Star Wars: The Last Jedi made the controversial decision to make Rey an orphan. So many had been convinced she was a Skywalker or a long-lost Solo – in other words, people were convinced she was a "somebody." Kylo Ren put an end to that speculation, declaring her “no one,” the child of “filthy junk traders,” who tossed her away for booze money. But fans had been focused on the wrong question. Rey's parents didn’t matter. It was her grandparents, specifically her grandfather, who revealed her importance in the galaxy. But this left a new problem: Who is Rey's grandmother?
Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker follow.
Kylo Ren was correct that Rey's parents were nobodies. But it wasn't because they were born that way. Rey's father came from a prominent family of wealth and prestige, and one of the most powerful houses in the galaxy. He was the son of Emperor Palpatine.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t set a definitive timeline for the Palpatine family tree. But Rey’s age in Star Wars: The Force Awakens puts her as born in the year 15 ABY. That’s 11 years after the Emperor died in Return of the Jedi. (The first movie of the original trilogy is set in 3-4 ABY.) Rey is generally accepted to have been five-years-old when she was left on Jakku, which was in 20 ABY. Her father looks to be roughly 30 in the memories shown in the film.
If fans assume Palpatine Jr. is 30 years of age when he gives his daughter away in a last-ditch attempt to hide her from his father, that puts his birth year in or around 10 BBY. That means he'd have been around 14 or 15 years old when his father was declared dead. That adds an interesting twist: If Palpatine had a direct male heir who was nearly of age in the original trilogy, his father would have paraded him about, and shown him off as the heir to his throne, a rival to Darth Vader. He doesn’t. That suggests Palpatine had no idea his son existed until his resurrection post-Return of the Jedi.
But who would sleep with Palpatine? It’s a good question, considering how horrendously the Emperor has aged by the time he is first introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. But Palpatine didn’t always look that way.
The above picture is Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. The final film of the prequel trilogy is set in 19 BBY, eight years or so before his son is conceived. He's about 65 years old, and though he’s not exactly what one would call a silver fox, he’s pretty well-preserved for his age. More importantly, he’s a powerful man who rules the entire galaxy, which adds to his sex appeal. One could imagine this is how he looked when Rey's grandmother met him.
But who is Rey's grandmother? The series does not address this, but fans know from Return of the Jedi that when the Emperor died, he was assumed to have no wife and no children, as far as anyone knew. He’s never portrayed as having a spouse in the prequel trilogy films either.
With no official records of marriage, Palpatine's lover was never a formal union. That leaves the probability of her being either a slave, a prostitute, or a courtesan. That doesn't necessarily mean this was rape. Plenty of powerful men pay to keep lovers around, and consorts who are attracted to someone for their power are as old as time itself. But it does suggest she was disposable.
Moreover, she was able to erase herself from the narrative without Palpatine giving it much thought. Whether it was to protect herself and her unborn child when she discovered she was pregnant or not, fans may never know. But if Palpatine Jr. was born around 10 BBY, it means he was born during the events of Solo: A Star Wars Story. That's right when the Resistance first started, at the zenith of the Emperor's powers. To steal away with his unborn son at such a moment would have taken bravery and nerve.
What fans do know about Rey’s grandmother is that she succeeded in raising her son into a good man. Rey's father sacrificed himself rather than see his daughter fall into Sith hands. Whoever she was, her blood runs in Rey now, as does the blood of the Jedi. May she rest in peace knowing her granddaughter lives on.
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