would best serve himself and his Empire

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Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
The Emperor kept many advisers and every tenday he met with them all, a chance for them to speak on whatever subject they felt would best serve himself and his Empire.
(Dragonfly Falling; Adrian Tchaikovsky)

Would you be so kind as to tell me whom 'himself' refers to here?

  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It could equally be 'him and his Empire', as it's not in a position requiring a reflexive. As for the reference, even if the Emperor benevolently said to the adviser, 'You may speak on a subject that serves yourself and my Empire,' the two forms of 'he' are so close together that it would be hard to understand the first as him(self) (the adviser) and the second as his (the Emperor's) Empire. It would in fact be difficult to write to make that interpretation likely.
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