Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Tyrion III

Tyrion’s Chain by Tomasz Jedruzek

“His sister’s ire had led her to overlook the true significance of Stannis Baratheon’s letter. Without proof, his accusations were nothing; what mattered was that he had named himself king.”

Synopsis: Tyrion, Cersei, Littlefinger, and Pycelle discuss Stannis‘ letter. Afterwards, Tyrion has a tense labor-management meeting with the guild of smiths, and then goes to a brothel to meet a eunuch.

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:

Heading into Tyrion III, a chapter absolutely jam-packed with rich political detail (so buckle in, this is going to be a long one), the first thing I noticed is the difference between Peter Dinklage’s portrayal of Tyrion and the book Tyrion – in this case, the change of interior dialogue to snappy rejoinder. In the books, much of Tyrion’s wittiest one-liners and putdowns are reserved for the safe confines of his own mind, giving Tyrion the aspect, not quite of l’esprit escalier, but of a man whose precarious position has taught him to guard his tongue. Show-Tyrion is a less passive, more confident, and more resilient man willing to give back as good as he gets.

Stannis’ Letter and the Art of Public Relations

 The main political event of the chapter is the arrival of Stannis’ public letter. As I discussed then, this letter is an impressive innovation in Westerosi politics, and one that Stannis gets little credit for:

“If Stannis bothered with them, it’s past certain every other lord in the Seven Kingdoms saw a copy as well.”

“I want these letter burned, every one,” Cersei declared. “No hint of this must reach my son’s ears, or my father’s.”

“I imagine Father’s heard more than a hint by now,” Tyrion said dryly. “Doubtless Stannis sent a bird to Casterly Rock, and another to Harrenhal. As for burning the letters, to what point? The song is sung, the wine is spilled, the wench is pregnant. And this is not as dire as it seems, in truth.”

Cersei turned on him in green-eyed fury. “Are you utterly witless? Did you read what he says? The boy Joffrey, he calls him. And he dares to accuse me of incest, adultery, and treason!”

Only because you’re guilty. It was astonishing to see how angry Cersei could wax over accusations she knew perfectly well to be true. If we lose the war, she ought to take up mummery, she has a gift for it. Tyrion waited until she was done and said, “Stannis must have some pretext to justify his rebellion. What did you expect him to write? “Joffrey is my brother’s trueborn son and heir, but I mean to take his throne for all that?”

In one stroke, Stannis establishes his own political legitimacy at the expense of both Joffrey and Renly, much to the consternation of the former in this chapter. While the letter is sometimes seen as at least an initial failure, with the capture of Renly’s army being the real turning point, I think there is evidence to the contrary. For example, we know that Houses Massey (in the person of Ser Justin), Farring (Ser Gilbert and Ser Godry, squire Bryen), Follard (Ser Perkin), and Chyttering (Lord Lucos and Little Lycos), all Lesser Houses of the Crownlands not sworn to Dragonstone, end up in the service of Stannis despite not being present in Renly’s army. Given this, I think the fact that Stannis is targeting Houses Gyles and Stokeworth here points to a broadly successful campaign of recruitment in the the Crownlands, which in turn helps to explain that nagging problem of King’s Landing’s numbers problems. Likewise, as we’ll see later in Tyrion’s chapters, Stannis’ accusations are enough to spur full-scale riots in the capitol (which have brought down regimes in the past) as well as the Antler Men.

We also learn a lot about the Lannister camp’s grasp (or lack thereof) on public relations from how they react to the letter. Cersei goes straight for a hamfisted, tyrannical response, reminiscent of her last time in the throne room, thinking somehow that she can put the genie back into the bottle. By contrast, Tyrion displays a sophisticated understanding of how rumor spreads and the necessities of public relations. However, the situation is more complicated than Cersei = Dumb, Tyrion = Smart. Consider the following passage:

“Done in the Light of the Lord…a queer choice of words that…we can use that against him. Urge the High Septon to reveal how Stannis turned against the gods as well as his rightful king…”

“Yes, yes,” the queen said. “But first, we must stop this filth from spreading further. The council must issue an edict. Any man heard speaking of incest or calling Joff a bastard should lose his tongue for it.”

“A folly,” sighed Tyrion. “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world you fear what he might say…any man with a thimble of sense will see it for a clumsy attempt to justify usurping the crown. Does Stannis offer proof? How could he, when it never happened?”

“Your Grace, your brother has the right of this.” Petyr Baelish steepled his fingers. “If we attempt to silence this talk, we only lend it creedence. Better to treat with contempt, like the pathetic lie it is. And meantime, fight fire with fire…a tale of somewhat the same nature, perhaps. But more easily believed. Lord Stannis has spent most of his marriage apart from his wife…if we put about that her daughter  is baseborn and Stannis a cuckold, well…the smallfolk are always eager to believe the worst of their lords, particularly those as stern, sour, and prickly proud as Stannis Baratheon.”

Loath as Tyrion was to admit it, Littlefinger’s scheme had promise.

On the one hand, Cersei’s limitations as a political actor are genuine and profound – not only would her recommended policy lend public credence to Stannis’ story (as Tyrion points out), but it would also further entrench public hatred for the Lannisters as bloody tyrants; indeed, the fact that she orders it as good as confirms the story for anyone sitting on the Small Council (although at this point, everyone on the Small Council already knows). Her later suggestion, that Selyse’s hypothetical partner in adultery, that “she has two brothers, I believe. And one of her uncles has been with her on Dragonstone,” betrays a weird fixation on incest (one she’ll repeat with Margaery) that makes me honestly surprised that she managed to keep anyone in the dark about her brotherlover babydaddy.

On the other hand, Tyrion shows his own limitations in this scene. While he has a good idea about turning Stannis’ religious conversion against him – after all, the people of King’s Landing are generally pious in the Faith of the Seven as we’ve seen from the Revolt of the Faithful to the Dance of the Dragons to the arrival of the sparrows in AFFC – his belief that Stannis’ letter will be assessed logically and on the basis of evidence shows an inability to put himself in the minds of others. Offering silence wouldn’t have been as bad as Cersei’s bloody campaign of tongue-removal, but it would not have stopped the tide of public opinion. Compared to Littlefinger’s keen – if highly cynical – understanding of human psychology and social resentments of the lower orders, Tyrion is clearly a journeyman in the presence of a master.

Who Knew What and When?

A second fascinating political moment comes when Tyrion catches up with Varys, who is interestingly absent for the Small Council meeting. (What he was doing at that meeting I don’t know, although it may have something to do with Tyrek Lannister – more on that later)  In this conversation, we learn a lot about who knew what and when during the events of AGOT and before:

 “You missed a lively council. Stannis has crowned himself, it seems.”

“I know.”

“He accuses my brother and sister of incest. I wonder how he came by that suspicion.”

“Perhaps he read a book and looked at the color of a bastard’s hair, as Ned Stark did, and Jon Arryn before him. Or perhaps someone whispered it in his ear.”

“Someone like you, perchance?”

“Am I suspected? It was not me.”

“If it had been, would you admit it?”

“No. But why should I betray a secret I have kept so long? It is one thing to deceive a king, and quite another to hide from the cricket in the rushes and the little bird in the chimney. Besides, the bastards were there for all to see…he fathered eight, to the best of my knowing…their mothers were copper and honey, chestnut and butter, yet the babes were all black as ravens…so when Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen slid out between your sister’s thighs, each as golden as the sun, the truth was not hard to glimpse.”

To begin with, we get clear confirmation that Varys knew about Cersei’s incestuous adultery for a long time, and was aware of both Jon and Ned’s discoveries. We also are led to believe that Varys’ knowledge about Cersei stemmed not from his spying on the Hands, but rather from his own observations and his own network of spies observing the queen and her brother (hence the references to the little bird in the chimney).

However, the main subject of controversy here is whether Littlefinger was the one who prompted Stannis to look into the bastardy question, and thus kickstarted Stannis and Jon Arryn’s investigations. On the one hand, Varys seems to be intimating that this is the case, and it would fit Littlefinger’s general pattern of working through others to achieve his ends. Certainly, I could see Littlefinger using Stannis’ distrust of him as a form of reverse psychology. On the other hand, it strains credulity that even Littlefinger could think that he could control the investigation, especially when it might lead to a hostile Stannis as heir to the Iron Throne. Moreover, it’s telling that Stannis never mentions Littlefinger in the context of the bastardy.

Finally, I think we have to consider context. After all, Varys has not yet finalized his alliance with Tyrion – the “one, two, three” moment won’t be until next chapter – so it’s absolutely in his interests to prejudice the new Hand of the King against his main rival. Varys never states outright that Littlefinger did tell Stannis, but rather presents it as one of a number of possibilities and even mentions that it was somewhat obvious just from looking at Cersei’s kids. So I’m leaning against the Littlefinger angle, at least for the moment.

The Chain and Management Strategies

The second major event of note in this chapter is Tyrion meeting with the blacksmiths of King’s Landing about the boom chain. It is impossible to overstate the tactical and strategic importance this chain had for the Battle of Blackwater, And it was Tyrion’s plan, and only Tyrion’s plan. From the beginning, Tyrion makes every effort to maintain secrecy, deliberately underplaying to Cersei what he was having built: “I’m having a gift made for Joffrey. A little chain….and this chain I believe he may one day treasure above all others…” (Incidentally, I’m not sure whether Tyrion’s constant string of short jokes is GRRM following through on Tyrion’s advice to Jon, GRRM indulging his weakness for repeating tropes, or a deep-seated psychological issue on Tyrion’s part.)

The central importance of this chain to Tyrion’s plan can be seen in the depth of his investment in it:

“Tyrion yanked the drawstring and upended the bag. Its contents spilled onto the rug. “I had these made at the castle forge. I want a thousand more just like them…I want every forge in King’s Landing turned to making these links and joining them. All other work is to be set aside…”

“Iron is grown dear,” Ironbelly declared, “and this chain will be needing much of it, and coke beside, for the fires.”

“Lord Baelish will see that you have coin as you need it…I will command the City Watch to help you find iron. Melt down every horseshoe in the city if you must…”

At a time when Tyrion is short on manpower, money, and materiel, he chooses to put all of it into the chain. This is one hell of a risk; it means his meager forces will go into battle poorly-equipped and low on supplies. But Tyrion is a commander with a keen eye for the bigger picture – at the end of the day, his army will always be smaller, greener, and less disciplined than the forces of Renly and Stannis, even if he pours all his resources into it (as Cersei’s strategy would have him do). But the boom chain can prevent those forces from being able to cross the Blackwater, rendering them strategically useless. As I’ll go into in much greater detail later, that boom chain will be the decisive factor that prevented Stannis from winning the Battle of Blackwater.

At the same time, it’s interesting to see how Tyrion’s strategy for managing the smiths of King’s Landing shows us both the strengths and limits of his political style. Tyrion clearly considers that Cersei’s heavy handed tactics – “But what of the mail and swords the queen was wanted…Her Grace said those as didn’t meet their numbers would have their hands crushed…smashed on their own anvils, she said.” – are only helping to antagonize the working people of King’s Landing. And Tyrion knows that morale is absolutely critical in sieges (most sieges, historically, ended when the people inside either surrendered or were betrayed from the inside), so he wants to play the good guy. He declares that “No one will have their hands smashed. You have my word on it.” So far, so good. But when Salloreon the master smith balks at the task of making the chain, Tyrion loses his temper: “It’s links I need, not demon horns. So let me put it to you this way. You will make chains or you will wear them. The choice is yours.

 This is not a sound strategy for managing proud guilded craftsman – Tyrion has offered neither consistent sternness nor consistent smoothness. No wonder that Salloreon will later join the subversive Antler Men faction looking to open the gates to whichever Baratheon makes it the capitol city. And it’s not like Tyrion couldn’t have managed the situation in other ways – he could have played Salloreon’s snootiness against the rest of the craftsmen to isolate and shame Salloreon, or used the crown’s effective monopoly on iron and coke, or bribed him, or accepted the offer of the armor as a face-saving measure but insisted on the chain anyway. The problem is that Tyrion isn’t used to trying to make friends.

Public Politics, Revisited

Which brings us to the issue of Tyrion and public relations. As I mentioned before, morale is not doing well in King’s Landing. Cut off from the Riverlands, Stormlands, and the Reach, and with Tywin’s army consuming much of the resources of the Crownlands, the city is starving. The child-murdering Cersei and the child tyrant Joffrey have not helped matters. To his credit, Tyrion is genuinely trying to make things better, even at the expense of military preparedness:

“He had done all he could to feed the hungry city- he’d set several hundred carpenters to building fishing boats in place of catapults, opened the kingswood to any hunter who dared to cross the river, even sent goldcloaks foraging to the west and south-yet he still saw accusing eyes everywhere he rode.” 

Tyrion’s mistake is in how he publicizes his actions, or rather, how he doesn’t. Yes, all of these things are overwhelmingly for show; there’s no way a city of 500,000 increased even further  with floods of refugees can be sated by fish, fowl, and forage. But let’s be honest – the few wagon loads of bread the Tyrells distributed to ease the suffering they had created is just a show with better production values. What Tyrion fails to do here is to manage the public perception of his actions: just as Tyrion should have justified removing Janos Slynt by publicizing Slynt’s corruption and Bywater’s courage in the defense of the city, or Pycelle’s arrest by publicizing Pycelle’s corruption and oathbreaking, here he should have organized soup kitchens in his own name, spent a few hours distributing venison or foraged provisions to the poor or publicly announced that he was putting himself and the Red Keep on half-rations, so that a public association was made between Tyrion’s person and his policies.

However, as I said in my larger essay on Tyrion’s Handship, Tyrion simply does not think of himself as someone who can be a hero. And for the want of a few photo-ops, a Hand fell.

Side Note: The Tunnel

Finally – the tunnel in Chataya’s brothel. I’m generally in agreement with those who think that Tywin had the tunnel built so that he could indulge his worldly desires without bending on his public anti-whore stance. Not only does it make logical sense, but it’s beautifully thematic – Tywin’s own hypocrisy provides means, motive, and opportunity for his assassination. One detail that I hadn’t noticed before that lends further credence to this theory is that Varys states that “Chataya has no cause to love the queen.” This probably refers to the murder of Barra and her child, but it would also make sense given that Tywin’s probably an old customer of Chataya’s.

Historical Analysis:

If a leading Yorkist or Lancastrian had been dropped into King’s Landing when Stannis’ letter arrived, they would be utterly nonplussed by the news that Joffrey was being accused of being a bastard (although the incest angle would have raised an eyebrow). Accusations of royal bastardy were quite common during the Wars of the Roses. As one might expect in a political and economic system based on inheritance by primogeniture, the only way for the minority party to claim, well, legitimacy, was to assert the literal illegitimacy of their rivals, thus making them the true heir to the throne.

As we’ve discussed, for supporters of Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, the birth of Prince Edward of Lancaster was deeply inconvenient. No one liked King Henry VI’s weak and corrupt government, but no one was willing to unseat an anointed king (especially after the deposing of Richard II had led to so much bloodshed), so the moderate position was to insist that the Duke of York be made heir so that when Henry died (god willing sooner than later), good government could be restored. Prince Edward’s birth threatened a continuation of Margaret’s rule, as so the Earl of Warwick and other Yorkists publicly argued that Prince Edward was actually the son of Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, or James Butler, the Earl of Whiltshire, on the grounds that King Henry VI was too mentally gone to have sex, and pious to a fault even when sane. (Shakespeare added William de la Pole, the Duke of Suffolk to the list, but that was not claimed at the time) This nicely solved the problem for Yorkists, and had the bonus of bringing dishonor on the hated queen and her two chief allies.

Likewise, when the Earl of Warwick broke with King Edward IV in the late 1460s, he was faced with a problem. He badly needed a king to support, but he was not yet willing to break completely with the Yorkist cause (after all he had been the guy who convinced Parliament to acclaim Edward king, on the grounds that Richard Plantagenet was the true king and Edward his heir), and one of his chief allies and the perfect replacement for Edward was George Plantagenet, the Duke of Clarence. As Edward’s next-youngest brother, Clarence had a strong claim through the Yorkist line, and was Warwick’s son-in-law to boot. The problem was that Parliament wasn’t going to let Warwick do away with King Edward IV. Warwick’s solution was to claim that Edward was a bastard, that his mother Cecily Neville (Warwick’s own aunt) had cuckolded Richard Plantagenet with a common archer named Blaybourne. Thus, George was the oldest legitimate son of Richard, Duke of York, and rightful king of England. (How Warwick expected that people would accept that Cecily had cheated on her husband the one time and not the other, I’m not so sure). Needless to say, this didn’t work out too well for Warwick, or for George, but it was the only card they could play.

Come the death of Edward IV in 1483, Richard Duke of Gloucester was in a similar position. Queen Elizabeth and her Woodville family were widely hated, Richard himself was a proven Yorkist general and a good administrator, and as the youngest and only surviving son of Richard, Duke of York, had a strong claim. The problem was that his brother King Edward had two healthy sons – Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury – and sons come before uncles. While some of his supporters repeated the old accusations about Blaybourne, this was too close to home for Richard, who instead found a previous engagement between his brother Edward and the Lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Duke of Shrewsbury. This neatly solved the problem – his brother Edward was the legitimate King of England, but was a bigamist, and thus the two boys were bastards and Richard of Gloucester was the true King of England. Parliament agreed in 1484, and formally declared them bastards in the statute Titulus Regius.

Ironically, when Henry VII slew Richard III on Bosworth field, he went to great pains to have this repealed by Parliament and then censored completely, ordering every copy burnt unopened. The text of the proclamation was lost for about 100 years, and survived only through being copied into a monastic chronicle that was overlooked. One might think that Henry VII, bedeviled as he was by a number of pretenders claiming to be the vanished Edward V or Richard of Shrewsbury, would want to make it very clear that these boys were bastards and out of the line of succession. But Henry Tudor had an incredibly weak claim to the throne of England – his paternal grandfather had married Henry V’s widow, and his mother was the great-grandaughter of John of Gaunt through his mistress – both from the female side and illegitimate to boot. Only by ensuring that his wife Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s daughter, was considered 100% legitimate, could he rest easy on the throne of England.

Before the internet, before television, and before radio, the public letter was a major device for shaping public opinion. It allowed politicians and public figures of all kinds the ability to get their argument out in front of the public in a definitive, fully worked out, impossible to misquote fashion, so that public opinion could be brought to bear on an issue. Perhaps the last public letter to really shape mass opinion was Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963, some 51 years ago. But in its time, the public letter was a skill that you needed to cultivate in politics.

And for my money, there is simply no one who did it better than Abraham Lincoln. While perhaps best remembered for his oratory – his Inaugural Addresses, his debate with Stephen Douglas, etc. – Lincoln was a master of the art of the public letter, which he deployed both in domestic and international politics. At home, Lincoln’s public letters were used to navigate the treacherous politics of keeping the whole of the North on board for the war – in August 1862, his public letter responding to Horace Greeley (“if I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that”) was used to straddle the difference between radical and conservative Republicans on the issue of emancipation ahead of his Proclamation; a year later, his public letter responding to Roscoe Conkling (“You dislike the emancipation proclamation; and, perhaps, would have it retracted. You say it is unconstitutional—I think differently. I think the constitution invests its commander-in-chief, with the law of war, in time of war. The most that can be said, if so much, is, that slaves are property. Is there—has there ever been—any question that by the law of war, property, both of enemies and friends, may be taken when needed?…You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then, exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union..I thought that in your struggle for the Union, to whatever extent the negroes should cease helping the enemy, to that extent it weakened the enemy in his resistance to you. Do you think differently? I thought that whatever negroes can be got to do as soldiers, leaves just so much less for white soldiers to do, in saving the Union. Does it appear otherwise to you?”) was used to stem conservative Republicans’ fears over the Emancipation Proclamation and the enrollment of black troops into the Union army.

Abroad, Lincoln’s public letters were aimed at keeping European governments out of the war, by appealing to the anti-slavery sentiments of the working class. His 1863 letter “To the Working-men of Manchester” was written with an awareness that the “favor or disfavor of foreign nations might have a material influence in enlarging or prolonging the struggle with disloyal men in which the country is engaged.” The Union’s blockade of Southern cotton was causing economic devastation in the textile industry of Great Britain, a possible pretext for British intervention; but a public appeal to the anti-slavery sentiment among those workers most affected by the shortage could, and did, keep public sentiment strongly pro-Union, and prevent the British government from entering the war on behalf of the South.

So in history, as in Westeros, “some battles are won with swords and spears, others with quills and ravens.”

What If?

There’s really only one decision that I think ultimately has a really significant potential for hypotheticals – the decision to go all-in on the boom chain. Yes, the Small Council could have ended up making a different decision about the public letter, but given that Littlefinger’s story didn’t seem to do any real harm to Stannis and the city’s population turned against Cersei anyway, I don’t see it being very consequential.

However, the chain is enormously consequential. Let’s say the chain had not been built but everything else had gone as in OTL – Stannis’ fleet still would have been decimated by Tyrion’s fireships – but his Lysene ships held in reserve would have been able to enter the bay. With those ships, Stannis’ ability to move his army across the river doubles. Instead of 5,000 men making it to the far bank, where Tyrion’s 6,000 men actually outnumbered them locally, now you have at least 10,000 and possibly more over the river, just as Tyrion’s forces break and abandon their posts. While it would still be a close run thing getting them over the undefended walls before Tywin’s 20,000 men crash into their flank, the irony would be that Tyrell’s 60,000 men would likely be stuck on the wrong side of the river, unable to bring their force to bear on Stannis’ army.

While casualties would still have been high, it’s quite possible that, for the lack of a chain, Stannis manages to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat. Tywin and the Tyrells would have him besieged, but until the Redwyne fleet arrives, Stannis can resupply himself from the sea. More importantly, without a Joffrey (and potentially without a Tommen as well), what’s left to hold the alliance together?

Book vs. Show:

The absence of the chain has long been a controversy regarding Tyrion’s Season 2 plotline, which is generally one of the major highlights of a troubled season. While I think you lose the element of Tyrion’s personal investment in this strategy, you lose the building mystery of what the chain is for, and the battle itself loses the bridge of ships, I actually think Benioff and Weis adjusted nicely, while preserving the spirit of the thing.

To me, the bigger loss is actually the tunnel. For one thing, the whole Season 2 arc with Shae and Cersei’s mistake with Ros doesn’t really work; Cersei’s got spies, Shae is in the Tower of the Hand, this mistake shouldn’t have been made. It also raises the difficulty of suspending disbelief when Shae’s hiding as Sansa’s handmaiden in Season 2-4. But most importantly, it eliminates the foreshadowing of Tyrion’s patricide and the reveal of Tywin’s hypocrisy. While still effective from an emotional and thematic perspective, more than a few people questioned A. how Tyrion found his way to Tywin’s bed, and B. why Tyrion was going out of his way to do this sans the reveal from Jaime. And I think the root of the problem can be traced back to decisions made in Season 2.

191 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Tyrion III

  1. bryndenbfish says:

    Another bang-up analysis! I keep checking ahead on the chapter list of ACOK to see what you’ll be covering next, and I tend to look forward to your analyses of Tyrion, Davos & Catelyn the most. That said, I am interested in your take on ACOK, Bran II as that is one of the more politically interesting chapters in the North with the Umber/Manderly ship-building alliance, Donella Hornwood’s widowhood and the rise of Ramsay Snow. But I’ll save any comments for your next CBC.

    I think you are very right that Stannis would eschew Littlefinger were he the one directly making accusations against Stannis. But would LF do this directly or work through an intermediary. I believe you were the one to turn me onto the idea that Littlefinger works through intermediaries & agents such as Ser Hugh of the Vale.

    To me, it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that LF used agents to slip information to Stannis. Maybe LF has an agent in Stannis’s retainer or just slipped information to them through an intermediary. There are a few knights in Stannis’s army that fit this bill:

    – Justin Massey was Robert’s squire where he developed a love for women. If he was anything like Robert, he frequented prostitutes. LF could have passed information to Massey through the prostitutes that he employed. Massey then could have passed it onto Stannis.

    – Richard Horpe was passed over for the Kingsguard at the express desire of Cersei Lannister. LF could have taken the then-young squire (who was likely nursing a grudge against Cersei) aside and given him information about Cersei that found its way to Stannis.

    – Clayton Suggs hailed from Flea Bottom. Not evidence itself, but Suggs’s special fondness for brutality and torture against women could have been developed through LF’s pimping.

    Those are just 3 ideas of agents/intermediaries that LF could have used to pass the information along to Stannis. But it could have been that LF passed the information directly to Stannis. And though the “lack of evidence is not evidence of lack” rule applies, Stannis’s statement in ASOS about scouring the court clean leaves out a particular someone:

    “The Lannister woman gave him horns and made a motley fool of him. She may have murdered him as well, as she murdered Jon Arryn and Ned Stark. For such crimes there must be justice. Starting with Cersei and her abominations. But only starting. I mean to scour that court clean. As Robert should have done, after the Trident. Ser Barristan once told me that the rot in King Aerys’s reign began with Varys. The eunuch should never have been pardoned. No more than the Kingslayer. At the least, Robert should have stripped the white cloak from Jaime and sent him to the Wall, as Lord Stark urged.” (ASOS, Davos IV)

    The lack of LF in Stannis’s statement to Davos has always been curious to me. It’s not damning, but it is curious all the same.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it. And yeah, I’ve REALLY been looking forward to Bran’s political story in ACOK.

      Those are three good picks for intermediaries. However, Stannis does specifically call out LF as corrupt when he meets Janos Slynt, for example.

    • Amestria says:

      Generally a promise to “scour the court” need not include anyone because it includes all of it. You don’t scour half a pot. And Stannis doesn’t just call Littlefinger corrupt, he describes him as a malign influence on the whole government, from the conduct of the gold cloaks to the attitudes of King Robert (in terms that remind you of Ned’s black cell dream – Littlefingers words and Robert’s mouth).

    • JT says:

      I didn’t realize Ned wanted to send Jaime Lannister to the Wall for killing Aerys. That’s an interesting “what-if”.

      Then again, considering Tywin had an 18,000 man army in KL at the time, and that Robert needed to get as much buy-in to his coalition as possible, it probably didn’t make any sense to poke the Lannisters by demanding Jaime be sent to the Wall.

      • Wat Barleycorn says:

        And being Ned, he probably demanded Jamie be sent to the wall. Where he should have demanded execution, and then accepted sending him to the wall as a reasonable compromise.

        Though I’m not sure if he would have gotten that even if he’d played it better–Jon Arryn seemed dead set on keeping Tywin, and I don’t think you get Tywin in the coalition if you send his only acceptable (in his mind) heir to the wall.

        I think Arryn’s decision to do so much to get the very unreliable and kinda nuclear Tywin is one of the biggest mistakes of the series in hindsight. Though to be honest, I’d probably have been in agreement with it if I’d been part of Arryn’s coalition.

        • Crystal says:

          Ned seems to have gotten a lot of his ideas of honor, etc. from Jon Arryn. Jon A. seems to have operated on the idea that people were honorable rather than otherwise (see: his sponsoring of Littlefinger on Lysa’s say-so). And with Tywin being a rich and powerful Lord Paramount, Jon would want to keep him close. It was one of those things that, as you said, was a mistake *in hindsight* but, given what Jon A. knew, he did what he thought was best. It was a mistake that only the readers, who knew what came later, could see.

    • Roger says:

      Massey, Horpe and Suggs are all possible informants (perhaps even unknowing they were doing it).

      I think in Feast of Ravens even Littlefinger admits to Sansa he did it.

      Personaly I preffer the option that Stannis discovered it by himself.

  2. Carolyn says:

    I also am pretty sure, that the tunnel was dug for Tywin. Since the tunnel was dug not too long ago and apart from him and Jon Arryn the other hands (Chelsted, JonCon, Merryweather) all had a very short tenure and therefore were in no position to have a tunnel built.
    While we never hear of Tywin publically being known to use whores (his daughter thinks, that he never touched a woman after the death of her mother and does everything to hide the fact, the a dead whore was found in his bed), Jon Arryn has no problem going into Chataya’s in broad daylight. Jon also does not seem to have gone to great lengths to hide this visit, since it has become castle gossip (Ned hears grooms, stable boys, guards etc. openly snickering about it) and the fact, that he brought with him STANNIS, a man who openly declared his intent to ban brothels, even makes it more likely, that the story is spread, since it creates a man-bites-dog-situation.

    • Good point about Jon Arryn; normally, he’s the other contender given Lysa’s issues, but I didn’t put the brothel visit together with his overall rep.

      • Sean C. says:

        I tend to think Arryn’s going to the place in broad daylight is as much due to the fact that he was the sort of person who, since he wasn’t actually going there for sex, wouldn’t think he had anything to hide. He knows his conduct is spotless, and to him that’s sufficient shield.

        • Carolyn says:

          The problem with this argument is that Jon Arryn and Stannis did not want anyone to know, that they were seeking out Robert’s bastards. If you reread Eddard VI, then you will see, that even when they were visiting Gendry at Tobho Mott’s place, they spread the word, that Jon Arryn wanted to buy some fancy decorated armour and Stannis would help in choosing the right colours, which they then did not buy.

          Ned Stark learns about Jon Arryn’s visit to the brothel, when he talks to a stable-boy, who in turn gets this news from Jon Arryn’s guards, who were making jokes about their lord visiting a brothel. None of these persons thought, that Stannis and Jon Arryn were in the brothel for anything else than sex.

          • Crystal says:

            The idea of the most uptight man in the Seven Kingdoms visiting a *brothel* together with the King’s Hand, an elderly and notoriously honorable man, probably was what amused people so much. Ordinary courtiers might get a smirk and a shrug – but the idea of Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon having an orgy with hookers was, no doubt, comedy gold for the masses.

          • WPA says:

            It’s sort of like Ned (assuming what we assume)’s “Oh, he’s my bastard.” gambit. It is so breathtakingly out of character that of course the masses will believe it- it’s too good to not be true, in a sense.

    • Amestria says:

      Has anyone else wondered that maybe Stannis’s anti-brothel stanch is less about public morality and more about putting Littlefinge’s human trafficking operation out of business?

      • Jeff says:

        Good point. He might even be involved in slave trading. He might have been the “passing slaver” Cersei sold the serving maid from Casterly Rock that bore Robert twins.
        In any case Stannis seems the type who doesn’t tolerate corruption in any form. Especially, personal or political corruption but as Master of Ships he could do nothing about it. But I think there were comments made in the books that he ran an extremely tight series of ships.

        • Amestria says:

          I think a Tyroshi trader is more likely because those are the guys Jorah sold the poachers too and they seem to have something of a bad reputation. But his enslavement of Jeyne Poole was definitely not a first time thing. Then there’s the question of where he gets those boys for Lyn Corbary…

          • BarbreysDustyDesire says:

            One can clearly see why Littlefinger didn’t want Stannis in power and yet another reason he wanted to get rid of Ned – they would not have tolerated his sexual slavery practices. He even catered to necrophilia. I remember one passage where he mentioned the difficulty of procuring fresh beautiful corpses. Littlefinger is utterly repugnant and I cant wait till he gets his comeuppance.

          • I think that’s a show only conversation between Varys and LF.

          • Crystal says:

            There were a lot of people in KL who had reason to fear for their necks if Stannis became king. Even without the whore houses, LF seems to have been cooking the books, and Stannis would punish him for that.

            He also wanted to execute Varys, Cersei, and her children. I’m sure Jaime, as well, and Tywin. And probably at least some of the Kingsguard. And Pycelle, no doubt… Stannis wanted to make a clean sweep and purge KL of corruption, and it was a hive of scum and villainy; I’m sure there was a lot of interest even among non-Lannisters in keeping Stannis the hell away from the throne.

          • Agreed. Hence Varys and “nothing on earth so terrifying as a truly just man.”

      • rw970 says:

        I don’t think that’s it. Stannis outlawed all brothels on Dragonstone, too. He doesn’t tolerate brothels, for whatever reason.

        • Amestria says:

          Well, if you think about it, most brothels are not positive places like Chatayas, most brothels are slave establishments. Lys, Tyrosh, Volantis, Pentos, the sex trade in those places is tied to slavery (Myr is probably no different but no one’s really commented on them I think?). Providing sex slaves to the East and West is big business in the Summer Sea. And brothel king Littlefinger clearly engages in human trafficking, so although slavery is illegal in Westeros the violent coercion of women does not stop at Westerosi shores. Like, Jeyne Poole and that nameless Westerosi woman Tyrion rapes along the Rhoyne both have whip marks on their backs. No doubt they were trained in much the same way. So there are more reasons to dislike brothels then mere prudery or religious conviction. Stannis could easily see them as deeply exploitative institutions which naturally corrupt the public morality and allow people like Littlefinger to gain power.

      • Crystal says:

        I think that’s a good point. Stannis is pals with Davos, after all – and of course sailors are going to visit brothels. But LF seems to have been running a particularly unsavory operation, with human trafficking, severely underage prostitutes and who knows what. Even someone less uptight than Stannis, who would be OK with a place like Chataya’s or a waterfront brothel, might think that selling the likes of Jeyne Poole into sex slavery ought to be punished. (If Sansa ever finds out what really happened to her bestie, she won’t be too thrilled with LF.)

      • No, I think it’s a genuine morality issue. Stannis dislikes sexual impropriety in all areas – Robert sleeping in his marriage bed, etc.

        • Amestria says:

          Human trafficking’s kind of a morality issue too.

          Anyway, so Stannis is vehemently opposed to brothels. I think we should ask is there anything about the Kings Landing brothels that would upset him beyond the normal, respectable upper class prejudice against them (the prejudice that led Tywin to build that crazy tunnel and which he later used to justify his tax)? Well, yes,the most obvious reason is that brothels are kinda bad for the public morality, promoting irresponsible and licentious behavior, spreading disease, producing fatherless infants, and so on. But then there’s Littlefinger and all the stuff he’s doing. The establishments Westerosi brothels are modeled on are the slave-brothels of the East and LIttlefinger’s establishments we know to be extremely predatory – Stannis is genuinely opposed to sexual violence as he gelds rapists, so he might be sensitive to this side of them. Then there’s a military angle. As Master of Ships Stannis might also have disliked them for spreading, or potentially spreading, disease among his men. I’m just saying there are probably very good reasons for him wanting to ban them and it’s not just a case of him being an inflexible killjoy.

          • Amestria says:

            “The establishments Westerosi brothels are modeled on are the slave-brothels of the East”

            Well, except Chataya’s, that’s modeled on establishments in the Summer Isles and has a much nicer atmosphere.

            Anyone wonder why Tywin picked that place?

        • WPA says:

          Though to be fair, who WOULDN’T be perturbed by their boisterous, extroverted older brother breaking in the marriage bed on the day that’s supposed to be about you, for once. And because he’s King, Stannis doesn’t have the expected recourse of decking him, he just has to stand there, grind his teeth, and take it.

        • BarbreysDustyDesire says:

          I find the sexual puritanisn displayed by Stannis and Tywin and even Cercei( whose public disavowal and squeemish revulsion of her and Jamies twincest) to be quite anachronistic of the higher aristocracy in history. The debauchery and sexual proclivities of the upper echelons of society were known/suspected by much of the lower masses and seem to have been tolerated up to a point. The aristocracy were not so burdened by what they perceived as the narrow strictures of morality practised by the common masses, especially the conservative middle classes. In fact they were somewhat removed and disdainful of the lower classes virtuosnesss and puritanism It seems that the Faith of the Seven mirrors in many ways the sexual prudery of Christianity. Braavos’s tolerance and acceptance of courtesans depicts to me a more realistic attitude to prostitution of many of the European upper classes of the past. In this, Cercei’s repugnance of and continual assertions of ‘filth’ when alluding to references to her own or any sexuality I find rather astonishing. She seems to have a strong case of internalised misogyny.
          In regard to Cercei’s blatant cuckolding of Robert I agree that its surprising that more people didn’t pick up on it sooner. I think her actions had the effect of causing a spiritual degradation in Robert that contributed to his drinking and unhappiness as a ruler.
          BTW – great essays Steven, Im thoroughly enjoying the historico /socio-political emphasis that you bring.

          • Glad you liked it, but I don’t think it’s anachronistic as much as it’s individualistic. Stannis has a personal issue with sex, may well be asexual, and is uncomfortable around women in general. Remember, everyone else at court thinks Stannis is a weirdo for trying to ban whores from KL.

          • Crystal says:

            I agree that Stannis is asexual, or very close to it. Perhaps it was partly as a reaction to Robert, but I think it has more to do with Stannis’ personality. Of the Baratheon brothers, Renly seems to have had the healthiest relationship – with Loras; they appear mutually devoted. True, it’s forbidden by the standards of their society, and they have to keep it a secret, but the Renly/Loras relationship seems to be the healthiest one among all the various marriages, mistresses and crushes that the current Baratheon adult generation have had.

          • Amestria says:

            I think Stannis’ desire to ban brothels comes from more then just his own personal issues. One of his defining traits is that he’s fundamentally just – this isn’t to say he’s just all the time, but that’s where his preference lies. Just people don’t go around banning things because of personal caprice. Stannis banning brothels might partly be because he’s a bit of a “weirdo”, but he’s also one of the few leading figures who has very clear social goals that go beyond “revenge,” “upholding the status quo,” and “getting ourselves in power.” The High Sparrow also goes after the brothels and he’s a bit more then a religious weirdo, like Stannis he also has very clear social goals. Of course to the rest of the aristocracy social goals would be as equally weird as asexuality or religious fundamentalism.

          • BarbreysDustyDesire says:

            Pardon, that was a very generalised statement I made earlier but I was thinking of figures like De Sade, Erzbet Bathory of Hungary, Oscar Wilde, the French author who wrote ‘Au Rebours’ or ‘Against Nature’ and the Romans, to name a few, when referring to the aristocracies proclivities.

          • Stannis is very upright, but I don’t believe that he is asexual. We know that he’s sleeping with Mel not just for the shadow babies (they are still sleeping together at Castle Black) and Davos believed that Melisandre’s physical attractiveness played a big role in why Stannis was more open to her influence than Selyse’s.

            I do, however, think he is aromantic.

          • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

            Does it really require internalized misogyny for Cersei to resent accusations that her children are the products of incest and royal adultery? It doesn’t seem like she’s guilty or self loathing; she just doesn’t want to see her and her kids executed.

  3. starkaddict says:

    Great read!!!

    I was bored out of my mind, and your essay provided a wonderful distraction. your point about the public image is something that is reflected by many hands. Ned Stark also exhibited the same flaw in his tenure as hand, though one can argue that the circumstances were different. But still, did he even bother to investigate the head of the city watch, and while most people claim that Ned was politically naive, he was lord of the north for some fourteen years now. And hindsight being what it is, we, now, know that Northern political scene is not all walk in the park, and though the stark name commandeers a lot of respect, northerners, like freefolk, respect strength above everything .And yet, we saw no interaction with the smallfolk or other non-stark men. And that was the person who insisted to share supper with various member of his household.

    In fact the only people in kings landing who are cautious about public image are Tyrells. They made sure that all the citizen knew that it was them and the new queen who bought salvation. Cersie made sure that she is reviled by everyone where as Marg tried to build her whole maiden image. I wonder if it will play some role in the trials to come.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      Yeah, Ned also didn’t manage to work the public relations angle – most critically with his attempted coup.

      As for Margaery, I’m sure it’s part of the reason why the High Sparrow let her out on bail. There’s someone who very much pays attention to public opinion.

      • JT says:

        I think Tyrion does understand public relations. For instance, he forbids feasting by nobles in the city. Tyrion’s bigger problem re. PR is a combination of the public being prejudiced to hate him from day 1, and the fact that many of the measures he needs to take in order to defend the city are unpopular.

        As (I believe) Jacelyn Bywater points out to Tyrion, he has three strikes against him in the court of public opinion, none of which he can easily change:

        – He’s a dwarf, which the average person in KL distrusts
        – He’s a Lannister, and there’s hated in Kings Landing towards the Lannisters from when Tywin sacked the city 18 years ago
        – His hill tribesman don’t fit into urban environment. Tyrion could send them away, but as a fighting force that’s loyal to him, they give him leverage against Cersei in the immediate term and they turn out to be crucial by eliminating Stannis’ outriders.

        Additionally, moves like burning down the houses of people living outside the city walls make strategic sense. Tyrion chooses to be practical (keeping his “army”, cleaning structures away from the walls) over trying to be loved.

        • Carolyn says:

          Honestly, I think Tyrion vastly overestimates the distrust/hatred he gets because of his statue and looks. This is a big problem for him, since this perception naturally prevents him from looking for flaws in HIS behaviour, because it puts the blame on the superficiality of the other people rather on his behaviour.

          -When his clansmen loot and rape the citizens of KL and they come complaining to him, he thinks about the shallowness of the citizens of KL, rather than on the damage HIS guards/sellswords/whatever are causing and how he can prevent it.

          -When he is accused of Joffrey’s murder, he thinks about the prejudices of the courtiers instead of thinking about the many reasons he has given Cersei and the rest of the court to think him capable of killing his nephew (publically hitting him, threatening him, making this speech to Cersei about how her joy will turn to ashes …) and the many people benefitting from his death (Pycelle, Littlefinger, Sansa, the Tyrells, …).

          Regarding the destruction of the barracks near the city wall:
          If he had given the people living there some money and explained, that it was important for the defenses of the city, that there is nothing near the city wall, his reception would probably have been better.

    • alkonost says:

      Public relations seems to be just one more thing that Ned was better at in the North than in the South. To be fair, in the first book he didn’t seem like he planned to stay in King’s Landing long-term, so he may not have felt the need cultivate a relationship with the smallfolk.

      You make a really good point about Tyrells being better at managing their public image than the Starks and Lannisters. For all the Tyrell’s wealth and power, they have certain vulnerabilities that other great houses don’t. They have a weak claim to their seat (which some lords are openly resentful of), and a lot of very powerful, potentially threatening bannermen. As Jaime points out, every major lord has to worry about ambitious vassals, but some of the houses in the Reach are almost on par with the great houses. The Redwynes, for example, are a major naval power and the Hightowers are one of the wealthiest and most powerful families on the continent. The Tyrells may feel even more pressure than the other great houses to stay one step ahead of their rivals, even in their home turf.

      • starkaddict says:

        Exactly, and there are houses like florents who claim to be regarded as closer descendants to the Gardener house. Many still consider Tyrrells to be upstart stewards. And that may be why they strive to make sure that atleast the smallfolk are on their side.

        • David Hunt says:

          I think you’ve got it pretty close to exactly. The Tyrells don’t have an ancient name to fall back on. Or more accurately, their house may be positively ancient, but they were stewards to the Gardeners since time immemorial. I take this to mean that the house didn’t hold any lands of its own, but managed the Gardener interests. Any holdings they’ve got now would have been Gardener lands that Aegon seeded them after they opened High Garden to him. And land is the most visible and tangible sign of wealth and power in a medieval society.

          Of all the houses that were raise to Lord Paramount level, they’ve got the weakest position “on paper.” The Baratheons had a close relationship with the royal house and married directly into line of the old Storm Kings. I think the distinct Baratheon look comes from them and not the Targaryons. The Greyjoys were elected to lordship by the Iron Men after the Conquest, so they’ve got a mandate propping them up. I’m pretty sure even the Tullys were a landholding house in their own right before the Conquest. Making them the overlords of the Trident…well there may have been other houses that thought they’d do better, but the Tullys are better than the Iron Men and they did have the courage to be the first house to rebel against Harren in Aegon’s name. I suspect they were a powerful house on the Trident before the Conquest

          • starkaddict says:

            true. And we havve seen that even Tully house feels insecure about their position as they were never kings. Just powerful lords before Aegon decided to intervene. And like you said, Tyrell’s position, in some ways, is weaker than other great houses. We have already seen that the reach houses like Hightowers, Redwyne and Tarly have enough clout to make life very difficult for Tyrells.

          • starkaddict says:

            Yeah, even Tully house worries about its position. They were never kings, just lords. And Tyrrell, like you said, have the weakest claim on reach. Just 300 years old. Comparing that to 8000 year old history, it seems much less significant. Plus houses like hightowers, redwyne and tarly have enough clout toake life difficult for tyrells. They, of all the great houses, have to keep all its vassals satisfied.

          • alkonost says:

            Yeah, that is an interesting point about the Tullys compared to the Tyrells. Even though the two families became regional overlords at the same time, the Tullys don’t seem to be considered nouveau riche in the same way that the Tyrells are.

            In order to lead a rebellion against Harren, the Tullys probably had to be fairly powerful before the conquest, and they could be seen as having earned the right to be elevated to Lords Paramount by fighting off the Ironborn. The conquest era Tullys come across as heroic, whereas some see the Tyrells as usurpers who came to power through the backdoor.

          • Crystal says:

            I think that the Tullys were lords before they were Lords Paramount. And, agreed about how they came to be the Lords Paramount vs. the Tyrells. The Tullys were the first to rebel against a hated tyrant and slaver. That must have given them a lot of prestige points (I mean, NO ONE missed Harren the Black, who seems to have been in the Caligula mold of truly awful tyrant).

            OTOH, the Tyrells were awarded the Gardener lands for kissing Targaryen butt and surrendering Highgarden to them after their liege lord, the Gardener king, was killed. This definitely would be perceived as sneaky and disloyal. Hence the necessity for good PR, as their hold on their region is probably the most insecure of the Lords Paramount.

          • DunkosaurusRex says:

            This weakness is probably why the Tyrells oft marry their strongest bannermen. Mace Tyrell’s mother is a Redwyne and his wife is a Hightower, while Garlan is married to House Fossoway. Additionally, the Houses that I just mentioned don’t have a confirmed connection to House Gardener (unlike the Florents and Oakhearts), meaning they would be more likely to back the Tyrells if there was ever an internal conflict in the Reach.

          • David Hunt says:

            Interesting responses to my comments. I think I should mention that I said the Tyrells were the weakest of the Great Houses “on paper.” That weakness was probably very real a good portion of the Targaryan dynasty, but I wouldn’t say that it’s true today. Today the Tyrells are a massively powerful house. Mace Tyrell’s mother is a Redwyne and they’ve got Hightower blood in the family IIRC. Randall Tarly is one the Reach’s most loyal lords. The Tyrells have come a long way in 300 years. Their management of the public image is likely a part of that. Still, they are acutely aware that the names of some of their vassal houses have more prestige attached to them. Hightowers have married into the Targaryan line. Olenna Redwyne was going to married to some prince (Prince Duncan mayber?). I don’t think a Tyrell has ever married into a royal family before Margery. She’s part of Mace’s obsession with adding prestige to the royal name. His sending all three of his sons into the Tourney meat-grinder is another. Mace wants the prestige that he feels should accompany his power.

          • alkonost says:

            David, that’s a really good point that the Tyrells are only weak on paper. After all, the Lannisters were almost toppled by the Castameres a generation ago and the Boltons currently occupy Winterfell, but the Tyrells have actually expanded their sphere of influence. Most of their problems so far have come from the Lannisters and the Ironborn, rather than from within the Reach.

            It seems like most of the other great houses take their authority for granted (even if they’re aware on some level that they can be overthrown), but the Tyrells have held on to power precisely because they’re more worried about losing it. Both Tywin Lannister and Rickard Stark married their cousins, but, as you pointed out, the Tyrells seem to marry into a major house every generation.

            I also find it interesting that Tytos’s disastrous tenure as lord of Casterly Rock should have made the Lannisters more cautious about holding onto their power, but the younger generation is absurdly arrogant and entitled, even compared to other Westerosi nobles. It almost seems like Tywin was too successful at restoring the family’s image, and that he didn’t fully understand how to handle public relations beyond being the opposite of his father. His children internalized his sense of superiority and pride, but (having grown up post-Castamere) they didn’t fully grasp the context that it came from.

        • Crystal says:

          And it also goes a long way toward their wanting Sansa for Willas’ wife, even before the RW (I doubt the Tyrells knew of Tywin’s plan). Even if she wasn’t heiress to Winterfell, she was a scion of one of the oldest Great Houses, the former Kings of Winter. A Stark wife could help erase the taint of “former stewards” from the Tyrell heirs.

          Certainly the Redwynes and Hightowers could prove a credible threat to the Tyrells as well, given their wealth and power. (After all, the Hightowers had married into the royal family before, and Olenna Redwyne was considered as a wife for an unnamed Targaryen prince.) And so the Tyrells married Redwyne and Hightower wives – thereby neutralizing that threat to some degree – a smart move.

          • David Hunt says:

            Even before the RW, Sansa was a good bet to be the inheritor of Winterfell. Bran and Rickon were presumed dead and Robb had yet to produce a child. The Tyrells were making a bet with good odds that Robb would eventually be brought down and killed. Presumably any child that he might have gotten on Jeyne Westerling would have been killed as well. Voila! Sansa gets Winterell. Robb specifically mentioned this problem right before he went off to the RW. It’s why he legitimated Jon Snow over Cat’s desperate objections. I’d dearly like to know what happened to that proclamation he sent North proclaiming Jon to be Jon Stark…

          • Winnie says:

            I think it was both-yeah, they were hopeful about Sansa’s possible claim but as Crystal notes, there was a prestige factor as well. The Starks are *the* oldest family in all of Westeros and the Tully’s are a very important family too. Sansa’s as close to royalty as Westeros has outside the Targaryens.

          • starkaddict says:

            Yeah, they made sure that none of their vassals overreach while at the same time trying to intermarry with other great houses. Whether it be willas or Marg, tyrells are trying to bring in kings blood in their line.

  4. David Hunt says:

    Steven, you’ve managed to make something clear that I never go before: Why that bloody chain was so important. The idea that this kept a large part of Stannis’ army on the other side of the river hadn’t really filtered through.

    I also hadn’t made the connection of Tywin being the Hand that had the tunnel built. When you look at the tenures of all the Hands going back through Aerys, it’s pretty clear that Tywin was the only one who was in office long enough to have it done. It’s right there, but it’s like a purloined letter: iIn plain sight, but inconspicuous.

  5. MightyIsobel says:

    A very fine essay, as always. I appreciate the informative summary of the politics of bastardy in the War of the Roses.

    Do you have any thoughts about how skilled workers organize themselves in Westeros, compared to historical medieval craft guilds, based on the glimpse we get of the ironworkers in this chapter? Do they seem to hold any power in the city’s governance? It is interesting, as you note, that Tyrion’s political acumen fails him in this context. Compare, for example, his ability to manage the arcane differences in status among the mountain clan fighters.

    • I wrote a thing earlier about the guilds – they’re certainly there. The smiths have a guild, there’s the alchemists, etc.

      However, they don’t seem to have any role in governance as KL is property of the crown. I imagine more influence in Gulltown, Oldtown, etc.

      • MightyIsobel says:

        Re Gulltown, Oldtown, I agree. Sometimes KL feels more like a three-hundred-year-old military base than a functioning urban economy.

        • Crystal says:

          That’s a great way of putting it! It does seem like a half-assed city, in a way, especially compared to Oldtown. (And, presumably, Gulltown, which we’ve never seen, but is ideally situated for trade with Braavos. And the merchants there are powerful enough that Littlefinger brokers a marriage for Lyonel Corbray with one of their daughters. I find it curious that this didn’t happen more often, given that, from the late Middle Ages on, a LOT of noble men pursued matches with wealthy merchants’ daughters to shore up their wealth. Even the occasional noblewoman – Anne Boleyn’s great-grandfather was a wealthy merchant who married a noble heiress.)

        • The urban economy is there, just not the urban government.

  6. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please allow me to once again salute your for producing such an excellent article; I must admit that I was particularly interested to learn that in addition to his other skills political Mr President Lincoln was a gifted letter-writer (a revelation that surprised me, but which on reflection ought not to have done so – given his speaking voice was something of a hollow reed by all accounts, it has struck me that it was good sound script-writing that make his oratory so memorable and this might easily be parlayed into his other writing).

    Although I suspect that when it came to composing Political Letters old Marcus Tullius Cicero the Orator could give Uncle Abraham a run for his money, if only in sheer volume (it has just occurred to me that a Marcus Tullius-Lincoln debate would have been one for the ages, if nothing else!).

    – Concerning other points listed in your article, I’m not sure that Stannis Baratheon would actually have needed prompting to begin first cultivating and then pursuing his suspicions considering ‘Nephew’ Joffrey; whatever else might be said of Lord Stannis he’s no man’s fool and few would be in a better position to compare King Robert with his heir, then sense something might suspicious in their complete lack of resemblance.

    Single-minded Stannis Baratheon may be, but simple-minded he is not; he can tell a hawk from a hand-saw (or if you prefer a cuckoo from a raven).

    – I would also like to suggest that the weaknesses of the Queen Dowager and her brother Tyrion Lannister are identical in origin, albeit not necessarily in kind or degree; both of them having been raised in the very highest ranks of the Nobility (not merely the House of a Lord Paramount, but the Household of the King’s Hand), it’s vanishingly unlikely that they had very much to do with what we might nowadays describe as the bourgeoisie and even less likely that they did much more than look down upon the huddled masses from a towering height on Casterly Rock.

    Hence their almost complete lack of understanding when it comes to the Men of Work (and their Kinswomen) in King’s Landing – it’s pretty plain that while Tyrion Lannister has known working girls in more ways than one (probably more than one can count on one’s God-given digits, this being The Imp!), this knowledge hardly stands him in good stead when dealing with those amongst the working classes whose careers are spent neither on their backs nor biting the pillows.

    – I would finally like to conclude by noting that while Henry VIIs stated claim to the Throne by right of blood WAS decidedly wonky (that will happen when every Heir Male to a Royal Family find themselves on the losing side of battle like Bloody Towton and Tewksbury), his legal claim to the Crown by right of Conquest was Impeccable (hard-won at Bosworth, made unassailable at the Battle of Stoke Field – more obscure but possibly even more bloody).

    By the way, one theory I’ve read suggests that Henry VII genuinely believed that his wife’s brothers were stone-dead at the time of her legitimation, a belief that was only later thrown into question by the likes of Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck (although this theory rests on the belief that Richard III had those Princes in the Towers discretely done to death, leaving small evidence available to investigators at the time and is therefore unlikely to find popularity with the Ricardians – whose scholarship I frequently admire, but whose core conviction I find myself in disagreement with).

    • Regarding Stannis’ suspicions – my own hypothesis is that he started looking not long after he found out about Joffrey and the pregnant cat.

      I think it has to do more with Tywin than nobility in general – Renly is just as noble, but gets public relations, for example.

      True, but the problem with rights of conquest is that it legitimates other people trying to conquer you.

      • Winnie says:

        Oh it definitely began with Tywin “I don’t care if they think me a monster as long as they never dare laugh at me” Lannister.

        Speaking of which I always regretted never reading in the books or seeing on the show Tywin’s first reaction to hearing the “vile slander” about his children. Even though he never let himself believe it, he must have found it intolerable knowing how many other people did believe it- and how much that damaged the family’s name.

        • JT says:

          In fairness to Tywin, I think pretty much every parent real or fictional would not believe their children are incestuous – they’d have to catch the kids in the act or hear it directly from one of the children to believe it.

          Would Ned, Balon, Doran, Mace Tyrell etc be any more likely to believe the rumors? Of course not, especially since if they acknowledge the rumors as true, they’re condemning their children and heirs to death (and in Tywin’s case, forfeiting the Lannister claim to the throne).

          And it’s not just Tywin who takes his name seriously – Stannis is furious when the rumor Littlefinger starts gets back to him (Stannis) because it damages his name and standing.

          • Winnie says:

            But the fact that the usually shrewd Tywin was blind to the truth all those years about what was happening under his own roof is significant. As well as the fact he *completely* misread his children’s characters; he never acknowledged Tyrion’s talent, (even when his own sister tried to tell him,) he failed to understand Jaime’s lack of ambition and it took him forever to see the truth about Cersei. He went out of his way to make her Queen and killed tens of thousands to make Joffrey King-only in the aftermath in that great Small Council meeting scene does he realize how completely unfit both are to hold any kind of political power.

            Now Steve figures Tywin hasn’t seem much of Joffrey but was just relying on Cersei’s accounts, (like he later would in the aftermath of the Battle of Blackwater about who saved the city and what kind of hand Tyrion was,) but again there’s the central problem…how has he missed the fact all these years that his daughter is a liar and a lousy politician? Remember when he made Tyrion Hand it was because he assumed that Cersei was getting bad counsel-it never occurred to him, the problem might be Cersei herself even after he noted the folly of her trying to ‘command’ him to come to KL. It’s worth noting that everyone else who’d gotten a chance to know Cersei knew what she was-and even Tyrion’s enemies at court recognized his smarts.

            I understand Tywin’s obsession with his family’s good name-but ironically so many of his actions like the sack of KL, the murder of Elia and her children, the Red Wedding, etc. etc. that were designed to enhance the Lannister dynasty had an opposite effect; they associated the Lannister name with treachery, brutality, cruelty, and dishonor. As became really obvious in AFFC, no one in the Seven Kingdoms trusts or esteems the Golden Lion anymore.

          • It’s true, but we don’t see any impact of LF’s rumor. It pisses Stannis off, but we don’t see any defections, etc.

          • Winnie says:

            Precisely, Steve. It doesn’t seem like LF’s lies really took hold, (Shireen’s biggest problem remains the prejudice people hold against her because of disfigurement and superstitions about greyscale,) but fact is people bought the Twincest story. (It had the advantage of having the ring of truth to it after all and being verifiable with what people had seen of Robert’s many bastards.) House Tyrell, or at least Olenna and Margaery clearly believed it privately even if publicly they called Joffrey and Tommen true born Kings. And it also becomes increasingly clear that while the official story is still that Ned Stark was a traitor, in reality most people now have a pretty shrewd suspicion of why Ned was *really* arrested. Jaime noted how widespread the talk was and Kevan even dared to openly bait Cersei with the truth. Tywin was just about the only important person in KL who didn’t know-or rather didn’t *believe* the truth.

          • JT says:

            Missing on Cersei is an oversight by Tywin, but I don’t think Tywin ever thought that Cersei would end up as his heir and leader of the Lannister dynasty. In fact, he tried to marry her off to pretty much any of the Lords Paramount who would take her, and remove her from a position to be regent. My theory is that Tywin was convinced Jaime would eventually get out of the Kingsguard and be his heir (note that Jaime, not Kevan, commands 1/2 of the initial Lannister forces during the war).

            I’d also point out that Tywin has been at Casterly Rock since Robert became King, so his exposure to Joffrey and Cersei has been minimal at best (likely tournaments and what not). It’s probably been 18 years since he really was around Cersei for any significant amount of time, so I doubt he has an accurate read on her character and abilities. Then he dies, Tyrion flees, and Jaime refuses to leave the Kingsguard, so by law Cersei becomes Lord of the West and Queen Regent, none of which was Tywin’s plan.

            I’d also point out that fathers sending their children away and then not knowing who their children are when they come back happens multiple times in the series. Look at Balon with Theon, or Doran with Quentyn. Along with Tywin, all three fathers don’t really know their children, so they (the fathers) put their children in situations that their children cannot succeed in.

          • Winnie says:

            Good point about how sending the kids away usually doesn’t work out. One thing Ned and Cat got right was keeping their heir close at hand where they could mold him.

            Of course Kevan *did*know what Cersei was and Aunt Genna understood that it was the younger brother who had the head for strategy rather than the elder. So I do think some of it was just blinders on Tywin’s part. And fact is even if he never planned to leave Cersei on charge he did some truly horrible things to make her Queen-without ever bothering to prepare her for the job. And since having a grandson on the Iron Throne was the key to his whole legacy why didn’t he try to keep tabs on the boy’s progress all those years even from afar? I mean the brat didn’t go full psycho until Robert died but there were a LOT of troubling reports making their way through the Realm…wasn’t he the least bit concerned especially when Joffrey’s reign of terror began by what he was hearing out of Kings Landing?

          • Kevan found out, but I don’t think he knew before the public letter came out, and he spent a good bit of time in King’s Landing post Battle of Blackwater caring for his son.

            As for Tywin, I think a big part of that was Cersei sending false reports back to King’s Landing. And there weren’t actually a whole lot of reports – only Robert and Stannis ever made mention of the cats thing for example, and Joffrey’s actions with Sansa and Arya and Micah were hushed up. But mostly, he seems to discount Joffrey as an independent actor due to his age – when he mentions the execution of Ned Stark, his instinct is to look for bad counselors, not bad kings.

          • David Hunt says:


            I agree that Tywin should have had some idea what Joffrey was really like before Robert died. It seems absurd that he didn’t have informants at court. I can think of few explanations…well a few variants of the same one: somebody covered it up. It is my impression that Joffrey’s psychopathy was a real surprise to most everyone. My main theory as to why is that Cercei was able to play to one of her strong suits: blaming others for failure. She simply used that same preternatural talent where all her mistakes are really somebody else’s and made sure that anything too terrible didn’t get out. I’ll also point out that Joffrey could be extremely charming when he wanted to be. He was a perfect gentleman with Sansa almost all the time. I suspect that he knew who he needed to like him and who he could abuse without consequence. People like him always do. When he became king, he never bothered with the mask anymore, since he believes that the king is entitled to do anything he wants.

            And of course, it’s not perfect. The Tyrell’s knew before they arrived in KL. Lots of people assume that Littlefinger tipped them in, but they may have heard disturbing rumors for years. I’m sure that Varys and LF knew, but his personality traits fit well into each of their treasonous agendas in different ways, so they either didn’t do anything or even helped cover it up. I can see them both working to turn Tywin’s informants at court so that he wouldn’t feel the need to move his ass from the Rock and see about molding the heir to his dynasty into someone who was more competent (and thus dangerous to Team Varys and to Team Littlefinger).

          • GRRM was pretty explicit about LF telling the Tyrells about Joffrey.

          • JT says:


            Littlefinger admits to Sansa that his men told stories about Joffrey to the Tyrells when Littlefinger was negotiating the marriage. So Littlefinger was definitely the one to tip the Tyrells off (although the the Tyrells still might have heard about Joffrey’s behavior from additional sources).

            I also agree that Joffrey’s behavior got significantly worse once Robert died and he became king. We do see some of it while Robert is alive – Joffrey mocks Robb at Winterfell, refuses to pay his respects to Cat when Bran falls, sends someone to kill Bran, the Micah incident; but to non-Lannisters, his behavior is mostly charming if somewhat bratty. Joffrey only really becomes a monster publicly once Robert dies – having Ned killed, mocking Sansa.

          • Crystal says:

            I agree with Winnie – Cersei’s name had become mud pretty much across the kingdom by the time Robert died. Even before that, we know Robert didn’t want to marry her because he mourned Lyanna, BUT I surmise that he especially didn’t want to marry Cersei in particular. (He had to realize the necessity of fathering heirs despite that their mother wouldn’t be Lyanna – but the particular mixture of Robert’s and Cersei’s natures and circumstances was especially toxic.) But he needed the Lannister troops and money.

            That makes me wonder if there was something more to Aerys’ rejection of Cersei as a bride for Rhaegar. Yes, we all know Aerys was nuts. He refused Cersei for Rhaegar on the grounds that Tywin was Aerys’ “servant.” BUT, on paper at least, Cersei would be as suitable a bride for Rhaegar as Elia Martell was – even more so, if we consider that Cersei was healthier and probably richer, and the Lannisters were a very old paramount family. Perhaps there were rumors even then about Cersei and her character and relationship with Jaime (Varys was around then, and if anyone could find out it was him), that made Cersei an unsuitable candidate, but Aerys being Aerys, he refused Tywin with a petty, irrational excuse.

            I have to say that the idea of Cersei marrying Euron makes me LOL. I will pop some corn and settle down to watch the fun if that happens! I shared Tyrion’s amusement at the thought of Cersei marrying Balon.

          • I don’t think there were rumors – Cersei was pretty damn young, and had spent most of her life ensconced in the Rock.

          • Winnie says:

            Well another reason Aerys picked Elia for Rhaegar is the Martells do have the ever important Valyrian blood. Still it’s noteworthy that Rhaegar himself went for Lyanna as his second wife and in retrospect rejecting Cersei was quite possibly the one really sound decision old Aerys ever made-not that Tywin saw it that way.

            While Cersei wasn’t especially popular during Robert’s reign, I don’t think she was actively *hated* until his death allowed her to cut loose.

          • Andrew says:

            Winnie, You are right about Cersei. After Robert die, the smallfolk of KL have always bared the brunt of her repressive and brutal measures.

        • True. You could definitely see it when he announced Cersei’s betrothal.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah, and by the Old Gods and the New, having Olenna (wisely) reject Cersei for Willas must have stung like all Seven Hells. That incident made it all too clear that it wasn’t just in the tea houses and alleyways that Cersei’s name had become besmirched-but that even the Greater Houses of Westeros now saw her as soiled goods to the point they’d risk the wrath of the Great Lord Twyin. Had he lived he would have found it increasingly hard to marry off Cersei to any suitor that he Tywin considered good enough. Really the only House who might have her now would be the Greyjoys-as part of my theory of a Cersei/Euron Greyjoy marriage in TWOW.

  7. David Hunt says:

    I totally agree with the assessment that Stannis could have figured out the Bastardry thing on his own. When we’re first introduced to Stannis, he’s a figure driven by his resentments. I figure that one of his bigger resentments is Robert seducing his wife’s sister at his wedding and nailing her in his own marriage bed: the physical manifestation of that seduction being Edric Storm. I’ve stated on this blog before that Stannis likely gnawed on this particular bone for a while and gave a good deal of thought to Robert’s bastards. Given his own problems producing a politically viable heir and the fact that all of Robert’s children so clearly took after him…except his “trueborn” children. As Varys said, it was there for anyone to see. Is it possible that Littlefinger nudged him via one of his cat’s-paws? Certainly. Did he need to do this? I don’t think so, although he might very well have tried to influence the direction and scope of Stannis’ & Jon’s work from afar. He was clearly aware of how it was going as I’m sure that keeping that secret under wraps was a major factor in the decision of when to assassinate Jon Arryn.

    • MightyIsobel says:

      “Stannis likely gnawed on this particular bone for a while and gave a good deal of thought to Robert’s bastards.”

      It is an interesting thought, that in the months before GoT begins as Joffrey reaches adolescence, Stannis’s suspicions and resentment could have been the prime cause motivating Jon Arryn’s investigation. LF or Varys don’t necessarily have to be whispering in anyone’s ear to move things along. Jon Arryn would have had an interest in ironing out any problems with the succession, maybe agreed to go along with Stannis to the brothel and the blacksmith hoping that the evidence would be thin, and came away convinced enough to ask Pycelle for the book of lineages.

      We get most of this narrative from Ned’s POV. He tends to suppress the nuances of Stannis’s relationship with Robert, and allows his investigation of Arryn’s murder to be manipulated by LF and Varys. So it’s easy for a reader to put the pieces together to overemphasize LF’s and Varys’s roles in Jon Arryn’s investigation, and downplay Stannis’s motivations, and to thereby miss some of the set-up for Stannis’s emergence as a major character in ACOK.

      • Crystal says:

        I think that is a very likely scenario. Stannis is a brooder if ever there was one, and the idea that he ruminated on Edric Storm, then started thinking about Joffrey, then started getting suspicious, is plausible – with Jon Arryn just along for the ride at first just to humor Stannis and then becoming convinced.

        All this could well be obscured because of Ned’s POV – after all, Ned was close to Jon Arryn and not to Stannis.

    • Resentment and deep dislike of Joffrey could have done the trick.

      • WPA says:

        I’ve also assumed that Stannis was smart enough/knowledgeable enough about the family history to have his suspicions crop up. After all, being stuck under siege for a year in Storm’s End- he probably took some thick tomes on history, military tactics, and maybe a family genealogy tome-what else are the Baratheons going to have on hand?- and read that to pass the time. Maybe a “I’ve never seen a golden-haired Baratheon”, plus the bastards, plus perhaps a chance Robert comment after the cat incident – “How could I have fathered a son like that?”, noticing whenever Davos and his brood come around and they all look like at least somewhat like him, etc.

        Eventually after the THIRD golden-haired Baratheon with the look of a Lannister, he realizes enough to make some inquiries and maybe to go to Jon Arryn, whom as you’ve stated- he seems to have a good working relationship with and knows that Robert trusts him implicitly. You basically stated (as I recall) the sense that Stannis and Jon were pretty much the adults in charge during Robert’s pre-GOT reign.

        I also firmly believe that Stannis basically received a self-taught/Cressan taught graduate education in military affairs during the down-time in the Siege of Storms’ End.

  8. JT says:

    Great analysis!

    1.) I always figured both Tyrion and Littlefinger have Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Both are physically weak in a culture that values strength, and grew up marginalized by their stronger peers. As adults both are able to use their intelligence to outsmart their peers and get ahead. And both almost always can’t resist getting the last word in to show authority figures how smart they are.

    Tyrion does keep a lot of his comebacks to himself with Cersei, but even so there are a huge number of times he does verbally poke Cersei, his father, Joffrey, Lysa Arryn, Jon Connington, the slavetraders in Yunkai etc.

    2.) For as sharp as Tyrion is, both Varys and Littlefinger are two steps ahead of him the whole time he’s hand of the king. Varys knows about Shae from the get go, likely engineers the riot, and uses it as a distraction to kidnap Tyrek. Meanwhile Littlefinger uses the Antler Men to further embezzle from the treasury, puts the Kettleblacks in the city and nudges them into Tyrion and Cersei’s employ, and gets himself out of the city and in front of the Tyrells before the battle (where he’s already allying with Oleana to kill Joffrey so he can kidnap Sansa).

    Really, it’s no surprise that Pycelle is the one who gets caught in the one, two, three from Tyrion’s next chapter – Pycelle is inept and Varys and Littlefinger are too far smart to get trapped by Tyrion.

    3.) I don’t recall ever seeing Joffrey have a reaction to the incest letter in the books. In the show, I think he does address it to Cersei. Is that because it’s kept from him (which seems hard if even the smallfolk are gossiping about it)?

    • Winnie says:

      I like the Oppositional Defiance Disorder theory. While I agree Varys is always way ahead of everybody I’m not sure about Little finger.

      Great analysis as always Steve.

    • Mitch says:

      Book Joffrey has both an incredibly incurious mind and an incredible sense of entitlement. Character-wise, I think he’s quite content in the psychological bubble he’s built for himself and would never seek out such information nor believe if confronted.

    • 1. I dunno. LF rarely is visibly angry, has a very controlled temper, etc.

      2. That’s quite true.

      3. Partly it’s that we don’t get to see Joffrey when he’s not around others, but he does start talking about killing Stannis a lot more.

  9. Sean C. says:

    As far as the absence of the chain from the show goes, that’s the category of omission that is almost certainly motivated by budget, so it doesn’t bother me (most of the money for “Blackwater” went into that huge explosion). The types of changes that bother me on the show are those that aren’t explicable as budgetary concessions (or even as streamlining).

    • Mitch says:

      Haha, right on. Question for Stephen or anyone else: What do you believe is the worst change made for the show that appeared to have nothing to do with budgetary constraints or the necessity of condensing the story?

      I have opinions, but am curious to hear others’ thoughts.

      • Nothing to do? Tricky. I’d probably say Dany’s Season 2 storyline.

        • Mitch says:

          Fair shout. I’m still sad they botched the Jamie/Cercei scene at Joffrey’s funeral. It undercut basically Jamie’s entire character arc.

          • Winnie says:

            Ditto. My strategy is basically to pretend that scene never happened especially since it seemed to have been from miscommunication among the production team anyway.

          • Yeah, but that wasn’t so much a change as a botch – they clearly intended it to go more like the book and didn’t pull it off.

        • JT says:

          I’d vote for Stannis in season 3.

          – Burning Alester Florent at the stake because “he’s an infidel”? That fairly radically changes Stannis’ character and his motivations. I

          – Also the scene where Davos reads Stannis the letter from the Wall and Stannis decides not to execute him was poorly translated to screen IMO. In the show Stannis is going to execute Davos after Davos reads the letter and Melisandre tells Stannis not to, as Davos will be needed for the war ahead. In the books, Stannis spares Davos because Davos reminded Stannis that as King his first duty is to serve and protect the realm.

          In both cases, the producers took the time to film the screen, but they changed Stannis’ motivation in a way that saves no plot time, but changes who the character is.

          • Alester Florent was Season 4. But I agree. Stannis in the show is a weird mix of excellent acting and very uneven writing.

            I have high hopes that now that his face turn is done, and he’s going to be fighting the evil Boltons, that Stannis’ positive side will be allowed to come through.

          • Winnie says:

            I agree with Steve. In fact despite the burning of Alester, (which might foreshadow the death of Shireen-sob,) I already saw reasons for hope in Seasons 3 &4. The fact that they’ve developed Shireen more as a character, was for two reasons.

            1. To make us care more if someone does try to sacrifice her.
            2. It does humanize Stannis a bit to viewers to see that he’s a loving father even if he doesn’t know how to express that love.

            Then there was Davos’s great speech to the Iron Bank-a wonderful way to establish the IB to viewers, perfectly written for Davos’s character, but again it says *something* about Stannis that he can inspire that kind of loyalty.

            Finally, and lastly there’s Stannis’s scene at the Wall-I heard from a LOT of viewers Sullied and Unsullied alike, how Stephen Dillane never seemed more kingly, (or ahem more sexy,) than riding up into battle like that. And Unsullied viewers as well were giving him more credit for answering the NW’s pleas for help, (while conversely saying that all the other people who ignored Aemon’s ravens were dead to them.) Plus his interaction with Jon was a great bit, and you could just TELL that D&D were setting up a beautiful dynamic there for Season Five-and hopefully get Stannis’s line about, “I’d been trying to win the throne to save the kingdom when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.”

            I think, basically D&D have been *trying* to tell a story about Stannis growing into a truly Great Man on screen and that has been rocky at times-but I think we’re about to get to the good bits!

          • WPA says:

            On the Davos speech to the Iron Bank- I also hope that’s setting up his (one of my favorites from the entire series) vengeance speech in the Merman’s Hall at some point in Series 5. Sort of in an episode ending cliff-hanger like the chapter- He ends his speech “because the Lannisters stole the throne….vengeance for your sons and mine, etc.” in similar impressive fashion to the IB argument, and then Lord Manderly reacts with essentially…”Yeah. Nope. I shall not eat a bite till you bring me his head!” *cue credits*

          • Lord Manderly in Season 5 is something I’m really really nervous about. My favorite bit in ADWD is Davos’ scene in the court of White Harbor where he calls out the Freys, gives his speech, gets backed up by Wylla, and then you get the undercut, and then the reversal.

            I really hope they don’t cut it.

          • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

            I’m still in Season 2, but I agree. Making Stannis a believer and Davos an atheist weakened both characters. It made Stannis a fanatic instead of someone who is so committed to winning that he will pick up almost any weapon, and it took out some of David’s home soon faith. (Don’t spoil me, but I hope we don’t lose “pray harder” on the march to Winterfell).

            Without faith, Stannis is burning people and considering sacrificing children not because he believes in R’hlor but because he wants to win the Throne that badly, which is much more interesting.

    • Carolyn says:

      I agree. If you adapt such a huge series as GRRM’s Song of Ice and Fire, then you can’t escape merging characters (like Edric Storm/Gendry Waters, cutting Sand Snakes or reducing the number of Tyrell brothers (also they should have included one more)).

      The huge problem (and the reasons I do not watch the show any longer) is the decision of the writers to fundamentally change characters (Cersei, Tyrion, Shae), which often leads to WTF-moments, when you still want them to do things, that are in the books, but at the same time have completely changed their motivations.

      • BarbreysDustyDesire says:

        Completely agree, they’ve whitewashed some, flattened or contracted others and then completed omitted a few more. As Steve brought up; I think they might completely do away with Manderly and Davos’s scenes. I still watch the show but at times these factors make me rather peeved.

        • Carolyn says:

          I can live with the show cutting some storylines, even major ones (it seems, D&D have decided to leave fAegon out of the show), since the source material is HUGE (I honestly do not think, that there will only be 7 books, since GRRMs publisher said, that when she got the general plot of ASoIaF before the publishing of the first novel, she thought, he would have to write at least ten books instead of the three to fit the plot into the books),
          but completely changing the characters of the books make it seem, as if the writers think, they can write a better story than the author.

          On the other side, they have so many superfluous scenes (brothel scenes, Pod and his whores, Tyrion and the beetle, Theon getting tortured, …), that they could fit in more of the books if they tried.

  10. AJD says:

    “Massey… not sworn to Dragonstone”

    Why do people keep saying this? Is there any evidence in the text for House Massey not being sworn directly to Dragonstone?

    • 1. Massey’s Hook was taken from the Storm Kings by Aegon, and thus more likely to be ruled from King’s Landing.

      2. Massey isn’t mentioned as a Dragonstone vassal in the Prologue or any Davos chapters.

      • AJD says:

        Massey’s Hook was taken from the Storm Kings by Aegon prior to the Conquest; or at least, the Masseys were already allies of the Targaryens prior to the conquest.

        In both conflicts that we know of between Dragonstone and King’s Landing (the War of Five Kings and the Dance of Dragons), Massey has sided with Dragonstone.

        Bar Emmon is a “principal house”, and they’re located on Massey’s Hook as well; if Massey is a minor house, they may well be sworn directly to Bar Emmon.

        …I mean, I’m just saying.

        • AJD says:

          (And Bar Emmon is explicitly a vassal of Dragonstone.)

        • I don’t think so. Given that Massey’s Hook is named after House Massey, it’s more likely that it’s the more powerful of the two Houses. Moreover, it’s more southerly and interior than Bar Emmon, which is right on the tip. It makes more sense that the landward portions of the Crownlands would be associated with the mainland King’s Landing, and the more sea-oriented parts with the island of Dragonstone.

          And Massey’s Hook was still formally Argilac’s when Aegon sent his offer and war began, even if House Massey betrayed him.

          Finally, when Stannis lists his Dragonstone vassals, Massey is not mentioned.

          • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

            Ah, but the naming of landscapes can be misleading, as stated in The Sworn Sword – a house that was powerful at the time the naming took place isn’t necessarily so hundreds of years later. Of course, we lack a lot of vital information, but from how Ser Justin is presented, it seems to me he is head of his House, but a House of no more than landed knights. Indeed, he could well be the offspring of disempowered nobility, a younger, more vital version of Ser Osgrey – a soldier of fortune, aspiring in turn to become Prince of the Wildlings (via marriage with Val), Lord of Winterfell and Lord of the Ironborn (via marriage with Asha), but at the same time still traditional enough to obey some laws of chivalry (as opposed to upstarts like Ser Clayton Suggs).

            Because of that, I do agree that Massey was not, directly or indirectly, bound to Dragonstone; rather, it was just his ambitious streak to restore the days of Massey greatness which brought him into Stannis’ fold. Ser Justin belonged to the Queen’s Men, and those usually were volunteers, not vassals.

          • Quite possible, regarding the fall of Massey’s House, but there really isn’t any info about the Masseys being Bar Emmon vassals.

        • Laural H says:

          According to the app, they’re directly sworn to the throne (ie Crownlands).

  11. Winnie says:

    Good points all. I’d only like to add a couple more…

    1. As you say the Imp failed to shore up his standing with the people. The fact that he *still* comes across as a public relations genius in comparison to Cersei demonstrates again how horrible her understanding of politics really is and foreshadows her fiasco in Feast. Prior to the Walk of Shame I dont think she had any idea how bad her reputation really was. I remember how Tywin (also a man who didn’t understand the dangers of making oneself too widely hated) kept from her the news that House Tyrell rejected her-also interesting that Tywin was surprised by that.

    2. Aside from House Tyrell the only person we see concerning themselves with public image and the need to keep up appearances is Sansa. Very interesting.

    Also agree Stannis didn’t need Littlefinger to get suspicious about how all three of Cersei’s children were golden haired.

    • 1. Oh she knew, she just didn’t care. See her thinking in AFFC about murdering the poor en masse.

      2. Yes, hopefully a good sign.

      • Winnie says:

        1. Fair enough. Cersei thinks you can rule by fear alone while even Tywin knew you needed respect as well.

        2. Yet another reason I think Sansa is being set up for something *big*. I always liked the idea of Queen Sansa but I know you consider that unlikely…what do you think Martin has planned for her?

      • Andrew says:

        1. Cersei has no regard for the smallfolk whatsoever. This classism is exemplified when she thinks to protect Tommen she would kill half the lords, but all the smallfolk (98% of the population).

        2. Sansa does seem to show potential for building her own base at the Eyrie. Playing matchmaker with Mya, could help her win away LF’s top guard, Lothor Brune. Robert also likes her best out of everyone at the Eyrie, and Myranda can get along with her well.

        • Winnie says:

          1. Agreed. One way in which Show Cersei and Book Cersei are in fact identical. And boy is that gonna come back to haunt Show Cersei.

          2. Yeah, I think one reason her story line was accelerated is because next season they’re hoping to show us how she goes about finding herself allies in the Vale. We’ve already seen her put Lady Waynwood and Bronze Yohn right in the palm of her hand.

          • Crystal says:

            Yes, that was a master stroke. And a terrific performance by Sophie Turner. (Sophie as Sansa really puts me in mind of a young Queen Elizabeth I – I wonder if that is deliberate on D&D’s part?)

    • Crystal says:

      I was going to comment about Sansa – she seems to have developed an understanding of PR, especially after the BoBW. We see her reflecting on the fact that she has never done anything to make the common people hate her, just as Margaery has not done anything outstanding to make them love her. And when LF is awarded Harrenhal, she notes that LF didn’t really do anything to deserve it, and wonders on that.

      I would argue that, even as a naive and sheltered tween, her ideas about how ladies should present themselves, and her knowledge of heraldry (which *impresses* Barristan and Renly), is PR awareness. She’s just too young and naive to grasp the implications yet. After Sansa goes to live with LF, her awareness of PR really starts to jell.

      This is one of the many reasons why I think her destiny is in politics – if not as Queen, as a Queen Consort or lady regent for Rickon – and not in the supernatural realms that Jon and Bran seem to be headed towards, nor the spy/combat role of Arya.

      • Winnie says:

        Yeah, Tyrion noted how at Joffrey’s wedding, Sansa was basically working the room and charming everybody left and right. Tyrion notes that Sansa actually would have been a good Queen Consort.

        And while Cersei mocked Sansa’s behavior during Blackwater, Sansa understood on a fundamental level how important it was for a member of the royal household to show a brave front under stress.

        At the Vale, you can see her making observations about all the Lords Declarent and trying to figure out the best angles to work with every single one of them.

  12. Amestria says:

    Well done, as always ^_^

  13. Jeff says:

    Magnificent work as always Professor Attewell. Even an armchair history buff like me had no idea of the significance or history of Public Letters. Never knew about Lincoln having a gift for it or the origin of so many famous quotes. By the way is it weird that I used to hear Sam Waterston when I read anything by Lincoln and now hear only Daniel Day Lewis?

    You messed up a tiny bit though as it is very likely that Edward of Westminster was the spawn of an affair and for the very reasons stated. Edward IV as well as either he was premature and no one ever mentioned that or he was born 10 months after conception as the Duke of York was nowhere near his wife during the time of conception. There was actually a thing done by ITV or BBC on this very subject with Tony Robinson of Blackadder fame as the host. They found the proper blood descendant in the Earl of Huntington, a retired rice farmer and passionate pro-republican living in an Australian backwoods. He has since passed though.
    Also the reason Richard III was able to get a good chunk of the support he got was because of the obvious, he was a grown man. England’s troubles had begun over 100 years earlier from the fact that Richard II was a boy, then his successor’s grandson took over at 9 months and grew up to be meek and schizophrenic not unlike his maternal grandfather Charles the Mad. Then there is the 12 year old Edward V…and they are back where they started. That’s the biggest advantage to democracy, no children are in charge.

    Back to the story though I’m surprised you left out the somewhat throwaway passage that says what Melisandre is up to on Dragonstone. She no doubt finds every last spy, scout and informant headed their way long before they get within sight of the island. Which is a huge advantage from a counter-espionage position.

    • Winnie says:

      Good points Jeff. Tommen’s youth does weaken the regime as does the fact that he will not be able to consummate the marriage or produce an heir for years to come.

      And you’re right that Mel is guaranteed protection from espionage.

    • Thanks! No, I don’t think it’s weird – our mental image is easily shaped by good performances.

      Sorry, what was the mistake? I didn’t really state whether they were or weren’t bastards. The important thing was that the accusations were made.

      Yes, I think I did miss that thing about Melisandre – cite?

    • blacky says:

      No children in charge in a democracy…highlarious.

  14. Jim B says:

    “More importantly, without a Joffrey (and potentially without a Tommen as well), what’s left to hold the alliance together?”

    I take it you’re implying that Stannis would have Joffrey, and possibly Tommen, executed?

    I guess that’s right. I don’t know if being an “abomination born of incest” merits the death penalty under Westerosi law, but by claiming the throne Joffrey was (in Stannis’ view) committing treason. Tommen is a tougher call. Would Stannis consider it just to execute a young boy who has done nothing wrong other than being born?

    Of course, Stannis is a practical man as well as a just one. The practical argument is that you’ve got to kill Tommen for the same reason Robert wanted all the Targaryens dead: you can’t leave a potential rival claimant around. But then, if Myrcella is already in Dorne and beyond Stannis’s reach, then there’s a potential rival claimant anyway; arguably it’s better to have Tommen alive and under King Stannis’s thumb to undermine anyone seeking to rebel in Myrcella’s name. And yet again, there’s the pesky matter of Myrcella having precedence over Tommen anyway under Dornish law….

    Maybe more interestingly: what would Davos have to say about the potential execution of Tommen? And would Melisandre have any interest in Joffrey or Tommen’s blood? The whole “blood of a king” thing seems rather flexible. Joffrey was a king by coronation if not by birth, but what about Tommen? He has no king’s blood, and would not be crowned in a Stannis-wins-the-Blackwater scenario.

    • Sean C. says:

      Ned, I believe, thought that if the children’s paternity was discovered they would all by law be executed.

      • David Hunt says:

        Ned was convinced of this because he was sure that Robert would have them killed. It was based on his knowledge of his old friend. I don’t know if there’s any actual law that says all the kids would have to be killed. Given his statements, I expect that Stannis would have them all put to death, absent some compelling reason.

      • Ned specifically talked about Cersei and her children escaping “Robert’s wroth”, rather than any laws.

        I don’t think that there is any law that says that the children would be executed for the crime of existing, but Robert would most likely have killed them, or at least Ned thoughts so.

        • Carolyn says:

          I think, there are a few reasons for Ned to think, that the children’s lives would be in danger:

          -political reasons: If Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella survive and do not join a celibate order (Night’s Watch, Silent Sisters), then their children will forever threaten Stannis or Robert’s children with another wife (like Margaery Tyrell). The Blackfyres caused multiple wars for more than 100 years, so it would be wise from a political standpoint to kill all children of Cersei and Jaime.

          -personal reasons: Robert gets angry prett fast and the children are a direct insult to his honour, so I would understand Robert wanting to have them killed.

          -religious reasons: Children born of incest are abonimations for both the Old and the New Gods. Therefore even Ned thinks, that it is highly likely, that the High Septon would demand the execution of the children.

        • I’m pretty sure there are laws. Most of the Westerosi legal code, to the extent it exists, is based off the precepts of the Faith of the Seven, and the Faith is very anti-incest.

    • Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Stannis would do it. Incest is both a violation of the law and expressly forbidden by the Faith of the Seven. Abomination isn’t “innocent child” – abomination is something that has to be obliterated. Davos might not be keen about it, but bastard born of incest is a big deal, and unlike Edric Storm, they are Stannis’ enemies.

      But Myrcella wouldn’t matter – males inherit before females outside of Dorne.

      • JT says:

        Myrcella probably goes to the Silent Sisters (or something similar) is this scenario. If Stannis has the Iron Throne and she’s proven to be a child of incest, her marriage value is zero.

        Also, Doran Martell accepted the alliance with the Lannisters so he could bring so the Lannisters down from the inside. In a scenario where Stannis is king (and the Lannisters have lost), I doubt that Doran Martell would let Trystane marry Myrcella.

  15. Brian says:

    Great take as usual, and I remember reading this chapter wondering just how odd it is that Tyrion can have a short (no pun intended) fuse when someone contradicts him. I would think he’d be better suited to trying to make friends, but his blinders on politics are odd…it’s almost like he’s compelled to act like a jerk when someone contradicts him and he doesn’t like it.

    Side note: Barra is the name of Robert’s bastard; the whore herself isn’t named in the book (Mhaegen was what they named her in the show).

    • Jim B says:

      I don’t know how odd it is. I think Tyrion’s identity is very much tied up in being the Smartest Guy In the Room. That, and the Lannister name and money, are all he thinks he has going for him, and those last two don’t help much against his family or those of equivalent rank. So contradiction chafes at him, and he can’t help but snap back. Intellectually, he knows that your point is a good one, and he could probably quote you several Westerosi political treatises on the point, but he’s human and doesn’t always do the intellectually optimal thing.

      This is more true of Book Tyrion, who doesn’t expect to win people over as friends; Show Tyrion has Peter Dinklage’s charisma working for him.

      • Crystal says:

        I agree. Dinklage plays Show Tyrion as a lot more charismatic and a lot more likeable than he was in the book. I would add that Charles Dance and Lena Headey give their Lannister characters more likeability than they have in the books. (Jack Gleeson, OTOH, played Joffrey as little psychopath to the hilt.) Loathsome, repellent book characters brought to the screen by charismatic, likable actors makes a difference in how the characters are seen.

        • Winnie says:

          True. Of course another factor is that D&D I’m sure wanted to give some of these characters more dimension; Cersei and Tywin are thus still villains but they are villains with some psychological complexity and depth there, not just cartoons because one Joffrey is enough. Plus this makes their interactions with other characters a LOT more interesting. Tywin/Arya is a great example, but also Tyrion/Cersei’s scenes are much more powerful on the show because while they might hate each other they do still consider each other siblings.

          This goes with the Boltons as well; they certainly haven’t *softened* them for the show, (just as evil as ever thank the Old Gods and the New) but both Roose and Ramsay are a lot less over the top which is key to explaining why Robb ever trusted the former, (something always rather puzzling in the books) and making his eventual treachery more shocking to the Unsullied. It’s also frankly more plausible that the latter didn’t have a ‘fall down the stairs’ *years* ago.

          • Crystal says:

            I always wondered why someone didn’t do away with book Ramsay long ago. He is such a combination of over-the-top evil and stupid that he comes across as more a cartoon character than a person. Every time I think about him, I shake my head and think, “realistically, someone would have killed him by now.” And Roose isn’t that much better.

            OTOH, the show characters, as interpreted by Michael McElhatton and Iwan Rheon, are much more human and much more plausible. Overall, with one or two exceptions, the actors in the show do a great job and are well cast.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah, Iwan’s Ramsay is just as sadistic, evil, and psychotic as Book Ramsay but has actual cunning and is a helluva lot more organized-which only makes him more horrifying.

            And Michael McElhhattan as Roose was another great casting coup. The man can be truly terrifying, with that dead stare, but otherwise seems so ordinary…you just find yourself more and more creeped out by him over time without being able to explain why.

            Tell the truth the long term survival of the Bolton’s in general always had me scratching my head a bit. Yeah, I get it’s sometimes useful to have someone to play “bad cop” and there’s a taboo against annihilating entire houses in Westeros but really a family rumored to have collected the *skins* of their liege lords seems too extreme even for the harsh North to tolerate. That one of their members (especially one who comes across as a total freak show and repels everyone who meets him,) would then be placed so highly in said liege lord family’s war camp simply is definitely stretching the willing suspension of disbelief far more than dragons or white walkers ever could. At least Martin won’t ask us to buy that Roose or Ramsay could survive much longer.

          • JT says:

            There’s a passage in one of the Davos chapters in ADWD where Robbett Glover tells Davos that Roose is hard, but he can be dealt with; meanwhile Ramsay is a beast in human form. That’s why Ramsay is alive. Nobody is going to kill Roose if the alternative is having Ramsay as their liege lord.

            Have you noticed that Roose gets off almost scot free for the Red Wedding and his disastrous performance in the war, or that no one wonders why Roose has Lannister backing or brought a Frey army to the North? Glover and Manderly hate the Freys and Ramsay but don’t have the same hatred of Roose, even though both have arguably more cause to hate Roose.

            Same with Lady Dustin and the rest of the Northerners – they’re happy to blame the Freys or spit on Theon, but even when Roose isn’t around they don’t blame him for the North’s defeat. By keeping Ramsay, the Freys, and Theon Greyjoy around Roose has targets to focus animosity (and questions) that in a vacuum would point at him. Kind of like the two minute hate in 1984.

            When Ramsay’s act gets to be too much (“Arya” is crying too loudly), Roose sends Ramsay out to fight Stannis with the Freys and Manderly (whose loyalty he knows is uncertain). It’s a smart move – if any of those people die, Roose has lost an ally that he either can’t trust or is widely hated. And if they kill Stannis, well that’s one less enemy he has to deal with.

          • Crystal says:

            The thing is – before Ramsay is legitimized, how hard and how successfully could he press his claim to the Dreadfort? Normally bastards can’t inherit. And it seems that Ramsay was known as a psychopath who hunted women even before Domeric – who was the legitimate heir – died.

            So offing Ramsay before he was legitimized wouldn’t have mattered, especially because there was nothing stopping Roose from remarrying and having more children (and he has remarried). Killing a bastard son of a peasant mother, especially a known psychopath like Ramsay, is something that could be gotten away with – I doubt even Roose would care too much.

            Killing *Roose* would be riskier as a) he’s a lord and b ) it would put Ramsay in the dreadfort, but even then, if it happened before Ramsay was legitimized, he could be brushed aside as a bastard – and without supporters, he’d just be sent home to mommy at the mill.

            But killing pre-legitimized Ramsay – especially while Roose is in the south – is a low-risk, high-reward endeavor, and, frankly, I find that more believable than that he is allowed to live.

          • David Hunt says:

            Roose is highly concerned (obsessed even) with “blood” in a lot of ways. He has himself regularly leeched to remove bad blood, for instance. The other way his blood obsession comes through is blood as it applies to inherited traits. Roose openly talks about how Ramsey’s bastard blood makes him vicious, even as he downplays how monstrous Ramsey actually is. But Ramsey still also has Bolton blood. I don’t think that Roose would tolerate someone offing Ramsey and everyone up North knows that. They do not want to have Roose Bolton actually furious at them when he comes back.

            What’s that you say? “But Roose believes that Ramsey offed Domeric and he let him get away with it.” Back to blood obsession. In some ways, Roose Bolton rivals Tywin Lannister in snobbery. He’s insistent that everyone in his service maintain proper decorum and respect for their relative position, based on their birth. When Arya as “Nan” catches him in a good mood and asks him a question out of place, he mercifully doesn’t have her tongue ripped out. I think Roose was raised in a family environment where murdering your siblings was an acceptable method of gaining your inheritance…if you got away with it. No one could pin Demeric’s murder on Ramsey, so he gets a pass from Roose. I like this theory as it fits so well with Roose’s manta of “A peaceful land, a quiet people.” I am dead certain that Roose also has his little “hobbies” that he indulges in, but like many sociopaths, he has learned to hide what he is and project cold reasoning competence instead of tightly controlled murdering monster.

          • I don’t see how show!Ramsay is more organized or more cunning than book

          • Before the page went crazy on me, I was going to say that I don’t see how show!Ramsay is more cunning or more organized than book!Ramsay. What exactly did he do differently that makes him either of these things?

            Ramsay is too impulsive and finds it hard to control himself, but still has low cunning and can manipulate people, in both book and show. The only difference I can see is that he is better-looking in the show. And apparently has an attraction female minion he sleeps with, rather than a bunch of guys.

          • ShowRamsay didn’t have a hand in the “murdering” of Bran and Rickon, or the slaughtering of Ser Rodrik Cassel’s forces, or the kidnapping and murder of Lady Hornwood.

          • That’s simply a consequence of Ramsay not being in season 2 to do these things, not of the show portraying him as less impulsive and sadist. He does still flay the Ironborn he promised to spare and it’s not like he seems to be making any attempt to cover it up (how likely is that anyone is going to yield to him after they hear of that?), treats Theon and the women he hunts the same as he does in the book, and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t do the awful things he does in ADWD in the show as well.

          • Besides, the “murder” of Bran and Rickon and slaughtering of Rodrik Cassel’s forces is hardly a proof of Ramsay not being cunning and organized, is it? I’d say quite the opposite, since Ramsay managed to do those things but hide his role in them and have the people place all the blame on Theon for both the “murders” of Bran and Rickon and the sack of Winterfell.

          • He let witnesses get away.

      • Agreed. BookTyrion is a lot more touchy about his position than showTyrion.

    • Thanks! I think his temper here has to do with class. For Tyrion, his own position as a Lannister is important to him, because it’s the only scrap of status he has. While he might have to accept this kind of treatment from other nobles, he’s not going to put up with it from a commoner.

      • Winnie says:

        You’re probably right about that Steve. And really all the Lannister’s react poorly whenever they discover their inferiors fail to show them proper deference. Note Cersei’s initial meeting with the High Septon, or how what first worries Jaime about Vargo, (prior to his behanding,) is not that Vargo is violent, but Vargo’s insolence to Jaime.

  16. Jaime'slefthand says:

    What if Cersei hadn’t been challenged and people started getting their tongues ripped out? Could that have incited enough anger towards the Lannisters as to make a significant difference to the storyline?

    • Winnie says:

      Thanks to Joffrey people and Cersei’s killing Robert’s bastards, the Lannister’s were already hated. Ripping out tongues would have only accelerated the issue-though it might have been a red flag for Tywin.

    • As Winnie pointed out, public attitude was already running in this direction and you got a major riot that almost wiped out the royal household.

      The reason I left that out was that I felt it wouldn’t make a big difference from OTL. Maybe the riot happens sooner, but it’s not a significant divergence.

      • Jaime'slefthand says:

        I understand the public attitude was already running that way, but when Bywater comes to Tyrion after the riots he says he doesn’t know if they could hold the city tomorrow. I suppose my question was if Cersei started doing the tongue thing, thereby making it obvious Stannis’s rumours were true and and inciting even more hatred for the Lannisters, could there be a scenario in which they lose control of KL from within, or there is enough chaos for the chain to not be finished?

        • Ah, I see what you mean. The thing is, riots tend to have a sort of ebb and flow to them – rarely do you get big riots the day after a riot, because the crackdown and reprisals tend to shake people, and people tend to hunker down to wait and see what the response is going to be. So there may have been another riot, but it wouldn’t be the day after, and I think the Lannisters might well have held on.

          The big question is whether ongoing riots would have hidden the Antler Men until it was too late.

  17. Wat Barleycorn says:

    I’m sorry, but I am laughing hysterically at the idea of Stannis Baratheon, King of Direct Mail.

    So, so awesome.

  18. Roger says:

    Good analysis.

    Lannister’s lack of popularity among Kingslander is the reason they can’t trust in any popular levy or militia: only in the City Watch, formed mostly by professional.

    The chain was obviously based in the great one that once closed Constinople’s straits. Probably the fire ambush was based on the Greek fire battles to defend the East Roman Empire against Arabs, Northmen and other pirates.

    Tyrion plan resulted espectaculary, but could have easily backfired. Let’s suppose the wind changes and he burns the city… Let’s suppose only part of the fleet fell into the trap (it would have destroyed the Lannister fleet, however).

    It’s interesting to note that most of the fleet joined Stannis from the beginning, instead of sailing from Dragonstone and joining Jeoffrey.

    • Sean C. says:

      That’s not really surprising. Stannis built the new royal fleet from the ground up to take Dragonstone, and served as Master of Ships during Robert’s whole administration. Presumably he had total control over appointments, etc., so I would expect it would be staffed by men loyal to him (like Davos).

    • Trust may not be the right term – I don’t think they’re available.

      But yes, Stannis taking most of the fleet makes sense. Daemon was Master of Laws, he kept the loyalty of the Goldcloaks. Stannis and Aurane Waters. Etc.

  19. Brian says:

    Steve, another question: You mention how Varys “might have been off doing something involving Tyrek Lannister. What do you think he was up to, and what is Tyrek’s significance? I know he’s married to Lady Ermensande (sp?) and while I get that he’s valuable as a rival claimant to the West, what does Varys gain from kidnapping him (assuming he isn’t dead)?

    • Roger says:

      Keeping a legitimate Lannister heir once Cersei’s sons are declared bastards.
      Remember Jaime can’t have sons (legaly at least), Cersei has only mothered bastards (and after her walk of shame, nobody would marry her), and Tyrion killed his own father. Tyrek father was the oldest of Tywin brothers, so Tyrek could become the heir of the Rock.

      I sometimes wonder if Ser Prester Greenfield really dead. They found a faceless body with a white cloak. That’s easy to forge.

    • I’ll get into this more later, but Tyrek was Robert’s squire. He’s probably a witness of Cersei’s adultery and quite possibly the murder of her husband.

  20. Petyr Patter says:

    Enjoyed the essay. I have spent a bit of time pondering who “whispered” into Stannis’s year about Joffrey’s illegitimacy. Tyrion hits the obvious two candidates, Varys and Littlefinger. Yet, neither had a real incentive to put Stannis in a position of power. A very plausible outcome of Stannis’s investigation was the execution of Cersei and a new, more stable alliance formed between Robert and House Tyrell with legitimate children. Both Varys and Littlefinger want chaos and war, albeit for different reasons.

    Similarly, Pycelle has been consistently a Tywin loyalist, even though his Maestar knowledge appears to extend to Mendellian (sort of) genetics.

    Here are three alternative suggestions who did have motive and means.

    Davos Seaworthy – I like to think Davos’s wordly knowledge and common sense would have been able to look at the royal children and know they weren’t Robert’s. That is it. Just common sense from the humblest of men starting one of the greatest conflicts in Westeros history. Still, Stannis makes no mention of this and Davos never thinks such in his POV chapters.

    Melissandre – We know she ingratiated herself to the queen before hoping to ingratiate herself with Stannis himself. We know from her one POV chapter that she likes to do this by using accurate prophecy as a way to gain an individual’s faith/trust. Did her fires reveal the Lannister incest? Stannis would not at that point believed her outright, but it could have motivated him to investigate. I think she is the plausible. On the otherhand, how would Varys know she triggered Stannis’s investigation?

    Lord Estermont – A background character that keeps cycling back into the storyline. Stannis’s mother was an Estermont. And from Cersei’s POV we know she fornicated with Jaime in their castle, Green…something. However, Estermont is a small and cautious House. If Jaime and Cersei were overheard, would this house want to put itself into conflict with the Lannisters? I don’t know. But he is a possibility, albeit a slim one.

    • A fourth explanation is that Stannis, knowing what Joffrey is, hating Cersei and her family, and wanting the recognition, began to suspect on his own. More of a gradual realization than a catalyst.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        Yeah, that is certainly reasonable. Still, Varys is always speaking half truths from which the audience (both readers and in book characters) draw the wrong conclusions from. So, I strongly suspect somebody prodded Stannis into conducting an investigation by “whispering into his ear.” Since Tyrion said Varys and Littlefinger, it probably isn’t Varys nor Littlefinger.

  21. […] literate – he’s aware of both Stannis’ public letter and the Lannisters’ rebuttal and is using them for his own […]

  22. […] in a civil war where legitimacy is very much up in the air, the fact that Renly looks like a young Robert (whose personal charisma and magnetism played a […]

  23. Sian Griffith says:

    For me it never made sense that Tywin was using that tunnel, and was a hypocrite. here are my reasons:

    1. It would have made a great benefit for him and his family to get re-married, and to have other sons. With Jaimie in kingsguard, and Tyrion a hated dwarf, he was pretty much out of options. But he did not do it even for a sake of his family.

    2. I don’t see a point of hating Tyrion THAT much.

    2. It lessens the drama for me.

    For me as Starks are defined by honor, Davos – by loyalty, ets, Lannisters are defined by love. But, as everything in Westeros, it is love, which normally is the most beautiful thing, here run amok, perverted and turned into monstrosity.
    I do believe that Tywin loved his wife so much that he was unable to re-marry (or use whores), even for benefits of his house and his own, and that he hated Tyrion exactly the same way as Robert hater Raegar, but unlike Robert, Tywin was constrained by his duty. For those who knows some of Kant’s moral philosophy, Tywin is an example of a miserable shopkeeper, who does his duty to Tyrion (raising him, providing for him), but he hates every second of it. Which is highly ironic, because for Kant moral actions done from duty are the only ones deserting praise, and not those done for love, compassion, etc. But Tywin’s example shows that it is actually pretty horrible.

    At the same time Tywin as a true Lannister, always pays his debts, and so he makes sure that Tyrion always looses any woman he loves, and is as miserable in this regard as Tywin is.

    In such case this situation does not have a peaceful solution, or any sort of an agreement, and in order for Tyrion to be free, he had to kill his father.

    That’s a drama for me. But all this hypocrisy, hidden tunnels and all, just feels cheap, you know.

    I actually think GRRM dropped the ball here, and made this story wit Tyrion’s wife inconsistent. Unless he believes that any woman who was married for two weeks, would behave like a whore, and there won’t be any observable difference between a whore working overtime, and a brutal gang-rape of a young woman, this part for ASOS simply does not make any frigging sense. Yes, Tyrion should have killed Tywin, but for a different reason.

    • Laural H says:

      Are you seriously trying to say that Tyrion should have realized that Tysha …what, was upset at getting gang-raped and therefore obviously wasn’t a whore? I guess the money makes up for the lack of consent…

      Besides, the story was that Jaime paid extra for a virgin. If you think 13yo Tyrion should have been able to tell that a virgin was… A virgin? He believed Jaime over his lying eyes, is basically what happened. Tyrion’s tragedy is that the incident convinced him no one would ever love him, when it should have been the opposite.

  24. […] a second level, we get a second glimpse of the development of religious radicalism among the smallfolk. In this case, we learn […]

  25. […] could engage with their subjects through rhetoric and persuasion is often discounted or dismissed in ASOIAF and its fandom. The assumption is that people will believe only what is convenient for them to […]

  26. […] the public perception element that political actors must practice, much the way Tyrion Lannister does during his tenure as Hand of the King throughout A Clash of Kings. If Tyrion was monstrous, and […]

  27. […] to defend King’s Landing from siege – and ultimately chose Stannis, partly because of his letter and partly because of Joffrey’s tyranny. To me, this explains why men like Justin Massey and […]

  28. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    Steven, was the Lincoln letter written to be read by Roscoe Conkling or James Cook Conkling? I hadn’t heard of it before, from an initial Google dive, it looks like the latter.

    Thanks for bringing it up, by the way – I love your gift for historical connections.

  29. […] mis-apprehends (in both senses of the word) which of them is Tyrion’s mistress because of the tunnel. Their social statuses are similar although not identical – both are smallfolk and work as […]

  30. […] boom chain isn’t being used conventionally. In this fashion, the first time reader sees what Tyrion’s chain has been about, but doesn’t yet understand its purpose until GRRM is ready to reveal his […]

  31. Mammut says:

    Why would Tywin having built and used the tunnel make Chataya have no love for the queen?

  32. […] Tyrion doesn’t understand public politics period – we see that with his reaction to Stannis’ open letter – and he definitely had the financial resources to give out bread in his own name. Rather, […]

  33. […] at Castle Black. Beyond the “lords of the narrow sea,” it’s easy to forget that Stannis’ public letter succeeded in drawing lords from other kingdoms to support him: Lord Lucos Chyttering, Sers Gilbert, Godry, […]

  34. […] with rape – given what we’ve surmised about the identity of the Hand who built the tunnel to Chataya’s brothel, this makes me feel really sorry for any women who had him as their client – and being very […]

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