Nieuwvaalia, scientifically known as Kepler-452b, is the first planet in the Draken system in the Inner Colonies stellar region. As one of the closest analogues to Earth and only 1,400 light years away from the center of Terran government, Nieuwvaalia became a prime candidate for colonization in the early 2400s. Settlement began in that century, spearheaded by Afrikaner financier Marius Marten. The initial colony was established as the Trust Territory of the New Vaal in 2427. The Marten family came to dominate colonial politics on the planet, and declared themselves autonomous rulers of the Independent March of Nieuwvaalia in 2496, during the tumultuous feudal wars of the late Terran Federation. In 2610, the family pledged its fealty to the Terran Emperor, ushering in six centuries of governance under Imperial auspices by the House of Marten and the establishment of the hereditary dukedom of Nieuwvaalia. The Drakon system was reincorporated as a County of the empire. In 3268, the Marten clan became involved in a conspiracy against the Crown, and were slain during a meeting with their co-conspirators in an apparent internal struggle. The dukedom became vacant, and was created a second time in 3272 for George Francis Rothschild, who took over formal governing duties but often devolved this right to his deputy and heir, Zenzi. In 3275, the planet was reorganized as a member world of the Central Galactic Union, administered as the Magistracy of Nieuwvaalia; the Duchess serves as president of a directory-style governing commission.
Nieuwvaalia is a dense, rocky world five times more massive than the Earth, dominated by vast, warm seas with 82% ocean cover, categorizing it as a pelagic super-earth. It is twice the Earth's age and has higher gravity, but is of a comparable temperature and climate to Earth, and is only 50% larger than Earth. Its parent star, called Draken or Kepler-452, is of a similar temperature to Sol, but is slightly larger and brighter, is considerably older, and has higher metallicity. The age of the star system and the planet and its high metallicity has combined to make Nieuwvaalia one of the most resource-rich worlds in the Inner Colonies. Exploitation of these resources brought colonists into conflict with indigenous life, which had developed a paleolithic culture and in some cases actively resisted the human colonists. Aside from this native culture, Nieuwvaalia boasted the richest biodiversity of any Inner Colonies world. Life was able to flourish in part due to its placement from its star, a strong geomagnetic field, and the presence of an insulating atmosphere, as well as the stabilizing influence of its two moons, Krugersmond and Hartsmond. Today, it is home to some 11 million species of organisms, though some of the most populous complex organisms are invasive species not native to the planet. Earth vegetation dominates settlement areas, and feral populations of pigs, dogs, cats, and rodents have displaced much of the native fauna. However, in other regions, introduced and native species exist in an ecological equilibrium.
The indigenous sentients, termed the vaalvolk by the colonists, were almost completely annihilated during the 25th and 26th centuries in what is considered a significant ecological disaster. Allegations of deliberate genocide were leveled against colonial leaders starting in the 2520s, but Margrave Andries Marten was exonerated in the Terran Criminal Court in 2539. Subsequent investigations determined that anthropogenic disease, famine, and habitat reduction were side-effects of colonization, but were not deliberately undertaken to annihilate the vaalvolk. Today, less than 2 million of the indigenous vaalvolk are alive, and these populations are regulated onto reservations. The human population is around 7.75 billion on the world itself, and another 2.5 billion on the planet's two moons and in orbital habitats. The planet continues to be an exporter of industrial resources, as well as a producer of luxury finished goods, and has a significant presence of developed, service-oriented industries such as finance, trade, and retail. Its economy is dominated by light industry, resource extraction, commerce, and agriculture. It is the Inner Colonies' largest exporter of precious and semiprecious stones.