Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: The Blacks and Reds, Part III: The Kings Over the Sea

Part III of my series on the Blackfyre Rebellions is up at Tower of the Hand!

In this essay, I examine the Second, Third, and Fourth Blackfyre Rebellions, as well as the lesser-known events like the Peake Uprising and the activities of the Rat, the Hawk, and the Pig, to explain why the Blackfyre cause did not die at Redgrass Field.

Check it out!


86 thoughts on “Guest Post on Tower of the Hand: The Blacks and Reds, Part III: The Kings Over the Sea

  1. David Hunt says:

    I chanced to find the article at the Tower before you even tweeted it’s posting. I’d really like to read a GRRM writing of the Third Rebellion.

    I also found your quick summary of Westerosi views on homosexuality very clarifying. If you project the image of a manly man and manage to close your eyes and think of Westeros often enough to produce a legitimate son or two, everything’s cool.

  2. Space Oddity says:

    A very brief message about two things–first, great article, as usual. And I agree–Daemon II is definitely Bonny Prince Charlie. (With maybe just a dash of Jaime the Hapless.)

    Second–I saw on your tumblr account how my “The King that Nobody Wanted” is on your to read list.

    If you do start it up, I’m always available for comment and clarification. That said, read the version. That’s the good one.

  3. Jake Drake says:

    Bittersteel is interesting as the mastermind of the Blackfyres. His death heralds their end as a relevance in being threats to the throne, would you say that there was a chance of success had Daemon chosen to restrain himself and wait for the right moment? Or was Haegon the last hope for a successful uprising (Aenys might have had a chance, if Bloodraven had been removed somehow, but would that count as an uprising?)

    It’d be interesting to see how Daemon Blackfyre might have handled the Great Spring Sickness. On the one hand, he’s a bastard and may have seen some backlash, but his character seems similar to Renly if he had a greater interest in being King beyond looking famous and flashy, and he may ride out the storm unlike some of the newer LPs. Unless he dies, of course, along with his two sons. Daemon the Dreamer could risk being the Blackfyre Aerys I, unless Bittersteel or other Blackfyre supporters take charge or force him to get involved.

    The Jacobin parallels work well, especially in how they gradually devolve in terms of success. Nearing the victory, to being mere ways of new Kings to show their legitimacy through strength.

    • Space Oddity says:

      About Bittersteel’s death–well, except for the whole “War of the Ninepenny Kings” deal…

    • I feel like Haegon was probably their last best shot, although we know so little about the Fourth Rebellion that I feel rather hesitant being very firm with my conclusions.

      The major coin flip is who survives, but I’m pretty sure that, with a more active involvement with dealing with the drought and with Dagon, a Blackfyre King would have emerged from the crisis reputation intact.

  4. KrimzonStriker says:

    Great article as always and I agree with your premise on both the third and fourth rebellions, Haegon landing in the Dornish Marches directly to me makes the most sense because of Maekar’s presence at Summerhall around this time likely propelled him to take part in the suppression versus during the second despite his differences to Bloodraven. The third Yronwood rising also to me suggests another shaping operation to prevent Dorne quickly relieving the capital, lending credence to the premise that this was an attempted surgical strike to seize the capital, likely they settled for Massey’ s Hook rather then try an amphibious assault on King’ s Landing itself in order to avoid tangling with the royal fleet.

    One thing I will make a point about is that Bloodraven might deserve a bit more credit then you’re giving him. Not a lot more, but he had to figure Daemon II would last longer then he did, hopefully until Bittersteel passed away and took the wind out of the rebellion. Also with Daemon II in hand it looks like Bloodraven did eventually feel comfortable enough to send the Royal Fleet against Dagon Greyjoy if we go back to Victorian’ s comments about him bearding the wolf and yanking the lion’s tail but still being unable to stand against the Dragon.

    • Fair enoguh – I may reassess Bloodraven if I learn more, but the murder of Haegon and Aenys are pretty damning evidence.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        In Haegon I think Bloodraven would have been happy to use his previous strategy of hostage taking like Daemon II, so I’m going to put that mostly on Aerion until we get more information. Aenys on the other hand is much less valuable while still being a threat, taking him hostage/captive does nothing in terms of blunting the Blackfyres cause because he’s lower on their line succession then Daemon III who was already crowned. Likely Bloodraven wanted to shore up the regime in the time of uncertainty after Maekar’s death and establish once and for all that the Blackfyres had no claim to the throne whatsoever for all the realm to witness and sent a message to all those who even entertained the thought of voting for him in the back of their minds, with the political bonus of having most of the lords publicly laud his actions despite the breach of decorum, thus burning any bridge they may have had left with the Blackfyres. That few in the realm itself joined the Fourth Rebellion might speak to some benefit of Bloodraven’s actions, as he also provided the scapegoat for Aegon V to save face, and Bittersteel/Daemon III probably used Aenys as a political martyr for the exiles more then actually being all that upset about it after being circumvented by him like that.

        To me though, aside from Bittersteel’s death Maley’s probably destroyed the remaining political loyalty to the Blackfyres after killing his cousin and potentially usurping their family’s claim to the crown from him. Thus no longer would the Golden Company pledge itself to a specific dynastic cause but instead solely to the person of Maley’s himself and his ability to enforce his rule, blindly pushing aside the political tightrope Bittersteel navigated after Daemon II was captured about keeping the dynastic line intact as a source of legitimacy.

        • They’re still actions that cause lasting harm for the larger social order – if people don’t think that you can surrender and be spared, or that safe conduct won’t be honored, it has the same effect as the Red Wedding in terms of making conflicts bloodier and trust much more difficult.

          And I think they prevented the wars from ending in a peace settlement – the Blackfyres aren’t going to sit down with someone they don’t trust, and they’re not going to give up when the Targaryens are acting like a gang of murderers.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            You’re probably right, in terms of the long term effects of social order. But Bloodraven getting sent to the Wall probably helped the Targaryean’s recover a bit on that front I would imagine. And negotiating with a rebel entity attacking the very legitimacy of ones rule is always tricky, however much I appreciate the sentiment. It’s not a simple ‘just bend the knee and surrender’ kind of situation, acknowledging them by negotiating threatens ones own claim, hence why Duncan’s duel with Lyonel Baratheon is so critical in resolving his rebellion in my mind, once Lynoel resubmitted then Egg could afford to be merciful in resolving the situation over the long term by marrying his daughter to Lyonel’s heir. I don’t know if the Blackfyres would have taken that first step of giving up their claim in order to begin negotiating their return to Westeros. Not to mention all the parceled territory and lordships the exiles have been stripped of have gone to loyalist. reconciling that point would have been sticky and likely why the Golden Company was never able to renegotiate their return home after Maleys had died.

          • Space Oddity says:

            At the risk of sounding like a jerk, Steve, I think you’re letting a misread of the conclusion of TMK basically derail your entire interpretation of Bloodraven, and missing a lot of textual hints of the Blackfyre cause going increasingly rotten across the Narrow Sea–despite the Golden Company winning a deservedly famous rep–culminating in Maelys “Kinslay Your Way To The Top” Blackfyre. Hell, the fact that Aenys was willing to jump over his nephew to make a play for the throne at the Great Council suggests all was not right with the Pretenders even then…

          • Krimson – I dunno, Aegon V’s reign suggests that the standing of House Targaryen was not good following Bloodraven being sent to the Wall.

            Space Oddity – I think I’m pretty aware of it, my point is that there’s rottenness on both sides (hence the Rat, the Hawk, and the Pig). Aenys’ play for the throne was sneaky, but it’s a damn sight less rotten than murder and kinslaying.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            That was mostly due to Aegon V’s reforms though in terms of actual grievances, most of Westeros just let it what happened with Aeny’s go from the looks of it.

            Maley’s shoots right up to the top of the kinslaying factor though, at least with Bloodraven he was on the other side of a war. Maley’s just squished his cousins head like a persimmon because he wanted power, thus making him the last male Blackfyre… which may not speak well of what happened to the others before Daemon IV btw…. now you see why I’m blaming him for killing the loyalty to the Blackfyre cause amongst the exiles? <_<

          • I think it had more to do with the word of House Targaryen being constantly called into question.

            And I think you’re leaning too hard on the Maelys thing. Maekar killed his own brother and it didn’t kill loyalty among the Targaryens.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            We both know that was an accident which most of the realm acknowledged regarding Maekar. Maley’s squished Daemon’s head like a persimmon, there’s no doubt he was deliberately looking to kill. And it’s not the act of kinslaying itself that’s the problem but the precedent of Maley’s usurping power simply because he could, going all the way back to your Hollow Crowns piece regarding Stannis’ legal right versus Renly’s force of arms contrast. By killing his cousin directly Maley’s is essentially relying solely on force of arms to justify his cause for his sole person and not for his House in general, cutting the legs out from the previous claims of legitimacy through dynastic ties and blood right that had been his families previous justification for rebellion. It upsets the entire social balance the Blackfyre cause had previously been working around. As Bloodraven correctly guessed and Bittersteel himself had to deal with in regards to Daemon II, someone he didn’t even seem to like and didn’t care about letting him go off into harms way but still refused to simply crown Haegon over him while he was alive, you can’t just set a precedent of supplanting the existing political structure without considering the consequences, and it’s why I think Maley’s put the final nail into House Blackfyre.

  5. Grant says:

    And again we see a strange point where apparently the Grand Maester himself was a student of magic. Was there such a backlash against Bloodraven after his fall from power that it extended even into semi-autonomous organizations? Was the pro-magic faction too weak to continue without a Hand’s patronage?

  6. derzquist says:

    Your description of Bloodraven as ‘Nixonian’ gave me a thorough lol.

    But it was only now that I see some broad parallels between Bloodraven as Hand and Tyrion.
    -Close relation to the royal family, but not part of the sucession.
    -Physical appearance that causes most of society to ignore the cunning intelligence beneath.
    -Served as Hand under very ineffectual kings
    -Failed to create a political constituency that could help support them after the crisis had passed.
    -Arguably spent too much time focused on the threat more immediate to KL, rather than greater threats to much more of the Realm.
    -Scandal of a political assassination (combined with culural taboos of either kinslaying or guest right) forced each into a form of exile.
    -Now in exile both have become increasingly involved with the larger metaphysical events.

    Obviously the major difference is that Tyrion only served for a few months while Bloodraven served for years. But GRRM rarely creates accidental parallels between ‘modern’ and ‘historical’ Westerosi figures.

    • Winnie says:

      Bloodraven also has some Tywin in him as well but good parallel that possibly hints a
      Future connection like warging.

      • Space Oddity says:

        No, Bloodraven is the man Tywin pretends to be as he frequently wraps up petty feuds as affairs of the realm. That’s pretty much Bloodraven’s point, thematically, I’d argue–to contrast the man who does hard things for the realm with the man who says he does.

    • Grant says:

      If you mean the Others, I can’t really see how Tyrion could have done much. At the time his group was facing multiple enemies determined to drive the Lannisters from power and there wasn’t much in the way of evidence that the Others actually existed.

      Unless you mean betraying Kingslanding to one of the other factions, which would probably have been suicidal.

      • derzquist says:

        No disagreement that it would have been suicidal. I definitely agree that the threats of Stannis/Renly/Robb at the start of ACOK are much more pressing threat to the Hand in KL, then the Blackfyres were during the Great Spring Sickness and the mass raiding of Dagon.

        It is also true that even if Ser Alliser had been able to present an intact, writhing wight hand, it still would have been unclear exactly what was the nature of the threat. And until the end of ASOS, all of the leaders of the War of Five Kings are equally guilty of the same.

        But let’s look at what info Tyrion has about larger, more long term issues that need to be dealt with, even if there is an impending seige:
        -There is *something* bad happening north of the Wall. Is it wildlings? Is it something else? No one yet knows, but Tyrion has meet Jeor Mormont and knows that the man would not react like this over a trifle.
        -Tyrion’s arrest by Cat started this whole armed conflict. Tyrion knows that it was the lies of Littlefinger that led to that arrest. What else is this guy up to? Tyrion even acknowledges (in his first chapter of ACOK?) that he needs to look into all this, but fails to.
        -As of early ACOK, has word gotten back to KL that the assassination attempt on Dany failed? Is there still a Targ claiment out there with a prince in her belly and 40k Dothrakis at her back?
        -Summer has ended and it was a long one. How long will winter be and how prepared is the realm?

        And this is not a critique of Tyrion’s priorities. If Stannis Baratheon is about to knock down your door, you may want to focus all attention that way. I just think that, along with my other bullet points, it’s an interesting similar thread that the short term crisis of other claiments to the throne ready to pounce on KL distracted both of these Hands from dealing with arguably greater long term crises.

      • Actually, the most I think he could have done was to send word to the other camps about the hand. Might have sped up Stannis’ intervention at the Wall.

    • Interesting parallel. Although I wouldn’t say that “most of society to ignore the cunning intelligence beneath” in Bloodraven’s case – it’s not that society ignored his intelligence, they just focused on the ruthlessness.

      • WPA says:

        Anyway you cut it, summoning an opponent with a safe conduct passage and then murdering them completely undercuts any pretense at delivering justice in the monarchy and almost certainly causes more problems then it solves (see Aerys II). I mean even Caesar was mortified when a couple supporters waxed Pompey after feigning a welcome party, and had them executed. If the theory that Crazy Aerion’s “actions” involved murdering an opponent after his surrender, Bloodraven really should have known that he was cementing for his regime a reputation as a bad faith actor.

        • Space Oddity says:

          He probably did.

          Hence letting himself get arrested and sent to the Wall.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          Pardon my pedantry, but as I understand it the Gnaeus Pompey Magnus to whom we are referring was actually assassinated by a third party trying to curry favour with Gaius Julius Caesar the Dictator – to be precise Ptolemaic Egypt’s court party.

          Although I agree that the reference remains valid, so please pardon my impulse to display erudition like a Peacock fanning out his feathers!

          • WPA says:

            Yes, he was murdered by Ptolemaic supporters wishing to gain favor with Caesar after they pretended to welcome him. Caesar executed them apparently due to 1. Genuine respect for Pompey, and 2. Not wishing to be in any way seen as benefitting from such a dishonorable act.

      • derzquist says:

        Valid point. And it could be argued that even the most die hard opponents of the Imp would acknowledge is mental abilities. Perhaps “Physical appearance that causes most of society to project their worst prejudices onto the man.” would be better.

  7. Winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve.

    I”m more convinced than ever fAegon is a Blackfyre.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      And I still don’t see the point of the deception personally. Red or Black a dragon is still a dragon as Illyrio said, there just doesn’t seem yo be enough reward for the risk to me personally.

      • Winnie says:

        It does add legitimacy and that is a key factor.

        Sadly I think the difference between a red or black dragon will be far more clear when real dragons show up… and would be rulers try controlling them.

        • Space Oddity says:

          I’m still almost convinced that the “black dragon that turned red with rust” is a symbol for the Golden Company itself, but that’s just me…

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          A degree of legitimacy maybe, though the Blackfyres stem their line from the Targaryeans to begin with anyway and it’s a good degree less then it once was now that the Targaryeans are exiled and vilified as well. As I said, the risk reward factor just doesn’t measure up in my mind, but we’ll see how it plays out.

          • Grant says:

            Being a Targaryen makes it easier. They did rule until relatively recently and there are examples of good Targaryen kings to point to. Plus there’s no recent memory in Westeros of any rule by or alliances with the Blacks. So a Black could try it, but a Red has a better chance of it going smoothly.

        • I don’t think that’s going to be it.

          As far as blood quanta goes, I don’t think Aegon would have a problem riding a dragon (

      • I’ll get into this more in Part IV, but the more research I do, the less I’m convinced by Illyrio’s statements.

        • Grant says:

          Which ones? All of them are suspect.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          While people’s reactions will vary and I can’t say for any certainty on this, but I do think there’s a breaking point where exhaustion of a lost cause and generations of exile can pave the way for a transition. Examine how both a Toyne and Jon Connigton rose to prominence within the company. The former’s line stems from a grievance against Aegon IV, which the Company stakes the Blackfyre line through, and Connigton is a prominent Targaryean loyalist. Ideology starts to fade as new blood enters and the previous mechanisms of the old regime passes/is no longer able to exercise their rule. Just as the lords of Westeros’ memory of the Blackfyre cause began to fade so too did it seem to occur with the Company, specifically I’m looking at the break up of unity within the cause due to the double kin-slayer Maleys. That Aenys jumped ship to try and circumvent Daemon III in the succession, through peaceful means no less, also points to the exiles ideology being undercut from within alongside the stress of their political situation. And mercenary life would teach a fair degree of pragmatism for all these former lords and knights.

          • If that was the case, they would have given up a long time ago. For reasons I’ll get into in next part, I don’t think that’s what the Golden Company are about.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I’m specifically referring to the loyalty to the Blackfyre’s though, not the Golden Company’s desire to return home here Steven. Even their new recruits like Toyne and Connigton stem from Westerosi exiles, so the desire to return is still a strong rallying cause for them, I just think that after Maley’s, who I point to again as having undercut his families claim by usurping and killing his cousin from the looks of it, doesn’t necessarily have to be synonymous with the Blackfyre’s themselves anymore. Hence why I take the ‘Red or Black a dragon is still a dragon’ statement by Illyrio at face value for the time being.

          • Again, will explain more next time.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Looking forward to it and arguing the point further with you then đŸ˜‰

  8. Son of Fire says:

    Excellent read

  9. illrede says:

    Huh. I had figured the Aenys Blackfyre initiative was brilliant statesmanship and a laudable compromise- presenting the Blackfyre claim before the 233 Great Council as a claim amongst other claims and like unto other claims, to be assessed, considered, and either selected or passed over within an all-encompassing legitimacy. If chosen, hail Aenys II of the Blackfyre-Targaryens and if dismissed, the Blackfyre claim to the Iron Throne becomes moribund, no longer in contention as the preeminent royal line after submitting itself to legal consideration- but becoming a collateral line in good standing having submitted itself to the Council’s mechanism of succession. Normalized, as it were. Bloodraven’s actions are then utterly reprehensible and a post-facto invalidation of his entire tenure- no kind of public servant, merely a partisan of a single and limited court faction, just a Blackwood issue of a royal concubine swinging away at a Bracken issue of a royal concubine and hang all else, any proclamations otherwise is just him fooling himself.

    Part two of the latest scheme where part one was regicide (and whatever what happened to the Westerman was) is a different thing entirely.

    • Space Oddity says:

      Except of course that Aenys Blackfyre wasn’t a “Bracken issue”

      And also except we’re looking at someone who apparently will sidestep a younger nephew with a better claim by the official Blackfyre party line, for his chance at the throne.

      Which suggests someone a lot more devious and dangerous then a simple perusal of what’s written might make one initially think.

      • illrede says:

        Bloodraven’s animus to the Blackfyre pretenders does not appear separable from Bloodraven’s animus to Bittersteel.

        Once the Great Council is empowered to decide the succession, all claims it is willing to consider share a certain standing; Aenys asked to submit the Blackfyre claim for consideration and was permitted to do so. In that context, Bloodraven is reprehensible- and for him to execute Aenys for treason to the royal line after personally accepting his claim for consideration amongst the other claims the Council was deciding amongst makes him nothing more than a factional partisan.

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      On the other hand the whole Blackfyre claim gets muddied because Aeny’s is specifically circumventing his nephew Daemon III whose already been crowned and acknowledge by the Blackfyre party. That could have provided Bloodraven an out because Aeny’s is now technically committing treason against both sides of the argument over the Blackfyre claim, invalidating him on the spot.

    • It’s a good point. Ultimately, it probably would have worked better for Bloodraven to whip votes at the Great Council of 233 than to murder Aenys straight up.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        Given the candidates though, unless a convincing majority comes around for Egg there’s a real chance of damaging the legitimacy of his reign even if he did win.

        Personally I would have just rebuffed him outright. Even if Aeny’s was entered into the vote it still wouldn’t necessarily have defused the Blackfyre cause because as I’ve pointed out Aeny’s is circumventing his own line of succession and trying to cut out Daemon III. Then I’d leak Aeny’s attempt to Daemon III and Bittersteel and have them deal with the issue, dividing their camp even further. But I guess Bloodraven was more worried about the unity of the realm in general at that time and wanted an outlet. I mean, the Peakes killing Maekar does help feed some fires by association against the Blackfyres.

        • To the contrary – a live and defeated Aenys just divides the Blackfyres. A dead Aenys becomes a martyr, his sins swept under the rug.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Live and defeated dividing the Blackfyres doesn’t seem as likely to me. Getting humiliated if he loses big at the Council doesn’t do much in terms of supplanting his nephews claim or rallying the support of the exiles, it’d only marginalize him as a fool and harden the attitude “you see, we can only take the throne by force!” Agreed on the matyr thing though. Like I said I would have rebuffed him then just leaked his scheme to BIttersteel and Daemon, Aeny’s would still have enough credibility to say “see, if I could have been voted in I’d have won, I should lead instead!” to cause enough of a divide then.

          • I think either are good. But worst is killing him.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            In the way that Bloodraven did it yeah. Still, whether your speculation if Aeny’s really conspired with the Peake’s to assassinate Maekar is true or not, I get the impression Bloodraven was more focused on rallying the realm and cowing any vacillating lords after the king’s death rather then worry about the martyrdom aspect like he had before with Daemon II.

  10. Mr Fixit says:

    A great read, as usual, Steve.

    What’s your opinion on how Greyjoys managed to survive and stay in power after all those failed rebellions? If my Westerosi history is any good, and not counting the present time, they rebelled and were beaten three times: 1) Dalton Greyjoy, who refused to stop his reaving after the Dance of the Dragons; 2) Dagon Greyjoy as noted in your essay; 3) Balon’s 1st rebellion.

    Not counting Robert’s Rebellion, as it was successful, Greyjoys are the only Great House to ever rebel against the Iron Throne, and not once but thrice!

    • KrimzonStriker says:

      Well other then Balon we don’t specifically know how each of those rebellions ended. Dalton dying provides a way out because all his salt sons would have likely killed each other off and a more amiable Greyjoy from another branch of the family could have taken over and negotiated peace.

      • Dagon on the other hand seems to have met his end at the hands of a royal fleet.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          Yeah, the question of who could take the Greyjoys place is probably the only thing that keeps them around. Quellon at least was an example of how that strategy might pay off in trying to find an amiable reformer within their House to keep a lid on the Islands.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            My answer to the vexing question of just how the accursed Greyjoys keep their titles, despite defeat and disaster and sheer damned stupidity = The Devil looks after his own, but doesn’t give a hoot about their dependents.

    • Well,

      Dalton as a rebel is a bit dodgy. He could arguably claim that his actions were those of a privateer acting under license from Queen Rhaenyra and that he never got the communique from Aegon III. And ultimately, the crown itself never took reprisal for his action.

      Dagon is a clear case of outlawry and Balon a clear case of rebellion.

      Ultimately, I think the reason they managed to survive is that the monarchy isn’t super-great at projecting power in Ironman’s Bay and the Sunset Sea on a day-to-day basis. So replacing the Greyjoys and keeping a puppet in power would be tricky.

      And let’s be honest, any Ironborn they replace them with isn’t guaranteed to be better. Maybe the Harlaws.

      • Mr Fixit says:

        I would say Robert had a great opportunity to replace them with someone more…cooperative. His forces destroyed the Iron Fleet, conquered the Islands, and stormed the Pyke castle. I can’t recall the Ironborn being so completely defeated on their home soil since Lannisters gave them a beating during the reign of the three Harmunds, and that was probably over a thousand years ago. Yet, Robert chose to leave them alone once more. An odd decision.

        While we’re at it, it is interesting the Ironborn displayed such enthusiasm regarding Balon’s Second Rebellion. One would think that a race that cherishes strength above all else would have little regard for a man that was responsible for a catastrophic defeat. True, the Ironborn love a good lost cause as evidenced by how they chose to remember Red Kraken, but he at least had something to show for it. Balon simply lost every battle he ever waged.

        • KrimzonStriker says:

          Well, to be fair it was only six years of so since Robert took power, he’d only recently forgiven quite a few other major houses for standing against him. Getting rid of Balon that soon might have made the others nervous without giving Balon an attempt to bend the knee.

        • I think there’s a possibility that Robert forgave the Greyjoys because he secretly was grateful for their rebellion. Think about it, the realm is peaceful nothing for him to do and then he has these Ironborn torching his obnoxious father-in-law’s ships and he gets to put the band back together and be the hero. The Ironborn are simple bad guys and everyone can get on board to shut them down. Also the Ironborn didn’t steal his girlfriend or humiliate him or order his death and that of his friend’s families, so for him it’s nothing personal at stake unlike the Targaryens. At the end of it, he gets to throw a big tournament and he probably gloated for the rest of the year to Cersei about how he protected the realm while her father sulked at the Rock. I think that was the reason for his generosity or magnanimosity. He had no real intentions of reforming the Iron Islands or alleviating their wounds, he just wanted to beat them in battle and go home and get drunk. Stannis was the one who wanted to read them the riot act.

          The curious reason as to why the Ironborn stuck with Balon after that is more complex. We read in Aeron Greyjoy’s narration that the impact of the invasion was pretty severe to the Iron Islands. But at the same time I imagine that it kind of solidified an etcht-nationalism of them being apart from the Greenland, that all of them, the King, the North, and the West came and shut them down. They basically felt that they would never be Greenlanders again and Balon’s own losses in battle, his sons dead and that of his son being hostage, probably made him sympathetic to the Ironborn. In that the King and them had a common wound and grievance.

    • Winnie says:

      Good question.

  11. Andrew says:

    An excellent analysis, this really made my Sunday.

    1. Bittersteel likely didn’t realize that in his quest to crown his brother and nephews he was driving his beloved brother’s house into the grave. The Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion looked like an act of desperation.

    2. The attack on Aelora sounds a bit like Sweeney Todd to me. Do you think she was sexually assaulted?

    3. From what Victarion said, eventually Bloodraven got around to dealing with Dagon. Of course by the, the damage to the crown’s reputation had been done. Bloodraven was suffering from tunnel vision, he was too focused on his half-brother and the Blackfyres to see that his inaction was making them look more appealing.

    4. Are you implying Bittersteel had Daemon II murdered? Bittersteel and Bloodraven are alike in that while being loyal to the brothers who were crowned, their loyalty to their brothers’ children is more questionable.

    • 1. I don’t know if he didn’t realize, or if by that point it was too late.

      2. I thought so too.

      3. Agreed.

      4. I think he ordered it yeah, in order to pave the way for Haegon.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    I just wanted to pop in and compliment you on another fine article concerning the feuding families bred out of Aegon the Fifths fornications; it really is rather intriguing to see all these facts laid out in their proper order and to read your conclusions upon them.

  13. John Jo Seph says:

    I want to answer to a question written in The Tower of the Hand (I’m not registered there).


    Qoburn says…
    Awesome essay.
    I do have one quibble: it doesn’t seem to make much sense for the Rat, the Hawk, and the Pig to be involved in the murder of Aelor/Aelora if they’re working for the Blackfyres. Getting rid of an heir of Rhaegel’s line clears the way for Maekar, a warrior king with well-established succession who played a role in defeating the First Blackfyre Rebellion.
    Meanwhile if Aelor survives, you end up with the son of a man widely regarded as mad on the throne, and if there’s a posthumous heir, they’d end up with a very long and presumably contentious regency. Either option seems a lot more destabilizing – and thus a lot better for the Blackfyres.


    This theory has sense. Bloodraven had Aerys in his hands and probably Aelor could be another king-only-by-name while Bloodraven rule the kingdom, at least during his first years. And with the hypothetical son of Aelor, the same situation. However, Maekar had a complicated relation with his bastard uncle and if he was the king, existed a real possibility of that Bloodraven lost his power or an important part of his power. Remember that many people thought that after Aerys’s death, could be a war between the Hand and the heir.

    Of course, when Maekar and Bloodraven decided to cooperate, was necessary eliminate him for create a succession crisis. As the author said, between the baby son of a mad prince, the retarded daughter of a drunk prince, a maester who doesn’t want the throne and a non confiable (aristocratic point of view) half-peasant prince, Aenys Blackfyre has good cards for this play.

  14. Amestria says:

    “So which was it: that the plan was crazy, that Bittersteel distrusted Daemon’s dreams, or homophobia? Personally, I lean toward a combination of the first two, because they were inextricably linked and equally crazy.”

    It might not have been homophobia so much as rivalry and different visions of where to take the rebellion. The thing about male lovers is that they can take take the leadership roles and offices normally assigned to men. Daemon II seems to have wanted to keep the Blacks true to the romantic spirit of their first rebellion. The Brown Dragon was all about winning the war by making it a good story: songs, warrior kings, tournaments, prophetic dreams, dragons eggs, a spontaneous uprising against the tyrant, and so on. Lord Cockshaw probably felt the same way, seeing as how close he and Daemon II were.

    Bittersteel however wanted to take the Blacks in a much less romantic and much more ruthless direction – a professional army, a quick invasion, and the (probable) use of assassins. On the Redgrass field he’d learned that life was not a song when Daemon I’s chivalry led him to be cut down by Bloodraven’s magic arrows. Daemon II’s dreams had no place in the rebellion Bittersteel wanted to continue and Bittersteel’s ruthlessness had no place in Daemon II’s fantasies. Had Daemon II triumphed Bittersteel would have been replaced.

  15. […] Aegon IV threatened to disinherit his son, no one thought to do it. Only after the devastation of three Blackfyre Rebellions and the dislocations to the succession caused by the Great Spring Sickness was another […]

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