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This article is about the title Emperor. You may be looking for the character Emperor Palpatine, or the title of Galactic Emperor.
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The title of Emperor (feminine Empress) was held by certain officials and heads of state in certain governments. It was usually inherited, but this was not always the case. Sometimes successful warlords and conquerors would create Empires by declaring themselves emperor. It is uncertain how, or even whether, an Emperor's position and authority differed from that of a King. By far the best known emperor was the Galactic Emperor, the leader of the Galactic Empire. The first holder of this position, Emperor Palpatine, was usually just referred to as "the Emperor".
Out of universe, the title "emperor" typically denoted a more powerful monarch than a king, often one who ruled one or more vassal kings. There is, however, no indication that this is true for the Star Wars version of the title, as it was held even by mere planetary rulers.
However, it may be noted that it was also derived from the Latin imperator, a military title received by acclamation by victorious Generals, later transformed to one of many titles used by the Roman emperors, from which it derived its meaning as over-king. It was in the original Roman sense that Napoleon revived the title in 1801. This sense seems appropriate to its use by many of the emperors of the Star Wars galaxy.