Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Eddard XIII

“Joffrey is not your son,” he wanted to say, but the words would not come…So Ned bent his head and wrote, but where the king had said “my son Joffrey,” he scrawled “my heir” instead. The deceit made him feel soiled. The lies we tell for love.

Synopsis: Ned Stark is awoken to find that Robert Baratheon, first of his name, is dying. In his last act for his oldest friend, Ned writes down his last will and testament more in the spirit than the letter of Robert’s intent. Now Regent of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Ned sends a letter to Stannis Baratheon naming him the new King. He then has two meetings, one of which he thinks goes better than the other.

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:

In a way, my analysis of Eddard Stark as a political actor throughout A Game of Thrones has all been leading to this point – the moment where Eddard Stark makes his most important and penultimate political decision, refusing to take up Renly or Littlefinger’s offers, then trusting Littlefinger to buy the Goldcloaks or him. There’s a lot to get into, so be prepared for a long post.

A Sidenote on Ned and Mental Health

Before I begin, I want to talk about a question I’ve been pondering for some time. In this chapter, Ned suffers a rather horrendous nightmare where he’s in the tombs of his ancestors with living statues and his sister weeping blood. Then once he wakes up, his initial reaction to seeing three Knights of the Kingsguard is to have a flashback to the Tower of Joy. This is not the first time that Ned’s had episodes that could be construed as traumatic nightmares or waking flashbacks: he has a moment in Eddard XII where he “thought of pale blue roses, and for a moment…wanted to weep;” in Eddard X there’s his fever dream of the Tower of Joy; in Eddard IX, “riding through the rainy night, Ned saw Jon Snow’s face in front of him;” as far back as Eddard I, we learn that “he could hear [Lyanna] still at times,” and we see him hearing “promise me, Ned,” in Eddard II as well.

This has led some to consider whether Eddard Stark has, from the very beginning of A Game of Thrones, been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Certainly, he does seem to fit some of the criteria set out in DSM IV: “exposure to a traumatic event,” (Ned suffered the loss of his sister, brother, and father in quick succession and then spent two years fighting in a war in which he saw heavy combat, suffered significant wounds, and was witness to the massacre at King’s Landing) “persistent re-experiencing” (Ned has both flashbacks and nightmares that revolve around what he’s seen in the past, and spends a lot of time thinking about what happened at the Tower of Joy and the Sack of King’s Landing), “persistent avoidance and emotional numbing,” (perhaps his intense gloominess and rigid self-control?), “persistent symptoms of increased arousal,” (not so much, which is where this theory shows its weakness), and so on.

If Ned has PTSD, and it’s not a lock that he does, I think this throws his decision-making in the later chapters of AGOT into a different light: instead of seeing Ned as driven totally by honor into making stupid decisions, it instead suggests that what we have here is a veteran who suffered huge losses in the Rebellion for whom taking on the job of Hand has meant re-exposure to triggering events of violence (the two attempts on Bran’s life, the fracas between Arya, Sansa, Joffrey, and how the queen handled it, the death of Ser Hugh, the murder of his guards, his own injury), and who is perhaps subconsciously trying to avoid a breakdown of his mental stability by choosing options that preclude further violence.

The Will

Robert Baratheon’s will, and Ned’s part in crafting and implementing it, is one of the most frequently debated topics in AGOT. On the one hand, this event is held up as a rare example of Ned finally bestirring himself to do something underhanded in the pursuit of a greater good, and finally acting in a political way. On the other, it’s also seen as Ned’s greatest error (although some would put his conversation with Cersei in first place), where an honorable fool puts his trust in untrustworthy men and his faith in a peace of paper.

After all, it’s argued, what use is paper when swords determine who wins the Game of Thrones? Well, as Varys puts it:

In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. “Do it” says the king, “for I am your lawful ruler.” “Do it” says the priest, “for I command you in the names of the gods.” “Do it” says the rich man, “and all this gold shall be yours.” So tell me – who lives and who dies?”…

“Power is a curious thing, my lord…Power resides where men believe it resides.” (A Clash of Kings)

In other words, paper can matter a great deal – because what we’re talking about here is legitimacy. Cersei may pretend that swords are the only things that matter, but at the end of the day her first move was to put Joffrey on the Iron Throne and proclaim him king, not to launch an armed coup without justification. Littlefinger may be something of a nihilist and a sociopath, but he understands the value of titles and old names. So legitimacy still matters, and wills can be powerful sources of legitimacy – after all, Stephen may have usurped the crown from the Empress Maude (or Aegon II from Rhaenyra if you’re being picky), but Henry I’s will (or Viserys I’s) was still important enough to pull half the kingdom behind the challenger to the throne and fuel a civil war that lasted for years. A will was enough to make Richard III Lord Protector of England, and that was enough to make him King. Octavian Caesar was a rather unimpressive youngster competing against a decorated and beloved military commander in Marc Antony, but at the end of the day Caesar’s will naming him his son and heir was vital to his becoming Augustus.

If anything, Eddard’s real mistake here was that he didn’t rely enough on the will, failing to publicize it widely – instead, Eddard sleeps on the matter, intending to announce his Regency in the morning. Had he acted more like Stannis did with his open letter, and had it proclaimed throughout the capitol that very night that Eddard Stark was “Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm,” he could have parlayed the legitimacy of Robert’s will into real political power among the smallfolk of King’s Landing, the noble Houses of the Crownlands (to say nothing of the Vale, those Stormlands Houses that went with neither Stannis nor Renly, and the Dornish), the other non-Lannister nobles present in the capitol, and possibly even among the rank-and-file of the Gold Cloaks. Certainly Eddard was thinking in those terms when he had Pycelle and Renly witness the sealing of the will (and it may be that Pycelle’s eagerness to slip Robert some milk of the poppy asap was aimed at forestalling Robert from making an official will), and summoned the Small Council to have it read out the next morning.

It would also be interesting to see what would have happened had Eddard Stark more widely publicized his declaration that Stannis Baratheon was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Remember, the cover story that Eddard eventually agrees to before Baelor is that “I plotted to depose and murder his son and seize the throne for myself.” As I’ve argued before, if it had become public knowledge that Eddard Stark had claimed that Joffrey was a bastard and Stannis was the rightful heir, this would have changed the political and military situation at the start of the War of Five Kings – if Stannis starts the war with it known that two of the Seven Kingdoms are going to back him, then I think Stannis gets much more support among the Stormlords and has a better shot with the lords of the Vale; Renly would still get the bulk of the Stormlands and the Reach, but important Houses like the Florents would be swayed both by the practical politics and the legitimacy of the Regent’s decree.

At the end of the day, it’s not 100% one way or the other. It’s not that military power didn’t matter during the coup and counter-coup that’s about to ensue, but the nature of its importance isn’t quite what many people think. Eddard didn’t need military hegemony within King’s Landing to succeed, only military parity long enough to allow him to get the word out, prevent Cersei from capturing himself and his family, and hold out for Stannis who with 5,000 men on Dragonstone could easily take the capitol at this point in time. Had he simply prevented Cersei from gaining local hegemony the day Robert dies, this would be a very different story.

The Military Balance of Power

And indeed, the military balance of power was finely balanced at this precise moment: Cersei has “a dozen knights and a hundred men at arms,” and she has a lot she needs to do (hold the seat of government, defeat opposing forces, secure the gates and the port, maintain public order). Ned Stark came south with 50 men, he loses three when Jaime Lannister attacks him, and then gives 20 to Beric Dondarrion, so he has 27 men. At this point, it’s too late to reinforce or recruit, which as I’ve argued was a major mistake, but those aren’t the only men in the city. We know that Renly has access to 100 men, and we also know that there are anywhere between 100-200 “king’s men” (either Crownlanders or Baratheon bannermen) who came up to Winterfell and back to King’s Landing.

Moreover, we’re talking about a situation where physical control of the Throne itself and a very few people is enough to seize political power. When it all goes down in the Throne room, Cersei only has twenty six men of her own on the spot, and relies heavily on the treachery of the Gold Cloaks to win the day. A better timing of Ned’s coup or even a moderate shift in the balance of forces in the limited space in the room, and there’s a sword at Joffrey and/or Cersei’s throat and the coup goes the other way – it’s ultimately about having the most met at the precise point where you need them.

So by any count, there’s potentially an anti-Lannister military superiority in the capitol, as long as the Stark and Baratheon forces can unite, if the Gold Cloaks stay out of it. Of course, the moment the Gold Cloaks get into it, victory goes to whoever controls them – but only if the conflict is decisive. As I’ve said above, if Ned had succeeded in getting the word out to Stannis and avoided capture, quite possibly it’s Stannis’ 5,000 who would be decisive.

The Two Offers

On to the heart of the chapter: Renly and Littlefinger’s offers and Ned’s objection to them.

In the first case, Renly offers Ned “a hundred swords in your hand,” and proposes to:

“Strike! Now, while the castle sleeps…get Joffrey away from his mother and take him in hand. Protector or no, the man who holds the king holds the kingdom. We should seize Myrcella and Tommen as well. Once we have her children, Cersei will not dare oppose us. The council will confirm you as Lord Protector and make Joffrey your ward.”

On a pragmatic level, Renly’s offer makes a lot of sense – it would be possible for Ned and Renly together to establish local superiority of force, gain control over the person of the heirs, and thus take control of King’s Landing. And Renly is quite correct that seizing the moment in the face of Lannister ruthlessness is key. To this extent then, those who criticize Ned for rejecting him are justified.

At the same time, there’s more going on here than just Ned’s honor. I’ll get to my criticism of Renly’s plan as an alternative to civil war later, but first I’d point out that Renly’s political skills fail him a bit here. In the first place, Renly fails utterly to gauge the man he’s dealing with and frame his plan as a means to avoid bloodshed, even though he knows that Eddard was the kind of man who would resign the Handship rather than accede to the assassination of a young girl. Second, Renly doesn’t offer much in the way of a political alternative to the status quo (notably he doesn’t put himself forward for the Throne, a difference from the show that really wrong-footed me, more on which later) – keeping Joffrey as one’s “ward” is a really short-term plan with no solution for what happens when a young man whose family has been held prisoner gains his majority and becomes King. Third, as I’ll point out later, Renly doesn’t account for some critical factors that would have led to civil war despite his coup.

At the same time, I think Ned deserves some opprobrium here – but not about being honorable. Most importantly, Ned says nothing to Renly about Joffrey’s legitimacy and his plan to make Stannis king; even more so than Renly, he completely fails to offer a political alternative to Lannister dominance. While Renly might not have liked the idea of Stannis as King that much, he may well have responded to the argument that Stannis’ 5,000 men were necessary for survival. Almost as importantly, Ned doesn’t make an actual request for Renly’s swords for any plan, despite knowing that “he might well have need of Renly’s hundred swords.” It’s a massive mistake apart from the question of honor.

In the second case, Littlefinger is told of Ned’s plan to make Stannis the King, and argues that “Stannis cannot take the throne without your help. If you’re wise, you’ll make certain Joffrey succeeds.” In a speech that is so perfectly pitched to run counter to everything Eddard Stark is that I’m fairly certain Littlefinger had no intention of ever carrying out this plot, he argues that:

“Stannis is no friend of yours, nor of mine….He’ll give us a new Hand and a new council, for a certainty…And his ascent will mean war. Stannis cannot rest easy on the throne until Cersei and her bastards are dead. Do you think Lord Tywin will sit idly…Casterly Rock will rise…

Joffrey is but a boy of twelve, and Robert gave you the regency, my lord. You are the Hand of the King and Protector of the Realm. The power is yours, Lord Stark. All you need do is reach out and take it. Make your peace with the Lannisters…it will be four years before Joffrey comes of age…Long enough to dispose of Lord Stannis. Then, should Joffrey prove troublesome, we can reveal his little secret and put Lord Renly on the throne.”

I will explain why this plan is insane in a moment, but I want to be clear: being too honorable to take up Littlefinger’s offer, and ultimately then honorable enough to trust that Littlefinger will follow him despite turning him down, is not the reason Ned Stark fell from power. The reason Ned Stark falls from power is his inability to understand institutional power. Instead of understanding the fiscal powers of the state as an institution  that exists outside of the man who occupies the office, he sees Littlefinger as “the man who pays” and thinks that he has to use Littlefinger. In reality, Ned is Hand of the King and Lord Protector of the Realm – he doesn’t need Littlefinger to take command of the City Guard.

I’ve discussed before that Ned Stark has every authority to simply replace Janos Slynt and his leading officers and take command of the Goldcloaks, but even if we accept for the sake of argument that he’s left it too late to do that, Ned could simply seize the royal treasury and buy their support himself. His twenty-seven men isn’t enough to take on Cersei, but it’s more soldiers than Littlefinger has, so he could simply open up the vaults and use the gold to buy Slynt and every mercenary in the city. Indeed, as Hand of the King and Lord Protector, this wouldn’t even be illegal; he’s got full authority to make use of royal funds as he sees fit and he’s ultimately responsible for making sure the guard get paid.

Why These Plans Are Insane:

Ned Stark is frequently criticized for turning down these offers, to the point where sometimes it’s argued that\ to the smallfolk Eddard is just as much a villain as the Lannisters because his stubbornness and attachment to personal honor caused the War of Five Kings, whereas if he’d taken up either offer, war would have been averted.

However, both plans ignore several key factors that by this point made war inevitable and which render these plans unfit for purpose:

  • Stannis already knows about the incest, and is going to war. Ever since his time investigating with Jon Arryn, Stannis has believed that Cersei’s children are abominations born of incest and that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. Hence why he’s been gathering 5,000 men to protect himself from the Lannisters and seize the Throne from the usurpers (or the usurper’s usurpers, if you’re a Targaryen loyalist). Regardless of whether Ned takes up the offer of either Renly or Littlefinger, there’s going to be a civil war between those who uphold Joffrey’s right to the Throne and those who hold for a legitimate Baratheon. If he takes up Renly’s offer and has Joffrey seized, Ned is going to be in the impossible situation of having to defend his “ward” from Stannis while his “ward’s” family fight him at the same time.

While Renly says that Cersei won’t fight them while they hold her children, what he ignores is that Tywin’s not the kind of man who rolls over when someone kidnaps his blood relations – he’s already making war on the Riverlands for Tyrion’s sake, he’s not going to do less for his daughter and her son who Tywin sees as the foundation of a Lannister dynasty. Thus, Ned will have to defend the capitol with insufficient forces from Stannis, who’ll have a free hand to raise the Stormlands against the Lannisters (since Renly will be stuck in King’s Landing and unable to rally his bannermen), while the main Stark forces are up in the North with Tywin’s army between them and the capitol. 

If on the other hand, Ned takes up Littlefinger’s offer, even assuming Tywin’s interested in making peace with the Starks, Littlefinger offers no evidence why Renly would back Joffrey and the Lannisters over Stannis when we know that Renly views the Lannisters as a threat to his lie. It’s much more likely that Renly would react to a Stark/Lannister alliance by rallying the Stormlands and the Reach (possibly even allying with Stannis to further bolster his numbers), which means there’s going to be a grueling civil war, not an easy pushover like Littlefinger predicts.

  • Renly is already trying to seize the Throne. We’ve seen already how Renly was scheming with the Tyrells to shove Margaery into Robert’s bed, and we will see that Renly will later marry Margaery to give himself the military might to seize the Throne. As I’ve said, if Eddard takes up Littlefinger’s plan, Renly’s going to decamp to Highgarden and rally the south against the Lannisters, which means there’s going to be a drawn-out civil war as I’ve said.

This also acts as a major problem for Renly’s plan too – at some point, he’s going to need Joffrey out of the way, which means that Eddard is going to be in the awful position as guardian to a lad likely to be murdered, and allied to a man who wants to overthrow him and take the Throne. All of this is going to be going on as Littlefinger and Varys work to destabilize King’s Landing from within (because they both want the civil war to continue), and while Eddard is likely having to fight both Tywin and Stannis.

  • Both plans don’t reckon on Balon Greyjoy. While Robb Stark gets a lot of criticism for letting Theon back, people don’t really think about how long it takes to pull a navy together and plan an invasion of a territory as big as the North. Balon Greyjoy must have been planning this for months if not years, waiting for any vacuum of power (just as he did when Robert was on the Throne, just as his grandfather Dagon did during the Great Spring Sickness) to attack.

So regardless of which offer Ned takes up, he’s going to be in a difficult situation in which either he calls in the army of the North to defend his position in the South, or can’t get any reinforcements at King’s Landing because Robb Stark is fending off the Greyjoys. It’s hugely problematic for Renly’s plan – what happens if the Greyjoys prevent Eddard from bringing Stark troops to bear when Stannis attacks the city, regardless of which way the Lannisters go. It’s also hugely problematic for Littlefinger – a Stark/Lannister alliance becomes much less invincible against the Baratheons (or the Baratheon/Tyrells) if Balon attacks EITHER the Starks or the Lannisters.

  • Both plans don’t reckon on a Targaryen Invasion. As we know, Varys and Illrio are plotting to grab themselves a Dothraki army and the Golden Company, and both or either force is going to land on Westeros soon – indeed, despite Varys getting thrown off schedule by Stannis’ assault on King’s Landing and the sudden reversal with Dany’s dragons, in OTL Aegon lands in the Stormlands about two years from now. Neither plan is well-suited to deal with this – Littlefinger assumes that the Targaryen loyalists wouldn’t rise against a Stark/Lannister alliance, but doesn’t really have a plan about how to keep both the Dornish and the Reach from doing so with or without the arrival of a significant professional army and a Targaryen candidate for the Iron Throne. Likewise, Renly doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on Dornish politics, possibly because of his connection to the Tyrells, and assumes they’ll be down with the Tyrells backing a Lannister on the Iron Throne.

Ultimately, both plans ignore powerful factions that will become engaged in the War of Five Kings (although to be fair, neither could have predicted the last factor, and it would have been a stretch to assume the next to last factor), and assume that political actors will act in a completely uncharacteristic fashion.

Ned’s mistake isn’t that he doesn’t take up either plan, but rather that his own plan – seize the Throne and hold it for Stannis – is hobbled by Ned’s inability to make use of institutional power (and not acting quickly enough).

Historical Analysis:

Last time, I began my argument that Richard Duke of York was the historical counterpart to Eddard Stark in general terms. In this installment, I’m going to show how their political careers paralleled each other in many ways, as both men strove to right a tottering monarchy and clashed with a powerful queen and her allies.

First, some background: much of the Wars of the Roses grew out of political conflicts that broke out after the death of Henry V in the Hundred Years War. In 1425, English power was at its height in France thanks to Henry V’s victory at Agincourt and in the conquest of Normandy that followed: Brittany, Normandy, Gascony, Aquitaine, Poiters, Champaigne, Maine, Anjou, and Paris were all under direct English rule, and the powerful Duchy of Burgundy was a major English ally. Following Henry V’s death, political power was divided nominally between Jon of Lancaster, Henry V’s brother and the Duke of Bedford, who was made Governor of Normandy and Regent of France, and his younger brother Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was made Protector of England.

However, English public policy was paralyzed by clashes between Bedford and Gloucester over who was really in charge, and a second division between Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, the Bishop of Winchester (and later Cardinal), the former of whom favored war with France and the latter peace. Despite Gloucester being named Protector, Beaufort was much better at influencing the Privy Council and controlled much of the Regency Government between 1422-1437. He was especially good at advancing the careers of his Beaufort relatives, especially the Earls and Dukes of Somerset, and in making an alliance with the powerful de la Pole family, especially William de la Pole the Earl and later Duke of Suffolk, who he groomed as his political heir.

All this is important, because when in 1435 Richard Duke of York went to France to replace the aging Duke of Bedford, he began to clash with Suffolk, Somerset, and Beaufort when the war began to turn against England. Paris had been lost in 1436, and York along with the renowned soldier John Talbot had barely held off a French invasion of Normandy in 1437. In 1439, as Beaufort attempted once more to make peace, he sent Somerset to France as Lieutenant Governor, an act York viewed as deliberately undercutting his position as Regent and as retaliation for York supporting Gloucester in his criticisms of Beaufort’s policy of offering concessions for peace. In 1443, France unexpectedly invaded Gascony and Somerset botched the defense of the province losing it completely, while York had to hold Normandy without reinforcements (Somerset would die in 1444, with some historians suggesting that he may have killed himself in shame, and was replaced as Earl by his brother Edmund). York developed a lifelong hatred for Somerset and the Beauforts who he believed were deliberately undermining him and promoting military incompetents.

In 1444, Bishop (now Cardinal) Beaufort and the Earl of Suffolk proposed a truce with France accompanied by the marriage of Henry VI to Princess Margaret of Anjou, despite a secret provision of the truce that required England to give up the provinces of Maine and Anjou despite Margaret’s lack of a dowry. Suffolk was the main negotiator for the English and stood in for Henry VI at their engagement, which fueled rumors of an affair between the two which would dog the Queen and her bannerman for years (similar to Cersei). The following year, York returned to England to be replaced by the brother of the Somerset who lost Gascony while Suffolk took Beaufort’s place as the leading figure in domestic government, just as the news that Maine and Anjou were to be handed over was leaked. York joined Gloucester in his criticisms of the Beaufort pro-peace contingent, and when Goucester was arrested by Suffolk for treason and died suddenly while under arrest in 1447, took up his banner (shades of Jon Arryn). He was exiled to Ireland for his pains.

Just like Ned Stark, York had a strong reputation as an honest administrator who opposed the corruption and maladministration of the Beauforts, but lacked political support among the great nobles. When an impatient Charles VII of France seized Maine in 1448 and invaded Normandy in 1449, Somerset proved to be completely unable to stop him and Normandy was lost as well. At the same time, the Queen succeeded in getting Somerset and Suffolk made Dukes, and protected both men from charges of treason, which in turn fueled rumors that the Queen was also sleeping with Somerset.

In 1450, Richard Duke of York landed in England, raised an army and marched on London, where in an act reminiscent of Ned Stark, he knocked on the King’s door and simply asked him to reform the government. Admitted to the Privy Council, York pushed the Commons to pass an Act of Resumption to restore the King’s finances (reminiscent of Eddard and the tourney) and to have Somerset impeached. Thanks to Margaret’s lobbying, Somerset was promptly released from prison, and Henry VI refused to remove him from office despite the House of Commons 1451 petition to do just that. In 1452, York lost patience with trying to go the legal route (given the Queen’s interference) and formed an army to march on London. His forces met up with a royal army at Blackheath, but rather than go to arms, York agreed to disband if Henry VI would have Somerset arrested. The King agreed, but thanks to the Queen’s lobbying, went back on his word and York narrowly avoided arrest.

In 1453, the political landscape underwent an earthquake when Henry VI had a nervous breakdown and went catatonic for a year just as the Queen gave birth to a son many claimed was a bastard. Somerset and the Queen attempted and failed to form a regency under themselves, but Richard was named Lord Protector and Regent during the King’s incapacity. Promptly arresting Somerset, York proved an effective regent, quelling public disorder, and restoring royal finances…only to have all his work undone in early 1455 when the King recovered from his breakdown, dismissed York, freed Somerset, and returned to his free-spending ways.

This cycle would repeat itself over and over again: later that year, York took to the battlefield again when the Queen and Somerset maneuvered for his arrest, crushing a royal army at St. Albans, where Somerset died and the King was captured. Once again, York was regent, the King went mad, and the royal finances were restored…only for Henry to recover in 1456, sack York, and the cycle to begin again.

So…rumors of royal adultery, an unwilling politician trying to right a government paralyzed by debt and corruption, and growing conflict between the Regent and the Queen.

Next time: Richard and Ned mount a failed coup.

What If?

Oh, there’s so much great material for hypotheticals here:

  • Ned proclaims himself that night? One legitimate criticism that has nothing to do with Ned’s honor is that he simply failed to act fast enough, presuming things would wait for the next day. Even with his reluctance to commit bloodshed at this point (he’ll get a lot less unwilling next chapter), he might have been willing to publicize that he had been named Lord Protector and Regent. As I’ve discussed earlier regarding publicizing his support for Stannis, the outcome of this change is hard to forecast: given the political tumult, I doubt public legitimacy would have swayed the Goldcloaks, but like the London mob, if the smallfolk and merchants of King’s Landing had known and believed that Eddard Stark was the rightful Regent, they could have proved a formidable force to destabilize Cersei if they’d begun to riot when Eddard was arrested. While it wouldn’t have prevented his death, it would likely have accelerated the pace of public discontent in the capitol, greatly complicating efforts to hold the capitol as Stannis draws near, especially…
  • Ned’s letter/kids gets through? I’ve kind of done this hypotethical to death, but I want to point out GRRM’s intricate plotting in the fact that Eddard writes a letter to Stannis proclaiming him King, but waits until the evening tide of the next day to send it (along with his two kids). 24 hours difference and the letter gets into Stannis’ hands, with dramatic consequences for Stannis and Robb’s relations during the War of Five Kings.
  • Ned asks Renly for his aid? Eddard never tells Renly that Joffrey isn’t legitimate (although Renly probably knows), and he certainly never asks Renly for his support in holding the Throne for Stannis. I honestly don’t know whether Renly would pick the long game of supporting Stannis in the hopes of replacing him later or becoming his heir, but it would set up a fascinating situation. Let’s say Renly and Eddard manage to hold the capitol with their hundred and twenty-odd men – the ensuing race for King’s Landing as the armies of House Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, and Tyrell rush to defend their precariously isolated respective family members and seize power would be something to see.

Book vs. Show:

HBO does this chapter very, very differently from the book, and not necessarily in a better vs. worse way. Instead of leaving Renly’s intentions opaque as happens in the book, here Renly straight-out tells Eddard he wants to be King and Eddard should support him, and that Stannis can’t rule. It’s a powerful scene, so effective that I genuinely forgot that Renly doesn’t declare for himself and had to be reminded of this fact. It makes Renly out to be a better man than he is in the books. It also changes Ned’s refusal somewhat – instead of rejecting Renly out of fear of bloodshed, Ned’s refusal is more principled (Renly has no right to rule at all) rather than squeamish.

69 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Eddard XIII

  1. Celestial says:

    One observation:

    – The problem with Ned publicizing the will is that he must act openly, while Cersei can act behind the curtains. Because of that, there are some restraints on Ned’s freedom of action. In order to proclaim himself regent, Ned needs to wait for Robert to die. If Ned has such proclamation read through the city while Robert is still alive, the ensuing publicity will actually turn against him, because most people, who were not aware of what was actually happening between the Lannister, Baratheon and Stark camps, would have thought Ned’s haste as indecent and suspicious.
    It would have fed straight into Cersei’s argument that Ned was trying to usurp the throne. Robert dies next morning, several hours after dawn, and Ned goes into action on the spot. Too late, but acting earlier simply did not depend on him.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I don’t buy that at all – why would it turn against him? That’s not how political power works in a feudal context – the King is dead, long live the King – vacuums of power are scary and dangerous, instantaneous transitions mean peace and stability.

      We even have in-canon evidence with the way Aegon II used speed to outmaneuver his sister.

      • Celestial says:

        “The King is dead, long live the king” – but the King was not dead yet!
        Aegon II used speed indeed, but AFTER his partisans made sure Viserys I was dead.
        Robert could have agonized for days! How it would have looked like if Ned had his will read through the city while Robert still clung to life?

        Regarding the “that’s not how political power works in a feudal context” – this is a bit off-topic, but I would seriously suggest you to drop the pontifications. You are not the only one who knows a thing or two about the Middle Ages.
        I usually don’t reveal details about myself online, but I happen to have a PhD in (drum rol!l)… political thought in medieval and early modern Western Europe and I am a (recently) published author and currently an active researcher in this field.
        If you want details, I can provide them to you through email.

        As for your assertion that “political power” in a feudal context was characterized by instantaneous transition, this is factually incorrect. This is exactly how it was NOT. In fact, in this “feudal context”, a vacuum of power was the norm because a King was not considered to have assumed full power until he was crowned. The disappearance of this interregnum was actually part of the slow decline of the classic feudalism and of the move towards a centralized monarchy. The first kings to have assumed full rights and status with the death of their predecessors was Philip III in France in 1270 and Edward I in England in 1272 (a good reference in this regard is Kantorowicz’ classic work “The King’s Two Bodies”).

        • stevenattewell says:

          Fair enough. However, Robert had taken sufficient milk of the poppy to take himself out, so lingering is unlikely. And as I’ve said, I don’t think it would have looked badly at all, necessarily.

          Let me be a little clearer about what I was getting at – at least in some places from early on, fast transitions were seen as a good thing, and sometimes didn’t even wait for the previous monarch’s body to cool. William the Conqueror’s body getting left behind at Rouen, Henry Beauclerc rushing off from the New Forest to get his hands on the throne, etc. As you point out, it’s a trend that accelerated throughout the medieval era.

          And given AGOT’s debt to the Wars of the Roses, where you had cases like that of Henry VII, who dated his reign to the day before Bosworth, I don’t think it’s out of the question that a swift transition was normal in Westeros.

          Certainly a power vacuum with no one in charge wasn’t thought of as a good thing.

  2. Protagoras says:

    I’m not sure about the suggested plan of Ned seizing the treasury and bribing the gold cloaks directly; was there even enough money in the treasury for such a move? It would seem in character for Littlefinger to make sure he personally had enough funds available to float emergency loans to the treasury as needed, rather than making sure that the treasury had reserve funds on hand for emergencies.

    • stevenattewell says:

      That’s possible, but the thing is that gold is bulky. There’s not that many places to stash large amounts of it securely. And since LF is the only one in government who understands how bookkeeping works, he doesn’t really need to move the money out of the treasury and into his own vaults (that might look suspicious), he can just use the treasury as his own bank.

  3. Celestial says:

    Steven, you are clearer, but you are incorrect.
    The examples you have provided have nothing to do with some principle that “a power vacuum with no one in charge wasn’t thought of as a good thing”.
    There was no wait for the bodies of William I and William Rufus to cool not because “fast transitions were seen as a good thing”, but because their succession was not clear cut and there were rival claimants to the throne.
    The point was taking the throne before the other claimant could get there.
    The major concern was ensuring succession, not how fast the transition was. You are talking about a principle which did not actually exist.
    You refered to the famous formula “The king is dead! Long live the king!” But that formula has its origins in the succession crisis at the deaths of Henry V and Charles VI in 1422 and was used for the first time under that shortened version, which became quickly a tradition, in 1498, at the death of Charles VIII and was repeated in 1509 at the death of Henry VII.
    How it came about: in 1422, at the funeral of Charles VI, in order to counter the claim of the French dauphin, Bedford had the heralds shout, after the prayer for the sould of the deceased king, “Vive le roy Henri!”.
    Several generation later, the funeral prayer “Priez poour l’ame de trez excellente prince, roy…” was replaced by “Le roy est mort”, followed by “Vive le roy!”.
    The idea of a “fast transition” became institutionalized only at the end of the Middle Ages, when “feudal context” was dead and buried.

  4. Sean C. says:

    Sort of a minor addendum to the what if: what if Ned had followed up with the other lords whose smaller entourages are in the city? It wouldn’t have been much of a difference to the outcome of the actual fight, but the consequences afterward might have been.

    Most obviously, Lord Royce’s participation would change things if he was killed or captured (as well as his eldest son Ser Andar), since he seems poised to play a notable role in the future. Probably no Lords Declarant, at a minimum, since he was the originator and leader of that alliance. Robar Royce would probably have returned to Runestone, rather than joining Renly’s Rainbow Guard, which would possibly have meant Catelyn and Brienne wouldn’t have gotten away. On the other hand, Bronze Yohn seems to hate Littlefinger, so maybe he would have told Ned that relying on Baelish was a terrible idea. As it is, Royce seems to have booked it from the city at top speed, given that when Sansa attends court later he’s proclaimed as one of those who must come to swear allegiance.

    The other person notably mentioned is Lady Tanda, a singularly unimpressive old biddy who seems to have no idea what’s going on most of the time (seeing as she seems to be the only person at court who actually believes that Sansa’s professions of love for Joffrey are genuine), but she brings up the issue of the lords of the Crownlands — who are a pretty unimpressive bunch in general (the clueless Tanda, Gyles Rosby the perennially ill, those Crackclaw guys who don’t do anything), but they have several thousand levies (even if they seem to go MIA for most of the story, seeing as they don’t seem to either be in the field with Tywin or defending King’s Landing at the Blackwater), at a minimum. You would think that if there was some uncertainty about their loyalty in the opening days of the campaign it might affect the strategic situation.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yeah, the Crownland forces seem to be weirdly MIA – I think in part because GRRM wanted to up the stakes in the siege, and the best way to do that was to have Tyrion have to do it with only the Goldcloaks.

  5. Evan says:

    This article is probably the biggest one, though given all that happens in this chapter, it’s worth all of it.

    I did want to ask one question: Would Stannis have 5,000 men by this point? Given the amount of time that passes between now and the start of ACOK, he might have closer to 3,000 men. Would that be enough to make a difference in the battle for the city?

    Let’s see….If Ned had taken Renly up on his offer, where would Renly have gotten his hundred swords? From the people Littlefinger mentions: Bronze Yohn, Balon Swann, the Redwyne twins, Lady Tanda and of course Loras, not to mention Renly’s own guard. This would be, in effect, a sort of minor Great Council.
    Three of the great Houses (Stark, Baratheon, Tyrell) are represented, as is the second-most powerful House from the Vale (Royce) and a prominent family each from the Reach and Stormlands (Redwyne and Swann), not to mention a Crownlands House (Stokeworth), all of which are interesting from a political viewpoint.
    Since Ned is acting as Lord Protector, Regent and Hand of the King, he is, in effect, King at this point, and can order the Kingsguard to stand down (Whether those orders will be followed is another point altogether-Barristan Selmy would probably go along with it, as would Arys Oakheart, but the other four, being Cersei’s creatures, might rebel) so he can take the kids, and likely Cersei as well.
    The problem is, now Ned is basically leading a council of conspirators, some of whom have competing agendas. As you said, Renly could be playing a long game here, waiting for Stannis to die and becoming his heir that way, or he could be looking to take the Throne for himself. But that depends on whether or not he knows if the Baratheon kids are in truth Lannisters (The evidence is unclear). If he does know, than I think Renly would be willing to wait, allowing Stannis to deal with most of the rebellion/civil war, and presenting himself as the saner, more reasonable monarch-in-waiting. There are a couple of other thoughts in this, but that’s the main one right there.

    Finally, a note about Bronze Yohn Royce, who would have been an excellent ally for Ned (And it’s another curious decision on Ned’s behalf that he doesn’t even trust Lord Royce, who surely would have a favorable view of Ned, and would be willing to help discover who killed his liege lord, if the argument had been presented that way). During the events here, Yohn (And I believe his eldest son) are hunting in the kingswood with Robert, and Ned sends Robar Royce to bring Robert news of the Clegane raidings. Presumably, all of the Royces return to King’s Landing with the wounded Robert, after which they vanish and turn up in the Vale. Now, this is necessary-Royce is needed in the Vale to provide an opponent for Littlefinger in his plans. But here’s where GRRM’s sense of timing that you’ve mentioned comes into play: Royce would have had to have left the same night as Renly and Loras departed for Highgarden, or possibly the day after, in order to avoid the interdiction that Cersei throws up around the capitol. Given that Robar Royce is serving with Renly, it seems possible that Yohn might have left the same time as Renly & Loras, or at least Robar did, and then Yohn left as well.

    • stevenattewell says:

      He may not have the full 5,000, but he certainly has more professional soldiers than the Goldcloaks.

      • Evan says:

        There’s also an interesting hypothetical answer to one of your what ifs: What if the attempted Stark-Renly coup had failed? If the Lannisters manage to repel those forces, than you’ve got an issue of a Regent attempting to capture the seemingly legitimate King to be, in echoes of a palace coup. The War could easily be changed, depending on how several of those circumstances played out.

        Assuming that the conspirators as I laid out earlier are the ones involved, Cersei could alter the politics of the War a bit: Ned captured along with Sansa and Arya means the North could be at least forced to back down; Renly’s capture might send the Stormlords to Stannis for support; the imprisonment of Loras and the Redwyne twins might bring the Reach onto the Lannister’s side earlier than expected.

        However, the really interesting idea is if, after the conspirators are captured, Littlefinger (Or Varys, for that matter) manages to convince Joffrey to kill the whole lot as Eddard was. Then, you’ve got a major political storm on your hands. The monarchy will immediately become tenuous, and it would be quite easy to paint Joffrey in the same light as Aerys II, a madman who will kill high lords at a whim. Ned’s death would inflame the North as in canon, while Renly’s (and Balon Swann’s) would put the Stormlands into an uprising, sending their forces straight into the hands of Stannis. The deaths of the Royces (I seem to remember that both of Bronze Yohn’s sons were in the capitol with him) would immediately rile up the Vale, and House Royce would march to join with Robb (or possibly Stannis), despite whatever Lysa might say (Which might also mess up Littlefinger’s plans?). Lady Tanda’s death would turn how the Crownlands view the monarchy, that power would probably go to Stannis, and it would also affect conditions in King’s Landing, as Stokeworth was one of the major sources for feeding the city following the Tyrell blockade of the food.
        And the Tyrells, of course, are the most interesting part. With Loras, the Redwynes and Renly dead, the Tyrells really only have one way to turn: Robb Stark. Mace Tyrell doesn’t trust Stannis Baratheon, isn’t going to give his forces to the King who killed his son and nephews, and would be swift to offer his support to the Young Wolf, likely to be sealed with a marriage between Margaery and Robb; in addition, Mace would give Robb the argument Renly used: He has the largest army, and could theoretically claim the Iron Throne (With Mace himself as Hand, of course). With that deal done, whatever the outcome, Tyrell forces could strike at King’s Landing by coming up the roseroad, or turn toward the Westerlands, sending their forces up the coast to launch a strike even towards Lannisport and Casterly Rock, as well as reinforcing the Riverlands.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Evan – all good points, but I’d just push back on the argument that capturing someone automatically leads to someone giving up or joining their side. It certainly can play out that way, but it’s not guaranteed.

        After all, both Tywin and Robb are examples of someone responding to one of their family members being captured and responding with military force, with part of the intent being to capture someone on the other side important enough to force a trade on equal terms. Ned being captured in the wake of a failed coup wouldn’t change matters – he was captured in OTL and Robb responded by marching to free him. Renly’s capture leading to the Stormlands rising with Stannis is likely, but Loras’ capture would probably lead to the Reach mobilizing rather than capitulating, but the Redwynes not. After all, Loras is a third son – the Tyrells’ line of succession isn’t threatened and they’ve got enough troops to get their hands on enough Lannisters to force a trade. The Redwynes on the other hand aren’t going to do anything while both their heirs are in captivity.

  6. David Hunt says:

    I have doubts that Renly would have played the long game if Ned had asked for his support. Renly misstates his pitch to Ned to get him to seize power, but I think he knows Stannis very well. It’s my impression that Stannis (as he was at the beginning of CoK) would never have named Renly his heir while Shireen is alive. It’s her right to be Queen after him as it’s his right to be King. I think the best that Ned could have hoped for is for Renly’s immediate support, but that he’d have betrayed Ned and seized the throne for himself when he saw an opportunity while Loras hightailed it to Highgarden to give Mace Tyrell Renly’s offer to make Margery Queen in return for his support.

    I can’t remember if Stannis made the offer to make Renly his heir at their last meeting in the books as he did in the show, but I’d find it surprising if he had, based on my reading. I think Renly would have been surprised by such an offer as well. Regardless, it’s clear that Renly doesn’t want to wait for Stannis to pass on to be King. His whole demeanor at that meeting seemed pitch-perfect to enrage Stannis and derail any move toward a peaceful settlement. Afterall, once Stannis is dead, Renly is Robert’s legitimate heir, and Renly doesn’t seem content to wait for Stannis to die.

    A legal case could be made that Shireen should be Queen after Stannis and the former Master of Laws should know that, but Renly would have been Regent if he’d killed Stannis and I’m sure she would have died from “sickness” before her majority, leaving Renly to reluctantly assume the throne.

    Still, all in all, I think it’s a good thing that Renly didn’t come out on top. Regardless of whether he’d have been able to get the Seven Kingdoms under control, I think he’d have been a terrible person to be sitting on the throne when the Others start their main offensive on the Realms. As Cat said, “They are the knights of Summer, and Winter is coming.”

    • stevenattewell says:

      He did make the offer in the book.

      • David Hunt says:

        I was afraid of that after I posted that comment. Stannis keeps being a more complex and interesting character than I’d originally seen him as from the tv show. One of the passages of the books I found most touching was when Stannis was discussing his memories of Renly “and his peach.” Stannis realizes that while he didn’t really like his brother, he still loved him, and was haunted by his murder.

  7. Actually, I don’t think Henry I’s will had much to do with it at all. Fact is, Matilda had barely any supporters at first – even her brother and staunchest supporter, Robert of Gloucester, was on Stephen’s side at first. In that case, I think Henry’s will was more a justification and explanation on why they were not traitors – they were following the rightful queen, when clearly their real reasons for rebelling against Stephen was his favoritism and how abysmal a king he was. It was legitimacy, but only in the sense that it granted them some veneer of honor and excuse as to why they could support someone they had previously not supported ‘Oh, we believed Stephen when he said Henry I had declared him his heir’ ‘Stephen was too powerful, but we were always your men, Empress’ etc.

    Also, while I agree with the general lines of the Richard/Eddard comparison, I feel there are major differences you should highlight that make your points much clearer. See, Richard’s problem was his utter lack of legitimacy and support among the nobles, which becomes obvious when he finally got fed up and attempted to seize the throne, only to be met by silence from the Lords. And the reason for this lack is the fact that Henry VI was still alive and nominally king. The lack of support among the nobles meant that even if he killed Henry VI (as his son Edward IV eventually did) he would still not have enough power to rule the Council, and his situation would indeed worsen, with Marguerite of Anjou and the Beauforts holding actual power. But in military power (not strength), he and the Nevilles were far superior. Not only were his opponents inexperienced and rather abysmal as field commanders (indeed, it could be very well claimed Marguerite had the best tactical mind among them), they failed because they did not muster their forces fast enough, and their forces were not loyal enough to not betray them or even fight for them. Despite the Lancastrians having greater forces in practically every battle, they still lost most of them. Most importantly, though, in the First Battle of St. Albans, where Richard first seized the advantage, his forces far outnumbered the Lancastrian forces. It was his quick movement that gave him the advantage there, and allowed him to continue capitalizing on that momentum even after his defeat at Ludbridge by fleeing to where he was strong.
    Eddard, on the other hand, has a far better situation. He has all the authority, with no king in the way to stop him. As Lord Protector, he has the authority – he doesn’t need the Small Council, but even if he does, he has the advantage there – Stannis, Renly and Barristan would support him, and Varys and Petyr can (presumably) be bought, leaving only Pycelle – feeble opposition if there ever was one. In terms of noble support, he had it, if he was willing to accept it, as you point out. Renly offered it, Stannis was a few day’s sail away, The Vale is related to him and its prominent nobles are good with Eddard (Yohn Royce especially as a leading force). His only possible disadvantage is his lack of forces, but again: he could have had them! Even if we split the forces int he city equally, or give a slight advantage to Cersei, Eddard is supremely experienced and talented, with no warrior or tactician worth mentioning fighting against him.
    This is what I feel really emphasizes his mistake: In a somewhat comparable situation to Richard, he has all the advantages Richard lacks… but by failing in that one crucial step, a quick gathering of support and muster as Richard did before Saint Albans, he dooms himself.

    “but Henry II’s will” – Henry I’s
    “those who criticize Ned for reecting” – rejecting
    “If your wise, you’ll make certain Joffrey succeeds.” – you’re
    “Stannis is no freind of yours” – friend
    “And his acent will mean war” – ascent

    • stevenattewell says:

      I’ll get to the taking the throne moment later, but legitimacy is what I was getting at.

      Thanks for the editing help.

  8. I sort of feel like Littlefingers plan would have worked, assuming Ned can make a peace with the Lannisters. As you say the main concern would be Renly not backing Joffrey and instead backing Stannis. But as things unfold in ACOK, is it really that likely that Renly would back Stannis and not himself? I suppose the argument would be that Renly only went for himself when he’d gained such broad support as he did. It’s difficult to say, but I feel like from what we see of their relationship the two could never have formed an alliance.

    Therefore I think it’s quite possible that the Lannister/Stark Alliance could have fended off Stannis and Renly separately, as well as dealing with the Greyjoys eventually.

    • CoffeeHound14 says:

      It’s also worth noting that if Eddard upholds Joffrey’s claim, he deals a blow to the legitimacy of both Stannis and Renly’s claims. It is clear that Eddard’s integrity is widely known and respected among the nobility. Furthermore, Joffrey then has the North and at least most of the Riverlands behind him (excepting perhaps those savaged by Clegane’s raids). I think that many of the Stormlords would not be so quick to declare for Renly with these factors in mind. Hell I don’t really think that Renly would dare crown himself in this scenario.

      • Exactly, Renly’s main support, the Tyrells, are clearly opportunists. This would be a risky scenario for them to back Renly, so I agree they probably would not do so. Stannis wouldn’t back down, but his chances would be even worse in this scenario than in OTL.

      • stevenattewell says:

        If Eddard did uphold Joffrey’s claim, the Riverlands is not backing him – Lannister aggression has gone too far that a sister’s husband’s claim would sway the Tullys.

        And the Starks would still have the Greyjoys to deal with.

        And if Renly’s got Highgarden behind him, he’s got more men than the Starks and Lannisters combined; the Stormlords aren’t going to ditch their liege lord and even if they did the only other lord they could look to would be Stannis.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yes it’s absolutely likely, because the alternative is death – Renly knows that Cersei can’t afford to let him live, since he’s a natural rallying point for the Baratheon legitimist threat, and given that he’s got the 100,000 swords of Highgarden behind him, why should he bother?

  9. drevney says:

    Another possibility. Ned tell Robert about the incest on his dying bed. What would Robert do? My guess he would name Renly his heir. Denying Stannis any claim but maybe giving his Storms End.

    • stevenattewell says:

      He might, but that would be REALLY problematic – overlooking an older brother for a younger brother is one thing when the king is on hand to enforce it; when the king is dead, that’s the kind of thing that leads to civil wars.

  10. kylelitke says:

    I’m not sure what might have changed, since Ned had waited too long and didn’t personally have the troops, but I’ve always found Ned’s blind trust in Littlefinger in this chapter to be extremely naive of him, especially when he openly says he doesn’t trust Littlefinger at various other points.

    Littlefinger comes to him with this proposal that will give Ned and Littlefinger all the power over Joffrey. Ned refuses (which is fine). He asks Littlefinger to help him put Stannis on the throne. Littlefinger correctly points out that this is very much against his best interests, that the BEST case scenario is Stannis banishes Littlefinger back to his lands (and knowing Stannis, it could be worse), and Ned’s answer is essentially “Shut up and do it because it’s totally the honorable and right thing to do”. Why in the world would he think for even one second that the Littlefinger he knows would go along with that? Of COURSE he turned on Ned. It was the only way for Littlefinger to retain any amount of power. Ned thinking even for a moment that he could trust Littlefinger to buy the Gold Cloaks for him is tremendously foolish for someone that seemed to have Littlefingers number prior to this chapter.

    • stevenattewell says:

      I wouldn’t characterize it as blind trust so much as not really thought through. Eddard’s reacting very fast to a quickly changing situation, and he’s overlooking things – he doesn’t change the schedule of his ship leaving, he assumes Renly will stick around, etc.

  11. CoffeeHound14 says:

    I just reread this chapter, and remembered the hypothetical that always strikes me at this point in the book: what if Ned had simply fled the capital as Renly had done? Since Renly escapes along with roughly a hundred retainers, it does not seem impossible that Ned could escape with most if not all his household. If he did, it would probably diminish the perceived legitimacy of any claim he made against Joffrey, but he would still have Robert’s will, and could have his word backed up by Stannis. Having Robert’s will, he might have also drummed up additional support for Stannis in the Stormlands.

    In any case, it is likely that in this scenario Robb would not push south so swiftly, given that he would not be marching to free his father (though if Ned were sufficiently “on the lamb”, things might revert to something similar to the OTL of the war).

    On a side note, it seems odd to me that Tywin and Jaime push into the Riverlands after Eddard had already been captured. It might be that they didn’t receive word of events in King’s Landing until after their offensive got under way; word travels slowly. I suppose that they were also moving to block any retributive action by Robb’s army, but really the seige of Riverrun and the sacking of the Riverlords’ castles only serve to bring Robb more quickly to the field… I dunno.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Now that’s an interesting scenario – I think Robb would push fast, since he needs to rescue his father and sisters.

      The question is where Ned’s going to escape to – Dragonstone by sea, Storm’s End by land is his most likely options.

      Tywin’s actions aren’t odd at all, Tywin and Jaime are both moving in the direction of King’s Landing and taking control of the major centers of opposition that divide Casterly Rock from King’s Landing.

  12. John says:

    A few nitpicks on the real history in this post, and then I’ll get to discussing the ASOIAF stuff. Anjou, firstly, was never under English control. The Duke of Anjou in 1422, Louis III, was Charles VII’s close ally and brother-in-law, and the area was never under English military control. A few years later, Joan of Arc would first meet Charles VII in Chinon, which is in Anjou. Poitiers, so far as I can tell, also recognized Charles VII. I also think that Brittany’s position is probably more analogous to that of Burgundy than to the areas under direct English control – the Duke of Brittany, like Philip the Good, recognized Henry VI as King of France, but he was basically an ally, not under any genuine English control.

    Beyond Gascony, which the English had controlled for hundreds of years, the heart of Henry V’s conquests was in Normandy and Maine. Paris and Champagne were controlled largely thanks to the alliance with Burgundy – as soon as Philip defected, they were lost, whereas Normandy and Gascony had to be reconquered fortress by fortress.

    You’ve also got the Beaufort names somewhat muddled – the elder of Cardinal Beaufort’s nephews, the one who maybe committed suicide, was John (father of Margaret Beaufort, grandfather of Henry VII); the younger one who died at St. Albans was Edmund (father of Henry, killed at Hexham, and another Edmund, killed at Tewkesbury).

    • stevenattewell says:

      My texts say differently – that Louis of Anjou couldn’t give a dowry to Margaret d’Anjou in no small part because England was still occupying Anjou.

      I will fix the Beaufort names, they’re hard to keep track of.

      • John says:

        Louis’s brother Rene (Margaret’s father) was duke of Anjou by the time Margaret was marrying Henry, and I’d think his inability to provide a dowry had little to do with him not holding Anjou. He was, after all, also the ruler of Lorraine, Bar, and Provence, none of which were under English control. The problem was that he was basically spending all of his money in an unsuccessful effort to make himself King of Naples. Wikipedia’s article on René describes him as visiting Anjou and Provence (he had previously spent most of his time in Lorraine) prior to heading to Naples in 1438.

        The French Wikipedia article on the history of Anjou has a good discussion of this phase of the Hundred Years War in Anjou:

        “Yolande of Aragon [Charles VII’s mother-in-law], in the absence of her son, Louis III, who had left for Italy, rejected the Treaty [of Troyes] and became head of the French resistance. The English then attempted to break Anjou by seizing Maine. In 1419, they were at Le Lude; in 1420 Champtoceaux fell to the Bretons, who razed the fortress. The Duke of Clarence then gathered an army to advance into Anjou. Yolande requested the help of Charles VII, King of France. The Franco-Scottish Army crushed Clarence’s army at the Battle of Baugé. The Duke of Clarence himself was killed there. But the war did not stop there: the English still held Maine, and launched raids into Upper Anjou. In 1422, Lord Poole attacked Segre and Chatelais before being stopped by an Angevin army. In 1427, Saint-Laurent des Mortars was occupied. A number of Angevin lords proceeded to fight alongside Joan of Arc between 1428 and 1430, like Gilles de Rais and John II of Alençon. This last again fought the English allied to his uncle, the Duke of Brittany, during the siege of Pouancé in 1432, ravaging all of Upper Anjou. The British tried in vain to take Angers in 1434 and launched a last raid in 1443. The Duke of Somerset crossed the Duchy, took Saint-Denis d’Anjou, and settled in the Saint-Nicolas Abbey, which he had to leave after artillery from Angers Castle killed one of his captains. Somerset then tried to take Pouancé Castle for 3 weeks, in vain, before retreating towards Brittany.

        “This raid would be the last English attempt on Angevin soil.”

        The clear implication is that Anjou was a contested border region through this period of the war, but primarily under French control, and that Angers itself was never under English control. The article cites specific (and recent) histories of Angers, so it seems that your source is incorrect.

  13. John says:

    In terms of the two offers, I think the biggest problem with not accepting Renly’s offer is that you are viewing it in a long-term context that doesn’t need to exist. A pretty clear parallel to Eddard’s situation at the time of Robert’s death appears in English history – the period following the death of Edward IV. The dying king made his loyal brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Protector to his son, Edward V. Whether or not Gloucester intended from the first to seize the throne, he acted swiftly to secure political power in his own hands and to cripple his enemy, the Queen, and her family. All the while, he, at least implicitly, pretended to act in his nephew’s name. Only then, once he had secured control of the levers of power, did he proclaim his nephew to be a bastard and take the throne for himself.

    To get back to ASOIAF, Eddard accepting Renly’s offer to seize control of the royal children is not in any way a decision to support Joffrey for the indefinite future. He can use Renly’s men to do that, and *then* proclaim Joffrey a bastard and Stannis the true king. If Renly objects at that point, Ned can do to him what Richard III did to Hastings (or something less extreme, I suppose). Basic point — nothing irrevocable happens if Ned waits a few days to proclaim Joffrey a bastard. Taking the children (and perhaps Cersei herself) as hostages is something that needs to happen as soon as possible. At that point, Ned has all the time in the world to invite Stannis over.

    • stevenattewell says:

      That’s a fine argument, and if Renly had made it at the time, Eddard might have gone along with it. The problem is that both men were holding back their real intentions, which meant that Renly was calling for Ned to launch a coup without a long-term plan and Ned was refusing without stating what his alternative was.

  14. Roger_Raven says:

    Nice work! I generaly agree with you apreciation, but just one question: you say Stark could have hold himself the royal treasure and pay the Goldcloak but… Isn’t the treasure empty? Acording to Littlefinger, the Crown has debts for millions of dragons. So perhaps Ned needed Baelish personal fortune to pay the city watch.

    Also, I don’t think the city’s commons would had revolt for Ned. They almost don’t know him.

    I always wondered what happened with Ned’s letter to Stannis. So it was intercepted? In the show is not so sure.

  15. Roger_Raven says:

    Then the show has (another) error. Why Stannis doesn’t the letter to Catelyn? If Eddard recognized as the only true king, perhaps Robb would consider allying with him.

  16. drevney says:

    There is one issue about the war that most seem to overlook, for the type of society that exist in Westeros war is a necessity.

    Society where the ruling class are worriers, who need to prove themselves in battle to advance in life (‘to make a name for themselves’ , ‘to seek glory’ are the the phrase used) and where not-first sons are train as worriers but will inherit nothing from there father wealth, a long period of peace can be a problem.

    Consider what happens in the Frey family when the lord is over-cautious about going to battle, there is a population explosion of highborn men and women. Being highborn they cannot support themselves by working, but the Frey castle cannot sustain this huge family.
    If Lord Frey would fight in the war on the Trident, maybe some of his sons might die he would have less sons and grandsons.

    The same problem would exist for all houses without an occasional war.

    • stevenattewell says:

      You’d think so, but the historical evidence points the other way – in the last 41 years, there have been a total of 4 wars that lasted a total of 6 years.

  17. Este says:

    I think you’re wrong to assume that Renly was already conspiring to take the throne in his own name when he made his offer to Ned. Yes, he was scheming, but the nature of his schemes before Robert’s death was quite different. His scheme was to get Robert married to Margaery. This would have given him more influence through his allies the Tyrells, but it also would have greatly increased the likelihood of Robert having even more children–i.e., even more people standing between Renly and the Throne.

    Renly shows no sign of plotting to take the throne himself until after (1) Ned declines his offer, (2) Robert dies, and (3) Stannis is a no-show throughout the whole escapade. Stannis is, as far as Renly knows, holed up on Dragonstone and has no idea what’s going on. That factors into his decision that Stannis is too remote and unrealistic to rule.

    On the whole, taking Renly’s offer would have been better than what Ned ended up doing, though publicizing the will was also a viable option. The Targaryens and the Greyjoys would have been pushed to the side, and possibly taken Ned by surprise, no matter which option he ended up taking (though Balon may not have revolted if the Stark rebellion and the inter-Baratheon squabbling hadn’t given him the space for it).

    • stevenattewell says:

      You have to keep lead-up time in as a factor – the time between Renly fleeing and crowning himself is really short, given the distance between King’s Landing and Highgarden. There had to have been preliminary talks by this point.

      And there’s no reason that plan A couldn’t have been Robert get married to Margaery, Cersei’s kids are outed, Margaery gets pregnant, Robert dies, Renly acts as Regent for the true heir, then marries the widow Margaery and becomes King.

  18. James says:

    Nice article!

    Someone really needs to fix Henry Beaufort’s wiki page though. Poor guy has little to no info on his involvement in government.

  19. […] I discussed in the previous Eddard chapter, Eddard does make one smart move in summoning the Small Council immediately on the death of King […]

  20. […] Eddard XIII (the will, Renly and Littlefinger’s offers, the war was going to happen anyway) […]

  21. […] is on the practical foundations of power. And to give him credit, he does a far better job than Eddard of understanding the critical importance of a monopoly on violence. Tyrion’s focus on Janos […]

  22. I know this is dated, but I just recently found your analysis’ and I find that your forgetting/omitting a factor into Ned’s character, and that is of Ned as the second born son, not meant or educated to wield power, a feeling he laments as he rules the North from Winterfel, constantly. Now, in the initiation of events, he is thrust further up the ladder of power when he constantly asks himself ‘what the hell am I doing on the first rung, let alone the second!?’
    His friendship and affection for Robert and what he imagines the Handship as are crutches to his actions, and perhaps even his potential PTSD of seeking solitude and avoiding life, his frequent visits and isolation in the godswood as Catelyn frequently mentions about him and their decades plus marriage, but it is Eddard’s nature as a second son that enables him and his doubts to pursue his course of actions. As he enjoys projecting, if Brandon was here, he’d do it right and then some, even though he has a feeling of just what Brandon would have done, yet still doesn’t pursue it.

  23. Scott Trotter says:

    Steven, I don’t think you give enough weight to your first “What If” scenario, where Eddard declares himself Regent immediately. I’d change it a bit so that Eddard immediately calls a meeting of the Small Council, has the will read then and there, the Council affirms the appointment, and THEN has it publically proclaimed that upon the death of the King, Eddard becomes Regent. Instead of Eddard declaring HIMSELF Regent, its the King’s Will–while the King is still alive–backed by the Small Council declaring him Regent. If it’s done that way, Cersei doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Just leave the whole matter of Cersei’s treason to one side for the time being. Eddard can then gather up the reins of power and control within Kings Landing and everything is perfectly “legal.”

    Then Eddard writes to Stannis saying that he also has been investigating what Jon Arryn was and has come to the same conclusion. Invite Stannis to come to the capital with his army to hold off Tywin and Jaime, arrest and try Cersei for High Treason–with Eddard sitting in judgment. Off with her head, and all hail King Stannis, First of His Name. Eddard resigns his offices and heads back North leaving Stannis to deal with the aftermath.

    • Roger says:

      That’s what a clever politician would have done. But Eddard wasn’t.
      And I’m not sure the Small Council would have voted it. Renly,Littlefinger and Varys didn’t want Stannis. Pycelle was Cersei’s lackey. They would have delayed the discusion and alert the queen.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        I should have been more clear. Eddard was *planning* on doing exactly what I said he should have done. The difference is that he was going to wait until the next day before going to the Small Council, whereas my “what if” was that he convene the Council *immediately* after leaving Robert’s bed chamber. Cersei, as Queen Consort, has no real, “legal” authority to do anything. She seizes power by acting to enthrone Joffrey before Eddard acts to proclaim the King’s Will.

    • I thought I had thought that one through fairly effectively.

      If Cersei’s got the Goldcloaks behind her, then what stops her from having the whole Small Council arrested as traitors? Certainly it would make the coup more blatant, but she’d have achieved her immediate goals either way.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        On further review, I think I was reacting more to all of the discussion about the other “What If’s.” It seems pretty clear to me that, in spite of all of his earlier mistakes, if Eddard had acted immediately, he would have completely pulled the rug out from underneath Cersei.

  24. Scott Trotter says:

    I think that another very interesting “What If” is what if Eddard had told Robert on his deathbed that Cersei had committed High Treason and that all of her children were bastards.

    • It’s a bit too similar to what if Eddard tells him earlier, except without the Margaery thing.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        I was thinking more along the lines that Robert might have ordered Cercei’s immediate arrest and imprisonment on a charge of High Treason. Eddard would have had to pick up the pieces, but there certainly would have been no coup.

  25. […] were repeatedly shaped by powerful women supposedly or actually taking lovers. As we’ve already discussed, Margaret d’Anjou’s supposed relationships with William de la Pole, Duke of […]

  26. […] Arryn or Stannis or Eddard to find out what they had uncovered? Moreover, consider Renly’s offer to Ned in AGOT: why would Renly fear for his life at Cersei’s hands if he didn’t know that a live […]

  27. […] modus operandi: like both of her attempts on Robert Baratheon’s life at the tourney and in the Kingswood, the assassination is meant to appear like an accident, with Tyrion “dying bravely on the […]

  28. […] spent his entire life taking orders, whether as a Lannister stooge at court, Cersei’s choice for kingslayer, Cersei’s substitute lover, or Tyrion’s double agent. He never really had a chance to […]

  29. […] son, he can always look to some of Cersei’s other historical parallels for inspiration, and Marguerite d’Anjou thus supplies the necessary nasty […]

  30. Lauren Anderson says:

    Love the Wars of the Roses stuff. One of my fave historical periods, one reason I’ve enjoyed ASOIAF so much.
    One thing I disagree with you on is that I’ve always seen Robert B as more comparable to Edward IV than Henry VIII (tho Henry was said to be Edward reborn, physically: tall, handsome, red-gold hair). Edward won the throne by conquest – twice – replacing a mad king (tho Henry VI was no Aerys!), then drinking eating and f*ing his way to an early grave.

  31. Rei Barker says:

    I have PTSD and I agree with your idea that Ned does. Not all the symptoms manifest in all people bc trauma is a complex thing.

    I think this is one of the least considered factors when people analyse AGOT and Ned’s actions, the way he raised his children.

    It’s different for everyone but I think he held it together really bloody well. Doing anything when your triggers are so strong is incredibly hard. The show is partly to blame but I think he displayed strength and resilience not weakness or foolishness.

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