Honor Harrington

Honor Stephanie Harrington is a fictional character, the eponymous heroine of a series of science fiction books set in the "Honorverse", written by David Weber and published by Baen Books. She is known among the Sphinxian felinoid treecats, by one of whom she has been adopted, as "Dances on Clouds."

An officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy (RMN), the space navy of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, Harrington bears a striking professional resemblance to both the real-life British naval officers Admiral Lord Nelson and Captain Thomas Cochrane, as well as the fictional character Horatio Hornblower. (Weber references the creator of Hornblower at least once, a minor instance of "breaking the fourth wall", as an homage.) Like Nelson, she loses an eye and an arm in combat;(her eye in "Honor of the Queen" and her arm in "In Enemy Hands") her initials are the same as Hornblower's, and like all three officers, she has a genius for tactical command throughout the series and becomes a living legend by using those skills in several major engagements—battles for which the press nicknames her "The Salamander" for always seeming to be "where the fire is hottest." By the tenth main-line novel (Ashes of Victory) Honor has emerged as a strategist of note as well, and has been promoted to the rank of Admiral in both the Manticoran and Grayson space navies.

Other parallels with real history include the political situation. During much of Harrington's career, her native Star Kingdom of Manticore is at war with the neighboring People's Republic of Haven (PRH), a conflict that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Napoleonic Wars between the British Empire and France.

Some of the battles described in the Honor Harrington series resemble real-life sea battles. For instance, the long stern chase described in On Basilisk Station has some parallels with the actions of HMS Kent at the Battle of the Falklands during World War I. Similarly, the deathride by Sarnow's battlecruisers in The Short Victorious War bears a resemblance to similar maneouvres by Admiral von Hipper during the Battle of Jutland. The final actions in The Honor of the Queen contain elements from the battles of the Barents Sea and North Cape during World War II, as well as the Battle of the River Plate.

Early life

Honor was born on October 1, 3961 AD, at Craggy Hollow (the Harrington family home), County Duvalier, in the Duchy of Shadow Vale on the planet Sphinx, one of the three inhabited worlds of the Manticore system. She is the daughter of neurosurgeon Alfred Harrington and physician/geneticist Allison Benton-Ramirez y Chou Harrington. Socially, by virtue of her father's ancestry, she was born a yeoman—meaning that she is a descendent of paying settlers of the second wave of settlement of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, not a member of the nobility (who for the most part can claim descent from the first colonists) nor a zero balancer (someone who could not afford to buy passage to Manticore during the second wave, but whose skills were in enough demand that Manticore paid their way). Her mother is an immigrant from the planet Beowulf, which is known for its strong research and practice in the life sciences. Additionally, her paternal ancestors were "genies", people genetically engineered (specifically with the Meyerdahl Beta modification) to survive on high gravity planets such as Sphinx. As revealed in In Enemy Hands, this gives her more efficient muscles, enhanced reaction speed, stronger bones, tougher cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and a higher than average intelligence quotient. She was raised in the Third Stellar Missionary Communion (Reformed), but is not significantly religious.

Honor is one of the few people adopted by a Sphinxian treecat, an intelligent indigenous species. This occurred when she was a child, a rarity among treecat adoptions. She has dubbed her 'cat Nimitz (after World War II Admiral Chester Nimitz). After conducting considerable research on them, she eventually becomes one of the foremost experts on treecats.


At the Academy

Harrington attended the Royal Manticoran Navy's Saganami Naval Academy on Manticore's Saganami Island, and became an officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy. One of the RMN's best tacticians, she can make effective tactical evaluations, often quickly and intuitively. Her mathematical aptitude and navigational skills are excellent, but her poor performance in mathematics courses was the source of much irritation, and more than a few problems, while at the Academy. At Saganami Island, her roommate and best friend was Michelle "Mike" Henke, paternal first cousin of Queen Elizabeth III of Manticore. Having been shy and lacking in self-confidence, Harrington learned much from "Mike" Henke during those years.

Also at the Academy, Harrington unwittingly became the target of a perverse, boorish midshipman, Lord Pavel Young, heir to the Earldom of North Hollow. When he attempted to rape her in the showers, she defended herself, sending him to the hospital. Although the Academy Administrator suspected the truth, her shame and low self esteem kept her from disclosing the details or pressing formal charges. Young thus escaped with a reprimand for conduct unbecoming rather than dismissal from the Academy. Her outstanding abilities (along with some behind the scenes maneuvering by her mentor, Raoul Courvosier) enabled her career to progress steadily, if erratically, despite enmity of the Young clan and its allies' attempts to sabotage her RMN career.

Her midshipwoman or "snotty" cruise aboard HMS War Maiden under Captain Bachfisch allowed her to demonstrate her ability as a combat tactician when, during an engagement with Silesian rebels, the rest of the command team was killed, disabled, or cut off from the rest of the ship, she assumed command. Finishing off the opposing ship, she was promoted, ahead of her class, to ensign.

In command

Harrington's first command is a Light Attack Craft; she is later given command of the HMS Hawkwing, a Destroyer, and after a year of service goes to the RMN's Advanced Tactical Course. Harrington graduates high in her class from the RMN's Advanced Tactical Course, and immediately assumes command of the light cruiser HMS Fearless as a Commander. Her exploits while posted at Basilisk Station bring her widespread fame — and an in absentia sentence of death from the People's Republic of Haven. Now firmly on the fast track to senior rank, she proves to have something akin to the Nelson touch, earning the devotion of her officers and enlisted personnel, as well as the high regard of both Manticore's allies (especially Grayson), and her military opponents. However, she also makes new political enemies and suffers several personal losses.

When Harrington is captured by Haven en route to a new command, the death sentence is ordered to be carried out. Her escape kills a member of Haven's ruling triumvirate, Cordelia Ransom, destroying her private battlecruiser, the PNS (People's Navy Ship) Tepes.

Assuming Harrington was also killed, the PRH propaganda office releases a fake video recording of her "execution". As a result, simultaneous state funerals were staged for her on both Manticore, and Grayson. The Royal Manticoran Navy renames the new Medusa class she had helped inspire to the Harrington class in her honor, although she convinces them (after her return) to retract the change when she returns. The Grayson Space Navy christens the lead starship in their parallel class the GNS Honor Harrington. Despite her similar protests upon her return, the Graysons find various inventive reasons to avoid renaming it, or for removing the 12 meter tall heroic statue of her outside the main entrance to Grayson's Parliament building –— much to her embarrassment.

At the opening of At All Costs, Honor is appointed commanding officer of the cruiser HMS Unconquered, the RMN's equivalent of HMS Victory or USS Constitution — a ship kept in commission for its historical significance. Appointment to the crew is a largely ceremonial honor bestowed by the Manticoran monarch.


In the course of her career, Honor Harrington becomes a Duchess of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, a Grayson Steadholder, and an Admiral in both the Grayson Space Navy and the Royal Manticoran Navy. She also earns several medals for bravery, including the Parliamentary Medal of Valor for saving both Queen Elizabeth III and Protector Benjamin Mayhew IX (the heads of state of Manticore and Grayson respectively) from a surprise attack. She receives the Monarch's Thanks on several occasions, including lifesaving during an avalanche on Gryphon and her handling of an accident on HMS Manticore. She is the only living holder of the Star of Grayson, and the first in six hundred years to receive it twice.

Honor Harrington's rank and titles as of the end of the events in At All Costs include Admiral of the Fleet and Captain HMS Unconquered Lady Dame Honor Stephanie Alexander-Harrington, Steadholder Harrington, Duchess Harrington, Countess White Haven. Her claim to "Countess White Haven" is unclear but arguable, since she is Earl White Haven's second wife (a case of polygamy), but in any event is not held in her own right. Legally, Steadholder Harrington, Duchess Harrington, and the Admirals Harrington are different entities inhabiting the same body. With the acquiescence of the Manticoran Foreign Office and the backing of the Queen, Steadholder Harrington's Grayson armsmen (personal bodyguards) are permitted to accompany her on RMN vessels.


  • Midshipwoman, RMN Naval Academy, Saganami Island, c1876 P.D.
  • Midshipwoman, Assistant Tactical Officer (acting), Assistant Tactical Officer, HMS War Maiden, CA-39, c1880 P.D.: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington
  • Artillery Officer Candidate, Second Assistant Artillery Officer, HMS Royal Winton, DN-12
  • Sailing Master, HMS Osprey, FG-1069
  • Second Assistant Tactical Officer, Assistant Tactical Officer, HMS Manticore, SD-01
  • Commanding Officer, HM LAC 113
  • Executive Officer, HMS Trenchant, CL-19
  • Executive Officer, HMS Broadsword, CA-47, c1890 P.D.: The Hard Way Home
  • Executive Officer, HMS Perseus, CL-92
  • Tactical Officer, HMS Basilisk, SD-105
  • Student, Ship Commanders Course, Saganami Island
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Hawkwing, DD-1213
  • Student, Advanced Tactical Course, Saganami Island
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Fearless, CL-56, Commanding Officer (acting), RMN Basilisk Station, c1900 P.D. (March 3rd) - c1901 P.D. (January): On Basilisk Station
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Fearless, CA-286, c1901 P.D. - c1903 P.D.: With One Stone, The Honor of the Queen
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Nike, BC-413, c1904 P.D. - c1905 P.D.: The Short Victorious War - Field of Dishonor
  • Commanding Officer, GSN's First Battle Squadron, c1907 P.D.: Flag in Exile
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Task Group 1037, Commanding Officer, HMAMC Wayfarer, AMC-, c1908 P.D. (September) - c1910 P.D. (March): Honor Among Enemies
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Cruiser Squadron Eighteen, c1911 P.D.: In Enemy Hands
  • Commanding Officer, allied and non-allied members of armed forces on planet Hades, Elysian Space Navy, 1911 - 1913 P.D.: Echoes of Honor
  • Commandant, Saganami Island Advanced Tactical Course, Tactical Instructor, RMN Naval Academy, c1913 P.D. (December) - c1915 P.D. (May): Ashes of Victory
  • Commanding Officer, GSN's Protector's Own Squadron, since c1914 P.D.: Ashes of VictoryAt All Costs
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Sidemore Station, Commanding Officer, RMN Task Force 34, c1918 P.D. - c1920 P.D.: War of Honor
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Eighth Fleet, c1920 P.D. (July) - c1921 P.D. (August): At All Costs
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Unconquered, since c1920 P.D. (July): At All Costs
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Home Fleet, since c1921 P.D. (August): At All Costs

Character trademarks

Honor loathes coffee and considers hot cocoa far superior.

She owns and practices with a replica Colt M1911 .45 caliber semiautomatic pistol, a weapon considered to be an anachronistic "hand cannon" by her contemporaries, who prefer pulsers, which fire small-calibre high explosive darts at extremely high velocity using a gravitic propulsion system. She acquired a taste for obsolete handarms from her uncle, Jacques Chou, who is an active member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. His training made her a pistol expert (useful on Sphinx outside its protected areas, given its native predators).

Honor loss her left eye while defending Protector Benjamin Mayhew from an assassination attempt. The eye was replaced with a prosthetic, though on occasion it has been disabled (as when she was captured and transported to Hades). Additionally, some of the nerves on the left side of her face were damaged during the same incident, and were replaced with artificial nerves.

Most of her left arm was lost during the escape from the PNS Tepes and was replaced by a cybernetic arm which, among other interesting features, contains a hidden pulser pistol inside the index finger. Its sight is slaved to her prosthetic eye via a small video camera embedded in the cuticle.

Honor practices a fictional martial art known as coup de vitesse (French for blow of speed). This is a fusion of several western and Oriental martial arts, where emphasis is placed on offense at the expense of defense, resulting in a very brutal and effective style. As of War of Honor, Honor has earned an eighth level black belt. There is only one higher rank. Her proficiency has saved her and others several times.

Honor has become proficient with the Grayson style of swordplay, involving a blade very similar to the katana, which by a quirk of history is used ceremonially by Steadholders and is the center of a martial art on Grayson. The sword style of the Graysons is derived from the film "The Seven Samurai" - presumably the Kurosawa version - the only recording of swordplay that existed on Grayson once their culture had devolved to the point where swords were desired.

Honor Harrington in other media

An Honor Harrington movie was announced by Echo Valley Entertainment. However, later information suggested that it would actually be a television series, to be written and produced by Peter Sands. When David Weber was asked which actress he envisioned as Honor Harrington, he replied, "I don’t think there’s anyone out there who has the proper combination of height, physicality, and demonstrated acting ability to be 'perfect' for the role, so my mind is fairly open on this topic." Actress Claudia Christian, who plays Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, has been suggested as a potential candidate; Weber says "She’s much shorter than Honor, but so are most women, and I think she could handle the physicality... I think it’s more important to have someone who can portray Honor’s character and command style than it is to have someone who is six feet two inches tall." Weber's concern is that the director would push Christian to re-create Ivonova's character while playing Honor and "Ivanova’s command style is totally different from Honor’s.

An Honor Harrington video game called Honorverse, is proposed to be made in Fall 2008.

An Honor Harrington wargame, Saganami Island Tactical Simulator (SITS), was released at Gencon in 2005 by Ad Astra Games.

Concept and creation

David Weber didn't set out to create a female protagonist; "it was the way the character came to me," Weber explains. "I didn't set out to do it because I thought that it was especially politically sensitive on my part or because I thought it was likely to strike a chord with female readership or be a financial success. It was just the way that the character first presented herself." Weber doesn't find writing a female character particularly challenging, because, he says, "I'm writing about a human being who happens to be female." When he first started writing, he had developed her entire back story before he started the first book. However, since he knew from the beginning that these books would become a series, he deliberately set Honor up as a character who changes and grows. One example Weber offers is that in The Short Victorious War, Honor off-handedly refers to her genetically enhanced metabolism, which isn't fully explored until In Enemy Hands: "It was one of those little things that I knew about or that I was holding in reserve," Weber says.

Weber chose the character's name so that she had the same initials as "Horatio Hornblower", to whom he foresaw Honor was going to be compared. He says, "There are certainly, clearly, similarities between the two. There are also huge differences. And Honor has never been as neurotic as Hornblower was. Hornblower always carried a massive sense of inferiority around with him. Honor never did." Weber also feels that in the later books in the series, Honor has more in common with Admiral Horatio Nelson than Hornblower.


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