"The liveried man ushered them into a sleekly-appointed office the size of most of one floor of the Professor's house. On the near end, a half-familiar figure leaned against a huge comconsole desk, his arms folded. Emperor Gregor Vorbarra was grave, lean, dark, good-looking in a narrow-faced, cerebral fashion. The holovid did not flatter him, Ekaterin decided instantly. He wore a dark blue suit, with only the barest hint of military decoration in the thin side-piping on the trousers and the high-necked tunic."
―Ekaterin's first meeting with Gregor[src]
Gregor vs the emperor by duvallonfecit-d382sl8

Gregor vs the Emperor Noemí duVallon Illustrator

Gregor Vorbarra was Emperor of the Barrayaran Imperium. He consequently ruled over Barrayar, Komarr, and Sergyar, the three planetary bodies of the Barrayaran Empire.


His father was Crown Prince Serg Vorbarra, and his grandfather was Emperor Ezar Vorbarra. They both died before Gregor reached his majority, therefore, Admiral Lord Vorkosigan ruled as Regent of Barrayar until Gregor reached age twenty. This was not the last of Gregor's woes as a child, as he became a pawn in a power struggle between the Regent and the usurper Vidal Vordarian, a struggle which cost him the life of his mother, Princess Kareen Vorbarra.[1]

"Commander Cavilo, both my parents died violently in political intrigue before I was six years old. A fact you might have researched. Did you think you were dealing with an amateur?"
―Gregor dresses down Cavilo[src]

He accepted his Imperial Regent Admiral Aral Vorkosigan and his wife Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan as surrogate parents. Gregor was a quiet child, his closest childhood companions as selected by his second parents were Miles Vorkosigan, Elena Bothari and Ivan Vorpatril. Because of their age discrepancies (the three were approximately five years younger than him) he generally agreed to play more childish games than he would otherwise have preferred. Later, during his studies at Imperial Service Academy, he met more of his Vor-class peers and became friends with some of them, particularly the soon-to-be Count Henri Vorvolk.

In his early twenties he was eager to finally take the reigns of power from his regent. A power clique formed around Count Vordrozda and Admiral Hessman; they tried to turn him to more conservative politics, using charges of breaching Vorloupulous's Law against young 17-year-old Miles Vorkosigan to drive a wedge between him and his former Regent. Simon Illyan was also suspected in this plot, so he was imprisoned in his own cells under Imperial Security Headquarters for a few months. As a result of learning how mistaken he'd been during this crisis, Gregor spent the next five years mostly following the leading of Prime Minister Aral Vorkosigan.[2]

Gregor had not been told of his father's problems; a few years after he came of age, Gregor discovered the truth about him while on a state visit to Komarr, and was so distressed that he attempted a half-hearted suicide. In the resulting "accident" he eluded his bodyguards and went missing for a time before Miles Vorkosigan found him in the Hegen Hub. They had adventures for a time and successfully prevented the Cetagandan Empire from taking it over. Gregor returned to Barrayar with greater confidence in his ability to lead his people.[3]

A few years later, he met, fell in love with, and married Laisa Toscane, a Komarran scion of those Toscanes, one of the richest and most powerful families on the planet. The marriage was a critical move, as it served to show a unity between Barrayar and its conquered world of Komarr.[4]

"Because a three-planet empire delivered upset snakes by the basket-load to this man's office, every damned morning. Yeah - for all the talk of men coveting the emperor's throne, Ivan had never yet heard of anyone speak of coveting his desk."
―Ivan on Gregor's job[src]

By the time of "The Flowers of Vashnoi", Gregor and Laisa had two sons and an infant daughter.

Personality and traitsEdit

"He'd be shy if he could, but he's not allowed."
―Miles on Gregor's personality[src]
Quiet and rather shy as a child[5], Gregor was generally reserved as an adult as well. Knowing whether he was angry or not required considerable personal knowledge of him, because he kept his thoughts very close. He was generally glum, though the only way that clearly showed was in the fact that his face had no laugh-lines.[6]

As far as anger, Gregor's expression did not change at all, save for an extreme stoicism. During an inquisition of Lucas Haroche, Miles noted that Gregor had become so impassive, he seemed to turn gray, thinking, "So that's what rage looks like on him." Gregor's reserve also extended in another area: according to Simon Illyan, his interrogation by Gregor was an opportunity for him to employ sarcasm. Illyan suspected Gregor enjoyed being able to employ it for the rare occasion behind closed doors.

Gregor was privately a progressive and liberal emperor, but felt it was very important to remain even-handed in order to rule effectively. He was also Count Vorbarra, and technically had a vote in the Council of Counts. By tradition, he usually abstained.[7] Gregor would occasionally attend events as Count Vorbarra, rather than Emperor, allowing him to maintain something of a lower profile and more relaxed social protocols.[8][9]

Psychologically Gregor lived in fear that he carried the madness that afflicted his relatives, particularly his father Crown Prince Serg, but also his great-grandfather, Yuri Vorbarra, and his relations in the Vorrutyer clan, best (or worst) exemplified by Serg's companion in depravity, Ges Vorrutyer.[10] While capable of great personal warmth, he maintained iron control in most situations, projecting an air of deep calm.

For many Vor, his marriage to Laisa Toscane was important because it meant Gregor would start producing Imperial Heirs and thus relieve tensions that, should something happen to him, there could well be a civil war over who his successor would be. By the events of Cryoburn, Gregor and Laisa had produced several "scarily smart" children, thus alleviating the problem. On Komarr, the marriage was viewed with mixed feelings - those favorable to it viewed it as sharp business practice.[11][12] For Gregor, the marriage meant a chance to have children with a woman who was not Vor, and therefore free of the genetic taint that cursed the high aristocracy in general and his own ancestors in particular.[13]

Political AccomplishmentsEdit

"Gregor gave him a cool look. 'On the contrary. I trade in lives every day. They are the coin in which Barrayar has paid for my mistakes since I was twenty years old.'"
―Gregor, to Shiv Arqua[src]
  • Successfully consolidated a three planet Empire.
  • Created a system of laws for life technologies.[14] [15]
  • Was likely to create a system of laws for death-related (cryochamber) technology.[16]
  • Established a Komarran Empress.[4][17]
  • Non-Vor Imperial Auditors.[18]
  • Restored control of Komarran soletta to Komarrans. He also left local politics entirely to Komarr, retaining their previous government.[19]
  • Some freedom of the press became visible [20][21].
  • Technological modernization in traffic and medicine (begun under Aral Vorkosigan's Regency).[22][23][24][25]
  • Renovation of the Caravanserai (probably also begun during Regency).
  • Varying amounts of success in suppressing infanticide for mutation and attacking of seemingly-mutant adults (begun during Regency).[26][27]
  • Various galactic diplomacy successes - creation of Hegen Alliance[10], Imperial covert ops - from personnel extractions, important passenger rescues to restarting occupation resistance movement (Marilacans).[28]

Notes and referencesEdit

External linksEdit

Gregor Vorbarra on Wikipedia