Serg Vorbarra
Emperor Serg Vorbarra
Emperor Serg Jon Ezar Xav Vorbarra in an official portrait
Emperor of Barrayar
8th, 3rd month, 3002 - Present
Royal House House of Vorbarra
Preceded by
Gregor of Barrayar

25th, 5th month, 2933 (aged 70)
Vorbarr Sultana, Barrayar
Spouse Empress Ekaterin Vorreedi
Languages English, French, Greek, Russian (Barrayaran variants)

The monarchy of the Imperium of Barrayar is the monarchy of Barrayar and its subject planets. The Emperor Serg Vorbarra and the Imperial Family take many duties of government, official, ceremonial and representative. As a semi-parliamentary monarch, the Emperor is partially restricted in the functions of government. Imperial power is intended to be, under ordinary circumstances, a ruling power, balancing the other powers (the Government and the Council of Counts). The sovereign powers are ordinarily partly delegated to other entities by various laws.

  • Legislative power is exercised by the Crown-in-Council. The Council of Counts can approve or reject the laws, although decrees and regulations are issued under the sole responsibility of the Emperor.
  • Executive power is exercised by the Government of the Empire, on the basis of directives issued by the Emperor and subject to the confidence relationship between the Prime Minister of the Empire and the Emperor. However, the Emperor still retains the exclusive right to appoint officials and public employees, as well as to issue orders without the need of the Ministers' countersigns.
  • Judicial power is exercised by Judges and Prosecutors, which enjoy judicial independence from the government but not full independence from the Emperor.

The centre of the Barrayaran autocracy is the person of the Emperor himself, a sovereign with near absolute authority. The rights of state power in their most extent belong to the Emperor. Power is further entrusted by him to persons and institutions, acting in his name, by his orders, and within the limits laid down for them by law. The purpose of the system is to benefit the entire country.
A metaphor exists likening Emperor to the father, and all of the subjects of the Empire, to his children.
The other key feature is related to patrimonialism. In Barrayar the Emperor owns a relevant proportion of the state (the entire planet of Sergyar, lands, enterprises, etc.).
To the common people, the Emperor is seen as responsible for all good in their lives, while all disasters came from meddling bureaucrats, functionaries, and nobles.
The meaning and the basic function of the Monarchy is to ensure the "transcendence", the stability and continuity of political authority, so as to create an immutable and supreme point of reference and gravitation for all the political organism, beyond any particular interest. There is an atmosphere of loyalty because of which the function overcomes, to a certain point, the person who embodies it, so as not to be affected by possible insufficient human qualification of the actual Emperor.
The Monarchy has, in addition to participation crucial to the three classic powers, a fourth power, higher than the other three powers: this power is to act as arbiter and moderator. The supreme command of the nation in arms comes from the power of acting as the supreme arbiter. In his capacity as supreme power, the Emperor, and the institution of the Monarchy, retains the right and the duty to intervene, mainly in cases of emergency.
The Sovereign has the fundamental right and duty to determine, support, correct and confirm a certain political line: in this way it becomes the National policy. Descending to the duty to sanction the best way possible, the Emperor has a very active part in the government, and with his powers he must act as a counterweight to the interests of a party, to their deviations and their excesses. In the presence of a real monarchy, the value of service is enhanced and a higher value to the Republican State. The service to the State and to the Emperor is an honour and a privilege, not a given paid employment. The Monarchy is then a grinding influence on the national political climate.
The Emperor of Barrayar traditionally sits on a camp stool. The tradition began with Emperor Dorca The Just, who pacified the Counts mostly by military means and therefore he chose a camp stool instead of a throne to show them he could be a soldier in battle and to exercise the supreme command as the commander-in-chief.

Succession laws Edit

The order of succession to the Imperial Crown is governed by the salic laws. It totally excludes females from the succession, giving the right to succeed only to male heirs. To determine the Crown Prince and legitimate successor as a method is followed that of male primogeniture. The older line of descent has always precedence over the young line, anyway. The older children have priority over younger children. The right of succession, therefore, belongs to the eldest son of the reigning sovereign.

Regency Acts Edit

The Regency Acts are Acts of the Joint Councils, passed with a majority of three quarters, providing a regent if the reigning monarch is to be incapacitated or a minor (under the age of 20). Regency acts are passed under a general provision for a regent.
According to the Regency General Law, presently in force, there is provision for the establishment of a Regency either on account of the minority of the monarch or of the absolute incapacity of the Sovereign to discharge the Imperial Functions.

Regency in the case of the minority of the Sovereign Edit

According to the Regency General Law in force, as well as according to traditions and conventions, if the Emperor is under the age of 20 years when he succeeds to his predecessor, a Regency is automatically established, and, until he attains the age of 20 years, the royal functions are discharged by the Regent in the name and on behalf of the Sovereign.
In that case, any oaths or declarations required by laws to be taken by the Emperor are postponed until the Emperor's personal assumption of the sovereign functions, and for the purpose of all such enactments regarding acts new monarch must make upon Accession the date on which the Emperor attains the age of 21 years shall be deemed to be the date of His Accession.
During the minority of the Emperor, the Prince his next of kin in the order of succession, is invested of the office of Regent to the Empire, if he has reached the age of twenty-one. If the Prince called to the Regency is minor, this is devolved to a more distant relative of the Regent. In the absence of male relatives, the Joint Councils appoint the Regent. The last Regent appointed by the Joint Councils is then-Lord Admiral Aral Vorkosigan. The Regent, before entering into functions, the oath to be loyal to the King and to observe faithfully the Constitution and the laws of the State.
The Empress Mother (or at least Emperor's mother) is the guardian of the Emperor, until he has completed the age of seven years; From this point the protection goes to the Regent.

Emperor's Birthday Edit

The birthday of the ruling Emperor is a traditional holiday that marks the start of a new Barrayaran fiscal year, the day when taxes were due. When a new emperor ascends to the Imperial Camp Stool, the fiscal year shifts accordingly. Although taxes are mainly paid via electronic transfer, each Count still gives the Emperor a bag with a few coins as a symbolic act as birthday present. The occasion is also marked with feasts, fireworks, parades, dancing, and especially drinking. The main event are the Emperor's Birthday Dinner at the Imperial Residence and the Emperor's Birthday Military Review.

Commander in Chief Edit

Command-in-chief of the Imperial Service is vested in the Emperor of Barrayar. All troop deployment and disposition orders, including declarations of war, fall within the Imperial Prerogative and are issued as Sovereign Orders, which must be signed by the monarch. The Monarch generally follows the advice of his ministers.
The Emperor appoints, on the merely technical advice of the Prime Minister, a Chief of the General Staff as the highest ranking commissioned officer in the forces, and who, as head of the High Command, commands the Service from the Imperial Service Headquarters (ISHQ) in Vorbarr Sultana. On the High Command sit the heads of the environmental commands – the Space Command, the Ground Force Command, the Air Command and the Landing Command – who collectively advice the operational commands of the Service – the Barrayar Command, the Komarr Force Command, the Sergyar Command, the External Command, the Operations Command, the Operational Support Command, the Military Intelligence Service and the Imperial Security. The sovereign and most other members of the Imperial Family also act as officers of Imperial Service.
The Emperor, even if in his minority, is always nominally in charge of the Imperial Service. During the Regency, his capacity of Commander-in-Chief is suspended and exercised by the Regent: every son of ruling Emperor or of Crown Prince is formally inducted into the armed forces at the age of four.

Oath of ascension Edit

The Emperor, as soon as he ascends the Camp Stool, shall take an oath before the Joint Councils Assembled; he is already reigning and has all his sovereign functions before the oath, which has essentially formal and political value. The oath is as follows:
«Before the Imperium, We Emperor [REGAL NAME] swear to observe faithfully the traditions, usages, customs and laws, and to exercise the Imperial Authority in accordance with them. We [REGAL NAME] swear to make full and immediate justice to each according to his reasons. We [REGAL NAME] swear to conduct any business, public or private, in the sole interest of the Empire.»

Imperial Anniversary Edit

The anniversary of the Emperor's accession to the Camp Stool is observed annually with renewed oaths of loyalty and vows and offerings for the wellbeing of the Emperor.

Imperial Family Edit


Coat of Arms of the House Vorbarra.

The Imperial Family is the close family of the Emperor. The imperial family includes the spouse of the reigning monarch, the surviving spouse of a deceased former monarch, grandparents, sons, grandsons and granddaughters male female unmarried brothers, unmarried sisters, the first and second cousins of the Sovereign and their spouses. When an Emperor abdicates, the Imperial Family also includes the sovereign who abdicates.
Although there is a strictly formal definition for membership in the Imperial Family, who is part bears the title of His Imperial Highness.
Members of the Imperial Family represent the monarch in various situations in the Empire, sometimes covering real tasks of colonial rule and more often for special events and ceremonies, even if they have, except the Crown Prince, a role defined for the they belong to the Imperial Family. All male members of the Imperial Family are to serve in the military.
The Imperial Household is the name by which it covers the whole ceremonial, religious, domestic and military entourage around the Imperial Family and the families of its members. Next to the Imperial House, centred on the Sovereign, any other member of the Imperial Family has its own personal staff, always falling within the Imperial Household, albeit with wide margins of autonomy.

Imperial Households Edit

The Imperial Households of the Empire are the collective departments which support members of the Imperial Family. Many members of the Imperial Family who undertake public duties have separate Households. They vary considerably in size, from the large Imperial Household which supports the reigning Emperor to the household of the Prince Vorbarra (the eldest son of the Crown Prince) and Prince Ezar (the younger brother), with fewer then ten members.
In addition to the royal officials and support staff, the Emperor's own household incorporates representatives of other sectors of the Realm, including the Military. Defence chiefs, several clerics, scientists, musicians poets, and artists hold honorary positions within the Imperial Household. The Great Officers of the Household are the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward and the Master of the Horse.

Broad organization Edit

The Imperial Household is coordinated by the Lord Chamberlain (Lord Gregor Vorkeres, since 3001), and organised into a number of functionally separate units. The Lord Chamberlain's Committee includes most important departmental heads, and supports the Lord Chamberlain. The Lord Chamberlain is the senior official of the Imperial Household and oversees its business, including liaising with the other senior officers of the Household, chairing Heads of Department meetings, and advising in the appointment of senior Household officials. The Lord Chamberlain also undertakes ceremonial duties and serves as the channel of communication between the Sovereign and the Council of Counts.
The Lord Steward of the Household is an important official of the Imperial Household. He is always a member of the Government, although the post does not have, per se, any voting right. The Lord Steward receives his appointment from the Emperor in person, and bears a white cavalry lance as the emblem and warrant of his authority. The Master of the Household is a white-staff officer, i.e. dependent on the Lord Steward. The Lord Steward or the Master of the Household administer the oaths to the Imperial officials. In certain cases (messages from the sovereign under the sign-manual) the lords with white staves are the proper persons to bear communications between the Sovereign and the Joint Councils Assembled.
The Master of the Horse is once an important official of the sovereign's household. The Master of the Horse is the third dignitary of the court, and is always a member of the Government, a Count or an Heir, a military officer and a Privy Councillor. All matters connected with the military, the horses, the hounds of the sovereign, as well as the stables and coach-houses, the stud, mews and the kennels, are within his jurisdiction. The Gentlemen of the Horse have daily oversight of the Imperial Mews, which provides vehicular transport for the Sovereign. Train travel is arranged by the Imperial Travel Office, which also co-ordinates air transport, also under the Master of the Horse's jurisdiction. Both the Pages of Honour and the Equerries are under the authority of the Master of the Horse. The latter are functionally closer to the Private Secretary's Office. There are three Equerries in Ordinary to the Sovereign, and a larger number of Equerries in Extraordinary - usually retired senior officers with some connection to the Imperial Household. The Equerries in Extraordinary are seldom ever required for duty, but the Equerries in Ordinary are in attendance on the Sovereign on a daily basis. The senior Equerry also holds the position of Deputy Master of the Household.
The Imperial Household is organized on eight Divisions and a number of Offices:

  • Division I - Imperial Secretariat;
    • Personal Secretariat of the Emperor
    • Personal Secretariat of the Empress
  • Division II - personnel, general affairs;
    • Honorary chairs Offices,
    • Patronages Offices,
    • Dedications to sovereign names,
    • Jewellery Purchase office.
  • Division III - Buildings and possessions;
  • Division IV - internal government;
  • Division V - Imperial Mews, Stables and Races (Master of the Horse)
    • Imperial Travel Office
  • Division VI - Order offices;
  • Division VII - General Accounting and Treasury;
  • Division VIII - Control.
    • Office of charity

Appointment and Dismissal of the Prime Minister and Ministers Edit

Whenever necessary, the Monarch is responsible for appointing a new Prime Minister. The Sovereign appoints an individual who could obtain a the support of the Council of Counts, although there is no need of a confidence vote. The Prime Minister takes office by attending the Monarch in private audience, and after Kissing Hands that appointment is immediately effective without any other formality or instrument.
The Emperor appoints and can dismiss the Prime Minister and the Ministers if they do not agree with policy pursued by Emperor.

Privy Council Edit

The Privy Council of the Emperor of Barrayar is the supreme state advisory body to the Emperor in Barrayar, composed of people whom the Emperor could trust. The original Privy Council was established by Emperor Dorcas after the end of the First Cetagandan War, and was disestablished by Emperor Yuri shortly after his accession to the Imperial rule. In 2992, Emperor Gregor re-established a similar body, but without the extensive powers it had under the two previous Emperors: nowadays, the Privy Council is both a chamber filled by reliable and expert civilian officials tasked with some administrative duties and an advisory body to the Emperor. The number of members can vary at the Emperor's decision: however, by customary tradition, half of its members are appointed by the Emperor from persons distinguished at civil and military service. The main duty of the Council is the preliminary investigation for promulgation and abrogation of laws according guidelines issued by the Emperor himself.
There are four departments of the Council: Legislative; Civil Administration; State Economy; Industry, Science and Commerce. Each department has its own presiding officer (Secretary) and meets separately to discuss matters assigned, as well as various subcommittees. There are also plenary sessions of the whole Council, presided over by the Lord President of the State Council, if the Emperor chooses to do not preside.
Membership is generally for life, although the death of an Emperor brings an immediate dissolution of the Council. By mere tradition, however, the new Emperor reappoints all members of the Council after its dissolution. The Emperor can at any time remove an individual from the Council: individuals may choose to resign to avoid expulsion.
The Privy Council Office provides secretariat and administrative support to the Lord President of the Council in his capacity of president of the Privy Council. The head of the office is the Clerk of the Privy Council.

Meetings Edit

Departmental meetings of the Privy Council are normally held twice each month, while plenary sessions are held once a trimester and subcommittee meetings are held on need. The quorum is three. The Emperor attends the meeting, although this is not mandatory.
Full meetings of the Privy Council are mandatory to be held when the reigning Sovereign announces his own engagement; or when there is a Demise of the Crown, either by the death or abdication of the monarch and in case of a Regency. In the case of a demise of the crown, the Privy Council makes a proclamation declaring the accession of the new Sovereign. It is also customary for the new Sovereign to make an allocution to the Privy Council on that occasion.

Functions Edit

The Council as a whole examines projects of law proposed by the ministers who are ex-officio members. They have authority to make non binding proposals of changes to the law, but they cannot examine anything that is not submitted to them for examination or decision making authority. The Council only makes recommendations to the monarch who could support the majority, minority or disregard the Council's recommendations completely as he sees fit. The members have no right to attend all meetings of the Privy Council, and only some are summoned to each meeting.

Sergyaran Crown Dependency Edit

The Sergyaran Crown Dependency is a special imperial institution. The Crown dependency is a personal possession and property of the Imperial Crown, but formally not part of the Empire, which is solely responsible for defence and international representation.
On Sergyar the Monarch is represented by a Viceroy in charge of the Government: although the Viceroy retains the same status of Komarran Viceroy (the Imperial Counsellor), legally is a very different figure. While the Imperial Counsellor is a state institution, the Viceroy of Sergyar is a mere proprietor's representative, albeit with two relevant constraints: on one hand, colonists are free Imperial subjects who reside on Sergyar, and on the other hand the proprietor is the Emperor, who swore to pursue the good for all his subjects, including those who reside in his properties. In any case Sergyar is not a sovereign nation and the legislative power is ultimately held by the Council of Counts. The acts of the Council of Counts do not affect Dependency, except where expressly stated.

Imperial Auditors Edit

Imperial Auditor Barrayar

Imperial Auditors' Collar.

The Imperial Auditor is a position in the Emperor's staff, earned via appointment by the Emperor and speak with his Voice. Voice is the legal concept of proxy which bestows the hierarchical authority of one person upon another of otherwise lesser rank. There exist eight permanent Auditors and the Ninth Temporary Auditor, often drawn from people with relevant military or diplomatic background. Imperial Auditors hold their appointments till death, retirement, impeachment, or until the Emperor rescinds the appointment. Usually, they serve for life. Imperial Auditors are among the central figures in the "Emperor's own government", i.e. that set of bodies and functions which, while not depending on Ministers or on the Council of Ministers, are de facto heavily involved into the government of the Empire, just as women in general in the Barrayaran political system, or both Crown and Imperial Princes. Auditors are traditionally retired admirals, senior civilian officials or ambassadors, although there is no strict rule prohibiting or impeding the Emperor to appoint civilians, or even women (although so far only one woman was appointed Imperial Auditor).
The impeachment of an Imperial Auditor requires a three quarters majority vote of the Ministers and the Counts in full joint session assembled.

Ninth Auditor Edit

The position of Ninth Imperial Auditor is always left open, to be filled by appointment as needed. If a situation that requires a specialized knowledge outside of a usual Auditor's skill set is needed, an appropriate expert will be found, and given the leeway to investigate as needed. There are some limits to a Ninth Auditor's powers, as he cannot order executions and any arrests he makes must be related to the case and should likely have enough evidence to present to a prosecutor.

Origins and duties Edit

Imperial Auditors were originally the Emperor's financial auditors: they made sure that the aristocrats were correctly paying the Emperor his taxes. Because they speak with the Emperor's Voice, they soon became feared. The appearance of an Auditor is an immediate concern for all those involved. On modern Barrayar, Imperial Auditors serve more as Special Investigators, although they still retain their powers and authorities, and often they use them, and are usually sent to try to solve problems that have escaped conventional problem solving strategies. In some of their duties, they are analogous to special prosecutors, in others to the chairmen of special commissions, and in some to conventional financial auditors, but with far more legal clout.

Military hierarchy Edit

By definition, the Imperial Military is under the overall command of the reigning Emperor or Regent as Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Consequently, in his role as the Emperor's Voice, any Imperial Auditor can command military forces as he sees fit. Only the Emperor (or Regent) and other Auditors as a group could override him.

Emperor's Security Advisor Edit

The Emperor's Security Advisor is the individual in the Emperor's informal government branch who serves as chief advisor to the Emperor on security issues. The Security Advisor is appointed by the Emperor without involvement of the Joint Councils, and he is not connected with any Ministry. A powerful and influential post, the Security Advisor works in conjunction with the Imperial Service and gives a briefing to the Emperor on security issues every morning, and will advise him during crises, alongside with some military and security leaders.
The Emperor's Security Advisor, just as Imperial Auditors, serves as the Emperor's own pleasure (although he may die or resign), can be removed by the Joint Councils Assembled with a three-quarters majority, and he traditionally is a retired senior officer; it is not uncommon that the Chief of the General Staff becomes the Emperor's Security Advisor when his active service term expires.

Imperial Chapter of Arms Edit

The Imperial Chapter of Arms is a corporation of the Imperial Household consisting of professional officers of arms, with jurisdiction over Barrayar, Sergyar and Komarr. The heralds are appointed by the Emperor and are delegated authority to act on his behalf in all matters of heraldry, the granting of new coats of arms, genealogical research and the recording of pedigrees. The Chapter is also the official body responsible for matters relating to the flying of flags on land, sea, air and space, and it maintains the official registers of flags and other national symbols. The Chapter of Arms also undertakes and consults on the planning of many ceremonial occasions and Heralds of the College accompany the sovereign on many of these occasions.
The College comprises thirty-seven officers or heralds: the First Lord of Arms, three Lords of Arms, six Heralds of Arms in Ordinary and nine Pursuivants of Arms in Ordinary. There are also eighteen Officers of Arms in Extraordinary. The entire corporation is managed by the First Lord of Arms, a hereditary office currently held by Lord Alexander Vorreedi, 16th First Lord of Arms.

Court of the First Lord of Arms Edit

The Court of the First Lord of Arms is a standing court of law which regulates heraldry in the Empire of Barrayar. It is headed by the Judicial Counsellor of the First Lord of Arms, who must be legally qualified, as he has criminal jurisdiction in heraldic matters, and the court is fully integrated into the Imperial legal system, including having a dedicated prosecutor, known as the Prosecution Counsellor of the First Lord of Arms. Against Court decisions, an appeal may be experimented only to the Emperor.

Imperial Pardon Edit

The Imperial Pardon is one of the key prerogatives of the Monarch, in which he can grant pardons to convicted persons. The Imperial Pardon is used to permit the monarch to withdraw death sentences, and in general to change any sentence or penalty.
Historically, the Imperial Pardon was widely used by the Emperors of Barrayar until the Ezar's reign as a political instrument in order to crush political opponents and to impose political favours. Lord Regent Aral Vorkosigan, in his efforts to establish an effective rule of law, greatly limited the practice, the most famous case being the Carl Vorhalas Execution. Emperor Gregor continued the practice of remitting to the Law the most part of Pardon requests, although he actually granted Pardon in some minor cases. Emperor Serg's tendency is to effectively use this prerogative.

Imperial Funeral Edit

In Barrayar, Imperial Funerals are initially reserved only for Emperors and members of the Imperial Family. The decision to accord and grant an Imperial Funeral to former Regents or incumbent Viceroys rest with the Emperor himself, depending on the stature of the deceased. The state funeral for a deceased Emperor is arranged, managed and prepared by a special committee of the Imperial Household that is formed for the occasion.
During an Imperial Funeral,

  • A National Week of Mourning is officially declared. If the deceased is not the Emperor, the period could be shortened to three days;
  • The national flag is flown at half mast. This decision solely lies with the Emperor, who also decides the period for which flag is to be flown at half mast.
  • A public holiday is declared.
  • A casket draped in the flag of the Empire of Barrayar and the House Vorbarra standard as pall;
  • A six-people casket team serving as honour guards in a ceremonial role over the remains and as pallbearers;
  • The casket is transported via a horse-drawn limbers and caissons;
  • The formation of the rifle party consists of 77 riflemen (17 Imperial Service members and a riflemen from each Northern District), firing a five-volley salute;
  • The playing of Funeral March is performed by seven buglers and three trumpeters, at a distance of 40 yards from the grave site.
  • A riderless black horse follows the limbers and caissons.
  • A 51 gun salute is fired when being buried.
  • An Escort Company from each Corps of the Imperial Service, as well as an Escort Company from each District escort the procession;
  • The Imperial Guard opens the funeral.

Two highly decorated officers lead the funeral parade, carrying a large portrait of the deceased, followed by a group of numerous soldiers carrying large floral wreaths. A group of general officers comes next, carrying the Emperor's decorations and medals on small black cushions.
The flags are flown at half-mast outside of public buildings, while inside they display three black ribbons. Embassies and consulates around the Nexus are provided appropriate instructions: when the Emperor dies, flags are always flown at half-mast; usually, foreign embassies and consulates are asked to fly their flags at half-mast.
The body lies in state in the Imperial Residence or the buildings housing the most important office of the deceased. In other cases the will of the family it is followed. If the dead is not the Emperor, the family of the departed chooses the place in which the funeral will take place.

Vigil of the Princes Edit

During the lying in state of the deceased Emperor of a member of the Imperial Family, living male members of the Imperial Family stand guard. The Vigil takes place after the Great Hall of the Imperial Residence is closed to the public for the evening. The Crown Prince and Imperial Princes relieve the honour guard, and are themselves relieved by the following honour guard after their hour-long vigil. All Princes wear their red-and-blues parade uniforms.

Related voices Edit

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