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Every evil galactic empire has an emperor’s palace. From the Goa’uld to the Sith Empire to House Harkonnen, every emperor has one extremely lavish but heavily defended structure they call home.

My empire, known as the Dynasty, is no different, but I want my setting to be (somewhat) scientifically realistic and internally consistent, and that extends to royal palaces.

My original plan was to make the palace of the emperor—who is known as the Sovereign-Lord—the entirety of a paradise planet near the heart of the Dynasty’s core systems. While this definitely fulfills the “lavish” criteria and the plentiful available resources allow for large-scale defensive weaponry production, it faces the disadvantage of being a gravity well, and also cannot dodge any relativistic projectiles launched through the interstellar wormhole network by an aspiring rebellion. On the other hand, a space station can maneuver away from inbound threats, and can be totally surrounded by defense platforms without much worry for gravity and orbital mechanics, but won’t be as powerful a statement as an entire planet and thus be less effective in its role as a palace.

Which of the two options would have the best balance of opulence and defense? Is there a third option I haven’t considered? And are there other factors I haven’t thought of regarding imperial palaces?

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    $\begingroup$ Cant the wormholes be facing away from the paradise planet? And you could place some bombs nearby the entrance which will deflect any relativistic object from a path to the planet. The only way passed is to fly through at lower speeds and fly around. That said a paradise planet still means you dont have complete control over the planet itself. A space station like an Oneil cylinder or something can control its weather and space much more. You might even get away with the even more extravagant paradise Dyson Swarm/sphere. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ What's your budget? $\endgroup$
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ Re budget: My assumption is that anything that calls itself an "interstellar" empire had better be at least a Type II civilization, so to a first approximation, the budget for something like this would be inconceivably vast. $\endgroup$
    – Kevin
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ We're talking about the ruler of an interstellar Empire. Why would they settle for just one Palace? Historically, our single-country royalty certainly haven't. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ I've only read the first 1.5 books of Dune, but House Harkonnen wasn't the Imperial House. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 18:57

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Think about the purpose of a Royal Palace:

  • It's NOT to impress the Emperor of their lackeys.
  • It's to impress the Emperor's potential enemies when they drop by for a chat. I'm so rich and powerful that I can squash you like a bug, pal. Reconsider your perfidity or else I'll turn this power and wealth against you.
  • It's a place to keep the Emperor's hostages. Your family will be well cared for, and your children will be among the ruling class of the Empire...if you play ball.

Real defense from an organized and powerful enemy force comes from deterrence: Fear of discovery by the Emperor's countless sinister agents and subsequent immediate retribution by the Emperor's tremendous, unbeatable battle fleet. Faced with an emerging threat, the Emperor seems likely to leave the palace in favor of the well-defended War Room on their personal battleship (the Invincible).

Local defenses are merely to keep the Emperor's day-to-day nefarious activities from being interrupted by the occasional intrepid, incorruptible Space Rebel seemingly bent upon a suicide run.

It should be comfortable for the hostages (not spartan or prison-like -- the children really WILL be the future scions of the Empire!), but the only parts that need to be truly lavish are the spaceport, grand processional avenue, facing gardens, and palace ceremonial spaces that outsiders (potential enemies) see on their visit so they can be suitably impressed.

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    $\begingroup$ On the whole, imperial hostages are more like foster children than, well, hostages. They should be educated about the vast importance of the empire and their vital role in it. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary sure; edited to emphasize the point. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 1:15
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The D**th Star:

I guess this would be a "station" argument, but that hardly seems to apply.

That's not a moon, it's a space station.

Don't make the emperor's palace a fixed place. Make it a huge warship so large that its mere presence terrifies the local population. You can devote a significant proportion of your empire's GDP to building a vessel so large as to be impractical as a useful weapon - after all, it's not REALLY part of the fleet.

Your despotic lord can travel in horrifying comfort aboard the largest death machine in the galaxy. The emperor's will to destroy unruly servants is at his immediate disposal, without time to reflect on common sense. No relativistic projectiles, as the ship isn't in the same place twice. The emperor doesn't need to look cowardly by not visiting various planets, since he brings all the comforts and protections of home with him as he travels.

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A well protected bunker inside a planet

The emperor lives on a planet that has maintained life for 2-4 billion years. There is no life on the surface left now, because the star has evolved into a red giant, your planet is on the outskirts of it, in a Mercury-like orbit. In a few million years, it will be swallowed and destroyed, but until that point, your advanced civilization has managed the situation, building undergrounds. As a result, the palace is a very well protected place, there are few ships that can approach the planet. When they can, it is difficult to attack, because the Emperor's palace resides about 240km below the surface, with a few, well protected strongholds on the surface. There is no single entrance, your civilization is built around the palace.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is exactly "extravagant". $\endgroup$
    – Hearth
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 2:16
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The far future.

The palace is not contemporaneous with the rest of the story. The palace is in the far future. They have had millenia to make this planet and palace awesome. Also, being in the future, the Emperor knows all. He can anticipate your every move. If he is not acting to block your actions it is because he knows he can do so at a later date. The Emperor controls access to the future and return to the past. You cannot hurt him. There is nothing you can do except resign yourself to being ruled. And while you are at the palace sample some of these fine blue quandongs they have been breeding into amazing succulent fruit over the millenia.

There are some temporologistical problems posed by having your Emperor reign from the far future. Should it work for your story, there may be some aspects of the Great Oz to this Palace in the Future scenario. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

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A few comments.

One

Why do you assume that a galactic emperor would be evil?

I say that the president or monarch of an independent sovereign planetary state, star system, state, or species state, would be evil, because the function of independent sovereign states to occasionally make war against other sovereign independent states. Fighting wars and making their own citizens - just as much as the citizens of other realms - experience horror and suffering, destruction and death, is the function of independent governments.

And in a society with rapid interstellar travel, independents would have the power to devastate enemy planets and kill all their inhabitants, which is trivially easy compared to having rapid interstellar space.

So no matter how evil a galactic emperor might be as a person, their regime would be saintly compared to any independent sovereign state ruling only part of the known galaxy.

I note that most countries in the world today have various administrative divisions with varying powers, and that the main function of such administrative divisions is to do things which are good for the people within them. So most administrative divisions manage to do things which are good for the people within them without being independent sovereign countries with the power to fight wars and kill people.

Being a resident of an administrative division within a larger administrative division within a larger administrative division within a larger administrative division within a larger administrative division and so on up to being part of a galactic empire is much safer than being a resident of a sovereign independent state surrounded by other sovereign states with the power to make war against them.

So don't go calling galactic emperors evil.

Two

You write that a planet as the location of a Galactic emperor's palace would have this disadvantage:

and also cannot dodge any relativistic projectiles launched through the interstellar wormhole network by an aspiring rebellion.

Any planet available for a galactic emperor to build a palace on would either be part of a star system or else be a rogue planet in interstellar space.

A planet in a star system would move constantly, orbiting around a star or a pair of stars.

A rogue planet in interstellar space would move constantly, orbiting around the center of the galaxy.

Even a rogue planet in intergalactic space would move constantly, since it would have formed within a star system within a young star cluster within a galaxy, and must have been given sufficient speed by gravitational interactions to escape from its star system, its cluster, and its galaxy.

So if the mouths of wormholes are fixed in space, the palace planet, like every other planet, would be constantly moving relative to the mouths of the nearest wormholes.

So if a projectile is sent at relativistic speeds through the wormhole, its trajectory will have to be properly aimed and adjusted on the far side of the wormhole.

And considering that the two mouths of the wormhole should be light years apart, a projectile sent through the two mouths should have only a very narrow range of possible trajectories.

So it seems to me that it would be extremely rare for the palace planet, or any other planet, to be within such a thin and narrow cone of possible trajectories of relativistic projectiles emerging from a wormhole mouth. I would say that the odds against a projectile emerging from a wormhole mouth and striking a planet even once in galactic history would be astronomical.

And that is assuming that the wormhole network is natural. If it is artificial and the galactic empire created it, the wormhole mouths would be planned to be located where they didn't point toward inhabited planets.

What if the wormhole mouths are attached to star systems and move with the star systems?

That way the wormhole mouth could be located a lot closer to the palace planet, making travel times shorter, and increasing the probability that the palace planet could be struck by an unsteerable relativistic projectile emerging from the wormhole mouth.

But when you start with astronomically low odds that something would happen, and then increase them millions of times, the odds will still be astronomically low.

The obvious way to attach the mouth of a wormhole to a star system would be with gravity. The wormhole mouth might be generated by enormous machines which would have mass and gravity. The wormhole mouth itself might have mass even without generating machines.

So the wormhole mouth, having mass, and being (relatively) near a star, would orbit around that star, just like the palace planet in this case.

Assume there is a carnival carousel surrounded by a circular racetrack. Suppose a loaded gun is lying on the floor of the carousel, pointed outwards toward the race track. Suppose that the carousel is turning, and cars are racing in the racetrack, when the gun goes off and shots toward the racetrack. Wouldn't the odds against hitting the bullet from the gun hitting one of the racecars be very large?

Suppose that there is a line directly from the center of the Sun to the center of the Earth. If that line is extended outwards into space it will pass the orbits of the other planets in our solar system. But considering how small a planet is compared to the total circumference of its orbit, that line will have a very low probability of going through a planet at any one time.

And in fact that line will probably not intersect the orbit of any outer planet at all, let alone while that the line from Earth and the planet occupy the same spot in the orbit.

The orbits of all the planets are tilted slightly compared to the orbits of the other planets. So by the time a line from Earth in the plane of Earth's orbits passes tens of millions or hundred of millions of miles outward, it will pass "above" or "below" the plane of the other planet, by a distance much greater than the width of the planet.

So if a slight tilt is enough to make a line from the Earth miss the orbit of another planet, the creators of the wormhole network can give the wormhole mouths orbits which are tilted much more, to increase how much a line from the wormhole mouth will miss the orbits of the planets.

And of course the creators of the wormhole network can give the wormhole mouth an orbit outside of the orbit of the palace planet or any other inhabited planet. And if the wormhole mouth only opens in the direction facing outward from the star, any relativistic projectile emerging from the wormhole mouth will only be able to travel away from the inhabited planet, not toward.

Maybe a projectile can emerge in any direction from the wormhole mouth.

In that case any gigantic space habitat palace or palace on a planet would be defended like a major planet in E.E. Smith's Lensman series of space operas would be defended.

In the series, the two sides learned how to create artificial hyperspatial tubes leading to any destination, much like artificial wormholes, and so could suddenly create many hyperspatial tubes leading to an enemy world and send invasion fleets with millions of space battleships through them to attack.

They would also send major weapons thought the hyperspatial tubes, not mere fleets of millions of space battleships. They attached giant engines to planets and tried to crash them into target planets. They built planet-sized negaspheres, balls of negative matter that cancelled out normal matter, attached giant motors, and tried to smash them into target planets.

So any planet which was expecting to be attacked would have major defenses such as fleets of millions of space battleships, and giant orbital fortresses, and a bunch of planets and negaspheres with with giant engines ready to smash into attacking planets and negaspheres and knock them off course.

And by the last battles in the series really powerful offensive and defensive weapons were developed.

So I think that any really powerful galactic emperor would have really powerful defenses in place to defend the various star systems where their various palaces were in giant space habitats and/or on planets.

So they could attach space drive engines to asteroids and place a line of asteroids in front of the wormhole mouth in the the system. A spaceship on a normal slow approach would be traveling slowly enough to have time to swerve and avoid the first asteroid, but a relativistic projectile would smash into the first asteroid in line causing a gigantic explosion. Then the next asteroid would be moved forward to plug up the gap in front of the wormhole mouth.

Suppose that the wormhole mouth is a spherical shape and objects can exit it in any direction.

Then the thing to do would be to put many concentric spherical shells around the wormhole mouth, each shell consisting of equally spaced pebbles or grains of dust. If an object came out of the wormhole mouth at a relativistic speed, it would run into pebbles or even dust with enough force to explode.

No doubt there could be cylinders running though each concentric shell of pebbles or dust, the interiors of the cylinders clear of pebbles or dust so spaceships could pass through them. But each cylinder would have great doors at each end and and a spaceship would have to stop in front of a cylinder to be checked out before the doors would open and let it through, and any object which rammed a cylinder would be destroyed.

And of course there could be space battleships and gigantic battle stations, etc. posted around the wormhole mouth to destroy any hostile missiles or ships which may emerge from it.

And possibly there are many lifeboats/escape capsules throughout the palace; if an alarm is sounded people in the palace can rush into the escape capsules and zoom away from the palace and the planet or space habitat, and take refuge with the battle fleet.

So it seems to me that it would be possible for any system which contained a palace on a planet or in a gigantic space habitat to be well guarded against attacks.

And possibly the galactic emperor could have several different palaces in systems tens of light years apart, and travel between them in gigantic palatial spaceships guarded by vast fleets of space battleships.

Three

While writing this, I had a thought.

There is a legend that King Louis XI of France, fearing assassination, slept in a different room each night.

I don't know how many different bedrooms he had to choose from at his favorite residence, Chateau de Plessis-lez-tours. 365, one for every day of the year? Probably not that many. About 30, one of every day in a month? Maybe. 7, one for each day of the week? He should have had at least that many. And no doubt he didn't sleep in the same order time after time, or hypothetical assassins could predict where he would seep each night.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Plessis-lez-Tours

And legend claims that Ch'in Shih Huang Ti, or Qin Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor of China, built a ring of palaces around his capital city, connected by underground passages so nobody could see his coming or going, and slept in a different palace and room each night. As I remember, there were supposedly over 100 or even over 200 of those palaces, so not enough for every day in the year, but enough to go for months without repeating.

https://zippyfacts.com/why-did-emperor-qin-shi-huang-of-china-sleep-in-a-different-palace-every-night/

And considering how many times, almost infinitely, more powerful a galactic emperor ruling a highly technologically advanced society would be compared to Louis XI or even Qin Shi Huangdi, a galactic emperor could do something almost infinitely greater than that.

If you go to the PlanetPlanet blog, and the section called Ultimate Solar System, you will find blogs dedicated to designing fictional solar systems with as many habitable planets as is scientifically possible.

In "The Ultimate Engineered Solar System" there is a design for a solar system with literally hundreds of potentially habitable planets in its circumstellar habitable zone.

https://planetplanet.net/2017/05/03/the-ultimate-engineered-solar-system/

Though of course the author admits that even though such a solar system could exist and all the hundreds of habitable planets could have long term stable orbits, it would seem to be statistically impossible for such a solar system to form naturally, and so it would have to be engineered, created by a highly advanced civilization which built planets and/or moved them into the correct orbits.

So so possibly the civilization in your story found such a multiplanet system left behind by a past advanced civilization. Or possibly it is advanced enough to build one themselves.

And I don't know how many days there are in a year in the calendar used by your civilization, but I guess that a system with hundreds of habitable planets could have one planet for each day of the year in its calendar.

And possibly the emperor sleeps in a different bedroom in a different palace on a different planet in that system each night.

Four

See the answers to https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/186407/the-emperors-new-palace

Especially my answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Why do you assume that a galactic emperor would be evil? - benevolent dictators are a myth. if you have total power, you either are or will be evil; it's human nature. if you're good, you won't gain total power, or immediatelly get rid of it in favor of a democracy. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 16:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Franz Gleichmann The definiiton of emperor and the definition of dictator only slighlty overlap, no more than the definitions of king, president, prime minister, etc. overlap. Why would you assume that the head of state and/or head of government of a glactic empire would have total power? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ the distinctions between emperor, dictator, monarch, etc. are kinda meaningless - as soon as you have a single person on top of the food chain, for life, you've got a problem for the people under him. the only emperors that aren't trouble are those who are emperor in name only. (also: any form of state that reaches galactic size and isn't totalitarian would never call itself "empire") $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 19:02
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    $\begingroup$ @FranzGleichmann, ...any form of state that reaches galactic size and isn't totalitarian would never call itself "empire"... "citation needed" $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ @FranzGleichmann There have been many states which weren't totalitarian which called themselves empires. Since totalitarian states existed mainly in the 20th century, and since sttew s which called themselves empires existed mainly before the 20th century, there is very little overlap between totalitarian states and states which called themselves empires. And don't say that states that called themselves empires and had allegedly absolute monarchs as emperors were totalitarian states. They didn't have anywhere near the total amount of control necessary to be totalitarian states. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 19:58
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One of several dozen similar-looking O'Neill or Bernal habitats in a system containing a major fleet base and one very nice, very habitable planet.

  • A sufficiently large station has lots of nice real estate, and it is an impressive technical achievement.
  • The naval base for protection, and as the kernel of a counterattack against an ursurper.
  • The world for fresh veggies, and surfing or skiing holidays, and also as a fallback against technological regression. There are mothballed industries on the surface, as well as explored-but-unexploited raw materials.
  • The multiple similar habitats for a shell game. Is it in L5 today? Or the one at the trailing Trojan? Those which are not the palace contain loyal troops and scientists, of course.
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In the Lensman series, the villains have their Grand Base in a star cluster outside the Galaxy itself.

You could do that too, particularly if the wormhole network is generally very interconnected with every node having multiple connections EXCEPT your Palace World, which links to one, and only one, other star system, which is Impenetrable Fortress World.

Having separated the two functions, Palace World can now be as ostentatious as you like. Giant gems as moons? Why not? 8 pleasure planets in the system? OK. Next to an exotic star type? Fine.

As a nice touch, Palace World could be at the very centre of the galaxy, but displaced from the main galactic plane. It would have a staggering view of the whole galaxy and everyone could see it, but be outside the gravity well.

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Inside the black hole at the centre of the galaxy. It’s large enough that you won’t get spaghettified on your way in, and no one will want to come after you because just like you they can never leave again. Which is a bit of an inconvenience for you, to be sure, but you asked for the safest place, not the safest convenient place.

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  • $\begingroup$ How is the Emperor ruling from inside the black hole? $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 17:51
  • $\begingroup$ @PabloH He can’t. That’s what I mean when I say it’s inconvenient. The ability to keep ruling the empire from the palace wasn’t specified in the question’s criteria. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Dec 20, 2021 at 19:08
  • $\begingroup$ So it's like write-only storage... $\endgroup$
    – Pablo H
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 19:11
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He has many redundant palaces

He doesn't have just one heavily defended opulent planet or base or palace, he has many of them

  • the emperor has a network mesh of defenses, many fortresses, many ships, many planets, many factories, in a vast expanse across the galaxy. He can even copy his opulent home so it's exactly the same in all the different locations, so it feels more homely.

If there's an incoming barrage that threatens to wipe out an entire sector, he can just move to one of his other homes that has all the same defenses and opulence.

redundancy = less risk of a single point of failure

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