‘Star Wars’ Secret History: Queen Padmé Amidala Was Inspired by a Real-Life Murdered Mongolian Queen

When the Star Wars prequel trilogy began, Queen Padmé Amidala, played by 16-year-old Natalie Portman, shook the world. The trilogy’s marketing campaign included striking images of the exalted Queen Amidala wearing the royal regalia and a porcelain painted face.

To this day, Padmé remains a powerful force across the Star Wars universe. But did you know a real-life murdered Mongolian queen inspired Padmé’s costumes?

In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Padmé addresses the Senate, appealing to them to save her people. Portman wore a thick, red velvet gown with embossed roses and a triple-braided soutache on the dress collars and cuffs. The headdress binds her hair in an aggressive updo with golden hair bands adorned with hair tip ornaments.

When Padmé stands in front of the Senate, she wears a large black cloak over the red gown. According to Rebel’s Haven, costume designers wanted her costumes to imply her queen status. The red symbolic dress took time to make and was “incredibly expensive” with three complex layers.

Star Wars‘ costume design team made the underdress from a 70-year-old vintage gold skill target. They also strategically placed the sunray pleats to catch the light anytime Padmé moved. Red and green silk velvet with bronze embroidery helped form the middle red velvet robe and outfit’s visible layer.

They also added a unique technique to the helm and yolk panels, adding depth and texture to the overall finish. The team stitched small tubes into a design and injected them to create the padded effect on the robe. The outer layer of the robe was made with faux fur to build the pyramid-shaped padded shoulders lined with red silk. The dress was fictional. But it represented her culture and Naboo tradition.

Mongolia’s Queen Genepil likely served as the inspiration for Padmé’s costumes

Queen Padme Amidala's costume is on display at an exhibition that accompanied 'Star Wars - A Musical Journey' in 2009
A 2009 Star Wars costume exhibition featuring Queen Padmé Amidala’s looks | Brian Rasic/Getty Images

The Phantom Menace‘s costume department sourced inspiration for Padmé’s statement outfit from a 20th-century queen named Genepil. She was the last wife of Bogd Khan, the final Mongol Khan.

After his first wife died, Bogd was shattered and didn’t want another wife, reports Jetset Times. However, his court insisted, citing that the monarchy must be maintained. Guardians of the court went out in search of a befitting wife. They happened upon a 19-year-old Genepil who hailed from a noble family.

The young woman was already married. But the guardians of the court captured her and took her to the Khan, disregarding her original marriage. The assumption was that Bogd was already old and almost blind. Presumably, their marriage would be short, and she could return to her family after his death.

Genepil struggled with the transition and insisted she return to her parents, which the Khan accepted under Mongolian law. However, the courtiers appealed for Genepil to return to the palace. They said her country needed her, which she hesitantly agreed to. Genepil fulfilled her duty until Bogd’s death.

Queen Genepil’s brutal and unnecessary murder

Relieved to be done with her duties, Genepil returned home eager to live her life surrounded by her loved ones. Sadly, this would never be, reports the Mongolian Institute. With Bogd dead, the communist instilled an abolition of reminders of the old regime.

Genepil was no longer a part of the monarchy. But she remained a symbol of the Mongolian empire, making her a person of interest. In 1937, Genepil was arrested and killed at age 33 alongside her father. While her story is tragic, Genepil’s legacy lives on through the surprising legacy of the Star Wars franchise.

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