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The High Lords of Terra
The High Lords of Terra collectively form the Council of the High Lords of Terra, also known as the Senatorum Imperialis. The Senatorum is an Imperial governing body comprised of the twelve highest-ranked officials of the most powerful Adepta of the Imperium of Man. This body carries out the day-to-day decisions required to govern the Imperium in the Emperor of Mankind’s name. The task of the High Lords is to interpret and enact the will of the Emperor. Accordingly, the position of High Lord is the most politically powerful in the Imperium. Since the Emperor can no longer govern his empire directly, it is the claim of the High Lords that his immortal will is known to them and the Emperor thus rules through the High Lords of Terra. Though the Imperium is too vast to be centrally governed, the High Lords ultimately make decisions affecting the lives of trillions of Imperial citizens across the galaxy.
Near the end of the Great Crusade in the late 30th Millennium following the Ullanor Crusade, the Emperor decided to leave the Imperial war effort in the hands of his Primarchs under the command of the Warmaster Horus and return to Terra to carry out the next phase in the creation of the Imperium of Man — creating a human version of the Eldar’s Webway. At the same time, the Emperor decided that the Imperium could no longer be ruled directly by him and a council comprised of the Primarchs, instead, the ordinary mortals of the Imperium must also be allowed some say in its management. To this end, the Emperor created the Council of Terra to carry out his decisions and to handle many of the lesser administrative and bureaucratic tasks that did not require the Emperor’s immediate attention. The Primarchs were left in control of the Military Council of the Imperium, which was led by Horus and now had true power only over the direction of the Great Crusade rather than over the Imperium as a whole. The decision proved to be exceedingly unpopular with the Primarchs, who disliked relinquishing their say over the direction of the Imperium to the control of men and women whom they viewed as far less capable than themselves. This issue would be one of the festering resentments that allowed Chaos to corrupt the Space Marines of the Traitor Legions and turn them against the Emperor.
Following the Horus Heresy, the Senatorum Imperialis of the High Lords of Terra succeeded the Council of Terra as the main executive body of the Imperium as part of the reformations initiated by the Primarch Roboute Guilliman, who joined the Council as Lord Commander of the Imperium, commanding the entirety of the Imperial armed forces. In the early 32nd Millennium, the rise of the Imperial Creed and the Cult of the Saviour Emperor to become the state religion of the Imperium meant that the Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum was granted a seat, which soon became permanent. In the 36th Millennium, High Lord Goge Vandire, Master of the Administratum, lead a coup d’état and also became the Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum, holding dual leadership over the two most powerful Adepta of the Imperium. During his Reign of Blood in the Age of Apostasy, the High Lords were powerless to act. When Fabricator-General Gastaph Hediatrix demanded that the High Lords finally account for themselves and execute Vandire, Goge dissolved the Senatorum Imperialis and declared the Space Marines and Adeptus Mechanicus to be traitors to the Imperium. Before long, Goge was slain by his own bodyguards, the Brides of the Emperor (who would become the Adepta Sororitas), after Loyalist forces led by the reforming Ecclesiarchy priest Sebastian Thor launched an invasion of Terra to bring Vandire down. The High Lords of Terra returned to power after the Senatorum Imperialis was restored, though major reformations, including the creation of the Ordo Hereticus of the Inquisition, were carried out to prevent any one man from ever again seeking to replace the Emperor as the true ruler of Mankind.
The High Lords
Although the sources regarding the exact composition of the Senatorum Imperialis are varied, some institutions and organizations within the Imperium are so powerful that their leaders can be considered a de facto High Lord. The following nine offices are almost always represented as High Lords:
- The Master of the Adeptus Administratum
- The Representative of the Inquisition
- The Ecclesiarch of the Adeptus Ministorum
- The Fabricator-General of the Adeptus Mechanicus
- The Grand Provost Marshal of the Adeptus Arbites
- The Paternoval Envoy of the Navigators
- The Master of the Astronomican
- The Grand Master of the Officio Assassinorum
- The Master of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica
The total number of High Lords is said to be twelve, leaving three non-permanent openings. These positions are most often filled from among the following powerful Imperial leaders:
- Lord Commander of the Segmentum Solar
- Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard
- Lord High Admiral of the Imperial Navy
- Cardinal(s) of the Holy Synod of Terra
- Abbess Sanctorum of the Adepta Sororitas
- Captain-General of the Adeptus Custodes
- Chancellor of the Estate Imperium
- Speaker for the Chartist Captains (representative of the Imperium’s merchants)
The position of Inquisitorial Representative to the Senatorum Imperialis is not held by any specific Inquisitor, but the seat is retained for whichever individual is sent on behalf of the Inquisition. The eldest Grand Master of the Grey Knights is also occasionally present as the Inquisitorial representative. Similarly, the place of the Paternoval Envoy is open to whoever might be the Envoy of the Paternova (the elder) of the current ruling family of Navigators. To prevent a monopoly on power, the strongest Navigator houses usually agree to elect a Paternova from the weakest Navigator houses. If a strong house were to rise to power in the Council, that house would gain control of the Navigator’s voice in the Imperium and thereby control all but the strongest Navigator families.