The Empress is Her Imperial Majesty Celestia III. She is the direct descendant of Sai Rayanna, the Sun-Daughter and first Cairen Empress. She is regarded, in her function if not in her person, as the incarnation of the sun herself. This is the meaning of the great salutation: Rayati Raihiranya – Hail to the Empress (as an incarnation of the Sun).

The position of Empress is therefore a hereditary one although it does not necessarily follow the Tellurian law of primogeniture. All daughters of the Imperial Family are Imperial Princesses and all are brought up in seclusion and with considerable rigour in the great temple-palace at the heart of the Imperial City. The slightly modern way of life adopted by some Westrenne Royal Families is out of the question for the Imperial Family. An Imperial Princess is one of the most highly-trained, profoundly cultured and rigorously disciplined maidens in the Empire. The selection of the Imperial Princess who is to become Empress takes place according to tests and rituals that are unknown to any outside the highest Haiela and Raihira who make up the Traditional hierarchy of the Imperial Court and Sun-Temple.

Those who are unsuited to this demanding life are usually allowed to withdraw. They then become Serene Highnesses whose functions are purely ceremonial. It should perhaps be mentioned here that the use of the term “Serene Highness” to mean non-authoritative royalty is something of a Westrenne joke. The honorific “serene” is in fact used, upon the proper occasions, for all royalty, up to – and a fortiori including – the Empress herself. It denotes the “unacting action” of the Spiritual Principle, and is expressed in the scriptural passage:

Earth moves but Heaven is still. The rim revolves, but the Centre remains without motion

The still point from which all movement arises, like the point without extension from which all space proceeds, is represented on earth by Her Serene Majesty; and her governance of the Empire is likened to the actionless action of the Spirit. It is from this central idea that the term “Serene Highness” is accorded secondarily to the whole Imperial Family.

However, in the Westrenne lands there is a certain spirit of “activism”, “individualism” and “exteriorism” akin to, but by no means as extreme as, that in modern Western Telluria, and this spirit, at its most gross, can see serenity as simple inactivity. The pretence that the “Serene” in “Serene Highness” denotes lack of authority or active participation in Government is thus a humorously deliberate “misunderstanding”. Actually the reason they are often known by this title is that it is one of the fundamental titles belonging to the Imperial Family and held by all its members, as opposed to some other titles which derive from particular functions.

Incidentally, the term “All serene”, used in Aristasian military and other circles, means “all in order”: and while its superficial meaning is “all quiet, nothing wrong”, at a profounder level it implies “all is right” – i.e. all is in harmony with the serenely unchanging Principle, and thus with the Will of Heaven – and by extension of Heaven’s daughter, the Empress.