|Queen Mother Barenziah|
|Appears in||Daggerfall, Tribunal, Legends|
Queen Barenziah is one of the most famous figures of the Third Era. She became the first Queen of Morrowind, a vassal ruler to the Emperor of Tamriel. Her consort was Symmachus, former general of Emperor Tiber Septim (and the Emperor himself was rumored to be one of Barenziah's former lovers). Though her position was largely ceremonial for most of the Third Era, the couple were said to be popular with the people of Morrowind. The Queen was considered a loyal vassal throughout the era, and sided against Uriel Septim III and Queen Potema during the War of the Red Diamond circa 3E 120. However, circa 3E 391, she went into exile due to unrest in her province. Symmachus was killed in a riot, and she was forced to abdicate her throne to her uncle Athyn Llethan. Of all her adventures, she is most well-known for going on to help thwart the impostor Jagar Tharn and bring about an end to the Imperial Simulacrum by 3E 399. She married King Eadwyre of Wayrest, who she had forged a bond with while working to defeat Tharn and free the captive Emperor Uriel Septim VII. In 3E 417, she and Eadwyre were among the political leaders of the Iliac Bay who sought to acquire the Totem of Tiber Septim from an agent of the Blades, and who benefited greatly from the ensuing Miracle of Peace, or "Warp in the West". Barenziah claimed ignorance on what exactly transpired during this mysterious two-day phenomenon. Several years later, when Eadwyre died, she returned to Morrowind, where her son Prince Helseth soon became King, while she took on the title of Queen Mother. Her other child, Princess Morgiah, had already gone on to become Queen of Firsthold. She may have had other children, one of many disputed facets of her life.
Princess Barenziah was born to the rulers of Mournhold in the waning years of the Second Era.[nb 1] There are two often contradictory accounts documenting her life up until the end of the Imperial Simulacrum. Biography of Queen Barenziah gives a public, authorized version of her life as written by Imperial scribes. The Real Barenziah, meanwhile, purports to give the "real" story, apparently as revealed by the Queen herself in private confessions to a friend. The manuscript emerged around of the time of the Miracle of Peace and was eventually published. A censored copy was later circulated.
Later, in the second century of the Fourth Era, another account emerged, The Nightingales, which gave yet another version of certain aspects of the story, and accused the Queen of covering up the truth for political reasons.
Biography of Queen Barenziah
According to the version of events published by Imperial scribes, when Emperor Tiber Septim invaded Morrowind during the Tiber Wars and began sacking cities, the initially obstinate Dunmeri nobility were forced to give in and sign an armistice, but not before the city of Mournhold lay in ruins. Princess Barenziah was found with her nurse in the wreckage. General Symmachus suggested that she could be useful one day, so she was placed into the care of Count Sven Advensen, who had been granted the fiefdom of Darkmoor in Skyrim. His family greatly loved her, and she acted as a model daughter in all respects. But when she was sixteen, she was tricked by a "wicked orphan stable-boy" named Straw into running away with him, as he convinced her she was going to be sold off as a prostitute. Disguised as a boy, she fled to Whiterun with the stable-boy, where they found jobs as guards in a caravan bound for Riften.
After only a short time in Riften, Straw fell in with a Khajiiti thief named Therris, who planned to rob the Imperial Commandant's house and search for information within on behalf of a traitor. Barenziah's loyalty to the Empire drove her to warn the Commandant. The Commandant, Symmachus, had been searching for her. Instead of being sold, he informed her, she was going to the Imperial City to live with the Septim family and learn about governance. While there, she befriended Tiber, who was in the middle years of his reign by this time, and his family came to love her as their own. After almost a year, when she was eighteen, she finally returned to Morrowind to take her rightful place as sovereign of Mournhold. Later, she took Symmachus as her husband in a ceremony officiated by the Emperor.
Several hundred years later, in 3E 376, the two had their first child, Helseth. Shortly beforehand and unknown to the public at the time, the Staff of Chaos had been stolen from the mines beneath Mournhold by a bard known as the Nightingale. Eight years later, the couple had another child, Morgiah. Shortly thereafter, relations with the Empire mysteriously deteriorated, leading to civil unrest in Mournhold. Barenziah took her children with her to the Imperial City so that she could seek an audience with Emperor Uriel Septim VII to reconcile their issues. During this audience, she realized that the Emperor was an impostor, the bard Nightingale who had stolen the Staff. Though she managed to conceal her discovery and leave, news soon came that Mournhold had fallen to rebels, and Symmachus was dead.
That same evening, King Eadwyre of Wayrest came to see her, and confirmed her discovery, informing her that the impostor was the Imperial Battlemage Jagar Tharn. Together, the two monarchs hatched a plan to discover the scope of Tharn's plot and free the Emperor. Barenziah was able to charm Tharn, and by reading his secret diary, she learned the extent of his plot, and what had to be done to stop him. With the help of the spirit of Ria Silmane, she arranged for the escape of one of Tharn's prisoners, whom Ria had selected as her champion in the fight against Tharn. Over the next several months, Barenziah learned more, and passed it all along. Once all vital information had been garnered, she fled with her family and King Eadwyre to his kingdom of Wayrest.
The two monarchs were married there before the year ended, and proved capable of repelling occasional attacks by Tharn's minions (as Tharn was too busy with Ria's champion). Following Uriel Septim VII's return to the Ruby Throne and the Restoration of the Empire, a state funeral was held for Symmachus.
The Real Barenziah
The Real Barenziah follows the same overarching fact pattern as the official biography, but with greater detail in certain areas and with several notable contradictions. Some days after her parents left Mournhold to war against Tiber Septim, little Princess Barenziah was taken from the palace by her nurse. But all she could remember beyond that was "seeing a huge shadow with burning eyes filling the sky". After several days, passing from stranger to stranger, soldier to soldier, her nurse disappeared, and she found herself the reluctant ward to the Count of Darkmoor. Every month, a courier would bring them a small bag of gold, a bag of dried mushrooms from Morrowind (Barenziah's favorite treat) and check on the girl's welfare.
Though she maintained pretenses, Barenziah dedicated much of her youth to "pilfering, lying, and a little misplaced magic". As she got older, she also became fairly promiscuous. She was never comfortable with the Count and Countess, and came to secretly loathe them as poseurs when she discovered that they were first-generation nobility. The Countess Inga, in particular, looked down upon Barenziah due to her race. Though Straw, her latest fling, had urged Barenziah to run away with him, the real impetus for her departure was that the couriers who inspected her every month had begun to give her the impression that she was becoming ready for whatever was planned for her, and she did not trust the intent behind it. So she fled with Straw, setting out east.
After carefully sneaking into Whiterun, Princess Barenziah spent a week burglarizing homes in the city before she and her lover left with a caravan. Along the way, she engaged in other sexual liaisons, as well. When they arrived in Riften, it was Barenziah who sought out Therris, who accepted her offer of sex in return for sponsoring her membership in the Thieves Guild. One night, she found herself burgling the Imperial Commandant's house. General Symmachus, upon discovering her in his home (it's implied he'd actually lured her there), explained the truth of her situation. He gave her assurances that Straw would be given a farm and Therris would not be permanently harmed. In the end, Therris was drawn and quartered, and Straw had his tongue cut out. Symmachus fabricated the official version of events, the version which Barenziah recited to Tiber Septim upon meeting him.
It wasn't long before Barenziah and the Emperor began an affair. After Tiber learned she was pregnant, however, an abortion was performed against her will, and she left for Mournhold earlier than planned. And while some in the Imperial City were sad to see her go, others were not. Despite their secret past, Tiber Septim and Barenziah managed to maintain a strong political relationship.
Upon news of Tiber's death in 3E 38, Symmachus proposed to Barenziah, and she accepted. Their union was both personally and politically rewarding. The new Emperor's trust in Symmachus was absolute, while Barenziah was loved by the people of Morrowind. Barenziah's trust in the reliable Symmachus had blossomed into affection, and Symmachus had coveted her since the day she was born, when he was a mere miner in Mournhold.
In or just before 3E 376, Barenziah was charmed and duped by the bard Nightingale, who used her to gain access to the mines of Mournhold, where he was able to find and take the Staff of Chaos from an ancestral shrine. Symmachus arrived at the last moment, too late to stop the Nightingale from teleporting away. He covered up Barenziah's involvement and forgave her indiscretion. In 3E 391, when Barenziah sought a redress of grievances with the Emperor, she recognized the impostor as the Nightingale thanks to this previous relationship.
After Barenziah's meeting with King Eadwyre, the Nightingale met with her again, dropped his disguise and professed his love for her. She reciprocated - but only so she could avenge Symmachus. When she finally fled with Eadwyre to Wayrest several months later, she was six months pregnant and ultimately bore a son. And, in one last contradiction with the official biography, she did not marry Eadwyre until a year later.
Many years later, in the late second century of the Fourth Era, a new account emerged of the events surrounding the theft of the Staff of Chaos circa 3E 376. According to The Nightingales, Volume II: What We Were, the master of disguise who seduced Barenziah was actually a member of the Nightingale Trinity, a triumvirate of master thieves blessed by Nocturnal. The bard known as the Nightingale was actually a Dunmer named Drayven Indoril, who was hired by Jagar to obtain the Staff. After Jagar was given the Staff, he tried to kill Drayven, but the latter's Nightingale abilities allowed him to flee, and Tharn's agents eventually had to give up pursuit.
The book goes to assert Barenziah was responsible for distorting the truth, as "being enthralled by the master sorcerer" instead of "being seduced by a master rogue" would help mitigate her own culpability. Barenziah would later have a child by Drayven, who she abandoned with a midwife in order to protect her Nightingale story. The child, Dralsi, would go on to become a Nightingale like her father, as would Barenziah's granddaughter, Karliah.
After the Imperial Simulacrum, Barenziah became a key player in the constant political machinations of the Iliac Bay region. She evidently put a great deal of effort into suppressing The Real Barenziah. According to the Queen circa 3E 417, it was a "cruel and defamatory" work which a disgruntled and possibly deranged scribe had written several years before. The book was suppressed and the author executed, but chapters of it still emerged from time to time. The book was an enormous political liability for her, particularly due to its portrayal of her relationship with Tiber Septim. She knew that Gortwog gro-Nagorm of Orsinium was seeking to acquire and publish the book. Mannimarco also sought the book as a means to blackmail her. Ultimately, a somewhat edited version was widely circulated. Sexually explicit details were censored, ostensibly on the order of the Tribunal Temple.
Circa 3E 427, a scribe and friend of Barenziah's privately admitted to being the anonymous author of The Real Barenziah. He went by the alias Plitinius Mero, and claimed to have written the biography after a great deal of research, when he was young and ambitious. His head was saved from the chopping block by Barenziah herself. He suspected this was because she knew the tale was true, and got some satisfaction, even amusement, at its telling. She protected him from the retribution of the Imperial family, spreading the word that the offending scribe was dead at the hands of her guards, and he had been with her ever since.
Return to Mournhold
Several years after the Miracle of Peace, when Eadwyre died, Barenziah returned to Morrowind as Queen Mother, ostensibly to retire to her country estates, and she was reportedly well-received by her homeland. Helseth returned with her. How exactly events unfolded in Wayrest is not clear, but there had been a power struggle between Eadwyre's daughter from a previous marriage, Princess Elysana, and Barenziah's son Helseth. When Elysana won, Barenziah and Helseth left Wayrest (Morgiah had already left to become Queen of Firsthold by this time). While this was thought to be a setback for them, Imperial scholars seemed to take the outcome as a sign of Elysana's great cunning, rather than weakness on the part of Helseth or Barenziah. It was not long after their return to Morrowind that Barenziah's uncle Llethan died under disputed circumstances, and Helseth became King of Morrowind. While the retired Queen Mother apparently backed away from politics (or at least, maintained that appearance), she remained concerned about the undercurrents of hostility between the monarchy and the Temple.
On Her Deceptions
Many sources allude to Barenziah's deft manipulation of propaganda and spies. The Real Barenziah notes several occasions where the Queen lied to protect herself, although it usually credits Symmachus with concocting and initially implementing various cover stories. The Nightingales, besides holding the Queen directly responsible for distorting the truth, asserts that the supposed confessions of The Real Barenziah were still interlaced with lies. A Game at Dinner tells a story taking place shortly after Barenziah's return to Morrowind which paints Helseth as a ruthless and even "malevolent" ruler who was surrounded by perfidy. The veracity of the tale is unknown, but the publisher noted that, far from being insulted by it, Barenziah and her son had copies printed and spread to shops across Morrowind.
Although Barenziah claimed to simply be the retired Queen Mother in the waning years of the Third Era, it was widely rumored that she continued to wield a great amount of power. The Dunmeri Count Andel Indarys of Cheydinhal was thought to have achieved his status due to Barenziah's influence. Even her son the King was dismissed by some as a mere crony.
Helseth greeted the arrival of the Nerevarine by sending assassins to dispose of the potential new threat to his authority. This drew the Nerevarine to Mournhold, and Helseth dismissed the matter as a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the requests he proceeded to make seemed designed to put the Nerevarine at risk of death. This culminated in Helseth's request for the Nerevarine to lie in wait in the royal castle and single-handedly foil a plot to assassinate Barenziah. For her part, the Queen Mother showed little concern that the Nerevarine would be all that stood between her and the expected assassins. She and others expressed confusion on why anyone would even want to assassinate her at this time, when she was a retired old woman, especially since any assassins who could reach her could also reach the King himself. Following Helseth's instructions ultimately led the Nerevarine to become trapped with the assassins, outnumbered and in close quarters. It is not certain who was actually the target of the assassins, Barenziah or the Nerevarine, or what knowledge Barenziah may have had of this. As always, the true story behind the lady remains in the eye of the beholder.
- In TES V: Skyrim, the Crown of Barenziah was the Queen's coronation crown, and was embedded with twenty-four unique gems. Long before the events of the game, a thief stole the coronal, pried out the gems, and scattered them in an attempt to cover his tracks. The author of Guide to Better Thieving claimed credit for the heist. In the quest No Stone Unturned, the player has the opportunity to reassemble the Crown.
- A Game at Dinner, which takes place soon before 3E 427, suggests that when Barenziah returned to Morrowind after Eadwyre's death, she had abdicated the throne "more than forty years ago". However, this would indicate her abdication took place before the Imperial Simulacrum began, contradicting the chain of events presented by both biographies.
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition, implies that Symmachus was killed in the Arnesian War, which is traced generally to the year 3E 396 by The Third Era Timeline. However, The Daggerfall Chronicles states Symmachus died in 3E 391, and based on the birth years it gives for Helseth and Morgiah, their ages given at various parts of The Real Barenziah seem to corroborate it.
- In TES II: Daggerfall, Rude Song refers to Barenziah as a "bonny Dark Elf queen" of Wayrest "who likes to see and be seen", apparently referencing acts in The Real Barenziah which were censored in later versions of the text.
- Barenziah's grandchildren by Morgiah, Goranthir and Rinnala, stood to inherit the throne of Firsthold circa 3E 432.
- Barenziah was born into the famous Ra'athim clan of House Hlaalu.[UOL 1]
- Biography of Queen Barenziah by Stern Gamboge, Imperial Scribe — The life history of Queen Barenziah
- Biography of Queen Barenziah by Stern Gamboge, Imperial Scribe — The life history of Queen Barenziah
- The Nightingales Vol. 2 by Gallus Desidenius — Volume 2 of the books that describe the Nightingales
- The Real Barenziah by Plitinius Mero — Biography of the famous Queen Mother of Morrowind
- The Real Barenziah by Plitinius Mero — Unauthorized biography of the famous Queen Mother of Morrowind
- The Real Barenziah — Plitinius Mero
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Temple: Morrowind — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- The Madness of Pelagius — Tsathenes
- Biography of Queen Barenziah — Stern Gamboge, Imperial Scribe
- Events of Daggerfall
- The Warp in the West — Ulvius Tero
- Events of Tribunal
- The Firsthold Revolt — Maveus Cie
- The Nightingales — Gallus Desidenius
- Events of Morrowind
- The Third Era Timeline — Jaspus Ignateous
- Barenziah's dialogue in Daggerfall.
- Plitinius Mero's dialogue in Tribunal.
- A Game at Dinner — An Anonymous Spy
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Sons and Daughter of the Direnni West: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- Barenziah's dialogue in Tribunal.
- Rumors heard about Count Andel Indarys in Oblivion.
- Main quest of Tribunal
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Blessed Isle: Alinor and the Summersets — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.
- Interview With Three Booksellers, The Imperial Library