Honor Harrington

Honor Harrington
Honor Stephanie Harrington
Honorverse character
Species Human
Gender Female
Occupation Manticoran/Grayson Naval Officer,
Grayson Steadholder,
Manticoran Countess
and Duchess
Homeworld Sphinx
Affiliation Star Kingdom of Manticore
Protectorate of Grayson
Born October 1, 3961 AD (Gregorian Calendar)
Rank up to Admiral of the Fleet
Titles up to Knight Commander, Grayson Steadholder

Honor Stephanie Alexander-Harrington is a fictional character, the heroine of a series of military science fiction books set in the "Honorverse", written by David Weber and published by Baen Books.

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. Like Nelson, she loses her left eye and left 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 ninth 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. In a preface to Storm from the Shadows author David Weber confirms both the comparison of Honor to Lord Nelson and widespread reports that he had originally planned on having Honor die in the Battle of Manticore, as "like Nelson, Honor had been supposed to fall in battle at the moment of victory in the climactic battle which saved the Star Kingdom of Manticore and ratified her as the Royal Manticoran Navy's greatest heroine". However both fan interest and changes in the timeline of the series introduced by Eric Flint have prompted Weber to keep Honor alive, although he also noted that this decision is not necessarily permanent.

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 manoeuvres 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 empathic intelligent indigenous species. The adoption, essentially an empathic life-bond, occurred in Honor's childhood, a rarity since most adoptions involve adult humans. She has dubbed her 'cat Nimitz (after World War II Admiral Chester W. Nimitz), although to his own people he has been known as "Laughs Brightly". She is known to the treecats as "Dances on Clouds". Having conducted considerable research, she is one of the foremost experts on treecats. She enjoys an empathic link with Nimitz, which has become so deep as to allow her to "taste" the emotions of other humans around her through Nimitz, although there are hints that Honor may be developing empathic talents of her own in later novels.


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 Commandant 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 the enmity of the Young clan and various attempts by it and its allies 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, and after finishing off the opposing ship, 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 ATC, 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, including the murder of her lover by a professional duelist sent by Pavel Young.

During the events of The Honor of the Queen, Harrington received a letter of reprimand for striking a crown envoy. The crown envoy in question was Reginald Houseman, who ordered the evacuation of Manticorans from Grayson after the First Battle of Yeltsin. Houseman made the mistake of threatening to ruin Harrington's career for refusing to abandon Grayson to her enemies; Harrington lost her temper and slapped Houseman hard enough to fling him across the room with a bloody nose and mouth. Later in her career Harrington was beached by the Manticoran Navy for her duel with Pavel Young. The Grayson Space Navy eventually recruits her, making her the second ranking admiral in their navy. During her service with the GSN Harrington thwarted a violent attack on the Protector and again saved the planet from invasion, earning the Swords to her Star of Grayson. Protector Benjamin (Ruler of the Protectorate of Grayson) and his family are targets of an assassination attempt that is stopped short by Honor and Nimitz. A new Steading is created and she becomes the first female Steadholder of Grayson.

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 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 4 meter tall heroic statue sitting atop an 8 meter column 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 after nomination and election by all serving members of the Royal Manticoran Navy.

During the events of At All Costs, Honor is given command of the Eighth Fleet, a heavy assault force of advanced capital ships. Under her leadership, the fleet begins a campaign to systematically dismantle the industrial base of the Republic of Haven, by sailing deep behind enemy lines and raiding Havenite space based infrastructure. Haven deploys a countermeasure strategy that causes severe damage to Eighth fleet during one raid, and the campaign is put on hold. During this battle Honor's best friend is also captured by the Republic of Haven, setting the stage for Storm from the Shadows.

Manticore then develops a new weapon system, "Apollo", that not only neutralizes the new defensive countermeasure, but also completely turns the tide of the war, as it renders modern missile defensive systems effectively worthless. Realizing his nation's poor strategic position, Admiral Thomas Theisman of Haven resolves to launch one final massive, desperate strike on the Manticore system itself, hoping to end the war before Apollo can be widely adopted by the Royal Manticoran Navy. This attack almost succeeds and completely destroys most of the Manticoran fleet protecting the home system.

At the last moment, Honor and Eighth Fleet arrive and use Apollo to wipe out the attacking Havenite forces. The Battle of Manticore is the largest naval engagement in human history, and it is extremely costly for both sides. Honor's long time friend Alistair McKeon is killed, and most of the Manticoran Navy's capital ships are destroyed (Eighth Fleet is the only remaining combat ready force, aside from miscellaneous units -- garrison, in transit, in refit, ...). Eighth Fleet assumes the duties and title of Home Fleet (the defense of the Manticore system itself). Haven, on the other hand loses more than 90% of the very large forces deployed during the attack, and its best tactician, Lester Tourville, is captured after he surrenders what remains of his force to Honor. An effective truce between the two sides goes into effect, as neither nation possesses the capability to continue offensive operations. Honor mourns McKeon's death in a dramatic scene at the end of the novel.

Events in a new addition to the Star Kingdom, the Talbott Cluster, grow more problematic. The megalomaniac outlaw corporation Manpower Incorporated and the planet 'Mesa' continue their plans to dislodge Manticore from the cluster, and they immediately put another plan into action, following the failure of their first attempts as recounted in The Shadow of Saganami. They seek to start a conflict between Manticore and the Solarian League in order to remove the Cluster from the Star Kingdom and for other, as yet unknown, reasons. Despite Haven's attack on Manticore, Honor is shown in Storm from the Shadows as an advocate for at least partial reconciliation with Haven, as it increasingly appears that war with the Solarian League is inevitable. During her brief appearance in Storm, Honor discusses potential long-term strategy against the Solarian League with the Manticoran leadership, including Queen Elizabeth, whom she persuades to give the Solarian threat a priority over Haven.

In Mission of Honor, Admiral Harrington is assigned as envoy to Haven. After a successful attack by the Mesa Alignment Navy on the Space Stations of the Manticore home system, Harrington helps bring about an alliance between the Star Empire and Haven against Mesa / Manpower.


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 earned the Star of Grayson for saving Grayson from a Masadan attack as well as saving Protector Benjamin and his family during the Maccabeus coup assassination attempt. She is the only living holder of the Star of Grayson, and the first in six hundred years to receive it twice, as noted by the crossed swords beneath. She receives the Monarch's Thanks on several occasions, including her role in search and rescue efforts during an avalanche on Gryphon and her handling of an accident on HMS Manticore.

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. This makes her the third highest ranking person in the Manticoran aristocracy (only the Grand Dukes of Manticore, Sphinx, Gryphon and Queen Elizabeth rank higher). 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. In many legal respects, Steadholder Harrington, Duchess Harrington, and each of the Admirals Harrington are different entities inhabiting the same body. Due to recognition of her status as Steadholder by the Manticoran Foreign Office and the backing of the Queen, Steadholder Harrington's Grayson armsmen (personal bodyguards mandated by Grayson law) are permitted to accompany her armed on RMN vessels, as required by Grayson law. This has led to several situations in which Honor has been accompanied by armed men in her service to places where such would never be ordinarily permitted, such as the Queen's residence at Mount Royal Palace.


  • 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 c1899 P.D.: "Let's Dance!"
  • Student, Advanced Tactical Course, Saganami Island
  • Commanding Officer, HMS Fearless, CL-56, Commanding Officer (acting), RMN Basilisk Station, c1900 P.D. (March 3) - 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) - c1922 P.D. (May): At All Costs, Mission of Honor
  • 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
  • Commanding Officer, RMN Eighth Fleet: War of Honor

Character trademarks

Honor is physically very tall (over six feet in height). This is a source of much humor in the series, especially when compared to her "tiny" mother Allison Harrington.

Honor is recognized as a great teacher both in the classroom and shipboard environments and has a calm, tolerant management style. Her subordinates have ample opportunity to learn from their mistakes and improve performance; the Bureau of Personnel has noted a distinct increase in efficiency from her subordinates. She rarely loses her temper without severe provocation (although when she does get angry this usually results in devastating if not fatal consequences for the object of her anger). Warning signs include a flat, deadly calm tone in her voice, a facial tic in the right corner of her mouth and more obvious warning signals that Nimitz gives such as flattened ears, hissing, and tail twitches that are exactly in time with Honor's facial tic. Her most loyal subordinates, including Scotty Tremaine, Alistair McKeon and Andrew LaFollet, are very aware of these warning signs and will sometimes intervene to stop her. (The Honor of the Queen, Echoes of Honor).

Honor loathes coffee and considers hot cocoa far superior.

She regularly is seen drinking "Old Tilman" beer from a bottle.

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 lost 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 has a mental block regarding mathematics, despite her high intelligence and kinesthetic aptitude. This has absolutely nothing to do with her ability to perform; on at least one occasion she has instinctively computed complex four-dimensional intercepts in her head during combat. In a normal situation even simple mathematics are challenging for her at times. Honor's problems with mathematics almost resulted in her failing out of Saganami Island.

Honor Harrington in other media

An Honor Harrington movie was announced by Echo Valley Entertainment.[1] However, later information suggested that it would actually be a television series, to be written and produced by Peter Sands.[2] 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 Ivanova's character while playing Honor and "Ivanova’s command style is totally different from Honor’s."[3]

An Honor Harrington video game called Honorverse: The Online Game was announced in August 2008; a beta was scheduled to be released in the Spring of 2010.[4]

An Honor Harrington wargame, Saganami Island Tactical Simulator (SITS), was released at Gen Con in 2005 by Ad Astra Games.[5]

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.[6]

The first name of his character - Honor - had come to Weber long before the last name did. Weber knew that if the Honor novels worked, she was inevitably going to be compared to C.S.Forester's Horatio Hornblower, therefore he chose Harrington's name so that she had the same initials.[7] 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.[6] Weber revealed in the foreword to Storm from the Shadows that it had originally been his intent to kill Honor off in the Battle of Manticore, thus further mimicking Nelson's life (he died in his greatest battle, Trafalgar) and have the emerging Mesa problem be dealt with by the next generation, specifically, Honor's children. When writing At All Costs, he decided instead to keep her alive, and move the Mesan-related events up, to be Honor's problem.


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