Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Eddard VIII

“Do it yourself, Robert. The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword…you owe her that much at least.”

Synopsis: Eddard Stark quarrels with King Robert over the assassination of Daenerys Targaryen; only he and Ser Barristan Selmy vote against it, while the rest of the Small Council votes for it. Stark resigns over the issue and is preparing to leave King’s Landing at once when Littlefinger distracts him with one last clue from Jon Arryn‘s investigation.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

There’s a tipping point in every tragedy where inevitability locks the exit doors on free will and you know that after this, there is no turning back. Eddard VIII is that moment; from the point where Eddard decides to follow one last lead instead of getting on the boat right that moment, he has only one way forward and bloodshed is the only destination. Whether he had succeeded in his quest or not, Eddard was going to be right on the front lines of a Stark/Lannister War with no way to escape. GRRM will even go so far as to literally hobble our putative protagonist so he can’t flee.

But before that, we get an incredibly momentous political moment: the decision before the Small Council whether or not to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen and Eddard’s decision to resign over the issue. This has often been portrayed as the second-biggest example of why Eddard was completely incapable of playing the Game of Thrones, a patsy who put honor above reason. However, I think this overlooks the complicated factors going into Eddard’s decision, because it’s more than a question of morality – arguably there are 4 different reasons apart from that:

1. Doctrine of Necessity –  next to the concept of truces, treaties, the white flag, and the idea that you don’t touch envoys, the concept of “just war” is probably the oldest in international relations. It appears in the Sanskrit epic the Mahabharata (where it includes provisions like proportionality of violence, just means (no poison, you guys!), just cause, and fair treatment of wounded soldiers and prisoners); Cicero wrote about it; as did the two intellectual heavyweights of Christian theology, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. One of the chief elements of a just war is the doctrine of military necessity – violence has to be intended to have a military effect on the enemy, it has to be directed at a military target, and the harm caused to civilians has to be proportional to the military effect the attack is supposed to have. There’s also the concept of a necessary war (i.e, defense of oneself or others) versus a war of choice.

As Ned Stark has made repeatedly clear, he sees no threat from the Targaryens that necessitates assassination: “there is no axe,” he argues with his king, “only the shadow of a shadow.” He doesn’t see the Targaryens as a threat that rises to the level of military necessity, given Daenerys’ age and the relative naval dominance of Westeros versus the Dothraki. Ironically, Eddard is unknowingly right about this – until such time as Westeros threatens his wife, Drogo makes no move to cross the Narrow Sea. From the perspective of military necessity, the assassination attempt on Daenerys Targaryen was completely counter-productive.

2. Different Motives for Rebellion, Different Causes for Revolution – it’s a short exchange, but this back-and-forth between Eddard and Robert is quite telling:

“Robert, I ask you, what did we rise against Aerys Targaryen for, if not to put an end to the murder of children?”

“To put an end to Targaryens!”

Something the two old comrades-in-arms have forgotten is that, from the very beginning of Robert’s Rebellions, the two men had very different motives: Eddard’s sister had been kidnapped, but compounding that was the fact that King Aerys murdered his father and brother without a fair trial, violating the common law of Westeros; Robert was acting purely from an insult to his honor and a direct threat to his life, and continues to hold personal grudges. Ned is something of a Kantian when it comes to situations of honor, and drew from the deaths of Rickard and Brandon the precept that monarchs who summarily execute unarmed people without due process lose their right to govern. For him to acknowledge that Robert has the right to assassinate Dany would be to accept that Aerys had the right to slay his family. By contrast, Robert is a man who ascended to the Iron Throne in part thanks to Tywin’s murder of most of the Targaryen family and drew a very different lesson from that experience – as we shall see later.

3. Eddard’s Theory of Politics – as I’ve discussed a few times before, Eddard Stark has a very idiosyncratic theory of politics. He believes that the person of the rules and the office should be one as the Old Ways dictate, such that the ruler’s conscience is sovereign; he thinks of his subjects and his peers not through the lens of powers and duties but personal relationships; and at the end of the day, he sees his role as Hand to be the King’s friend and ultimately, his conscience. These aren’t bad ideas necessarily; indeed, one could argue that the power of his name after his death to move the North into rebellion against the Boltons (who at the time are Lords Paramount and Wardens of the North) at a time when very few people in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms cares who Tywin or Hoster or Balon or Renly were is evidence of the advantages of this theory.

However, it’s also a theory that makes this impasse with Robert inevitable – notably, Eddard doesn’t use his office to act as a gatekeeper between the King and the rest of the Small Council, like any good chief of staff does, to decide what the king will hear and see. This prevents him from heading off the news of Dany’s pregnancy until he’s got his political ducks in a row. He doesn’t meet with the Small Council individually to use the office to secure their support on the Small Council. This prevents him from potentially winning Renly’s vote by persuading him or making a deal with him ahead of time, or to try to persuade Varys to wait on sending the assassination order. It also means that he doesn’t try to massage his disagreement with Robert – rather than making a reasoned argument that an assassination attempt might spark retaliation, or an appeal to Robert’s vanity and self-image, he calls him out as a coward and a tyrant, when Eddard knows exactly how Robert reacts to being told he can’t do something. Finally, it means that Eddard doesn’t think of himself as a policymaker – hence, he doesn’t try to preempt the assassination debate by proposing expansion of the navy to dominate the Narrow Sea, or to negotiate with the Free Cities to deny Dany their ships.

4. The Other, Other, Other Targaryen – we also have to keep in mind that Eddard Stark is a man who for fifteen years has (most likely) been hiding a Targaryen from Robert’s furious vengeance. Given how much his promise to Lyanna has cost him in terms of honor, reputation, and the happiness of his marriage, watching Robert salivate over the thought of butchering Targaryen children has to be the closest thing to a living nightmare. I’m absolutely convinced that on a subconscious level Eddard is thinking about Jon Snow during the entire meeting, imagining what might happen if the truth of his nephew’s birth got out and he had to stand in between Robert and the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna.

Just as the memory of his dead kin means that Eddard cannot accept the legitimacy of Dany’s assassination without retroactively absolving Aerys Targaryen, the knowledge of his living kin means that for Eddard Stark to endorse the death of his “good-sister” is also to accept as legitimate the idea that the child he has been protecting for all of his life could be murdered by royal command, in secret, and without the color of law. That is not something Eddard Stark is going to accept.

Political Thought in King Robert’s Council

Thanks to GRRM’s choice of point-of-view characters, we can see into Eddard’s head and judge his actions based on both his thoughts and words at the time as well as what we’ve learned on him from earlier chapters. However, Eddard isn’t the only political thinker in the room and there’s a lot we can learn by examining the rationalizations offered by King Robert and the Small Council.

  • Robert – there’s a tendency among the fandom to reduce Robert Baratheon to a caricature, to stop at the drinking and the wenching (and the wifebeating…) and dismiss him as a mindless jock, the very reason why warriors don’t make good kings. But GRRM has stated again and again, he doesn’t believe in black and white characters, and Robert shows a moment of surprising depth here. Yes, there is an unrelenting hatred of all things Targaryen, but Robert also says “let be in on my head, so long as it is done. I am not so blind that I cannot see the shadow of the axe when it is hanging over my own neck.” Robert understands that what he’s doing here is dishonorable, immoral; but he is also an intelligent enough monarch to know that heirs to an overthrown bloodline are a danger to a new dynasty (witness the Blackfyres). As a realpolitikian, Robert’s more on the money than he realizes: there are Targaryen loyalists in Westeros working against him, both in his Small Council and in Dorne, they are gathering military and political power against him and his heir, and a successful assassination of the Targaryens would short-circuit much of their planning. 
  • Varys – Varys’ motives here are quite interesting, given that he’s the guiding force behind this decision (having informed the King about Dany’s pregnancy). My working hypothesis is that, subsequent to his discussion with Illyrio , Varys is using this assassination attempt he can control to accelerate the Varys/Illyrio Conspiracy by provoking Drogo into action; he may also trying to remove Eddard Stark from the Handship short of murder. The interesting question is whether he’s acting with Illyrio here or separately; how much unity is there in this conspiracy? Two other things of note:
    • “we who presume to rule must do vile things for the good of the realm, howevermuch it pains us.” Leaving aside the possibility that Varys is always lying and has no motive other than to place a puppet monarch on the Iron Throne, which I think flies in the face of the evidence about Varys’ nature and rather under-serves one of the best schemers in ASOIAF, I think this quote sums up Varys’ pragmatic political philosophy. He may have ventured to Westeros as part of a scheme to take his and Illyrio’s steal-and-replace act on the road, but I think he was genuinely disgusted by a monarch as fundamentally unworthy as Aerys II and resolved to put the perfect monarch on the Throne no matter the cost. If Littlefinger is prepared to start a civil war for his own personal benefit, Varys is far more dangerous because he will keep one going for as long as it takes to reform Westeros. And there is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a pragmatist with an idealist’s heart.
    • The other interesting thing Varys does here is to bring up the tears of Lys, the same poison that ended Jon Arryn’s life. I think he does this in order to provoke a reaction and draw out Jon Arryn’s assassin – ironically, he succeeds in drawing out Maester Pycelle, who recognized the poison and prevented effective counter-measures from being taken against it, but who didn’t administer the poison himself. Littlefinger remains circumspect.
  • Pycelle – the false counselor naturally offers false counsel in this scenario, claiming “once I counseled King Aerys as loyally as I counsel King Robert now,” given that he has always been Tywin Lannister’s man in King’s Landing, and far from being concerned about the “wiser, even kinder” nature of assassination over war was directly responsible for the death of soldiers, the burning of towns, and the murder of children when he persuaded the King to let Tywin’s army into the city they promptly sacked (interesting that Varys was on the other side of that debate, possibly fearing a Lannister dynasty?). Ironically, he suspects Varys of the murder of Jon Arryn (as he did when he met with Eddard and as he will later when interrogated by Tyrion), in part out of his guilty conscience over what is essentially a life devoted to the forswearing of his maester’s oath.
  • Littlefinger – Littlefinger likewise urges death for Daenerys Targaryen, although he claims later that his complaints about the price tag were designed to ensure the assassination attempt would fail (likely as a way to keep himself just enough on Eddard’s side; however, he has no idea that the money he’s handing over is going to a man who has no intention in successfully killing a Targaryen. However, it’s worth noting for those Littlefinger fanboys who railed against the “Middlefinger” of Season 2 the crude sexual metaphor he’s using. Littlefinger is many things, but a perfectly controlled man he’s not. This kind of uncouth sexual banter is something the hedge lord can’t really stop himself from doing (hence his constant talk about bedding the Tully sisters prior to AGOT and his dick jokes in ACOK), even when it clearly alienates the rest of the Small Council. It’s part of the reason why as high as Littlefinger climbs, he’s never going to be truly accepted as one of the nobility.
  • Renly –  also urges death, which would fit with his plans to uproot the Lannisters and install a Baratheon/Tyrell dynasty on the Iron Throne, and his general habit of sucking up to Robert by playing to his brother’s worser angels, both alcohol and murder. Just wanted to point this out to the Renly fans – Renly is charming and charismatic, but he’s not a nice person.
  • Selmy – moved by Eddard’s mention of the fact that he owes his own life to royal mercy, Selmy reacts to the suggestion like the warrior he is, drawing a strict procedural line between “facing an enemy on the battlefield” versus “killing him in his mother’s womb.” This is important for two reasons: first, this is probably the moment where the impetus for joining Daenerys as opposed to either Stannis or Renly is generated. If Robert shows himself to be no true king by ordering the murder of children, then it doesn’t matter who his heirs are. Second, it means Eddard isn’t alone on the vote – more on this in a bit.

Eddard’s Resignation: 

I’ve argued that Eddard’s decision to oppose Daenerys Targaryen’s murder isn’t reason enough to count him out as a political actor. He’s not a perfect strategist either, and he makes a huge mistake (arguably one of the top 5 he makes in AGOT) by resigning from the Handship over the issue. Given that he knows “the business with Catelyn and the dwarf…would come to light soon” and poses him a direct danger from Robert and Cersei both, he needs the office to protect him and his family – as Hand of the King, he could put the kidnapping of Tyrion under color of royal authority and make any move to stop him an attack against the crown; as Eddard Stark, he’s a lord engaged in blood feud and vulnerable to assault.

A big part of this decision is a feeling of frustration that:

…the truth of Jon Arryn’s death still eluded him. Oh, he had found a few pieces, enough to convince him that Jon had indeed been murdered…Stannis shared the secret Jon Arryn had died for, he was certain of it…The Imp’s knife. Why would the dwarf  want Bran dead? To silence him surely. Another secret, or only a different strand of the same web? Could Robert be part of it?

Ironically, Eddard is much closer to the truth (he knows about Jon’s investigation, he’s got the book and Jon’s final words, he’s seen that Robert’s bastards bear the Baratheon look) than he thinks and just needs a good mental jog to help him put the pieces together. However, as I’ve said (link), he could know a lot more about what’s going on if he knew that the knife didn’t belong to Littlefinger, and that Littlefinger is lying to him. Moreover, Eddar’s thought to sail to Dragonstone and directly confront Stannis is a good one.

However, if Eddard truly wants to, leaving right then and get himself and his family clear of King’s Landing is a smart move, as it brings them out of immediate harm’s way and back to the North, where Eddard comprehends the direct authority he has and can muster the North’s military strength against the coming threat. Hence why Littlefinger comes in right at that moment to delay Ned Stark’s departure and get him into a place where he can be attacked by Jaime Lannister and further increase hostilities.

Historical Analysis:

This chapter analysis is running long and I don’t have anything that particularly concrete in the way of historical analysis that I wanted to talk about beyond some thoughts about assasssinations, which I’ll save for a future chapter. 

Moving on…

What If?

As you might expect from my initial discussion of the theme of fate and free will, Eddard VIII is absolutely rife with hypotheticals that could have dramatically changed the course of history:

  • Eddard had left rather than talk to Littlefinger – thanks to the kidnapping of Tyrion, hostilities are going to commence whether or not Eddard hangs around King’s Landing long enough to order royal retaliation against Gregor Clegane. However, if Eddard had left right then and there, the War of Five Kings would change dramatically. First and foremost, the North begins the war with Eddard Stark, an experienced military campaigner who would have mobilized the North immediately and fully; Robb Stark’s tactical and strategic genius would still make themselves known, but in a context where his father was around to keep his eye on logistics, manpower, and political maneuvering (Eddard Stark is canny enough to know that Theon has to be kept close to keep Balon out of the War). Second, the Lannisters have no Stark hostages to use; this means that the Starks aren’t distracted by a clearly disingenuous peace process and have a larger strategic flexibility to enter and leave the war when it suits them. Third, being a more experienced hand at rebellions, Eddard is unlikely to declare independence for the North, especially when a letter arrives confirming what he’s suspected all along about Prince Joffrey.
  • Eddard had visited Dragonstone? If Eddard visits Stannis on the way to King’s Landing, there’s a very good choice he learns the truth about Joffrey’s parentage and Jon Arryn’s murder, which he will no doubt tie to the assassination attempt on his son. At this point, one of two things happens: either Eddard’s loyalty to Robert takes precedence, and he returns to King’s Landing with Stannis and his army behind him, either to confront Robert directly if he’s in time or to launch a coup against Cersei and Joffrey (which Renly would probably join, given that he’s Stannis’ heir by the laws of succession). And Stannis would temper Eddard’s idealism – no telling Cersei ahead of time what they’re going to do, no trusting Littlefinger with the Goldcloaks (which raises an interesting point: as Master of Laws, the Goldcloaks technically would report to Renly; why didn’t he try to take over this force?). The alternative is that Eddard pulls a Stannis and keeps going North, preps the North to war, and Stannis starts the War of Five Kings with the North and the Riverlands on his side, which probably means all hail King Stannis.
  • Eddard had won the vote? If there’s no assassination attempt against Daenerys, things start to change very quickly for that storyline. With no assassination attempt, Drogo doesn’t make an oath to win his son the Iron Throne then and there – and will probably wait until Rhaego has grown a bit so he’s viable as an heir to the Iron Throne. This means the Lhazarene aren’t raided for slaves to buy boats, Drogo doesn’t take his wound and isn’t poisoned by Mirri Maz Dur, and Dany doesn’t go in for the blood magic that will kill her son and led her down the path to becoming the Mother of Dragons. Which might have doomed the world once the Others came…so mercy really would have been a killer there.
  • Eddard didn’t resign? This one’s a bit tricky, given that Eddard did get the Handship back really quickly after he was attacked by Jaime, but if he was Hand of the King, Jaime’s attack would play very differently – rather than a brawl in the street that can be swept under the rug, this is an act of open outlawry and lèse-majesté. Jaime would flee the capitol as before, but now does so as a condemned man, which could very well have put House Lannister under legal sanction at the outset of the war. This would complicate Tywin’s mobilization and stiffen resistence against him; the Greyjoys and Tyrells would certainly have enjoyed the freedom to attack Lannister holdings at will.

Book vs. Show:

The big change from book to show here is that Benioff and Weiss leave out Ser Barristan Selmy, making Eddard the lone dissenting voice within the Small Council. I’m not sure how I feel about this change – on the one hand, I can see how it intensifies the drama by isolating Eddard and sharpening the distinctions between the corrupt South and the noble North. On the other hand, it also contributes to the “Ned is dumb” meme by making him completely isolated from the political world whereas in the book he was able to persuade at least one member of the Small Council to see things his way. In addition, I think it removes a certain complexity from Ser Barristan’s character arc – he wasn’t just a man who tore off his armor because of the evil King Joffrey, he came to a moral decision gradually through a considered evaluation of the world around him. 



96 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Eddard VIII

  1. Andrew says:

    Excellent political analysis.

    As for Jon, imagine how Robert would have reacted to not only Lyanna’s death, but that she wasn’t kidnapped, but that she willingly chose Rhaegar over Robert. Robert would have wanted the boy dead, and Tywin Lannister would undoubtedly support that position, lest he fear any retribution for the deaths of Elia and her children as well as Aerys.

    Even if Ned managed to get Jon Arryn to prevent Robert from harming infant Jon, Arryn would have given the boy exile, or being raised under guard to avoid any flare ups from Targaryen supporters. Jon, like Ned and Robert, was all already in too deep.

  2. Abbey Battle says:

    Maestar Steven, I just wanted to pop in once again and compliment you not only on your analysis of the varying political actors on the Small Council, but also on your analysis of the complexities of the Targaryen monarchs following Aegon III, as well as those preceding him.

    Forgive me, please, for not posting anything at the Tower of the Hand for I have no wish to join that website (since there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do all the posting I wish to and I therefore think it best to avoid an additional temptation to post still more!).

    On another note, it’s interesting to speculate on whether Lord Eddard and Lord Stannis would have been able to form an effective working relations had The Warden of the North been able to touch bases with the Lord on Dragonstone; while they might well make a frighteningly efficient team in pursuit of the short-term goal of breaking the Lannisters, I’m not sure their respective temperaments are conducive to a long-term partnership.

    I’d also like to note that it’s interesting to speculate on why Lord Baelish (for all his faults a shrewd manipulator) simply can’t stop producing his little … ‘witticisms’ even after his ‘bon mot’ regarding Lord Eddard’s wife brings him so close to death that he can see his face reflected in the Grim Reaper; the only possibility that occurs to me is that Littlefinger’s instinct for the jugular might well be slightly hampered by an obsession with the groin.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      Well either that or Baelish just LOVES buttering up Robert Baratheon with dirty jokes; it’s not hard to imagine Littlefinger using this particular weakness to buttress his personal relationship with The King (not to mention stress the point that he may be a weakling, but at least he isn’t a EUNUCH, all the better to make Varys, rather than himself a target for macho contempt).

      • stevenattewell says:

        Nah, he does the same thing in front of Tywin, who can’t stand the man. That’s one of the things you glean from Jaime and Cersei’s and Varys and Illyrio’s overheard conversations – no one likes Littlefinger. The noblemen think of him as a crude parvenu, little more than a merchant.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Thanks! No worries about not posting on Tower of the Hand.

      Yeah, I don’t see Eddard becoming Stannis’ Hand or anything. I think he’d feel he’d done his duty to the realm and had seen too much. He’d go home to the North and tend to his family…until Mance Rayder shows up, at which point the Warden of the North marches to the Wall and reunites with his nephew.

      Yeah, it’s an obsession of the groin. But also what was once referred to as an “idée fixe” – Catelyn represents his lost youth, his desire to belong as one of the highborn, his revenge on her father and the Starks who maimed him, etc etc.

    • Jack says:

      That same penchant for dick jokes and belittlement manifests itself, as well, when Littlefinger perpetually boasts of his roles in shady undertakings to people he believes powerless or equally vulnerable by a revelation of the truth. Littlefinger puts a dagger to Ned’s throat, reminding Ned of his warning not to trust him. He kills Dontos in front of Sansa before detailing his role in the Purple Wedding. Littlefinger throws Lysa from the Eyrie, but lets her fall to her death knowing that her greatest fear and hurt were real– that Littlefinger never loved her and only loved Catelyn– an exceedingly cruel thing to do. He’s quick to share his plans regarding the Vale to Sansa, even coaching her to tease out the details. The show does an excellent job in pointing out how his sharp-tongued jokes often pile on after someone with authority opens the barrage (I’m thinking specifically of his quip of a “A naked knight, it would seem!” to Ser Barristan).

      Littlefinger’s insistence on being acknowledged as clever, as a player to be reckoned with in the game of thrones, seems almost pathological and of more importance than, you know, just winning. Contrast this with Varys who goes out of his way to both deflect flattery and recognition, while also making himself a target unworthy of scorn or retribution. This double-edged strategy keeps Varys relatively safe through myopia and utility. As noted, Littlefinger is tolerated by the nobility for his apparent useful, but his insults and boasts appear designed to one day pit him against someone without the restraint Catelyn Tully urged on Brandon Stark.

      It’s hard to say exactly how Littlefinger’s story will end up (although I love Steven’s idea of Sansa re-enacting her mother’s call for loyalty and defense at the Inn at the Crossroads), but it’s hard for me to imagine an ending for him where his loose lips won’t eventually sink his own ship.

  3. Abbey Battle says:

    Intriguing; I can’t decide if it’s crueller to Baelish that he’ll now NEVER get what he wants (given Lady Stark’s demise) or if it would be still crueller were he to get EXACTLY what he’s been obsessing over attaining all these decades and NOTHING like what he wanted.

    May I please ask what your thoughts on the matter are?

    • stevenattewell says:

      I want him to be unmasked by Sansa and sent fleeing in disgrace. And then finds Catelyn, and thinks they’re finally going to be together…and then she EATS him, slowly.

      • Yannai says:

        Honestly I’m always baffled by readers who are of the opinion that LF wants Cat. LF is a realist – he’d already fought the duel for her and lost (not because Brandon kicked his ass, but because Cat wouldn’t give him her favor). And now she’s married with five kids. The Ship has sailed. Elvis had left the building.
        What LF is after isn’t Cat. It never was. He wants revenge. He always did from day one, or he’d never have allied with Catelyn’s enemies. He wants to bring down the Starks and Tullys, and replace the Cat of his youth with Ned and Cat’s daughter.

      • stevenattewell says:

        He’s not a realist, when it comes to Cat, though, that’s pretty clearly signposted.

  4. Yannai says:

    I’m fairly vague about the specifics, but I thought Shireen was Stannis’ heir, not Renly. Then again, with the Kingmaker principle it’s possible that as long as Stannis has no male child, Renly gets the throne if he dies, with Shireen maybe inheriting Storm’s End or Dragonstone.

    • Yannai says:

      Oh, and while technically the gold cloaks should report to Renly, no doubt Renly is smart enough to know that their real loyalties lie with the guy paying them (i.e. Littlefinger) and that, were he to tell Robert, his brother would turn a deaf ear or simply be uninterested in what would appear to him to be a petty power struggle in King’s Landing politics.
      Renly is many thing, not all of them good – but he’s no fool.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Renly had authority to hire and fire, though, and a much better control over Robert.

        Do it first, then ask forgiveness.

      • Sean C. says:

        If Renly had the authority to choose who was on the Goldcloaks, though; he could easily have heavily reinforced it with Stormlanders loyal to him, and, if necessary, greased some palms with his own money (as Lord Paramount of the Stormlands, one presumes he doesn’t lack for it).

        I was going to say that Renly’s failure to do so seems almost in keeping with how inactive he seems to be in his cabinet post, but on further consideration, what exactly does the Master of Laws do on a day-to-day basis? As we’ve discussed here before, there’s no system of royal courts or sheriffs for him to administer, and they don’t really seem to be particularly involved in promulgating royal decrees or anything like that.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Sean C – I’m guessing it’s a mix of being bad at his day job, and having a good number of swords of his own plus the Tyrells and the rest of his Reacher and Stormlord friends at court.

        The Master of Laws is confusing, given the nature of Westerosi law. His official duties are to oversee the dungeons and gaols of King’s Landing, executions, and presumably the Gold Cloaks. I’d also guess that he’s also in charge of legal courts in the capitol and acting as an appeals court for the Crownlands. Probably also is responsible for keeping track of precedents of royal decrees as well.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Males inherit before females who inherit before bastards. Hence why Stannis made his offer and Renly didn’t think much of it.

      • ahorwitt says:

        Actually this is not clear. Under the regular inheritance laws in the kingdoms, a daughter comes before an uncle, as extensively discussed by Jon, Alys Karstark, and Cregan Karstark in ADWD. It is only the Targs who, post-Dance with Dragons, adopted a rule excluding the female line from the succession. We don’t have any information about whether the Baratheons feel bound to that precedent, but I doubt it since Myrcella is viewed as Tommen’s heir.

      • stevenattewell says:

        ahorwitt – if I screwed this up, that’s big. I’ll check ADWD when I have time, but it seems like an inconsistency.

        EDIT: in any case, it still applies to Stannis and Renly, no?

      • Sean C. says:

        I thought GRRM stated somewhere that the TV show was incorrect to say that Tommen would come before female children of Sansa and Joffrey, so I don’t think the Baratheons are playing by the Targaryen rules in the books.

        Though given Shireen’s state, Renly could be reasonably confident that his line would end up with the Crown anyway.

        • stevenattewell says:

          I’m really confused now.

          Stannis is Robert’s heir, so brothers must inherit before bastard sons…but after daughters?

          And then he offers to make Renly his heir, but I don’t think Stannis would ignore the law that Shireen should inherit before her uncle.

      • ahorwitt says:

        It’s pretty clear-cut that in general in the 7 kingdoms, inheritance goes: Lord’s sons –> Lord’s daughters –> Lord’s brothers. Alys Karstark says, “My brother Harry is the rightful lord, and by law I am his heir. A daughter comes before an uncle.” Later on, Jon tells Cregan, “A son comes before an uncle by all the laws I know…. A daughter comes before an uncle too.” Also, Cersei inherits Casterly Rock from Tywin in AFFC without any fuss. We don’t have any countervailing examples as far as I’m aware. Bastards have no claims to anything, unless legitimized.

        The Iron Throne is different. There had been Targ precedent for nearly 200 years (since the Dance of the Dragons) that uncles come before daughters. I don’t think the books ever establish whether the Baratheons had any clear intention to obey the Targ custom, or the regular inheritance laws, in the question of daughters vs. uncles. But clearly both sides have some form of precedent or “law” to point to.

        I would posit that Stannis’s offer to Renly is an attempt to clear up this legal fog. He says, “I will grant you Storm’s End and your old seat on the council and even name you my heir until a son is born to me.” It is a major concession from the point of view of the normal inheritance laws, but there’s 200 years of precedent that uncles come before daughters on the Iron Throne so it does make sense from that perspective.

  5. John W says:

    Would Theon have been enough to keep the Greyjoys from treachery if given the chance? It seems that Balon had given up on him as his heir and had chosen Asha instead.

    • Yannai says:

      My guess is no. While sending Theon to negotiate with Balon was one of Robb’s dumbest moves, From everything we know of the ironborn and of Balon in particular his father couldn’t care less if his sole surviving son lived or died – which is exactly why Theon feels he must prove himself so badly to begin with.

    • stevenattewell says:

      He’d chosen Asha to act for him but its never quite clear about whether he thought she’d inherit, but I doubt Balon would risk the death of his son. And not against Eddard Stark, who’s not going to leave his flank open.

      • Odon says:

        But the books imply that Balon was gearing up for war even before he got the news that his son was returning to him. I believe Cat says that having lost two brothers in the previous revolution, Balon may be willing to write off a third in order to get revenge and a crown. And it is clear that Balon wanted Asha to inherit, because in Damphair’s POV chapter he remembers arguing with his brother over the issue.

        • stevenattewell says:

          It’s a hard thing to judge. Yes Balon was gearing up for war, that’s what Greyjoys do when there’s chaos. However, his choice of targets I think was more up for grabs.

          And yeah, Balon wanted Asha to inherit when Theon wasn’t even an option. I think there’s a gap between that and indirectly murdering his own son.

  6. Evan says:

    “…which Renly would probably join, given that he’s Stannis’ heir by the laws of succession.”
    That’s a point that’s always bothered me. There’s no indication that Robert kept to the Targaryen male-dominant primogeniture. Why would Renly follow Stannis? Shireen is his heir, as the only child, so she would follow Stannis to the Throne (And in the sample chapter of The Winds of Winter, Stannis orders Justin Massey to take up the fight for the Iron Throne in his name if he dies). Also, in A Storm of Swords after the Purple Wedding, Stannis mentions that he should follow Tommen if he dies, but Myrcella would be Tommen’s heir-If of course they were legitimate. So either Stannis is discounting Myrcella because she’s female, he’s making a political decision based on the fact that Myrcella is in Dorne and therefore in Dornish control, or he’s simply bitching about not being given his rights.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      Logically Renly would follow Stannis because Shireen is not just a female, but a under-age young lady and not a particulalry strong character to boot; just how many knights and lords do you think will back a wee girl who seems positively mild-mannered from what we’ve seen of her against a notably popular gallant like Renly who was able to summon both The Reach and his own Stormlords to arms in his service? (even when his claim was disputed by his own ELDER brother).

      Assuming the Lannister/Baratheons are removed from the equation, Renly can almost certainly count on at least one of the other Kingdoms backing him – quite frankly Shireen wouldn’t really stand a chance against her Uncle, because he WANTS the crown and is willing to scheme for it and wage war for it.

      Put bluntly, I suspect Shireen’s claim would go the way of Edward V, with Renly playing the villain with far, far more enthusiasm than Richard III could muster (or so I suspect).

    • stevenattewell says:

      In the absence of evidence of a change, you assume continuity. Robert has no reason to change the law – in his mind, he has two male heirs of his body and two brothers.

      When Stannis gives that order, Renly’s dead and Stannis has no male relatives left.

      And Myrcella isn’t Tommen’s heir as long as there’s a male Lannister left alive.

      • Anthony says:

        so Lancels brother is Tommen’s heir

      • peash says:

        Actually the all men before all women rule only applies to the Iron Throne, everybody else, e.g., Winterfell, Casterly Rock, goes sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts etc, though as GRRM points out its rather messy. That’s why Cersei was Lady of the Rock after Tywin’s little altercation with a crossbow and its why Shireen was heir to Storm’s End after Renly died (per one of the Davos chapters in ASOS) But it all ends up coming down to has the most guys to back them up

      • stevenattewell says:

        I don’t think it’s confirmed it’s for the kings only, quite.

        Also, after Renly dies, there is no male heir – hence Shireen inherits.

      • Sean C. says:

        Myrcella’s been stated to be Tommen’s heir in a few places, I thought.

        • stevenattewell says:

          True, but complicated by the fact that Myrcella’s closest male relatives on her father’s side are either dead or attainted.

      • Evan says:

        It couldn’t be a Lannister heir to Tommen-The claimed legality of Tommen’s right to the Throne descends through Robert’s Baratheon blood, so either the Throne would have to go to Myrcella, or if the male primogeniture is in effect, Stannis.

        Also, good point about the assuming continuity angle.

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    It’s enough to make anyone glad they’re not in contention for a crown, if only because anyone who places himself or herself in the running has to wonder just how long it will be before they run into pointed objections from their rivals.

    Perhaps that should be ‘Sharp and Pointed’ objections.

  8. ahorwitt says:

    One interesting point about the assassination attempt — it reveals that Varys is clearly willing to risk Dany’s death. Some readers say, “Well, he warned Jorah!” And that’s true, he did warn Jorah “that there would be attempts.” But Varys could not be assured that the warning would succeed. If he was truly loyal to Dany and the Targs, he would never have sent out the assassination attempt in the first place. This is a strong indication that his true loyalties are to Aegon. Whether the assassination attempt succeeded or failed at killing Dany, it would’ve served its intended purpose — provoking Drogo’s violent revenge against Robert Baratheon.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Sure, he’s making a gamble…although we never see the poison used. He might have given the wine merchant a placebo.

  9. Leee says:

    Amen to your corrective to Renly stans. People who have yet to govern always make the most attractive candidates to govern. (Similar principle applies to anyone who thinks that Robert/Lyanna would’ve been a fairytale coupllng.)

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yeah. Renly has many positive qualities (I’ll get to these in the next part of Hollow Thrones), but the entire thematic thrust of his character is that he’s a man of appearances and what’s underneath doesn’t match the surface. He’s not an outright villain, certainly is no Littlefinger or Walder Frey or Bolton, but there is a strong selfish streak in the man.

  10. Abbey Battle says:

    I’m not sure if ‘selfish’ is the right word exactly, but it is more than accurate enough to carry the point and I don’t want to seem prone to pettifogging over such details so early in my posting career on this forum; I would suggest though that it might be interesting to speculate on how well Renly might have done had he been the one to carry War to King’s Landing rather than Stannis.

    His force would probably have been larger, but I doubt he’d have been able to salvage as much from the wreckage of his hopes as Stannis did – further, I doubt Renly would have been able to cope so well with repeated reverses.

    On the other hand, given Renly’s carefully-cultivated popularity with the masses, one wonders if King’s Landing would have been able to stand a siege, even under the leadership of Tywin Lannister (who is definitely smarter than Renly in almost every way, except perhaps when it comes to being a people person).

    • stevenattewell says:

      I agree on the former. Stannis turned out to be capable of really rolling with a defeat in ways Donal Noye never imagined.

      I think you mean Tyrion? Probably not. If Renly had attacked straight-up he would have crushed Tyrion, as he had almost 5 times the manpower Stannis brought against the city in OTL, with much less danger from the rear. Likewise, Tywin would have run a real risk of losing the West to Robb at that point.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Mea Culpa, I did indeed intend to reference Tyrion; that’s the sort of minor mistake which makes me wonder if Tywin resents making his second-born son his heir in part because of all the confusion those two wretched consonants are likely to induce in historians – I suspect that Tywin Lannister is nothing if not a lord with one eye on posterity – but then I remember that The Warden of the West is one of the few men in Westeros capable of challenging Stannis Baratheon for the local ‘Mister Personality’ title which means he doesn’t HAVE a sense of whimsy, even if he hasn’t had his sense of humour surgically amputated.

        Also that while Tywin has one eye on history, he doesn’t give a hoot for mere historians.

  11. Celestial says:

    Not sure if that is the most appropriate place to say, as it is off-topic to a certain extent, but I would like to ask Steven why is he is so impressed with Tywin Lannister as a politician.

    Yes, his tenure as Hand was succesfull, but it occurred at a time when the political siituation was stable and he faced no major crises or challenges. In order to be succesfull in such circumstances, you just need to be a competent administrator, something which should not bestow upon someone the title “The Great”.

    And the results of his second term, when he was actually confronted with a major crisis, are simply catastrophical. First of all, let’s look at how it begins. When the war starts, the Lannister have no major allies and they are confronted by enemies on 3 sides, by Stannis, the Renly/Tyrell block and the Stark/Tully block, while the Arryns and the Martells are neutral, but hostile to the Lannisters.
    How can Tywin be considered a good politician, when he failed to build any solid alliances in 15 years of peace and his House was utterly isolated when the war started? If the Lannister hadn’t received, in the first 3 books, from George Martin a “plot armour” thicker than an Abrams tank, Tywin’s head would have adorned the walls of the Red Keep a long time ago.

    The main fault for this resides with Tywin’s personal style of leadership. For all the talk about “helping your enemies to their feet when they bend the knee”, Tywin portrayed himself as a ruthless tyrant. Regardless how competent an administrator he might have been, nobody wants such for their overlord if there are alternatives and they would defect at the first opportunity.

    For instance, not much is said about Rickard Stark as a politician, but the man managed to build an alliance strong enough to overthrow the Targaryen dinasty – and did so to avenge him. Eddard Stark gets a lot of crap as an incompetent politician, but he managed to cultivate that good relationship: after his death, the Riverlands accept his son as their king and the Vale lords were itching to join the fight on the Stark side.
    Renly also gets the support of the Tyrells with very little effort. It’s worth noticing that the Tyrells marry Margery to him first – and not to Joffrey, the actual heir to the throne and they go to the Lannisters when that remains their only option.

    His other “masterstroke” was the so-called great southron alliance. First of all, it was Tyrion who brought the Tyrells and the Martells into the fold, while Tywin sat on his ass at Harrenhall. And small good it did to the Lannisters. The Tyrells assassinated Joffrey and framed Tyrion right under Tywin’s nose while the Martells were sending envoys to Daenaerys Targaryen.
    Tywin took two snakes into his bed – and he did not even notice it. Both his so-called allies began plotting against Lannisters even before Tywin’s death – the Tyrells to swallow them, the Martells to bring them down.

    His third “masterstroke”, the Red Wedding, was done against an enemy who would have needed something akin to a “cease and desist” letter from Bolton/Frey to suspect treachery… while Varys and Littlefinger were running circles around Tywin in King’s Landing.

    He utterly failed to notice the political acumen of Tyrion and his impression that it was enough for Tyrion to show up with Sansa’s child in the North for the northmen to accept a Lannister overlord is utterly delusional. He sowed so much hatred that the reputation of his House is in his toilet and he utterly failed to see the benefits of popularity.

    In the end, I’ll quote a summary of Tywin posted by danm_999 in the westeros forums: “People are still fighting blizzards to help Ned Stark’s daughter. People are dancing on Tywin’s grave. Tywin’s accomplishments were to make permanent enemies of the Starks, Tullys, Baratheons, Arryns and Martells. His great Western Alliance saw the other party, the Tyrells, murder his grandson and frame his son. A eunuch murdered his brother with impunity, and killed the only major ally his House had on the Small Council. His eldest son is a disavowed cripple people think of as a monster. His daughter was publically mocked as a harlot and is destroying everything she touches. His youngest son is probably one of the most reviled people in Westeros. He rewarded the Frey’s for the Red Wedding, and he championed the North for the most reviled person North of the Neck.

    He died on the shitter, and the gentry of King’s Landing laughed at his smelly, smiling corpse. Where exactly is the amazing political ability?”

    Steven, I thoroughly enjoyed your political analyses in this blog and I find them exquisite. Your opinions on Tywin though I fail to understand. Is there some evidence of Tywin’s genius which I miss?

    • stevenattewell says:

      Well, did you read my essay? The Great is very much with a question mark.

      As for his first term, he wasn’t leading at a time of no problems. The monarchy had just been devastated by the Tragedy at Summerhall, Aerys was not a stable monarch, you had the Defiance at Duskendale – and yet those years he’s remembered as the king in all but name.

      As for the Rebellion/War of Five Kings – keep in mind that a lot of his work was undone by his children in ways he couldn’t have foreseen. Remember, Tywin had intended Jaime to marry Lysa Tully, which would have put him in as a leading member of the Southron Ambitions conspiracy, and for Cersei to marry Rhaegar, which would have put him in with the counciliar conspiracy.

      Tyrion set it up certainly, but Tywin really made it work from Bitterbridge to his death. And yes, it was completely unstable – the Tyrells and Martells have hated each other for a thousand years, the Martells hate the Lannisters for Elia, etc. But it worked: the Stormlands were retaken, the Riverlands were pacified, the Boltons were put in charge of the North, etc.

      As for the Red Wedding, think again about the scale of planning – he gets a letter out of the blue from the Westerlings, he then makes overtures to the Freys and to Bolton, because Roose had sealed a pact with the Freys long before the Wedding, and in one stroke, he’s eliminated his last rival without exerting any military strength or getting his hands dirty, and he gains control of the Riverlands and the North at the same time.

      But yes, ultimately I agree with this last quote. Tywin failed to establish a permanent legacy, largely because of betrayal from his family.

      • Celestial says:

        Well, the “Great” is very much with a question mark in the title, but in the text you do speak of Tywin in superlative terms most of the times.

        1. The Summerhall affair was a familial and dynastic tragedy, but not a political one. It did not led to any political crisis I know of, as Jaehaerys II succeeded without opposition. Tywin ascended to handship only several years later and I have not seen any indications that the Summerhall episode affected the actual governing of the realm.
        The Defiance of Duskendale was a minor rebellion and a retarded one to boot (I mean, a minor lord rebelling against the king with no support from any great house? Seriously, Darklyn?). If you include this as a crisis, you are setting the bar really low in this regard.
        In addition, Aerys instability did not seem to affect the actual administration of the kingdom for the most part of his reign, as it manifested on a more personal level.
        Finally, popular remembrance does not necessarly indicate some phenomenal political skills. There are people who remember even Aerys fondly – and he was not some master politician.

        2. First, there were things which he could have foreseen. For instance, he should never have gone along with Cersei’s accusing Tyrion and that farce of a trial.
        If Tywin was such an intelligent politician, he should have perceived that Cersei wanted Tyrion dead at any cost and the trial was worthless. With enough gold, Cersei could have found witnesses to testify that Tyrion poisoned Baelor the Blessed and cuckolded Aegon the Unworthy.
        Sure, Tywin could not have anticipated the crossbow, but a public trial of a Lannister could have discredited the family and their hold on power. Tyrion knew many secrets. What if he had spilled the beans in front of the court?
        Second, you don’t have to be a freaking genius to consider marrying your children in two of the main noble families of Westeros (Targaryen and Tully). Both plans failed so Tywin could have just as well thought of marrying his children to R’hllor.
        Basically, every lord who knows how to tie his shoes can imagine “I’m gonna marry my daughter/son with X and Y”. The skill is to make this work and cultivate the respective relationship. Something which Tywin failed to do. Nor did he forged other relationships when his Tully/Targaryen plans failed to materialize.

        Third, I fail to see how his Southron alliance worked since both his allies were conspiring against him and his House. Yes, they achieved military success, but the alliance with the Tyrells was set up in such a manner that basically it ensured the downfall of the Lannisters. The statement that “his alliance with the Tyrells was one of the few genuine turning points in the War of the Five Kings, decisively eliminating Stannis Baratheon’s threat to the Lannister grasp on the Iron Throne and uniting the two richest Houses and the two largest armies remaining and bringing the first phase of fighting to an end” is extremely short-sighted. I will explain why.

        User Axrendale said at Westeros that Tywin considered “that the interests of House Lannister would be best served by inducing the most powerful factions in the realm to share in those interests through acts of obligation and goodwill”.
        That was what Tywin intended and it was a crucial mistake. The main reason was that there was really nothing which Tywin could do or offer to the Tyrell and Martell to turn them into genuine supporters of the Lannister regime. In case of Martells, the reason is obvious. In case of the Tyrells, the problem lies with the fact that, after the Blackwater, the Tyrells were practically the senior partner in that alliance. The Lannister armies had been decimated in the battles against Robb Stark and the Westerlands had been devastated by war. The Tyrells have a much bigger military force and their territories had been untouched by war. They were never going to be satisfied with a “share in those interests”, in order words with just being thrown some bones.
        In addition, it should be considered that the new dinasty was a Lannister one in all but name and the new king was seen as merely an extension of Tywin’s will. The Tyrells could genuinely support a charismatic king like Renly, Robb Stark or Aegon VI. But never a mere Tywin puppet.
        I think your claim that Tywin “made the alliance work” is very short-sighted. Tywin mishandled it in a disastrous manner. The correct course of action was to pay lip-service to the Tyrells but no more, and try to reach out to their main bannermen, searching for someone which could be capable and willing to serve as a Trojan Horse in the Reach.
        The Tyrells were simply too big just to be given a “shared interest” and a clash was unavoidable. Tywin failed to recognize this. Instead, what does he do: he gives Brightwater Keep to Garlan Tyrell, thus stregthening the Tyrell hold on the Reach and creating a cadet branch of the Tyrell house with great power in its own right.
        The correct course of action: offer a pardon to Alester Florent or his heir or grant Brightwater Keep to another Lannister (like Kevan or Devan). This way, Tywin would have had a loyal partner in the Reach who depended entirely on the Lannister dinasty and Kevan would not have had to work his brain later about how to gain the allegiance of Randyl Tarly.
        With regard to Garlan Tyrell, a far better option would have been for him to be granted a seat farther from the Reach. And here we come to another crucial mistake made by Tywin: appointing a Lannister and a Frey to the seats of Riverrun and Darry. The reasoning for this is obvious: to create two Lannister holdfasts in the Riverlands. The problem lies with the fact that you don’t become Lord of a domain just because someone powerful 1,000 miles away says so. The Riverlands were deeply hostile to the Lannisters and would gladly cut the throats of their new “lords” if given the chance. And Tywin appoints to such positions 2 incompetent characters like Emmon Frey and Lancel!
        If Garlan was sent to Riverrun or Darry, THAT would have been a masterstroke. It creates a Lannister holdfast in the Reach, appeases Mace Tyrell with a prestigious seat for his son, takes the best military man among the Tyrells away from their powerbase in the Reach and implants a capable figure like Garlan in a region where he does not have grassroots support and will have to rely on the Iron Throne, but where he is not actually hated (like a Frey/Lannister was) so he had a chance to appease the opposition.

        3. Regarding the Red Wedding. This is such an obvious plot device, that I don’t know whether it is something to argue about.
        Yes, Tywin gets a letter out of the blue from the Westerlings, but, even if he conspired to have Jeyne seduce Robb, he had no way to maker the latter marry the Westerling girl. The level of ineptitude displayed by Robb in this affair beggars belief. His uncle Brandon slept with girls and did not marry them the next day, Eddard let everyone believe he had a bastard, Benjen told Jon point blank to father some bastards, so why on Earth did Robb believe he had to marry the first girl he had sex with?
        In addition, a king’s marriage is usually something done after consultation with his family and advisors. Nobody told Robb at the Crag that he was about to shoot himself in the foot? Or he married in secret?

        Second, the Bolton/Frey betrayal is the result of the loss of morale within the Stark armies, due to being attacked on two front, the loss of Winterfell and Robb’s heirs, the battle of the Blackwater.
        So, let’s summarize:
        Balon Greyjoy refusing to support the separatist forces (aka Robb) – which was his only realistic chance for independence – and attacking the North for revenge: plot device
        Theon taking Winterfell with 50 men, after Rodrik Cassel left the castle completely undefended – plot device
        Stannis assassinating Renly through dark magic and paving the way for the Tyrells changing sides – plot device
        Robb marrying Jeyne after an affair, without asking anybody – plot device

        Scale of planning? Maybe from George Martin.
        And, btw, we don’t know who actually took the initiative in the Red Wedding. It is hinted in ASOS that it was Walder Frey who approached Tywin and not the other way around (Tywin tells Tyrion “I suppose you would have spared the boy and told Walder Frey you have no need of his allegiance?”).
        I suppose Tywin’s merit is that he did not rebuff Frey’s overtures.

      • axrendale says:

        Replying to Celestial –

        1) Because we know so little about the events of Tywin’s tenure as Aerys’ Hand outside of a few isolated incidents, there is little to go on one way or the other in directly analyzing his ability as de facto ruler of the realm. What we do know however, is the opinions of a fairly diverse group of men who were Tywin’s contemporaries, many of whom had no reason to love him, and some of whom had plentiful reason to hate him, and yet all of whom were basically in agreement on one point: a grudging respect for Tywin’s prowess as a savvy warlord and political operator. Jon Connington considered him to be the acme of competence (“Not even Tywin Lannnister could have done better” is basically how he tries to rationalize his own failures as Hand). Ned Stark describes him as being “as much fox as he was lion” (an allusion by the author to Machiavelli, who wrote that the lion and the fox were the two creatures whose ways a prince must learn to imitate). Balon Greyjoy (the same man who once burned Tywin’s ships, no less) thinks of him as “too cunning by half”, and dismisses out of hand the idea of going up against him in war. Roose Bolton considers him to be arguably the most dangerous man in the realm to provoke the enmity of. And so on, and so on. When people talk about the peace and prosperity that prevailed through the first 20 years of Mad Aerys’ reign, it is usually to give personal credit for it to his Hand.

        As the old saying goes, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. Perhaps this opinion will need to be revised if and when the remaining books in the series provide additional information about the political events of those years, but until then, there is no reason not accept the general verdict conveyed thus far that Tywin was a superlative Hand in his first term of office, just as there is no reason to doubt that Ned Stark was a phenomenal ruler of the North, or that Khal Drogo was a great warlord – both also pieces of backstory with little to no concrete information to back them up. The fact that Tywin is one of the characters that the reader loves to hate does not change this.

        2) Your analysis of the dynamics of the alliance between the Lannisters and Tyrells overlooks several important points, which Tywin evidently understood well, and which were key to most of his major political undertakings in the time between his return to the capital and his death. The Tyrells may have emerged from the war with a greater part of their military strength intact than the Lannisters, but the latter held the key to the power dynamic between the two by virtue of their holding (in Cersei’s children) the throne that is the key to the legitimacy that the Tyrells crave. The fact that they were going to try and increase their power and influence within the alliance was inevitable, but Tywin was willing to accept this because the value of their support was immense, and he was entirely (and justifiably) confident of his own ability to prevent them from getting out of hand as long as he remained in charge. As long as House Lannister and House Tyrell remained allies (with the Stormlands and Riverlands under their yoke), they constituted an effectively unbeatable force – and this fact alone would serve as a force that would prevent the two Houses from breaking with each other publically (however much they might scheme in private) as long as they continued to place foremost value on their realistic interests. None of the behind-the-scenes machinations they could concoct would ever alter the fact that Tywin was inevitably going to remain the senior figure in the partnership as long as he was alive – and this fact shows through clearly in the Tyrells refusal to make any public challenges to the Lannister’s control of the royal government until after Tywin was gone from the scene – and even then, they did so largely in response to repeated provocations by Cersei that threatened the state of mutual-interest that bound them together as allies.

        Your suggestion that Tywin should have used covert means to undermine the Tyrells in the Reach strikes me as being a folly. There is no way that such a gambit would not have soon come to the attention of the Tyrells themselves, in which case it would have accomplished nothing except to needlessly poison relations between the two Houses in exactly the way that Cersei later managed to bring about. Both Tywin and later Kevan recognized that the path to securing the future of a Lannister dynasty lay in binding the leadership of the Reach to the Iron Throne, not alienating it. As you noted previously, the Lannisters had already made enemies of too many Great Houses – it would have been the madness to add another to the list. This was why Tywin was willing to allow Tyrion to take the blame for Joffrey’s murder: it was completely irrelevant who actually did the deed, all that mattered was a scapegoat be found to ensure continued smooth relations between the two Houses – something for which Tywin was more than willing to sacrifice a hated son who had long since ceased to be of great use to the House, regardless of whatever services he had rendered in the past.

        The ultimate testimony to the political soundness of Tywin and Kevan’s efforts to bind Casterly Rock and Hightower together comes in the fact that Varys felt that it was necessary to orchestrate the deaths of both men if the Western Alliance was ever going to fall apart, as he needed it to in order for his own plans to succeed.

        Additionally, on the subject of Riverrun and Darry, Tywin’s aim here was to provide patrimonies for the children of Genna and Kevan, which would be guarenteed by the power of the Iron Throne, and would have the additional effect of bolstering the security of the Riverlands.

        3) Regardless of who approached who in initiating the conspiracy of the Red Wedding, credit ultimate rebounds on Tywin as a machiavellian political operator. By extending guarentees of protection and reward to the Boltons, Freys, and Westerlings, he was able to benefit enormously from the fruits of their various foul covert actions, while remaining disassociated from them publicly, and ultimately leaving each of them with no other options except to become faithful allies to the Lannisters (as there is now no one else who would even consider having them). It was a masterful (albeit depraved) endeavor, and it serves to fully validate the numerous high opinions that have been voiced of Tywin’s political abilities.

        What you caustically term “plot devices” seems to me more bitterness at the directions that the plot took than anything else. The Lannisters are the beneficiaries of a great many incidents of tragic folly and misguidedness throughout the books – that is simply the nature of the tragedy in a large part of this story, as Steven has elaborated on in a number of his magnificent posts here. Ultimately though, all of their gains are squandered, so the scales of fate balance out very nicely.


        In the end, the final word on Tywin as a political operator should probably be to note that no matter what form the ultimate failure of his legacy takes, it is significant all the same that as news of his death spread throughout the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, enemies of his House in locations ranging from Dorne to the Wall and from the Riverlands to across the Narrow Sea all gave voice to basically the same sentiment: “Tywin Lannister is dead. That means that we have a chance now!”

      • Celestial says:

        Replying to Axendale:

        1. Popular perception does not equate reality. For thousands of years, billions of people, including very intelligent ones, believed that the Earth was flat. That did not make it true.
        In Westeros, nobody takes Tyrion or LF seriously as political actors… which is a blatant mistake.

        2. I already answered that in reply to Abbey Battle, but I wish to add that with your last statement are shooting yourself in the foot. If Tywin was such a talented politician, his main concern should have been to control the Riverlands, not to provide patrimonies for his incompetent siblings.
        Cersei gets so much crap for appointing sycophants in her small council. Can I know why Tywin gets a pass for appointing two morons to Riverrun and Darry, two of the most important and sensitive seats in a barely pacified region?
        What good it would do if Riverrun and Darry crashed and burned around Lancel and Emmon?

        3. About “bitterness”, please don’t bring such silly stuff into the discussion. If you really want to know, I have no emotional investments in the Starks. My sympathies are with Stannis/Davos duo and the Martell camp + Aegon: all of them are alive and kicking while the Lannisters got what they deserved, so I don’t understand where bitterness should come from.
        Those “plot devices” are extremely lucky breaks which the Lannister receivced in a row, as you know very well.

      • stevenattewell says:

        1. Any time you have a strong king suddenly die along with his heir, and get replaced with a weak and sickly king who also suddenly dies, you have a political crisis in the capitol.

        2. I don’t think these could have been foreseen. He doesn’t know about Maggy’s prophecy and that Cersei is pathologically fearful/hateful towards Tyrion. He doesn’t know about Jaime and Cersei and thus couldn’t predict how they’d screw up their prospective marriages.

        Regarding the marriages, these are pretty impressive. Historically, Great Houses marry Lesser Houses in their lands to shore up support at home – the move by the Southron Ambitions Conspiracy and Tywin were innovations.

        3. I flatly disagree with you about the alliance. Of course the houses are conspiring against each other, they always do that. The issue is that he could wield them against any outside threat, and thereby unify the Seven Kingdoms.

        And I agree with axendale – undermining the Tyrells is pointless, since it undermines his own power and turns an ally, however duplicitous and untrustworthy, into an open enemy. Hence Mace Tyrell putting King’s Landing under siege when Cersei has Margaery arrested.

      • Anna says:

        I agree that Tywin’s efforts were undermined (and later devastated) by his children, but I think that is largely on him. He should have payed more attention to his actual children and less to his legacy. The honour of house Lannister cannot exist independantly of its memebers. What we know of Tywin’s brothers and sister indicates that they all respect and support him (and each other). Compare that to Tywin’s children. His behaviour fostered rather than mitigated hostilities between them. The roles he decreed each of his children will fulfill make no allowances not just for their personal desires but also for their natural talents and abilities.

    • axrendale says:

      I’ll add to Steven’s reply with a few more points:

      1) Regarding the Red Wedding, there is a tendancy among some sections of the fandom to view this incident as simply being the result of a series of lucky breaks for the Lannisters (the Greyjoy invasion of the North and the fall of Winterfell, Robb’s marriage to Jeyne, etc) that Tywin shamelessly took advantage of to effect the destruction of his enemies. While this explanation has strong elements of truth in it, it underplays the degree of preparation and work that that Tywin invested in this scheme, and the political skill that he demonstrated in his manipulation of the various players involved. Contrary to what is commonly percieved by many of the readers, Tywin did not begin developing his “quills and ravens” strategy for winning the war against the Starks only after his return to King’s Landing – rather, there are a number of hints (whose significance is obvious only in hindsight) scattered through “A Clash of Kings” that he began working toward this end very soon after he arrived at Harrenhal following the battle of the Green Fork.

      We know from Arya’s observations during her time at Harrenhal (see ACOK chapter 30, Arya VII) that Tywin spent almost all of his time there sending and recieving letters, and a stray comment in one of Bran’s chapters reveals where most of this correspondence was directed: at the Northern lords, amongst whom Tywin was hunting for potential defectors from the Stark ranks (it can thus be theorized with reasonable certainty that it was around this time that the first overtures were made to Roose Bolton). At the same time, Tywin moved to correct one of his earlier mistakes in the war by beginning to rebuild his bridges (pardon the pun) in his relations with the Freys: the aforementioned Arya chapter reveals that Tywin permitted all of the Freys that he had captured in battle to be ransomed, even as he refused to allow the same for any of the Northern prisoners (it was around this same time that Roose Bolton married Walda Frey). When the ties of obligation binding the Boltons and Freys to the Starks were dissolved by the loss of Winterfell and the Westerling marriage respectively, the Lannisters were thus perfectly positioned to secure the allegiance of both. Tywin capped it off with his skillful exploitation of Robb’s fateful mistakes at the Crag: by sending his offer to pardon the entire family and make Rolph Spicer the Lord of Castamere, he was able to secure the loyalty of the Westerlings, and at a single stroke infilitrate the Starks and end the possibility of the Young Wolf siring any legitimate children.

      Tywin’s execution of his role in the Red Wedding conspiracy was even more masterful (and cynical) than his planning for it. He played each of the principal conspirators – Sybell Spicer, Walder Frey, and Roose Bolton – along with promises of what each desired most: Roose was promised power in the North, Frey would get revenge and marriages for his children, and Sybell was hinted that her family would be permitted to marry into House Lannister itself. Ultimately however, he planned to use all of them as catspaws: Sybell found out that “joy of his house” did not quite mean what she thought it did; the Freys ended up absorbing most of the opprobrium for the Red Wedding; and Roose Bolton would be left to do the dirty work of pacifying the other Northern lords, fighting the Ironmen, and coping with the travails of winter, before a new Lannister overlord arrived in the spring to assume control.

      The conspiracy of the Red Wedding may have been a moral atrocity, but it was a tactically brilliant political operation, nonetheless.

      2) I would also argue that Tywin deserves more credit for his diplomatic management of the alliance with House Tyrell than he has been given credit for by some sections of the fandom. Whatever the ultimate fate of the so-called “Great Western Alliance” (left in tatters by the end of ADWD thanks to Cersei, with a big assist from Varys), during the period between the Battle of the Blackwater and his death, it is difficult to fault Tywin’s political conduct in his efforts to thread the needle of rewarding the Tyrells for their ongoing military support of the Iron Throne, while preventing them from dominating the royal court in the same way that the Lannisters did in the final years of Robert Baratheon’s reign. Joffrey’s death was embarrassing, but not really a setback, as the Lannisters benefitted as much as anybody else from having the young and sweet-natured Tommen on the throne instead of his sociopathic brother. It is worth remembering that it was not until well after Tywin’s death that the Lannisters lost their edge in the balance of power in King’s Landing, as Cersei squandered most of the political capital that he had accumulated through his careful conciliation of Mace Tyrell, and even so, Kevan Lannister was on the verge of retrieving the situation before he was assassinated by Varys.

      3) Concerning your assertion that:

      [quote]”The main fault for this resides with Tywin’s personal style of leadership. For all the talk about “helping your enemies to their feet when they bend the knee”, Tywin portrayed himself as a ruthless tyrant. Regardless how competent an administrator he might have been, nobody wants such for their overlord if there are alternatives and they would defect at the first opportunity”[/quote]

      And yet, it is worth noting that the Lannisters are the only one of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms about whom it can be said (since Tywin’s destruction of the Reynes and Tarbecks) that they can completely take for granted the loyalty of their vassals. It is also worth noting that Tywin’s talk about helping defeated enemies to their feet was backed up by his actions: this was how he secured the submission of most of the lords of the Stormlands and Riverlands, respectively after the battle of the Blackwater and the Red Wedding.

      As Roose Bolton pointed out to Jaime at Harrenhal, it is significant that throughout the War of the Five Kings, the only one of Tywin’s servants who ever betrayed him was a foreigner – Vargo Hoat – who as such was not aware of the fate that Tywin reserved for those who betrayed his trust – the fate of Castamere. Even after his death, what Bolton dubbed the “Curse of Tywin Lannister” did not lose its potency – when Jaime was negotiating with Edmure Tully to end the siege of Riverrun, it was after hearing a rendition of “the song about the rains” that Edmure cracked.


      Despite his despicability as an individual, there can be little doubt that Tywin is easily one of the most talented and accomplished politicians in the series. The fact that his lifetime of efforts to aggrandize his House are doomed to be undone by his own family is the essential tragedy of the Lannisters.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Agreed in the most part.

      • Celestial says:

        I totally disagree with your points, Axrendale. It seems you consider all this as evidence in Tywin’s favor, but, from my point of view, you are just giving me rope to hang Tywin more.

        1. First of all, let’s go back to Essos, where Viserys Targaryen dreams of retaking the Iron Throne. He tells Daenaerys that the Martells, Tyrells, Redwyne, Hightower can’t wait to rise up against Robert. In other words, Viserys was looking for potential defectors. Thus, Tywin’s idea was something which even the moron Viserys could think of.
        As to the “degree of preparation”, well, we know from ACOK that Wyman Manderly received an offer from Tywin to get his son back in exchange for withdrawing from the Stark camp. If a hardcore loyalist like Manderly received such an offer, there is a good chance that everyone else did. Basically, it seems that Tywin approached the majority of Robb’s bannermen in the hope that he will find some ears willing to listen.
        The level of ineptitude displayed by Tywin when orchestrating the Red Wedding is downright hilarious. First of all, by approaching the Northern lords, Tywin basically sounded the alarm in the enemy camp. Normally, when Manderly informs Rodrik Cassel about Tywin’s overtures, the information should have made its way to Robb Stark quickly. This in turn should have put Robb Stark on guard as to what was happening behind his back. It was not hard to infer that Tywin sent such letters to all the major lords from North and Riverlands. Then all Robb had to do was ask which lord received letters from Tywin. Those who deny out themselves as possible traitors. Then consider who is more vulnerable to a Lannister offer, who is most greedy/ambitious and the circle of suspects can be reduced to a minimum. And that is it. The end of the Red Wedding.

        Nothing of the sort occurred though not because Tywin was the real deal, but because George Martin needed the Red Wedding to happen.

        2. I already adrressed point 2 in my reply to Steven, but one thing I have to add. Joffrey’s death might have been beneficial for the Lannister himself, but that is irellevant. When your ally assassinates your grandson behind your back, then you don’t actually have an ally.

        That is not the least of Tywin’s blunders. What about the fact that he gives Littlefinger green light to take control of the Vale?
        Remember why Tywin sent Tyrion in the capitol. Because he had suspicions someone was sabotaging the Lannisters from inside. He had 3 suspects: Pycelle, Varys, Littlefinger. Then Tywin returns to the capitol and does nothing to discover the truth. All 3 still sit in the Small Council and one of them received the ok to take over one of the 7 kingdoms.

        3. Tywin does not have any major bannermen as powerful as those other houses have. In addition, a potential betrayal in the Westerlands did not have the time to fester, as it happened within Robb’s army.
        As to “helping enemies back to their feet”, that is a valid credo for an honorable ruler like Baelor Breakspear. The so-called pacification of Stormlands and Riverlands will work only as long the Lannisters were powerful, as it’s plainly obvious those defeated houses are not particularly grateful. If Daenaerys landed in King’s Landing with her dragons and an army, everyone in the Stormlands and Riverlands will say “cheers”.

      • axrendale says:

        – In reply (again) to Celestial:

        1) I’m sorry to say it, but your reasoning here is nonsensical. There is no reason that any of the Northern lords have to deny to Robb that they have been recieving overtures from the Lannisters – if he thought to ask. They just have to say the same thing as Manderly: “Yes, I got an offer, but I didn’t even consider it, so don’t worry.” It makes no difference to Tywin, who has done what he needs to do in making sure that any potential candidates for defection are aware that the offer is on the table, and can expect to continue dealing with any takers if and when the opportunity arises, as it did when Roose Bolton decided to go over to the Lannisters after recieving news of the Battle of the Blackwater.

        2) Considering that Tywin had no way of knowing how dangerous a threat Littlefinger was (the only person who did have an inkling – Tyrion – never said anything about what he knew) there was no reason for him not to send Baelish to the Vale. As far as Tywin was aware, it was a chance to bring the Vale back into the fold on the cheap, and so he took it.

        3) There are plenty of Houses in the Westerlands who are quite powerful enough to make considerable trouble for the Lannisters if their loyalty had ever wavered. It didn’t. No matter how many defeats and setbacks the Lannisters suffered, every single one of his bannermen held true for him. That is unquestionably a great credit to Tywin’s achievement in pacifying the Westerlands since the time of his father’s rule.

        Of course the defeated houses were not “grateful” to have been defeated – that is utterly ridiculous. The point is that Tywin gained their submission and military support for House Lannister – and would have likely have been able to maintain it were it not for his own death, which removed one of the greatest assets that the Lannisters had in the war up to that point: the fear that he, his name, and his reputation inspired.


        The problem with your analysis is that you insist on conflating the despicability of Tywin as a man with his competence as a ruler and political operator. This is one of the very concepts that is pointedly demolished in the series, in which it has been observed on several occaisons that “many good men have made bad kings, and some bad men have made good kings”. Tywin is one of the latter.

      • Celestial says:

        In reply to Axendale:

        1. Even if that is the case, it’s not that hard to figure out who the possible traitors might be. If that is too much too ask, then Robb should have been at least more cautious. Instead, Robb behaved as if he had never heard of such a thing as “betrayal”. In such circumstances, the RW is not that hard to pull off.

        2. That’s utterly false. Tywin suspected treason from the Small Council. He had 3 suspects: Pycelle, Varys and LF. None of them should have ever been allowed to have access to power/information until the culprit was outed.
        Tywin behaved as if he had amnesia about all the strange thing which happened in the capitol in his absence.

        Besides, what exactly means “bringing the Vale back into the fold”? What gains was Tywin expecting from sending LF to the Vale? Lysa sat on her ass during the whole war. The fact that she was a coward was common knowledge (Jaime calls her “a frightened cow”). So what was LF supposed to do in the Vale? Did Tywin suspect Lysa was going to call her banners in a vengeful rage, march on King’s Landing and LF was tasked to dissuade her? Or maybe he was banking on LF leading the Vale host against some potential enemies of the Iron Throne?

        LF sold Tywin a bag of wind and Tywin reacted with glee.

        3. That is just not true. Please check the discussions at Westeros. Whenever the most powerful bannermen in the Seven Kingdoms are listed, no Westerlands house is mentioned.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    Celestial, I’d like to chip in and say that while the idea of setting Garlan the Gallant up in Riverrun or Derry is an intriguing one (quite probably even a master-stroke), it would be almost impossible to pull off – for one thing why would any Tyrell wish to stick his nose into the Riverlands, ravaged by war and banditry and other, stranger things when Brightwater Keep sits apparently untouched by strife within easy distance of Home?

    I would also like to point out that the Tyrells are perfectly capable of spotting that this would be nothing more than an attempt to divide their power, by stranding one of their more formidable military men far from any help but the Iron Throne; I suspect that nothing less than the title Lord Paramount of the Riverlands would have persuaded them to even seriously contemplate the offer (and as genuinely close-knit as the Tyrells appear to be, it seems unlikely that they would have accepted it even then).

    In short the IDEA of such an offer is clever, but it would be very close to impossible to make such an idea reality – and quite frankly impossible to achieve without offending the Tyrells; Brightwater Keep is an eminently sensible peace-offering because (A) It’s vitally-necessary hard proof of bone fides on Tywin’s part, since he isn’t offering a poisoned chalice to one of his new and opportunistic allies (B) Even if Tywin did not offer Brightwater Keep to the Tyrells they would have taken it anyway (It’s just too tempting and too vulnerable), therefore by making it HIS gift at least in law, he manages to win some useful political capital simply by recognising a fait accompli.

    It’s an obvious move, agreed, but it’s entirely in keeping with Tywin’s style to stick with the certainties of occasionally-brutal pragmatism over brilliant, but risky stratagems – quite simply he may well be the Westerosi master of the KISS approach as applied to politics.

    • axrendale says:

      Excellent points – very well summed up.

    • Celestial says:

      Abbey Battle, I will reply here to both you and Axrendale on the issue of the Lannister/Tyrell alliance.

      The observations which both you and Axrendale make are both valid and invalid at the same time. It really depends on your premisis.
      Was the Tyrell alliance a genuine one and did they have an interest in supporting the Lannister power?
      If the answer is yes, then what both of you say is correct.

      If the answer is no, then everything you say is pointless. What is the purpose of taking great pains to avoid offending the Tyrells if they were pouring poison in the Lannister wine (both figuratively and literally) and plotting to marry their heir to the Stark one?
      Personally, I see the Lannister/Tyrell aliance as the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact of Westeros. One of the partners WAS going to stab the other in the back sooner or later.
      I’m fully aware of the risks involved with the “Garlan in the Riverlands” scheme. I’m aware that the Lannister position is difficult, but it stems from the fact that Tywin failed to generate any genuine sympathy for his house outside of Westerlands. From my part, the “Garlan scheme” is basically a risky attempt at “damage control” in this regard.
      If Garlan won’t do, then it should have been someone else. I remind you, that combination had 2 purposes, not just to weaken Highgarden: to mitigate the follies which were the appointments of Emmon Frey and Lancel. The wisest course was that everyone involved in the Red Wedding or the rapture of the Riverlands should stay away from that region for a long time. Give them some seats in the Stormlands and appoint someone from the Reach or Crownlands which have nothing to do with those events. And someone preferably competent. Kevan definetely seemed to think that some of the Reach lords would not be adverse to changing sides. Lord paramount of the Riverlands would be a very tempting prize. What does Tywin do with that prize? Gives it to freaking Petyr Baelish.

      Cersei was actually right about the Tyrells, the problem lies with the fact that her schemes are Wily E. Coyote material.
      Kevan Lannister (which, BTW, I regard as a better political mind than his brother, contrary to the hype) come to realize just as much. He suggests Cersei “name Rowan or Tarly as your hand and you will make him yours… you strengthen yourself and weaken Highgarden” and when he becomes regent he comes to understand why Cersei was so resentful of the Tyrells and starts considering how to pull Tarly out of the Tyrell camp.

      The Tyrells were no more allies of the Lannisters than Varys or Littlefinger were. The latter two both helped the Lannister camp when it was convenient for them to do so, but the Lannister house would have been better off if their heads adorned the Red Keep after Blackwater.

      • Celestial says:

        PS: Abbey Battle, I did not deny that the alliance worked short-term, but I want to remind you that me and Axendale were considering more the long-term perspectives.

    • Celestial says:

      Something I want to add: if Garlan was offered Riverrun and the title Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, Mace might take the bait.
      As closely knit as the Tyrells appear to be, there is not always unity among them. For instance, we know that Olenna wanted them to stay out of the war (not clear if permanently or until they could seize the best opportunity), but Mace and Loras overruled her to join Renly.
      While such a position for Garlan might seem to pose risks for the Lannister, you have to consider that Garlan would be an outsider there, that the Riverlands military strength was decimated and the lands ravaged. Garlan would need 5-10 years to rebuild his domains and earn the loyalty of his bannermen. By that time, the marriage between the king (who might have been) and Margery could have been consumated with some heirs resulting, which would have mollified the Tyrell danger to a great extent.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Celestial, I would like to thank you for taking the time to reply courteously and I hope that my reply will be equally courteous and cogent – however I would like to point out that your own opinions in their turn are equally likely to be both valid in some respects and invalid in others.

        Yes, the Lannister/Tyrell alliance is inarguably an uneven one and one in which both parties are likely to seek to double-deal their opposite number – this does not necessarily distinguish it from any other unlikely alignment forged in the series (Stannis and Renly’s less-than-utterly loyalist vassals, Freys and Boltons, Daenarys and the Dothraki or the Unsullied or even her Ghiscari city-state) yet that does not make it any less unworkable, at least in the short run.

        In the short term the alliance succeeded brilliantly; it managed to destroy any serious chance Stannis has of seizing the Iron Throne for the time being, it bought the Lannisters both the materials and manpower to resume pole position in the race for the Iron Throne, it brought the Tyrells the face they had lost by backing a failed candidate for the crown (not to mention the Military success Mace Tyrell so ardently desires); yes the Tyrells are less loyal to their allies than might be wished, yes the Lannisters remain persona non grata in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, yes the submission of their enemies seems opportunistic at best and grudging at worst – but let’s face it, there are very few individuals or Great Houses who seemed likely to profit from the flaws in this alliance in the immediate aftermath of the triumph at the Blackwater Rush.

        As with every single political decision made in the series and in history it’s less than perfect – but unlike many, it WORKED at least in the short term and had the Lannister leadership remained stable, it seems likely that it might have been made to work in the long-term via a combination of mutual self-interest, Mace Tyrells hunger to legitimate the gains he’d made and the Lannister’s relative weakness.

        I will agree that Tywin is just as flawed a political thinker as any other we see in the series, but that unlike many of the others it wasn’t his POLITICAL mistakes that brought him down, it was mistakes he’d made in his personal dealings with others. If anything the flaws in his methods make the success he achieved while utilising them all the more impressive, if anything (from an In-Universe perspective).

        I’d like to close here by agreeing with you that there remains very little sympathy in the Seven Kingdoms for House Lannister, but I suspect that you’ll find a great deal of fear and respect for it’s power – consider that all it’s rivals for the Iron Throne are either dead (Balon, Robb Stark, Renly) or ferociously marginalised (Stannis, stuck a long way from King’s Landing and currently preoccupied with other business); if their own lands have taken a hammering from the King in the North, well … others have taken worse (including The North) and I have yet to hear of the Ironborn pointing their prows towards Lannisport and Fair Isle, even in the wake of the havoc wrought on the Lannister leadership.

      • Celestial says:

        Abbey Battle, I must make a correction to your reply. I have not said that “opinions can be both valid and invalid”. I said “observations” which is not the same thing (and “conclusions” I think it would have been a better word). The difference is fundamental, because even the most brilliant observation/conclusion depends on having the correct information.
        That is why I said that yours (and Axendale’s) observations are both valid and invalid.
        Because, despite bringing up completely different arguments/courses of action, both our analysis are correct.
        It depends as I said of how one views the Tyrell alliance. Were the Tyrells determined to strike against the Lannisters or not?
        Totaly different approaches are required, depending on the answer. If the answer is no, then Axendale’s course of action is the logical choice and Tywin’s policies are vindicated. If the answer is yes, then a covert anti-Tyrell policy is the logical choice and Tywin blundered.

        In my opinion, the answer is yes. Even before Tywin’s death, the Tyrells conspired to assassinate Joffrey to replace him with the tractable Tommen and get a foothold in the North through Sansa Stark. If I was a betting man, I would think that eliminating Tywin was the next step.
        I wonder if Tywin himself hadn’t sensed that something is amiss when he considered marrying Jaime to Margery instead of Tommen. If this hadn’t been just an emotional impulse (Tywin just wanting to have his heir married to the most influential house and out of the KIngsguard), there can be only one reason for this: keep Margery away from Tommen, who would have been a puppet in her hands, and keep the Tyrells away from the Throne, thus making difficult for them to assume the Regency or the Handship in case something ill befell Tywin.

        Do you have any evidence from the text that the Tyrells were not pursuing an anti-Lannister policy?

  13. Abbey Battle says:

    Oh, lest I forget or be thought ungrateful – thank you Axrendale for your compliment; please allow me to return it by saying that your own points are remarkably cogent and well summed-up.

    Additionally I would like to point out that to my eyes Tywin’s attitude towards Tyrion seems less a product of complete obliviousness to his talents than it does a compound of respect for The Imp’s competence as a political actor and a loathing for his person.

    Consider that Tywin was able to recognise Tyrion’s competence as sufficient to be worth staking not only the Lannister hold on Kings Landing (the fountainhead of political legitimacy in the Seven Kingoms), but the lives of his daughter and his grandchildren – the future of his bloodline – on Tyrions ability to function as Hand of the King under the most desperate circumstances.

    One could argue that Tyrion’s wedding to Sansa Stark (however disastrous it proved) is a reflection of this attitude; while the wedding is, in the short term, an apparently futile attempt to compensate for The North’s hatred of ‘Lions’ with their love for ‘Ned Stark’s girl’ in the longer term one has to wonder if it’s not a fairly shrewd manoeuvre in the long term.

    After several years of mismanagement by the Boltons and the Freys, one suspects that Stark Loyalists would be willing to countenance the return of ANY Stark to a position of prominence with open minds, even if arms remain firmly crossed (or placed within easy reach in the event of open violence); admittedly this situation remains almost impossible for almost any Lannister – but Tyrion had already proven his ability to survive, even thrive in impossible political situations not long before.

    I wonder if Tywin’s decision to wed him to the elder Stark lass was a recognition of the fact that if anyone could make it possible for House Lannister to lord it in the North, it would Tyrion – as well as the fact that the Lord of the West and his younger son work best when they’re a long, long way from one another.

    • Celestial says:

      We get a good picture at the North in the aftermath of the war and nobody is even considering Sansa as a heir. And this after it was believed that Sansa poisoned Joffrey (which, theoretically, should have put her in the Northmen’s good graces).

      I think a lot of Tywin’s actions are explained by his mind-boggling arrogance, which makes him delusional to a certain extent.
      Something like “How could the Northmen not accept my son married to Sansa Stark?”, “How could the Tyrells not be honored to be part of the Lannister new order?”, “How could the Riverlords not fall head over heels in gratitude that I spared their sorry lives?”, etc.

  14. Abbey Battle says:

    Celestial, I agree that your points remain valid, but I would like to suggest that Tyrell policy is more pro-Tyrell than anti-Lannister; same endgame, to some degree, but this attitude makes a reasonable foundation for an alliance – just look at the Anglo-French Entente Cordial, equally unthinkable, equally prone to manoeuvre for advantage yet very functional – after all, so long as their interests coincide, what strengthens one House strengthens the other to a degree.

    Let’s face it, while the Tyrell position is stronger than the Lannisters to begin with, they still gain from the alliance; (1) They gain legitimacy (2) They place their candidate on the Iron Throne without having to fight everyone else for the privilege (3) they remove an enemy from their western flank and gain an ally against Dorn, as well as Stannis in a single stroke.

    Best of all, they stop being isolated in a fairly hostile environment; Highgarden hadn’t exactly made enemies right and left, but they had made no real allies before deciding to align themselves with House Lannister.

    The Alliance may well have been flawed, but was no more fundamentally unsound than many others given the proper management (which it most certainly was NOT).

    • Celestial says:

      If you want to use a historical comparison, I think the Soviet-German pact of 1939 fits much better.

      Hitler: extremely cruel, extremely agressive, strong domestic control, allies which were more hindrance than help, utterly despised abroad, reviled by the proletariat, crap diplomatic skills, got Germany into a dead end and he allied with Stalin to get out, achieved some temporary success and seemed to prevail, turned on his ally and ended blowing his brains out

      Tywin: extremely cruel, extremely agressive, strong domestic control, utterly isolated at the beginning of the war, utterly despised abroad, reviled by the proletariat, crap diplomatic skills (depending on opinion here), got House Lannister into a dead end and allied with Tyrells to get out, achieved some temporary success and seemed to prevail, betrayed from inside and died on the shitter

      Stalin: extremely cruel, agressive but cautious, strong domestic control, good PR skills, popular in certain circles, popular among parts of the proletariat, lended hand to treacherous ally to get him out of bad situation, it was speculated he also prepared to backstab his German ally in the back, found new allies against former ally, cheated new allies in the end

      Tyrells: cruel, agressive but cautious, strong domestic control, good PR skills, popular in certain circles, popular among parts of the proletariat, lended hand to ally to get him out of bad situation, prepared to backstab ally – the rest remains to be seen.

    • Celestial says:

      And, btw, I would also like to remind you, that even if we concede the Tyrell alliance, that was not the only blunder.
      Here is a summary:

      1. Tywin does not investigate who was the worm in the apple who gave “Joffrey very bad advice” – despite noticing that bizarre things were occurring in the capitol.

      2. Tywin does not investigate what was behind Cat’s abduction of Tyrion.

      3. Tywin appoints two incompetents at Riverrun and Darry, and gives the region an absentee lord paramount (Baelish) to boot, at a time when the Riverlands needed someone of Baelor Breakspears caliber to recover and be kept in hand.

      4. Tywin gives Baelish green light to take control of one of the most powerful regions, the Vale, for no clearly defined gain.

      5. Tywin undermined the Martell alliance by trying to cheat them off their vengeance, which directly led to Oberyn taking Tyrion’s side so he could fight the mountain.

      6. Tywin agreed to go along with a farce of a trial in Tyrion’s case.

      And this list ignores Tywin’s invasion of the Riverlands because it’s not clear to me what were his intentions and what would have happened had Robert lived. Also his clumsy orchestration of the RW, which succeeded only because his enemy was Robb Stark. No wonder Tywin looks like a criminal mastermind; in comparison with Robb, he actually is.

  15. stevenattewell says:

    Axrendale, Abbey Battle, Celestial – I think this debate has played itself out, with both sides fully developed. Can further discussion on this topic be moved to email?

  16. stevenattewell says:

    Re: inheritance laws:

    “In the north the children of a man’s body still come before his uncles, ser.” – which only makes sense if uncles come before female children in the South!

    • Celestial says:

      Steve, don’t you think you are overanalyzing a bit? After Tywin’s death, Cersei becomes Lady of the Rock, not Kevan. He literally tells her when she asks him to be Hand “you are the Lady of the Rock now… Your place is there”.

      And, btw, what makes you think the Hand can make appointments to the Small Council and the Command of the City Watch? Tyrion does replace Janos Slynt with Bywater and Tywin appoints Adam Marbrand, but both appointments took place where legalities were irrelevant (Tyrion was maneuvering against Cersei and Tywin was basically ignoring her). Jon Arryn wanted to replace Slynt, but could not.

      Frankly speaking, if the Hand had the legal right to make such appointments, then it could easily turn the nominal king into his puppet. I doubt the more capable kings from the past would have granted such power to the office of Hand. Is there any evidence in the text?

      • stevenattewell says:

        1. I think that has more to do with Kevan’s personality and his intense need to get her out of the city.
        2. The Hand of the King “speaks with the King’s voice.” That’s the reason they exist – to give the King someone who can govern while he’s busy. And yes, past Hands have turned Kings into their puppets – Maegor bulled over the weak Aenys, Bloodraven dominated Aerys I, and we’ve seen how Tywin is able to completely dominate Joffrey.

      • Celestial says:

        1. But could he have told Cersei an outright lie? Cersei knew the inheritance laws as well so, if it was not true, she would have started wondering immediately what Kevan was talking about.
        Cersei is not stupid in the sense of lacking knowledge, it’s just that her pettyness and narcissism make her focus on minor issue and miss the bigger picture. When she allows the Faith to rearm, she knew the history of the Faith Militant and what a danger it was, it’s just that she could not think beyond getting rid of the debt and the Faith’s animosity towards Stannis.

        2. The examples you gave are not appropriate, because they were determined by the personalities of the respective characters. A weak king dominated by a more competent adviser (regardless how great was his legal authority) who exploits the king’s weaknesses and flaws is nothing new under the sun. The problem is, if the Hand had the power to make key appointments, then he has the LEGAL means to make the nominal king an irellevancy. Unless everyone who sat on the Iron Throne was an utter fool, I doubt that no king saw the danger and took no measures to limit the Hand’s powers.
        The Hand speaking “with the King’s voice” does not have to mean he has the same powers as the King. It could mean just that the decisions he is allowed to take have full royal authority bestowed upon them.
        The Hand commands the armies and dispenses justice, but I doubt that among his powers could be the one of making appointments to the Council or calling the banners. It would be political suicide for the monarchy.

        • stevenattewell says:

          You can give up inheritances – as Lancel does.

          How are they not appropriate? You asked for examples of Hands who exercised power.

          This isn’t a constitutional monarchy where rules are written down.

      • Celestial says:

        Here is the description of what happens with the City Watch command when Cersei is imprisoned:
        “Qyburn: – Osfryd Kettleback no longer commands the City Watch. The King has removed him from office and raised the captain of the Dragon Gate in his place, a certain Humfrey Waters.
        Cersei: – Why would Tommen do that?
        Qyburn: – The boy is not to blame. When his council puts a decree in front of him, he signs his name and stamps it with his seal”.

        Harys Swift was Hand at that time and yet he had to go through the facade of Tommen signing the appointments.

        Here is what Stannis has to say regarding Janos Slynt: “I saw the proof Jon Arryn laid before the Small Council. If I had been king, you would have lost more than your office, I promise you, but Robert shrugged away your little lapses”.

        It seems that, while the Hand might sway the King (one way or another), it does not have the legal authority to replace the City Watch, else why Swift and Arryn needed Tommen and Robert’s “signatures” to do so?

        • stevenattewell says:

          My belief is that it can go either way. The Hand can do something, and then ask for retroactive Kingly approval, or ask the King’s permission.

      • Celestial says:

        Steve, no offence, but you are really stretching it. Here is what Cersei thinks when they bring her news of Tywin’s demise: “Casterly Rock was hers know, and all the power of House Lannister. No one would ever disregard her again. Even when Tommen had no further need of a regent, the Lady of Casterly Rock would remain a power in the land”. That was before she had the chance to speak with Kevan, so, if Kevan had some inheritance to “give up”, he probably told her through telepathy.

        In addition, Kevan giving up Casterly Rock would have been a momentous event within the Lannister ranks. Lancel’s decision to give up Darry is often commented, yet no one says anything about the much more important one – Kevan abandoning the Rock.

        “How are they not appropriate? You asked for examples of Hands who exercised power. ”

        I did not ask for any examples. I merely pointed out that the powers you ascribe to the Office of Hand would turn the Office of King into an empty position. You replied by providing some individual examples of historical accidents. What about them? If the King is weak enough, then he could be bullied by anyone on the Council.

      • Celestial says:

        Some additional evidence. When Tyrion talks with Oberyn in his cell, he refers to Jaime as ahead of Cersei to inherit Casterly Rock. Kevan never enters his thoughts. “If Dornish Law applied in the West, she would be the heir to Casterly Rock in her own right, She and Jaime were twins, but Cersei had come first into the world, and that was all it took”.
        In addition, Tyrion had lengthy conversations with Kevan during his trial and he never mentions the inheritance of Casterly Rock – despite the fact that Tywin’s arrest and potential execution would have made Kevan the heir, if what you claim is correct.

        Also here is what the maester of Gorold Goodbrother says to Aeron Damphair at the beginning of A Feast for Crows: “By rights, the Seastone Chair belongs to Theon, or Asha if the Prince is dead. That is the law.”
        “Pray all you wish, the maester said. It does not change the law. Theon is the rightful heir, and Asha next”.

        Frankly speaking, the phrase “In the north the children of a man’s body still come before his uncles, ser” seems more like a proclamation of their northern heritage.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Which is meaningless if it doesn’t indicate a difference.

          The situation is deliberately ambiguous. This is from So Spake Martin on
          “The laws of inheritance in Westeros are vague. Outside of Dorne, a man’s eldest son is his heir, followed by the next youngest son, and so on. After the sons, most would say that the eldest daughter would inherit but there might be argument from the dead man’s brother or a nephew. There are many other questions with murky answers, in particular having to do with the rights of legitimized bastards (SSM: 1)”

          So it’s not settled that a daughter inherits over an uncle or nephew.

      • Celestial says:

        “Which is meaningless if it doesn’t indicate a difference.”

        Maybe it was refering to the Iron Islands where tradition stood against a daughter inheriting before uncles.

        In a land as big as Westeros, there were going to be many customs, naturally, but clear statements that usually a daughter inherits before an uncle are better evidence than some ambiguous statement with a possibly implied North/South comparison which is based only on a questionable inference of your own making.

        Arguing otherwise is just being in denial.
        It is as settled as it could be in a medieval setting. The very quotation you provided said that MOST people say the eldest daughter inherits but there MIGHT be argument from uncles/cousins. In Westeros, any claim MIGHT be disputed by someone if he is convincing enough (by having a bigger army, more supporters, more money, more skill at arms, a skilled assassin or whatever).

      • Celestial says:

        One more suggestion for Steve regarding the inheritance laws: the phrase you quoted my refer not to the fact that uncles come before daughters in the South, but specifically to the laws of succession to the Iron Throne.
        After the Dance of Dragons, it was established the precedent that sons come before daughters (something which is not clear whether it was in the Targaryen succession law prior to that event) and later it seems to have been extended that all male relatives come before daughters, the first application of this law being the ascension of Viserys II ahead of Daena the Defiant, eldest sister of previous Kings, Daeron I and Baelor I.
        It is not clear though whether the new Baratheon dinasty felt itself bound to the Targaryen laws. There is a strong hint in the text it was not the case: Stannis offered to make Renly his heir at their parlay. It was impossible to make such a proposal if Renly had already been his heir – it would have been seen as a mockery by Renly and rightly so.

        • stevenattewell says:

          Except that as a rebel against the rightful heir, Renly would normally be disinherited if not executed outright.

          I read that as Stannis agreeing to let bygones be bygones.

      • Celestial says:

        True, you’re right. I forgot about that.

  17. Abbey Battle says:

    Just popping in to acknowledge Maester Steven’s request to cease and desist (with apologies) and salute my indomitable opponent Celestial.

    My best to you both and no hard feelings.

  18. hertolo says:

    Having watched the premiere of season 3, one other result of the difference between the books and the show hit me. By not having Barristan Selmy at the council meeting where the assassination attempt on Dany is discussed, they not only streamlined that scene a bit, they also can now argue that Selmy doesn’t know who the spy is in Daenerys camp. This changes the season 3 plot of Dany quite a bit, as now the conflict between the revealed Selmy (and not Arstan) and Jorah will be fought more openly. Or not, they can still pretend Selmy knows the spy. But at least, they have their options open now. I’m looking forward how they play that out.

    And on that note, I’m curious how this blog will look like when we get to these chapters in A Storm of Swords, if you even get that far. And I hope you do!

    • stevenattewell says:

      That’s a good point. It is going to be interesting to see.

      I’m clocking about 18 months per book at the current rate, so I should be there sometime in 2015.

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