As explained in The Eighteenth Century, Part III: 1750-1775, The Eighteenth Century, Part IV: 1775-1785, and The Eighteenth Century, Part V: 1785-1800, the reign of the Laurasian Empress Aurelia the Great (1758-1803) was the Golden Age of the Laurasian Empire. During the Empress's 44-year reign over the Laurasian Empire, the Empire's economy, territory, military power, and political influence all expanded considerably, so that it became transformed into the leading power of extra-galactic civilization. The Empire's territory arose from forty-five million to seventy million star systems; it incorporated more than 100,000 light years span of territory, encompassing the Galactic Borderlands, the Angelina Spiral, and the Great Tesmanian Cloud; and its economy expanded sevenfold. Making much of this possible was a series of administrative, legal, religious, economic, military, and cultural reforms, which considerably strengthened the Empire and solidified the authority of the Imperial Laurasian Government. These reforms will be described below.
Reforms of Empress Aurelia the Great (1758-1803)Edit
The Empress Aurelia considered education to be the means of maintaining the Laurasian Empire's political, economic, and cultural dominance over its rivals and neighbors in the Great Amulak Spiral. She admired the educational accomplishments of her predecessors, in particular of her half-brother Demetrius II (whose reign had seen a three-fold increase in the number of educational institutes within the Empire), and of her father, Antigonus III, whose establishment of the Cadet Corps had raised standards among the officers corps of the Imperial Military, and of the magnates of the Imperial Household in general. Aurelia believed that a "loyal, faithful Laurasian subject" could be created by promoting the further spread and diversification of the Empire's education system. This meant developing individuals both intellectually and morally, providing them knowledge and skills, and fostering a sense of civic responsibility. In that way, she could change the hearts and minds of her Empire's subjects, both Laurasian and alien. The Empress found that she had much to work with from the beginning of her reign. When she acceded to the throne in 1758, the Laurasian Empire had more than 250,000 universities; one million colleges and higher educational institutes; and countless millions of preparatory academies, religious schools, charter schools, boarding schools, community colleges, high schools, and lower institutions of education. Among the Empire's most prominent educational institutes were the University of Laurasia Prime (which had been founded by King Severus I in AH 527); the University of the Laurasian Empire (founded by Seleucus II in 1332); the Imperial Academy of the Sciences (founded by Seleucus I in 1324); the Imperial Academy of the Arts (founded by Antiochus I in 1357); the Peter and Paul Ecclesiastical Academy (founded by Antoninus Pius in 1549); the University of Caladaria (7th century BH); and the University of Darcia (8th century BH), the Christiania Inns (founded in 1252 by King Artabanus I), and the Imperial Jurisprudence Academy, among many others. The Cadet Corps (founded by Aurelia's father, Antigonus III, in 1732), which included the Army, Naval, and Marine Corps, the Engineering and Artillery Schools, and the Service Academies, were open to only the elites and officer corps of the Empire, but provided another base to the Empire's overall educational system. As mentioned in the Eighteenth Century timeline, the Empress Aurelia relied upon Dr. John Deesius (1727-1800), who became Chancellor of the University of Laurasia Prime (1778-98), as one of her leading educational consultants. Another was Sir Honorius Betkrania, 2nd Baronet Betkrania of Heliotrope (1704-95), who served as Chancellor of the Imperial Jurisprudence Academy (1764-95) and as Minister of Education (1778-95).
Through these two officials, the Empress collected information from across the Empire, and from foreign powers in the Great Amulak Spiral, about educational institutions. In 1762, she established the Educational Review Commission in the Ministry of Education, comprised of Chancellor Cecilis, Minister Betkrania, Dr. Deesius, and the Earls of Meehan, Manzo, and Melarnaria, in order to provide recommendations about further improvements in the Empire's educational system. She consulted renowned Archuletan and Murphian academics, such as Dr. Hans Revert and Sr. Lope Martinez. In 1765, Sr. Martinez would be appointed to the Educational Review Commission. The Commission studied the reform projects which had been first proposed by Chancellor Gardinerius and by Didymeia I's Minister of Education, Sir Willanius Haranius. They submitted recommendations for the reform of the Empire's academic standards; for the elimination of "unnecessary" or "excess" programs and curriculum; and for a renewed emphasis on community service, discipline, and morals among the Empire's students. In 1764, the Empress had commissioned the General Program for the Education of Young People of Both Sexes. This report emphasized the importance of shorter but fixed class schedules; of teacher evaluations; and of the proper relationship between teachers and their pupils, thereby confirming their disciplinary powers. By the mid-1760s, the Empress was also already engaged in preparations to strengthen the Empire's educational system. In 1766, she sponsored the establishment of the St. Catherine's Institute for Ladies, one of the Laurasian Empire's first state-sponsored institutes geared specifically for the education of women. The Institute admitted teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18; it stressed the importance of etiquette, of social graces, and of language skills, but also of athletics, practical subjects, and community service activity. Enforcement of strict discipline was central to its philosophy; all students had to adhere to a code of conduct, were forbidden access from without the Institute unless if given specific permission; and were required to wear uniforms.
Between 1766 and 1796, the number of women's preparatory academies and schools in the Empire would rise from 24,000 to 100,000, with the most prominent being established on Monderon (1768); Ruttum (1772); Phyllis (1774); Claer (1776); and Natalie (1791). Educational spending increased dramatically during the Empress's early years; by 1768, it was exceeding more than €500 hepmillion dataries per annum. In 1766, Aurelia reformed the Cadet Corps. Previously, the Corps had admitted only young men, and from the age of 17. Now, the Corps would accept female applicants, and the age of admission was lowered down to 9. They were now to be educated until 21; merchants, businessmen, and Laurasians with a certain property value were now permitted to register; and the curriculum was broadened. It now covered professional military subjects alongside the sciences, philosophy, ethics, history, and intergalactic law. The Cadet Corps found itself undergoing substantial expansion; it opened thirty more training academies by 1772, and saw its enrollment numbers increase from 7,000 to more than 45,000. The standards of education in the Corps also improved, and the Empress implemented further reforms to the Navel Cadet Corps, the Imperial Engineering Corps, and the Imperial Artillery Corporation (1772-1773), thereby widening the curriculum of the Empire's specialist officer corps. Furthermore, Aurelia sponsored changes to state funding, parochial aid, and to state examinations. Already in 1761, requirements for admission into the Empire's mathematical, scientific, and legalistic academies had been tightened; in 1764, all imperial students in Laurasian high schools and preparatory academies were submitted to the same schedule of classes, with the credits for science, mathematics, social sciences, and physical education becoming universal; and in 1766, the Ministry of Education issued new instructions to the Dioecesial Boards of Education, requiring for teacher evaluations to be based both upon student exam scores and upon student academic progress.
In 1767, a tax credit was offered to any educational guilds or non-profit organizations which provided funds for the establishment of intramural sports and community activities between parochial schools and general academies; in 1769, a new rating system for teacher performance was established, with Classes A and B receiving bonuses for achievement; and in 1772, uniform procedures for certificates of technical education, obtained in the Empire's specialist academies and practical schools, were introduced. In 1774 and 1775, the Ministry of Education required all private and public educational institutes in the Empire to adopt a uniform dress code; the Imperial Statute of Regional & Provincial Administration (1775), granted each gubernatorial and provincial board of education the power to censor, or to close, any institutes which failed to adhere to imperial standards. The Statute of Administration also required the Boards of Education to demand reports from all educational authorities from their jurisdiction on test examinations, administrative standards, and discipline measures, and it mandated that the revenues of the subtractionem tax was to be diverted to the educational system. In 1778, the Imperial Jurisprudence, Botany, Archaeology, Digital Sciences, Communications, Navigation, Astronomy, and Transportation Academies were placed under the jurisdiction of a uniform Board of Imperial Academies, subjected to the authority of the Imperial Ministry of Education. In 1779, the SAI examination was mandated as the new standardized college preparedness test for all students in the Empire. Corporal punishment was redefined for all students in the Empire in 1780, and new standards laid down for discipline and the relationship between the legal system and educational officials. And in 1782, the Empress Aurelia re-instituted the Educational Review Commission, with Dr. Deesius becoming chair of the body. He and the Archleutan mathematician, Franz Aepinus, proposed that the Empire's educational system be reorganized into a tier of trivial, real, and normal schools at the municipal, planetary, and provincial levels, with the Empire's universities and colleges operating on a regional and galactic basis. Over the course of the next four years, they worked out the specifics of their plan.
On August 5, 1786, the Imperial Statute of National Education was promulgated. The Statute reorganized the Empire's entire public education system along the models proposed by Aepinus and Deesius. Education was made mandatory for all those between the ages of four and twenty-four. Trivial (elementary) schools were to be attended by those between the ages of four and eleven; real schools, of those between eleven and fourteen; and normal schools, of those between fourteen and eighteen. The subjects to be taught at every age, the methods of teaching, disciplinary regulations, administrative regulations relating to the overall conduct of teachers and personnel, and guidelines relating to school programs, opportunities, and clubs, were provided in detail. The Statute provided for the publication of a common "Guide to Educators", in order to keep them attune with the demands of the Imperial Ministry of Education. This guide, divided into four parts, dealt with teaching methods, the courses and subjects, the behavior of the teacher, and the running of the school. The gubernatorial boards of education gained responsibility for dispensing financial aid; for maintaining graduation standards; and for coordinating the activities of all lower educational academies. Normal school curriculum would be a four-year combination of required courses in the social sciences, mathematics, sciences, physical education, and practical subjects; the procedures for graduation, test examinations, advanced courses, etc. were provided. At the end of their graduation year, students were to be divided into two classes, with the higher-ranking students to attend the universities, and the lower to attend the preparatory academies, technical schools, and practical institutes. Those in the lower class who demonstrated academic achievement would be upgraded to the first. Tuition at the Empire's universities and colleges was completely abolished; all course costs, textbooks, room and board, and required fees were to be covered by the governmental authorities, conditional on academic achievement. This was the culmination of a long process which had been ongoing throughout the century; Emperor Neuchrus had relaxed the terms for student loans in 1705 and expanded educational grants for deserving students; his son Antigonus III had remitted the obligations and debts of all lower-income subjects, and provided them payment of tuition through tax credits. Demetrius II had abolished tuition at all preparatory academies and in pre-collegiate college credit programs.
The University Statute (1792), completed this program of reform. Each university gained an autonomous Council of Professors and Chapter of Deans, with the Chancellor as head of that particular institution (appointed and dismissed by the sovereign, or by the Imperial Ministry of Education); each college, a College President and Board of Trustees, to be elected by the respective teacher facilities and sponsors of that respective institution. The same statute provided procedures for teacher relations, administrations, admission procedures, courses, grants, and university operations. The Empress also intensified the practice of her predecessors in dispatching deserving Laurasian students, from all classes abroad; in 1764, she ordered the Ministry of Education to provide annual recommendations on who should be selected for foreign study, and in November 1765, established the St. John's Scholarship for Foreign Study, open to applicants with academic achievement, community involvement, and demonstrated leadership skills. Between 1765 and 1800, more than thirty million students from throughout the Empire would be circulated through the Foreign Exchange Program; the Empire's commercial treaties with the powers of the Great Amulak Spiral incorporated provisions for such study. All in all, Empress Aurelia's extensive educational reforms greatly strengthened the Empire's academic system. Between 1782 and 1799, the number of universities and colleges in the Empire increased by more than 250%; examination scores on mathematics, sciences, literacy, and social sciences rose by more than 5,000 points on average; and the Empire's educational expenses exceeded €40 hepmillion dataries. The number of public schools and institutes in the Empire increased by more than 7000%; the rate of drop-outs, and of academic failures, was cut by nearly three-fourths; and the quality of instruction among teachers, the availability of textbooks, and of student attendance rates, all rose by more than 2000%. The Imperial Academies of the Sciences and the Arts, the Universities of Laurasia Prime and the Empire, the Cadet Corps, and the Specialized Academies, all saw spikes in attendance; by the end of the century, the University of the Empire had an enrollment of more than sixty million students per annum; that of Laurasia Prime, more than forty million; and the Academy of Sciences, more than twenty million. The Cadet Corps had more than 75,000 students.
The Judiciary and the Codex AurelianaEdit
Empress Aurelia's reign witnessed the emergence of the present judicial system of the Laurasian Empire; in accordance with this, it also witnessed the compilation and publication of the Empire's organic legal code, the Codex Aureliana. It is expedient to cover the origins of that codification, the means by which it was drafted, and what it comprised. At the beginning of the Empress's reign, the Laurasian Empire relied primarily upon the two codifications of the Emperor Neuchrus the Reformer's reign: the Codex Gregorianus (1692) and the Codex Hermogenianus (1696). These codes compiled all of the laws, edicts, constitutions, prescripts, statutes, and other enactments of every Laurasian Emperor back to the reign of Lysimachus I (1517-38). Empress Aurelia, and her ministers, in particular Chancellor Cecilis, believed that these legal codifications were outdated and inefficient. No record was provided of the imperial statutes which had been enacted prior to 1517; the first two centuries of the Laurasian Empire's legal history, including the enactments of the Empire's founder, Seleucus I the Victor, were effectively absent. Consequently, there was no complete set of statute books. In the more than six decades which had passed since the enactment of the two legal codifications, thousands of new laws had appeared, often without reference to previous laws on the same subject. Imperial decrees by successive rulers conflicted; ministers and officials promulgated Crown Instructions which contradicted earlier laws without the latter being annulled. The result of all of this was that government departments had become disorganized; a conflict of interest existed among the Empire's various social classes, such as the nobility, clergy, and middle class; and the Senate, along with other judicial bodies, had to work through a complicated series of precedents. Emperor Antigonus III had several times attempted to form a commission for the reformation and codification of the Empire's laws, but his distraction with the "Great Matter" of his marriage, with foreign affairs, and with his ecclesiastical reforms, meant that such projects never went through.
The Empress was determined to clarify and complete what her father, and grandfather, had begun. She concluded that the remedy for many of the flaws in the judicial system would be a new legal code. Her plan, therefore, was to establish a special commission comprised of members of the Councils of State, the Imperial Court, the Imperial Almitian Church, the nobility, and the leading officials of Laurasia Prime, alongside officials from the Empire's respective dioceses, guilds, and organizations. They would conduct an exhaustive study of the Empire's legal system; prepare recommendations for her approval; and work on the compilation of the final code, in accordance with the instructions that she herself would provide. These instructions came in the form of the Instruction to the Legal Commission. It would be this work that the Empress would consider to be one of the greatest intellectual achievements of her life, and central to the further reform of the Imperial Laurasian Government. The Empress began work on the Instruction in November 1761 and continued this work for more than two years. The Instruction was ultimately published on January 2, 1764. Comprised of five hundred and twenty-six articles, which were organized into twenty chapters, Aurelia presented her view of the nature of the Empire and how it should be governed. Her Instruction dealt with a considerable range of political, judicial, social, and economic questions. It discussed the situation of the Empire at the time of its compilation, and what it should be; how society ought to be organized, and how government and the administration of justice should be conducted. The tone of the Instruction was in many ways that of a teacher, rather than of a autocrat.
The preamble declared that the Almitian religion teaches its followers to perform good deeds whenever possible, and to abstain from sin. She expressed the belief that every subject wished to see his Empire happy, glorious, tranquil, and safe, and that subjects sought to live under, and to obey, laws which were clearly defined and clearly expressed. From these opinions and principles, she asserted that the Laurasian Empire was a galactic empire, thereby underlining its position in regards to the powers of the Amulak Spiral. She then moved directly to the need for absolutism in the Laurasian Empire; the sovereign was absolute because "there was no authority but that which centers in his single person that can act with a vigor proportionate to such a vast dominion." Any other form of government risked weakness. She affirmed her respect for the "inherent customs and traditions" of her Empire. These were Imperial Almitism, the laws of succession, and the existing rights and privileges of all the Empire's social classes. From there, the Empress affirmed that all of her subjects should be subject to the same laws. The Empress provided a firm defense of the death penalty, declaring that subjects who threatened the tranquility of the state, committed treason, engaged in rebellion, or threatened her life, and the lives of her ministers, deserved no mercy. At the same time, however, Aurelia qualified the definitions for les-majestie and sedition, declaring that a thorough investigation of all alleged crimes and offenses should be conducted first. The Instruction therefore provided a overall analysis of the different categories of crime and the appropriate punishments. Crimes against property should be punished by deprivation of property; due process should govern all procedures in lower courts, and lower-ranking defendants should be permitted defense counsel; attention should be paid to the role of judges, the truth of evidence, and the quality of proof required in reaching verdicts.
The Empress wrote the Instruction in High Laurasian, which was translated by the Imperial Chancellory into Laurasian and into thousands of other languages, such as Dasian, Arachosian, Briannian, etc. The Empress worked in private until April 1763, when she began to show drafts, first to Lord Antiochus Dudley (future Earl of Leicesterius), and then Chancellor Cecilis. Dudley provided a laudatory opinion of the Empress's work; Cecilis, on his part, proposed revisions, although he supported the Empress's overall thrust. The Empress herself, upon the final publication, made no claim to originality of authorship, having drawn inspiration from scholars and historians such as Sir Antiochus Foxius, Lady Vassalina, and the Laurasian legal scholar Sir Caelius Beccrania (1737-94), one of the most renowned scholars of the Imperial Jurisprudence Academy. Yet upon its publication in January 1764, the Instruction received much praise at the Imperial Court, and among the Councils of State. With this work having being completed, she now felt confident to move on to the legal commission to actively revise the Empire's legal code. On February 17, 1764, the Empress formally established the Legal Review Commission. This commission was comprised of thirty members: twelve from the Councils of State, twelve from among the clergy of the Imperial Almitian Church, and the remaining six from the Empire's leading officials. The commission was chaired by the Procurator-General of the Governing Senate, Imperial Privy Seal, and Minister of Justice, Sir Nicholas Bagonius. The Commission first convened on March 2, 1764; the Empress herself, flanked by Chancellor Cecilis, by the Imperial Privy Council, and members of the Imperial Court, opened the first session. All members of the Commission were presented with a bound copy (in red leather) of the Instruction, a medal bearing the Empress's likeness, and a honorary banner of state. Following this session, in which Aurelia found herself compared to Gordian I (compiler of the Codex Gordansius in the fifth century), and to Honorius the Liberator (Codex Honoriusius of 1097), the Commission proceeded to its work. Over the course of the next three years, the Commission would review the Imperial Legal Archives, the Codification Archives of the Governing Senate, the Privy Council Archives, and the Empire's prior legal codifications, including those of Neuchrus the Reformer's reign, the Digest of Ulpian, the Codex Iuradius of Lysimachus I, and the Codex Aristobalnus of Antiochus the Great. Finally, on July 14, 1768, the Codex Aureliana, the complete codification of the laws and legal "norms" of the Laurasian Empire, was completed and presented to the Empress, by the Commission, in an audience at the Quencilvanian Palace.
It was formally promulgated four days later, announced to the Empire's subjects from the Imperial Court, and issued to all imperial administrative, judicial, and court institutions. The Code was divided into eight books, compiled under fifteen volumes. The books of the Codex Aureliana were: the Institutions of the Empire, the Military and Religious Laws, the Treasury and Financial Laws, Estate Laws, the Civil Laws, the Laws of Public Service, the Laws of Public Provision (these two categories concerned all laws relating to healthcare, welfare, education, social aid and provision, transport, local government aid, grants, etc.), and the Criminal Laws. The Codex covered everything from laws concerning the basic operations and procedures of the Imperial Chancellory and the Councils of State; to laws relating to taxation, tariffs, customs, commercial regulations, transport regulations, product standards, and duties; to laws concerning currency, bankruptcy, counterfeiting, and the banking system; to laws concerning the Almitian Church, and other denominations within the Empire; and to laws on passports, industry, agriculture, the rights and privileges of social estates, the nobility, and the Imperial Household. The Codex Aureliana proved to have a significant effect upon the legal system of the Laurasian Empire. It compiled all relevant imperial statutes, constitutions, rescripts, codes, charters, decrees, edicts, ministerial instructions, civil service orders, judicial rulings, verdicts, precedents, and other enactments which had been passed since the emergence of the Stellar Kingdom of Laurasia from the Dasian Yoke (1080); it explicitly repealed, or overrode, all laws which contradicted with the later enactments of sovereigns or of the Imperial Government; and it provided a detailed registry of explanations on how the law was to be interpreted and how it was to be applied. Annotations and references were included with all the laws, so as to make it clear which derived from whom. All statutes of repeal were noted, and sections of those statutes that had been struck down were clearly indicated. The Codex made all of the Empire's estates and subjects aware of their obligations under law, and it systematized the operations of the Almitian Church, and of the Empire's judicial system.
Mention must also be made of the Empress's central administrative reforms of 1763, as they pertain to the Governing Senate and the Imperial Courts. As mentioned in the timeline, Aurelia's sister and predecessor, Didymeia I, had enacted the Privy Council Statute in November 1756, which had reorganized that body's membership, administrative procedures, and responsibilities. However, the Governing Senate, of which much had been done by the Neuchrian sovereigns to reduce its powers and constrain its responsibilities, continued to remain in virtually the same form as it had at the commencement of the eighteenth century. The Senate was organized into the Consultative, Criminal, Civil, Investigative, Judicial, and Heraldmaster's Offices. It had 150 members, presided over, as always, by the Procurator-General. Empress Aurelia was concerned about the Senate's inefficiency and unwieldiness, and was determined to further reorganize and reform the body. She also sought to resolve jurisdictional boundaries, and to make clear the Senate's authority over the Imperial Courts, which had, during the reign of her father, become confused. This reform was enacted by the decree of December 15, 1763.
The Senate was now reorganized into just four departments: Criminal, Civil, General Administrative, and Heraldry. The responsibilities of the Judicial and Consultative Offices were consolidated under that of the General, while those of Investigative were divided between the Criminal and Civil Departments, with the appropriate agencies. The Criminal Department assumed responsibility for all criminal appeals and cases brought before the Senate; it thereby received super-visionary jurisdiction over the Courts of Star Chamber and the Imperial Chancery. The Civil Department assumed responsibility for all civil appeals and cases; it therefore gained jurisdiction over the Courts of Requests and Common Pleas. The General Administrative Department became responsible for providing advice to the Privy Council and sovereign; for the codifications, publications, and public proclamations issued by the Senate; and for the affairs of the Procurators, as well all secretarial and routine matters connected to the Senators. Heraldry assumed responsibility for the affairs and monitoring of the nobility, including the list of all noble properties, the list of all nobles in military, civil, or economic service, the procedures, honors, and etiquette rules of the nobility, noble representation and administration, and the imposition of all imperial taxes and obligations on noble properties and holdings. It gained jurisdiction over the Imperial Court of Wards (responsible for all wardships, noble loans, liens, and annuities), which was now removed from that of Common Pleas.
The membership of the Senate was reduced from 150 to 100, ten officials were excluded from the term limits, and the Senate regained authority to monitor the proceedings of all lower courts. The Criminal and Civil Departments were each granted the authority to issue writs of compulsion, warrants, and subpoenas. Moreover, it was made clear that if each Department failed to render a judicial opinion or verdict in each case it decided, then the full session of the Senate would do so. If the Senate could not, or if there was a dispute over the application of the law to the facts and circumstances of each case, then it would be automatically referred to the monarch for a final decision. The Procurator-General was given the power to issue instructions to each Department, concerning the nature of proceedings, and to review all opinions, verdicts, and rulings before they were published. The Empress, however, decided to embark on further reform. By the decrees of April 19, 1766 and June 7, 1769, the Empress provided for the establishment of the position of Attorney-General, joining that of Solicitor-General, helping to further clarify the situation in regards to the Courts and governmental representation in legal proceedings. They became the third and fourth highest ranking officers of the imperial judiciary respectively, beneath the Procurator-General and Vice Procurator-General, and above the Chief Justices of the Imperial Courts. The Attorney-General became the chief legal consultant to the Privy Council, Senate, and Courts, as well as to all other government agencies, bureaus, and ministries. He assumed responsibility for the official review and writs for all imperial appeals cases, for the supervision of all prosecution services, and for the legal representation of all officers accused of offenses in the course of fulfilling their duties. The Solicitor-General, on his part, became the chief trial lawyer for the Imperial Laurasian Government, responsible for the preparation and execution of all cases at the Imperial Courts and before the Senate. He gained the authority to issue writs of nolle prosequi to delay or suspend criminal or other prosecutions, to preside over the collection and admission of all evidence, and to select all consultative panels, juries, and experts used in trials. Both the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General gained subordinate deputies of their own. The creation of these offices helped to further clarify the legal processes in the Empire.
Administration of the Laurasian EmpireEdit
As mentioned in the Eighteenth Century timeline, the Malarian and Pugachevia Rebellions underlined in a dramatic way the deficiencies of Laurasian local administration which had already been exposed by the proceedings of the deliberative commission of 1768-71, and through debates in the Imperial Privy Council. The Treaty of Kuchuk Kaynarca (1774), released the Empress's mental energies from the task of prosecuting the war. Already, in August 1774, the Empress wrote in a communique to the Duke of Robert, who then served as Governor of Robert and Meris, warning him that she was planning a reform of the local administration. There was much material for her to draw upon. As early as October 1764, Aurelia had ordered all provincial governors to reconsider the redelimation of solar districts in their jurisdictions in such a way that they should each contain approximately 24,000 star systems, thus equalizing the revenue to be derived from taxation. Governors were ordered to centralize all communications and transit at their headquarters, and to provide maps, lists, and catalogs to the Imperial Ministries of Regional Administration & Space/Transportation, so that accurate information could be derived about the geographical and political circumstances of the Empire's territories. This would make for a more effective reform.
The reports, proposals, and comments which were sent in by the various governors and vicars were collated by the Ministry of Regional Administration, and submitted to the Empress on January 11, 1768. Not content with merely replying to the instructions of October 1764, many governors had also underlined the difficulties they met with; four of them submitted a joint note to the Privy Council in February 1768, urging the need for more expenditures, more staff, and more authority. They proposed that governors should be given greater charge over executive matters, and more responsibilities in regards to the judicial authorities resident in their jurisdictions. They wanted greater power of appointment over their own personal staffs and the right to compel nobles and officials to fulfill their responsibilities. In April 1768, the Empress established, on the recommendation of Chancellor Cecilis and the Earl of Leicesterius, a commission to study local administration. This commission disposed of extracts from previous legislation on local administration; the reports from the local administration, the nobility, and the Privy Council; and the Ministry of Regional Administration's report of January 1768 to the Empress. In addition, Aurelia herself supplied the commission with three dispatches about the circumstances of government. The first dispatch (April 29, 1768), stated that the object of the committee was to study the "intermediate subordinate powers dependent on the supreme power, and forming the substance of government" and the "division into parts of the whole of society for the better observation of good order." Since nothing could be achieved without a clear picture of the existing situation, the committee was invited to produce a report on the existing territorial division and analysis of the structure, powers, and hierarchy of local and regional institutions. The second dispatch (May 20, 1768), invited the committee to examine the principles of a new territorial division of gubernatorial administration. In the third dispatch (May 26, 1768) Aurelia took for granted the functional separation of administrative and judicial functions. She invited the committee to consider the number of government agencies required, their functions, their division into separate departments, their hierarchical relationship with each other and with the Imperial Government; the committee was to define the duties of proposed offices and officials, and to provide a list of the establishments and proposed salaries of each office.
The committee continued to work until October 1771, when it was formally disbanded. Due to the distractions of the Fourth Laurasian-Marasharite War, the Marianian Civil War, the War of the Bar Confederation, and the rebellions, as well as the Ridolfi Plot and numerous other concerns, the committee executed its duties in a disorganized, haphazard fashion. It had to work with the various materials and reports of the government archives, and its task was considerable. Nevertheless, although not developing a complete plan, the committee did develop some basic principles: one, for the complete restructuring of local administration, not merely the improvement of what existed; two, the separation of functions, judicial, administrative, military, and financial; third, the reorganization of the Empire's local courts, and a new division of the galaxy's administrative units based on a principle of equalization. The need to associate elected members of society with appointed government officials was accepted. The views of the Empress, the Privy Council, the committee, and the local authorities all coincided on the need for fundamental reform and the principles on which such reform should be conducted.
Although the committee ceased to meet in October 1771, and Laurasia was embroiled in military conflict, as well as diplomatic intrigue, scattered legislative acts suggested that the impulse of reform had not been completely abandoned. As early as December 1766, the Empress had authorized for the establishment of the offices of sub-aedile and marshal of the nobility. In 1768 and 1771, new instructions were issued to the governors, ordering them to discharge active military responsibilities to the commanders in their jurisdictions, to report on all future legislative enactments by local assemblies and bodies, and to refer executive orders to the Senate, to insure their constitutionality. In 1773, the administrative organization of the Province of Lavella was conducted in accordance with the committee's recommendations, allowing for the Empress and the Privy Council to experiment with new innovations. Upon her return to Laurasia Prime in January 1775, Empress Aurelia finally proceeded with the real work of governmental reform on the regional and local level. She disposed of all the materials which had been available to the committee, and those produced by or submitted to the Privy Council, as well as the Ministry of Regional Administration. In November 1774, the Earl of Leslie had submitted a plan of reform for the Ashlgothia Major Province, proposing functional separation; the abolition of the dioceses, and their replacement with uniform "governorates"; along with the retention of the provinces, and their subdivision into districts. Aurelia also received memoranda from the Duke of Christiania, advocating the establishment of regional and provincial branches of central government offices, a reduction in the number of the Empire's chief administrative divisions, and the subordination of all local judiciary authorities to the Governing Senate. In addition, Aurelia drew upon communiques relating to the provincial administration of Pruthia, Austarlia, and Spamalka.
On May 5, 1775, the Empress appointed a second governmental commission, entrusted with conducting a final examination of the situation of the regional and provincial administration of her realms and to make recommendations as to how this situation could be remedied. In her manifesto establishing the commission, issued from the Palace of Secrets on Paradine (to which the Empress had retired for a short visit), she declared that "the events of recent years, concerning the lately-passed upheavals in the Malarian and Huntite Provinces, have convinced me that that the situation in this Empire is one which requires immediate change." Although she praised her ministers for the efforts they had made at maintaining the stability of the Imperial Government, and declared that the Empire was in a state of great economic prosperity, Aurelia nevertheless stated that reforms needed to be enacted to maintain her authority "on the localized level." The commission therefore established was comprised of fifty members, from the three Councils of State, the nobility, the civil service and administration, and the Imperial Court. Lord Treasurer Burghley chaired the commission. Chancellor Walsingis; Field-Marshals Rumanstevius and Dologruvkius; the Earls of Leicesterius, Jadia, Aretha, Sarah, Hannah, Caladaria, and Darcia; the Duke of Christiania; the Mayor of Christiania; the Governor of Laurasia Prime; the Prefect of the Huntite Provinces; the Prefect of the Melarnarian Provinces; Sir Rudomentus Sadielus; Sir Willanius Drury; Procurator-General Bagonius; Lord Knollysis; Minister of Finance Mildmay; and numerous other prominent officials were also appointed to the commission, which first convened on May 23, 1775. The commission now reviewed all of the information previously provided to the deliberative committee, and to other relevant government agencies. This commission worked vigorously for over four months, making more progress than those which had preceded it.
On September 14, 1775, at the Quencilvanian Palace, the commission presented its recommendations to the Empress in a formal audience. The Empress had then ordered the paralegals of the Ministry of Justice and the Imperial Chancellory to draft the final statute in accordance with the report. Their efforts, supervised by Procurator-General Bagonius and the Earl of Jadia, who now served as Minister of Regional and Local Administration, prevailed. On November 17, 1775, the Imperial Statute of the Regional and Provincial Administration of the Laurasian Empire was promulgated by Empress Aurelia, constituting the most extensive reform of Laurasian local administration in history. This statute established the basic structure of Laurasian administration and of its associated judicial system at the regional, provincial, and local level, along with the organization of the Empire's administrative divisions, which persisted into the following century. In the introductory section to the Statute, it was declared that "the welfare of our Empire has compelled us to promulgate this measure, in order to defeat the conspiracy of usurpers; the evil doings of rebels; and the acts of the anti-Almitis." It was necessary for a complete reform of the Empire's administrative structure, the Statute further declared, so that "the spirit of the Lord Almitis" may be appeased and all troubles in the Empire's realms resolved. The Statute was divided into six chapters. Chapter I concerned the delineation and the territorial constitution of the administrative divisions of the Empire, dividing the Empire into forty Governorates with 920 provinces and 2760 districts. Previously, the Empire had been divided into twenty-five prefectures with forty dioceses and 500 provinces. Each governorate was to have a total of 1,700,000 inhabited star systems. Each province, in turn, was to have 73,913 star systems; each district, 24,637 systems. By increasing the number of administrative divisions and apportioning them with a roughly equal number of star systems, the Empress sought to lower the possibilities for a revolt and to strengthen governmental oversight over every segment of the Empire's local population.
Chapter 2 concerned the executive and legislative functions of the Governor-General, the Gubernatorial Council, and the gubernatorial boards of administration. The Governor-General, at the head of the pyramid, was to be the leading official in each governorate. They were to serve as the Emperor's leading representatives in each governorate, ranking immediately below the hierarchy of the Imperial Court. They were to be appointed and dismissed by the Emperor at will. Although originally the Governor-Generals, as they had first been constituted in the Empire's earlier centuries, had been given absolute authority over all matters of importance in their jurisdictions, they were, by the reforms of Empress Aurelia, stripped of their military functions. These were to rest in the hands of the Magister Militums (Masters of the Imperial Forces), who were to be the highest ranking military commanders within a particular governorate. One was to be an officer of the Imperial Army; the other an officer of the Imperial Navy. This particular reform was especially inspired by the events of the Malarian and Pugachevia Rebellions; the Empress believed that the separation of civilian and military functions on the regional level would reduce the challenges posed to her authority and would establish a balance of power in the Empire's local administration. The Governor-General was obliged to submit weekly reports to the Emperor and the Council. In order to ensure that the Governor-Generals stayed to their tasks of office and did not nurture any ambitions of their own, a Imperial Justicari (Justiciar), or representative of the monarch's will, was to be attached to each Governor-General. The Justicari, who was appointed and dismissed by the monarch directly, was to be responsible for monitoring the activities of the Governor-General.
All reports communicated to the Imperial Privy Council and the sovereign by the Governor-General had to be proofread and approved by the Justiciar before it could be formally submitted. The Justiciar was given the authority to countermand any of the orders or directives given by the Governor-General or his subordinates. He also had the power to suspend the Governor-General from exercising the duties of his office, if it was deemed that the Governor-General engaged in conduct "unbecoming to his position". This was generally defined as treason, conspiracy, corruption, or overall incompetence. Finally, the Justiciar had the authority to dispatch his own reports to the Privy Council and the monarch concerning the Governor-General's conduct, and he was obliged to report all matters concerning the Governor-General's personal family life, transactions, and properties on a routine basis. Besides the Justiciar, however, the Governor-General was to considerable authority. He had the authority to promulgate executive orders and directives with the force of law in his jurisdiction, as long as these did not contradict or modify imperial laws or the directives of the Imperial Chancellory. These orders were generally issued in accordance with the Governor-General's chief duty of executing the will of the monarch. As the highest executive official in the governorate, the Governor-General had the responsibility to enforce the laws of the Empire. Consequently, he held the power of supervision (vigilantiae virtute) over all provincial governors, district proconsuls, and system governors placed under his authority. This authority gave him the ability to demand reports and communiques from these subordinate executive officials; to countermand or override their orders and directives when these were viewed as contradictory to the aims of the Imperial Government; and to suspend them from executing their duties, in extraordinary cases of misconduct.
The Governor-General was allowed, in the case of a provincial or district vacancy, to appoint a temporary office-holder, who would execute the duties of that office until the sovereign formally named a replacement. The Governor-General also had the ability to recommend successors to a position to the monarch, and he was the one responsible for delivering the seals of office to appointees. The Governor-General also coordinated the operation of the gubernatorial civil service. It was his responsibility to ensure that orders of the Imperial Government to local government officials were followed without question. The Governor-General was to mediate disputes among those within the regional civil service, issue regulations pertaining to the operations of the civil service, and send instructions to the gubernatorial officials in the star systems as necessary. To assist the Governor-General in his duties, and serving as the highest administrative council in the governorate, there was established, in each governorate, the Gubernatorial Council. The Gubernatorial Council was to be comprised of two houses: the upper house, known as the Council of Secretaries, was to be comprised of the chief secretaries of state of that particular governorate, as well as the Vice-Governor General, the Gubernatorial Justiciar, the Chief Praetor of Justice (leading judicial official of that governorate and head of the Regional Court of Assizes, highest court of law in each governorate), the Quaestor of Finance (leading official of finances for the Governor-General's household), and the Chief Secretary of the Gubernatorial Chancellory. The second house, known as the Gubernatorial Advisory Consistory, was to be comprised of the leading nobles, knights, and personages of that particular governorate. Generally, this meant the one hundred wealthiest and most important nobles in that governorate, including dukes, counts, earls, viscounts, barons, and baronets; the Knights Banneret and Knights Hereditary; and the fifty wealthiest non-noble personages of that governorate.
Finally, the twenty-three Provincial Governors under that Governor-General's authority were to attend the Council as non-participatory members. Of the two, the Council of Secretaries was responsible for executing and countermanding (collectively) the Governor-General's directives; operating the daily administration of the regional civil service; and dispensing advice to the Governor-General. The Advisory Consistory was to present petitions and pleas to the Governor-General; inform him of affairs in the Governorate; and protect the interests of the gubernatorial elites. Most of the boards of administration were to be chaired by a Secretary, with a Vice-Secretary, Board Assessor, and five other officials. The exceptions were the Boards of Justice (chaired by the Praetor in his capacity as highest judicial authority), Finance (chaired by the Quaestor), and Defense (chaired by the two Magister Militums of the Governorate). Each governorate was to have boards of justice, finance, police and security, administration, agriculture and resources, health and welfare, colonization, education, labor and commerce, transportation, energy, nobles' affairs, and defense. The Governor-General was to have the authority to appoint and dismiss these secretaries and most other regional officials, with the exception of the Praetor of Justice, the Justiciar, the Quaestor, and the Magister Militums. These officials were to be appointed by the monarch directly, and they in turn, were responsible for confirming the Governor-General's appointments. This formed a major check on his authority. As regards to each of these boards, some things must be noted. The Gubernatorial Board of Finance assumed responsibility for the census, local income and expenditure, collection of taxes, checking accounts, government monopolies, and the maintenance of all state financial and collection depots. It was to have no judicial authority, but could prosecute offenders through court procedures. Quaestors, decurions, sub-decurions, rationales, and magistri privates operated within the context of the gubernatorial board of finance.
The gubernatorial board of health and welfare was given responsibility for all hospitals, health institutes, welfare collection centers, welfare administrative centers, and recipient's programs within their respective jurisdictions. The boards of education were enjoined with the duty of establishing new educational institutions as needed, in accordance with the laws on education as provided under the Empire's administrative system. The gubernatorial board of nobles' affairs was given the responsibility to report to the Department of Heraldry on matters affecting the nobility in that governorate; to enforce all laws and regulations relating to the resident nobles; and to coordinate the activities of all noble organizations within that jurisdiction. And the gubernatorial board of defense assumed responsibility for the draft, the recruit levy, the billeting of troops, and the use of troops for local law enforcement, collection, and judicial purposes. Finally, the gubernatorial board of police and security assumed responsibility for the maintenance of public order within each governorate, the enforcement of laws relating to public conduct, and the coordination of law enforcement agencies across gubernatorial boundaries.
Below the Governor-General was the Provincial Governor. Who appointed the Provincial Governor depended upon the province in question. The Imperial Laurasian Province and eighty other select provinces of the Empire, primarily those of great symbolic or cultural significance (such as the Arachosia Prime, Way'tosk, and Samarkand Provinces), were to have Governors appointed and dismissed by the Emperor directly. Another two hundred obtained Governors appointed and dismissed by the Imperial Ministry of Regional and Local Administration. Four hundred were to have governors appointed by the Privy Council (with the monarch's permission). Two hundred had governors appointed by the Ministries of Space and Transportation or Defense. For the remainder (269), the governors were nominated by the Governor-General of that jurisdiction and confirmed by the "irremovable" officials of that governorate (such as the Justiciar). The Provincial Governor, who resided in a separate residence from the Governor-General, was to be regarded as the highest executive authority in his jurisdiction. To become a Provincial Governor was (and is) considered of great significance in many star systems, for a Governor's position carries prestige, rank, and power. The Governor actually wields more authority over his jurisdiction than the Governor-General does over his. A Censor, subordinate to the Regional Justiciar, was to be attached to each Provincial Governor, and they, like the Justiciars, could report or countermand the Governor. The Censor, however, was not permitted to exercise veto power over the Governor's appointments, and he was forbidden to monitor the Governor's personal affairs without explicit permission from his Justiciar. Governors were able to appoint officials within their jurisdiction with a minimum of restraint; their Provincial Council was subordinate to them. At the provincial and district level, however, appear the localized institutions of the Imperial Government.
The Procurator-General of the Governing Senate was to be the head of the Senatorial Committee of Public Procurators. This body, as mentioned above, was responsible for rooting out corruption within the Empire's administration, having existed in one form or another since the reign of Seleucus the Victor. Each of its twelve members were, by the Statute of 1775, granted jurisdiction over four governorates in the Empire; in each of the governorates there was to be a Regional Procurator, in each Province a Provincial Procurator, and in each district a District Procurator. The Procurator-General and the Committee thereby gained control of a network of their own throughout the Empire, parallel to the Justiciars and the other officials of the local administration. The duties of the Procurators were to be mainly passive. They were to sit in at all sessions of the Gubernatorial Council and of the governor's executive meetings, and listen to the proceedings. The Procurator kept a journal in which on one side he recorded the law, on the other the decision taken. Should he wish to protest against a decision on the grounds that it was against the law, he would protest to both the Justiciar and the Governor-General. The Justiciar, in turn, was then authorized to countermand or confirm the actions of the Governor-General, as provided elsewhere in the Statue. Procurators could also appeal directly to the Senate, to overturn any executive orders which contradicted judicial verdict or decisions. The Procurators were also enjoined to report abuses by the Justiciars, and by all other government officials in the jurisdiction to which they were assigned; ensured that the varying agencies did not encroach on the responsibilities or powers of each other; acted as guardians of legality, of all actions taken by the courts, the council, and the boards of administration; and supervised the manner in which laws, orders, and directives were executed. Procurators, therefore, were the instruments to root out corruption, and represented another mechanism of control by the Imperial Laurasian Government.
The districts were each to have a District Vicar, in all cases appointed by the Provincial Governor, district committees of administration, the District Assembly of Nobility (as provided in the 1785 Charter), and the elected officials of the District Council, responsible for representing the interests of subjects. Finally, each star system in the Empire with a population of at least 100,000 obtained a Solar Governor, who wields the most authority of the local executive officials and is countermanded only by the Planetary Municipal Authorities and the Solar Assembly of Nobility.
Each Governorate in the Empire, according to the Statute, was to have a Regional Court, which was to be led by the Praetor of Justice in that jurisdiction. The Praetor, appointed and dismissed for each governorate by the monarch directly, was to serve as the chief judicial officer of that jurisdiction and as head of that governorate's Justice Board. The Senate was granted the authority to attach two Senatorial Procurators to each Regional Court, who would report on the Court's proceedings and were responsible for providing the Senate review information on lower court cases. The Procurators could also compel a Court of Assizes to halt a session, if the Senate (or the monarch) deemed it necessary, and they could consult with the Governor-General and Justiciar over administrative disputes to be referred to the Imperial Courts. Each Court of Assizes was to have twenty-four justices, appointed and dismissed by the Governor-General with the approval of the irremovable officials of his governorate. Each justice gained the right to self-immunity and to issue judicial opinions on the cases brought before them. The Court of Assizes served as the highest appellate courts in their jurisdiction, and as courts of second resort. They were required to meet for at least four sessions a year, and to hear all cases of criminal and civil appeal brought before them (unlike the Senate or Imperial Courts, who had the discretion to choose which cases to hear). The Courts of Assizes, however, wielded considerable authority, and had the right to issue warrants, supeonas, and writs of compulsion in their jurisdiction. They could also order the Governor-General or his representatives to provide them information or governmental resources as needed. Courts of Assizes possessed original jurisdiction in cases relating to the officials and agents of that particular governorate. Each Province in the Empire, in turn, was to have a Provincial Court of Assizes, comprised of twelve Justices and a Suffect with similar powers and responsibilities.
The Provincial Court, however, was required to report to the Regional Court on all cases, and to present them for automatic appeal if ordered. The District Courts, however, were different. Each District Court was to be comprised of six Justices and a Chief Justice, appointed by the gubernatorial board of justice and confirmed by the irremovable officials. District Courts were required to have a consultative panel of experts in session with them, who could determine whether or not evidence presented to the court is valid. The panel also had the authority to issue recommendations to the court as to the punishment which should be applied. All Provincial and District Justices were to be term-limited; no limits would exist for Regional Justices, who would continue to serve as long as they have "good behavior". Each star system was to have a Solar Court of Justice, and every municipality (in accordance with definitions provided by the 1785 Charter of Municipal Administration), a magistrates court of the municipality. These courts would possess authority over all petty cases in their jurisdictions; for example, property cases, certain labor cases, divorce, drug use, disruption of the public peace, robbery, theft, rape, manslaughter, murder, and perjury. The decisions of all Municipal Courts had to automatically be referred to the Solar Court for approval, however. Each of these Courts was to have two Judges and a Justice of the Peace, thereby retaining one element of Neuchrus I's system.
The implementation of the Statute was a gradual process. During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the reform of local administration was conducted, stage by stage, across the Empire. The original number of governorates, provinces, and districts established by the Statute was increased, due to the Empire's territorial expansions in the satellite galaxies, population changes, and adjustments in administrative responsibilities. By 1797, the Empire's territory had been divided into fifty uniform Governorates, with 1,150 provinces and 3,450 districts, in accordance with the population and distribution requirements as originally outlined in the Statute. The Privy Council and Senate were both active in this process, which was conducted under the Empress's personal supervision. She made careful, select appointments for each of the governorates, and gave all the officials so designated instructions modeled on those of 1764, 1768, and 1771. The designation of gubernatorial and provincial capital star systems was the first task pursued. This proved a relatively easy process, with Laurasia Prime becoming the nucleus of the Laurasia Prime Governorate, and worlds of historic, economic, or military note being given the role for each of the other governorates. Wherever possible, when devising the district and provincial boundaries, existing economic, geographic, and ethnic unity was taken into account, although they were not primary considerations. The Imperial Ministry of Education cooperated with its counterparts of Chancellory and Regional & Provincial Administration to increase the number of training academies, extend the civil service curriculum, and maintain educational requirements for local administrative posts. Between 1775 and 1799, more then 300 additional civil service academies would be opened, and the number of students training for civil positions would increase fourfold. Overall, the Statute had outstanding results, improving drastically the efficiency and the organization of the Empire's administration. By 1796, twenty-one years after it was promulgated, the number of officials in the Empire had nearly quadrupled, from 1 per 15,000 individuals to 1 per 2,000 individuals. In particular, the number of municipal aediles, financial quaestors, and law enforcement agents, all of which had their responsibilities redefined and expanded by the Statute, increased by an astounding 600%; the civil bureaucracy of the Empire's regions experienced a 2000% increase, and the courts of the Governor-Generals experienced a 500% increase in numbers of courtiers and personnel. Government officials now spent six times as much as previously on local institutions, with expenditures increasing from $6.5 quadmillion dataries in 1775 to $39.8 quadmillion dataries by 1796. Local government expenditures increased from 5% to 14% of GDP; the share of governmental civil service and justice in the imperial budget increased from 10% to 20% over the same period. The increases in local government spending during the last quarter of the eighteenth century were equal to the total amount spent in the whole period 1621-1775. This reform would be considered one of the greatest accomplishments of any Laurasian monarch.
At the beginning of her reign, the Empress Aurelia the Great had to contend with the situation in the Imperial Almitian Church of the Laurasian Empire. During the course of the preceding four decades before the commencement of the Empress's reign, the Almitian Church had undergone much revolution and much change. The travails of the Crisis of the Seventeenth Century (1635-85) had dented the Imperial Laurasian Government's position, as regards to the Church, and had loosened it of many of the controls which had been applied since the reign of Seleucus the Victor. Ecclesiastical courts, which had found themselves narrowed due to the reforms of Antiochus the Great in the 1360s and 1370s, again restored their jurisdictional boundaries. They had the right to decide on cases relating to divorce, adultery, deposition of wills and testaments, heresy, sexual offenses, and "offenses against the Law of Almitis." All religious clergymen and officials of the Church, regardless of their rank or their position in the church hierarchy, had the right to seek "the benefit of the Church", whereby they could be tried by ecclesiastical courts. The Church's wealth and influence in affairs of state had also increased. Chief Procurator Willanius Warhamius (in office 1703-32) was one example of a clergyman who acceded high to a position at the Imperial Court: he served as Procurator-General of the Governing Senate, the Empire's highest judicial council, between 1703 and 1715. His successor to that position, Cardinal Thomasius Wolesius of the Purse Region, also happened to be Chancellor of the Laurasian Empire and in 1718, was given the honorary rank of "President of the Holy Synod". These were just examples of the far reach of the Church's influence.
The Commission of Monasterial Administration, established by Seleucus I in 1305 for the maintenance of the Church's estates and of their financial obligations, was abolished in 1676 under Emperor Demetrius Severus II; the Church authorities, therefore, had regained autonomy over their own properties and finances. The creed of the Church, ultimately to be known as Traditionalism, relied upon indulgences; upon the concept of grace; and upon the sanctity of the Almitian Mass, for the services of those "followers of Almitis." The title of Pontifex Maximus, claimed by Laurasian sovereigns from 1370, had been abandoned by 1686; the Church, although still owing allegiance to the Emperor, as sovereign and as the ultimate representative of Almitis, seemed nevertheless to not have a single, effective leader in its own right. Corruption was rampant among the Church's dioceses and officials; many lost touch with their faith. It was all of this which had been struck against by Aurelia's father, Antigonus III the Extravagant, in the course of his major religious reforms between 1729 and 1742. This was accomplished through the Heretical Ratification Decree, the Declaration of Submission, the First Statute of Supremacy, the Statute of Monasterial Administration, the Suppression of the Shrines of the Almitian Church, and the Six Articles of the Almitian Church. As a result of these policies, implemented with help of Chancellor Sir Thomasius Crownapoulos, Earl of Estatius, and of Chief Procurator Thomasius Cranmerius, the Church had been deprived of nearly half of its estates and landed properties; the Commission of Economy had been restored; the title of Pontifex Maximus, and the Emperor's absolute position as "Viceregent of Almitis", reasserted; the Church's theology defined, and heresies struck against; and the authority of the ecclesiastical courts subjected to the jurisdiction of the Imperial Privy Council, though they were not totally abolished at this point. The Almitian Reformation, as this series of events became known, became even more vigorous during the reign of Antigonus's son, Demetrius II (1747-53). Under the guidance of the increasingly radical Chief Procurator Cranmerius, of his regents (Lord Protector Seymouris and the Lord President of the Privy Council, the Duke of Northumberlais), and of his own tutors, such as Sir Johanius Chekius, the Emperor came to support a series of theological, liturgical, and organizational reforms within the Church structure. The Book of Common Prayer (1749, 1752), abolished the Traditionalist Mass and instituted new worship services, prayer schedules, and religious processions for the Church. The Imperial Laurasian Government confiscated all remaining revenues belong to the Church chanceries and cells (1752), and in that year, the Second Statute of Supremacy again underlined the Church's administrative reorganization, ordering for the removal of all Traditionalist ornaments, vestments, and references within the official Church. The Emperor's government repealed the Six Articles and the traditional Heresy & Sodomy Laws, but tightened the penalties for non-conformity and for rejecting the Emperor's religious authority and prerogatives.
Furthermore, the Emperor's regime sought to purge all traces of Traditionalist influence from the Empire's education system and from its communications, culture, and public festivities. All of these policies had helped to provoke a series of rebellions, such as the Disturbance of Teth, the Kettius Rebellion, and Dunsey's Rebellion (all 1749). When Demetrius II died in 1753, a substantial portion of the Laurasian population remained loyal to the Almitian Church. After the short, ill-fated reign of Minerva Greysius, Demetrius's older half-sister, Didymeia, became Empress. She was an ardent Traditionalist, having clashed with her brother and his protectors over the question of her faith a number of times. Empress Didymeia took action from the first to reverse the reformations passed under her two predecessors. Archbishop Stephanius Gardinerius of Winchestrius, a ardent Traditionalist and one who had been deposed from his position in 1751, was restored, becoming both Chancellor and Procurator-General. With the help of Gardinerius and of such Traditionalist Archbishops as Edwardis Bonnerius, Nicholas Heathius, and (after Gardinerius's death in 1755), his successor as Chancellor, Chief Procurator Reginaldius Polsius, the Empress Didymeia instigated what became known as the Traditionalist Counter-Reformation. In 1753 and 1754, by the Statutes of Repeal, all of the religious measures passed during the preceding quarter-century were overturned; the Imperial Almitian Church was restored to its pre-1729 administration, properties, privileges, services, festivals, and beliefs. The Empress also restored the Heresy and Sodomy Laws, established the High Court of Heresies of the Almitian Church, and had many leading Reformists, among them former Chief Procurator Thomasius Cranmerius, Rogerius Perles of Darsis, Perciles Latimerius of Katie, and Sir Johnanius Chekius, arrested, imprisoned, and eventually executed. The Didymeian Persecutions (1755-58), resulted in the deaths of more than 700,000 Reformed Almitian personages throughout the Empire. Wyatta's Rebellion (1754) and the Blackria Revolt (1757) displayed the collapse in Didymeia's popularity.
Therefore, when Empress Aurelia acceded to her throne in 1758, she sought to take a moderate position, to restore many (but not all) of the measures passed by her father and half-brother, and to provide for the final administrative reorganization of the Imperial Almitian Church. This became her first goal. The Empress, within the month of her accession, suspended all currently ongoing Traditionalist services, festivals, and prayer sermons; suspended many of the most prominent Traditionalist officials and clergymen, including Archbishops Heathius and Bonneris (eventually deposed al-together in 1759); and called for moderation in manifestos to her subjects. In January 1759, following her coronation, she established a special commission, comprised of members of the Councils of State, Almitian Church, Imperial Court, and the Empire's nobility, in order to "review the situation of the revenues and properties of the Almitian Church; to conduct a evaluation of the measures passed during the reigns of our late siblings and father; and to propose recommendations as to the measures which should now be introduced." This commission was chaired by the Archbishop of Organia, Demetrius Novagradia (in office 1758-71), and by the Acting Chief Procurator, Sir Nicholas Thorckmortonia. Ultimately, the commission completed its work on April 23, 1759, and formally presented its report to the Empress Aurelia; then on May 21, 1759, the very comprehensive and exhaustive Imperial Statute for the Governance and Uniformity of the Almitian Church of the Laurasian Empire, the first of Aurelia the Great's major reform measures, was officially promulgated, delivered to all imperial judicial, administrative, military, and ecclesiastical authorities, and announced from the Imperial Laurasian Court. In this one statute was comprised all of the provisions for the reform and formal reorganization of the Imperial Almitian Church.
By the terms of this statute, the 1752 version of the Book of Common Prayer, with the exception of the Ordinal (considered "extreme" by the Empress and Chancellor Cecilis), was formally reinstated as the primary liturgy document of Almitian services. Vestments, ornaments, chalices, and other decorations in Almitian edifices were to retain their Traditionalist form. The Almitian Mass, however, was now to be in accord with the procedures and customs laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. Traditionalist Laurasians were guaranteed the right of private worship in their own residences and businesses, though all professing to the Almitian faith were required to attend official Church services from time to time. The hated Heresy and Sodomy Laws were repealed for the last time. All who had been condemned and imprisoned, fined, exiled, or executed under the terms of the Laws, during the reign of Didymeia, were exonerated of all charges and regained any lost properties or honors. The Court of High Heresies was abolished, and the powers of the ecclesiastical court system were returned to the limits that had been established by Antigonus III. The monarch's restored position as Pontifex Maximus was confirmed, and all clergymen were again enjoined to swear to oaths of supremacy and to succession.
The Church's financial and administrative organization was also altered. As had been suggested in the Final Report, all Metropolitanites and Cardinalships were abolished. Instead, each of the Empire's regions was now to be represented by a Lay Councilor, appointed and dismissed as before, by the sovereign. These councilors were not to have the authority to override the directives of lower ecclesiastical authorities, and would enjoy lower precedence than the Chief Procurator, General Councilors, and the clerics of the Almitian Church. Moreover, the Imperial Commission of Economy, as it had been organized under Antigonus III, was restored. The Commission gained control of all the revenues generated by the Church's properties and institutions. It was to be comprised of twelve members, including both laymen and clergymen; the Chair of the Commission was to be a member of the Holy Synod, and under the Empress's direct supervision. The Commission was now charged with providing for the salaries and expenses of all members of the Church; of monitoring church revenues, annuities, and benefits in the future; and of supervising the imposition of state taxes, requisitions, and levies upon the Church. The 100,000 Bishoprics and 10,000 Archbishoprics of the Laurasian Empire were divided into three categories and endowed with their respective establishments. The first comprised the sees of Laurasia Prime and the Laurasia Prime Purse Region, each of whom was to receive a annual income of €45.5 billion dataries per year. The second group, to be comprised of all the dioceses within the Empire outside of the Purse Region, received individual allotments of €35.5 billion dataries per year. Those of the third group, comprising all dioceses beyond the Empire's territory, were to receive allotments of €15 billion dataries per year, in addition to whatever amount they received from the government of the realm in which they operated. Some sees benefited from the more uniform allocation of resources, such as those of Hunt Major, Hunt Minor, Samarkand, and Samantha, all of which saw a 10% rise in their overall incomes.
Monasteries, convents, abbacies, and chantries were divided into three categories. Over 50,000 were closed entirely by the Statute, due to their lack of resources. Four received special treatment: the great St. Katherine's Monastery of Laurasia Prime received €15 billion dataries per year, the same as the extra-galactic dioceses; the Monasteries of Windowia Photis and Jenny received €10 billion dataries per year each; and the Peschenga Monastery on Sarah received €5 billion dataries per year. The monasteries and convents of the first class received €3 billion dataries per year; the second €1.5 billion dataries per year; and the third, €500 million dataries per year. Moreover, all Lay Councilors, Assessors, and other officials of the Synod received salaries based on rank, tenure, and precedence, ranging from €25 million to €485 million dataries per year. The Chief Procurator received a annual salary of €10.7 billion dataries per year, and a non-taxable annuity of €1.5 billion dataries per year. All church tithes, offerings, and dues were abolished, and in 1761, the tributum peona would be restored. The enactment of the Statute seemed a sensible compromise to many in the Imperial Government, but nevertheless, there were still segments of the Laurasian population opposed.
By the decree of June 7, 1762, the Commission of Economy would also be granted the authority to issue reports about the financial affairs of the Church's clergymen, and to terminate government funds to any monasteries or estates found deficient in their spiritual duties. The Empress Aurelia herself, during the course of the decades following the promulgation of the initial Statute of Religious Administration, legislated on matters relating to the Church's dissident sects, to its educational system, its judicial system, and to its welfare functions. In 1763, she forbade deacons, reverends, and priests from disciplining all minor officials and deans under their control through means of fines or corporal punishment. In 1765, new procedures were laid down for the defrocking of those Almitian officials found in neglect of their responsibilities. By the decree of January 8, 1763, the Commission of Education and Welfare was established, responsible for dispensing financial aid to secular universities, guilds, institutions, and organizations from the Church's coffers; maintaining the Church's charity, welfare, and community service operations; and providing for the administration and regulation of all ecclesiastical institutes of education. Later that same year, the Empress reformed the pensions system, mandating that all clerics were to receive payments based upon their years of service and their rank; moreover, these were to derive from the Imperial Ministry of Health and Sentient Services, not from the Commission of Economy. In 1764, Aurelia ordered for the abolition of the Synostic Board of the Converted, which had previously been responsible for all conversion and proselytizing efforts among non-Almitian communities in the Empire; in 1769, the Synod would be explicitly forbidden to force anyone to disavow their faith and join the Almitian Church. In 1766, the Empress sponsored the establishment of the College of the Holy Trinity on Alicia, which became one of the leading ecclesiastical institutes for education in the Empire; during the course of her reign, more than 30,000 additional Almitian academies, preparatory schools, ecclesiastical institutes, and spiritual colleges would be established.
The decrees of June 9, 1769, and January 3, 1771, concerned the administrative reorganization of these institutions, creating the position of Vice-Minister of Religious Instruction in the Imperial Ministry of Education, responsible for the supervision of all Church educational efforts; in 1776, the Holy Synod, under the direction of Chief Procurator Demetrius Grindalius, promulgated the Twelve Curriculum Regulations, dealing with the subject matter to be taught in Almitian academies; the programs and courses to be offered; and the requirements for further progress in the Church's educational ranks. Moreover, the Empress first limited, and then abolished entirely, the Church's independent ecclesiastical judicial system, which maintained its jurisdiction over members of the clergy, holy orders, and those associated with the Church, convicted for crimes committed in or under Church service. The decree of April 8, 1767, forbade the ecclesiastical authorities from applying hard labor or corporal punishment to any priest accused of a crime; in 1771, this prohibition would be extended to the deacons, reverends, and administrative elders of the Church. In 1773, Aurelia abolished the requirement of ecclesiastical advice for wills, testaments, and divorces, and in 1774, she confirmed Demetrius II's decree authorizing for all Laurasian subjects to obtain a civil marriage decree, without recourse to the Church authorities. In 1776, as alluded to in the Eighteenth Century timeline, Chief Procurator Grindalius embarked on his own measures to improve the judicial system. He had established a commission of ecclesiastical and civil representatives, in October 1775, to review the situation of the Church's judicial system. This commission worked for nearly a year and produced its final report on September 15, 1776. In the report, the commission recommended that the "benefit of clergy", the right granted to clergy and prelates of the Almitian Church to be tried by the church courts, be redefined. The commission proposed that clerics and officials below the rank of deacon be denied this benefit; that those who were given the benefit would still be subject to final judgment by the Governing Senate; and that the benefit should not apply in cases of treason or conspiracy.
The commission also recommended the abolition of the Ecclesiastical Court of Martial Affairs; the reformation of the ecclesiastical judicial service; and the implementation of new trial regulations for the court system. Grindalius issued a manifesto expressing his agreement with its recommendations, but his subsequent dispute with the Empress, and his dismissal from office in 1777, ultimately ended all moves in this direction. In 1779, Aurelia ordered for all church authorities to turn over their court and trial records to their secular counterparts; in 1780, she abolished the practice of "civil disposition", which allowed the Church to hand over fugitives for punishment by secular authorities. Finally, by the decree of April 9, 1783, issued the day after the annexation of the Haynsia, the Empress formally abolished all remaining ecclesiastical courts in the Imperial Almitian Church. All clergymen lost their rights of benefit, and were subjected to the jurisdiction of secular courts in the same manner as laymen. Only members of the Holy Synod remained subject to a trial by that body, and such verdicts could be revised or overturned by the Senate, or by the Empress herself, at any time. Aurelia also continued the drive against abuses within the Church, exemplified by the decree of April 18, 1788, in which penalties were laid out for the offense of simony. Any offices that were unlawfully bestowed within the ecclesiastical service could be declared void by the Synod; the offender would be disbarred from making future appointments and could be fined up to €150 million dataries for his crime.
Empress Aurelia also maintained her promise of toleration towards the Traditionalists. In 1764, the Empress issued a manifesto promising religious toleration to all who decided to convert from Reformism to Traditionalism. Two years later, she explicitly forbade municipal authorities from imposing any license fees upon those who wished to establish Traditionalist benefices. The Imperial Statute of Regional and Provincial Administration (1775), confirmed the right of Traditionalists to sit upon the Gubernatorial Council; the decrees of April 7, 1776, June 8, 1777, and January 9, 1778, provided for the grant of colonization and transit privileges to Traditionalist merchants, and groups who wished to maintain their own congregations at the Empire's colonies. The Municipal Ordinance for Christiania in 1782 deprived governmental authorities in that city of their right to censor and to halt Traditionalist assemblies. The manifesto of April 9, 1784, forbade the Imperial Ministry of Justice from prosecuting any Traditionalist who did not attend official church services unless if a thorough investigation were conducted. In 1785, the right of religious toleration was guaranteed for all who wished to settle in the Empire. The Empress also proved her benevolence as relations to the Empire's minority religions and cults (of which, in the late eighteenth century, there were more than five million). In 1770, 1775, 1782, and 1796, she issued reconfirmations of the Venasian Matrons' privileges, including their right to polygamous marriage (among the Venasian circles) and to the divinity of the Motherly Order. In 1767, the Dasian Order received a charter conferring it the right to construct temples and mortuaries to the Dasian faith in the Galactic Borderlands and in the Hypasian Provinces; five years later, the Empress permitted Solidaritan Mirahs to conduct their pilgrimage to the Galactic Void, which had been denied them under Didymeia I. In 1776, an edict of the Imperial Ministry of Commerce would remove all restrictions upon Solidaritan religious prosteylzing activity in the Satian Provinces.
The All Faiths Toleration Edict of 1774 granted universal religious toleration to all sects, denominations, and cults within the Empire. In 1775, Dejanican Jewrians were absolved of the responsibility to pay taxes to the Holy Synod, and all of their churches were granted exemption from enumerations imposed by the Imperial Laurasian Government. In 1786, the Empress specifically included Jewrians under the privileges of the All Faiths Toleration Edict, forbidding the Holy Synod or any other governmental authorities from interfering with their kahals (community councils) or their fasting, observance, and holiday privileges. In 1794, Aurelia abolished all special taxes or requisitions imposed upon any foreign religious practice. In 1776, Aurelia ordered for the release of Roastafarian Cultists and of Anastasian Athornics who had been imprisoned at Nathaniel, Sanegeta, and Hooper; in 1777, she permitted the Atheist Foundation of Kane to establish a center of non-religious communication on Caladaria. In 1779, the Empress ordered the Holy Synod to take all necessary actions to suppress cults or traditions "who sought to harm the authority of this government, or to damage the integrity of other religions or such organizations." The Westarian Fanatics, one of the Empire's more infamous speciesist religious sects, was suppressed on her command in 1781; in 1782, Empress Aurelia included Haynsian Karatists, Marasharite Sultanists, and Pruthian Militarists under the privileges of the Christiania Municipal Statute, granting them the right to construct edifices and to hold prayer sessions in the squares of the Empire's capital city.
The following year (1783), she granted recognition to the Wiccas of Hypasia Minor, and in 1784, lifted restrictions upon drudist rituals. In 1787, the Wiccas would be granted tax-exempt status for all of their temples and worship sites. In 1790, the Empress established the position of Hamba Lama, as the chief religious authority over the Mauryan Buddhists; the following year, she provided for the organization of the Orenaria Spiritual Huntite Assembly, which assumed jurisdiction over the appointment of all Buddhist Lamas, as well as the schools, religious life, and customs of their faith. The batas (High Priests) of Hunt were given personal exemption from tax obligations, and were granted rank equivalent to that of Laurasian clergymen in the Empire. In 1792, she sponsored the publication of the Brestord Imam, by Mullah Attila Crim, on Hunt Major; in 1795, the autonomy of Mullahs of the Brestord Faith was restored, and the Holy Synod's right of supervision over them eliminated. The Empress also offered generous terms for any Franconian Huguenots, Durthian Calvinists, or Masacavanian Orthodoxics who migrated to her Empire; the rate of immigration, of these Amulak sects, increased more than 400% during her reign.
The reign of the Empress Aurelia the Great witnessed the substantial expansion of the Laurasian Empire's economy and commerce; the period from 1758 to the end of the century witnessed more economic growth, and economic expansion, than in any previous period in galactic history. The Empress's reign was characterized by the massive expansion and stabilization of the Empire's hyperoute system; by the intensification of commercial ties with the powers of the Great Amulak Spiral, in particular the Great Kingdom of Masacavania, the United Durthian States, and the Serene Kingdom of Franconia, among other powers; by substantial rises in disposable income, income equality, standards of living, the number of middle and upper-class households, and personal financial stability; and by a heavy drop in rates of poverty, homelessness, or financial defaults. From the beginning, the Empress and her ministers, in particular Lord Treasurer Winchestrius and his chief subordinate, Minister of Finance Sir Walterius Mildmay, sought to stabilize the Empire's banking and currency system. In 1759, the Lord Treasurer, in order to prevent inflation and to continue the drive against peculation which had begun during Demetrius II's reign, forbade the exchange of rilleite for silver; as a result of this measure, rates of inflation dropped from 7.9% to 3.2% by 1762. The following year, on Winchestrius's recommendation, the Empress abolished three of the chief monopolies which had been relied upon by the Imperial Treasury throughout most of the eighteenth century, but nevertheless stifled competition: those on cranium salt, tibournite ore, and mineral bactas. She offered subsidies and annuities to any businesspeople who would assume a share in these monopolies; by 1767, the Narrian Mines, St. Xenophus's Corporation of Ralina Vixius, and Tagge Corporation had all taken roles in the exportation of cranium salt; Christiania Pharmaceuticals widened its activities into mineral bactas. The Empress then focused her attention upon the development of agricultural and mineral resources within her realms. She authorized survey expeditions by the Imperial Ministries of Energy & Planetary Resources, Space & Transportation, and Agriculture in order to study the soil of agricultural colonies and habitation outposts throughout the Empire, and to propose suitable crops for cultivation at those colonies.
She offered grants and annuities to any who sponsored the development of agricultural resources in the Empire's most recently colonized star systems, and for those who introduced new technologies, methods of cultivation, and crop strands unto their own properties, estates, and businesses. The Imperial Ministry of Labor & Commerce provided subsidies to those factories which developed new agricultural resources for their products and services. She encouraged the introduction of methods, introduced in the Laurasia Prime Purse Region, for the breeding of agricultural beasts, such as rancors, nerfs, cattle, sheep, and agricultural steeds. The Empress, by the manifestos of January 9, 1762 and February 1, 1763, continued with the policies of her predecessors, extending all the way back to Honorius the Liberator, of introducing liberal terms of free transportation, freedom of religion, freedom to petition authorities, and freedom of economic development, for those who immigrated to, and developed the resources, of the Empire's colonies. These offers were aggressively promoted on the Holonet and in holopublications throughout the Empire. The Imperial Ministry of Energy & Planetary Resources worked with mining firms, survey corporations, foundries, and mineral refineries throughout the Empire to survey, and make more effective use, of the Caladarian Galaxy's natural resources. The Imperial Academy of Sciences dispatched its geologists to all galactic regions; in 1768, the Imperial Metallurgical Academy of Oxia Vixius was established, complete with its own artificial mining operations, in order to refine mining technologies and methods. Three hundred more metallurgical academies would be established by 1796. The Empress also encouraged the further production of velvets, silks, and of other garments, sponsoring the establishment of clothing plants and refineries on Laurasia Prime and elsewhere during the 1770s and 1780s. As early as 1762, the Imperial Ministry of Labor & Commerce had eased the requirements for the operation and maintenance of new factories and plants, permitting for a array of businesses in textiles, household goods, electronics, industrial and mining tools, and miscellaneous equipment to arise. Linen, pottery, leather goods, and furniture were among the luxury industries which blossomed within the Empire.
The Chancellors' Corp of Engineers was organized by imperial charter in 1774; by 1798, it had become a prominent producer of barometers, thermometers, and mathematical instruments. Aurelia granted numerous annuities and loans to guilds and universities that expanded their mathematical, practical arts, and engineering programs. The Empress herself founded numerous factories for the Imperial Household, including linens factories on Kacee, Englestrom, Dromund, Alyssa, Wakino, Drake, and Rutherford; a metallurgical plant on Gilestis V; industrial goods factories on Narra, Breha, Offshora, Christopher, Chobania, Dorothea, Lange, Leseur, Bookman, and Rolle; a furniture factory on Venasia Minor; and numerous factories for mining tools, starship components, engines, and weapons systems on worlds from Arachosia Prime, to Kalbacha Major, to Bucharina, to Scanlan, to George, and to Melorkia Major. Between 1758 and 1803, the number of factories, mines, and industrial facilities in the Empire increased by more than 4000%; more than 75,000 new industrial firms and corporations were organized; and all of the Empire's industries recorded substantial rises in profits and production. The military, industrial equipment, luxury goods, and mining tools industries all increased considerably; agricultural yields increased to an average of 7.3 billion tons per inhabited star system by 1796.
The Empress's foreign trade and navigation policies also played a major role in the expansion of the Empire's economy. As mentioned in the timeline, her sister, Empress Didymeia, had sponsored the establishment of commercial and diplomatic ties with the Grand Duchy of Masacavania (1757), as sealed through the Treaty of Moscow. Grand Prince Ivan IV, and his successors, his son Feodor I (1784-98), and grandson Dmitry I (1798-1805), established very positive relations with the Imperial Laurasian Government, promoting the further widening of ties between the two realms. The Masacavanian Corporation, which was formally incorporated as such in 1764, played a major role in the intensification of the Empire's economic relations with Masacavania. From 1759 to 1772, Sir Antonius Jenkrania (1729-1800), served both as the Economic Consul of the Masacavanian Corporation and as the Ambassador of the Laurasian Empire to the Court of Moscow. It was due to his efforts that, in 1761 and 1767, Grand Duke Ivan issued the Slobeskie Capitulations, by which he confirmed the rights of Laurasian merchants, navigators, and starhoppers in Masacavanian realms to travel "unmolested by the jurisdiction of my authorities, or of my agents; to conduct their commerce, and their trade, in all of my star systems, and at my outposts, garrisons, relay centers, terminals, and dockyards without harm; and to transport goods between this realm and the Galactic Void." Two years later, the Empress Aurelia herself confirmed the monopoly of the Masacavanian Corporation on trade with the Grand Duchy; the Imperial Ministry of Space & Transportation provided it a generous financial aid package to sponsor its further activities. Sir Jerome Bowerius, who served as Ambassador in 1783-86, gained reconfirmation of these privileges from the new Grand Duke Feodor.
In 1787, a Treaty of Commerce and Amity was signed between the Laurasian Empire and the Grand Duchy of Masacavania, thereby providing for duty-free commerce between the two realms for a period of ten years. The Treaty was duly renewed in 1797, on an indefinite basis. By 1800, the volume of Laurasian-Masacavanian trade had exceeded more than €8.2 hepmillion dataries on annum. Yet the relationship with the Grand Duchy of Masacavania was not the only special one enjoyed by the Imperial Laurasian Government. Laurasian commerce with the Autocratic Pruthian Empire, which had begun to develop during the reign of A'rua I, increased substantially following the conclusion of the Treaty of Berliania III (1764). In 1766, Pru'a IX invited Christiania Pharmaceuticals, Katherine Drive Yards, Tagge Corporation, and the House of the Denrmanians to establish new industrial, mining, and agricultural operations in Brandenburg, Silania, Cleves, East Frisia, and Pomerania; two years later, he authorized for the Imperial Ministry of Space & Transportation to provide for the establishment of economic consulates at Stettin, Potsdam, Magdeburg, Ravensburg, Cleves, and Mark; and in 1769, Pru'a granted Laurasian merchants in the Duchy of East Pruthia "favored nation" status. Empress Aurelia reciprocated by abolishing all tariffs on Pruthian commerce in luxury goods, textiles, and military goods in the Caladarian Galaxy (1771); granting a charter to the Krupp Cooperation of Mainz (1772); and in 1773, sponsored the establishment of customs posts at Danzig and Torun, to coordinate commercial relations with the Pruthian corporations transient in those systems. In 1776, the two governments agreed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, providing for duty-free commerce between the two realms for ten years; by the time of Pru'a IX's death in 1786, in spite of increased tension with the Imperial Laurasian Government over such matters as the conquest of Scottria, the annexation of the Haynsian Despotate, and the Durthian Rebellion, the volume of Laurasian-Pruthian commerce had increased to more than €1 hepmillion dataries per annum. A second Treaty of Amity and Commerce would be signed in 1799, after the death of A'rua III the Lazy, who was not particularly fond of the Empress's personality attributes. The Laurasian Empire's commerce with the Marasharite Empire increased substantially between 1774 and 1787, partly as a result of free-transit privileges granted by the Treaty of Kuchuk Kaynarca.
Laurasian corporations such as Hemmelian Factories, the Imperial Works of Christiania, and AstraZeneca Commercial Firms, conducted much business in Mesopotamia, Grecian Provinces, Marasharite Anatolia, and Syria; a Treaty of Amity and Commerce (1775), was signed, negotiated by the efforts of future Grand Vizier Halil Hamid, reconfirmed in 1794 after the end of the Fifth-Laurasian Marasharite War; and in 1799, the first Laurasian customs post in the Palestinian Territories, at Tel Avira, was established. Commercial treaties were also signed by the Imperial Laurasian Government with every other power of the Amulak Spiral and satellite galaxies. This included Vendragia (1766, 1787, 1792); Haxonia (1761, 1774, 1786); Austarlia (1764, 1781, 1790); Bavaria (1777, 1794); Saxony (1778, 1789); Dejanica (1775, 1780, 1793); Spamalka (1760, 1769, 1794, 1798, with the Asientos capitulations granted in that last year); Morocco (1778, 1789, 1795); Tripoli (1774, 1798); Tunis (1775, 1792); Algiers (1776, 1796); Portugallia (1771, 1789, 1799); Scottria (1760, 1773); Haynsia (1775, 1778); and Durthia (1785, 1790, 1797). In 1799, the Laurasian Empire made first contact with the Kimite Colonies in the Felix Galaxy, concluding the first Treaty of Diplomacy and Commerce with them the following year. Of these powers, the Haxonian Confederacy had the greatest banking interests in the Laurasian Empire (with the Bank of Venice and the Consortium of Perugia being the largest foreign-owned financial institutions in the Empire's territory by the end of the century), while the Vendragian Confederacy had the most extensive commercial ties (with the Hudson Nebula Company, the Royal Void Company, and the Vendragian East Galactic Company collectively owning more than 35,000 facilities, docking yards, spaceports, relays, and clearing fields). The treaties with the Barbary States were concluded thanks to the Treaty of Kuchuk Kaynarca; before 1774, Laurasian commercial relations with them were virtually non-existent, due to Marasharite restrictions imposed in such treaties as that of Nis (1739). These treaties were renegotiated following the end of the Fifth Laurasian-Marasharite War. Moreover, the Imperial Ministries of Commerce, Agriculture, and Space & Transportation focused on the extension of Laurasian commercial guarantees and rights for navigators. This was seen in Scottria and Franconia from the beginning of the reign, but particularly in the Ochanian Provinces, Tesmanian Dejanica, and the Danubian Principalities from 1769 onwards. By the end of the century, the Empire had 25 economic consuls and 50 sub-consuls, stationed throughout all of the powers of extra-galactic civilization.
The emphasis of all these treaties was on the guarantee of free transit by starhoppers and navigators; the grant of "favored nation status" by the contracting governments; the use of easily convertible national currency, expressed in both metal and electronic form, by merchants and businesses in each respective realm; and the equality of treatment in terms of tariffs and rates. Overall, the volume of Laurasian exports increased to more than €550 hepmillion dataries by the end of 1798; imports were at more than €175 hepmillion dataries. During the course of the century, the number of Laurasian vessels in foreign space increased substantially. In 1701, 102 million Laurasian vessels per annum transited through foreign space. By the middle of the century, this had increased to 300 million. Aurelia's reign saw the greatest period of increase: the figure rose to 395 million in 1769; 450 million in 1777; 564 million in 1789; and to 700 million in 1800. The number of foreign ships in Laurasian territory increased correspondingly; from 75 million in 1701; to 200 million in 1750; 290 million in 1769; 375 million in 1777; 481 million in 1789; and 590 million in 1800. The percentage of Laurasian imports traversing through the Galactic Void, direct from the Amulak, increased from 17.9% in 1701 to 30.1% in 1762, and 41.1% in 1795. Furthermore, the Empress sought to reduce the number of foreign monopolies; by 1763, all preferential trade rates for Laurasian navigators and corporations in the Galactic Void had been abolished, compounding the earlier abolition of inter-galactic tariffs and charges in 1752. In 1765, the Empress sponsored the formation of the Free Economic Society, to promote ideas of free trade and to sponsor studies on commercial and navigational affairs; it was headquartered in Osraninpolis. Then in 1766, the Imperial Ministries of Labor & Commerce and Space & Transportation imposed a new, uniform tariff in all customs ports, dockyards, exchanges, and warehouses of the Empire, for goods shipped from the satellite galaxies (Great Tesmanian Cloud and Angelina Spiral).
The tariff facilitated the import of raw materials for processing by Laurasian industry; it imposed duties of 15-30% on goods readily produced within the Empire; and allowed the import of goods and minerals not produced in the Caladarian Galaxy. Luxuries received higher tariff rates: "necessary" luxuries such as silk were assessed a duty of 20%, while furniture, objects of art, and "luxury" food and drink were processed a duty of 100%. All duties by foreign merchants were to be paid in Laurasian tender. The tariff was to be revised every five years. The Tariff of 1766 remained in place for fifteen years, and in September 1782, the Privy Council published a new tariff. This tariff reduced the duty on most goods to 12%, while luxury goods obtained a rate of 8%. All holobooks, pictorial depictions, musical instruments, and computer instruments were excluded from any duty. Relaxed duties upon weapons, alcoholic beverages, and objects of art were imposed. The third and final tariff schedule of Aurelia's reign would be published in September 1798, reducing the luxury goods rate to 6% while raising the general rate to 14% and granting further exemptions to educational and entertainment materials. Besides implementing uniform tariff policies, the Empress also oversaw a massive expansion and systematization of the Empire's taxation system.
At the beginning of the Empress's reign, the taxation system of the Laurasian Empire existed in the form as it had been initially organized by Neuchrus the Reformer in the late seventeenth century, with the reforms implemented by Cardinal Wolesius and Chancellor Crownapoulos (under Antigonus III), and those of the 1750s, primarily at the initiative of Lord Treasurer Winchestrius and Sub-Treasurer Sir Walterius Mildmay. All Laurasian taxes and impositions were imposed in accordance with the capita (heads) and iugera (property) values, as laid down by Emperor Neuchrus in 1685-91. The iugera was initially not a consistent tax, being based on type of terrain, the product raised or produced, and the amount of labor required in order to produce that good. The capita was also not initially consistent, with women and foreign species being assessed at half the value of Laurasian males. From 1697 onwards, these were calculated in accordance with the newly reformed imperial census, which adhered to the same fixed five-year schedule throughout the following century. Decurions levied taxes from estates and businesses; rationales and magistri privates were responsible for tax enforcement, disputes, and records. Cardinal Wolesius broadened the range of Laurasian taxes and enforcement. He implemented a universal standard of taxation for all commoners in 1720; introduced the tributum æquitatis (equity tax) in 1722 and the donum (gift tax) in 1724; and liberalized the property tax in 1727, establishing the office of sub-decurion for municipal valuation and collection purposes. Chancellor Crownapoulos reformed the capita and iugera values in 1734, 1736, and 1739.
He made the iugera valuation consistent for all landowners and propertyholders, regardless of terrain or product, but also pegged it in accordance with the net worth and revenue of each individual interest; Laurasian women were given equal valuation to their male counterparts, and foreign species gained equality in treatment if they earned above a defined threshold for median income, as fixed by the government. Those below the threshold would still be given a tax valuation half that attributed to Laurasians. The capitis lucra (capital gains tax) was introduced under Didymeia I in 1755, who also briefly overturned the tribitum peona (penalty tax), imposed in 1750. In 1756, Didymeia reformed all property and equity tax obligations on imperial properties. Moreover, she reorganized the Imperial Court of Wards, transferring to it responsibility for the imposition of tax levies and requisitions upon noble properties from the Heraldmaster's Office. In August 1758, the Imperial Code of Rates, listing tariffs, rates, and space collection charges within the Empire, was implemented on the initiative of Lord Treasurer Winchestrius. Nevertheless, by 1757, imperial tax regulations and obligations were complicated, and the tax code was in need of further clarification, expansion, and reform. Empress Aurelia, therefore, had to deal with this situation, and with the implications of tax revenue, collection, and spending. The Imperial Laurasian Government derived 45% of its income from the capita and iugera capitations, principally those on local sales and derived from income; 20% from the property tax; 30% from the equity, gift, and capital gains taxes; and 5% from tariffs, customs dues, fees, etc.
In 1761, the tribitum peona, imposed on contributions from Almitian congregations, was reintroduced and universalized, so that both Traditionalist and Reformist congregations would have to contribute; the tax rate was raised from €500 per annum to €2,000 per annum by 1785. In 1766, on the recommendation of Lord Treasurer Winchestrius and Minister of Finance Mildmay, and after an investigation of imperial revenues by the officials of the Imperial Ministry of Finance, Aurelia imposed new uniform capitations, of 5% equity, upon military provision (militiae cibaria), insurance (certissimum), sales of commercial products (mercatorius salum), withholding of income (subtractionem), and nonconformity of morals (morum nonconfirmis). The first was a tax upon the profits and the services of arms manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, and supplies manufacturers, authorizing for a 10% cut, for the Imperial Treasury, from these weapons of war. The second tax concerned home insurance, life insurance, vehicle and starship insurance, funerary insurance, and income insurance, providing that a third of every annual premium be deducted by the Imperial Internal Revenues Service. All profits from this tax were to be devoted to the educational, health care, and social welfare systems. The third tax introduced a uniform sales capitation on all transactions and product purchases in the Empire; in 1775, local sales taxes and charges would be abolished, and subordinated to the Imperial Treasury. The fourth was an automatic payroll deduction; the last was a penalty, ranging from €400 to €50,000, per basis, upon any who engaged in "lewd conduct" in public, including public exposure, and was also deducted from criminal fines and processing fees. These new capitations replaced the taxes associated with the capita and iugera, while retaining them for purposes of individual, property, and business valuation. In 1770, a tax on spaceport docking (the portus) was introduced, requiring a fee for all Laurasian ships docked for more than three days and with a metric weight in excess of 25,000 tons.
Estate and license taxes (praedium licencia et tributa) were imposed upon commoner properties in 1773; two years later, nobles and gentry were subjected to the same rate of taxation as commoners. Ecclesiastical taxes were mentioned earlier. The two chief ones, by 1780, were the tributum clercius (clerical tax) and the tributum monasterium (monasterial tax). The former was imposed as a capitation directly upon clergymen; the second, upon the revenues of monasteries and estates. Governmental revenues increased to €150.6 quadrillion dataries by 1776; and to €189.9 quadrillion dataries by 1797. By the end of the century, 40% of government revenue derived from the uniform capitations; 25% from government holdings, monopolies, and businesses; 25% from ecclesiastical, business, and estate taxes; and 10% from fees, fines, charges, and external tariffs. The capitis lucra (capital gains tax) was reformed in 1769, 1779, and 1789, making it more equitable and raising the cap to 20% of all excess capital sales gains. The donum was increased to 20% of rewards (1780), and in 1782, the Imperial Board of Lottery and Games Revenues was established to ensure the collection of revenues and taxes from all such rewards, lotteries, and grants made throughout the Empire. The Statute of Regional and Provincial Administration provided for a vast increase in the number of decurions, quaestors, and sub-decurions for tax collection; and in 1782, the Imperial Edict on Tax Evasion and Fraud revised the procedures to be followed by the IIRS in cracking down on peculation and on evasion of obligations. In 1790, the office of rationales was abolished, and replaced with the domicile prates, who now assumed responsibility for maintaining records of all taxes collected. Two years later, Aurelia ordered for the creation of a new, uniform, organic tax code, incorporating all of her innovations and those of her siblings, father, and grandfather. This would result in the creation of the Uniformae Codex fortunae principalis Supersunt (Uniform Tax Code of the Laurasian Empire), promulgated in 1798, and would constitute the last great codification of Aurelia's reign.
The imperial budget shifted during the course of the Empress's reign. At the time of her accession to the throne in 1758, out of a total budget of more than €115.8 quadrillion dataries, the Empire's military forces (army, navy, marines, engineering corps, etc.) consumed 40%; healthcare and welfare 15%; governmental administration (including the affairs of the Almitian Church, the bureaucracy, and the Imperial Chancellory) 20%; transportation, science, and space 10%; agriculture, energy, and planetary resources 6%; the imperial court, 4%; and foreign affairs, pensions, and education, the remaining 5%. The Empress's central administrative reforms in 1763, the implementation of the Codex Aureliana in 1768, and the reforms relating to gubernatorial administration, the nobility, and the municipalities all caused a significant rise in government expenditures, and in the proportion of spending allocated to such fields. Her massive expansion and reorganization of the healthcare, social services, and welfare systems also caused a shift in government expenditures. Moreover, Aurelia spent lavishly on the Imperial Court; patronized many in the cultural circles; and conducted innumerable construction projects. Thus, by the end of the eighteenth century, military spending composed 25% of the total; government administration, 30%; healthcare and welfare, 20%; agriculture, energy, and planetary resources, 10%; the imperial court, 5%; education, 5%; transportation, space, foreign affairs, etc., the remainder. By 1800, total governmental revenues exceeded €205 quadrillion dataries; governmental expenditures, €201 quadrillion dataries. The Empress would be hailed by her contemporary monarchs for her financial prudence and good bookkeeping, even in times of war; she enjoyed the most solid credit of all monarchs of extra-galactic civilization, her government paid all of its debts and obligations fully and on time, and the stock exchange, retail speculation, and agricultural markets remained stable throughout the reign. This was in contrast to Philicus I of Spamalka, who declared bankruptcy three times during the course of his reign, or to the Marasharite Emperors, who by 1790 had the largest gross foreign debt of all powers. Laurasia, therefore, had come a long way from the Crisis of the Seventeenth Century; from 1641 to 1673, it had in fact been the second-largest debtor nation of extra-galactic civilization, surpassed only by the Marasharite Empire, and had not reverted to creditor status until 1699, thanks to the vigorous reforms of Neuchrus I.
Finally, as regards to trade, the Empress implemented two main measures: the Code of Commercial Navigation and the Spice Trade Code, both in 1781. The Code of Commercial Navigation concerned the procedures and regulations that all navigators, merchants, and star-hoppers in the Empire would have to adhere by. The Code provided for the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the Imperial Bureau of Ships and Services, which had been established under Neuchrus I in 1707. The Bureau was now entrusted with keeping records of starship registrations, transport codes, flight certifications, and weapon load-out permits. It was entrusted with updating the Imperial Laurasian Government's databanks on the commercial lanes, and on the Empire's astrographical, as well as navigational, information. These banks were to be transmitted to starports and enforcement agencies of the Empire on a routine basis. Every legitimate and registered starhopper in the Empire was to be issued a datapad; all port officials and government boarding parties would be obliged to ask for these datapads. Anyone who did not possess the proper documentation was to experience the full penalties of imperial law, through fines, imprisonment, community service, or confiscation of all properties. For those who violated imperial law, the Code provided for the Imperial Penal References. These would determine the punishments for certain transgressions in navigation. Class Five infractions would concern violations of import-export laws, regulations, and orders by the Imperial Laurasian Government and by the various gubernatorial, provincial, and planetary administrations; lack of emergency equipment would also account for a violation.
Fines, of not more than €150,000, were to be imposed for such violations. "Personal benefit fees" and other corruption mechanisms were explicitly forbidden and could be punishable by a term of imprisonment and confiscation of property; the Imperial Court of Pleas would assume responsibility for all appealed suits relating to such offenses. Class Four violations would concern expired licenses, minor tax evasion, or transport of narcotics without an authorized permit (per the terms of the Spice Trade Code). Class Three infractions would concern bribery or illegal transport of higher-value goods. Class Twos would concern illegal transport of luxury goods, industrial hardware, specialized narcotics, and weaponry; these offenses would incur imprisonment, confiscation of property, and fines. Class One offenses would concern assaults on other space-navigators, firms, or starhoppers; aggression against the Laurasian Empire's governmental authorities, representatives, diplomats, and military forces; possession of cloaking devices or other prohibited high-end technology; and conspiracy or treason against the Imperial Laurasian Government, all of which would carry the death penalty. The Code of Commercial Navigation also concerned regulations for docking of goods; spaceports and dockyards, with their operations; commercial transport; taxes and levies related to transportation; and rules concerning navigation along the galaxy's lanes.
The Spice Trade Code, on its part, regulated every aspect of the narcotics and spices industry in the Empire's realms, concerning production levels, purity, uses, transport, and taxation. Harsh penalties and enforcement mechanisms for black-market activity were provided; and all manner of guidelines for the activities of pharmaceutical companies, mining corporations, and of noble houses were outlined. The Imperial Ministry of Justice gained responsibility for enforcing the Empire's regulations; the Imperial Narcotics Enforcement Agency and the Customs Service for cracking down on narcotic rings, on supervising all spice mining operations, and for interdicting, arresting, and punishing all smugglers, illegal shippers, and criminals who tried to engage in the trade. As a result of the Spice Trade Code, illegal drug crime rates declined considerably, from an average of 120 per 100,000 individuals in 1781 to just 30 per 100,000 individuals by 1796; the volume of the spice trade rose from €25 hepmillion dataries to €48 hepmillion dataries in that same period.
The Sovereign and Culture of the Laurasian EmpireEdit
The Empress Aurelia's CharacterEdit
The reign of Empress Aurelia the Great was a time of great cultural renaissance and fruitfulness for the Laurasian Empire. The Empress herself was the epitome of the Empire's new-found intellectual, martial, and political vigor. In November 1801, in her famed "Golden Speech" to the Laurasia Prime Chamber of Nobility and her Councils of State, the Empress remarked: "To be a Emperor and wear a crown is more glorious to them that see it than it is a pleasure to them that bear it." At the same time, she revelled in and jealously guarded the principles of sovereignity: "I am answerable to none for my actions otherwise than as I shall be disposed of my own free will, but to the Almighty alone." Almitis, she believed, had preserved her through many trials to bring her to the throne of her Empire, and she was convinced that she reigned by his special favor. As "Almitis's creature", a divinely-appointed Empress, hallowed and sanctified at her coronation, Aurelia believed that she alone was able to understand fully the complexities and mysteries of Church and State. She declared: "Princes transact business in a certain way, with a princely intelligence, such as private persons cannot imitate." If she felt that anyone was encroaching upon this sacred privilege, she was quick to reprimand them. One of the Empress's courtiers, Sir Antiochus Naurantia, remembered that "She was absolute and sovereign mistress", while Lord Northius affirmed that "She is our god in the Universe, and if there be perfection in flesh and blood, undoubtedly it is in Her Majesty." What was more important to the Empress than anything, however, was that she reigned with her subjects' love. She proudly pointed out her pure Laurasian blood, and constantly proclaimed that she was as a mother to her people, and cared deeply for the "safety and quietness of you all." Sir Walterius Raleghia would remark to Emperor Lysimachus II that his predecessor was "Empress of the small as well as the great, and would hear the complaints of any of her loyal subjects." Sir Antiochus Harrinigtia, the Empress's beloved godson, made much note of her relationship and her connection with her subjects.
It was important that she be on show as often as possible; Aurelia, throughout her reign, ensured that she was highly visible, traveling on near-annual progresses, moving frequently through the streets of Christiania and of other cities on her capital world, and attending public festivities as often as possible. She also thought it important to justify her actions and policies to her subjects in a series of carefully composed speeches, Holonet pamphlets, and proclamations from the Imperial Court. She was a gifted orator and actress; her style of writing became more extravagant, "florid", and bold as the years passed. As Antigonus III's daughter, the Empress expected instant obedience and respect; she was a vigorous defender of the Empire's autocratic system, and once asserted that "Majesty makes the subjects bow." She was fond of talking about her father, and reminded her councilors often about his sternness. She nevertheless admitted that her style of government was more "moderate and benign" than Antigonus's had been. Aurelia's command of politics and statesmanship was considered "as exceptional as her intelligence was formidable": she was astute, pragmatic, hard-working, and never afraid to compromise. The Empress's chief concern, as was seen through the reforms described above, and through her foreign policy, was to provide the Empire with a stable, orderly government. She had the gift of knowing instinctively what was right for the Empire, with her priorities being to maintain the law and the Almitian Church, to preside over the expansion of the Empire's territory and economy, and to prevent uprisings against governmental authority. She told her justices and Senators that they must stand pro veritae (for truth) rather than pro regina (for the Empress).
In spite of all of this, there still remained, among the Empress's Laurasian subjects, a deeply ingrained prejudice against female sovereigns in general. The Scottrian theologian John Knox, in his infamous work of 1758 (The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women) stated: "I am assured that the Lords of the Universe have revealed to some in our age that it is more than a monster in nature that a woman should reign and bear empire over man." Women, he asserted, were naturally weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish, being covetous and susceptible to evil influences. The Empress, aware of the past history of female rulers over Laurasia, spoke of herself as a woman "wanting both wit and memory." She even thanked Almitis for "making me, though a weak woman, yet Thy instrument." To combat prejudice and underline her position, she referred to herself as a prince, comparing herself to her male predecessors, and her male contemporaries. In 1802, she would tell King Hensios IV of Franconia in a private communique: "My experience in government has made me so stubborn as to believe that I am not ignorant of what becomes a Prince." She was fond of saying that she was a "lion's cub" and had many of its qualities. She exploited the "weaknesses" of her gender and converted them into strengths, using her femininity to manipulate the men who served her and make them protective of her. Her calculated flirtatiousness kept her courtiers loyal, and she thereby preserved a balance of power at the Imperial Court. She proved to be so effective a ruler that she managed to overcome the prejudice, and to assume her place as one of the most successful and most beloved monarchs in all of Laurasian history.
Being a woman was to the Empress's advantage when it came to creating her own legend, for she could then assume the allegorical and mythological personae assigned to her by chivalrous courtiers, writers, and poets. She was known as the Rosa electa, the chosen rose, around whom a cult of adoration flourished, and who came to be regarded as little less than divine. By the late 1790s, she would often be referred to in imperial decrees, statutes, and proclamations as "Her Most Almitian and Sacred Majesty". The composer Sir Leonnatus Dowrania would write a song entitled "Vivat Aurelia for an Ave Messalina", which showed how the Empress's image had become associated with the old Brethalian myths. Aurelia herself promoted the image and cult of the Virgin Empress, wedded to her Empire and subjects. She took for her own personal emblems those which had been associated with the Lady Oriana, mother of the Lord Paul of Almitis: the rose, the moon, the ermine, and the phoenix. She also, like Neuchrus I, made much of her alleged descent from Arasces the Founder, connecting herself to the first Laurasian monarch. The poets and dramatists of the Imperial Court did the most to promote Empress Aurelia's court. Sir Philotas Spenserius referred to the Empress as Gloriana and Belphoebe; Sir Willianus Shakesperius, Sir Walterius Raleghia, and Sir Polyperchon Johanius called her Cynthia or Diana. Other poets referred to the Empress as Virgo, Pandora, Oriana, or Astraea, while clerics of the Almitian Church called her Judith, Deborah, or Leah. Throughout her reign, poems, songs, ballads, and madrigals sang her praises and called upon Almitis to preserve her from her enemies, or commended her for her virtues and chastity. No Laurasian sovereign had ever before captured the adoration of their subjects in such a manner. The Empress could be infuriating, particularly to her advisers. A mistress of procrastination, she was adept at delaying and dissembling; her courtiers, lacking her subtlety and not understanding her motives, because she did not normally disclose them, were driven mad by her behavior, but were forced to concede that her caution served her Empire better. The Empress's stubbornness increased as she got older. One of her mottoes was Video Taceo-"I see all and say nothing" in High Laurasian; she kept her own counsel. The Empress had learned that it was not wise to show her hand too freely.
She could be resolute and tough when it was required, and did not shriek from authorizing torture or interrogative techniques when it was deemed necessary for her own security. Nevertheless, she was not too fond of executions, and sought to disassociate herself from them. In many ways, she was a conservative, although she viewed it necessary to strengthen her Empire for the travails of the future. Her councilors, on their part, found her unpredictable. In spite of her geniality, the Empress was also fully aware of her superior position. All of the rules of etiquette were strictly adhered to. They required that all individuals bow (or curtsy, depending on gender), whenever the Empress entered or exited a room; that they remain in that position until given leave to rise; and that they keep their eyes lower than those of the Empress. Furthermore, no one could sit while she stood. She could only be addressed as: "Your Majesty", "Your Highness", "Your Grace", "Madame", "Ma'am", "Highness", or as "My Lady", and no one could raise conversation with her unless it was on her initiative. To accompany this, the Empress proved herself an extravagant monarch, observing that she was "set upon a stage in the sight and view of the Universe." Pomp and splendor were necessary for the glory of the monarchy. Therefore, no expense was spared on court ceremonial, furnishings, and entertainments, nor on the Empress's wardrobe, for these were all aspects of sovereignty meant to impress foreign ambassadors, visitors to the Court, and the Empress's own subjects. Nevertheless, the Empress could still display humanity through it all. Nor was she above interrupting addresses and sermons: yet she would praise orations which she liked. Sovereignty, in the Laurasian Empire, was nevertheless viewed as a mystical institution. The Empress adhered to the practice of the "Emperor's Evil", by which she would touch her subjects and pronounce her blessing upon them. In April of every year, clad in an apron and with a towel, she would preside over the Imperial Maundy ceremony, wash the feet of commoners (which had already been cleaned by her almoners), and distribute to them portions of cloth, fish, bread, cheese, and wine. Tradition decreed that the towels, aprons, and robes be given to the commoners, but the Empress replaced this with the custom of giving out Maundy money in red purses.
When it came to the governance of the Empire, Aurelia was blessed in her ministers, whom she selected herself for their loyalty, honesty, and abilities. She was not bound by the advice of her Council (as explained on the Laurasian Empire page), and frequently shouted at them, or banned them temporarily from court, if they disagreed with her. Many were prepared to risk this minor punishment for the sake of putting their views across. The Empress also did not care if her ministers were inconvenienced, expecting them to be as hard-working, efficient, and devoted to duty as herself. She would demand why if they did not, and proved an exacting mistress. Every day from the beginning of her reign she held successive private consultations with her ministers and advisers, read communiques and Holonet dispatches, composed or dictated others, received petitions, and reviewed state memoranda, financial reports, & governmental publications. She kept communiques, memos, and notes in a pouch, and in her bedchambers. She rarely attended the daily Council meetings, delegating routine administrative matters to her Council and taking the credit when things turned out well. Her temper was notorious, for she was not above throwing her slipper at Walsingis's face (as in the incident with Estatius's unlawful departure from the Empire), boxing the ears of her ministers, or leaving a meeting in a rage. She was also reluctant to apologize, and could be ruthless towards those who defied her. Lord Treasurer Burghley, as the Empress's chief minister, learned quickly how to deal with her tantrums. She expected the highest standards of personal service from her ministers, and had a great respect for her nobility. The Empress, furthermore, was a complex personality.
A studious intellectual who would spend three hours a day reading historical novels and watching nonfiction holomovies if she was able, and who to the end of her life would for recreation translate works by Ulagrai, Boethius, Plutarch, Horace, and Cicero, she was also capable of swearing and of making oaths. Like her mother, she was fond of jests and practical jokes; could be amused by vulgar comedies; and would laugh uproariously at the antics of her courtly jesters. Yet her table manners were perfect, and she was parsimonious. The Empress had wit, possessed sex appeal and self-confidence, and charmed men. Even into her latter years, she retained a semblance of her youthful beauty, and delighted when her courtiers pointed out the fact. Riding, hunting, and dancing were among the favorite pastimes of the Empress; during the latter years of her reign, she was normally a spectator to dances and masques at the Court, rather than a participant. She enjoyed holomovies, plays, jousts, gladiatorial contests, simulated wild beast hunts, festivals, parades, and table games in equal measure. The study of philosophy was another consolation; in 1793, she spent two days translating the Consolations of Philosophy by Dr. Hennik Redrick of Tyleria Perea, a renowned fifteenth-century philosopher and sociologist. She had a passionate interest in education: her Statutes of General and University Education, and her expansion of the Empire's educational system, were evidence of this. Music was another passion, composing her own ballets and music; playing various instruments; and promoting the greatest musicians of the late eighteenth century, such as Sir Willanius Byrida and Sir Thomasius Tallius. Dr. John Deesius, Chancellor of the University of the Laurasian Empire, was the Empress's favored "academician", and in 1775, she paid a visit to his estate, Mortlanian House, on Lusuculum, known for its vast library facilities. The Empress could also be compassionate and kind, as demonstrated by her comforting of the Norrias upon the death of their son, Field-Marshal Sir Demetrius Norria, in July 1797.
Throughout her life and reign, the Empress enjoyed remarkably robust physical health, which allowed her to indulge in rigorous daily exercise. She ate abstemiously, lived to a good age (she was the fourth-longest lived sovereign in Laurasian history, surpassed by only Tiberius II, Demetrius Severus II, and Antoninus Pius), and retained her faculties, as well as her grasp on the strings of autocratic authority, to the last. She expended a great deal of nervous energy, and displayed an extraordinary ability to remain standing for hours, much to the discomfort of her courtiers, officials, and foreign ambassadors. The Empress, however, had suffered from numerous attacks of nervousness during her childhood and teenage years. These problems abated somewhat when she came to the throne, but reemerged in later years. Following menopause, Aurelia became subject to anxiety states, hysterical episodes, obsessiveness, and attacks of increasingly profound depression. She hated loud noise, and she had a limited sense of claustrophobia. She suffered intermittent panic attacks: once, while waking in procession to her private Chapel, she was "suddenly overcome with a shock of fear", according to Spamalkan Ambassador de Ruyes, and had to be carried back to her apartments. These ailments were neurotic. The stresses and strains of the responsibilities she carried, and her constant awareness of threats to her security would have overwhelmed any lesser person. Her contemporaries believed that by denying herself the fulfillment of marriage and children (virtues dear to Laurasian society), she was living a life against nature. The Empress was also a fastidious woman, and despised certain smells, including coolants, jet fuel, or the burn of industrial machines, compactors, and repulsorlifts. As she grew older, Aurelia became plagued with headaches, eye-strain, and some physical rheumatism. She suffered from an open ulcer in July 1769, which would recur at intervals throughout the 1770s; in 1770, she was briefly immobilized in her personal bedchambers. Nevertheless, Empress Aurelia delighted in morning walks and hikes; she would not let any ailment deter her. Her physical complaints, overall, were chronic rather than serious, and on many occasions, she refused to succumb to them. She had an abhorrence of illness, like her father, and did not wish her subjects to think that she was ill. This was evident in 1777, when the Empress refused to drink medicinal herbs sent to her by Leicesterius from Idyll, fearing that her subjects would think ill of it; in 1779, she was reluctant to undergo a routine dentistry operation; and in 1797, Chancellor Cecilis reported that Aurelia did not wish to talk about a pain afflicting her right hand (ultimately treated with simple pharmaceuticals).
Nevertheless, Aurelia trusted her physicians implicitly. Dr. Burcot, the irascible Archleutan physician who many believed had saved her life, when she suffered from Marsian fever (October 1762), was later granted an honorary Knighthood of the Imperial House, the position of Head Professor of the College of Medicine at the University of Caladaria, and was elevated to chief physician of the Imperial Household (1765). He remained in the Empress's service until his death on June 2, 1774. He was then succeeded by Dr. Athanasius Maldaria, who remained chief physician until his retirement in 1786, when he was succeeded by the ill-fated Dr. Lopacia (Maldaria died in 1798). Lopacia, in his turn, was succeeded by Dr. Karanus Hiticus (1726-99). Hiticus was succeeded by Dr. Georg Rogerson (1734-1809), a Vendragian emigre to the Laurasian Empire, who was Aurelia's final Chief Physician. As regards to the imperial image, magnificence was regarded as being the same as power and greatness. Ever since the reign of Arasces the Founder, Laurasian sovereigns had been renowned for their splendor and extravagance; the sovereigns of the Neuchrian Dynasty were renowned for this most of all, and also for their personal charm. This was seen by the properties owned by the Imperial Household and by their public dress. The Empress Aurelia's wardrobe, rumored to contain more than one million dresses, six million gowns, ten million pairs of shoes, and a unlimited number of accessories, became legendary during her lifetime, as her costumes grew ever more flamboyant and fantastic. Throughout the reigns of her half-siblings Demetrius II and Didymeia I, Aurelia had cultivated the image of the "godly Laurasian virgin", wearing garments of sober black and white. As soon as she acceded to the throne, this gave way to an altogether more colorful and showy image. The Empress wore dresses made of silk, velvet, satin, taffeta, or cloth of gold, encrusted with real gems, countless pearls, and sumptuous embroidery in silver, gold, or bronze thread with starched ruffs and stiff gauze collars that became ever more elaborate. Her favorite colors were black, white, and silver, worn with transparent silver veils. Many dresses were embroidered with symbols and emblems such as roses, suns, rainbows, monsters, spiders, fruits, ears of wheat, or pansies (native to Sarah), and various flowers. Some of the Empress's dresses and other items of clothing were presented to her as gifts by her courtiers, officials, or subjects; most remained unworn. These, with other discarded dresses, shoes, and accessories, she would give to her ladies, and on occasion, to her female subjects at large (who would congregate near the Household for the purpose). However, the Empress appreciated every gift given to her by her courtiers and subjects: in 1775, the Countess of Aretha learned that "Her Majesty has developed a great fondness for the blue cloak with the carnation velvet that you gave her, more than anything before, and she has made much talk about Your Ladyships's virtues and friendliness."
The Empress herself had naturally wavy, dark red hair, and preferred to wear it long during the early years of her reign; by the late 1770s, however, she had cut her hair short and wore it bunched up for the remainder of her reign (although occasionally she would wear long wigs or high coiffures). As regards to her toilette, it was extensive and long. It took her ladies two hours each morning to get the Empress ready. The Empress was a fanatic for cleanliness. She had massive, elaborate showers, spas, and baths at all of her residences; her personal flagship, the IMS Laurasiana Galactica, also possessed a massive onboard bathing and hygiene chamber for Her Majesty's leisure. She would shower on most days, and once a week would take an elaborate bath. Aurelia was also found of saunas and of heat baths. Her teeth were cleaned with high-quality flouride brushes, made of gold and enamel; she would buff them with a velvet tooth-cloth (with strong built-in ingredients for killing germs); and would rinse with a specially treated mineral juice, with safe agents to stop cavities, holes, and other tooth problems. The Empress also had state-of-the-art perfumes, colognes, deodorants, and breath-fresheners. Her gowns and dresses were cleaned with a rare bleach agent, caylium, and by protocol droids. They were as comfortable as they were magnificent; Aurelia's clothes were made by only the best jewelers and designers in the Empire. Her handkerchiefs were edged with gold and silver thread; she wore lavish Venasian silk stockings, the best-quality articles in the Empire; and her shoes were designer-made, crafted for durability and comfort as well as for reinforcement. She had innumerable cloaks, mantles, coats, and jackets, all of which were made with rain and snow-absorbent materials; with thick linings to protect against the elements; and flexible coverings. The Empress's cosmetics were very lavish; she used Takranian lotion, made from alum, borax, mill water, white-creams, and lavender; marjoram and rose water were also used for skin treatment. Her shampoos and conditioners were made of lye, for thorough cleaning and protection against lice, scruffy hair, and other such ailments; her mirrors and combs were kept in jeweled cases. The Empress's collection of jewelry was extensive, better than any others in the Empire, and possibly throughout extra-galactic civilization. Many were inherited from her parents: she had her mother's famous initial pendants, and an enormous sapphire encircled by rubies, commissioned by her father, Antigonus III.
Many others were gifts; Sir Christopheus Hattonius and the Earl of Leicesterius gave her more pieces than any other of her courtiers. Several of the Empress's jewels were of foreign origin: Vendragian, Haxonian, Franconian, and Spamalkan makes figured in her collection. She also possessed jewels once owned by the Haynsian Despots, the Kings of Scottria, and (after 1795), by the Kings of Dejanica and Dukes of Northania. Furthermore, many of her other jewels were designed and produced by the goldsmith and miniaturist of the Imperial Court, Sir Nicholas Hillardia. Several were engraved with one of the Empress's mottoes, Semper Eadem (Always the Same). The Empress also owned numerous jeweled watches, fashioned as crucifixes, flowers, pendants, or animals; she also had innumerable gem-encrusted bracelets, girdles, collars, pendants, earrings, armlets, buttons, pomanders, and aglets. She had fans of rare toverich feathers with jeweled handles (the cost for one fan normally reached the tens of millions, due to the great expense for hunting toveriches and skinning their hides), and several novelty pieces with symbolic meanings, or were based on a pun. Her favorite jewels were fashioned as starships, stellar objects, or animals; her pearls, the symbols of virginity, were magnificent, and included the long ropes once owned by Queen Mariana. She considered a ring with a cameo of herself and her mother to be her most valuable jewel. The Empress would often give away jewels to courtiers, ladies, and subjects. The Empress put on her extravagant costumes primarily for state occasions, court festivals, personal appearances, the receiving of ambassadors, and official portraits. Her everyday dress was rather simpler, and she was fond of spending mornings in loose gowns. Her clothes and jewels were the outward symbols of majesty, and essential for the preservation of the mythology of the Virgin Empress. No one else might aspire to such magnificence: the Empress issued orders and decrees regulating the dress that her household, and prominent subjects at large, could wear.
The Imperial CourtEdit
The Empress Aurelia's display of such splendor and magnificence, as was fitting to the ruler of a galaxy-spanning Empire which, by the end of her reign, controlled more than seventy million star systems across 200,000 light years of territory, was played out amongst the most magnificent palaces and residences of any sovereign in extra-galactic civilization. These residences were spread over the length and breath of the Empire's territory, including residences once owned by the various independent states successively subdued by Laurasian might over the course of the centuries. The Empress's most important residences, however, were located in the Laurasian Purse Region, the original territories of the Stellar Republic of Laurasia, and of the Stellar Kingdom. These residences, no less than the Empress's personal wear and the ceremonial which marked every aspect of her life, were the outward symbols of personal monarchy. In these palaces were displayed the massive artwork collection of the Imperial Court, amounting to well over sixty million different items, many of which had been acquired by Aurelia's father, Antigonus III. Tapestries, portraits, official photographs, works of art; all prevailed. The Imperial Laurasian Court, on its part, was enormous: at any one time, more than a million individuals would be in attendance. The complexity of the Court meant that a residence would have to be vacated so that it could be completely cleaned and sometimes re-modeled. The Empress was constantly on the move, determined to display herself to her subjects as often as possible, and not to always remain rooted to Laurasia Prime, the most populous world of extra-galactic civilization. The Empress's residences and palaces were splendid and luxurious, but Aurelia was also a fanatic about financial moderation and prudence; the Chief Comptroller of the Imperial Household was always under orders, and scrutiny, from Her Majesty, to adhere to the annual budget of €475 hepmillion dataries per year, allocated for the Household's expenses. The funding for the Imperial Court came from the imperial budget; from the incomes generated by Her Majesty's industrial, agricultural, and space-holding ventures, businesses, and operations; and from the taxes, levies, and requisitions imposed on noble properties by the Chamber of Heraldry and the Imperial Court of Wards, among other agencies of the Imperial Government. Aurelia, however, was also one concerned for the fair wages and working conditions of her innumerable servants: she raised their wages annually, and granted many of her most trusted and favored servants additional bonuses, annuities, and vacation privileges.
The number of residences owned by the Empress of Laurasia was simply astounding. She possessed more than six million different residences throughout the Laurasian Empire: this included palaces, mansions, imperial houses, hunting lodges, country estates, preserve estates, fortresses, castles, villas, private retreats, and resorts, among others. The Empress obviously did not reside at the vast majority of these properties, and leased many of them to her favored officials or courtiers. This included the Christiania Charterhouse, the Livadian Resort, Durhamian House, and Baynardian Castle. The Diplomatic Palace in Christiania, Laurasia Prime, was placed at the disposal of foreign ambassadors, personages, and of other special visitors to the Imperial Court; the Empress did stay there several times per year, however, and considered it to be one of her favorite residences. The Byrnes Palace and the Old Royal Palace in Christiania were both employed by the Imperial Privy Council and Ministries as government headquarters and administrative offices (although the latter became home to the last King of Dejanica, Stanis Vorrust I, during the last two years of his life on Laurasia Prime), and the Christiania Government House served as the offices of the Empress's Champion, the Master of the Revels, the Master of the Court of Wards, and the Imperial Chamberlain, among other household officials. The Priory of St. John's served as a private religious retreat for the Empress's household, and the Lycian Krellite Palace was where the Empress's excess wardrobe, accessories, and personal goods were maintained.
The Empress's main residence was the Quencilvanian Palace; she stayed here more than at any other palace, and it was by far the largest, most lavish, and significant of all her residences. Originally the Dasian Orda, where the Dasian Beys of Laurasia Prime had resided from the ninth to the eleventh centuries, it had been converted, and expanded, into the Celestial Palace by King Honorius the Liberator in 1085-96. The Palace was expanded by successive Laurasian sovereigns during the next seven centuries, and became officially known as the Quencilvanian Palace during the reign of Seleucus the Strong (1332). It grew from its original size of about five hundred rooms (1096), to 1,000 rooms (1330), to 5,000 rooms (1400), to 8,000 rooms (1506), to 10,000 rooms (1601), and to 12,000 rooms (1701). By the end of Empress Aurelia's reign, it had over 20,000 rooms, covered an area of nearly one square mile, and soared nearly two miles into the air. The Palace had many glories, such as the Family of Antigonus III (1737) by Sir Hansius Holbienus; the Empress was fond of standing in front of this painting when receiving visitors, so as to remind every one of whose daughter she was. Moreover, the Imperial Corridor, wrapping around the main floor of the residence, served as the gateway into the Palace; cafes, restaurants, and the Imperial Servant Quarters were linked to it. Persons of suitable attire could gain access to all of the Palace's public rooms and quarters; the Senate Hall, Assemblage Auditorium, Imperial Kitchen, Palatial Balcony, Palatial Information Center, etc. all dominated within the Palace's confines. Tours were offered by the Palace Command, and such tours were processed through the Information Center. The Empress's personal bedchambers, the private Privy Council Chambers, and the chambers of her servants, as well as her private library and entertainment complex, were located on the Residential Floor, and closed off to all visitors except for those permitted by Her Majesty.
The Pruthian Paul Hentzner, on his visit to the Court in April and May 1798, was given permission by the Empress to tour her personal chambers. He recorded that her bed was "composed of woods of different colors, with quilts of silk, velvet, gold, silver, and embroidery", its draperies being of Solidaritan painted silk. There was a silver-topped table, a chair padded with cushions, and silver cabinets with a holocommunications panel, data-pad chests, and a computer terminal. Adjoining this chamber was a massive bathroom, with a shower stall, baths, private sauna, and spa; a conference room, filled with elaborate furniture; a private viewing center, for Holomovie showings, small plays, comic performances, and other such antics; a private balcony and sitting room; the Empress's private library; and a private escalator system, as well as a Holotransmissions chamber and a holodeck entertainment set. Private dining chambers, working offices, and a private kitchen were also among the Empress's rooms. Among the Palace's many other chambers and amenities were the Palatial Gardens (the Seleucid, Antigonid, and Didymeian Gardens), the Delorum Avenue, the Palatia Imperium, the King's Guest Floor, and the Lower Levels (a more comprehensive description is provided at the Quencilvanian Palace page).
The Palace of Placenta on Darcia was another favored residence of the Empress; it was here that she proceeded to in January 1759, in accordance with Laurasian coronation custom, and from thence to Laurasia Prime. It, along with the Gilbertine Palace on Tudoria, the Fountain Palace on Venasia Prime, and the Quencilvanian Palace itself, was one of the residences that the Empress lavished much effort, and much expense, in expanding and in redesigning. In 1772-76, the Empress constructed a massive arbourite stone terrace (the arbourite being imported from Gilestis, Narra, Dorothea, and Leseur), which ran beneath the windows of her apartments on the northern side of the Upper Ward, and it was on this terrace that the Empress enjoyed taking the air in the evenings, or would stride along briskly each morning that she stayed at the residence (during one of her visits or progresses). Below this nestled the Placenta Gardens, which was designed as an elaborate labyrinth maze, similar to those which had been prominent in old Brethalian and Tatianian myths on Laurasia Prime. In 1783, the Empress constructed an indoor gallery (which became known as the Aurelian Gallery), more than ninety feet long, complete with athletic equipment, where she and her chief servants could exercise at their leisure; she also constructed the massive Placentan Fireplace Room, complete with an antique Darsian-style fireplace and central ventilation system. Moreover, she built the New Placenta Chapel, the Aurelian Bridge, and the Aurelian Banqueting Pavilion; all together, Aurelia added more than 1,500 rooms and 125,000 square ft to the Palace of Placenta during the course of her reign. In 1767, the Empress also constructed a massive mausoleum, dedicated to her father and to her grandparents, at St. Georgius's Chapel.
The Great Park of the Palace of Placenta, on its part, was where the Empress could indulge her passion for hunting and for outdoor athletic competitions. She was not a squeamish woman, and she hunted with as much enthusiasm as the most prized male hunters at her Court. In latter years, the Empress would shoot game from specially built stands in the Great Park, although she still preferred to venture into the preserves with her male courtiers. Likewise, her apartments at the Palace of Placenta were luxurious. She would sleep in a huge, ornate bed "covered with curious hangings of tapestry work." She had a similarly "curious" bathroom chamber with its walls covered completely by crystalline mirrors. The Great Hall of the Palace of Placenta, almost as large as that of the Quencilvanian Palace, was the setting for plays, banquets, and recitals by the Players of the Chapel Imperial, the Empress's personal ecclesiastical and musical choir. The Palace of Placenta's other major chambers included the State Rooms (preserved as they had been during the time of Antigonus III's marriage to the Empress's mother, Anna Boleyenia), the Curiosity Rooms (which included a rancor's husk and a unicorn's horn), and the Tapestry Rooms, where prize Franconian, Durthian, Germanian, Haxonian, and Austarlian works of art were displayed.
The Palace of Harmony on Clancia, another of the Empress's favored residences, was also one of the smaller ones: by the end of the eighteenth century, it had only about 3,000 rooms, a mere fraction of the size of the Quencilvanian Palace. Nevertheless, this Palace, once the residence of the Kings and Queens of Clancia (it had been constructed during the reign of Tardina I, the Clancian Queen who defied the Arachaso-Sennacherid Emperor Sennacherib in the fourth century), was also known for its splendor and lavishness. It was built of rare azurite, borlite, aquarius, and tilentanium stone, which thereby gave it a shining rainbow glow, even in the day time. The Harmonic Orchards contained many exotic and rare plants, including a row of Talanian trees, known for their synthetic patterns and for their constant change in color, from green to blue to purple. The Palace was built around three courtyards, and was used by the Imperial Laurasian Government for ambassadorial receptions and other state occasions. The Palace was built alongside a moat, and possessed an imposing Riverside Gatehouse; the Empress, whenever she stayed at the residence, was fond of having her official state barge rowed on the Harmonic Streams, and of receiving guests at the Gatehouse. Benches, painted with the imperial arms and with the emblems of the Neuchrian Dynasty, were installed in the Orchards. Many of the Palace's chambers faced the Harmonic Streams, with massive windows and electomagnetic panels offering a panoramic view of the Streams, and of the vast, sprawling nature-filled lands in every direction. The Empress would watch exercises by her Guards and Marines, as well as displays and military reviews, from the Palace. The Harmony Chapel was renowned for the lavishness of its materials; its hangings were made of gold damask, and there was a gilded alcove in which the Empress would be able to receive, and partake, of Holy Communion. The Palace of the Greats on Americana was another massive residence. She liked to use the residence for Easter and Whitsun festivals; plays would be performed in the Antigonid Hall, constructed by her father Antigonus III, for the benefit of visiting foreign personages and of the Imperial Court.
The Paradise Chamber was an elaborate throne room, containing a twelve-foot elevated throne constructed of gold and bronze mantle, and with a massive set of Coat of Arms placed above it. Extending from the throne were lavish Solidaritan rugs, garnished with gold, pearls, and precious stones. The throne itself was upholstered in brown velvet, and studded with three great diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. One massive table, twenty-eight feet long, at the edge of the chamber was covered with a pearl-edged surnap of velvet, while another table, made from Shepharian wood, was inlaid with silver. On this was displayed a gilt mirror, a draughts-board of ebony, a chessboard of ivory, and seven ivory and gold flutes, which, when blown, reproduced various animal and technological sounds. Also on display was a backgammon board, with dice of solid silver, and a massive collection of various musical instruments. The Horn Room, adjacent to the Paradise Chamber, was where hunt spoils, including antlers and rhinoceros horns, were displayed. The Palace was also renowned for its lavish decorations; many of its rooms were embellished with "masterly" paintings, writing tables of mother-of-pearl, and musical instruments. There were fretwork ceilings with intersecting ribs and pendants decked out in gold, and all of the palace steelworks were either gilded or brightly painted in red, yellow, blue, or green. The Empress herself adored the residence, and intended for its display to be an unmistakable sign of her wealth. She took an especial interest in the Palatial Art Collections and in the Palatial Gardens, giving orders for all manner of foodstuffs and agricultural plants, such as the rare tabasco vegetables, as well as tobacco, coffee, peppers, Darcian potatoes, and Aquilionian leeches, to be raised there.
In 1770, she instigated a massive expansion of the Palatial Stables and Processing Works, transforming these facilities into among the most impressive on her estates. The Empress also constructed the Oatlands Range (1775-78), and filled the Park with a collection of rooks. The Gilbertine Palace on Tudoria, the favored, family residence of Aurelia's grandfather, Neuchrus I, was cherished by the Empress. She visited this residence every year, and appreciated its charm; the gardens and orchards of the Palace, which had more than 15,000 rooms, particularly impressed her. The Gilbertine Palace was literally a fairytale palace, with numerous turrets and pinnaces crowned with bulbous domes surmounted by gold and silver weather vanes; it boasted fan-vaulted ceilings, vast oriel windows, a huge hall measuring five hundred by one hundred feet (which contained murals of many Laurasian monarchs, that of Emperor Antoninus Pius being the most famous), and a network of galleries and loggias, bisecting the Palatial Gardens. The Gardens were themselves a wonder, filled with numerous flowers, herbs and over two thousand trees, while the orchards yielded peaches, apples, pears, damsons, and nearly two hundred other varieties of fruit. The Palace had eighteen kitchens, more than any of the Empress's other residences except for the Quencilvanian Palace. Another attraction for the Empress was the Palace's elaborate plumbing system, constructed by her grandfather, which piped pure spring water into the Palace.
Nonsuchia Palace on Americana, "the place which Her Majesty likes above almost all", was a fantastic edifice, constructed by Antigonus III during the 1730s. Aurelia's half-sister and predecessor, Didymeia I, had leased the residence to the Earl of Americana, and he retained possession of it until his death in February 1780. Afterwards, it had been repossessed by Empress Aurelia, and returned to the control of the Imperial Estate. During her visits, the Empress would be out riding or hunting every day in the Palatial Parks. Whenever she received ambassadors at Nonsuchia Palace, it would be in rooms adorned with furnishings and hangings of very high quality produced on Sarah, Martina Mccasia, Blackria, and Kamachina. The Palace had a massive network of dining quarters, more extensive than at many of the Empress's other residences. The state rooms were magnificent. There was a fine library, lined with statutes of figures of significance from the literary and cultural history of the Empire, and of the Caladarian Galaxy; in the inner courtyard, there was an imposing marble fountain, which soared one hundred feet into the air, and a clock tower. Nonsuchia Palace was also famed for its novel octagonal towers, while its walls were of white stucco with a deep relief pattern picked out in gold on plaster, and a vast array of classical statuery stood on the Palace's grounds, including the famous Grove of Diana. The Fountain Palace on Venasia Prime, on its part, was the Empress's favorite non-Laurasian residence. Constructed as early as the seventh century BH, the Fountain Palace had been the main residence of generations of Queen Mothers, and of Venasian Khans, until the annexation of the Neo-Venasian Consortium by the Laurasian Empire (1506). The Palace stood on crags overlooking the Queen Mother's City, and had for centuries also served as a armory, military fortress, and governmental administrative complex.
The Palatial Hall of Masters, extending for more than four hundred feet in length, had red qashmel carpets (material produced only on Venasia Prime and Venasia Secondary), fine artwork, arched corridors, and white alabas stairways at both ends. Adjacent to here was the Royal Residence, once the private bedchambers of the Venasian Queen Mothers; a long corridor provided the entrance, manned by Valedictorian Guards and by Venasian Maidens (in the service of the Imperial Household), and an immense wind-crystal chandlier dominated the center of the Corridor. The Queen Mother's Special Salon was the private bedchamber within the Residence; the Empress particularly enjoyed its huge mirrors, lavish dressing boards, and many luxury amenities. The Royal Bedchamber, in which the Empress slept during her stays at the Palace, was dominated by a huge bed covered by a crown-shaped canopy, which was surrounded by other furniture, including lavish couches, armchairs, and writing desks. The Drawing Room, connected to the Special Salon, included an octagonal game table at the center of the room, directly beneath a Kamarian-crystal chandler, and surrounded by eight flow-cushion chairs. Finally, the Royal Hangar, one of the largest private hangars in the Laurasian Empire, abutted the other side of the Palace. In 1768, the Empress had her coat of arms placed above the Hangar Entry, supported by a carved lion and the red dragon of the Venasian Princess Caldrania, whose emblem had been adopted by the Neuchrian Dynasty. The Fountain Palace also had its own hunting ranges and a artificial lake, known as Tenel Ka's Pool. From this Palace, she could take in a sweeping view of the Queen Mother's City.
The Empress hated the Fortress of Baureux. Her mother and various others close to her had died violently there; she herself had terrifying memories of her imprisonment in 1754. She also detested the noises and smells emanating from the imperial menagerie within the Fortress. It is therefore, not surprising, that the Empress never used the state apartments there after the traditional visit prior to her coronation. Nevertheless, her rooms were always kept in readiness; in 1798, Hentzner reported that the state apartments were hung with tapestries worked in silk, gold, and silver thread, and furnished with grand beds and canopies of estate edged with seed pearls. One of the huge chairs, made for the aging Antigonus III, with its footstool, was displayed; several of the Empress's most extravagant dresses were stored there, along with chests full of rich materials. The Empress's official State Robes, used for public speeches and addresses, were kept at the Fortress and thoroughly washed every month. They were regularly sprinkled with scented powder to prevent their degradation. The crown jewels, including the Great Imperial Crown, the Smaller Imperial Crown, the Banner of State, the Sword of State, the Wreath of State, and the Coronation Robes, were all stored at the Fortress Armory, and put on display in the Fortress State Museum for tourists. The Empress also tended to avoid the Palace of Secrets on Paradine, where she had stayed during much of her sister's reign (following her release from the Fortress). The Old Palace of Hatlania (Melarnaria), Hunsadarania Palace (Andriana), Newhaltan Palace (Dramis), and Enfredian Palace (Hannah), were either leased, or rarely visited by the Empress. She did however favor Elsinge's House on Ecreutus, particularly enjoying its aquatic displays and the fishing lodge.
The Imperial Court was not only the seat of the Imperial Laurasian Government, but also the stage on which the Empress could make a magnificent display. It was the cultural heart of the Empire, and a showcase for the arts, intended to impress foreign visitors. The Empress spent lavishly on her court, since she understood the political importance of visible wealth. Court tastes in painting, music, costume, and other decorative arts, reflecting the tastes of the Empress, would set the tone among many of her nobles and gentlemen, and among the wealthiest personages in the Empire. The Empress and Court followed an annual routine which, for the most part, remained unvarying. In the autumn, the Court would normally reside at the Quencilvanian Palace (sometimes at the Fountain Palace, Gilbertine Palace, or other of the core residences). The Accession Day celebrations would take place on November 17, and the Empress usually kept Ascentmas on Laurasia Prime, except for when she was on another of her worlds. Twelfth Night, the Feast of the Epiphany, and Ascentmas Day were all important occasions for the Court; gifts would be exchanged, and the Empress herself presented offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh in the Imperial Chapel. Aurelia normally spent much of Ascentmas Day itself in prayer. Male courtiers were expected to remain at the Court for all of these ceremonials. Dancing and card games such as primero were the chief pastimes; even the Empress would indulge in a modest wager. There were also numerous plays, masques, holomovie showings, and other performances staged for the leisure of the Court.
While on Laurasia Prime, Aurelia was frequently seen in public, going to dine at the houses of nobles and government officials (as well as prominent personages), attending weddings, watching athletic competitions, and also enjoying military displays, fetes, and other performances, at the Academies, Universities, Opera, and other cultural institutions. The Empress's personal repulsorlift, which required twenty engineers to operate it, would always be kept in readiness in the Quencilvanian Hangar. Early in the new year, Aurelia would generally move to Nonsuchia, Gilbertine, Fountain, or Placenta, but would then return to the Quencilvanian Palace by March. In April, she might proceed to the Palace of the Greats, or the Royal Palace of Briannia. During the summer (and early autumn), there would be the progress, and then she would again return to one of her varied Core residences before again making her arrival back at the Quencilvanian Palace (or, as became increasingly common, return straight to the Palace).
The Empress, however, followed a strict daily routine. Aurelia would normally wake at five or six o'clock in the morning (the latter time became more common as she grew older). Dressed in her personal gowns, the Empress would go for a brisk walk in the Palatial Gardens (and sometimes in the Palatial Halls), before returning to her chambers for her morning shower and toilette. Usually, she would take some sort of snack with her, to hold her over until her breakfast. The lengthy toilette would then ensue, normally being completed by 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. At that time, she would be served breakfast in her personal bedchambers-which could be anything from meat porridge, bread, or wine, to a full-scale traditional breakfast. Following this, the Empress would proceed immediately to her duties of state, working in her offices and in the Private Council Chamber until eleven or twelve o'clock. She was a enthusiastic drinker, and would normally work with a cup of coffee, tea, or light wine in her hand. She would read official and personal correspondence (communiques, letters, memorandums, reports, Holonet transmissions, etc.); receive her ministers, advisers, military commanders, and numerous other government officials, listening or reading to their reports, and perusing or signing the official papers they had prepared for her. These were working sessions, for the Empress expected them to offer her ideas and to provide opinions on state matters. She would send out verbal and written orders, consider matters to be referred to the Council or Senate, and keep herself abreast of the affairs of her household. Then the Empress would have lunch, followed by a dancing routine, which would include music and singing (this constituted her midday break from the work). The Empress's hunting and entertainment would then follow during the early hours of the afternoon; by 3 o'clock, she would be back to her work. This would generally continue for two hours.
The Empress would also read (or be read to), would amuse herself with her personal holodeck, or engage in pastimes such as sewing, embroidery, or writing. Then at five o'clock there would be dinner. If there was a court reception, the Empress would throw herself into presiding over the festivities, which included interaction with guests, controlling the dancing and other entertainments, and of course engaging in such pastimes herself. Receptions would continue for four hours; pageants, masques, dramas, and plays would all be performed, along with other allegorical entertainments, Holomovie showings, demonstrations, speeches, concerts, etc. If there was no court reception, Aurelia would be entertained in her private chambers. She might watch a play, listen to a concert, or play games, including charades and card games. Then at 9 o'clock, an usher would formally call an end to the official ceremonies; snacks and drinks would be dispensed to the Court; and the Esquire of the Body would clear all state rooms. The watch would then begin their patrol of the palace precincts, and maintenance of the night security system. The Empress herself, however, would resume work for another hour, and, after being disrobed by her ladies, would retire to bed at 10 or 11 o'clock.
When the Empress entertained, she did so on a grand scale: her ceremonies and receptions were lavish, impressing visitors with their orderliness and solemnity. The Empress's reign was a very visible one. Every Sunday, she would go in procession from the Imperial Chapel to the Public Throne Room; individuals at the Imperial Court would crowd to see her, falling to their knees as she walked "grandly" past. She would often pause to speak to many of them. Lord Herbertius of Cherburania, when he was an aspiring young courtier, remembered the first time that he was present on one of these occasions (1794). He remarked that as soon as Her Majesty saw him, she stopped and demanded "Who is this?" Everybody there present looked upon him, but then Sir Jamsius Croftia, one of the Gentlemen Pensioners, would tell the Empress who he was, and that he had married Sir Willanius Herbetia's daughter. The Empress then looked attentively upon him and said "It is a pity he was married so young!" She then allowed him to kiss her hands, and gently clapped him on the cheek. Another visitor, the Pruthian Leopold von Vedel, witnessed this procession in 1784, describing Her Majesty's "graciousness and generosity" to her subjects. He also noted the easy familiarity of the Empress's manner. Hentzner, on his part, noted (1798), the elaborate preparations for the Empress's dinner. The table-cloth, salt cellar, and food were borne in to the Public Throne Room, to the sound of trumpets and kettle drums, by servitors escorted by guards, preceded by an usher with a ceremonial rod. Each officer bowed solemnly three times to the empty throne, both on entering the room and on leaving it. Gentlemen stood in attendance around the table while the ladies of waiting set it, laying the cloth and placing the food on it. Then a maid of honor, dressed in white silk, would enter with a lady in waiting, who carried a detection monitor; the lady would prostrate herself three times in front of the table and empty chair, before respectfully approaching it, and then made the "assay" to the guards and gentlemen, to ensure that none of the food had been poisoned or tampered with. More maids of honor would then appear, and would lift the food off the table, conveying it to the Private Dining Chambers. The Empress would always eat first; no one else would be permitted to eat until she had taken the first bite.
Aurelia normally ate alone in her Dining Chambers, and had her own private kitchen, separated from the Palatial Kitchen, where her food was prepared. Only on occasions of high ceremonial would she eat in the Great Dining Hall; the public would be allowed to watch from an elevated gallery, installed with blaster-proof glass. At Ascentmas 1784, Vedel was privileged to watch the Empress eat, and noted that she was served by young men who brought her food, offering it on their knees and remaining kneeling until she gave them bid to rise. Behind her, stood Lords Howardis and Knollysis, as well as Sir Christopheus Hattonius. She talked to them familiarly, although each one would kneel when addressed and rise only when bidden to do so. The musicians and symphony of the Imperial Court would play throughout the meal; when she was finished, her servants would bring a silver bowl and towel, so that the Empress could wash her hands. The Empress, as the wealthiest and most important personage in the Empire, was always offered an unlimited variety of dishes, of cuisines from throughout the Caladarian Galaxy, the satellite galaxies, and from the Amulak Spiral. She was, however, a moderate diner, preferring meals of chicken or game; in latter years, she would normally order thick soups and stews. The Empress's food was made of the highest-quality ingredients, cooked to perfection, and prepared by the best cooks in the entire Empire (all of her chefs were first-class and galactic-renowned for their work). The foods consumed by the Court ranged across a vast spectrum.
Among the many deserts that the Empress and her courtiers had at hand were fruit mixes (and fillings), compotes, jellies, biscuits, tarts, sweet waffles, doughnuts, fritters, gingerbread, macaroons, ice cream, pastries, cakes, pies, sweetmeats, wafers, custards, crepes, and darioles. Cakes, sweetmeats, tarts, and fritters were the Empress's most favored deserts. Fish was another major part of the Court's cuisine, ranging from Aquilionian eels to Lornan mauldachs. Shrimp, lobsters, catfish, perch, buffalo fish, tarp, pike, trout, lamprey, herring, cod, oysters, sardines, scallops, dorados, red mullet, shellfish, and flying fish were all consumed in hefty portions by the Court; the Empress herself favored tarp. Stews, herb-favored omelets, and trenchers (bread-meat mixtures) were popular; all varieties of meats also abounded. Beef, cattle, lamb, veal, turkey, guinea fowl, mutton, pork, rabbits, swan, peafowl, quail, partridge, storks, cranes, larks, linnets, geese, ducks, and chicken were all in abundance. The Court had access to all possible vegetables and fruits, including lemons, citrons, limes, oranges, pomegranates, apples, pears, plums, strawberries, blueberries, melons, watermelons, apricots, figs, dates, grapes, plums, grapefruit, kiwis, pineapples, and peaches, besides everything ranging from potatoes, kidney beans, and tomatoes, to cabbage, beets, onions, garlics, corn, chili peppers, vanilla, cacao, and quinces, among many others.
The Imperial Court was also renowned for the variety of dairy products and of drinks available. The Empress herself was fond of several luxury wines, in particular Venasian mineral wine; amphorae (that is, traditional Laurasian wine served in jugs); olive wine; frascatis; white wine; and Aquilionian oceanic wine. Many other wines were also drunk by the courtiers of Her Majesty's Household, including mulled wine, the terroir, aged wines, pomace wine, lora wine, and posca wine, along with nearly two hundred other varieties. Wine was the most common drink at receptions, banquets, and dinners; it was renowned for its nutrition and for its taste, with many of the Empress's nobles and gentlemen considering themselves to be connoisseurs. Tyndaris, Ietas, Mariana Prime, Andriana, Wroona, Constantine I, and Condtella were among the most renowned viticulture producers in the Laurasian Empire; it was from the wine ranges and farms on these worlds that the Court derived most of its wine. Tea, chocolate, coffee, spirits, ales, and soft drinks were among other favored drinks of the Court: the Empress herself preferred sweetened green tea, black coffee, espressos, and vanilla-flavored chocolate; whiskey, beers, and alcoholic ales were drunk by most of the male courtiers; and many of the Empress's ladies favored lighter ales, ciders, and cream soda. All of these drinks were produced with only the best cultivated ingredients, and were drunk with much "solemnity". Empress Aurelia was also known for her tendency to extravagant displays from time to time: at her Accession Day's feasts in 1764, Her Majesty presented all of her guests with the rare guillermo wine, which was steamed with peppers and xillenium; four years later, every member of the Imperial Household received a pineapple pie treated with a shot of Kimanian jinx.
The Empress's courtiers always ate in the Great Hall of whichever residence she was residing at (except for those special guests whom she invited to privately dine with her, considered a very high honor); the chief Officers of the Household would sit apart at the functionaries' table. The ladies-in-waiting of the Imperial Household would sit at the Servant's Table, which was always located to the right of the functionaries' table. The Great Hall of the Quencilvanian Palace, the largest of Her Majesty's dining halls, contained, by 1800, enough room to sit more than 300,000 individuals at one time. Every nobleman, knight, and prominent "personage" (defined under imperial law as being a commoner or businessman with a certain net worth, and recognized influence, either through economic clout or through holding some government position), was permitted to bring their own servants and families to the Imperial Court; the Imperial Kitchens had to therefore provide "bouche" (that is, a full-course menu), for all in attendance at the Court. The Imperial Comptroller of the Household and the Ministry of the Imperial Chancellory cooperated to ensure the Household's efficient management and organization: the Empress herself implemented several reforms early during her reign, to streamline the command chain, to crack down on peculation, and to reorganize the Court servants and personnel, in accordance with their respective positions, and with regards to each other. Foreigners, on their part, were always impressed with the singing of the choristers of the Chapel Imperial (or Imperial Chapel), comprised of thirty-two men, twenty-four women, and twelve adolescents (normally in attendance at the Cadet Corps or the Imperial Academy of the Arts). One Vendragian ambassador said that divine service at the Quencilvanian Palace "was so melodiously sung and said, as a man half dead might thereby have been quickened", while a Franconian envoy claimed "In all of my ventures in Franconia, the Principalities, and Spamalka, I never heard the like: a concert of music so excellent and sweet as cannot be expected." The Empress also maintained her own personal orchestra, ballet act, and company of players (including actors, acrobatic and physical performers, comedians, mimics, clowns, dwarfs, directors, producers, conductors, etc), numbering well over 75,000 individuals. In 1772, she abolished all charges upon music contests and festivals at the Galactic Exchange, Galactic Opera, and other public entertainment venues on Laurasia Prime, and in various other star systems of the Empire, so that her subjects could also enjoy her love for music.
Security around the Empress was tight. She was guarded by the Valedictorian (Yeoman) Guards (established by her grandfather Neuchrus I) and by the Gentlemen Pensioners, which had been established by her father Antigonus III. The Guards numbered 120,000; the Pensioners, 250,000. The latter, whose captains included Sir Christopheus Hattonius and Sir Walterius Raleghia, were known for their athleticism and commanding physiques; many were military veterans. These regiments were the successors to the Praetorian Guards, those regiments established by Seleucus I in the early fourteenth century, and which had, by the seventeenth century, assumed a considerable role in the politics and administration of the Laurasian Empire. Neuchrus I had abolished the Guards in 1689 and dismantled their headquarters, following their revolt against his authority. He considered them too much of a threat to the sovereign, and to the stability of the government, and had thereby replaced them with the far weaker Valedictorians. Both guards regiments were under the direct oversight of the Autocrat; neither had their own separate military quarters, being instead stationed at the Quencilvanian Palace and the monarch's other residences; and both were under strict surveillance, with clearly defined procedures for security and for admission into the ranks. They were inculcated to be utterly loyal to the Autocrat, and proved to be so, time and time again. In spite all of this security (and the Quencilvanian Palace's elaborate defenses), the Privy Council feared that the Empress was still in danger, and that she might be assassinated (several attempts occurred throughout her reign). Lord Treasurer Burghley feared poison, and drafted a memorandum advising on "Certain Cautions for the Empress's Apparel and Diet", warning her against suspect gifts of perfume, gloves, and food. The Empress had a relaxed attitude towards her own safety, and was fond of taking risks, placing confidence in the love of her people-much to the dismay of her ministers and councilors.
Empress Aurelia had under her direct command a vast horde of personal servants and attendants. Over they, as with the remainder of her subjects, she exercised the power of life and death. Besides the Valedictorian Guards and Gentlemen Pensioners, she had her Ladies of the Bedchamber (numbering more than 400); her Maids of Honor (2,000); her Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber (5,000); her personal grooms and attendants (more than 100,000); the footmen of the Imperial Privy Chamber (more than 200,000); the Esquires of the Body (50, with 2,000 servants attached to them); her entertainers (numbering in excess of 75,000); her chaplains and priests (400); her Imperial Protocol Droids (more than 300,000 units); and finally, her Household Servants (more than two million), who took care of the routine maintenance and operation of all her residences, of the court's food, entertainment, and energy needs, and of all other such concerns. She also had a reserve of more than six million part-time servants, attendants, and retainers, upon which she could draw at any time. This number was far in excess of any other nobleman or prominent personage in her Empire; and it represented only a small fraction of the government, and subjects, which she commanded.
The Imperial Court had a diverse character. Empress Aurelia ensured that it observed strict rules of decorum and etiquette, which set standards in manners for the rest of the Empire, and promoted the ideals of chivalry and gentlemanly conduct, as had been exemplified in the Courtier by the Venasian author and playwright Balthasar Castiligoni (1728). He asserted that the ideal courtier was a generous, witty sportsman who pursued his own advancement. The Virgin Empress expected her courtiers to maintain high moral standards, and would not tolerate promiscuity, knowing that it would reflect badly upon her own reputation. According to Sir Rudomentus Holisnhedia, "bad behavior was utterly expelled out of the Imperial Court, or else so qualified by the diligent endeavor of the chief officers of Her Grace's household, that seldom are such things seen there, without due reprehension and such severe correction as belongs to these trespasses." Scandals at court, when they did occur, were sensational. Aurelia's courtiers found that the worst thing about the Court was the frantic competition for places and preferment, and the stresses this engendered. The nearer one was to the Empress, who was at the center of a great web of patronage, the greater the rewards, which included court and government posts, annuities, pensions, wardships, loans, selective monopolies, peerages, and knighthoods. The Empress knew how to use her vast wealth and patronage to her advantage, and would keep everyone at a limb. There was much gossiping and back-talk, but violence was out of the question, for the Empress had imposed a penalty for dueling, and did not allow her courtiers to possess any weapons in her presence but decorative swords (only her guards and military personnel were exempted from this rule). Many courtiers learned that it was better to wait for the Empress in the public chambers, and to seek meetings with her, rather than indulging in something rash. Many courtiers spent lavishly to get the Empress's attention; many wound up in debt or in financial deficit. Few courtiers achieved their desire to speak to the Empress in person; many times, Aurelia would promise something and then delay or "conveniently forget" about that promise. Many courtiers did not like the competition for favor, but almost all found that it was necessary to attend or to visit it, lest they be left out in the lurch. Anyone with the rank of gentleman or knight, and above, was allowed to attend the Court. Many of the courtiers were related to each other, or bound by ties of marriage or loyalty. This did not, however, prevent frauds, nor the forming of factions around favorites. Aurelia proved adept at controlling these throughout her reign, although the task became more difficult in her later years.
A number of prominent courtiers were related to the Empress on her mother's side, but although she looked after these kinsfolk, she did not promote or ennoble them until they deserved it. She would not make her great-uncle, Lord Willanius Howardia of Effinghia, an earl because he was not wealthy enough, and Lord Husadarania was on his death-bed before she offered to make him Earl of Redia. Nevertheless, Boleyenia relations prospered under their illustrious cousin, including the Knollysises, the Sackranias, the Howardises, the Staffortdias, the Fortesias, and the Ashleuses. The Empress enjoyed a unique relationship with her courtiers, who vied to outdo each other in compliments to her: some even constructed buildings on their estates, shaped in the form of an A, in readiness for an imperial visit. Virtually every man who attended the Imperial Court was well-educated, cultivated, well-traveled, and multilingual. They had confidence born of wealth, and eagerly extended their patronage to the Empire's cultural and artistic circles. The Empress expected them to be well-dressed, laid down rules of conduct, and could react severely if they were not obeyed. The Empress herself favored male company, in spite of the fact that many of her most intimate friends or servants were women. As a result, she preferred to be the focus of attention at the Court: many courtiers did not bring their wives or fiancees, for fear of offending Her Majesty. Relations between the Empress and her male courtiers reflected the age-old ideals of courtly love, in which the lover pays hopeless court to his unattainable mistress, whom he worships from afar. Lord Norria, Sir Christopheus Hattonius, and the Earl of Aretha were all excellent examples of this. Aurelia did fascinate men, and exerted a compelling influence on them. Nevertheless, she could also be emotionally volatile, going from kind to harsh in one instant. Yet she also had an excellent sense of humor. The nicknames that Aurelia bestowed on those closest to her were a sign of affection: Leicesterius was her "Eyes", Hattonius was her "Lids", Burghley her "Spirit", and Walsingis her "Moor". However, she would not allow others to be over-familiar with her. In 1782, one of the younger courtiers, Sir Ligonius Presius, stood upon the carpet of the cloth of estate and came within close proximity of Her Majesty, sitting upon her throne in the Great Audience Chamber of the Quencilvanian Palace. Instead of reprimanding the offender, the Empress turned to the Chamberlain (the Earl of Jadia) and scolded him for permitting such behavior.
Aurelia was at all times attended by thirty of her Ladies of the Bedchamber, twenty maids of honor, twelve gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, and ten other personal servants: whenever she appeared in public, her ladies and maids accompanied her. This of course was only the small fraction of the Empress's total number of personal servants. She was rarely alone, as her servants attended her day and night. Duties were on a roster basis, and the most senior ladies would wait upon the Empress in her bedchamber, while the younger attendants would be on duty in the Entertainment Complex and in the Outer Chambers. Maids of honor performed errands, waited upon the Empress at her dining table, bore her train, and maintained all of her clothes, jewellery, and personal possessions. The Empress, as was previously mentioned, granted vacation privileges to her ladies routinely: they could not leave the Imperial Court without her permission, or the permission of her household officials (such as the Marshal or Chamberlain). The Empress's ladies and maids were selected from among her relatives or from the families of courtiers. Because serving the Empress was often a springboard to a brilliant marriage, there was intense competition for places. When Lady Leightonia was thought to be resigning from her post, twelve applications to replace her were immediately submitted. Like most male courtiers, the Empress's ladies were well-educated and well-read. Most studied, read various historical and fiction works, or translated. One of their tasks was to read aloud to their mistress during times of leisure from one of the many books or Holonet files at her personal library. The Empress's ladies and maids were also expected to be accomplished in needlework, music, dancing, and riding, so that they could share in their mistress's interests and entertain her as required. Aurelia demanded high standards, and was critical of any lapse. Lateness and slovenliness earned sharp reproofs, and discipline was strict, the Autocrat having no compunction about slapping or beating any girl who offended her, even for small offenses. Her rages were truly terrible and justly feared, and she would frequently insult or use profanity against servants who had offended her. On the other hand, she counted among her women some of her closest friends, and inspired in them selfless devotion.
The Empress required all her female attendants to wear black and/or white, so that the vivid colors and embellishments of her own dress stood out dramatically. Lady Didymeia Howardis violated this rule of Her Majesty's on one occasion; the result for her was a facial bruise, banishment from the Court for two weeks, and confiscation of all her dresses and gowns. Nevertheless, the Empress's women were the recipients of gifts from visiting digintaries, and Aurelia herself often passed on very costly and beautiful items of clothing to them. Many of the Empress's servants became prominent in their own right. Lady Meguilla Parsius, 1st Baroness Parrius of Welch (1708-90), was the Empress's longest serving female attendant; she served her from the moment of birth, first as a nurse, then as a lady-in-waiting, and finally (1765-90), as Chief Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber and Mistress of the Robes (thereby making her the chief among all of the Empress's attendants and personal servants). Her predecessor in the position was Aurelia's childhood governess, Lady Katharina Ashelius, 1st Baroness Ashelius of Heliotrope (1702-65). Lady Olympia Markhamia, wife of Sir Antiochus Harringtia and mother of the famous godson and courtier of the same name, was another; she had attended Aurelia during her imprisonment at the Fortress of Baureux (1754), in the reign of Didymeia I. Lady Didymeia Radclyffia, 1st Baroness Radclyffia of Constantinople (1732-99), served Aurelia for forty years, from before her accession (in September 1758), until her death in June 1799, and turned down all suitors to remain with her beloved mistress. Lady Didymeia Sidronius, although ravaged by the Marsian fever, remained very close to Empress Aurelia until her death in 1786; she was the mother of Sir Philip Sidronius, and was herself a very intelligent and educated lady. Her daughter, also named Didymeia, became a Lady of the Bedchamber to the Empress in 1776, and served her for thirteen years. It was not unusual for three generations of the same family to serve the Empress as maids of honor. Anna Russalia (1748-97), who married the Earl of Sarah in 1765, was a maid of honor to the Empress from 1758 to 1769, and had been lauded by poets for her "virgin grace, genius, and charming voice." In later years, Aurelia became close to the Briannian Helenna Ulsdotter (1749-1835), third and final wife of the Marquess of Venusia, and when she remarried after the Marquess's death in 1771, Empress Aurelia allowed her to retain the title of Marchioness and the precedence it conferred; she was also granted the Fortunanta Mansion, birthplace of Antipater I, on Darsis.
The Empress became less tolerant of young people as she aged, and strongly disapproved of the romantic and sexual adventures of many of her female attendants. She was in loco parentis to many of these young women, and the guardian of their honor; furthermore, their parents hoped that their daughters would make advantageous marriages through being in Her Majesty's service, and the Laurasian nobility was especially concerned that a "deflowered" virgin was worthless to them. Aurelia went furious if her maids attempted to arrange their own marriages without her consent, since the responsibility of arranging suitable marriages for them rested with her. She was also conscious that scandal and the loss of a maid's reputation would reflect badly upon her own morals. Therefore, she was excessively severe with those who violated the rules. When one of her maids, Lady Mary Sheltonia, a distant cousin of the Empress, secretly married Sir Lysimachus Scaudmoria, the Empress was "liberal in words and blows", and Lady Scaudmoria was forced to go the hospital for injuries to her hands and arms. Later, the Empress apologized, and appointed her as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber. Lady Franconia Vasvoria incurred similar displeasure for the same offense, while her sister Anna, who gave birth to an illegitimate son of the Earl of Oxfadia's in 1781, was irrevocably disgraced, although Her Majesty commanded the Earl of Oxfadia to provide for the expenses of his former mistress and of his bastard child. In the end, though, Aurelia was not against her maids marrying, provided that they chose approved suitors.
Eighteen of her maids were married to peers of the Empire. However, until such an opportunity presented itself, the Empress expected her maids to rejoice in their virginity, as she did. Harringtia states that the Empress would ask her maids "if they loved to think of marriage" and would enjoin them to "remain in a virgin state." The result of the Empress's restrictions was that the maids of honor were too terrified of their mistress to confide in her when they fell in love-which happened frequently in a court peopled with men-and were frequently compelled to conduct their often innocent "liaisons" in secrecy. Towards the end of her reign, as the Empress's intolerance increased, more and more illicit affairs occurred among her maids; the 1790s proved to be a decade of court scandals. This was most clearly demonstrated in the case of Lady Aurelia Verania and the Earl of Southerton (1798), as covered in the timeline. Many of the maids found it hard to expend their nervous energy, and would often disturb others (such as Lord Knollysis). Often there were jealousies and quarrels among the women. Although the Empress did not tolerate open argument, she was not above playing off one protagonist against the other. Yet she often showed a human face to her ladies, and was especially kind when any of them had suffered bereavement or family problems.
Epilogue: The Last Years of Aurelia the Great's Reign (1801-03)Edit
As alluded to in the Eighteenth Century timeline, the Laurasian Empire entered the nineteenth century in a strong and solid position. The celebrations (January 1, 1801), for the commencement of the new century, on Laurasia Prime and elsewhere throughout the Empire, were vigorous and exuberant. All subjects sought to give their praise to the Lord Almitis or to their own Gods that once more the Galaxy had navigated through another century, and that all had lived to see the continuation of the Hyperspace Era. Yet, in spite of the excitements engendered within the Empire's dominions by the change of the century, and the Empress's own proclamations to her subjects, other, more underlying tensions were now to come to the fore. The Earl of Estatius, who was simmering with rage and dissent about Aurelia's treatment of him, and had become engaged in the formulation of rebellion against her, continued forward with these plans. He believed that the dawn of a new century would allow for him to regain glory, and to reassert his position of influence at the Imperial Court.
Finalizing his preparations, Estatius, at the beginning of February 1801, met with his associates, at the Earl of Southerton's residence in Christiania, to draw up their plan of action. Apart from Southerton, the Earls of Hannah and Ruthania, and Lords Sandria, Monteageria, and Crownapoulos were among those who pledged Estatius support. It was agreed that once Estatius had gained control of the Empress, he would force her to remove his enemies such as Cecilis, Raleghia, and Cobhamia, clearing the way for his own adherents to be installed in their places. The conspirators, nevertheless, were unsure of what Estatius should do to secure the Empress's person. One plan that was canvassed was that of taking the Court by stealth. Men loyal to the conspirators could be posted in vital sections of the Quencilvanian Palace, and could, upon an agreed signal, take control of these stations. Once potential opponents had been disarmed, Estatius and Southerton would make their way to the Empress, and kneeling before her in feigned humility, would make known to her their demands. It was generally anticipated that resistance would be slight, and Estatius himself took the view that when he came to the Court, no one would arise against him.
Once he had committed himself to rebellion, Estatius's general demeanor became increasingly wild, and he took to railing against the Empress in such a frenzied manner that suggested to some of his acquaintances that he was no longer altogether sane. Sir Antiochus Harringtia noted Estatius's ramblings in his own private journal, declaring that the Earl behaved towards the Empress "in a strange, brash, offensive manner." Through these ramblings, and the congregations of his supporters at Estatius House and Southerton House, the Earl drew attention to himself by the imperial authorities. One of Estatius's friends, Sir Feresus Gorgia, took fright and warned Raleghia of what was going on. Raleghia, in turn, warned the Council, but the Chancellor, as noted in the Timeline, was already prepared. He had further strengthened the Valedictorian Guards, reorganized the defenses, and installed his agents among the nobility and Estatius's household, who fed him information as needed. Thus it was that early on the morning of February 7, 1801, Estatius was commanded by the Privy Council to present himself before the body immediately, in order to answer for his actions. Estatius responded by stating that he could not come just then as he was "in bed and all in a sweat" after playing a game of tennis. Clearly, however, the Council could not be misled with such a weak excuse, and its summons now precipitated him into action. That night, he called together his supporters at Estatius House, telling them that Raleghia and Cobhamia were planning to murder him, and that he was in urgent need of protection.
The following morning (February 8, 1801), the Empress herself, in an act of calculated deliberation, sent Sir Franconius Bagonius and three of her Privy Councilors to repeat that the Earl must appear before the Council. The quartet found the courtyard of Estatius House filled with unruly men in a state of high excitement. Estatius was asked to account for this assembly, and he again maintained that he was in danger of being murdered, and claimed his friends had gathered to defend him. Bagonius then attempted to inform Estatius of the Empress's "conditions", but he angrily told him, repeating his defiant statement of 1800 "Her conditions! Her conditions are as crooked and cankered as her carcass!" He and his followers then drew their vibroswords. Bagonius, astounded at his former friend's act, told the men to put down their weapons and "show their allegiance to the Empress!" Southerton rejected this. Estatius ordered some of his men to confine Bagonius and the others to his quarters in Estatius House. Bagonius, as he was dragged away, shouted "Treason, my Lords! Rebellion!" The mob of supporters outside Estatius House cheered in the Earl's support. Estatius now addressed his supporters, telling them that "The Empress, has had her mind poisoned by evil councilors, my Lords! Robertus Cecilis! Robertus Cecilis will sell us to Spamalka. Let us die before we let him!" His followers were rallied to this, and shouting "To the Court!" sallied from Estatius House. A band of some twenty thousand ruffians and supporters marched through the streets and quadrants of Christiania, towards the Quencilvanian Palace.
As they marched through the city, Estatius and his men shouted "For the Empress! For the Empress! A plot is laid for my life!" They attempted to recruit the inhabitants of Christiania, but the inhabitants fled instead, and barred their residences, businesses, and properties to the bandits. The Mayor of Christiania had already imposed a curfew upon the city's population and commanded all residents to denounce the appeals of the rebels. Nevertheless, Estatius and his band continued towards the Quencilvanian Palace. At the Palace itself, the Court was in a furor. Chancellor Cecilis now deployed the Valedictorian Guards, Imperial Marines, and Christiania Police in and around the Palace grounds; the Empress herself stirred with her ladies, noticing the "noise below and the fray on Fleet Street" (one of Christiania's main thoroughfares). Cecilis tried to convince the Empress of the great danger; she scoffed, and now determined to see the rebels herself. Shouting "Justice!", Estatius and his band approached the Palatial Balcony, on the farther side of the Palace.
The Empress appeared on the Balcony, repeating, in mock derision, the rebel refrain of "Justice!" Estatius looked up at her, and said: "We do not seek to fight! All we seek is the removal of certain councilors of yours, who have worked against those of us, who really love you. Justice!" The Empress turned her head to Chancellor Cecilis, standing near her, as Estatius said these words, and then responded, in a firm, clear, and authoritarian voice: "You do not come to seek Justice! You come to decide which of us shall rule this Empire, you or I! And I tell you Estatius it is I who rule!" She then turned to the Commander of the Palace Control, Sir Thomasius Merethia (1754-1811), who had served in that position since March 1799, ordering him: "Do your work, Sir Thomasius." She and the Chancellor, along with her advisers and ladies, retreated back inside the Palace. Merethia ordered the Guards to launch a coordinated barrage of missiles and blaster fire upon the ranks of the rebel bands. A skirmish ensued; government troops, with better weapons and equipment, and the superior strategic position, gained the advantage almost immediately. More than 3,000 rebel troops were killed, and another 5,000 wounded, in the course of the next thirty minutes; just fifty government troops suffered the same fate. Estatius and Southerton were forced to retreat with their scattering bands.
They hastened back to Estatius House. By that point, the hostages (including Bagonius), had already been released by their guards, and had hastened back to the Palace. The Earl of Notthamia and the Mayor of Christiania now came to Estatius House with more than 50,000 Guards, Marines, and Police troops, to suppress the remnants of Estatius's Rebellion and capture the rebel leaders. Estatius and Southerton were able to destroy a significant amount of their correspondence and conspiracy materials. In quick order, however, the Empress's troops appeared, demanding that they surrender, shouting: "In the name of the Empress!" They began breaching the barricades of the House, and succeeded. Estatius, Southerton, and some of their remaining supporters tried to flee to the Christiania Docks, where the Earl possessed a small transport. They did not succeed, however, and the Docks were surrounded by Laurasian troops. Estatius and Southerton now realized that all was lost, and they surrendered to the Empress's troops without a further struggle.
The Empress was in her office at the Palace, working on decrees and correspondence, when Chancellor Cecilis approached her. She asked him about the "mad and ungrateful wretch"; he informed her that Estatius was captured. At this news, the Empress smirked, and continued with her work, outwardly satisfied but inwardly torn. By the end of that day, more than 11,000 of Estatius's supporters were in the custody of the imperial authorities; they were now imprisoned at the Fortress of Baureux, the Post Settlement of Hepudermia, and the Cron Drift. The Empress herself issued the instructions for the manner in which they were to be confined, and would not rest until she was assured that her orders had been carried out. The following day, she told the Franconian Ambassador that Estatius, that "shameless ingrate, had at last revealed what had long been in his mind." She had indulged him too long, she confessed, and with mounting passion, spoke scornfully about Estatius parading himself through the Imperial City, making vain speeches and retreating shamefully. Harringtia, however, noted the strain upon the Empress, as a result of the uprising's collapse.
As the Empress sought to punish the rebels without delay, the Council began examining them, uncovering the full details of the doomed plot. On February 13, at the Senatorial Palace, these were made public. Four days later, indictments drawn up by the Imperial Ministry of Justice were laid against Estatius, Southerton, and more than eight thousand of their followers. It was commanded by the Empress that the two principals should be tried by the Special Court in two days time. Bagonius was one of those chosen to act for the Crown, and due to his own harrowing experiences, had no qualms about doing so. The Empress was prepared to overlook Mountjaria's involvement, and acknowledged that Lord Harringtia (Earl of Hannah) had never been involved in conspiracy or rebellion against her. The previous day, one of the Earl's followers, Captain Thomasius Lesius of the 1st Imperial Fleet, had sought to force Aurelia at blade-point to order for Estatius's release. He was, however, arrested by Valedictorian Guards, alerted to his scheme, on the outskirts of the Palace, and had been conveyed to the Fortress. On February 16, he would be attainted and executed on the Empress's orders at the Fortress Grounds, she not buying his claim that he meant no harm to her and sought to provide for the Empire's prosperity. This incident served to seal Estatius's fate, and to increase Aurelia's paranoia about challenges to her authority.
On February 19, 1801, Estatius and Southerton were tried by the Special Court at the Senatorial Palace, with the Earl of Doracia presiding as Imperial Steward. They were accused of plotting to deprive the Empress of her crown and life, imprisoning the councilors of the realm, inciting the inhabitants of Christiania to rebellion with false tales, and resisting the Empress's councilors sent to bring him to order. As Estatius looked on smiling, Solicitor-General Coxeria, Bagonius, and Chief Justice of the Star Chamber Pophamia presented their devastating case for the Crown. Estatius, who was dressed in black and control of himself, pleaded not guilty, as did Southerton. He now did his best to refute the charges, declaring: "I swear, before Almitis, that I bear a true heart to Her Majesty. I was in fear of my life from my enemies!" Bagonius, who had the most conspicuous role of all among the prosecution, responded to this, by saying: "My Lord, you remind me, of the Elanan, who cut himself and then cried murder! Only to defend yourself, that you imprisoned me and those the Empress sent to you to call you to your senses." Estatius faltered, and claimed that he had given his love and service to him freely. He asked whether or not Bagonius, who served the Empress in such a manner, had lied and "pretended friendship", while deceiving her as to his loyalty. Bagonius responded that he had loved Estatius, as long as he "continued a dutiful subject" and that he "had spent more hours to make you a good subject to Her Majesty than ever I did about my own business." Estatius now said Bagonius had betrayed him by "crawling on his hands and knees to Cecilis" and that "Robertus Cecilis, is in the pay of Spamalka!"
The Chancellor himself, who had deferred the responsibilities of prosecution to Bagonius, Coxeria, and Pophamia, and sat among the jurors of the Special Court, now rose. Addressing him as "My Lord of Estatius", he continued "The difference between you and me is great. For wit, I give you the preeminence. You have it abundantly." Cecilis now approached the Earl. Estatius, who smirked at this, "thanked" him and asked, in a derisive and mocking tone, if he had come to apologize. The Chancellor now ripped into him: "For nobility also, I give you place. I am not noble, though a gentleman. I am no soldier, but I have innocence, conscience, truth, and honesty to defend me. You have a wolf's head in a sheep's clothing sir!" He responded: "Oh, Chancellor, I thank Almitis that you have come here in the ruff of all your bravery to make your charges against me today!" Cecilis then asked "Who says I am in the pay of Spamalka!" He then turned towards his peers, shouting "Name your authority!" Turning back to Estatius, he said mockingly: "Or is this some new fantasy of yours?" Estatius replied that this was an easy answer, saying the man stood next to him (Southerton). He then said: "The Earl of Southerton told me that he knew it for a fact." Cecilis looked at Southerton; Southerton, shaken, said he did not say anything of the sort, and that he never said that the Chancellor was in the pay of Spamalka. Estatius was now fully discredited and doomed. Realizing that he would die, he said: "Then I am damned my Lord, and you with me."
Soon afterwards, the Court announced its verdict, unanimous and as expected in the Empire's autocratic system: guilty. Chancellor Cecilis was especially vigorous in pronouncing his agreement with the verdict. The Earl of Doracia now announced the formal verdict: "You have been pronounced guilty of treason. And you will suffer the punishment of traitors. Which is death." Southerton now got on his knees, crying, and wailed "No! No, I swear it upon mine honor that I never meant any harm to Her Majesty! If I have been lead astray, then I humbly beg your pardon, but I am no traitor, Sirs!" He turned to Estatius and pleaded: "My Lord, you know that I ever loved the Empress and I told you so!" Estatius, himself now trembling, got down on his knees and said "And so be it, my Lords. While I will not have it thought that I despise the Empress's clemency, I will not make any cringing submission to obtain it." Many at the Imperial Court believed that, if Estatius begged the Empress for mercy, she would spare his life, but the Earl remained true to his word and did not make any submission. Despite the efforts of the Dean of Westphalia, sent to him by the Council, he would not acknowledge his guilt. Even had he done so, he would have posed too great a threat to the Empress's security to be allowed to live. On the day after the trial, without her usual prevarication, the Empress signed Estatius's death warrant in a firm hand. On February 21, Cecilis, Notthamia, Egertonia, and Doracia were requested to attend on Estatius in the Fortress. His chaplain, having conjured up a terrifying vision of the punishment that awaited him in the Underworld if he did not acknowledge his sins, had succeeded where the Dean had failed, and in an agony of remorse, Estatius had asked to make a full confession of his crimes in the presence of the Council.
With great humility, he declared he was the "greatest, most vilest and most unthankful traitor that has ever been in the Empire", admitted that the Empress would not be safe as long as he lived, and implicated all of his friends fully in the conspiracy. Lady Estatius begged the Chancellor to intercede with the Empress for her husband's life. Cecilis was in some ways grieved to see Estatius brought so low, but the Empress was implacable. Later, she told the Franconian Ambassador that had she been able to spare Estatius's life without endangering the security of the realm, she would have done so, but "he himself had recognized that he was unworthy of it." She did, however, grant Estatius's request for a private execution. On February 23, having been delayed to give the prisoner time to make his confession, Estatius's death warrant was delivered to the Lieutenant of the Fortress, but the Empress sent a message after it, ordering that the execution be postponed until the next day. The following day, February 24, the Empress attended a Shrove banquet at the Court, and watched one of Shakesperius's plays. That night, she sent a message commanding the Lieutenant of the Fortress to proceed with Estatius's execution the following day, ordering also for special precautions to be taken. Estatius prepared for death, apologizing to his guards for having no means of rewarding them.
During the early hours of February 25, 1801, a select company of Privy Councilors, lords, knights, and officials arrived at the Fortress. They had been invited to watch the execution, and took their seats around the platform, erected at the Private Fortress Grounds, near the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vicula. When Raleghia appeared, being required, as Captain of the Gentlemen Pensioners, to attend, there was some murmurs of disapproval, for it was known that he had been Estatius's enemy, and several people, seeing him position himself near the rampart, accused him of having come to gloat. He therefore withdrew to the Fortress Armory, and watched the proceedings from there. Later, he claimed that he had been moved to tears. Supported by three clergymen, Estatius was brought to the scaffold just before 8:00 A.M. Galactic Standard Time. He was dressed in a black velvet gown over a doublet and breeches of black satin, and wore a black felt hat. Having ascended the step, he took off his hat and bowed to the spectators. It was traditional for the condemned person to make a last speech before departing the Universe, and Estatius adhered to this custom: "I have spent thirty five years in this Universe, and my sins are more in number than the hairs on my head. I have bestowed my youth in wantonness, lust and uncleanness; I have been puffed up with pride, vanity, and love of this wicked Universe's pleasures. For all which, I humbly beseech my Savior Paul to be a mediator to the eternal Majesty for my pardon, especially for this my last sin, this great, this bloody, this crying, this infectious sin of mine, whereby so many for love of me have been drawn to offend Almitis, to offend their sovereign, to offend the Universe. I beseech Almitis to forgive us, and I beg you all to pray for me. Almitis preserve the Empress, whose death I protest I never meant, and forgive my enemies, for they too are deserving of Almitis's grace."
His speech over, he removed his gown and ruff, and moved to the middle of the platform. A clergyman told him not to be overcome by fear of death, whereupon he commented that several times in battle he had "felt the weakness of the flesh, and therefore in this great conflict desired Almitis to comfort and strengthen him." Looking toward the sky, he prayed fervently for the estates of the realm, and recited Almitis's Prayer. The executioner then knelt, as was customary, and begged his forgiveness for what he was about to do. He readily gave it, and repeated the Creed after a clergyman. He then informed the executioner that he would be ready when he stretched out his hands. Many were now weeping. "Lord, be merciful to Thy prostrate servant! Lord, into Thy Hands I commend my spirit!" He then stretched his hands out. The executioner then fired his blaster; it took three rounds to bring Estatius down. The headsman then lifted the body up, as traditional, and shouted "Long live the Empress!"
The Empress was in her office when informed by Cecilis of the execution. She was now in a reflective, contemplative, somber mood, thinking much about the Earl of Estatius. She commanded the Chancellor to "Put his lapdog little Southerton in the Fortress. No more blood, please Almitis, no more blood." She commuted Southerton's sentence from death to one of life imprisonment. Moreover, she told Cecilis that she would spare "the others who were account", and ordered him to send her the names. She continued: "You knew what it was like to love him, I think." He replied in the affirmative. The Empress dismissed him, and told Cecilis that she meant no harm by calling him "Little Pigmy", being only her humor. However, as he was making ready to leave, she began recounting Estatius's statements; Cecilis hung back. The Chancellor now presented a poem and ring to the Empress, from Estatius, and made his departure. Aurelia took it. In his poem, Estatius had written: "My prime of youth is but a frost of cares. My feast of joy is just a dish of pain. My crop of corn is just a field of tears, and all my good is just vain hope of gain. Today is gone, yet I saw the Sun, and now I live, and now my life is gone." She dropped it and fell to the floor, silently bewailing the Earl. Afterwards, true to her word, the Empress had nearly all of Estatius's remaining followers and conspirators either pardoned or condemned to terms of imprisonment, exile, or penal labor. More than 10,000 individuals were treated thus in this manner. Only Danveria, Blountia, Cufferia, Treshania, and Meyerick, deemed the most culpable in the rebellion, were executed. Estatius's sister, Lady Richius, was ordered to return to her husband, and was permanently banned from the Imperial Court. Some of the conspirators, however, would later become involved in the Explosive Plot of 1805. Lady Estatius remarried twice, and the Earl's mother, the Dowager Countess of Estatius and Leicesterius, was to live until 1834, dying at the age of ninety-one.
Estatius's passing was mourned by many of the Empress's subjects, with popular ballads such as Estatius's Last Good Night (1802) and Sweet Laurasia's Pride is Gone (1804), being circulated in the following years. The Empress, herself, however, did not show any public regret for having Estatius executed. Nevertheless, she wore the ring which he had sent her for the rest of her days. With the Earl dead, the most powerful man in the Empire was undoubtedly Chancellor Cecilis, that able and consummate statesman. However, he was not popular, and many blamed him and Raleghia for Estatius's death. The Empress, however, remained firmly in control of affairs, and her own popularity with her subjects was undiminished. Yet by March 1801, with Aurelia having ruled forty-two years, the Chancellor, and many others, recognized that the days of the Neuchrian Dynasty were dawning. By this point, he had decided that the only logical successor to the Empress was Lord Harringtia of Hannah, and now began preparing the way for his accession. He encouraged the Empress to appoint Harringtia to the Privy Council on April 7, 1801, and to name him Vice-Minister of the Chancellory. Harringtia also continued his advance in the Imperial Military, having gained renown through his services under Surovius in the Scottrian Governorates. The Empress, however, continued to resist all pressure to publicly name an heir, and declared that she would not place her Empire in peril through such a decision.
For months after Estatius's death, the Empress was weary and sad, suffering bouts of depression that drove her to seek sanctuary in her bedchambers, where she would give way to fits of weeping. In June 1801, she confessed to the Franconian Ambassador, Marshal Francois de Biron, that she was "tired of life, for nothing now contented me or gave me any enjoyment." She referred to Estatius with "sighs and almost with tears", but insisted that he had not heeded her warnings and had brought his own doom upon himself. That summer solstice of 1801, Aurelia did not go on progress, but instead conducted a tour of the cities of Laurasia Prime. She visited the Marquess of Winchestrius in Quencania City; Lord Monomphalaus (nephew of the famed historian), in Constantinople; and the Duke of Christiania in Herkorim. On June 28, 1801, at the Old Royal Palace, she entertained Biron and the Austarlian Ambassador, Lord Clughaff; she had the Palace adorned with plate and hangings, in the honor of the two Ambassadors, brought from Hampsonian Palace on Jared, and boasted that none of her predecessors had ever, during a progress or otherwise, so "royally entertained an Ambassador." The Duke de Sully, who served as Biron's attache, was impressed by Aurelia's acute insight into the affairs of state: "I was convinced this great Empress was truly worthy of the high reputation she had acquired. She said many things which appeared to me so just and sensible that I was filled with astonishment and admiration. It is not unusual to behold princes from great designs, but to regulate the conduct of them, to foresee and guard against all obstacles in such a manner that, when they happen, nothing more will be necessary than to apply the remedies prepared long before-this is what few princes are capable of. I cannot bestow praises upon the Empress of Laurasia that would be equal to the merit which I discovered her in this short time, both as to the qualities of the heart and the understanding."
In July 1801, Aurelia's courtiers, noticing that the handsome young Earl of Clanicarde in Scottria bore a passing resemblance to Estatius, tried to bring him to the Empress's notice in order to revive her spirits. She betrayed no interest whatsoever in him, and made it clear that anything that reminded her of Estatius only brought her pain. On August 7, 1801, upon her return to Christiania, the Empress received, at the Diplomatic Palace, the antiquary Sir Willanius Lambardia (1736-1801), who had been made Keeper of the Fortress Records in May of that year. He presented her with a copy of the catalogue of documents in his care. Aurelia showed great interest, reading some aloud and telling him that "she would be a scholar in her age and thought it no scorn to learn during her life." But when she turned to the papers documenting the reign of Seleucus the Victor, it was obvious that Estatius's rebellion was on her mind, for she turned to Lambardia and said "I am Seleucus the Victor, do you know that? He that will forget Almitis will also forget his benefactors." Lambardia had no doubt as what she was referring; Estatius had led his bands in an attempt to storm the Quencilvanian Palace, similar to how the same residence had been stormed by the Royal Guards, aroused by Grand Princess Theodora against the young Seleucus, his mother, and protectors, more than five centuries earlier. Aurelia, however, dismissed him graciously, saying "Farewell, good and honest Lambardia." He died twelve days later.
On September 7, 1801, the Empress celebrated her sixty-eighth birthday. In honor of the occasion, she visited the Galactic Exchange, presided over a banquet in her honor there, and then watched a performance of My Lady's Recourse, one of the most famous of Sergonius's plays. Many however, noticed Aurelia's obvious emotional turmoil, and the fact that she derived less pleasure from the birthday festivities than before. She lamented that she was the "last of my dynasty" and that she was alone. Everyone of significance and importance, from the earlier years of her reign, was now dead: Leicesterius, Burghley, Walsingis, Hattonius, Estatius, Bagonius, Mildmay, Winchestrius, Jadia, Aeoleon, Aretha, Darcia, Americana, Norfolkius, the Earl and Countess of Sarah, Sir Antigonus and Didymeia Sidronius, Bromelius, Thorckmortonia, Venusia, Munnich, Foxius, Ashleius, Parrius, Chief Procurator Parsius, Vassalina, Gibbeoneous, Monomphalaus, Kendalia, Oxfadia, Deesius, Cobhamia, Pauletius, Husadarania, Knollysis, Hannah, Dracius, Surovius, Field Marshal Norria, Rumanstevius, Greysius, Ushavious, Hawkius, Repanius, Clitonia, Lord and Lady Norria, and many more. Contemporary monarchs, consorts, and figures too, had passed: Pru'a, Hensios II and III, Charman III, Franjak II, Catharina d'Medici, her doomed cousin Mariana, her ally Joseth II, her enemies Mustapha III and Abdulahamid II, Philicus I, Mar'va Tarvania, Kaunitz, Ivan IV and Feodor I, a score of Haxonian Doges (particularly Da Ponte and Cicogna), Frederickus III, Georg III, Stanis Vorrust I, Peter von Bironia, Alba, Parma, William and Philip of Orange, Anjou, Austarlian Archduke Char'vak, Morton, Mar, Moray, Jamsius VI, Mariana of Guise, and so many more. She also remembered the rebels and conspirators Pugachevia, Malaria Prime, Almastead, Fitzgerald, Desmond, Tyrone, Babingtia, Ridolfius, and Throckmortonia; these men who had challenged her were too among the dead. This great rate of mortality pained the Empress considerably. But nevertheless, she marched on, and continued to treat her subjects and her courtiers with graciousness and respect.
By October 1801, however, the Empress was grappling with another issue: the question of private monopolies. As mentioned earlier in this article, Aurelia had taken action, at the beginning of her reign, in abolishing many of the monopolies which had been utilized by the Imperial Treasury and by the Imperial Household. However, she had not taken action to abolish the personal monopolies, on spices, ores, luxury goods, and the like, which had still been granted, in certain regions of the Empire, to certain favored officials, courtiers, and nobles. The sweet wines monopoly which had been enjoyed by both Leicesterius and Estatius was only the most notable of these; in 1801, the thirty remaining monopolies still generated an income of more than €400 trillion dataries per annum for the over two hundred individuals, corporations, and firms by which they were held. Shortly before the outbreak of Estatius's Rebellion, on January 27, 1801, Empress Aurelia had authorized Chancellor Cecilis, the Imperial Ministry of Finance, and the Imperial Ministry of Works & Holdings to establish a joint commission on the question of the private monopolies. This commission had worked for several months, and on October 28, 1801, presented its final report to the Empress in an audience at the Quencilvanian Palace. The report recommended that the private monopolies be abolished; that all remaining restrictions upon the involvement of privately-held or civilian firms to participate in select spices, ores, luxury goods, and military goods be removed; and that a system of regular taxation be imposed upon all the personal patrimonies and obligations of the Imperial Estate. Aurelia resolved to follow these recommendations. Moreover, she sought to demonstrate to her subjects her still enduring concern for them, and the majesty of the authority which she commanded. Thus, on November 5, 1801, she informed the Privy Council of her intention to deliver a formal address to an assembly of notables from throughout the Empire, and to her subjects, relating to monopolies and to the overall genesis of her reign. Chancellor Cecilis and Sir Franconius Bagonius (who had finally been knighted and appointed to the Council by the Empress in April 1801, in recognition of his role in Estatius's trial), strongly supported this move.
On November 17, 1801, the 43rd anniversary of her reign (celebrated with great pomp at the Court and throughout the Empire), the Empress issued a proclamation to her subjects from the Quencilvanian Palace, formally announcing the results of the report and stating her intention to follow all of its recommendations therein. There was a jubilant response to this in the cities of Laurasia Prime, and elsewhere in the Empire's regions; once again, Her Majesty had demonstrated her concern for the welfare, prosperity, and cohesiveness of her dominions. She had, on July 26, 1801, surpassed Seleucus the Victor's record on the throne, and was now the second longest-reigning sovereign in Laurasian history (behind only Honorius the Terrible). Thus, the response was colored by awareness of the venerability and honor of their sovereign. Thirteen days later (November 30, 1801), as had been planned, the Councils of State and a delegation of prelates, nobles, governor-generals, dignitaries, merchants, businessmen, prominent personages, and other notables from throughout the Laurasian Empire gathered in the Assemblage Auditorium of the Quencilvanian Palace. They were received by the Empress, wearing her lavish State Robes, and enthroned in the middle of the Auditorium. The ceremony itself was broadcast on the Galactic Holonet, and displayed in prominent locations in star systems throughout the Empire. She now delivered the Golden Speech, which served, in effect, as her farewell words to her beloved people. All present knelt before her and Chancellor Cecilis sought to express the collective thank of her subjects. She silenced him and said:
"Your Excellencies, we perceive your coming is to present thanks unto us. Know that I accept them with no less joy than your loves can have desired to offer such a present. There is no jewel, be it of never so rich a price, which I set before this jewel: I mean your love. For I do more esteem it than any treasure or riches, for those we know how to prize; but loyalty, love and thanks-I account them invaluable; and though Almitis hath raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with your loves. This makes me that I do not so much rejoice that Almitis hath made me to be an Empress, as to be an Empress over so thankful a people and to be the means under Almitis to conserve you in safety and to preserve you from danger." She then ordered them to rise, for she had more to say to them, and continued: "Your Excellencies, you give me thanks, but I am more to thank you, and I charge you, thank my subjects that the knowledge of these things have come unto me from them; for, had I not received knowledge from you, I might have fallen into the lapse of an error, only for want of true information. That my grants shall be made grievances to my people, and oppressions be privileged under color of our patents, our princely dignity shall not suffer. Yes, when I heard of it, I could give no rest unto my thoughts until I had reformed it, and those abusers of my bounty shall know I will not suffer it. Of myself, I must say this: I was never any greedy, scraping grasper, nor a strict, fast-holding prince, nor yet a waster; my heart was never set upon any worldly goods, but only for my subjects' good. To be an Emperor is more glory to them that see it, than it is a pleasure to them that bear it. You have had, and may have, many a higher and mightier prince to sit upon this seat, but you have never had, nor shall have, any who love you better." She then made an injunction to the Lord Almitis, recounted her efforts at reforming and improving the condition of her subjects, and then invited all to come forward to kiss her hand. Cheers erupted throughout the Auditorium, with many calling "Almitis save the Empress!" They then came forward and paid their respects to her; following this, the Empress rose from her throne, and with her ladies and attendants, left the chambers to the sound of music.
Her speech, it was unanimously agreed, had never been bettered. And her promises would be followed by action. The decrees of December 9, 1801 and April 7, 1802, would complete the abolition of all monopolies, official or private, in the Laurasian Empire which had been begun nearly forty years earlier (in 1763). As a result, commerce and transport within the Empire became more efficient and less burdensome; imperial revenues experienced another major increase, exceeding €210 quadrillion dataries by the end of the reign; and squabbles among the nobility, merchants, and prominent personages for favors and grants lessened. Moreover, the Empress's popularity had grown yet further; on December 19, the Procurator-General would remind his colleagues on the Governing Senate that Laurasia, virtually alone in extra-galactic civilization, had enjoyed stable government throughout the Empress's reign, and he expressed his thanks to her "for the happy and quiet and most sweet and comfortable peace we have long enjoyed, and blessed be Almitis and Your Majesty, do still enjoy." The last months of 1801, therefore, passed in calm. At Ascentmas 1801, the Empress presided over the festivities with her usual attentiveness, and seeking to demonstrate that she still had vigor, once again displayed the energy for which she had been known. Then, on January 7, 1802, she and the Court removed to the Gilbertine Palace on Tudoria, where they thence remained for nearly two months.
In March 1802, the Empress conducted a minor progress through the Venasian Triangle, Nexus Route regions, and the Schauerian Provinces. Her visits to Colsonia, Archleuta, Selena, Jem, Caroline, Robbay, Bolgrahay, and Ipsus V gained especial notice. Aurelia was also monitoring the situation in the Great Amulak Spiral, where Austarlia was drawing closer to Durthia and Franconia, while the Haxonian Confederacy was making parleys to the Spamalkans and Pruthians. These would be harbingers of the great coalition wars which were to break out in the years following the Empress's death. In June 1802, a Laurasian convoy under Fleet Commodore Sir Ricomedus Levania captured a Muggalite pirate corps in the Galactic Void, which had been harrying the outposts of the upper Trans-Angelina; for this feat, Levania was congratulated by the Empress, and promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral. A Laurasian expedition, moreover, in the Western Reaches crushed a minor uprising of Haynsian Goths and Albanian colonists in the systems of Limaick and Tederyn, with more than 75,000 rebels being captured or imprisoned and the defenses of those star systems demolished; these were the last military exploits of Aurelia the Great's reign. The following month (July 1802), the Empress planned to go on a progress to the Garaman and Homi Provinces, but changed her mind at the last minute and conducted a tour of Laurasia Prime, Clackimaris, Americana, Oxia Vixius, Charasia, Ralina Vixius, Janesia, Maroni, Dearton's Gateway, Apathama Vixius, Osama, Augis II, Taurasia, Vetta, Lusculum, Sarai, Katie, and the other strongholds of the inner Purse Region. Among the most memorable of her visits was one to Procurator-General Egertonia at Harefadian Park on Terentum (July 22-27, 1802). She was lavishly entertained and lauded as the "best housewife in all this company." There were banquets, masques, musical interludes, a rustic feast, allegorical pageants, and a lottery which was rigged so that the Empress would win the prize. Pamphlets and communiques describing the festivities were produced, distributed by the Holonet, and consumed in huge quantities by the public. On August 8, she visited Theobaldian House on Durglais, being entertained by the 2nd Lord Burghley and by Chancellor Cecilis. Cecilis, in fact, presented her with a jewel set with rubies and topazes to match "the life of her eyes and the color of her lips"; as late as this, it was still the fashion for men to maintain the fiction that she was some eternally youthful goddess of beauty.
On August 14, 1802, the Empress proceeded to the Hampsonian Palace on Jared, and announced that she was in better health than for the past twelve years. She sought to prove this by going on a expeditionary hike around the grounds of the Palace, hunting, and then riding her personal steed. She arrived back at the Palace shattered, but took care to go for a long walk the following day, lest her courtiers guessed she had been exhausted by her activities. She then made visits to the Polonian Royal Palace, the Golden Palace of Saray (which had been reconstructed between 1781-93), and the Fountain Palace on Venasia Major, before returning, on September 3, to Laurasia Prime. There, on September 7, 1802, she celebrated her 69th birthday; she was now the fourth-longest lived sovereign of Laurasian history (trailing only Tiberius II, Demetrius Severus II, and Antoninus Pius), and had lived the longest out of all the Neuchrian monarchs. She was observed by the Pruthian Duke of Stettin walking in the Seleucid Gardens as "briskly as though she were eighteen years old." He was told she had "never been so gallant before, nor so set upon jollity." The Earl of Blackria informed his friend, the Earl of Aretha: "We are frolic here at Court; much dancing in the Privy Chamber before the Empress's Majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith." She rarely danced in public nowadays, but was occasionally spied in her private apartments, dancing with her musicians playing their instruments. In September, the Dowager Countess of Aretha was informed by her step-son that "The Empress's health and disposition of body is very excellent, and I have not seen her every way better disposed in many years." Her sense of humor was still lively; on September 15, she amused herself in a charade with the Duke of Shenandoah, taking a locket containing the Chancellor's portrait and attaching it to him, so that all could see it. He took it in good part, commissioned some verses about it, and had them set to music and sung to the Empress, who was much amused. She was familiar with her subjects. When a Laurasian who had sojourned in the Great Amulak Spiral was brought before her (September 25, 1802), kneeling, she took him by the hair and made him rise, and pretended to box him on the ears.
There were, however, signs that her memory was failing. In October 1802, the Empress confused one of her Gentleman-At-Arms, Sir Tacitus Peredia, for the Earl of Leicesterius, only realizing her mistake later. On October 8, she moved to the Royal Palace of Briannia (and would remain there until November 4). Four days later, some courtiers arrived to pay their respects to her. Although she could remember their names, she had to be reminded of the offices she herself had bestowed upon them. She was finding it harder to concentrate on state business, and this was exacerbated by failing eyesight, for which she required laser-eye treatments and the use of a special reading monitor for state dispatches and documents. Yet in public, matters still seemed well. Accession Day (November 17, 1802), was again celebrated with great pomp; Aurelia had now reigned for forty-four years. She presided over the ceremonies with "the ordinary solemnity and as great an applause of multitudes as if they had never seen her before." At the end of a gladiatorial contest in the Circus Maximus, the contestants hailed her as "Aurelia the Great" and "Gloriana"; her courtiers joined in the refrain, and although she said that she did not deserve the same stature as the most glorious of her predecessors, the refrain nevertheless continued. The Empress, however, did express her appreciation and joy for the great love her subjects held for her. On December 6, she dined with the Chancellor at the Byrnes Palace, and afterwards watched a "pretty dialogue" between a maid, a widow, and a wife on the respective advantages each enjoyed; predictably, the virgin was deemed as the most fortunate. When the Empress left, she appeared "marvelously well contented", and proceeded to visit the 2nd Lord Husadarania and Notthamia, being entertained by them at their Christiania mansions.
By the beginning of December 1802, however, a deep depression descended on Aurelia, who was beginning to realize that she would not win this constant battle with advancing age. It became obvious that time was running out for her. Sir Harringtia, visiting the Court for Ascentmas, was shocked at the sudden change in her and wrote to his wife: "Our dear Empress, my imperial godmother and this state's most natural mother, now bear signs of human infirmity; too fast for that evil which we shall get by her death, and too slow for that good which she shall get by her releasement from pains and misery. I find some less mindful of what they are soon to lose, that of what they may perchance get hereafter. Now, I cannot blot from my memory the goodness of our Sovereign Lady to me: her affection to my mother, her bettering the state of my father's fortune, her watching over my youth, her liking to my free speech and admiration of my little learning, which I did so much cultivate on her command. To turn aside from her condition with tear-less eyes would stain and foul the spring and fount of gratitude." Because the Empress was in "most pitiable state", and hardly eating anything, he tried to cheer her by reading out some of his humorous verses (December 19, 1802), but although she managed a weak smile, she bade him desist, telling him that she was "past her relish for such matters." Harringtia was startled when she asked him if he had ever met Tyrone. He "replied with reverence that I had seen him with the Governor-General [Estatius]; she looked up with much grief in her countenance, saying "Oh yes, now it comes to mind that you was one that saw this man elsewhere." But she was very distressed by the lapse, and teared up. Harringtia was concerned about the implications of her failing memory.
The Empress kept Ascentmas (the 44th and last of her reign), at the Quencilvanian Palace with her former accustomed splendor, and seemed in better spirits. There was "much dancing, festivity, and joy at the Court"; moreover, the Empress received the results of the census of November 21, 1802, which indicated that Laurasia Prime's population was now 3.1 trillion; this was satisfying to her, and demonstrated that her capital world was truly the center of extra-galactic civilization. The succession, however, continued to be a concern. Most in the Empire wanted Lord Harringtia of Hannah because he was a firm patriot and Reformist, loyal to Her Majesty, and had, in June 1800, been married. His wife, Lady Anna Harringtia, had given birth to their eldest son, Archaleus, in September 1801, and she was pregnant again by November 1802. Thus, it seemed obvious to the Empire's subjects that he would be the harbinger of a new dynasty. Moreover, many in the Empire desired for a male sovereign again, after half a century of Empresses. The Earl of Duana, on his part, had denounced all claim of succession to the Imperial Laurasian Crown; Sir Edwardis Seymouris, son of Lady Katharina Greysius, was technically illegitimate; and there were no other surviving descendants of the Greysius sisters. Nor were they interested in Lady Anastasia Stuart, mainly on account of her personality and upbringing.
She had come to the Imperial Court in 1787, but the Empress, offended by the girl's arrogance, had promptly sent her away, back to her grandmother. Lady Stuart, by 1802, was twenty-eight, neurotic and unstable, and still unmarried. She hated the Countess of Aretha, who was a harsh and critical guardian, and by the end of 1802, she was desperate to escape from what she regarded as a prison. Thus, she sent a message to the 2nd Earl of Heuthros (the legitimate son of the older Heuthros, who had died suddenly in 1796), offering herself as a bride for his half-brother. Heuthros, whose father had, several years earlier, incurred a final outburst of displeasure from the Empress for attempting to validate his marriage with Lady Katharina Greysius, informed the Council at once, knowing that on no account would Aurelia allow for a marriage of Anastasia and Edwardis. When a imperial deputation came to question her, an enraged Countess, who had known nothing of her granddaughter's scheme, could hardly refrain from beating the girl; instead, she lashed out with her tongue. She also wrote to the Empress (note of December 27, 1802), assuring her that she had been "altogether ignorant" of the girl's "vain doings" and pleading to be relieved of the responsibility of the girl, adding "I cannot now assure myself of her as I have done." But the Empress decided that the girl must remain with her grandmother, who must make a better effort to control her. In February 1803, Lady Stuart attempted to flee from the household, but Aurelia was by then beyond such concerns. Yet, although the Empress herself now had a preference for Lord Harringtia, and had raised his stature through his promotion to the Privy Council, the succession remained a taboo subject. At the end of December 1802, it was exclaimed by one: "Succession! What is he that dare meddle with it!"
The year 1803, the last year of Aurelia the Great's life, opened with the Laurasian Empire still residing in complete peace and tranquility, both internally and externally. This was a contrast to the situation at the end of the reigns of Antigonus III, Demetrius II, and Didymeia I; indeed, many compared it to the Empire's situation at the end of Neuchrus the Reformer's reign. In her final New Year's manifesto (January 1, 1803), the Empress again affirmed her love for her subjects, and declared that "the Lord Almitis has seen us through intrigues and the blindness of vain foolery." She reiterated these themes again in a communique of January 5, 1803, addressed to the City Council of Christiania, the Mayor of Christiania, and the Urban Prefect, expressing her hope that the "felicity of our Lords will never desert our loyal subjects." Then, on January 17, 1803, the Empress dined with Lord Thomasius Howardis, her "good Thomasius", the only surviving child of the executed Duke of Norfolkius (who had been dead for thirty years), at the Christiania Charterhouse, and created him Lord Howardis de Walden of Christiania. This was the last hereditary or knightly creation of her reign (there had been more then three hundred such creations). Four days later, the Empress and the Court departed from Laurasia Prime for the last time, moving to the Gilbertine Palace on Tudoria, ancestral residence of her dynasty. Along the way, she stopped at Aquilionia, and had dinner with Sir Antiochus Lascius, owner of Lascian Enterprises, one of the largest costume and fashion firms in the Empire, whom she had known for fifteen years. The weather was wet and colder then usual, but the Empress refused to wear more protective garments. The 2nd Lord Burghley warned his brother Cecilis that Her Majesty should accept "that she is old and have more care of herself, and that there is no contentment to a young mind in an old body."
During her journey, Notthamia asked the Empress bluntly if she would name her successor. She answered "My seat hath been the seat of Emperors, and I will have no rascal to succeed me; and who should succeed me but a Emperor?" Notthamia, and others, took this to mean that she wished Lord Harringtia to succeed her, but she would neither confirm nor deny it. The Court reached Tudoria shortly afterwards, and on February 6, 1803, the Empress made her last public appearance when she received Giovanni Scaramelli, the newly-appointed Haxonian Ambassador to the Court of Christiania (he had arrived late the previous month, and been appointed by Doge Grimani in December 1802). Seated on a dais, surrounded by her courtiers, she was wearing a magnificent, full-skirted, low-necked gown of silver and white taffeta edged with gold, and was laden with pearls and jewels, with her hair of "a light color never made by Nature" and the Smaller Imperial Crown on her head. Scaramelli noticed in her face traces of her "past, but never quite lost, beauty." When he bent to kiss the hem of her dress, she raised him and extended her hand to be kissed. Addressing him in Haxonian, the Empress welcomed the Ambassador to the Empire and expressed her delight that "the Confederacy has sent to visit a Empress who has always honored it on every possible occasion." She then expressed her good wishes for the Doge and Senate, and her hope of the continued friendship, and adherence of all commercial and diplomatic treaties, between the two realms. The Ambassador expressed his delight at finding her "in excellent health", pausing to give her a chance to agree with him, but she ignored this and angled instead for another compliment, saying "I do not know if I have spoken Haxonian well; still I think so, for I learned it when a child, and believe I have not forgotten it."
Yet tragedy now came for the Empress. On February 25, 1803, the Empress's cousin, longest-serving lady-in-waiting, and close friend, the Countess of Notthamia, who was the late Lord Husadarania's daughter, died at the Gilbertine Palace on Tudoria, aged 56. The Empress was present at the deathbed, and her grief was such that she ordered a state funeral and sank into another, deeper depression from which she never recovered. At the same time, her coronation ring had to be removed, due to an infection which needed to be treated on her finger. This represented to her the breaking of a sacred bond, the marriage of an Empress to her subjects. She knew her own death could not be far off, and in her last communique to her correspondant and ally, King Hensios IV of Franconia (February 26, 1803), noted that "All the fabric of my reign, little by little, is beginning to fail." That same day, when Franconian Ambassador de Beaumont (who had served since June 1802), requested an audience, the Empress asked him to wait a few days on account of the death of Lady Notthamia, for which "she has wept extremely and shown an uncommon concern." It was now observed that she withdrew from all cares. Sir Robertus Caranius, the youngest son of the late Lord Husadarania and brother to the late Countess of Notthamia, was, on March 1, 1803, admitted to the Empress's apartments. He found Aurelia "secluded, sitting low upon the cushions. She called me to her. I kissed her hand and told her it was my chiefest happiness to see her in safety and in health, which I wished might long continue. She took me by the hand and wrung it hard, and said "No Roberto, I am not well", and then discoursed with me of her indisposition, and that her heart had been sad and heavy for days; and in her discourse, she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs. I was grieved at the first to see her in such plight, for in all my lifetime before I never knew her a fetch a sigh but when the Queen of Scottria was executed."
The next day (March 2), she gave a command that all should be prepared for her to go to the Imperial Chapel the following morning. Caranius said that they "all expected her coming. After eleven o'clock one of the grooms came out and said that she would not proceed to the Chapel, and would receive communion in the Presence Chamber. There we stayed long for her coming, but at last she had cushions laid for her in the Privy Chamber, and there she heard service. From that day forwards, she grew worse and worse." The Empress now suffered from ulcers and a cold, but refused all treatments. No longer could she, by March 5, sleep or swallow food easily. She also suffered from heat flashes and a continual thirst, but when her courtiers asked her about her troubles, she told them "she knew nothing in the Universe worthy to trouble her." Chancellor Cecilis, watching all of this, ordered Caranius to make ready to summon Lord Harringtia from Hannah as soon as the Empress ceased to breathe, and to confirm his accession. On March 11, 1803, the Empress rallied briefly, then had a relapse. She was, according to Ambassador de Beaumont, "so full of chagrin and so weary of life that, notwithstanding all the pleas from her councilors and physicians to consent to the medicines and treaments proscribed to her, she would not take them." With a flash of her old spirit, she told Cecilis and Chief Procurator Whitshiftus (himself in declining health), who had begged her on their knees to do as her physicians recommended, that "she knew her own strength and constitution better than they, and that she was not in such danger as they imagine." Nor would she eat anything, but spent her days lying on the floor on cushions, lost in "unremovable melancholy" and unwilling to speak to anyone; Caranius himself recorded that the Empress grew worse and worse.
Cecilis insisted: "Your Majesty, to content the people, you must go to bed." She retored "Little man, the word "must" is not used to princes. If your father had lived, you would not have said so, but you know that I must die, and that makes you so presumptuous." Notthamia then came to see her; having retired from the Court to mourn his wife, he had returned to cheer the Empress. He told her to have courage, but she said "My Lord, I am tied with a chain of iron around my neck. I am tied, I am tied, and the case is altered with me." She complained of bronchitis and of other pains in her chest, face, and throat. Notthamia tried also to get her to retire to bed, but she refused, telling him "If you were in the habit of seeing such things in your bed as I do when in mine, you would not go there." On March 16, however, she had herself lifted into a low chair. When she found herself unable to rise from it, she commanded her attendants to help her to her feet. Once in that position, by a supreme effort of will and a determination to defy mortality, she remained there unmoving for fifteen hours, watched by her appalled yet helpless courtiers. At length, fainting with exhaustion, she was helped back on to her cushions, where she remained for another two days. By March 18, her condition had deteriorated alarmingly; de Beaumont reported to the King and the Conseil royal that "she appeared already in a manner insensible, not speaking sometimes for two or three hours, and within the last days for above twenty four, holding her finger continually in her mouth, with her eyes open and fixed to the ground, where she sat upon cushions without rising or resting herself, and was greatly emaciated by her long watching and fasting." The following day, she was so ill that Caranius was informing Lord Harringtia, by Holonet, that she would not last more than three days. On March 21, Cecilis sent the Lord a draft copy of the proclamation that would be read out on his accession. All Harringtia hoped for now was that the Empress would not linger much longer.
In order to avoid any public demonstrations or panic, Cecilis vetoed the publication of any bulletins on the Empress's health, but the Franconian Ambassador deliberately spread word of her condition. "Her Majesty's life is absolutely despaired of" reported Haxonian Ambassador Scaramelli. "For the last ten days she has become quite pitiable. Christiania is all in arms, and everybody is in movement and alarm." At last, that same day (March 21, 1803), Notthamia persuaded the Empress to go to bed. After lying there for some hours, one of her throat ulcers burst, and she asked for some of her broth to be brought to her. Soon afterwards, she began to lose her speech, and, according to Scaramelli, "from that time ate nothing, but lay on one side, without speaking or looking upon any person, though she directed meditations to be read to her." Chief Procurator Whitshiftus and her chaplains were from then on in constant attendance on her, while her musicians played softly in the background to soothe her. Her councilors knew she could not last much longer. On March 23, her chief chaplain, Dr. Parrius, held a special service of intercession in the Imperial Chapel, offering such fervent prayers for Her Majesty that he "left no dry eyes." The Chief Procurator gave her comfort, but she would hear nothing of his "hopes for a longer life." But when he spoke of the "joys of the Heaven of Almitis", she would firmly grip his hand. That day, Notthamia, Egertonia, and Cecilis asked the Empress to name her successor, but she was beyond speech. Instead, she signaled for pen and paper to be brought to her, and was able, with considerable pain, to scrawl out one name: Harringtia. At last, at the thereshold of death, Empress Aurelia had officially named her successor. This was soon made known to the Councils of State, and an official proclamation of accession for Lysimachus II was now drafted, ready to be used at the moment her breath ceased. The Chancellor himself sent out instructions to all garrisons, authorities, and officials in the Empire, commanding them to have all accession preparations in ready and to administer the oath of allegiance to Lord Harringtia upon the Empress's death. He also gave the same instructions to the heralds and criers of the Court, telling them to have the formal announcement made as well.
The Gilbertine Palace was now crowded; so was all the major government structures on Laurasia Prime, and all prominent public locations throughout the Empire. It was now known that the end could not be far off. At 6:00 A.M., her strength going away, the Empress signed for the Chief Procurator to come and to administer the Last Rites. Caranius was one of those kneeling in her chambers on this solemn occasion, and was moved to tears by the scene: "Her Majesty lay upon her back, with one hand in the bed and the other without. The Chief Procurator kneeled down beside her and examined her first of her faith; and she punctually answered all his questions, by lifting up her eyes and holding up her hand, as it was a comfort to all the beholders. Then the good man told her plainly what she was and what she was some to: though she had long been a great Empress in the living Universe, yet shortly she was to yield an account of her stewardship to the Emperor of Emperors. After this, he began to pray, and so did all others." Whitshiftus then called for holy water, and repeating the Words and Prayer of Death, touched the Empress on her nose, forehead, breast, cheeks, arms, hands, and legs. He then lowered again, and held her hand until his knees ached. As he made to rise, blessing the Empress, she gestured him to kneel again and continue praying. He did so for another hour, until Aurelia finally let him go by releasing her hand.
At 10:00 that evening, the Empress turned her head to the wall and fell into a coma, from which she would never wake. With Egertonia, Cecilis, Notthamia, Whitshiftus, Dr. Parrius, Doracia, the other members of the Councils of State then present at the Imperial Court, her ladies-in-waiting, her other chaplains, her menservants, Raleghia, and a slew of other courtiers in attendance, Aurelia the Great, Empress and Autocrat of All the Laurasians, the last and greatest monarch of the Neuchrian Dynasty, and one of the greatest sovereigns in all of Laurasian and galactic history, passed to eternal rest, "mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from a tree" shortly before 3:00 A.M., the morning of March 24, 1803, as the "most splendid sun sets at last to a western cloud." She had reigned for forty-four years, longer than many of her subjects could remember, and had during the course of that reign, transformed the Laurasian Empire. By 1803, the Empire extended its jurisdiction over the entire Caladarian Galaxy, Angelina Spiral, and Great Tesmanian Cloud, ruling over seventy million star systems, twenty million alien species, and fifteen quadrillion sentient beings. It was the most powerful and most influential state of extra-galactic civilization, and was fully involved in the affairs of the Great Amulak Spiral. The Imperial Almitian Church; the economy; the central, regional, and municipal administration of the Empire; the nobility; the education, healthcare, and welfare systems; the culture; the judiciary; the Imperial Court; and the military had all undergone significant and substantial reform by the Empress. The measures of her reign, such as the Statute of Religious Administration, the Statute of Regional and Provincial Administration, the Codex Aureliana and the Instructions to the Commission, the General Education Statute, the University Statute, the Charter of the Nobility, the Charter of Municipal and Colonial Administration, the Administrative Ordinance of Christiania, the All-Faiths Toleration Edict, the Spice Trade Code, the Code of Commercial Navigation, the Recusancy Statute, the Revised Treason Statute, the Military Codes, the Senatorial Regulations, the Uniform Tax Code; all of these measures, and many more, had greatly improved the Empire's strength, the unity of its government, and the prosperity of its subjects.
She had consolidated the religious work of her father and siblings; continued with, and greatly extended, the administrative and judicial reforms of her grandfather; and embarked upon a policy of great territorial, military, and geopolitical expansion. It was in the last arena, that of expansion, that the Empress had been the most successful. She had defeated the Malarian Rebellion, the Pugachevia Rebellion, the Ridolfi Plot, the Thorckmortonia Plot, the Babingtia Plot, the Desmonian Rebellion, Tyrone's Rebellion, and Estatius's Rebellion, fobbing off and triumphing over such individuals as Malaria Prime, Almastead, Ridolfi, Norfolkius, Thorckmortonia, Babingtia, Desmond, Tyrone, Philicus I of Spamalka, the Dukes of Alba, Medinia Sidonia, and Parma, and the greatest of all her enemies, Queen Mariana of Scottria. She had successfully navigated the waters of diplomacy, working with, outwitting, or besting such monarchs as Pru'a IX, Joseth II, Mar'va Tarvania, Catharina d'Medici, Hensios III, Hensios IV, Charman III, William of Orange, Ivan IV, A'rua IV, Fransios II, Mustapha III, Abdulahamid II, Selim III, Ahmad al-Mansur, Fernando I, and so many others. She had crushed the Bar Confederation, the Dejanican Constitution of 1791, and Kosciuzko's Revolt, overcoming the likes of Pulaskia, Koscizusko, the Dejanican nobility, and Stanis Vorrrust I. Indeed, her destruction of the Dejanican-Lithuanian Commonwealth; her exploitation of the Earls of Moray, Morton, Mar, and Lennaxia, and of the Marianian Confederation; her foiling of Mariana of Guise; her interventions in, and annexation of the Haynsian Despotate; and her ultimate military victories over the Spamalkans and Marasharites had all demonstrated her guile and her ability. In fact, Aurelia acquired more territory for the Laurasian Empire then any of her predecessors; the Satellite Galaxies in themselves were equal to about half the volume of the Caladarian Galaxy. She achieved the acquisition of Dejanican Lavella, which had eluded Antigonus II the Conqueror; of the Muggal Cluster and Northern Reaches, which had been a goal of every Laurasian sovereign since Demetrius Severus; and of the Haynsia and Ochanian Provinces, which had been beyond the capabilities of Field-Marshal Munnich. Moreover, she acquired permanent military consulates and outposts for the Empire in Franconia, Durthia, Portugallia, and Morocco, a task which Antigonus III and Didymeia I had singularly failed to accomplish. Aurelia had also navigated all plots at the Imperial Court, used the marriage negotiations process to her advantage (such as in the cases of Austarlian Archduke Char'vak and the Duke of Anjou), and had smacked down the Earl of Estatius.
It was for all of these reasons that she deserved her title of "the Great". When the news of her death was formally announced, there was great bewailing, at the Court, and throughout the Empire. Chants of "Gloriana", the "Virgin Empress", "Good Empress Aurelia", "the Great", "Astraea", "Deborah", and "Empress of Space", among other phrases, resounded. Cecilis had the Empress's coronation ring (which had been placed back on her finger), removed and dispatched with Caranius to Hannah. At the Court, the chants of "The Empress is dead! Long live the Emperor!" were made, and all bowed accordingly, though in a muted and strained fashion. The accession of Lysimachus II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Laurasians, was then proclaimed from the Quencilvanian Palace, Gilbertine Palace, Old Royal Palace, Senatorial Palace, and Westphalian Cathedral, with the Councils of State issuing the Decease and Accession Proclamations in accordance with Laurasian customs. Heralds communicated the announcement in all the Empire's star systems, and during the course of the next several hours, all subjects, authorities, and military personnel swore an oath of allegiance to Lysimachus as Emperor. Yet all the same, the wailing and mourning continued; it slowly began to dawn upon all that the great Aurelian Era was over.
As for Caranius, he arrived on Hannah within four hours. He proceeded to Queverian House, the Earl's residence, fell to his knees when presented to Lord Harringtia, and saluted him as Emperor and Autocrat of All the Laurasians. He then gave him Empress Aurelia's coronation ring. Emperor Lysimachus, as he now was, quickly issued his first manifesto to his subjects, ordering his subjects into the official period of mourning for his predecessor; enthusing her merits, her victories, and her achievements; and expressing his deepest condolences concerning her death. He departed from Hannah the following day, and proceeded quickly to Tudoria, where he was formally hailed by the Imperial Court as their new sovereign lord. As for the Empress's body, an autospy was conducted by her Vendragian physician, Dr. Rogerson; the body was then embalmed, wrapped in cere-cloth, and placed in a coffin. On March 29, the Court formally departed from Tudoria to Laurasia Prime, in funeral procession, with the coffin on the IMS Galacticana Laurasiana. The arrival at the Laurasia Prime star system occurred the following day; Emperor Lysimachus received the acclaim and adoration of his subjects, but also made due rememberance of his predecessor. Aurelia's coffin was now laid in state at the Quencilvanian Palace, attended around the clock by Gentlemen Pensioners, Imperial Marines, Valedictorian Guards, and magnates of the Court. During the course of the next month, more than sixty million individuals viewed Her Majesty's body. On April 28, 1803, it was then taken in procession to Westphalian Cathedral. This was an impressive ocassion; the hearse was drawn by four repulsorlifts hung with black velvet, and surmounted by a life-sized effigy of the late Empress, dressed in her state robes and crown, an orb and sceptre in its hands; over it was a canopy of estate supported by six magnates. It was followed by her riderless palfrey led by her Master of the Empress's Vehicles, and the Marchioness of Venusia, who (in accordance with Aurelia's final testament on her funeral, which had been drawn up in December 1802), acted as the chief mourner and led the peerseeses of the realm in their nun-like mourning hoods and cloaks, and more than 250,000 other black-clad individuals: lords, councilors, Senators, Synostic Councilors, prelates and clergymen, gentlemen, courtiers, heralds, Guards, Marines, Pensioners, military officers and personnel, and servants. The Governor of Laurasia Prime, the Prefect and Mayor of Christiania, the City Council of Christiania, the Governor-General of Laurasia Prime, the Children of the Imperial Chapel, the Cadet Corps, the staffs of the Imperial Universities and Academies, the Exchange Board, Raleghia, all foreign dignitaries, members of the alien nobility, and prominent non-noble personages, also marched. At the head of the entire procession was Emperor Lysimachus himself, his head bowed in mourning and wearing a lavish black garment. He was directly attended by Chancellor Cecilis, Procurator-General Egertonia, Chief Justice Puckerania, Chief Procurator Whitshiftus, and Lord Treasurer Doracia, among others. The solemnity was overlaid with gorgeous pageantry as colorful banners and standards flattered in the breeze, and trumpets sounded.
Millions lined the funeral route; it was noted that "Christiania was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their thoroughfares, businesses, properties, homes, and places, that came to see the obsequy, and they beheld her statute lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning, and weeping as the like has not been seen or known in the memory of man, neither does any history mention any people, time, or state to make like lamentation for the death of their sovereign." With Chief Procurator Whitshiftus officiating, Aurelia I was buried in the north aisle of the First Antonine Chapel in the Westphalian Cathedral; her coffin was placed above that of her sister and predecessor, Didymeia I, shared also with the bodies of Neuchrus I himself, Aurelia Zemakala, and Katharina of Shenandoah, and in the chambers adjoining that which held the bodies of Antigonus III, Theodora Seymouris, and Demetrius II. After the coffin had been placed, the chief officers of her household and government, as was customary, broke their white staves of office and cast them down on the coffin, to symbolize the termination of their allegiance. The vault was then sealed. In 1806, Lysimachus II would order for the vault to be redesigned; Sir Maxentius Colteria undertook this commission, erecting a great white marble effigy of the Empress, made from her death mask. It was painted and gilded by Nicholas Hillardia. A Old Laurasian inscription on the tomb described the Empress as "The mother of this her country, the nurse of religion and learning; for perfect skill of very many languages, for glorious endowments, as well of mind as of body, a prince incomparable." Lysimachus II would crown himself and his wife, Empress Consort Anna, with the Great Imperial Crown at the Westphalian Cathedral on July 25, 1803, four months after Aurelia's death. He was to reign until his death on March 27, 1825, for a total of twenty-two years. His reign would see the outbreak of the Third Spamalkan War, the largest military conflict ever waged by the Laurasian Empire, involving all the powers of extra-galactic civilization.