Reign: 348 YE - 368 YE
Also The Well-meaning, The Weak, The Unready or The Fat
Early Life and Election
Born in 321, as the nephew of the Dawnish general Leon de Rousillon, and the scion of a politically and militarily powerful Dawn noble house, great things were expected of Hugh de Rousillon. Despite being born into a life or privilege, insisted on earning his nobility the hard way, spending several years as part of a band of Knights-errant. He traveled across Dawn and most of the southern Empire performing heroic deeds and seeking challenges, and for several years served as Castellan of Spiral Castle. When he finally approached the Earl de Rousillon for his test of mettle he was challenged to deal with a particularly nasty band of Druj attacking into Weirwater and the Highborn territory of Reikos. Hugh lead a glorious band who sought out the Druj, pinned them down with magical assistance from a chapter of Highborn magisters and wiped them out.
In his youth he was known as a personable, enthusiastic and idealistic Questing knight with extensive experience both on tourneys and on the battlefield. He served as a Dawnish General on two occasions, partly due to his popularity with the Dawnish nobility and partly due to the influence of his Uncle Leon, a major participant in Dawnish and Imperial politics at the time.
Following the disastrous end to the reign of Empress Giselle, the Military Council used all their political pull to ensure that the next presence on the Throne would be sensitive to the concerns of the Generals. Hugh was convinced by his uncle to make a play for the Throne. With extensive support from the Dawnish, Marcher, Freeborn and Wintermark senators (no doubt encouraged by the generals of their respective nation, still smarting over the disasters they saw as being forced on them by Empress Giselle's refusal to listen to their advice), and with his personal charisma persuading several other Senators (especially those of Highguard) to support his claim, he ascended the Throne.
Unfortunately, he was an absolutely abysmal administrator, incapable of delegation, torn between the realities of political life and his personal idealism. A firm believer in glory, personal worth, leading-from-the-front, openness and altruism he was entirely unprepared for the Imperial court that fifteen years of Empress Giselle had created. Many Senators, especially those of The League, Navarr and Urizen were cautious of him as an individual, and of the cabal of generals they saw as pulling his strings.
Hugh was quickly torn between what he saw as his duty to his supporters, and his duty to the Empire. His drive to act for the greater good alienated both those senators who had supported him, and those who were already suspicious of him. While his enthusiasm and idealism were contagious, they seemed to work only while people were in his physical presence - left to their own devices, his supporters quickly began to identify flaws in his ambitious plans.
Despite the growing divide between the Military Council and the Imperial Senate, Hugh enjoyed a lot of support in the Imperial Synod. A devout man, he especially favoured the Virtues of Courage, Loyalty, Pride and Ambition. The troubadours of Dawn in particular sang his praises and encouraged other priests to do the same.
Emperor Hugh quickly discovered that both his uncle and the other generals expected him to be a figurehead, and he rebelled almost immediately. He rightly identified that the strategies proposed by the Generals were designed to protect their own people first and the Empire second. He challenged this position but only succeeded in making matters worse - the loose cabal of generals quickly collapsed into infighting and accusations, while the Senate continued to make increasingly unrealistic demands of them. The Marcher generals blamed Hugh and his uncle personally for the loss of Mournwold and Liathaven in 349YE, claiming that they had supported Hugh specifically to prevent the disastrous military defeat they suffered; this lead to even more bad blood between the Marches and Dawn and served as a remarkable ill-omen for the start of Hugh's tenure as Emperor.
In an effort to try and head of further disaster, Hugh began wooing the increasing jaded Senators with a dizzying number of feasts, banquets, tourneys and spectacles. Unfortunately, while he was trying to bring the Senators round the Generals were squabbling so badly with each other over dwindling resources that their armies began to lose, and lose badly.
While Hugh was on the throne, the Empire lost Mournwold, Liathaven, Segura, Reikos and finally Karsk - and along with them the senators who held their seats. His Uncle Leon was a casualty of the battle for Liathaven, and without his support Hugh floundered even more terribly. The Imperial Senate and the Military Council consistently squabbled over apportioning blame for these defeats; senators of individual nations refuse to assist each other for fear that their own lands be lost next. His speeches before the Senate were applauded, and largely ignored; likewise his efforts to create a united strategy among the generals.
Hugh became increasingly disillusioned throughout his reign, losing himself in drink and fine food. He is said to have taken the fall of Reikos particularly badly, given his role in helping defend it during his test of mettle.
Death and Legacy
By the end of his reign, the Emperor was almost unrecognisable as the energetic young man he had been when the took the Throne. Trying to stay ahead of the manipulations and machinations of the Senate had left him exhausted and despondent, while years of feasting had left him corpulent and unhealthy, barely able to fit into his harness when he lead the attack against the Thule invading Karsk.
According to those who saw him on the morning of that final battle, he was a broken man who actively sought out his death at the hands of the Thule. His body was recovered, and he was interred in the Necropolis in a beautiful marble tomb decorated with slender minarets and bas reliefs of knights and dragons. On the same day as his funeral, the inhabitants of Spiral Castle withdrew from the Empire behind a wall of enchanted mist and have not been seen since.
At the time Hugh received the lion's share of the blame for the Empire's many defeats but there is little evidence that Hugh did anything other than try to keep the Empire from becoming even more fractured during his reign. Cruel historians were quick to dub him the Fat, but more recent scholars have named him The Unready or The Unprepared. Several Dawnish scholars and troubadours, especially those associated with House Roiusillon, would very much like to see his name cleared and his legacy treated with the respect it deserves.
Hugh in Play
Hugh was Emperor between 10 and 25 years before the beginning of the campaign. The Emperor oversaw a time of increasing internal fractiousness, and was increasingly considered ineffective and irrelevant by both the Imperial Senate and the Military Council. An older character, or a parent or grandparent might have been one of those people who supported or opposed Hugh's appointment; who feasted, fought or quested alongside him in his youth. A character in their thirties or fourties could easily have known Hugh when he was in decline, and even fought with him on his increasingly desperate campaigns to protect Imperial territory.
The Emperor is a recent historical character, and unlike earlier emperors and empresses much of what is known is considered factual. He was very much a well-meaning character out of his depth in the political world; frustrated by his inability to get people to work together, and by the way his plans always seemed to fall apart. Backgrounds that reveals Emperor Hugh to have been influenced by outside forces (beyond the generals who clearly played a role in his coronation), or to have been a cynical and self-serving wastrel, for example, are likely to be rejected.