Francis Charles XII, Terran Emperor (Francis Charles Erhardt Louis Alaric William John Albert Frederick von Compton; born 20 August 3217 – 11 June 3268) was the reigning Terran Emperor and sovereign of the Terran Empire from March 3231 until his death in battle in June 3268, and the 31st holder of the title. Ascending to the throne while still a minor, his will was exercised by Prince Regent Frederick Rycon, who was appointed Prime Minister upon Francis Charles' coming of age. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Rycon and himself, Francis Charles contributed to the transformation of the Terran Empire into a confederation of all human nations that became the Central Galactic Union. While he did not live to see the formation of the Union, his reign laid the groundwork for the unification of humanity. While having confidence in Prime Minister Rycon, Francis Charles held some strong reservations about the radical politics of the National Humanists, of which Rycon was a leading member. Francis Charles is often remarked upon as the last of the conservative, reactionary Emperors, and is seen as a symbol of the Terran military and industrial aristocracy. His legacy is a matter of historical debate, given the transformation of the militaristic Empire into the modern galaxy-spanning Republic. Some prominent National Humanists criticized the Emperor for his deeply-entrenched conservatism, seeing him as the opponent to the human-nationalist, republican ideal.
However the public opinion of Chancellor Maximilian, his eldest son and the founder of the modern Republic, is that "[Francis Charles] was a stern father, but not out of cruelty. He demanded nothing short of excellence, and stubbornly refused to accept defeat or failure. He was proud man of conviction and loyal to tradition. Gentlemanly and polite to a fault, but furious when his honour was besmirched. He was the last true knight, with all the faults and glories that such an appellation implies."
Regardless of any assessment of his personality, Francis Charles XII reigned over a period of significant political change in the Empire. The National Humanist party became dominant in the Imperial Parliament and its ideology flourished in popularity, bringing closer relations between the Terran Empire and its allied human states. However, his reign was also marred by recurring colonial insurrections, both communist and aristocratic plots against the throne, and other forms of social unrest. It is still a matter of academic debate as to what role Francis Charles played in the wide-spanning events of his reign.
Francis Charles was born in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna on 20th August, 3217 to Crown Princess Mary Josephine of Terra, Duchess of Saturn, and her husband Louis-Jefferson, Prince Napoleon of Westphalia. He was baptised Francis Charles Erhardt Louis Alaric William John Albert Frederick, and conferred the title Prince of Titan, though he was often called "Franzl" by his parents and close relatives. He was followed by Princess Caroline in 3219 and Prince Sebastian in 3220. His mother died in childbirth in 3220, and Prince Sebastian didn't live long afterwards. Franzl inherited the Dukedom of Saturn from his mother. His father turned to drink and remarried in 3223, scorning his children with Princess Mary, and was exiled from the Imperial Palace. Francis Charles and his sister Caroline came under the guidance of their grandfather, Emperor Francis Charles XI. The Emperor was a strict man of military upbringing and attempted to instil in the young Prince a sense of devotion, honour, and service as well as intense martial discipline. In 3227, the Emperor by Act of Parliament declared Francis Charles the new Crown Prince of the Terran Empire. Young Franzl idolized but feared his grandfather. He was raised with the expectation of becoming Emperor, but was also instructed as to the seriousness and gravity of that office. Franzl was given a military education at the Imperial Youth Academy and aspired to a military career prior to his ascent to the throne. He shadowed an Imperial Army unit in the summer of 3230 and was commissioned a lieutenant. His habits and style of dress thereafter would be dictated by military standards. That September, the Cruxite War broke out and Franzl hoped to depart for field experience upon reaching the age of 16. These hopes were dashed when, on 4 March 3231, Francis Charles XI died and thirteen year old Franzl became Emperor.
From the beginning of his reign until reaching the age of majority in 3235, Francis Charles XII was guided by a Regency under Lord High Steward and Prince-Regent Frederick Rycon. Rycon had then-recently served a tour of duty in the Crux conflict as a Colonel in command of the 77th Lunarian Lancers, alongside his friend Johannes Fredrik Marten, 12th Duke of Nieuwvaalia. Recalled at the death of the previous Emperor, Rycon was placed into his statutory role as regent of the Empire, at the tender age of thirty. Historians reckon his performance as competent but have focused attention on his astoundingly successful management of the Cruxite War effort. With front-line field experience, Lord Rycon guided the implementation of sound strategies that achieved results while reducing Imperial casualties. The boy-Emperor shadowed him closely and learned all he could from the soldier-prince. Emperor Francis Charles desired to also participate in front-line combat and leadership and prepared for an expedition in early 3234, but the Prince-Regent forbade it fiercely. The Emperor was deemed too important to risk his life in battle in a foreign land. For the first four years of his reign, Francis Charles watched and learned the art of ruling.
In August 3235, near the end of the war, Francis Charles turned eighteen and was crowned in a solemn ceremony in Brussels as Emperor of the Terran Empire. He continued most of Rycon's policies but decided to inspect the war front himself, at last able to do so without constraint. On October 9, he arrived on the planet Carson to inspect the troops and watch from the trench headquarters the progress of the battle. He was nearly killed when an artillery shell exploded near the command bunker and spewed shrapnel through the window, which shattered and sent shards of glass all over the room as well. Four soldiers died from severe wounds.
Francis Charles remarked later, "It was in the bunker that the boy died, and the man was born. I knew then the face of war: a chalk-white skull dripping blood. I wanted to prevent that from happening again. And I knew the only way to do it was to make the odds of an enemy winning seem ridiculous." The incident is cited as a significant cause for Francis Charles' militaristic policies of troop expansion and the arms race. Out of a desire to prevent future war, he sought to make war against the Terran Empire an unwinnable prospect to other states.
The Emperor remained in the war zone until the conclusion of the conflict, this time from the relative safety of Imperial Navy spacecraft. The Cruxite War was concluded in December 3235, and Francis Charles returned to Earth to begin his reign in earnest. The 3230s was a period of intense political realignment, and proved difficult for the Emperor to manage. Especially alarming for the Emperor was the rise of the National Humanist Imperial Labor Party, which had periodically been a coalition partner in government over the past century and had briefly held the Premiership in the chaotic year of 3147. The Party had disgraced itself and seen a decline during the reign of Francis Charles X, but had pulled itself up from its ashes. As a compromise move, he appointed Frederick Rycon as Prime Minister in 3237. Rycon had become leader of the Tory Party but also crossbenched as part of the aristocratic wing of the National Humanist Party. The Emperor determined that if anyone could maintain balance in Parliament, it was Rycon and his Tories.
He reigned for several years with a balanced parliament, and held together a peaceful empire. During this time, Francis Charles courted several women to be his Empress; he fell in love with Princess Eleanor Elizabeth of Luna, Frederick Rycon's niece, after meeting her in 3231. They married on 1 May 3234 and had one child, Crown Prince Francis Charles Louis Baldwin Frederick, on 10 June 3235. However, the rest of the period was marred by internal conflict. Civil war resumed in the mid-3240s. Conflicts that had never been fully resolved in centuries past boiled forth, and many colonial planets fell into insurrection. The still semi-feudal nature of the Empire lent itself to squabbling nobles with private armies fighting amongst each other, with the Imperial military attempting to act as a mediator and peacemaker. Colonial separatists rose in rebellion and attempted to create loose networks of independent colonies, which became a continual thorn in the side of the Empire. Further, political infighting turned into violent streetfighting between militia wings of radical parties, with the NHILP's National Volunteer Force attempting to keep the peace in Terran cities against communist violence. The political instability would only grow in the 3250s.
Tragedy and middle reign
On 3 January 3241, the Crown Prince suddenly perished. His doctors ascertained that it was the result of an undiagnosed brain abscess possibly caused by a head injury while roughly playing with his peers. The internal bleeding had gone entirely unnoticed until the prince fainted on 2 January. His parents sent him to bed to rest and recuperate, and he died in his sleep. The death was an enormous tragedy for the Imperial family. Empress Eleanor shut herself in her chambers for several months, and Emperor Francis Charles appeared publicly despondent. On 26 March, the Empress was found dead, having hanged herself. The Emperor fell into a deep depression, barely able to reign. The increasing infighting in the Parliament combined with his grief caused him to prorogue the legislature in December 3241. With Parliament suspended, he attempted to stabilize himself through intensive work. He was pressured, however, by his family and the media to remarry and beget an heir. He did so in 3243, marrying Princess Maria Theodora of Naples. On 21 April 3244 they bore a son, Prince Maximilian Charles Louis Rupert. They would have several other children during the course of their marriage, Princess Thora Amelia, Prince Geoffrey, Prince Edwin, Princess Helen, and Princess Ophelia.
Emperor Francis Charles re-convened Parliament in 3251 with the same composition as before its dissolution, requiring new funding for government programs and military operations against terrorists and colonial insurrectionists. New elections were held in 3252. The National Humanists had a strong showing in local elections and in the Imperial general election. They repeated their success in 3257 and 3262. During this period, the parliament was fraught with significant infighting between political parties. The 3250s and early 3260s saw the eruption of civil war in the marches and colonial districts, as the Colonial Liberation Organization and the Terran People's Liberation Army engaged in mass, organised rebellion on several worlds. Further, increased activity on the Soviet-Orionese border and in the Cassiopeian March led to sabre-rattling between the Terran-led ISTO and both the Communist Interstellar Organization and the Free International Group of Nations, led respectively by the Soviet Republic and the United Suns. Alien states threatened Imperial interests in colony worlds and new exploratory zones, and the Terran Empire undertook a massive arms race to deter alien aggression. Conservative and radical nationalist parties cooperated in drawing up appropriations bills for military growth. However, a coalition of the Socialist Worker's Party, the People's Labor Party, and the Colonial Home Rule Party opposed these bills. The attempts by the Socialist Front coalition to filibuster the bills gained steam. In response the National Humanist MPs staged a walkout whenever a Socialist Front MP had the floor.
The situation became resolved only when evidence was brought forth to the House of Lords which implicated the leadership of the SWP with Soviet campaigns of sabotage, espionage, and covert influence in colonial border worlds, which also connected the Colonial Home Rule Party with the rebellious actions of the CLO. Declared to be terrorist organizations by the House of Lords judicial committee, the SWP and CHRP were formally banned in 3259. The National Humanists continued their walkout tactics until further judicial investigations by the House of Lords demonstrated evidence that all parties of the Socialist Front had knowledge of the TPLA's activities and implicated them in their terrorist crimes. A bill was passed in 3261 by a conservative and nationalist coalition that banned all member parties of the Socialist Front. The National Humanists won a massive majority in the 3262 election and the party's populist leader, Henry Addington, was appointed Prime Minister on the advice of Frederick Rycon, who stepped down to become Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of War.
Through this period, Emperor Francis Charles brokered compromises and agreements between Parliamentary parties and actively engaged in the administration of his government. He refused to 'let the cabinet rule [him]'.