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Zilwicki's first appearance takes place in The Short Victorious War, when he and his daughter must witness the death of his wife Captain Helen Zilwicki, who sacrificed herself to protect the convoy they were traveling onboard from a group of Havenite warships.
He was born in the Gryphon highlands, and as almost all natives of Gryphon, Zilwicki has a deep seated hatred of the Manticoran aristocracy. He reappeared in the short story Changer of Worlds - From the Highlands (Honorverse anthology #3) as a captain in the Royal Manticoran Navy's intelligence service assigned to the Manticoran embassy on Earth; since the events of that story, where he associated with Audubon Ballroom terrorists to rescue his daughter, he has been placed on half pay (effectively being removed from the service). His actions led to a brief political scandal on Manticore and the destruction of the Mesan corporation Manpower Incorporated's headquarters on Earth.
While he claims his specialty was electronic intelligence (breaking into computer systems), he has proved himself to be an adequate field intelligence officer.
He is the lover of Catherine Montaigne, a former Manticoran Countess and a notable anti-slavery activist and prominent figure of the Manticoran Liberal Party.
Zilwicki is the father of Midshipwoman Helen Zilwicki, and the adoptive father of Berry Zilwicki, Queen Berry of the planet Torch (formerly the Mesan slave-world called Congo) of the House of Zilwicki, and Berry's brother Lars. (see: Crown of Slaves).