The Emperor may rule the stars, the nobility may govern the Known Worlds, but the jumpweb belongs to the Charioteers: Nothing moves without them. Nobles cannot fight wars, merchants cannot move goods, and priests cannot save souls without the help of the Charioteers, giving the guild unparalleled power. The Charioteers deal with everyone no matter their political or religious convictions. While this factor brings them sideways glances and occasionally the uncomfortable attention of the Inquisition, none can assail their position.
These are the guilders the peasants come into contact with more frequently, as they sell their wares in the market place or set up their traveling freak shows on the edge of town. But this only one facet of the guild's many faces: The pilot flying the ship for nobleman or priest, the merchant prince making deals affecting planets, the Third Republican plotting the Emperor's overthrow, or the venal bureaucrat trading favors for jumpkeys.
During the First Republic, space travel was controlled by the zaibatsu. Every corporation owned the coordinates to their own trade routes, carving the Known Worlds into corporate empires. There were no independent traders; pilots worked as corporate employees, flying everything from giant super freighters to small merchant corvettes. The zaibatsu made space travel serve their interests.
It would not do so for long, however; radicals shattered the status quo and broke the zaibatsu's stranglehold over the jumpweb. The leaking of jumpdrive technology and jumpcodes led to an unprecedented migration across the galaxy. Millions fled the stifling First Republic in search of liberty and freedom. The zaibatsu, preoccupied with holding onto their fiefdoms and market share, could do little to stop these idealists. Jumptech proliferated, independent merchants arose, and star pilots were free.