Matisse was settled during the Great Exodus by a colony ship staffed by veterans of a major military power on Earth. They brought with them a sense of purpose and dedication to duty unmatched by almost any other colony ship. Devoted to the worship of a spiritual ancestor known as Chaos, they soon tamed their watery world and began expanding to the stars.
Most worlds in Beyond Sector possess a military force of some nature. In the case of Matisse, the Matisse Navy possesses a world. There is no civilian government on Matisse – the schools are run by the Training Department, the Corps of Engineers builds highways and spaceports, and the Military Police enforce the law. The Joint Chiefs of Matisse are the governing body who set strategic direction; everyone else in Matisse fits into a lengthy chain of command beneath them. Supreme command is executed on a rotating basis by each of the Joint Chiefs; this is considered a temporary position until Chaos himself returns to lead them. The Joint Chiefs are advised and supported by a priest-like caste known as the Senior Mess, who attempt to apply the teachings of Chaos to any new situation.
To outsiders, Matisse often appears to be a military dictatorship, but this would be a false assumption. Citizens of Matisse are passionately dedicated to the notion of freedom and liberty, and indeed the Matisse Navy has fought numerous wars to that end. When a child reaches majority, they are given a choice to either undergo the ceremony known as Enlistment, at which point they formally become members of the Matisse Navy, or to leave Matisse and find their own way in the world. While all members of the Navy are under strict military discipline, culturally it is extremely important that all citizens Enlist voluntarily and of their own free will. Over 95% of new adults do enlist, but there is no rancour towards those who do choose to leave.
Mysticism in the form of studying the teachings of Chaos is omnipresent throughout Matisse society, and numerous observers have described the Matisse Navy as “heavily armed warrior monks”. The ideal Matissean is calm, polite, professional, and utterly merciless to his enemies. They are unmoved by great success or by disaster. They are passionately committed to democracy and to liberty, and accept their own loss of liberty as a necessary sacrifice to ensure it for others.
It is this commitment to liberty which has lead Matisse to fight numerous wars over the years, predominantly against the Kentai. Indeed, much of the pre-Imperial history of Beyond Sector can be crudely categorised as the history of Kentai-Matisse conflict, with other worlds switching between the two power blocs depending on local circumstance.
12 years prior to Reunification, the Matisse Navy invaded the agricultural world of Elizabeth to put an end to their employment of gene-modded workers. To Matisseans, gene-modding is a repugnant technology as it eliminates the free will of the subjects. Kentai promptly declared war in support of Elizabeth, and the war expanded across several systems. Matisse forces had the upper hand for a period, but the war was eventually forced into stalemate as the Kentai- Elizabeth coalition began deploying large numbers of highly advanced missiles.
After stupendous losses on both sides at the Battle of Agathon, an exhausted peace was signed, with no territorial changes on either side. During the Reunification War, the Matisse Navy won a notable victory against the Imperial 553rd Scout Flotilla, one of very few Imperial defeats during the war. Historians have often wondered what would have happened if, immediately after that victory, the Matisse Navy had linked up with the advancing Kentai Grand Fleet and pressed the attack against the Imperial supply line through Scafell. In any case, mutual distrust destroyed any hope of fleet co-ordination, and both fleets were subsequently defeated separately by Imperial reinforcements.