The latest Star Wars tie-in has revealed how Padmé Amidala almost ruined Palpatine’s plans. Padmé Amidala was aged just 14 years old when she became Queen of Naboo. Naboo is a curious world, sometimes described as a “constitutional monarchy.” The Queen is actually an elected official, with broad powers and a responsibility for overseeing the government.
Given this context, as young as Padmé may be in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, she’s clearly a force to be reckoned with. After all, she has successfully won an election, and there can be no doubt she acquitted herself well against older and more experienced opponents. Still, when the Trade Federation invaded Naboo, it proved to be Padmé’s trial by fire. She was still a new Queen, and now she was facing a graver threat than any of her successors.
E.K. Johnston’s recent novel, Queen’s Shadow, reveals Padmé actually forced Palpatine to accelerate his plans and order the Trade Federation to invade Naboo. At the time, he was conducting a laborious political game in the Senate, using the Trade Federation in order to strengthen his position. As Darth Sidious, he was continually manipulating others into presenting legislation on behalf of the Trade Federation; as Senator Palpatine, he was leading resistance to these bills, earning himself a strong reputation and winning accolades for the speed with which he identified weaknesses in legislation he had supposedly only just seen. Palpatine was quite enjoying these political games – until he received disturbing news from Naboo.
Under the reign of Padmé’s predecessor, Naboo had become increasingly dependent on imports from other star-systems. This was a key part of Palpatine’s plan, because it meant Naboo could not be self-sufficient, and thus a Trade Federation blockade would lead to famine and significant loss of life. Padmé, however, was not happy with this situation. She had kept her views quiet during the election, simply because she didn’t believe in publicly criticizing the Queen. No sooner had she taken the throne, though, than Padmé began to reach out to other planets in the Naboo system, proposing increased internal trade. She presented this to Palpatine – and, indeed, to her government – as something of a fait accompli. Thus Palpatine was forced to accelerate his plans, ensuring the Trade Federation attacked before Padmé’s reforms had time to take effect. It was a gamble, but fortunately for Palpatine it paid off.
Darth Sidious should have seen this as a warning. No doubt Palpatine had assumed a young Queen would be easy to manipulate, but Padmé was a strong and confident teenager with a mind of her own. She was causing Palpatine problems within days of taking the throne. She would continue to do so throughout her life; whether as Queen, Senator, or wife of Anakin Skywalker.
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