The Imperial Guard is the fighting elite of the Imperium of Sidhae, the private army of the reigning monarch tasked with the protection of his/her person, enforcement of the sovereign's will and an elite combat force outclassing even the elite Army legions.
The Imperial Guard was established in the wake of the Skargh Wars in the early 22nd century. Anticipating future problems with maintaining central authority, the Emperor would form an elite personal guard and hand-picked the first set of members from the most decorated and loyal Skargh War veterans, special forces operatives and long-time followers. Initially, the formal purpose of the Guard was little more than protecting the Emperor's person at all times, a task that had thereto fallen upon adequately qualified servicemen of the regular Army. However, with the growth of the Imperium, the Clans would oftentimes question the Emperor's right to rule, so it fell to these select men and women to remind any wayward officials of their duties and obligations, by force if necessary. Within two decades, the Guard had expanded from merely an outfit of bodyguards to a full-scale military force capable of standing it's own against the Army and Navy, having consistently recruited the best and most devout from both. The Emperor would rely on their unquestioning faith in him to put the Clans in line without fear or favour.
During the Age of Peace, the Guard remained the sole power entirely uninvolved and uninterested in political scheming for power, diligently serving in the capacity that the Emperor had mandated them and avoiding any political involvements. Their loyalty would later prove instrumental in defeating the Traitor forces during the Sidh Civil war.
During the Sidh Civil war and the concurrent Age of War, the Guard lost much of their original strength, expending themselves on particularly vital missions. From Flight of the Luminon to Battle of Hades Gates, the Guard was ever at the forefront, protecting the monarch and serving as an inspiration for the rest, their exploits being lionized throughout the Imperium. Tired of the constant scheming and bickering of the Clans, many Sidhae would regard the Imperial Guard as the only fully trustworthy Sidh force in existence.
The Imperial Guard's role became even more prominent after the Age of War as the Empress installed sweeping reforms stripping the Clans of much of their former autonomy and power because of the abuse that certain selfish members of society would visit upon all who opposed them openly.
The Imperial Guard would actively partake in the Reconquest Wars, operating mostly as small elite detachments attached to regular Army and Navy forces. Where the Army and Navy would be used as instruments of blunt force in the Reconquest Wars, the Guard would not squander its strength as it had in the Age of War, serving instead as a precision tool applied at the most opportune moment. Only on a handful occasions an entire Guard legion would be deployed to drive back an enemy incursion or spearhead a planetary assault.
This established pattern continues to this day, the Imperial Guard rarely being deployed anywhere in large numbers. The various legions of the Guard maintain a constant rotation, always having a number of their troops deployed on combat missions, so that the legions never lack men with fresh combat experience.
The Imperial Guard is organized along the same lines as the regular Army, being divided into 13 legions with their respective naval armadas. Unlike the Army or Navy, where every legion and battlefleet is essentially a fully-autonomous fighting force only brought together in a larger whole during major conflicts, the Guard remains under centralized personal command of the reigning monarch at all times. The Empress has traditionally held command of the 13th Guard Legion since the Age of War, the strategoi of the rest making up the Guard of Twelve (or simply the Twelve), her personal honour guard and inner circle of closest advisors.
Where the naval arm of an Army legion is still officially part of the Navy and merely serves in an attached, subordinate capacity (a position resented by many naval commanders), no such distinction exists within the Imperial Guard, the naval arm of the Guard being independent of the Imperial Navy and entirely part of the Guard.
Unlike a typical elite force, the Imperial Guard does not have an exceptionally tough and brutal training regime, or indeed any special training regime at all, as the men and women serving in the Guard have already undergone the most unforgiving training imaginable for decades. Few Guardsmen are younger than 100 years, and most have spent their entire lives in the military, having literally hundreds of campaigns and thousands of battles under their belts. Every Guardsman is a decorated hero, having survived against impossible odds, and it is experience rather than augmentation or equipment that makes them arguably the best troops in the galaxy.
As with the regular Army legions, the Guard legions are prepared to carry out any kind of operation separately or all at once. Most of the time, Guardsmen serve in small units as elite bodyguards, commandos and tactical advisors attached to the regular forces.
Membership in the Guard has traditionally been by invitation only, one first having to prove one's worth and mettle in numberless battles before even being considered. Distinguished veterans may apply individually, their candidacy being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Serving in the Guard is considered such an honour that even ranking officers have given up their careers just to become common privates in the Guard - for while such a demotion may seem as a setback, service record in the Guard also virtually guarantees access to the highest echelons of the Imperial government afterwards, possibly marking one as eligible for the mantle of the emperor as well, however unlikely and borderline-blasphemous the idea might seem at first..
Perhaps the most well-known tradition of the Guard is the 1st Guard Legion's oath of silence. Before the Age of War, the Emperor of Sidhae held personal command of the 1st Guard, members of this legion consequently being the most loyal and trusted warriors of the Imperium tasked with the protection of their sovereign. When the Emperor was assassinated in 2232, his charges were devastated, the 1st Guard suffering from a wave of mass suicides as many Guardsmen were unable to bear the shame of having failed their emperor. The survivors would thereafter vow a perpetual penance for their failure to protect their lord, discarding their original heraldry in favour of a simple plain black shield and swearing a collective oath of silence. Given the impracticality of such oaths in a military setting, the Guardsmen are permitted to speak if absolutely necessary, but encouraged to use technolingua, an audio-digital data streaming method, instead of conventional speech as a way around the customary rules.
Since the Age of War, the Sidh monarch is customarily in command of the 13th Guard legion, the former praetorians of the 1st Guard having deemed themselves unworthy of the honour. This is also meant to reflect Julius Caesar, who originally commanded a 13th Legion.
Where regular soldiers are recruited based on individual skills and battle record, the naval branch of the Guard recruits entire crews at a time. Same is true for other heavy weapon crews that do not require high individual skill, but excellent teamwork.
All Guard legions have heraldry similar to the Waffen-SS divisions of WWII, consisting of a black shield and an emblem. Few if any people in the present age even understand the reference, however,