The Crimson Empire has a large and expansive royal family, but has always recognized the absolute authority of the Emperor, as both ruler and Heirophant of the Crimson Tabernacle, to have a wife of his own choosing and to freely divorce her. This, coupled with the Crimson Emperor’s unquestioned ability to name a successor of his choice, means that most Emperors are serial monogamists, rotating between wives every few years to ensure a diverse pool of princelings and heirs.

A divorced Empress is stripped of her imperial titles but retains any she holds in her own right, and is guaranteed a pension for life. The Empress at the time of the Emperor’s death, however, becomes the reigning Dowager Empress and is provided with a much more generous stipend and the position of regent, should one be required. The combination of wealth, temporal power, and the luxurious Dowager Estates throughout the Empire make the position highly sought-after–so much so that many an Empress has poisoned her husband to rule the Empire in the name of a young son.

Dowager Empress Xicia is perhaps the most notable example, having served Crimson Emperor Doricus I a plate of poisoned mushrooms while she was pregnant and then ruling the Crimson Empire as Regent for 21 years before relinquishing the throne to her son Doricus II. Rumor still holds that Xicia substituted a peasant baby for her own when she delivered a stillborn son or a girl, though the prominent nose of Doricus II suggests that the child was a close relative of Doricus I at the very least.

The only thing which can unseat a Dowager Empress is if the sitting Crimson Emperor dies on the throne while married. In that case, the sitting Dowager Empress is immediately ousted, reverting to the status that she would have had in the event her husband had divorced her. This tradition does nothing to lessen the intrigue surrounding the position, as many Dowager Empresses have sought to poison or murder the wives of ailing Crimson Emperors to preserve their power.

But, as often as not, the position of Dowager Empress is used to live a life of dissolute luxury. Especially when an old Crimson Emperor marries a young Empress and then leaves the throne to one of her younger stepchildren. Freed from any reliance on their own funds, and with massive resources at their disposal, the parties thrown by the sitting Dowager Empress were some of the most legendary in the era of the Late Empire.”

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