Vordarian's Pretendership

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Vordarian's Pretendership is a major event in Lois McMaster Bujold's sci-fi series, the Vorkosigan Saga.

The War of Vordarian's Pretendership
Date unknown
Location Barrayar
Status won by Vorbarra
surrender of Vordarianite insurgency
House Vorkosigan, House Vorbarra, allies House Vordarian, allies
Commanders and leaders
Lord Regent Aral Vorkosigan, Count Piotr Vorkosigan Vidal Vordarian
significant portion of Barrayaran Imperial Military Service significant portion of Barrayaran Imperial Military Service
Casualties and losses
heavy heavy


The War of Vordarian's Pretendership occurs in the novel Barrayar. Emperor Ezar has just died; his son Crown Prince Serg had died earlier in the Escobar War, leaving only Ezar's young grandson Gregor Vorbarra alive. Thus four-year-old Gregor becomes Emperor, but is still in his minority. Ezar designates Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan to be Gregor's Imperial Regent and guardian until he should come of age.

Vordarian The Pretender[edit]

Count Vidal Vordarian, pretender to the throne of Barrayar. After Aral's appointment, Vordarian amasses support and forces and stages a coup in the capital of Vorbarr Sultana. Imperial Security had learned of the plot, and was preparing to arrest Vordarian, but he learned of their plans, and kicked off his coup a month ahead of his original schedule.

Vordarian invades the Imperial Residence and manages to capture Princess Kareen, Gregor's mother. Although mortally wounded, ImpSec chief Captain Negri gets Gregor out of the capital and takes him to Vorkosigan Surleau, the Vorkosigan summer home where the Lord Regent was recuperating from an earlier assassination attempt that had been orchestrated by Vordarian.

Eventually, Vordarian declares himself Prime Minister and Regent for Kareen, and then later Emperor. Claiming that Vorkosigan has killed Gregor in an effort to usurp the Imperium for himself, Vordarian works to convince the people that he is a rightful Emperor by right of intending to marry Kareen.

Meanwhile, Vorkosigan is keeping Gregor alive and safe in the Dendarii Mountains by having his father, General Count Piotr Vorkosigan, and his wife, Lady Cordelia Vorkosigan hide the boy emperor in the back woods where technology cannot detect him.


Because her unborn son, Miles Vorkosigan, is still in a uterine replicator in Vorbarr Sultana, now under Vordarian's control, Cordelia launches an unsanctioned rescue mission to retrieve her son, despite opposition from her husband and father-in-law. She ends up rescuing Alys Vorpatril, who is in labor, and assists in the birth of the baby, Ivan Vorpatril, Miles' cousin. Lady Alys's husband, Padma Vorpatril, is killed, however. Cordelia succeeds in the rescue of her son Miles, but during the rescue, Princess Kareen is killed and one wing of the Imperial Residence burns to the ground. Vordarian is killed (via decapitation) by Sergeant Bothari, using Lt. Koudelka's swordstick, on Cordelia's orders. Vordarian's head is brought covertly back to Tanery Base, where it is revealed in a spectacular manner in the midst of a negotiation session between the Prime Minister and the now leaderless representatives of Vordarian's forces.


Aral Vorkosigan resumes his role as acting regent, followed by a peaceful transition when Gregor reaches the age of majority, to Gregor becoming Emperor of Barrayar. Miles Vorkosigan survives and is removed from his uterine replicator to spend many years being treated for the wounds he received in a previous assassination attempt shortly before the Pretendership. Cordelia Vorkosigan permanently cements her reputation as a fearsome warrior who should not be crossed. The Imperial Residence is rebuilt.