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"Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan. The colossus of Barrayaran history in this half-century. Conqueror of Komarr, hero of the ghastly retreat from Escobar. For sixteen years Lord Regent of Barrayar during Emperor Gregor's troubled minority; the Emperor's trusted Prime Minister in the four years since. Destroyer of Vordarian's Pretendership, engineer of the peculiar victory of the third Cetagandan war, unshaken tiger-rider of Barrayar's murderous internecine politics for the past two decades. The Vorkosigan.
I have seen him laugh in pure delight, standing on the dock at Vorkosigan Surleau and yelling instructions over the water, the morning I first sailed, dumped, and righted the skimmer by myself. I have seen him weep till his nose ran, more dead drunk than you were yesterday, Ahn, the night we got the word Major Duvallier was executed for espionage. I have seen him rage, so brick-red we feared for his heart, when the reports came in fully detailing the stupidities that led to the last riots in Solstice. I have seen him wandering around Vorkosigan House at dawn in his underwear, yawning and prodding my sleepy mother into helping him find two matching socks. He's not like anything, Ahn. He's the original.
―Miles trying to answer "What is Aral Vorkosigan like"[src]

Aral Vorkosigan (AA-rl vohr-KOH-sih-gn) was a famous Barrayaran admiral and politician, and District Count of Vorkosigan's District. He met and married Captain Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony during his military career, and they had a son named Miles Naismith Vorkosigan.

He was Emperor Ezar Vorbarra's choice as Regent of Barrayar, and performed that role for over fifteen years before stepping down and taking the role of Prime Minister. After a nearly fatal heart attack, Vorkosigan was replaced as Prime Minister by Racozy. Vorkosigan was then appointed Viceroy of Sergyar.

For a detailed time line of his life, see Aral Timeline.



"Strike, little boy. If you dare while you wear my uniform. My uniform on a child."
"You killed all the children in that room.
―Yuri Vorbarra and Aral Vorkosigan, during the Dismemberment of Mad Emperor Yuri[src]

Aral Vorkosigan was the second son of Count Piotr Pierre Vorkosigan[1] and Princess-and-Countess Olivia Vorbarra Vorkosigan. His paternal grandmother was the daughter of Pierre Vorrutyer[2] and his mother was the daughter of Prince Xav Vorbarra and his Betan wife.[3] Aral had a sister as well.[4]

In his childhood, the Emperor of Barrayar was Yuri Vorbarra. During Emperor Yuri's reign, Barrayar was still transitioning out of the Time of Isolation. In Aral's childhood, dueling between Vor lords was still legal, and marriages were almost universally arranged. His father was absent during most of that time due to his responsibilities as a general and Count, and the rest of the Vorkosigan family often vacationed at Bonsanklar.[5]

When Aral was eleven, the increasingly unstable Emperor Yuri ordered all other descendants of Emperor Dorca the Just Vorbarra killed. The targets included Prince Xav and all his descendants. Olivia Vorkosigan and her children were ambushed at dinner. While Aral survived, his mother, brother, and sister were slain. Other survivors of Yuri's massacre included Prince Xav himself and Aral's infant first cousin Padma Xav Vorpatril. Aral's father Piotr Vorkosigan was not targeted by Yuri, nor was Piotr's old friend General Ezar Vorbarra.[6][7]

Outraged at the death of their families, Piotr Vorkosigan and Xav Vorbarra joined forces and convinced Ezar Vorbarra to spearhead a bid for the Imperium. After two years of Yuri Vorbarra's Civil War, Yuri was captured. Aral Vorkosigan, then thirteen, was among those who took part in his dismemberment. Ezar Vorbarra, who had married Yuri's sister, became Emperor, while Piotr Vorkosigan and Prince Xav returned to being political adversaries. After Yuri's death, Aral Vorkosigan occasionally spent vacations with Prince Xav and his wife.[3]

Military career[]

Aral Vorkosigan joined the Barrayaran Imperial Service at age eighteen. When he was twenty, he was married to a woman two years younger of the Vorrutyer family. The marriage was arranged by his father, and the bride was the sister of his friend and fellow lieutenant Ges Vorrutyer. Vorkosigan was often away from home, and his wife took two lovers. When informed about her lovers by his friend Ges, Vorkosigan challenged both of them to duels to avenge his honor.[6]

Vorkosigan killed them both, but it was assumed that they had killed each other and he escaped penalty. Shortly afterward his wife apparently committed suicide with a plasma arc, though it was rumored at the time that he had killed her for infidelity. While Aral had not, he sometimes suspected his father of the deed. He became drunken and reckless after her death, and had an love affair with his friend Ges Vorrutyer.[8][9]

Nevertheless, Vorkosigan was an exceptional officer. He became a ship captain at twenty-eight and held command for several years before being pulled off space duty to plan the Barrayaran conquest of Komarr. At the age of thirty-six he became the youngest admiral since the end of the Time of Isolation.[10] Appointed Imperial Fleet Commander,[11] he successfully defeated the Komarrans and their Selby Fleet of mercenaries.[12]

The Komarran Counselors who governed the planet surrendered on terms to Vorkosigan, who gave his word of honor that they would be spared. They were gathered in a gymnasium in the planetary capital of Solstice and guarded. Despite their surrender Vorkosigan's political officer ordered them all killed. They were all murdered by Barrayaran security forces in an event known as the Solstice Massacre.[11]

Vorkosigan, furious, killed the political officer in turn. However, the event permanently marred his reputation, and ever afterward he was known to his enemies as the "Butcher of Komarr".[3] Due to the death of his political officer his career went into eclipse. He commanded Lazkowski Base on Kyril Island for six months before being demoted to captain and given the command of the warship General Vorkraft.[13]

The ship was known colloquially as "Vorkosigan's Leper Colony", and became a place where the dregs of the Service were assigned. Several years after he was given command, his political officer Radnov staged a partially successful mutiny while the crew of the General Vorkraft was detaining a Betan Astronomical Survey team led by Commander Cordelia Naismith. Vorkosigan was ambushed by Sergeant Konstantine Bothari, rendered unconscious, and abandoned at the scene.[14]

When he awoke, Vorkosigan found Naismith nearby and took her prisoner. One of her crew members, Ensign Dubauer, had been hit with a nerve disruptor and left severely brain-damaged. Vorkosigan wished to abandon him (or mercy-kill him), but Naismith insisted that he be brought along. The three of them hiked for four days through the wilderness of the unnamed planet to reach a Barrayaran supply cache.[15]

Some months later, Aral, promoted to the rank of Commodore, took part in an invasion of the planet Escobar, with the corrupt and sinister Admiral Ges Vorrutyer and heir to the throne Prince Serg leading. In truth, the invasion of Escobar turned out to be a ruse choreographed by Emperor Ezar Vorbarra to kill the admiral and the prince for the sake of Barrayar's future. The emperor reasoned that, if Prince Serg inherited the throne, Barrayar would undergo a period of political darkness and tyranny. After the deaths of Vorrutyer and Serg, Vorkosigan became the ranking commander, and he quickly ordered a retreat of all forces from Escobar.[16]


After the failed Escobaran campaign, Vorkosigan was fed up with military service. He married Cordelia Naismith of Beta Colony and settled down to build a family. During their marriage, he also had a continuing affair with Oliver Jole, one of his subordinates; Cordelia accepted the relationship and did not consider it as an insult or a threat to her own relationship with Aral. [17] As the emperor's health failed, he appointed Aral as Regent-Elect of Barrayar until his grandson, Prince Gregor, reached legal majority (at age 20). Aral reluctantly accepted this, realizing that while he might not be the best General or politician, he could not trust anyone else with the task.[18]

History intervened as Count Vordarian attempted a coup in Vorbarr Sultana, taking Prince Serg's widow Princess Kareen as his consort. Aral coordinated the counter-revolution from a military base, as Cordelia organized a clandestine raid on the Palace to recover the uterine replicator containing their son, Miles. As a result, Vordarian was killed, the Palace partially burned, and the coup was stopped.[19]

Elder statesman[]

After serving as Regent of Barrayar, Aral Vorkosigan turned over the Imperium to Emperor Gregor Vorbarra. Subsequently, Aral was appointed Prime Minister of Barrayar and thus still held a prominent role in Imperial politics. He retired from this position after suffering a near-fatal heart attack; after his recovery, he was appointed the Viceroy of Sergyar, a newly settled world that was most recent addition to the Barrayan empire. Aral appointed his son Miles as his proxy during Council of Counts voting sessions.

During his tenure as Prime Minister, Aral's father, General Count Piotr Vorkosigan died, thus making Aral Count Vorkosigan.


"The man has carried me since I was five years old. It's my turn."
Gregor Vorbarra[src]

At the conclusion of Cryoburn, Aral died a quiet death in his sleep from a cerebral aneurysm, his body found two hours later by Cordelia. He was eulogized in a state ceremony by the newly-titled Count Miles Vorkosigan, and his pallbearers were Ivan Vorpatril, Simon Illyan, Clement Koudelka, Duv Galeni, Jole, and Gregor Vorbarra.

Cordelia elected not to place Aral in cryofreeze to save his life, because the brain damage from the aneurysm would have left him mentally incapacitated, and stated it was not what he would have wanted.

Several years after his death, Cordelia, using frozen gametes, planned to have six daughters by Aral, to be raised on the planet Sergyar with the surname Naismith. She also offered Oliver Jole the opportunity to have three-parent sons with Aral's genes and her mitochondria, which he accepted.[17]

Appearance, personality and traits[]

"The very best model, if you can remember exactly how he moved, would be Aral Vorkosigan. Now, that was power in motion."
―Armsman Szabo instructing Lord Dono Vorrutyer on how to walk like a man[src]

Aral was of below average height, stocky and not particularly handsome, but projecting an aura of power and authority. He was sometimes known to suffer from murderous or near-murderous rages.

He was bisexual, with a preference for soldiers. See "That Line" for a discussion of the argued-about line "Was bisexual. Now he's monogamous."

He was also a surprisingly good artist, with the patience and ability to put many tiny details into a picture. He drew by hand, without aid from computers.

Barrayaran titles, ranks, and styles[]

Attested titles included Lord Vorkosigan, Captain Vorkosigan, Commmodore Vorkosigan, and Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan (Admiral Lord Vorkosigan being equally correct). As Regent, he was Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan, Regent of Barrayar. Prime Minister Count Aral Vorkosigan (or Prime Minister Admiral Count Aral Vorkosigan), and Viceroy Count Aral Vorkosigan were later titles.

By extension, Aral Vorkosigan was once merely Lord Aral Vorkosigan, and was once Prime Minister Lord Aral Vorkosigan. The use of Admiral past his retirement may have depended on context, and may have been a courtesy. Regent of Barrayar seems to have been the most official usage, although Regent of the Barrayaran Empire and Imperial Regent are also attested. Lord Regent appears to be have been a form of address rather than a formal title. While unused, Captain Lord Vorkosigan and Commodore Lord Vorkosigan were likely formally correct at the relevant times. Once Aral became his father's heir at age eleven upon the death of his elder brother, the use of his first name in his titles became optional.

Behind the scenes[]

Notes and references[]

  1. Barrayar chapter 6
  2. A Civil Campaign chapter 3
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Shards of Honor chapter 2
  4. Mirror Dance chapter 15
  5. Shards of Honor chapter 5
  6. 6.0 6.1 Shards of Honor chapter 3
  7. Barrayar chapter 19
  8. Shards of Honor chapter 7
  9. A Civil Campaign chapter 15
  10. Memory chapter 8
  11. 11.0 11.1 Brothers in Arms chapter 7
  12. The Warrior's Apprentice chapter 13
  13. The Vor Game chapter 6
  14. Shards of Honor chapters 1-6,9
  15. Shards of Honor chapters 2-4
  16. Shards of Honor chapters 7-11
  17. 17.0 17.1 Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
  18. Shards of Honor chapter 15
  19. Barrayar