The Klingon Empire (also referred to as the Imperial Klingon Empire or Klingon Imperial Empire) is the official state of the Klingon people, founded in the 9th century by Kahless the Unforgettable, who first united the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS. Since then the Klingon Empire expanded its sphere of influence by conquering numerous systems and incorporating them in the Empire.
Officially, the Klingon Empire is a feudal monarchy, with power residing in the Emperor, who is traditionally a descendant of Kahless. In reality, however, power lays with the Klingon High Council. The position of emperor was abandoned (but not officially abolished) in the mid-21st century, but was revived in 2369 when a group of clerics created a clone of Kahless, who was accepted as the new Emperor, albeit only as a religious figurehead.
The Chancellor, the true leader of the Empire, was head of the High Council, which consisted of 24 members representing various Great Houses (tuqmey) (essentially, the nobility). The Chancellor was protected at all times by the Yan-Isleth (Brotherhood of the Sword).
Women were not normally permitted to hold seats on the High Council. Despite that, Gowron once offered Ambassador K'Ehleyr a seat on the Council in exchange for her support of his bid to be Chancellor. Also, Azetbur, the daughter of Chancellor Gorkon, was permitted to succeed him as Chancellor in 2293.
Various factions almost constantly challenged the leadership of the Empire, and so over time the Klingons developed a strict and rigorous Rite of Succession to determine their leader. According to tradition, one was permitted to challenge the leader on the grounds of cowardice or dishonorable conduct and fight in single combat. Should the challenger slay the incumbent, he assumed the role of the new leader.
Because of the Klingon propensity for violence, shrewd Klingon chancellors redirected hostilities outward, where they would otherwise cause a civil war. In the 2150s, the Klingon chancellor instructed Duras to recapture Jonathan Archer after the latter escaped imprisonment on Rura Penthe. In this way, the chancellor focused the blame for certain internal problems on an external cause. Likewise, Gowron focused his soldiers' energies on invading first the Cardassian Union and later the Federation in order to avoid internal conflicts at home.
Aside from challenges to the primary leadership of the Empire, there was also frequent feuding between the various Great Houses. Most often, the challenge was made on the floor of the High Council and resolved on the battlefield. However, on occasion, some "dishonorable" House leaders chose to make more insidious attacks by undermining the standing of their enemies. D'Ghor underhandedly attacked the House of Kozak in this way in the early 2370s.
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