dispatched the rest of the force, dueling Mace alone. After several minutes of fighting, Mace managed to finally defeat Palpatine at exactly the same moment that Anakin Skywalker entered the room. This may not have been a coincedence, as it is possible that Palpatine was simply feigning defeat to gain Anakin's sympathy, knowing that the only way to break Anakin’s connection to the Jedi was to force Anakin to choose between loyalty to them and his promises of the power to govern life and death. Anakin saw a helpless old man, seemingly deformed from injury, begging for his pity under the boots of a powerful Jedi Master that held his lightsaber close to his neck and threatened to kill him.
The young Jedi Knight chose Sidious, severing the arm in which Mace was holding his lightsaber. Sidious then took the opportunity to blast Mace from the building with Force lightning, removing one of the greater threats to his power. He dubbed his new apprentice Darth Vader, and told him that while he never learned Plagueis's secret technique used to preserve life, he thought they could achieve it together (which, considering Palpatine's history, may have been a lie). He then commanded Vader to exterminate anyone seen as a threat to the Republic, including the Jedi stationed at the Jedi Temple and the Separatists stationed at Mustafar. Meanwhile, he unleashed Order 66 to the clone army, and so did away with the majority of the Jedi Order.
Using his new face, which had gained a new grotesque appearance, apparently by his own Force lighting during the fight with Windu, as proof of the Jedi Order's attempt to assassinate him and usurp his power over the galaxy, Palpatine gained additional sympathy among the Senate and the Republic citizens. He declared a boldly unificationist policy, symbolically changing the name of the government from Republic to Empire, with himself as the first Emperor.
Obi-Wan and Yoda eventually caught up with the betrayal and deceit, realizing that Anakin had slain everyone in the Jedi Temple, including Younglings. Obi-Wan begged the old master not to send him to battle his former Padawan and friend, but there was no choice; Yoda thought the new Emperor would be far too powerful for Obi-Wan. As Obi-Wan confronted Anakin on Mustafar, Yoda met with Sidious on Coruscant. Yoda was unable to stand against the might of the Emperor, and so fled, whilst Obi-Wan succeeded in wounding his former apprentice, leaving him for dead. Hurrying to Mustafar (with speed that astonished even him), Palpatine found his apprentice more dead than alive, and commanded that he be rebuilt using prosthetic replacements. Sidious lied to Vader, telling him that he had killed Padmé in his anger, and rage finally consumed him completely. Meanwhile, Yoda and Obi-Wan fled into exile, carrying Anakin's twin offspring.
The Emperor's reign (19 BBY to 4 ABY)
Emperor Palpatine proceeded to gather power and eliminate his rivals following the end of the Clone Wars, establishing a New Order called the Galactic Empire. The Commission for the Preservation of the New Order (COMPNOR) was established during this time, including the pervasive Imperial Security Bureau (ISB). His militaristic regime was centered on the Imperial Navy, although this branch would also prove the most insubordinate, and a tension between the Coruscant government and the fleet admirals existed throughout this period, creating the need for the ISB as an internal police. COMPNOR's Coalition for Progress established monitoring agencies to keep track of all aspects of life.
Although this attempted totalitarian regime remained weak, it was continually strengthening until the break-up of the Empire in 4 ABY. Examples of its broad scope include an Imperially promoted aesthetic style of military-inspired simplicity, in contrast to the opulence and ornamentation Galactic Republic-era. Non-humans and women were excluded from much of this New Order, and atrocities committed by powerful regional governors were common.
Palpatine was also responsible for the devastation of Caamas. The Emperor saw the respected Caamasi as a threat to his New Order. A group of Bothan infiltrators were responsible for sabotaging Caamas's shield generators, leaving the planet vulnerable to Imperial orbital bombardment. The once beautiful world was devastated during this attack, turned into a poisoned wasteland. The peaceful Caamasi were dispersed throughout the galaxy. In 18 BBY, the Emperor constructed the huge, asteroid-shaped superweapon Eye of Palpatine in order to use it to destroy a Jedi enclave on Belsavis. However, the deadly superweapon was sabotaged by two Jedi Knights and the Jedi on Belsavis managed to escape. The Eye would remain forgotten until 12 ABY when it was recovered by Roganda Ismaren.
Shortly after the declaration of the Galactic Empire, Darth Sidious began constructions in the dangerous Deep Core on the planet Byss to turn it into a secret throne world immediately after he became Emperor. To do this, he utilized thousands of non-human workers from countless conquered worlds including Utapau, Gamorr, and Toydaria. Byss was a dark side conduit, able to give its inhabitants great power in using the Force. Along with the power of Byss, Palpatine slowly fed on the life energy of his workers, to lengthen his own life.
He and Darth Vader also brought a number of captured Agricultural Corps survivors and other Padawans to the planet in order to train them into powerful servants. Vader was ordered to select worthy pupils, and dispose of the rest. He initially selected four of the best pupils including an Agricultural Corps member named Tremayne.
On a number of occasions, Palpatine visited the ancient Sith graveyard world Korriban for advice from long dead Sith Lords. He also unlocked secrets of the Force from a captured Jedi Holocron. Emperor Palpatine wrote the Dark Side Compendium, a study of the nature of the dark side, and finished two books while in power, and began a third which was never completed.
At some point during his reign, Palpatine communicated with the Shreeftut of the distant Ssi-ruuvi Imperium through the use of the dark side. He appeared in the Shreeftut's dreams and claimed that he was the ruler of an empire in the Galactic Core. Palpatine traded with the Shreeftut for some battle drones in exchange that a large number of ‘subjects’ be present for entechment by the Imperium. This would result in the Ssi-ruuvi invasion of Bakura in 4 ABY.
Emperor Palpatine also employed a large number of Force-sensitive agents. These people, the Dark Side Adept, were outside the Empire's official organization, but reported directly to Emperor Palpatine or (when necessary) Lord Vader. Palpatine intended to replace key officials with the Adepts, though their number was too limited. It is unknown how these adepts got around the Sith Order's Rule of Two. Technically, Palpatine and Vader the only ones who styled themselves as Sith Lords, so they may have just been paying lip service to the Rule of Two. It is also possible that, since the Republic was gone and the Jedi extinct (or at least presumed extinct), Palpatine may have rendered obsolete the Rule of Two.
In 0 BBY, the Emperor took another step for ultimate control over the Galaxy, dissolving the Senate, thus erasing the last institutional remnants of the Old Republic. In the absence of the Senate, the Death Star, an orbital planet-destroying battle station capable of hyperspace travel, would enforce the Emperor's law. As a demonstration, it completely destroyed the Core world of Alderaan that had given birth to rebellious elements. Grand Moff Tarkin promulgated a fear-driven principle of governance later called the Tarkin Doctrine, and the Galaxy sank in fear.
The destruction of Alderaan
Palpatine had established an environment where even his subordinates were capable of the worst kind of atrocities against sentients. From the very beginning of its design, it was intended that the Death Star be capable of destroying entire planets. But most Imperial strategists were certain that the threat alone would be enough to keep most worlds in line. Tarkin felt differently; as he saw it, the Rebels were growing bolder, and only a very public demonstration of the battle station's power against a Rebel target would succeed in giving them pause. His argument convinced Palpatine (although he may not have needed that much convincing anyway).
So Palpatine approved in advance the destruction of a planet—and thereby the mass murder of its entire population. His hands are stained with blood, whichever planet was finally selected. It is doubtful that he expected Tarkin to destroy a lifeless planet as a harmless demonstration for the Rebels’ benefit. He knew it would be used on an inhabited world. But he did not know in advance that it was to be Alderaan. Tarkin alone made this decision, facing down even Vader to do so. If Palpatine knew about Tarkin’s intent from that point onward, it would only be because Vader made a report to him after the decision was made, but before the station entered the Alderaan system and carried out its mission, that, by current estimates, resulted in the deaths of roughly two billion sentient beings.
Palpatine's private feelings on the tragedy are a mystery, but publicly he adopted his benevolent persona, announcing that he was saddened by the loss of such a noble world, and adding that had Alderaan entrusted itself to Imperial protection, it would still be thriving. In other words, the destruction of Alderaan might not have been necessary had Bail Organa simply bowed under as he was supposed to. Saddened he may have been for the press, but it had not been his choice. Their fate lay in their own hands, and they had chosen to raise those hands against him. Their punishment was inevitable. But he made a "magnanimous" offer to resettle the sixty thousand remaining Alderaanians, those who were away when their homeworld was destroyed, on his "private resort world."
"These people have lost a homeworld through no fault of their own. Offering them a new homeworld is the least I can do to compensate them for their loss."
Exactly how many Alderaanian survivors took Palpatine up on his offer and moved to Byss is unknown. What is certain is that it may have been better for them to have died in the disaster, considering what really happened to those hopefuls who came to the Deep Core stronghold. Many were simply rendered mindless slaves, going about their lives in a deadened bliss while Sidious and his Dark Side confidants fed from their life energies.
The Galactic Civil War
Shortly after the destruction of Alderaan, the Death Star itself was destroyed by the Rebel Alliance in the Battle of Yavin. Grand Moff Tarkin, who was onboard the battle station at the time and refused to evacuate, was killed in the station's destruction. But while this was a great loss for the Empire, Palpatine nonetheless found ways to turn the situation to his advantage.
It was announced by Palpatine's proxies that he himself had ordered the destruction of Alderaan after the Empire had obtained "irrefutable evidence" that this planet of pacifists, which had not even possessed a standing armed force, had supposedly been creating weapons of mass destruction. The possibility that some of Alderaan's bioweapons had been taken off-world to Rebel cells was dangled in front of the compliant press, to keep the terrified Core Worlds in line and justify a permanent state of emergency. And when further Rebel uprisings sprang up, the fictitious threat would prove quite useful. As a result, the Empire put more time and resources than ever before into crushing the Rebellion, flushing out Rebel strongholds throughout the galaxy and conquering worlds that had allied themselves with the Alliance.
Following a major Imperial victory in capturing a Rebel base on the icy planet on Hoth, Palpatine told Darth Vader that his son, Luke Skywalker, was actually alive and was the Rebel pilot responsible for the destruction of the Death Star. Vader convinced Palpatine that it would be beneficial for both of them if Luke was converted to the dark side. In actuality, Vader had already known that his son was alive for several months prior to when Palpatine told him, and had been actively searching for his son since finding out, secretly planning to use Luke to help him overthrow his master. What Vader didn't know was that Palpatine was toying with him; Palpatine had known that Vader already knew that his son was alive, and also knew that Vader planned to use Luke against him. Palpatine didn't consider this to be a threat, as he hoped that he could actually make Luke kill Vader and become his new apprentice, knowing that Luke had the potential to become even more powerful in the Force than his father.
Fall of the Empire
Hoping to put an end to the Galactic Civil War and solidify his rule once and for all, Palpatine crafted an intricate plan to lure the entirety of the Rebel Alliance into an inescapable death trap. A second, more powerful Death Star was being built over the Forest Moon of Endor, protected by a shield generator on the moon's surface. In 4 ABY, Palpatine allowed Rebel spies to learn of its location while planting disinformation which suggested the Death Star was not yet operational. In reality, the station's prime weapon was complete and fully functional, and an enormous contingent of the Imperial Starfleet was there to protect it. Darth Vader and later Palpatine himself went onboard the battle station, believing that if the Rebels thought they had a chance to destroy the Empire's new superweapon and kill the Emperor himself in the process, they wouldn't pass up an opportunity to launch an all-out attack. Sure enough, the Rebels took the bait and planned to attack the station with all of their resources.
Subsequently, Luke Skywalker, who was convinced that his father could be turned back to the light side, allowed himself to be captured and brought to the Death Star. There, Palpatine manipulated Luke into battling his father so that he could inherit his mantle at the Emperor's side. Luke resisted at first, until Vader probed his mind and learned that Leia was Luke's sister. With this knowledge, Vader speculated that he could corrupt her instead, a threat that enraged Luke and drove him to attack Vader with full fury. Although he nearly killed Vader and cut off his right hand, Luke controlled his anger at the last minute; realizing that he was dangerously close to suffering his father's fate, he discarded his lightsaber and proudly turned to face the Emperor, stating: "I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
Seeing that Luke had become a lost cause, Palpatine viciously attacked him with deadly Force lightning, and Luke almost died in the assault. At that moment, Vader's horror at seeing his son in pain broke Palpatine's hold on him, and he became Anakin Skywalker once again. It was Palpatine's turn to be betrayed by an apprentice, this time not for greater power, but for the light side and the way of the Jedi, the event that would bring balance to the Force. Seizing his former master from behind, Anakin lifted up the Emperor, in the process enduring a torrent of Force lightning that shorted out the life-support system in his suit. Mortally wounded, Anakin used his last bit of strength to cast the Sith Lord down a deep shaft to his death. The massive energies of the reactor at the bottom of the pit incinerated the tyrant's body upon collision, causing a massive explosion that engulfed the surrounding area.
Without Palpatine's Force guidance, the Imperial fleet became scattered, and the Rebels were able to lead a successful assault against the Death Star, which was finally destroyed by Lando Calrissian and Wedge Antilles's risky attack run on the main reactor at the Death Star's core. Having lost its leader and its most powerful weapon, the Empire itself soon fell apart, plagued by warlordism and eventually shrinking to the small and insignificant Imperial Remnant.
Palpatine reborn (10 ABY to 11 ABY)
But even death was not the end for Palpatine. Unlike his Sith predecessors, Palpatine had never intended to be replaced by an apprentice, expecting his Empire to rule the galaxy eternally, with only himself as its true leader. At an unknown point in time prior to his death at the Battle of Endor, Palpatine had found a way to achieve immortality, a way to cheat death by preserving his spirit after the death of his body. He arranged for a series of clones of himself to be created for his spirit to possess, in the event that he would perish. His primary supply of clones was kept on Byss, guarded by loyal Dark Jedi and immense genetically-altered guards, and maintained by a trusted private physician.
After the destruction of the second Death Star, Palpatine's spirit was forced to journey in the maddening, bodiless existence of the void, eventually taking possession of the body of Emperor's Hand Jeng Droga. Though Droga went mad in the process, he was able to journey to Byss, where Palpatine was able to take possession of a clone of himself. There, on Byss, he would remain for years and would rebuild his strength and Empire.
Palpatine's rule was so absolute that his apparent death at the Battle of Endor fragmented the Galactic Empire. Without an heir, opportunistic Moffs and warlords set out to carve their own kingdoms wherever they could. This worked to the advantage of the New Republic, which succeeded in reclaiming much of the Galaxy. One warlord who nearly succeeded in defeating the New Republic was Grand Admiral Thrawn, the only non-human to hold that rank. His cunning tactics and unerring strategies brought the Imperial Remnant to the brink of victory in 10 ABY had it not been for betrayal by the Noghri Rukh.
Encouraged by Thrawn's successes, the remaining Inner Circle of Imperial warlords staged a devastating attack on the galactic capital Coruscant. Much of Imperial City was laid waste as a result, and the New Republic was forced to evacuate. Once on the surface, the Imperials splintered again, and skirmishes dragged on in the devastated cityscape.
It was then that the resurrected cloned Emperor struck. Using his dark powers to create a powerful Force storm, he swept Jedi Master Luke Skywalker to Byss. There, he revealed himself to Luke, and revealed the power of the dark side. Faced with an immortal foe, Skywalker did the unthinkable -- in order to defeat the dark side from within, he knelt before Palpatine, and submitted himself as the Emperor's new apprentice.
Skywalker was too enmeshed in the dark side to successfully rebel against his master. Although he sabotaged some of Palpatine's military projects including the World Devastators during the Battle of Dac, he still could not free himself from the grip of the dark side. It was only by his sister, Leia Organa Solo, that he gained the strength that he need. Together, the pair was able to defeat the Emperor temporarily onboard his flagship the Eclipse during the Battle of Pinnacle Base.
Having returned in yet another clone, Palpatine continued his scourge against the New Republic. Armed with the deadly superweapons, the Galaxy Gun and his second Eclipse-class Star Dreadnought Eclipse II, Palpatine forced many New Republic worlds to submit to Imperial rule. Despite his growing Empire, Palpatine was again growing frail and weak.
Even worse, the resurrected Emperor began to succumb to clone madness and the genetic tampering done to his clones by the treacherous Sovereign Protector Carnor Jax. He tried to clone other bodies so that he could resurrect himself, but Jax had succeeded in tainting even the genetic source material. Even his scientists and doctors were rendered helpless. With his body wasting away rapidly, he went to the Sith world Korriban to consult the ancient Sith Lords. They advised him to enter Leia's newborn son Anakin Solo.
Palpatine brought the Eclipse II to Onderon, where the Solos had relocated their children. While the New Republic engaged the Imperials, a team of Jedi, led by Luke, sought out the Emperor. They did not find him onboard his ship since he had slipped sown to Onderon to find Leia. During the battle, Lando Calrissian and R2-D2 had infiltrated the flagship. R2-D2 then sabotaged the vehicle's automated hyperdrive engines and set the coordinates to match the location of the Galaxy Gun, which was in Byss. The flagship fled into hyperspace, despite the efforts of the crew to regain control of the vessel. There above Byss, both superweapons collided with each other. The Galaxy Gun's final missile was pulled into the planet's gravity and exploded, destroying the reborn Emperor's throne world.
Meanwhile, the Emperor faced Leia and demanded that her newest child be his to possess. She fought back, but was no match for the Emperor. Before he could complete his evil plot, Luke Skywalker and two other Jedi, Rayf Ysanna and Empatojayos Brand, arrived. Palpatine fatally injured Ysanna and Brand, but was shot in the back by Han Solo during the conflict. His last clone body destroyed, the Emperor's cackling spirit flew towards young Anakin Solo, but was intercepted by the dying Brand, who threw himself in the way. The Jedi Knight bound the Emperor's soul to his own departing life force, taking it with him as he became one with the Force. Railing and cursing against the Skywalker family, Emperor Palpatine's spirit was dragged into the depths of the Force. There he would experience disembodiment in darkness, perpetual madness as if to always live with an open wound, terror without respite.
Darth Sidious, once the greatest Dark Lord of the Sith, was finally dead.
Palpatine claimed–and fully expected–that his New Order would endure for ten thousand years. In the end, it endured, with and without him, in one form or another, for roughly fifty years. It could not have lasted much longer than this, for in the end it had never truly been intended to operate without its Emperor. And, when that man was gone, it remained only for those who came after to realize that it could never work, and accept the inevitable, despite the attempts by others to give it a new lease on life as "the New Order with a personal face."
What was the Galactic Empire that Palpatine had established? It was, at first, simply the irrational and terrible culmination of a blood feud thousands of years old, of a difference of opinion over the nature of power as argued by opposing bands of mystics. It was a vainglorious attempt by one of those bands to reverse the course of thousands of years of history, to resurrect the golden age of a long-fallen Sith Empire and then hold it in eternal stasis. It was the physical embodiment of the belief, long held by the Sith, that power denied is power wasted, and it was living proof of the fact, learned at a terrible cost, that power indulged is power abused.
And its inaugurator, Palpatine himself? He was at first the beneficiary of a plot formed long before he had first drawn breath, an agent-provocateur working in secret to succeed where his progenitors had failed. In mirror image of his dual identities as both Palpatine and Sidious, he was a pleasant facade concealing a cold core. He had close friends, and yet had no friends at all. He was a man who claimed to be able to save the ailing Republic from its demons, and who was later laid bare as the most terrifying of all its demons. He was both a believer in the principles of the Sith, and a believer in no principle at all, save what he decided would benefit him and him alone. He was both a man of faith and a man of no faith. He was, in his way, both an idealist and a cynic.
He was a man who ruled with power, and who was finally ruled by power. He was a man who saw all and knew much, and yet was totally blind, and knew nothing, when it mattered the most. He was a vigorous leader who stood proudly astride the colossus of the most powerful modern state ever devised, a man who claimed to represent the new direction of the universe, and also just an old man who was taken totally aback and possessed by fear when the universe changed direction again. He died many times, and while his spirit survived and will survive for all eternity, it was consumed by the madness that is the dark side, which now embraces him in death as he embraced it in life.
Abilities and traits
Darth Sidious possessed a superior intellect, had a cunning understanding of the human mind, and was skilled in the use of the Force in foreseeing the future, so he could manipulate events as though he were a dejarik grandmaster moving pieces on a board. Therefore, he had a penchant for complicated schemes, and such was his patience that he could wait years to see them come into fruition. Sidious had a broad expertise in areas such as psychology, bureaucracy, and philosophy. The dark side energies flowing through his body were so intense that they ravaged his mortal frame. Lord Sidious was a gnarled, ancient man with pale skin, searing, sickly yellow eyes, a heavy dark cloak, and a glossy black cane.
Darth Sidious was an enormously talented fighter. Apparently, the only Jedi ever known to defeat Sidious in battle was Mace Windu, though Anakin Skywalker intervened and Sidious won after all. It is also possible that the loss itself was merely a ploy on Sidious' part to attempt to turn Anakin.
As Palpatine, he had gained a reputation for being a good and modest man from Naboo, an extremely humble and peaceful backwater world. As both Senator of Naboo and Chancellor of the Republic, he promised to bring justice to the government, which had been mired in corruption and chaos. In truth the Dark Lord of the Sith, he had used his genius-level intellect to become the most powerful tyrant in galactic history. He was a self-proclaimed savior and political mastermind who had immense power and immeasurable cunning. In his roles as Senator and Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, though, he appeared as an unassuming old man, almost grandfatherly, with elegant robes.
Behind the Scenes
Like many personalities in the Star Wars universe, Palpatine's character has clear similarities to certain historical figures. Parallels to dictators such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler can all be found in the Galactic Emperor's words and actions (in many ways he is an amalgamation of the two Caesars -- Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus -- and Lucius Cornelius Sulla). In writing the original drafts of the Star Wars films, during the mid-1970s, George Lucas has said he was influenced by then-US President Richard Nixon and the constitutional crisis he ignited that caused the fall of his administration, and during the writing of the prequels in the early 2000s, Lucas was influenced by President George W. Bush, and the increasing power of state security under his administration.
In many ways, Palpatine is an archetypal villain, who does not appear to have any understandable motivation beyond the pursuit of power. He relies on deception and manipulation to control and corrupt individuals throughout the films, and as a result is a classically diabolical character. As Emperor, he appears to be a frail, weak old man, but is actually quite supernaturally powerful. Palpatine may be viewed as the quintessential wolf in sheep's clothing. Palpatine's motivations are more easily explained when viewed in the context of his alter ego Darth Sidious.
Palpatine's full name (assuming he has any names other than "Palpatine" alone) has never been revealed. The usage "Emperor Palpatine" suggests that Palpatine is in fact his only name, though the use of titles such as "Senator Palpatine" suggests it may be his family name. Of course, Palpatine might be a name of state, as the name Amidala is, so it may mean that neither Palpatine's given or family name is known.
Nevertheless, since the original version of his character in Lucas' early scripts was named "Cos Dashit", many Star Wars fan fiction writers have quite incorrectly adopted the name "Cos Palpatine" in their stories and web pages — so much so that it has become "fanon." The name "Dantius Palpatine" has also been adopted, though its origins are more ambiguous, seeming to come from SuperShadow, a website of fraudulent Star Wars material, including "synopses" for Episodes VII - IX. Another first name, Ethril, was apparently used in early drafts of The Phantom Menace Visual Dictionary, but was vetoed by George Lucas. Other names postulated by fans include "Augustus" (based on the presumption that Augie's Great Municipal Band on the Episode I soundtrack refers to Palpatine) and "Albert". On the official website (http://www.starwars.com/community/askjc/steve/askjc20030701.html), it is stated that Palpatine's first name, if he has one, has not yet been revealed.
The origin of the name "Palpatine" is not known. It may come from the word "palatine," meaning, "relating to a palace," which is fitting for a supreme dictator. Some have speculated that it refers to Senator Charles Palantine, a character in Taxi Driver portrayed by Leonard Harris. Another theory suggests he was named for Palatine Hill, where Romulus and Remus were found and raised by she-wolf according to Roman mythology and where the palace of the Roman Emperors was located.
Palpatine's Sith name, Sidious, is believed to be derived from Insidious, a word with multiple meanings, such as treacherous, cunning, and seductive--all of which accurately describe the Dark Lord.
Both the middle-aged Palpatine and the elderly Emperor Palpatine are played by actor Ian McDiarmid, although the holographic image of the Emperor that briefly appeared in the original version of The Empire Strikes Back was played by an unnamed actor (a woman with the composite image of a chimpanzee for the eyes) and was voiced by Clive Revill. For the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy, the scene in The Empire Strikes Back was reshot with Ian McDiarmid replacing Revill as the Emperor, with new lines recorded for both McDiarmid and James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader). His lightsaber sequences during "Revenge of the Sith", specifically the Senate battle with Yoda, were done by Kyle Rowling, who was also the stunt double for Christopher Lee. Much like Lee, his face would be replaced in post production by McDiarmid's. In the Clone Wars cartoon series, Nick Jameson voiced Palpatine. Jameson has also voiced Palpatine in different video games, including Star Wars: TIE Fighter and Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. For the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi NPR dramatizations, Palpatine was voiced by Paul Hecht.
Debates and discrepancies
During his fight with Mace Windu, Palpatine's appearance changed as he was hit with his own Force lightning, which was reflected from Windu's lightsaber back at him. Palpatine went from being a handsome old man to having a sagging face with burning yellow eyes, grayed skin, and long black fingernails. What caused this change of appearance has been the subject of much debate.
One possibility was that his own lightning simply scarred and melted his face, in the same way it would damage anything else it hit at such a close range. Though most of the circumstances behind Palpatine's duel with Windu and the other Jedi Masters were not publicly revealed, he did garner sympathy in the Senate by claiming that he had been disfigured when the Jedi attacked him, a claim that may have been truthful. But no other human hit by Force lightning was physically deformed in the Star Wars movies and Expanded Universe.
Another theory is that Sidious' deformed appearance was his true face, which had been gradually deformed due to the immense dark energies he wielded (a process that is believed to have happened to other devotees of the dark side though to a lesser extent), and that prior to his fight with Windu he had been using some kind of Sith or other technique (like Force Concealment) in order to cloak his true form and appear like a normal Human to others. He may also have had cosmetic surgery which "corrected" his real face, like Seti Ashgad did, who looked many years younger than he actually was. According to this theory, he dropped the guise either because he wanted to look injured and weak to Anakin, or because he lost concentration while fighting Windu, or because he had been using too much energy to continue to maintain it, or just because the lightning melted it away, and kept this look in order to frame the Jedi for deforming him.
It is most likely, though, that both theories are partially true. It makes sense that some of Palpatine's deformities (presumably those that seem characteristic of concentrated burn wounds, such as melted skin and facial indentations) were caused by the lightning itself, while other supposed deformities (presumably those that seem like they couldn't possibly be caused by lightning, such as yellowed eyes, wrinkled skin, and elongated and blackened fingernails) were aspects of Palpatine's true appearance being revealed.
Dark Empire possible discrepancy explanation
In the Dark Empire series, Palpatine tells Luke that the Battle of Endor was not his first death, and that he had started transferring his spirit into clone bodies years prior to that, when his original body had degenerated as a result of heavy use of the dark side. However, Lucasfilm official Leland Chee has recently stated that Palpatine was lying to Luke about having died previously, and that Palpatine's demise on the second Death Star was definitely the first time he died, although not the last. Chee also stated that while Palpatine's clone bodies do degenerate as a result of the strong presence of dark side energy within them, his original body did not degenerate in the same way, and he only had to start switching bodies periodically as a result of having to use clone bodies following the destruction of his original body at Endor.