Leia Organa was a key figure in the Rebellion. She was partly responsible for the destruction of two Death Stars, successfully marshaled limited forces against a foe with almost unlimited resources and wasn’t afraid to put herself in the line of fire when necessary. As such, it felt natural for her to be General Leia by the time of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, leading the fight against the First Order and becoming an inspirational figure to those fighting under her command.
But it sounds like it could have been very different. According to The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the original plan was for her to have been ostracized by the New Republic for being the daughter of Darth Vader. Here’s how Kira Hart, Lucasfilm’s senior vice president of development, laid it out in 2014:
“Cast out of the thing that she cared about the most — re-establishing the Republic — Leia is then at a loss as to what her role should be. … All of that is really interesting. It’s still conceivably stuff that we can use. I remember Michael saying at one point that Carrie is a survivor. And Leia is, as well, and that’s what we are saying about her. Tapping into what that actor can do, what feels real to her.”
This sounds like an interesting way for the movie to go. After all, if in the wake of World War II a leading politician was revealed to be the son or daughter of Adolf Hitler, you’d have to imagine that no matter what good they’d done, they’d be stigmatized for it.
Thing is, while it wasn’t touched on in the movies, the 2016 novel Star Wars: Bloodline deals directly with this. Set six years before The Force Awakens, the novel deals with the ramifications of it finally becoming widely known that Darth Vader was Anakin Skywalker and that Luke and Leia are his children. The revelation ruins Leia’s reputation and prevents her succeeding Mon Mothma as Chancellor of the New Republic (as well as sending Ben Solo down the path towards becoming Kylo Ren).
In the end, the movies skated over this, but perhaps it’d have been interesting if they’d devoted a little more time to directly dealing with Darth Vader’s legacy. After all, despite him eventually turning on the Emperor, to the galaxy at large he died a murderous tyrant.