Guest Essay on Tower of the Hand – Hollow Crowns, Part IV

Over on Tower of the Hand, I’ve published the fourth part in my five-part series on the Westerosi monarchy. In this part, I compare and contrast how Stannis and Renly Baratheon think about the monarchy, and how their different political philosophies both explain their personalities and also have dramatic consequences for the Seven Kingdoms.

Check it out!


26 thoughts on “Guest Essay on Tower of the Hand – Hollow Crowns, Part IV

  1. Abbey Battle says:

    Congratulations on another fine article Maester Steven; I’m particularly tickled by your reference to Master Hobbes, who does rather seem to be the sort of philosopher who could happily join with Lord Stannis to glower at the realm in tandem – it’s also amusing to reflect on the fact that Lord Renly’s philosophy on Kingship (as described by your own good self) seems very similar to that practiced by Edward III (albeit practiced far more successfully) according to Master Ian Mortimer – source of much of my knowledge regarding the later medieval Kings of England (or as I like to refer to them grist for GRR Martin’s Kingsmill).

    • stevenattewell says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I think Hobbes would get along with Stannis.

      Interesting parallel, although I don’t think Renly would be down with a Parliament.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        I suspect that would depend on the precise degree to which such an assembly remained a piggy bank/public relations gesture Vs an honest-to-Montfort brake on the Royal Prerogative.

        It’s interesting to speculate on whether King Renly might or might not have bothered to construct his own variation on Versailles – all the better to separate HIS variation on the Baratheon Dynasty from pretenders and allow him to exert his charm over the various Lords Paramount.

      • stevenattewell says:

        I think he probably would have done something similar to Versailles in the Red Keep; i.e, “invite” the ruling lords to hang out at his amazing parties at huge expense.

        The Great Council actually chose who the king was, which was a pretty huge step for the real-world Parliament in 1688.

  2. Abbey Battle says:

    I almost forgot to add this query, set down here since I was not sure where else to put it:

    What do you think of Maester Stefan’s essay concerning ‘The Riverrun Decision’ made and then second-guessed by Ser Edmure Tully? (as a habitual apologist for Ser Edmure, I must say that I find it hard to disagree with and easy to support, but I would be interested in hearing your honest opinion on the article, if possible).

  3. Sean C. says:

    There are a lot of pros and cons to Stannis as king. The “one god” part of his motto could be enormously problematic, depending on how far he would actually take it — at worst, it would make the Faith Militant uprising look like a minor tax dispute, and bring out the worst aspects of the religious wars that devastated the Holy Roman Empire.

    On the other hand, I think Stannis would run by far the most efficient and corruption-free government, and would probably deliver the most equal justice of the lot (though I’m sure Robb would try as well).

    • stevenattewell says:

      The question is how far he would take it – I don’t think BookStannis is a true believer as much as he is in the show. It’s an open question how much he knew about the shadowbabies, he’s openly skeptical about whether Robb dying had to do with the leech ritual, and he doesn’t make a decision about Edric.

      I think he’d give Melisandre some patronage, but I don’t think he’d go the whole hog in terms of dismantling the Faith of the Seven. And the results? Well, with a disarmed Faith, much less frightening than post-Cersei.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        I think just how much patronage Lady Melisandre might receive depends on the precise degree to which Lord Stannis feels that he owes the throne to her intervention (also on just how many King’s Men were around to counterbalance The Red Queen).

      • stevenattewell says:

        Depends on when it happens – if Stannis wins at Blackwater without Melisandre, I think he thinks he’s the primary factor in winning the war. Mel helped him get his traitorous brother out of the way, but he was the general in charge.

        If he becomes king later…maybe another story.

  4. Andrew says:

    I loved the essay. I think there may be a parallel with Nuada of the Silver Hand and Jaime Lannister, given his golden hand. Jaime’s death could signify the end of the war and the conflict going back to Robert’s Rebellion and the Blackfyre Rebellion after Aegon and Varys die before him.

    Stannis and Renly are close to foils to each other. Renly has the charisma that Stannis lacks, but Stannis is willing to do the work of administering a kingdom.Renly’s idea for a kingdom is a weak central monarchy while Stannis’s idea is strong, active central monarchy.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Glad you liked it!

      Re; Nuada. Possibly, although Nuada’s hand was functional and magical, and Jaime’s isn’t and is mundane.

  5. Roger_Raven says:

    Talkin about Stannis, I think I now understand why he married Selysse Florent. Probably it was Jon Arryn idea. The Tyrells were the main loyalists during the Usurper War. While we know the Tarlys, the Redwynes and the Rowans eagerly joined Lord Mace’s host, we don’t know any Florent directly involved. Probably they gave the minimum possible help to the King. Perhaps even remaining de facto neutrals. Secretly hoping Robert will smash both Targaryens and Tyrells.

    so Robert needed to divided the Reach’s bannermen. Being notorious “anti-Tyrell” disidents, the Florents were probably more inclined to marry a Baratheon. Especialy if he was the apparent heir, being Lord of Dragonstone and Master of the Ship.

    Stannis isn’t the worst possible king. Especialy if gets free of Melisande. Thoros of Myr could be a much better influence.

    I even have the secret desire that Stannis could marry Daenerys some day… I know he isn’t the kind of husband a young girl wants. But that would make peace between their Houses, and end at last the Usurper War. And Stannis and Arryn were the real rulers during Robert’s reign, despite the Drunk King and Mad Cersei excesses.

    • The Florents make a logical counter-balance to the Tyrells, although I’ve often wondered what would have happened had Robert married into the Tyrells instead of the Lannisters in forming his post-rebellion coalition.

      Stannis would probably be a good king now, but I don’t think that would be the case without the growth he’s experienced post-Blackwater and the influence that Davos has had on him.

  6. Roger says:

    The problem was there wasn’t any Tyrell lady single at that moment. Mace sisters were already married, AFAIK, and Margaery was only a child. Also, he probably needed Lannister’s gold.

    • Were they, though? Mina would have been about the right age, guessing by her sons Horace and Hobber; Janna likewise. There’s also two nieces who might have been of the same age. And we don’t know when they got married, and I wouldn’t put it past Mace to break an engagement or have a hubbie knocked off to get a Tyrell into the royal bedchamber.

      Likewise, the Tyrells are plenty rich.

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, it just occurred to me today that one could reasonably argue (from the evidence available at present) that a similar philosophical divide underlay the Blackfyre Rising – Armed Power Vs Force of Law, Charisma Vs Legitimacy, with a younger, more glamourous half-brother rebelling against a more serious-minded Elder (although King Daeron the Good and Ser Daemon Blackfyre seem to have been rather different personalities from the Brothers Baratheon it will be interesting to see what other parallels might be evoked between these two incidents of Alternate History).

    Interestingly Lord Renly seems to have been more successful in securing the support of a Great House and it’s undivided power than Ser Daemon ever was – I wonder if this says something about the state of Westeros, post-Robert’s Rebellion?

    On another note, if you’re ever looking for a portrait of Ser Daemon Blackfyre that sells his potency as a living embodiment of the Warrior Ideal better than the somewhat-youthful image by Amoka, then I would suggest you look through the gallery of a deviantARTIST called Oznerol-1516 (and ask his permission to use the image, of course):

    He’s really very good! (I can highly recommend a tour around his gallery).

    • Sure, the parallels are there. There’s also a few complications:

      1. The disruption of the Targaryen line caused by Baelor.
      2. Pro- and anti-Dornish factions at court.
      3. Personal and emotional conflicts.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Indeed – I tend to suspect that a major part of the tensions at the court of Daeron the Good derived from the fact he tended to behave as a father towards his (generally much younger) half-siblings and NOT the ‘Cool Dad’ sort of father.

  8. […] yet, as I have argued, it’s worth debating how well Donal Noye saw these men – Robert was not a good king, […]

  9. […] discussed the letter in some detail here, because I really think there’s an enormous amount you can learn about Stannis’ […]

  10. […] of warning before I begin: a lot of what I think about Renly Baratheon has already been done in Hollow Crowns Part IV, and rather than repeat what I have to say here, you might want to read that essay before you read […]

  11. […]  As with Jaime, as with Brienne, as with so many others in A Song of Ice and Fire, Jon finds himself caught between his individual moral instincts and the interests of the larger institution to which he has pledged himself – in this case, the Night’s Watch. On the one hand, Gilly’s appeal, to protect her life and that of her child from the Others, is the literal purpose for which the Night’s Watch was founded, and to abandon her to human sacrifice against her will is flagrantly immoral. On the other hand, Jon’s actions would violate the agreement between Craster and the Night’s Watch, upon which the lives of dozens if not hundreds of Night’s Watchmen depend. Yet again, Gilly’s comment that  “they said the king keeps people safe” is an appeal to the social contract written into the vows of the Night’s Watch and at the very heart of GRRM’s theory of monarchy. […]

  12. […] sequentially. However, to fully grasp what’s going on here, you’ll need to have read Hollow Crowns, Part IV, where I’ve already done much of the analysis of how Stannis and Renly view the monarchy, […]

  13. […] essay. (Incidentally, I’m also going to be discussing themes I first explored in-depth in my Hollow Crowns essay on Renly and Stannis, so you might want to familiarize yourself with that before […]

  14. ecr56 says:

    This series is great! I agree with Stannis that the social contract allowed Robert’s Rebellion to take place (and so Stannis’ actions weren’t wrong). But then, this logic wouldn’t also mean people can rebel against Stannis? His claim to the Iron Throne means he should defend the Faith of the Seven, as Jaehaerys agreed. But he has a new religion which sometimes shows no respect for others (the Brotherhood are respectful, but Melisandre isn’t). Therefore, I think a true knight ought to fight against Stannis, as knights are a Seven thing. What do you think? And if yes, why hasn’t people like Davos told him about this morally acceptable way to oppose him?

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