Reign: 36 YE to 69 YE
Called: the Sun Queen
Early life and Election
As with many of the early Empresses and Emperors, facts about Empress Richilde are a little difficult to pin down. She is well represented in poems and stories, but many of the details of her life come from the surviving works of troubadours and bards rather than historians.
Born in 9YE, Richilde was a Dawnish noble of House Cassilon in Astolat. From an early age, she was exceptional - witty, charismatic, with an indomitable spirit. According to the troubadours she had a natural talent and ability to turn her hand to anything that is often considered a consequence of a strong connection to her past lives. Along with her siblings and cousins she received a fine education, benefiting from tutors brought from as far afield as Urizen and the Brass Coast, paid for by the Earl de Cassilon. She was well versed in politics, music and literature, enjoyed hawking, hunting, was a mistress of the harp, and had composed at least eight well-received heroic poems by the time she was twenty-one. During her youth and early adulthood, she served as an advocate, which gave her a broad understanding of the Imperial political process when she later served as the Senator for Astolat.
Richilde passed a legendary Test of Mettle; the Earl of Cassilon told her she must bind the dawn to the dusk if she wished to become a noble. She responded by calling the nobles of House Cassilon to join her in the gardens just before dawn, telling them they should leave when they were bored. As the sun rose, she began to weave a tale of such compelling beauty and grandeur that the nobles lost track of time. Not one of them left, and as she completed her tale they realised to their surprise that they had spent a whole day lost in the wonder of the tale she told.
During her early life she travelled extensively, finding allies among the artists and politicians of the other nations, especially in the The League, the Brass Coast, Highguard and Urizen. After the death of Emperor Giovanni, she parlayed this network into political influence and with the support of her fellow Dawnish senators and the voice of the Troubadours in the Synod, she was elected Empress.
From the beginning her court was a place of splendour; she surrounded herself with musicians, artists and scholars from across the Empire. From the scops of Wintermark to the bards of the Marches, anyone with a tale to tell or a song to sing was welcome to perform before Empress Richilde. Those who impressed her received endowments or the benefit of her patronage in establishing themselves. While her love of art and music was seen initially as indulgent, it became clear that it served a greater purpose. By encouraging the nations to appreciate each others' stories, history and art, she helped them gain a greater understanding of each other.
In private, she expressed the concern that if the Empire was simply a machine for making war against barbarians it would fail; no matter how complex and developed its bureaucracy might be, it would ultimately prove a hollow achievement unable to stand the test of time. Only by celebrating, by taking joy in its achievements and its citizens, could it hope to survive more than a few centuries, weather the inevitable failures and crises that would come, and emerge as something greater than the sum of its parts.
Throughout her reign, she encouraged the celebration of the deeds of heroes, both past and present. She encouraged the nations to take pride in their history, but also to see the achievements of the Empire as a whole as being their achievements. In 39YE, with the assistance of advisors from Highguard and the League, she established funds, overseen by the civil service, to support bards and artists across the Empire, creating the tradition of the Imperial bards who have inspired the Empire ever since.
Poems and stories suggest she was as capable a warrior as she was a politician, but Urizen historians suggest that this is likely to be the fanciful exaggeration of minstrels and poets rather than fact. Rather than being a great warrior, or a great general, she is remembered as having an ability to inspire trust and to recognise ability in her Generals, leaving them a free hand to act as they saw fit in the service of the Empire. This lead to a series of invasions that expanded the Empire, adding the territories of Karsk, Semmerholm, Redoubt and Reikos. While the Empress herself did not fight in any of the major campaigns, she accompanied the armies in the manner of a living banner - inspiring and exhorting her troops and firing them to achieve victory.
At her funeral, after a thirty-year reign, it is said the entire Empire mourned. She was carried with great ceremony from her home near Auvanne in Semmerholm, via Anvil, to the Necropolis and interred in a great tomb built at some expense by the finest stonesmiths of the day. Over the centuries since it has become a great honour for a hero, especially a Dawnish hero or troubadour, to be interred in the Ring of Champions, a series of tombs and mausoleums that surround Richilde's resting place.
Shortly after her death, the Synod recognised Richilde as an exemplar of Pride. 150 years later, the troubadours of Dawn finally succeeded in having her recognised as a paragon, making her the first paragon of the modern period.
Empress Richilde was recognised as an exemplar of Pride by the Synod in 72YE. She was eventually recognised as a paragon in 219YE. It was during her reign that the Empire truly began to understand the meaning of Pride - not only in an individual nation, but in belonging to an Empire.