The Complete Timeline Of Grand Moff Tarkin In The 'Star Wars' Galaxy

There are many fascinating characters spread throughout the Star Wars franchise, but not all of them have commanded the Death Star to blow up a planet to make a point. Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin quickly established himself on screen as a man Darth Vader respected, and everyone else feared. In short: he was the man. 

Decades after his on-screen first appearance and death, the character was brought back for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story via digital trickery, and it's incredible. His interactions with various characters helped flesh out his backstory, which is impressive. Tarkin has also been featured in numerous books, comic books, and more, so despite being on-screen for only a short while, fans know a lot about Wilhuff Tarkin.

His history includes important moments, such as the time when Tarkin first meets Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Tarkin was so important to Darth Sidious' plans that he ranks up there with the likes of Count Dooku. He was also instrumental in abandoning the Clone Army in favor of volunteers and conscripts, so he made a significant impact. Grand Moff Tarkin's life is laid out below, with the most significant events listed in chronological order. 

Photo: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope / 20th Century Fox

  • 64 BBY: Tarkin Was Born On The Planet Eriadu

    Wilhuff Tarkin was born to a wealthy family on the Outer Rim planet of Eriadu in 64 BBY. The Tarkin family were among the planet's earliest pioneers who led colonists to Eriadu long ago. When the colonists arrived, they found a wild planet lush with life, and the Tarkins managed to tame it and rise to prosperity. 

    Over time, the Tarkin family evolved into a more robust operation with its own military. That force became an established sector military called the Outland Regions Security Force, and the Tarkins reaped the benefits. By the time Wilhuff was born, the family was incredibly wealthy and had a lot of connections and clout within the Galactic Republic.

  • 48-45 BBY: Tarkin Completes Training On The Carrion Plateau And Participates In Counterstrikes Against The Greater Seswenna Raids

    When the Tarkin family colonized Eriadu, the planet was teeming with life throughout its lush forests and jungles. Much of that life was incredibly dangerous, and a good portion of it was left alone. This wasn't necessarily done for conservation; rather, it allowed the family to properly train its young for a life of military thinking and combat.

    When Wilhuff was 16 years old, he was taken by his grand-uncle Jova Tarkin to the Carrion Plateau with a couple of Rodian guides. The Plateau was a dangerous place filled with deadly predators, and it was there that the young Tarkin boy learned survival skills. He was forced to defend himself or be slain at the Carrion Pike when a pack of predators decided he looked like a good meal.

    When his training was complete, Tarkin joined the Outland Regions Security Force, tasked with protecting Eriadu and the Greater Seswenna sector. Tarkin was assigned to the anti-pirate task force, and he stood out among his peers early in his career by successfully countering pirates in the region. He was instrumental in determining the Q'anah's Marauders' attack pattern, ensuring he captured their lead ship and piloted it (with everyone onboard) into the sun.

  • 45 BBY: Tarkin Meets Palpatine While Attending The Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy

    When his service with the Outland Regions Security Force was complete, Tarkin attended the Sullust Sector Spacefarers Academy. While he was in training, he met the senator from Naboo, otherwise known as Sheev Palpatine. Palpatine was impressed with the young man and pushed him toward a career in politics, which Tarkin decided against. 

    At the time, he was more interested in his military career; instead, he used his new powerful contact to aid him in his Academy admission. Instead, Palpatine helped secure a place for Tarkin in the Galactic Republic's Judicial Academy, effectively steering the course of his career. At the age of 19, Tarkin clearly impressed Senator Palpatine, who would follow his career closely.

  • 32 BBY: Tarkin's Leadership & Ingenuity Saved An Envoy During A Mission To Halcyon

    32 BBY: Tarkin's Leadership & Ingenuity Saved An Envoy During A Mission To Halcyon
    Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars / Lucasfilm

    One of Tarkin's earliest missions while a member of the Republic's Judicial Department forces took him to the world of Halcyon with a party of Jedi. The two groups quickly butted heads, and before long, the leader of the Judicial Department forces went against Jedi orders by ordering an attack from a different angle. This separated the two groups, putting many of them in danger.

    Because of his upbringing and training on the Carrion Plateau, Tarkin was in a familiar element. The other members of his team relied on his survival skills and leadership as he took them to the objective. There, they found the Jedi shortly after they completed the mission. Word of Tarkin's leadership and skills circulated throughout the Judicial Department, and he was honored for his actions on Halcyon.

  • 32 BBY: Tarkin Becomes Governor Of Eriadu With The Backing Of Sheev Palpatine

    32 BBY: Tarkin Becomes Governor Of Eriadu With The Backing Of Sheev Palpatine
    Photo: Star Wars: The Bad Batch / Disney+

    Despite choosing not to follow Palpatine's advice to enter politics when he was younger, Tarkin ultimately did follow in his mentor's footsteps. This decision resulted from the various conflicts Tarkin noticed breaking out across the galaxy. He recalled Palpatine's advice and contacted his mentor to assist him further. With Palpatine's backing, Tarkin became the governor of Eriadu.

    Tarkin repaid the favor by stopping then-Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum from launching an investigation, which ultimately helped lead to his downfall and the rise of Palpatine. As the Clone Wars loomed on the horizon, Count Dooku approached Governor Tarkin, asking him to join the Separatist cause. In the end, Tarkin remained loyal to Palpatine, which was good for him since it was Palpatine, AKA Darth Sidious, who dispatched Dooku to test Tarkin's loyalty. 

    Standing up to Dooku kept the Separatists from gaining the foothold they needed to bring down the Galactic Republic. Of course, it was all part of Palpatine's master plan to take over the galaxy, but the event also solidified Tarkin as someone Palpatine could trust to do whatever was needed to achieve his goals.

  • 22-19 BBY: During The Clone Wars, Tarkin Takes Up An Officer Position In The Grand Army Of The Republic And Climbs The Ranks

    22-19 BBY: During The Clone Wars, Tarkin Takes Up An Officer Position In The Grand Army Of The Republic And Climbs The Ranks
    Photo: Star Wars: The Clone Wars / Lucasfilm

    When the galaxy was caught up in the Clone Wars, Governor Tarkin returned to his roots in the military and took a commission as an officer in the newly-created Republic Navy. Despite leaving politics to join the service, he retained his title of “governor” and maintained contact with Palpatine.

    Early in the conflict, Tarkin took part in numerous battles as a captain. He commanded forces at the assault on Separatist Shadowfeeds, led at the Battle of Murkhana, and was a significant player in the Battle of Kamino. Tarkin distinguished himself during this time and quickly stood out as one of the top military commanders of the Republic.