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


Over on Tower of the Hand, I’ve published the fifth and final part in my five-part series on the Westerosi monarchy, “The Prepared Princes.” In this part, I examine how difficult it is to prepare a prince to assume the Iron Throne through a comparison of Joffrey Baratheon and “Young Griff”/Aegon VI Targaryen. 

Check it out!


85 thoughts on “Guest Essay on Tower of the Hand – Hollow Crowns, Part V

  1. Matthew says:

    Fascinating look at the ‘enlightened despot’ idea and how a prince should be raised! Great work!

  2. Brett says:

    Another great essay!

    I think one big disadvantage of Varys’ “raise him in the weeds” plan is that it means he’s never really set up a Court in Exile, something that might have given him more legitimacy as well as some experience in running a Westerosi government (even if it’s mere pretend until he actually conquers some territory in Westeros). Martin makes a point with Robb, Tyrion, Sam, Jon, Jaime, and IMHO Cersei* about how much it matters to sit there in court and council shadowing their fathers as they rule, picking up on the nuances of court practice and properly interacting with subjects. Young Griff doesn’t have that, even if he did have an education and martial arts tutor.

    And I still think he’s a Perkin Warbeck. He’ll win some victories, flake out at the wrong time and lose critical support (particularly if he comes in the wake of a plague introduced by Jon Connington), and then die ignominiously at around the same time that Varys finally fails to properly juggle all the balls he has up in the air.

    * Indirectly in Cersei’s case. She would have gotten some of this, but not deliberately so – as she herself mentions, she was brought up to “smile and please”, something we also get hints at with Gemma Lannister when she mentions that she wasn’t really considered part of the “game” growing up by her father or Tywin.

    • It is a major limitations, and I agree that Young Griff is going to flame out. But I don’t think it’s going to have anything to do with critical support. I think his death comes at Daenerys’ hand – slayer of lies and all that.

  3. Abbey Battle says:

    A fascinating article Maester Steven; a worthy conclusion to the series and a fine reminder that any Monarchy is rather at the mercy of it’s current monarch (even when it’s subjects are not!).

    I hope you will forgive me if I say that it will be interesting to see how ‘The World of Ice and Fire’ will impact your analysis (I suspect that your articles will remain fundamentally sound, but wonder how the details revealed will affect the nuances).

    • Thanks! Yeah…I’m kind of dreading and anticipating the World of Ice and Fire, because I love learning more yet worry about having my essays unfounded.

      However, I am looking forward to writing up my new series on Essos with this new TWOW chapter. Lots more material to work with.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Well Maester Steven I don’t think that you need worry too much; like any historian you cannot be held to blame for drawing false conclusions based on only partial information, only for clinging to those conclusions out of spite!

  4. JT says:

    Great essay. I always wondered about Joffrey – is he the Westerosi equivalent of today’s spoiled rich kid or Bernie Maddoff? Would he have turned out okay if he’d had some limits placed on him and Cersei hadn’t (as Kevan pointed out) ruined him? Or is he like Ramsay – a sociopath who would grow up to be a murderer irrespective of how he was raised?

    • Well, Ramsay’s sociopathy did have a lot to do with his raising, and arguably so did Joffrey.

      I think if Joffrey had been born in a world that better understood mental health, he could do better. The reality of mental health is very different from what we see in TV dramas – not all people who have sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies actually follow through on them, and while treating these conditions is extremely difficult it can be done.

      • JT says:

        I guess that’s true. Ramsay is *so* over the top with his cruelty that I always thought of him as completely irredeemable in any circumstances.

        Joffrey seems more like a classic bully – he acts strong because he’s insecure and wants to be respected by those around him. At one point in ASOS, Cersei tells Sansa that had Sansa not witnessed Joffrey being humiliated by Arya, Joffrey would have been much better to her (Sansa). Who knows whether that’s true or not, but it is interesting.

        I guess I always just thought of Joffrey as in need of help, guidance, and love, but Ramsay (and Gregor) as monsters…

  5. MightyIsobel says:

    Regarding Joffrey’s miseducation: I find it very interesting how much Cersei focuses on display and spectacle as a primary means — and purpose — of holding state power. But I can’t think of a time that she articulates it as a precept, at least not for the men of the royal blood.

    In that context, though, it is interesting that one of Joffrey’s first public appearances quickly devolves into a grisly improvised performance demonstrating the power of the state.

    Surely Varys’s background as a mummer will be sufficient to supplement Young Griff’s relatively low-key style, no?

    • Eh. Cersei knows it’s important, but she hates and resents it. And I would argue Joffrey’s public appearances show the weakness of the state.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        On the contrary, I think the Walk of Shame stings in part because of the pleasure Cersei has taken in displaying her beauty, wealth, and power, at the same time that she resented being silenced as a woman. It’s complicated.

        I completely agree with you that Joffrey’s public appearances are destabilizing.

      • Winnie says:

        The way I see it, Cersei *loves* the “showing off” part of being royalty, (at least Targaryen Baratheon Lannister style royalty-the Starks were always a LOT more…austere,) but she can’t stand the “showing up” part. jewelry and as elaborate gowns as possible, and displays of dominance that are as public as possible…she just doesn’t like having to play nice with others or make even the pretense of concern for smallfolk or even for supporters. She understands that she’s ‘expected’ to set a good example and play hostess to the women and children in Maegor’s hold during Blackwater-but she considers it a horrible imposition on her and couldn’t be bothered to do it well-or hide her contempt for the other women…hence Sansa did the job for her. It’s also why Cersei pulled Joffrey from the fighting…she has no understanding that ruling includes responsibilities as well as privileges. I also remember how at Joffrey’s wedding, Sansa even as she’s plotting her escape made a point of charming Kevan and Lancel, talking to Jalabhar Xho, and generally observing the courtesies and niceties that are essential to court. From that and scenes at the Vale, Martin is establishing that Sansa (while not a natural ruler/conqueror type,) is up for the duties of being a Great Lady..possibly a Queen Consort though, I believe the former to be more likely than the latter. And I think that Arya’s being set up to be the next Master of Whisperers.

  6. Sean C. says:

    An aspect of Varys’ plan that I’ve never understood is, how is this “perfect king” going to be replicated going forward? Even assuming Aegon VI turns out made to order, his kids will get the standard princely upbringing, and so on. Aegon’s reign will be a blip, in the long run, even if he’s the second coming of Jaehaerys the Conciliator.

  7. JT says:

    The thing I still find really odd is that Rhaegar was supposedly working with the Lords Paramount to semi-depose Aerys when the extent of Aerys’ madness became known, but then Varys started whispering about the plan to Aerys’ and put an end to all of that.

    By all accounts Rhaegar was caring and thoughtful – the anti-Aerys if you will (but not in a “weak” way ala Tommen). So if you’re Varys and you truly care about the realm (and why lie to Kevan when he’s seconds from dying), why not let Rhaegar depose Aerys?

    Rhaegar likely would have been good for the realm. Why put a stop to his plan?

    • I don’t think they were working together. I think rather it was a case of parallel evolution.

      As to why Varys didn’t…most likely, he wanted an opportunity to do the snatch-and-replace.

      • David Hunt says:

        It might be the Varys’ views weren’t the same before Robert’s Rebellion as they are now. The whole “We’ll shape the perfect prince to rule wisely” scheme might have been caused by the follow-up thought, “so none of this will ever happen again.”

        Or (and this just occurred to me) Varys might have had a deep distrust of Reagar due to the latter’s belief in the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised. Varys’ intense distrust and hatred of the supernatural might have biased him against Reagar or he might have simply made the judgment that a Prince who basically shaped his entire life from an early age around prophecy that he read was not someone he wanted in charge of the Realm.

        • Winnie says:

          Very possibly, David. That might also be why Varys hasn’t acknowledged the existence of the Others…or really come to terms with what the dragons mean yet either.

        • I’m increasingly agreeing with the latter view.

        • Sean C. says:

          Varys’ hatred of the supernatural is one of those things that people take at face value when I don’t know that there’s any reason to. He offers it as a way of explaining why he’s backing the Lannisters over Stannis, but that’s not the real reason (since he isn’t backing the Lannisters at all).

          • His story about his castration is far too specific and unnecessary an explanation for why he’s backing the Lannisters to be false.

          • Andrew says:

            I don’t think Varys ever reveals the entire truth just bits of it. I think there were parts left out of the castration story like possibly that the sorcerer was Varys’s mentor. Greenseers have to spend their whole lives in weirwood thrones as part of trees, FM offer all of themselves, including their identity, to obtain their power. In other words, great magical power=great sacrifice. I think that the wizards of Valyria likely could have sacrificed their manhoods to obtain their magical power. One effect is that since they couldn’t pass down their teachings to their children (since they can’t have any), they had to pass them down to apprentices. It is possible at least one wizard survived the Doom, and passed his teachings from master to apprentice for generations. Think Egg’s explaining a rumor about Lady Webber that she sold her babes unborn to the lord of seven hells in return for learning the dark arts. Her sigil is a spider, and I think that may have been the case for Varys.

            What better cover for a likely wizard/sorcerer than a guy who hates magic?

          • I think that’s really tinfoily. And given that the wizardly FAMILIES of Valyria passed down sorcery in the blood, a la the Targaryens, I’m calling bs on that particular offshoot.

            Also, if Mercy showed us anything, it’s that people over-extended the whole identity loss thing – seems now to be a training in how to stay in character than a total obliteration in identity.

          • Andrew says:

            Who says a second son couldn’t become a wizard? A family could have one son in every generation become a wizard, as a younger son would ensure that they could have a wizard with the line continuing.. Dragon dreams are on thing, but magic like the kind practiced by the FM and red priests takes years of study and sacrifice. Even Bran will have to spend a while learning to harness his abilities, and he has to stay in a weirwood throne for the rest of his life.

          • Except that’s absolutely not how the Valyrians managed magic in the family – the mechanism described is incest to preserve blood quanta.

          • Andrew says:

            How many wizards were in the Targaryen family? It takes more than blood to have powerful magical ability as BR and Bran show, it also takes sacrifice. As “only death can pay for life” implies, magic comes at a cost, and the cost of greenseeing is confinement to weirwood thrones. Wizardry likely required some form of sacrifice as well. Varys is hinted at being a wizard.

            “What good is war now? We are not ready. Delay.”

            “As well bid me stop time. Do you take me for a wizard?”

            The other [Illyrio] chuckled. “No less.”

            In one of Dany’s chapters earlier in AGoT:

            Illyrio whispered to them. “Those three are Drogo’s bloodriders, there,” he said. “By the pillar is Khal Moro, with his son Rhogoro. The man with the green beard is brother to the Archon of Tyrosh, and the man behind him is Ser Jorah Mormont.”

            The last name caught Daenerys. “A knight?”

            “No less.” Illyrio smiled through his beard. “Anointed with the seven oils by the High Septon himself.”

            I think this points Varys actually being a wizard given Illyrio’s response.

          • You can’t pass down wizardry in a multi-generational process through brothers who themselves don’t breed. Bloodraven had magic prior to becoming a greenseer, and he wasn’t eunuchized.

            As for that as a source, that’s presented in-chapter as a joke that Arya mistakenly takes literally.

          • Andrew says:

            “No less.”

            The same answer Illyrio gives Dany about Jorah being a knight, and the response he gives Varys being a wizard.
            Think The Mystery Knight where one of the hedge knights jokes that
            “We’d all be bastard sons of old KIng Aegon [IV] if half these tales were true.”
            “And who’s to say we’re not?” Ser Maynard quipped.

            While a joke, Maynard Plumm is actually Bloodraven, a bastard of Aegon IV.

          • That is really stretching the text. The reference to Varys being a wizard is about his political skills, not any access to magic.

            But this seems very inconsistent to me – assuming Illyrio is speaking honestly while Varys is always lying makes no sense.

          • Andrew says:

            Also, BR didn’t get the full extent if his power until he became confined to the weirwood seat. Greenseers likely couldn’t call the Hammer of the Waters without that connection.

          • We don’t know that – certainly the full extent of his greenseer powers, but that isn’t the only source of his magic.

          • Andrew says:

            I never said Illyrio was always telling the truth. Besides, Varys has no reason to lie to Illyrio. GRRM can be subtle with clues, and I don’t see why GRRM would have Varys be called a wizard several times, if not to serve as a possible clue.

            I think the rule goes, the higher level the magic, the greater the sacrifice.

          • I think that bends the word blue far beyond its meaning…Illyrio is calling Varys a wizard in relation to his political skills.

          • Andrew says:

            I don’t think Illyrio giving the exact same response twice is a coincidence. Varys’s skills could be in more than just spycraft.

      • Andrew says:

        Varys says he does what he does for the good of the realm. I call BS on his claims of pure motivations.

        He does remind me of Zhao Gao, one of the most corrupt, villainous, violent and powerful eunuchs in Chinese history who was instrumental in the downfall of the Qin dynasty. There was one theory that Zhao was the descendant of the royal family of the Kingdom of Zhao, which was destroyed by the Qins, and Zhao sought revenge on the Qins. Zhao Gao killed off all the children of Qin Shi Huang. He was selected by Qin Shi Huang for being an expert in crime and punishment. It is from him the CHinese got the idiom “calling the deer a horse,” or confounding right and wrong, deliberately misrepresenting the truth, or distorting the facts for ulterior motives.

        Varys is possibly a Blackfyre, a house which was destroyed by House Targaryen. Varys may have been instrumental in the Targaryens’ downfall as part of his revenge. Aerys selected him as he was in expert in spycraft. Both Rhaegar’s children were killed along with plenty of other members of House Targaryen. He presents himself as an effeminate, harmless person as a mummer’s mask to hide his true face.

        • Why would Varys lie to a dying man?

          • Andrew says:

            The same reason LF told Sansa to always refer to herself as Alayne. “Especially when we are alone. Elsewise, a day will come when a servant walks into the room unannounced, or a guardsman at the door chances to hear something he should not.”

            Err on the side of caution so to speak. Besides, Varys speaks in half-truths, and such. He speaks of Aegon, the boy with Connington, but never once mentions Rhaegar’s son.

          • I really don’t buy that – Varys knows he’s not being over heard because he’s got his spies all around the area keeping watch. And his very presence in the room having murdered Pycelle and Kevan is far more risky than talking to a dying Kevan.

          • Andrew says:

            Still Varys was talking about Aegon, the boy with Connington. Varys speaks in plenty of half-truths. It was true that the boy named Aegon has been raised and tutored, but he was not talking about Rhaegar’s son.

            I find his claims of altruistic motives to be pure BS. I don’t think he is truly loyal to the Targaryens or the idea of a benevolent monarch. I think he is committed to the cause of House Blackfyre, given that he likely is one.

          • Varys also responds to Kevan saying “dead. he’s dead.”

            With “no.”

          • Andrew says:

            Varys was being deceptive. The conversation was about Aegon, who is with Connington. Kevan said “he’s dead,” to which Varys replies “no” which is true, the Aegon Varys was talking about in the stormlands isn’t dead.

  8. Winnie says:

    Loved your whole analysis here Steve. I would also add that if Joffrey was very, vybeery badly prepared by Cersei to be King, it is in part because Cersei herself, was never prepared by Tywin to be Queen. I remember on a previous posting you theorized that Twyin was unaware of Joffrey’s deficiencies because he never spent much time with the boy and probably hadn’t even seen him in since he was four, but that always made me wonder…I know Robert wouldn’t want Tywin around KL very much, but why didn’t Tywin insist that Cersei drop by CR with the children, (and without Robert) at regular intervals so Tywin could see their progress?!? Or get someone in KL to keep an eye on them for him?!? After all, since having a grandson on the IT was supposed to be the Jewel in the Crown of Tywin’s legacy, he really should have been paying closer attention to how that was going to work out…I guess it was just part and parcel of Twyin’s extraordinary level of neglect to his children, until it was too late. I wonder if after Joffrey died, and Tommen was crowned he’d begun to regret past mistakes, and was hoping to mold the young and pliable Tommen to the job of King?!? Ironically that was exactly what Margery’s been trying to do…much to Cersei’s annoyance.

    • From Tywin’s comments in ASOS, he seems to have trusted Cersei to do the job correctly, and seems to have gotten rather biased reports from her.

      • Bail o' Lies says:

        Remember he originally thought that the reason Ned Stark and all those other follies at the start of the reign were because of bad council not because Cersei was incompetent and Joffery was insane. So he sent one of his own he could afford to leave the field Tyrion to find out what going on and whip King’s Landing into shape while he dealt with the green upstart Robb Stark.

        By the time he got to King’s Landing Tyrion was out for (I forget) a week or two and Tywin was told how did what by Cersei who took all the credited she could reasonably take while doing out the rest to people to make sure they keep quite. Leaving Tyrion with all the blame for all the bad ideas since he couldn’t defend himself and the thing no one could deny he did (or take credit for themselves) The Chain since he order the blacksmiths to make it, sending Myrcella to Dorne, and leading the charge that left him unconscious while everyone took all the credit.

        So Tywin first impression after his arrival was that both Cersei was valiantly trying to keep King’s Landing together in a time crisis while Tyrion only did the bare minimum to help and spent the rest of the time hedonistically pleasuring himself with whores the one thing Tywin said he would not permit.

        So by the time Tyrion ask for his right’s of Casterly Rock Tywin’s opinion of Cersei could not be higher while his opinion of Tyrion could never be lower the one time he gave Tyrion real power he spent it whoring leading to he’s speech that he would not let Tyrion turn The Rock into a whore house. Tywin hated Tyrion and despised the thought of him inheriting the Rock but after what he heard after Blackwater it became NEVER!

        Now Tywin opinion change quick after he saw what Cersei, and Joffery were really like. Cersei has prideful, greedy, spiteful, lustful, and envious to an incredible degree and has very little common sense. A lot of her decision have such obvious negative outcomes that once people hear it they would immediately wonder how could anyone think that was a good idea, and then point out why it was such a bad idea. Her refusal to have Robert children (which start this whole conflict) the decisions made early in Joffery reign (Tywim Tyrion) her constant demands that Tywin come to King’s Landing and defend it (Tyrion) her demand to pull back Joffery from the Battle of Blackwater Bay (Tyrion Lancel) how Joffery was raise (Robert Stannis Ned Jamie Kevin Tywin Varys Tyrion) refusal to make Kevin Tommen’s hand (Kevin Jamie) rearming the faith (Genna) refusing to pay the debt’s to the Iron Bank ( Pycelle Jon) her small council (Jamie Mace Kevin Waters Gennna Pycelle Cersei) how she raises Tommen and how she treats (and plots against) the Tyrells (Tommen Mace Kevin Jamie Pycelle Loras Margery Waters) her infidelity (…too many also moon boy for all I know).

        Also she quick to accept all the credit but none of the blame which she will try to pin on someone else once someone tells her why her idea was stupid. You brought up one example of this in you article when Tywin ask where did Jofffery get the notion that “A King Acts Boldly” it quite obvious that it was her notion but once she realized that Tywin was saying that it was stupid she quickly tried blaming it on Robert. Personally I think the best example of this behavior of her is when she first meets Tyrion in ACOK. Where she was proudly taking all the credit for the actions that have been pass and thinks she is Tywin II until Tyrion says that their father want the small council head on spikes for all the blunder and explains why they are blunders.

        After seeing what he saw in Kind’s Landing Tywin tried fixing the problems of Joffery, the incest rumors, and the effect the war had on the kingdom by removing his children from King’s Landing and controlling Joffery himself.

        Jamie was to go to Casterly Rock and give it the heirs it deserved.

        Cersie was to go become Willas Tyrells bride to quell the incest rumor, strengthen the bond between Lanister and Tyrells, also to get her out of King’s Landing and away from Joffery.

        Tyrion, Sansa, and their child were to go to Winterfell and control the North.

        None of this happen or work of course but at least he tried.

        • Winnie says:

          The thing that confuses me though, is why lord tywin ever believed anything queen c told him. I get he was in denial about the incest and was inclined to believe the worst about his youngest son but did he never before catch on that his daughter was a liar and lacked good judgment? One thing I liked about the show was when he told her “I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman. I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.” It showed he was a lot more aware where his daughter was concerned.

          • Bail o' Lies says:

            The reason he believed Cersei over Tyrion was she had proof the Tyrion was whoring instead of doing his assignment Alayaya. Tyrion couldn’t defend himself and everyone took all the credit they could get before he woke up. This proved every negative thought Tywin ever had of Tyrion while proving that Cersei was competent at least initially. Once he saw how Joffery and Cersei acted over a period of time it changed his opinion.

            The reason he didn’t want to believe the incest was because he couldn’t believe a Lannister and his daughter could be that stupid. There was no point in doing that in his mind because what could possibly be gained? Through Robert and Cersei child it would cement a Bartheon and Lannister dynasty. The symbol for the royal family is The Stag of the Bartheons and The Lion of Lannister. Notice no one mention that since Joffery/Tommen was marrying the Tyrells that they should remove The Lion of Lannister and replace it with The Gold Rose of the Tyrells or when initially when Sansa was to marry Joffery The Direwolf of the Starks? Symbol have meaning and the royal family coat of arms says that the Lion and Stag rule together and defeated the Dragon. it was not the Direwolf or the Falcon and it’s Moon or even the Stag itself that ruled no it was The Lion and The Stag together that reign supreme.

            Why would anyone want to have a child born of incest that is not the kings then hide it under his nose? Robert has two brothers if anyone found out about this it would delegitimizes the child and enable the brothers to call the noble houses to revolt against the Lannister with the possible backing of The North, The Stormlands, The Reach, Dorne The Riverlands, and maybe even The Crownlands. Why would anyone other than a complete idiot think that was a good idea?

            He originally thought all the decision were made because of bad council and sent Tyrion a person he despises and hates but a Lannister none the less to fix the problem.

  9. Brian says:

    This essay keeps with your tradition of great work both here and with Tower of the Hand. Since this talked a lot about Young Griff, I’m curious where you stand on the question of his legitimacy. Do you believe that he is in fact Aegon Targaryen and was hidden away by Varys? Or is he a fraud? A Blackfyre? Illyrio’s son? Something else?

    • I’ve gone back and forth on it.

      At the moment, I’m thinking that Varys swapped out the real Aegon and then Illyrio swapped in his own kid.

      • Brian says:

        I never considered that. I like it! Is the true Aegon around somewhere? Or would Illyrio have disposed of him?

      • WPA says:

        Neato. That’s a hell of a theory. I’ve always figured he’s a Blackfyre or close to it. JonCon probably thinks he’s real out of a desperate wish for it really to be Rhaegar’s son and a chance to redeem himself. Though I personally think GRRM will just leave it ambiguous until he’s either given the fully Quentyn by one of the dragons or winds up on the business end of Heartsbane or something. (I’m assuming no one seriously expects him to make it through the end of the series)

      • David Hunt says:

        What does Illyrio personally gain from this if Aegon thinks he’s the real deal? It’ was my impression from the book that Aegon thinks he’s really Raegar’s kid. JOn Connington surely thinks so or he’d have never worked for the people that killed his best friend’s/unrequited love’s son. Does the satisfaction that his own son sits on the Iron Throne give him enough more than being the backer that put Raegar’s own son there? Will he reveal his paternity to Aegon after he’s won the throne?

        If this theory is true, then the original Aegon has to have been disposed as an infant of as he’s waaaay to dangerous to be kept around. He might look too much like his father.

        • Illyrio doesn’t strike me as someone who intends to be around for a long time – after all, he’s not in the best of health. He’s basically succeeded at everything he can – he made up from penniless bravo to a Magister of Pentos – and now wants to honor his old friend (and possibly, his dead wife and her son).

          And yes, if the theory is true, Illyrio killed the real Aegon early on.

      • Andrew says:

        The problem with that theory is that Elia would have to have been involved, and I don’t if she would have approved. I think she would recognize if a child wasn’t her son. If she had been in on it, she wouldn’t have been with some stranger’s child during the sack of KL, but would have gone to protect her daughter, Rhaenys.

        • Depends when the baby was switched – at last minute, she A. might not have had time to notice, or B. wouldn’t be alive long enough to tell anyone.

          Alternatively, C., Elia might have been willing to do anything to see to her son’s safety when the city was being sacked. Varys can be very persuasive.

          • Andrew says:

            I think a mother would notice if the baby wasn’t hers almost immediately. How many babies in Flea Bottom have the Targaryen coloring? Elia likely would have demanded he do the same for Rhaenys if he told her his plan to smuggle Aegon. If the city was being sacked, she might also have demanded to come with them as she was still their mother.

          • I don’t think we can assume that Elia was in constant contact with her son, most infants don’t have hair to begin with, and we don’t know what she might or likely would have done – I could just as easily say that Elia would have understood the vital importance of saving Rhaegar’s heir above all else, might very well have understood that her death would be necessary to keep him secret, and that Varys like came to her at the last minute with an all-or-nothing offer.

          • David Hunt says:

            Andrew: if memory serves it’s unusual for noble women to be with their infant children night and day. I vaguely recall some noble using what he thought was an insult to a smallfolk by saying that he’d been nursed by his own mother. There was the kid that Arya meets with the Brotherhood (a Dayne?) who says that he’d Jon’s milk-borther. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the royal family epitomized this trend. It’s possible that a switch could go unnoticed for at least a short while…if the nurse was in on it. She’d likely know immediately, but she could delay the discovery by coming up with excuses to keep Elia from holding the kid like sickness, or depending on Elia’s personality doing something to make sure the kid is crying or sleeping when she’s there to discourage her holding him. I don’t have kids, so I don’t know how likely Elia would be likely to spot a switch, or if heavy swaddling or some such would help

            Of course, Varys would have made sure that the Nurse didn’t survive the Sack of King;s Landing if Gregor Clegane wasn’t kind enough to take care of that for him.

            tl;dr version: Westerosi nobles (at least in the South) put off some/most of the child-rearing duties on servants and thus, Elia might not have noticed the switch before “Aegon” was dead.

          • WPA says:

            Varys also could have taken advantage of the chaos and his tunnel/passage network to pull a quick switch before Tywin’s Goon Squad got to the Red Keep. It probably wouldn’t have taken much time – and Varys had to have a hiding place/escape hatch ready to go for his own sake (wouldn’t do for him to catch a stray arrow in the ensuing bloodbath) if he thought the King wouldn’t listen to him on opening the gates or if Ned showed up with a proper siege train. I’m sure he’d assume post-Trident that if the city fell that the royal family would almost certainly be liquidated and had to have a plan ready for the inevitable chaos and panic. Also, he could have had other contingencies planned for more of the Targ children, but the rapid fall of the city caught him by surprise.

          • Andrew says:

            Except Elia likely would have noticed her son was missing, and if Varys proposed the plan she would have demanded she come with Aegon and bring Rhaenys.
            @David Hunt
            I think those hypotheticals wouldn’t work. If Aegon was sick, she would likely look after him especially since he was the only son she was ever going to have. If Aegon became sick and died, Viserys would become king.

          • We don’t know that she would – the sack of the City would be a distraction. Likewise, we don’t know if Varys gave her the option.

  10. While reading I wondered, if Cersei’s outlook on kingdom was formed in some way by her watching the events of Robert’s rebellion: She was raised in the believe of marrying Rhaegar. Which amounts to imagining herself as future queen and some infuriation and self-identification with House Targayen. And some years later she sees the house, which could have been hers, torn down by lesser houses and the prince* of her childhood dreams slain by Robert.

    (OTOH: He was married to Elia at that point, plus the Lyanna affair. )

    Sometimes I want GRRM to write a prequel about Robert’s Rebellion not only to read in detail how it went but how the rebellion was perceived at its time.

    • Winnie says:

      I do think Tywin and Cersei are both motivated in part by envy of the Targaryen’s and a wish to emulate them-so they subconsciously pattern their behavior to mimic what the “dragons” would do-or what they think the dragons would do. The obsession with pomp and extravagance going hand in hand with fire and blood are pretty standard Targaryen fare.

  11. Every time you’ve linked to something on Tower of the Hand, I’ve spent a few minutes in frustration trying to read the article before finally giving up. But not this time!

    The “scope”- the anti spoiler text drop down- at the top was blocking me from reading anything. That’s a seriously non-obvious thing for me to have stumbled across. It might be useful to let people know they’ll need to fill out a 1 question form before they can read work at that site!

    (Now that I know this, I can go back and actually read the article. 🙂 )

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    I’m not sure this is the best place to ask Maester Steven, but it occurred to me that “Liberty by Law” might be the best slogan Team Smallfolk could ask for; what do you think?

  13. Andrew says:

    Good job, Steven.

    1)With Joffrey shooting peasants with a crossbow we see where he learned this behavior later in A Clash of Kings during the Battle of the Blackwater when merchants come to the RK for protection, the duty of the king, and Cersei tells her guards to send them off with a few quarrels.

    “when your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you.” (Tyrion IV ASoS)

    What Tywin says compared to what Cersei thinks of Tywin:

    Robert should have scoured the isles after Balon Greyjoy rose against him, Cersei thought. He smashed their fleet, burned their towns, and broke their castles, but when he had them on their knees he let them up again. He should have made another island of their skulls. That was what her father would have done (Cersei VII AFfC)

    This clearly shows the disconnect between the way Cersei views her father and the way he actually worked. Whenever a problem erupts, Cersei’s first thoughts can be summed up in these thoughts: “This was how an enemy should be dealt with: with a dagger not a declaration.” Her first instinct is violence in solving a problem, and it is indiscriminate compared to Tywin’s usual precision.

    2)Back to the main subject, Joffrey is hopeless for the most part. As for Aegon, he is well-educated and he is skilled at arms, but what he has in book smarts he lacks in street smarts, the smarts you get from reading people, an essential skill for any military commander or politician. Also, whenever danger appeared Aegon was made to go to the back of boat for safety. Treating him like a child for this long likely stunted his psychological maturation. When faced with actual real danger, the stone man, he froze. He is also lacking in patience and caution, also necessary traits, as the lack of either resulted in Jaime’s capture and the siege of Riverrun being lifted, and Imry Florent falling for Tyrion’s wildfire trap.

    I think that is more due to Connington, as he may have neglected teaching Aegon strategy and tactics, likely leaving that Haldon with the history of battles and wars, with the idea that he would redeem himself by doing all the hard work for Rhaegar’s son and place him on the IT as if he were still a little boy.

    • No, I think Aegon was taught strategy and tactics, but he’s never fought for real – hence being taught by Rolly Duckfield rather than being sent out as an apprentice to a mercenary company where he’d get real-life experience.

      He’s green. How he responds afterwards, we’ll see.

      • Andrew says:

        That is his chief problem. Living on a poleboat hurt him more than it helped him. He had never been to a court observe politics and intrigue, or so much as sat at a lord’s council. He is also unblooded, and his likely approach to battle is akin to his forebear’s, Daemon, and the he plays cyvasse combined with leading the attack on SE shows that he is bold to a fault, and goes for the quick kill. I think that will be his undoing; possibly dying leading a frontal assault. He has no political or military experience, and as Tyrion showed in his manipulation of Aegon into going west, this is a problem. If Tyrion was able to manipulate him, imagine what Arianne could do.

        My guess is that Arianne will drive a wedge between him and Connington. During the second Dance, Connington may likely advise caution in dealing with Tyrion knowing the guy is no idiot but the opposite. Arianne’s advisers will likely be the Sand Snakes who are anything, but cautious, and Arianne may advise a bolder, less cautious approach.

  14. Roger says:

    Very interesting points. I enjoyed your essay.
    It’s interesting to compare how Joffrey was raised (spoiled, overprotected but also ignored) with how the Stark children are educated. Robb was teached to be responsable of his vassals and smallfolks.

  15. […] by Davos to re-examine his theory of the monarchy and put the good of the realm first (much as Varys would have wanted, ironically) that he becomes a king worth following. As for Renly…well, unfortunately for […]

  16. […] I’ve talked in the past about the extent to which Joffrey as a prince was shaped by his mother or his father – which is something of a controversial topic. However much his standard of personal behavior might ape Robert Baratheon, his political philosophy is pure Cersei. The problem here is that this kind of short-sighted, half-understood Machiavellianism, filtered through Joffrey’s paranoia, sadism, and desire for control, cannot jibe with Tyrion’s cautious, noblesse-oblige version of social contractualism. There can be no meeting of the minds, because Tyrion’s warning that the social contract will enforce itself violently on a monarch who thinks he’s above it comes across to Joffrey as threats to his life. […]

  17. […] I’ve said before, Joffrey’s sadism and hatred of the commons has been steadily wearing down the bonds of allegiance between the king and his subjects to a […]

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