- "I see it now. Padmé is dead. But you wear her face. Speak with her voice. You're the queen's shadow… A handmaiden from Naboo."
- ―Darth Vader to Sabé
The Naboo Royal Handmaidens, or simply handmaidens, were a group of young women chosen as aides to the Queen of the planet Naboo. Responsible for assisting the Queen with everyday tasks, they also served as her bodyguards and those chosen to join the entourage often closely resembled the current queen, allowing them to function as decoys should the need arise. The tradition of using handmaidens as protection and security for royal leaders originated generations prior to the Invasion of Naboo, during more uncertain times.
- "As her handmaidens, sometimes protecting her also means protecting her secrets."
- ―Dormé, to Moteé
The Naboo Royal Handmaidens assisted the sovereign with everyday tasks including hair, makeup, and clothing. However, handmaidens were often trusted by their monarchs as close friends in addition to playing important security roles as bodyguards, which required working closely with the Royal Naboo Security Forces. Each handmaiden was trained in self-defense and marksmanship and would carry a small blaster pistol.
Reviving the tradition
- "They gave up their families and their names and their reputations, and they did it willingly, because they believe in your idea of what we could be. You trained us and gave us the ability to defend ourselves. We have worked to become a fluid, adaptable group, and we are powerful, Captain. Even if it’s not the kind of power you are accustomed to."
- ―Amidala talks to Panaka about the handmaidens
The tradition of royal leaders using handmaidens as bodyguards and protection originated generations before the Invasion of Naboo, during more uncertain times. Handmaidens had fallen into history prior to the election of Queen Padmé Amidala, but Captain Panaka proposed reviving practice. It was Panaka's intention to choose one girl who had a close physical appearance to the queen, allowing the handmaiden to pose as Amidala and serve as her decoy while the true sovereign would be in disguise. Such a practice had not been in effect since the Gungan-Naboo dispute.
Amidala disliked other people being at risk for her own safety, but she suggested that multiple handmaidens would better serve to hide her amongst their numbers. Several of those selected as her handmaidens had features in common with their queen, allowing for more than one to potentially take her place, but one in particular would be her primary decoy. Five young women were chosen. They all adopted names similar to Padmé's own—Eirtaé, Rabé, Sabé, Saché, and Yané—to confuse individuals not keeping track of them.
Amidala's handmaidens were trained in defense and security by Panaka. They wore matching hooded outfits in order to conceal their identities, with billowing cloaks that allowed them to conceal weapons used to defend the queen in case of an attack. To the dismay of Panaka, the Queen and her Handmaidens took to planning their affairs without his insight. They all took breathing exercises known to Sabé, ensuring they could all hide their emotions, and created a special tone of voice, so they could all act as Queen whenever needed. The only Handmaiden unable to act as Amidala was Saché, due to her young age.
Invasion of Naboo
Panaka led Amidala's security team during the Invasion of Naboo. During the crisis, Queen Padmé Amidala frequently exchanged places with Sabé, who posed as the Queen in her makeup and black traveling gown while the real Amidala dressed in the same flame-colored robes as her handmaidens. The deception allowed the "handmaiden" Padmé to escort the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn into Mos Espa in a simple guise when her party was stranded on Tatooine, while her decoy remained on the royal starship. Saché and Yané remained behind on Naboo.
Eirtaé and Rabé escorted Amidala to Tatooine as well as Coruscant, and watched as she plead Naboo's case to the Galactic Senate. Rabé also helped to deceive Anakin Skywalker into thinking that Padmé was out on an errand while she was actually present in the room as Queen Amidala. Later on the queen's return to Naboo, they were reunited with Yané and Saché. The handmaidens took part in the mission to re-capture the Royal Palace from the Trade Federation. Sabé stood in as the decoy queen in her royal battle dress, playing a major role in the success of the operation after Amidala was captured.
The Senator's handmaidens
After Amidala became a Senator representing Naboo in the Republic Senate, handmaidens continued to assist her and serve as decoys when needed, though not to the same extent as when she was queen. Prior to the start of the Clone Wars, the handmaiden Cordé served as Amidala's decoy but was killed along with the handmaiden Versé in an assassination attempt aimed at the senator. Amidala shared private tears with a handmaiden named Duja over Cordé's death. A handmaiden named Dormé witnessed a second assassination attempt on her mistress, and expressed concern when Amidala was ordered by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to return to Naboo under Jedi protection.
During the Clone Wars, following a Separatist terror attack on Coruscant, a handmaiden named Teckla Minnau spoke with Amidala about the effects that the Republic's military spending were having on her family and other families like hers. Shortly after, Amidala delivered a speech to the Senate inspired by her words, which defeated a bill to increase military spending and order more clone troopers. Later, escorting Senator Amidala on a mission to Scipio, Teckla was killed by the bounty hunter Embo while detonating a charge to grant Amidala access to the InterGalactic Banking Clan's Main Vault.
The tradition continues
Amidala's successor, Réillata, was an older queen who brought with her several handmaidens around her own age, as well as a younger handmaiden, her niece. Her eventual successor Jamillia, was also attended to by a cadre of handmaidens, and Queen Apailana was escorted by her own handmaidens during Amidala's funeral.
Shortly after the death of Emperor Palpatine, two royal handmaidens were present in a meeting between Queen Sosha Soruna and her guest, Princess Leia Organa. They later helped Soruna dress into her flight suit as she prepared to pilot an N-1 starfighter to protect the planet from an Imperial attempt to render Naboo inhospitable, code named Operation: Cinder. When Captain Korro suggested one of the handmaidens take Soruna's place, the queen replied that she could never ask her handmaidens to make a sacrifice she would not make herself.
Behind the scenes
The concept of a handmaiden decoy originated in George Lucas's rough draft to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, where two handmaidens named Alana and Mina accompanied Leia to the Chatos Academy. Mina took the princess' place to mislead the Empire when Annikin Starkiller spirited her to safety as the Empire's Space Fortress arrived at Aquilae.
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones
- Queen's Peril
- Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia
- Thrawn: Alliances
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Pursuit of Peace"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "An Old Friend"
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Queen's Shadow
- Shattered Empire 2
- Shattered Empire 3
- The Star Wars: Rough Draft
- The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film