Recently, I came across an article on SyFyWire with a title that caught my attention – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Explains Why Padmé’s Pregnancy Wasn’t a Galactic Scandal. In the article, author Bryan Young goes about answering a rather straight-forward question: “When you watch Revenge of the Sith, does anyone else find it curious that no one around Padmé Amidala…seemed to wonder who fathered her child?” Admittedly, this is not a question I have never thought about, in part because I have always figured people around Padmé were just minding their own business, but also because Padmé interacts with so few people in Revenge of the Sith. Why would I be curious about this when her contact with others is so limited? Regardless, I decided to give Young the benefit of the doubt and see what he had to say on the topic.
Immediately after presenting his question Young lands on his thesis, identifying what he believes to be “the only solution.” His solution is this: “everyone assumed Rush Clovis was the father.” Acknowledging that the Senator from Scipio who was first introduced in The Clone Wars episode “Senate Spy” is not a “household name,” Young provides a little bit of context on Clovis before launching into the meat of his solution.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel. You can and should read Young’s piece to see why he identifies Rush Clovis as the assumed father, taking into consideration the evidence he puts forth. For my part, I will offer the cliff notes version:
Since Rush Clovis and Padmé used to have a relationship, long before she was secretly married to Anakin Skywalker, people assumed that he was the father because she rekindled her romance with Clovis, on the planet Scipio, around the time she became pregnant. Translation: Amidala rekindled things with her “old flame” and hooked up. Since Clovis also died on Scipio on this same trip, Padmé could lean into the rumors that Clovis was the father, allowing people to believe it and, therefore, deflect attention from her and Anakin. Except, no one talked openly about it out of respect for Padmé who was, undoubtedly, upset over Clovis’ passing.
Again, you should check out what Young writes to gain a fuller picture but I think I capture the gist of his argument. One can certainly imagine people in the Star Wars universe making assumptions Rush Clovis was the father of Padmé’s child since, long before, the two had been an item AND they had been together around the time she would have become pregnant. Or, as Young puts it, “the timeline matches up pretty well, and their prior relationship was common knowledge.” He is correct, the timeline does match up reasonably well, and Young likewise makes a strong case for when the conception probably happened (when Anakin and Padmé travel to Batuu in the novel Thrawn: Alliances). Yet, while the timeline fits, the suggestion that “their prior relationship was common knowledge” does not. On this point, Young overlooks an important fact about the “prior relationship” which we learn in the novel Queen’s Shadow, an omission I found rather odd considering the research he admits putting into the article.
The Relationship: Amidala and Clovis
As Young explains it, in The Clone Wars episode “Senate Spy” Clovis is revealed as “an old flame of Padme’s” with Anakin being “shocked to learn that Padmé and Clovis had been in a relationship together before their marriage.” However, the episode does not offer any of the juicy details about their past relationship, only cryptically referring to the two as “close.” Instead, things are intentionally left to the imagination, allowing the audience and, more importantly, Anakin to fill in the gaps. The novel Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston DOES fill in those gaps, though, offering a rather clear portrait of the “prior relationship” first described in “Senate Spy.” And what do we learn it Queen’s Shadow? Namely, they didn’t actually have a romantic relationship.
I do not want to spoil Queen’s Shadow for those who have not read it, but I will say this: when Senator Clovis abruptly kisses Senator Amidala, she is not happy. Actually, she is furious, like really furious. Telling him “No” three times, Amidala forcefully reminds Clovis that they are colleagues and nothing more. While “Senate Spy” rightly suggests that they were close, a fact even the Jedi Council is aware of when asking Padmé to spy on Senator Clovis, Queen’s Shadow otherwise shatters the notion that Clovis was an “old flame.”
The suggestion, then, that people would “assume” Amidala and Clovis rekindled their past relationship years later, resulting in a pregnancy, just doesn’t hold up. Unless, that is, we are to ignore Padmé’s emphatic rejection of Senator Clovis in Queen’s Shadow, stripping away the strength she displays when Clovis makes his unwelcome move. For my part, I am unwilling to do that and believe it would be a disservice to Padmé Amidala. Instead, I find it necessary and important to lean into her actions and the conviction that she did not view or interpret their “closeness” as romantic. Their relationship was that of two colleagues who were also friends. If Padmé did not view this close partnership as romantic then I am not willing to pretend that everyone around her – Senators and Jedi alike – viewed it as romantic.
Furthermore, while Queen’s Shadow eliminates the notion that the two were rekindling an “old flame,” it is important to note that when Senator Amidala travels to Scipio years later, her disdain for Clovis is palpable precisely because of his actions in “Senate Spy.” While using her past “close” relationship with Clovis in “Senate Spy” to uncover his dealings with the Separatist Alliance – he is helping to fund a new droid factory on Geonosis – Padme is poisoned. Almost dying because of Clovis’ actions, and disgusted by his work with the Separatists, it is hard to imagine she had kind words to say about Rush Clovis in the intervening years given her reaction to him when she arrives on Scipio in the Season Five episode of The Clone Wars: “An Old Friend.”
Based on the available evidence I simply find it hard to believe or even imagine a scenario in which people assumed Rush Clovis was the father. In fact, I find it far more likely that when Padmé openly revealed her pregnancy people did not assume Clovis was the father. And, if any did, it would have been only a handful at best.
If this is the case, and we are to move past the notion that “everyone assumed Rush Clovis was the father,” then how can we solve the question which Young presents? How do we account for the lack of curiosity in Revenge of the Sith, the disinterest in her pregnancy? Well, I have a another possible solution, one that is rooted in the customs of Naboo.
A Private Matter
The basis for my solution comes from Star Wars: The Last of the Jedi: Death on Naboo by author Jude Watson. I will withhold all of the plot details, but in this 2006 middle-grade reader one discovers a number of things about customs of Naboo, with very specific information being shared regarding customs governing pregnancy and paternity. Seeking information about Padmé following her death, the Inquisitor in the novel, Malorum, is stymied time and again, running up against customs and the people of Naboo who are holding firm to those customs. At one point, as he is digging into the mystery of who fathered Padmé’s child, he discovers that “Naboo customs precluded any questions about the possible father of her [Padmé’s] child.” In turn, this custom is reinforced in his conversation with Padmé’s maternal grandmother, Ryoo Thule. Tracking her down, Malorum presses Ryoo to reveal what she knows about the identity of the father of Padmé’s dead child. To this, Ryoo responds, “Padmé did not share with us the father’s name…We didn’t ask. Such things are private matters on Naboo.” Even if she was curious about the child’s father, perhaps even having thoughts about who it might be, Ryoo Thule did not press her granddaughter on the matter, instead opting to respect a well-known custom among the Naboo which safeguards the privacy of expecting mothers.
As I said at the beginning of this post, one reason I had never considered the question which Young presents is because, in part, I have always figured people around Padme were just minding their own business. Essentially, “minding your own business” is what this custom from Naboo is all about as it ensures that the women of Naboo can have a baby without being harassed for information, even from their own family. If a woman chooses to share any details about the pregnancy with others, that is their right. And if a woman chooses not to share anything, they are shown respect and the matter is left alone.
While this custom was introduced in a 2006 Expanded Universe novel, I see no reason it should not continue to be part of the fabric of Naboo’s society in the Disney canon. With this being the case, we can easily use this custom to account for the lack of interest in the father of Padmé’s child. My solution is simple:
As a Senator from a planet where it is customary to respect fatherhood as a private matter, it is reasonable to presume that some, if not many, of the individuals she knew and worked with – other Senators, Jedi, business leaders, etc. – would have been aware of this custom and acted accordingly. They would neither inquire about the father nor would they discuss the matter behind Padmé’s back as a further sign of cultural respect. And, for those who were not aware of the custom, well, this is precisely why protocol droids are abundant in Star Wars. These droids exist to bridge the cultural divide between species and planets, ensuring that one will engage with members of an unfamiliar society or species by using the appropriate etiquette to ensure cordial relations. It is relatively easy, at least for me, to imagine a protocol droid reminding its master, before meeting with the pregnant Senator from Naboo, that it would be considered rude to inquire about the pregnancy.
None of this is to suggest, though, that people did not personally wonder who the father may have been. Surely, it crossed many minds, just as it crossed Ryoo Thule’s mind. Nothing about the custom removes this possibility, it cannot govern one’s personal thoughts. But it does account for the lack of open curiosity regarding the father of Padmé’s child and for our sake, that is the only thing that matters.
A Final Thought
While I may not agree with Bryan Young that “everyone assumed Rush Clovis was the father,” I am also not naïve enough to suggest my solution is the only one that works. Other solutions to this question can and do exist. For example, a case could be made that no one discussed the pregnancy because Padmé hid the pregnancy with the assistance of her loyal handmaidens. It could also be argued that the father of her child was an open secret, and rather than assuming the father was Rush Clovis, everyone assumed it was Anakin Skywalker.
These are only a couple of other possibilities I have considered, but I do not mention them with the intentions of starting down another pathway. Instead, I do so only to suggest that, in the end, you needn’t agree with me. Other solutions are possible and, if you have one, I welcome the chance to hear it.
For now, in my own head canon, I will continue to believe that the individuals with whom Padmé Amidala was interacting were not pressing her on the issue of paternity precisely because they were respecting a well-known custom among the Naboo, a custom which protected pregnancy as a private matter.