The Royal Handmaiden Society History
The Royal Handmaiden Society had its genesis in the Jedi Council Forums ("JC.N") of the Force.net, the preeminent Star Wars fansite, in the latter part of 1999. Of course, then was the era of discussing, debating, defending or debunking the newly released Episode I: The Phantom Menace ("TPM"); such was taking place at JC.N in the then-titled "Prequels (Spoilers Allowed)" Forum.
The course of discussion in both these threads inevitably turned to the quintessential query that would create the R.H.S.: the want to know more about those five female human characters centered around Natalie Portman's "Queen Padmé Amidala" -- "Sabé", "Rabé", "Eirtaé", "Saché", and "Yané". They had an allure to them; they were mysterious and tacit, exquisitely elegant yet demonstratively powerful and capable. They presented an intrigue comparable to the Bounty Hunters of The Empire Strikes Back: who were they? What was their origin, and what will be their fate? What's the deal with the "é" in their names, and how do you thus pronounce them?? And, in Real Life, who are the equally intriguing actresses that portray them?
Unlike ESB's Bounty Hunters, though, the five Royal Handmaidens of TPM -- and the actresses that portrayed them -- also carried the extra dimension of being beautiful young women. It is no big admission, then, that this "extra dimension" prompted many a post from earnest, swooning Fanboys! (As glibly demonstrated by Hernalt's thread title -- which actually meant to refer to the handmaiden Rabé, due to her relatively exotic accent (which was in turn due to actress Karol Cristina da Silva's Brazilian ethnicity.))
As the threads progressed along with the knowledge-base about TPM, the inquest into the Royal Handmaiden characters moved beyond just the scope of beguiled Fanboys to enroll costume/wardrobe enthusiasts, name-explicators, and those who are just fans of non-"damsel-in-distress" female-characterization. The gender balance began to shift in favor of the Fangirls!
But in addtion to these areas of interest, it was probably the challenge of "good old fashioned detective work" that buoyed the R.H.S.: which Handmaiden is in what scene? Who's underneath that hood? And most importantly: what is the deal with the "Decoy Queen" plot element -- when is it in effect, and Are You Sure That's Not Natalie Portman Playing Both Parts?? (Yes; we're sure).
And on top of that was a shared sense of at least "rooting for the underdog", and at most righting Cosmic Injustice: amidst the hype following TPM, the Handmaidens -- strong human characters, fighting on the side of Good -- were not getting the credit they deserved, from fans at large and Official sources alike. Relatively, a certain single-shot, inactive, bald female Bounty Hunter had attracted all sorts of attention for doing . . . nothing, of any importance whatsoever!
Thus the ongoing discussion took on a sense of mission. The name "Royal Handmaiden Society" was coined in the course of the Rebel Operative thread, as the metaphor of its post-ers as academic Archaeologists was adopted, poring over every acquired scrap of detail and proffering our Opinions on the fantastic inhabitants of this Undiscovered Country of Handmaidendom.
As the months passed and JC.N underwent hardware and software (r)evolutions, the Royal Handmaiden Society's threads were re-established numerous times. Sadly, not all prior incarnations survived the changes, including Hernalt's groundbreaking "...Saché?" thread. However, most did, and are relegated to alternative URLs with their first pages missing (see the Threads page). The JC.N, in its wisdom and good graces, even officially Archived the "RHS Mk.V".
Parallel to the discussion threads, an initiative was made to colonize netspace outside of the JC.N in the name of the R.H.S., and in late 1999, member Qui-Gon's Padawan built the first Royal Handmaiden Society website, a compendium of all knowledge that had been attained in the course of the threads to date. That R.H.S. site was even an official Force.net Featured Site! Sadly, though, after running through several free-hosting server providers, the site and its Webmistress both disappeared from cyberspace. Plans to re-establish a home site for the R.H.S. were finally realized in the form of this very site in 2002, boosted by the momentum of the release of Episode II: Attack of the Clones ("AOTC").
Currently, the R.H.S. Discussion Thread at JC.N is in its ninth incarnation, and can be found in the Star Wars Community forum, in that with their appearances in the subsequent prequels, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars' Royal Handmaidens are no longer confined solely to the realm of The Phantom Menace . . . yet retain the same intrigue and allure that caught many a perceptive eye when they were.
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