Their exact numbers are unknown; estimates have ranged from barely 50 men, to tens of thousands - the lower end of the range seems vastly more probable due to the extraordinarily high standards of the brotherhood, and the fact that after the destruction of the second Death Star (entailing the death of at least 4 Guardsmen), the obliteration of Byss by an errant round from the Galaxy Gun (Kir Kanos said of that, "Many of my brother Guardsmen perished when the Jedi Luke Skywalker and his companions used our own Galaxy Gun to destroy the Emperor's throneworld"), and with the later destruction of Palpatine's Eclipse-class flagship Eclipse II, there gathered on the training planet Yinchorr to mourn the Emperor a mere 22 Royal Guardsmen - who, with the sole exception of Kir Kanos, all would be killed by the treacherous Carnor Jax's troops. After the death of Carnor Jax, all true Royal Guardsmen, with the exception of the fanatically loyal Kir Kanos, Jax's killer, had perished and the organization was defunct. Various impostors sporting Royal Guard armor have appeared over the years, such as a clone of Grodin Tierce, the "Guardsmen" who served Imperial Admiral Daala and the Dark Jedi Brakiss, and a man in Sovereign Protector armor who attempted to assassinate Mara Jade just prior to her wedding. The existence of these pretenders enraged Kanos to no end, and he devoted a good deal of his time to hunting those who survived the Empire's final skirmishes with the New Republic.
Organization and selection
Royal Guardsmen trace their roots to the cerulean-clad Senate Guards of the Old Republic. But in comparison, there is a special elite, within this elite-of-elites, class of Imperial Guards called Sovereign Protectors; they serve as the final pinnacle Royal Guardsmen can hope to ascend to, and this nigh-impossible to reach rank serves to motivate them still further. In addition to the usual duties regular Royal Guards handled, Sovereign Protectors were singled out, as much by their elaborate light-weight ceremonial armor as their charge of policing the ranks of the Royal Guard, by being answerable only to the Emperor himself or Darth Vader. After the Emperor was reborn on Byss, the Sovereign Protectors' paramount duty was to guard the clone vats - a task in which they would fail, due to the treachery of Carnor Jax, the Emperor's physician, and the dark side adepts Nefta and Sa-Di.
The Guardsmen are selected from the elite squads of the Imperial Stormtrooper Corps, and before even beginning the training that would wash out most of its inductees - fatally, one might add - are judged on select size, strength, intelligence and loyalty requirements. Those who successfully match all criteria are allowed to begin training in the Echani arts in the unofficial training compound located on the sterilized planet of Yinchorr. A mere 4% of all trainees would survive the rigours that awaited them to become Royal Guards; during a yearlong training program, recruits sparred against each other continuously perfecting their combat skills. By working both alone and in pairs, recruits learned how to rely on themselves or on a teammate to achieve victory, a step away from the squad-based Stormtrooper training received on Carida. Failure in training often meant death. In their final test, each fought his training partner to the death in a battle before Palpatine himself. Only a handful would survive this final test and display of their loyalty and skill.
Royal Guardsmen are trained to use any form of weapon known to the Empire, including but not limited to: any blaster weapon, bo staffs, basic swords and lightsabers, and vibroblades, as well as a dozen or more martial arts forms.
In order to keep themselves in top form at all times, Royal Guardsmen often dueled, in what is described by a viewer in Palpatine's private court as "a brutal war, consisting of only two men". This practice kept the Guardsmen in shape as well as giving Royal Guard recruits a chance to advance in rank. They were occasionally rotated out in units to Stormtrooper detachments in the Outer Rim or other combat areas to keep them in fighting trim, and spread their legend.
Known members of the Imperial Royal Guard
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