Princess Irulan

By Andrew Peregrine


As we near the release of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Part II, we’re taking a look at some of the characters, places and scenes in the book, how we might see them in the movie, and how you can portray them in your own games.

Now we come to look at my favourite character, Princess Irulan (see Dune Core Rulebook p.257) eldest daughter of Emperor Shaddam the IV, heir to the Imperium and Bene Gesserit agent. Yet despite this position, she is probably the most overlooked characters in the books. She is either manipulated or ignored by almost everyone. Her father seems to see her as just a vessel to marry off for alliances and curses the fact she (and her many sisters) was not born male. But Irulan herself is a woman of many talents. Unsurprisingly, the Bene Gesserit were very keen to get their claws into the eldest in the line of succession, especially after ensuring the Imperial line only produced daughters. They have focused a lot of time and attention on Irulan, giving her the secrets of many of their skills and the family bond her father denied her. 

The Imperial court believes Irulan is being instructed in little more than the skills of a noblewoman, such as dance, conversation, and poise. But in fact, the Bene Gesserit are actually teaching her Prana Bindu control, secret codes, and how to observe. She is their most highly placed spy, and it is clear her loyalty is far more dedicated to her Sisters in the order than her actual family. 

Meeting Irulan: Those who meet Irulan find her beautiful, with golden blonde hair and striking green eyes, but also a little cold and distant. Skilled at attending courtly functions, she will make all the right turns of etiquette and forms of address and hospitality, but mostly by instinct and rote. Many things are expected of her, so she can only take those she trusts into her confidence. This goes double for any romantic considerations, as she is only too aware that her matrimonial fate has never been in her own hands.

In general, Irulan does her best to avoid court functions. She would rather be alone to either practice her skills or write in her diaries. This is no real surprise as her life is so carefully managed, time for herself, and time alone, is at a premium.

Versions of Irulan

But who is the real Irulan behind the courtly mask she wears? It may be that even she is unsure. With so many powerful forces, from the Emperor to the Bene Gesserit trying to shape her to their needs, what she actually wants may be a mystery even to her. But what might happen if she turns her skills and intellect towards a course the puppet masters around her have not considered?

Irulan the Prize: As the heir to the Imperium, whoever marries Irulan becomes the Emperor of the Known Universe. So, it is a surprise that she does not seem to have a very long list of suitors. It may be that the opportunity to court the Princess is something that must be earned by the favour of the Emperor. So, if no one proves worthy, they never even get to meet her. Does this make her a ‘princess in an ivory tower’ or is she able to invite suitors as she chooses? If so, she holds a powerful favour that many would do anything to earn. Perhaps, as a member of the Sisterhood and one of many daughters, she prefers the company of women anyway and is in no rush to be married at all.

Irulan the Academic: As the writer of the histories of Muad’Dib, Irulan understands the importance of the written word. It is she who realises that a chronicle of Muad’Dib is an opportunity to control the narrative. Given how many books she writes, this makes it unlikely she was inexperienced as a writer beforehand. As her skills are more academic than literary, she might have already authored a series of histories of the Imperium. If she is the one recording for posterity, the question then becomes how much is she changing and what agenda is she trying to advance?

Irulan the Bene Gesserit Pawn: While the Bene Gesserit have been kind to Irulan, she might still be nothing more than a pawn and an asset to them. Reverend Mother Mohaim often seems dismissive of her, treating her like a novice, although her Bene Gesserit rank may be the only thing of import to Mohaim. If it turns out the Sisterhood is just using Irulan, what might she do with that information? Would she consider it a betrayal, or just want to work harder to prove her worth as an agent?

Irulan the Politician: Born into the Imperial Court, Irulan has known politics since she was a child. She has learned many games of manipulation, games the Sisterhood refined for her. But how good is she in the most deadly game in the universe? She is a quiet member of the conspiracy and even weds Paul with little argument. She certainly sees the potential power and position in bearing the royal heir by secretly feeding Chani a contraceptive. Is this the quiet of a person outclassed by powerful forces, or that of someone who just got what she wants? After all, she is one of the few members of the conspiracy to survive. Perhaps her quiet moments are times of observation, and the resulting deaths are her way of carving out a more individual place for herself in the new Imperium?

So, who is Princess Irulan in your game of Dune: Adventures in the Imperium?