Holy Paladin

Final Fantasy IX contains many, many references to earlier games in the series. Many of these references are found in the names of places, people, weapons, etc. For example, Beatrix and Steiner both have the Climhazzard ability, which is one of Cloud's Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy VII. There are visual references, such as Garnet's robe worn at the beginning of the game that resembles the traditional white mage attire. Some events in the game share similarities – the theatrical kidnapping of Garnet makes you remember the opera in Final Fantasy VI and the plan to get Setzer to kidnap Celes. Character stories and themes can mirror that of earlier games – Zidane and Kuja's origins and relationship bears similarities to that of Cecil and Golbez.

Beatrix herself is in some ways reminiscent of Celes from Final Fantasy VI. Celes is also a general who turns against a corrupt ruler after realising how wrong their actions are. Like Beatrix, Celes comes across as cold and stoic when you first meet her, only to warm up as the story progresses. In the Game Boy Advance version of FFVI, Celes' ultimate weapon is called Save the Queen. This version of the game came out after FFIX, and it's not a leap to think it's a nod to Beatrix and the implicit references between the two characters.

However, who I really want to talk about in this section is Cecil Harvey from Final Fantasy IV and the similarities between him and Beatrix. I'm always here for a reason to talk about Final Fantasy IV.

A true paladin

Cecil Harvey: dangerously fabulous paladin

Cecil is the main character of Final Fantasy IV (seen to the left as a paladin). He starts the game as a dark knight and the leader of the Red Wings – the powerful air force of the nation of Baron. Under orders from his king, Cecil carries out atrocities and is plagued by his conscience, leading him to asking questions of his ruler. He breaks away from Baron and ends up undertaking a trial to defeat his literal dark side and become a paladin, as a dark knight cannot defeat true evil.

There are a number of similarities between Baron and Alexandria. Both were once peaceful kingdoms ruled by benevolent monarchs. Both of these monarchs even adopted orphans! However, both the King of Baron and Queen Brahne of Alexandria began to change into power-hungry, malevolent rulers. The King, as it eventually turns out, was killed and an imposter took his place and that's why he changed so abruptly. Brahne, as previously discussed, was influenced by Kuja. Both nations had the military power to back up their bloodthirsty plans, and other nations suffered for it.

Baron has a number of military divisions, with the most elite being their air force – the Red Wings. Like Alexandria's all-female army, the Red Wings have a formidable reputation. They are commanded by Cecil Harvey, a dark knight who is equally as feared as the force he leads. Like Beatrix, Cecil is the commander of the army of an aggressive, military nation. The activities of Baron and Alexandria have far reaching effects on their worlds, causing much destruction and death.

The Red Wings

Cecil and Beatrix both plunder and kill in the name of their liege. Final Fantasy IV opens with Cecil and the Red Wings attacking the mage town of Mysidia to take their Crystal by force. Task completed successfully and back in Baron, Cecil questions the King - the man who raised him - as to why they're doing this. The King's response is to strip Cecil of his command and send him on what seems to be a pointless errand to make a delivery to the nearby town of Mist. Cecil is left questioning his loyalties and his decisions, only to renounce Baron completely when the the delivery he makes to Mist releases a bomb and kills the majority of the inhabitants. This sets Cecil on his journey of redemption that culminates when he is stranded and alone and asks for help from the Mysidian people he previously wronged. They send him to Mount Ordeals, to attempt a trial they don't expect him to pass. Even though he has renounced Baron, Cecil still needs to renounce the dark blade. Surprisingly enough for the people of Mysidia, Cecil succeeds in his trial and returns as a paladin. Gameplay wise, this changes his whole skill set – his weapons are different and he can now use white magic.

The similarities between Cecil and Beatrix are easy to see. Beatrix, a feared commander of an army that flies on an airship known as the Red Rose. Like Cecil, she is a paladin that uses a sword and has the ability to use white magic. However, while Cecil learns that "A true paladin will sheathe his sword", Beatrix is feared for the amount of men she has felled. I don't think this means it's wrong to call Beatrix a paladin or that it negates the similarities between her and Cecil. They both have their journeys, and Cecil's transformation from dark to light is pretty literal. Beatrix is unbeatable when you fight her, and a character that's "dark" in ways not reflected in her armour. While originally much devoted to her monarch and her duty, she begins to question her loyaties and must come to terms with the fact that her monarch has changed and turned into a warmonger. She does take longer than Cecil to switch loyalties, however. And while both have a redemption arc, Cecil's (by virtue of being the main character of his game) is more comprehensive, while even near the end of the game Beatrix still seems to be troubled.

Beatrix does ask Freya for forgiveness for her hand in the destruction of her home, but that forgiveness is not bestowed (although the two manage to work together for a common cause). And by the end of the game, Beatrix still seems uncertain about her place in the world, with Steiner being the one to convince her to stay in Alexandria. We don't know if Beatrix approached the people of Burmecia or Cleyra and asked for forgiveness or how she can atone in the manner that Cecil did with Mysidia. I do believe she feels genuine remorse for what she's done, but it isn't really addressed in the same manner as Cecil's is – which isn't really surprising considering she is a minor character in a large cast. As it is, she gets more development than at least one member of the main party (Amarant is useful in battle, but super undeveloped as a character and consequently, I find him very boring.) So while it would have been great to have explored how the other nations deal with Beatrix still being an important figure in Alexandria after everything that has happened, it's not surprising that it's something we don't see.

But perhaps in the peace found at the end of Final Fantasy IX, Beatrix will – like Cecil – learn to sheathe her sword and find forgiveness.

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