This one will never bend, she thought, yet she must try nonetheless. Too much was at stake.
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.
I must admit to a certain apprehension in writing about Catelyn III, because I consider it to be *the* central chapter of A Clash of Kings. This is not the same thing as the climax – that’s clearly the epic setpiece Battle of the Blackwater – but rather, this is the chapter in which GRRM is most fully exploring and expounding on the central themes and arguments he’s developing through the novel. After all, this is A Clash of Kings, and this is the only moment in this book, indeed in the entire War of Five Kings, where two kings will directly clash. Every other conflict – whether it’s Robb at Oxcross, or Tywin at the Battle of the Fords, or Roose Bolton capturing Harrenhal, or Theon capturing Winterfell, or Stannis at King’s Landing – involves indirect warfare, as kings and princes and lords try to pounce on undefended territories (and thus reshape their enemies’ behavior) or counter such moves, without risking a king-to-king engagement. And thus, Catelyn III is where we get GRRM holding forth on the idea of kingship.
Bringing Peace to the Storm
Catelyn Stark gets something of a bad reputation as a “camerawoman” POV, that she’s not particularly active as an agent but exists to observe what more interesting characters are doing – and this chapter is often used as a key example. However, I think this is a misconception, especially in this chapter. Catelyn is very much an active presence here, a woman on a mission: “It would be no easy thing to forge a peace between these brothers, Catelyn knew, yet for the good of the realm, it must be tried.” In theater, one of the tests of good writing is whether all of the characters have something that they’re trying to get or accomplish in a given scene; while it might seem that the real action in Cat III is between Stannis and Renly as they struggle over which of them will give way, Catelyn Stark is just as engaged in trying to bring about an agreement between these two brothers.
I’ll discuss the substance of her mission a bit later, but one of the things that’s obvious from the very start is that the signs are not good. Consider the backdrop of this parlay:
Storm’s End had been raised in ancient days by Durran, the first Storm King…Elenei had yielded her maidenhood to a mortal’s love and thus doomed herself to a mortal’s death, and her grieving parents had unleashed their wrath…his friends and brothers and wedding guests were crushed beneath collapsing walls…when the dawn came at last he declared war upon the gods and vowed to rebuild….His lords pleaded with him to build inland; his priests told him he must placate the gods by giving Elenei back to the sea; even his smallfolk begged him to relent. Durran would have none of it.
Storm’s End is a monument to insane stubbornness and irrational defiance, and as we’ll see in this chapter, the modern Baratheons have fully inherited that particular trait from their Durrandon ancestors. Thus, Catelyn’s mission is preordained to failure by the Durrandon blood these men share, the ancestral traits that are driving these two stags to butt antlers. As Jon Arryn might have said, the seed is too strong. At the same time, Storm’s End symbolizes another aspect of the inevitability of conflict: the castle is itself a symbol and foundation of the grievance between Stannis and Renly. This is the place where Stannis’ legendary stubbornness manifested in a siege defense carried out almost beyond the limits of the human body, the seat and power given to Renly, the younger brother, the reason why Stannis is endlessly bitter at his own kin and equally endlessly resented by them for his sourness.
At the same time, Storm’s End‘s construction also marks it out as a mystery, very similar to that of Winterfell. Leaving aside the legend of the sea god (another possible link between the Drowned God of the Iron Islands and the Stormlands?) and the goddess of the wind, consider the nature of this “castle like no other.” The “great curtain wall was a hundred feet high” is self-explanatory as a defensive measure, but why does the wall have no “arrow slit or postern” for the defenders to fire or sally forth from? Why is the curtain wall “forty feet thick at its narrowest, and near eighty on the seaward face,” the direction where no human army could actually assault from? Why is there only one “colossal drum tower, windowless where it faced the sea,” into which the entire castle’s “granary and barracks and feast hall and lord’s dwelling” are concentrated, rather than spread out across the interior?
As with Winterfell, I think the answer is magical in nature, but I’ll discuss that in the next Davos chapter.
Leaving the castle aside, the point here is that the foreshadowing is being laid down that the brothers are going to be excessively Baratheon this chapter. Renly kicks it off with an extremely petty move: “Renly would be last to arrive. He had told her as much when she set out…the first to arrive must wait on the other, and Renly would do no waiting. It is a sort of game kings play.” Stannis for his part arrives first, and immediately starts in obsessing about past slights and being socially awkward, as is his wont:
“I am sorry for your lord’s death…though Eddard Stark was no friend to me.”
“He was never your enemy, my lord. When the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne held you prisoned in that castle, starving, it was Eddard Stark who broke the siege.
“At my brother’s command not for me….Lord Eddard did his duty, I will not deny it. Did I ever do less? I should have been Robert’s Hand.”
“That was your brother’s will. Ned never wanted it.”
“Yet he took it. That which should have been mine.”
“…To take the city, I need the power of those southron lords I see across the field. My brother has them. I must needs take them from him.”
“I have no quarrel with Renly, should he prove dutiful. I am his elder and his king. I want only what is mine by right. I mean to have it. From him, and from these other lords.”
“Kings have no friends…only subjects and enemies.”
At the same time, for all his off-putting ways, there is a core of justice to Stannis Baratheon. Of the two brothers, Stannis is the one who promises that “I give you my word, you shall have justice for his murder,” privately as opposed to Renly’s public offer, and moreover is the only one who agrees that “if your children are found when I take the city, they shall be sent to you.” As with so much else, Stannis has substance but no presentation, and Renly all style and no substance.
An Argument of Kings
It’s ironic that, in a book about the War of Five Kings, when the two kings meet, they don’t come to blows (either in single combat or a more dubious Daeron I-style assassination), but rather engage in an argument about monarchy. It’s a rather complicated argument, operating on many layers (much like an onion). First, there is a disagreement between the two about the very nature of monarchy – where royal legitimacy comes from, how the succession should function. Second, there is a disagreement over the truth of Stannis’ letter. Third, there is a disagreement over their dueling peace offers. And forth and finally, there are their personal conflicts that prevent peace.
In this section, I’ll be addressing these different layers sequentially. However, to fully grasp what’s going on here, you’ll need to have read Hollow Crowns, Part IV, where I’ve already done much of the analysis of how Stannis and Renly view the monarchy, because it’s a good essay that you should read, but also because I’ll be referring to it repeatedly.
An Argument of Kings: On the Nature of Monarchy
Stannis studied her, unsmiling. “The Iron Throne is mine by rights. All those who would deny that are my foes.”
“The whole of the realm denies it, brother…old men deny it with their death rattle, and unburn children deny it in their mothers’ wombs. They deny it in Dorne and they deny it on the Wall. No one wants you for their king.”
As I discuss in my essay, it’s telling that Stannis and Renly’s disagreement begins at a foundational level of what monarchy is and where the right to rule comes from. Stannis’ theory is grounded in legalism and the right of succession by blood, which reflects both his own obsessions with law and justice, the fact that he’s just spent a couple years of his life investigating the paternity of the Queen’s children, and a small bit of self-interest (at least to the extent of a deep desire for recognition and respect) that he happens to be the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.
For his part, Renly argues for a charismatic theory of monarchy – which is handy, given that he’s the most charismatic of the two brothers. However, it needs to be pointed out that Renly is not a proto-democrat, for all that he references “the whole of the realm.” We’ll see this very clearly in Catelyn IV when he shuts down the idea of settling the civil war via Great Council. Rather, Renly is putting a good face on the political theory that “might makes right” – as he sees it:
“Tyrell swords will make me king. Rowan and Tarly and Caron will make me king…Tarth swords and Penrose lances, Fossoway, Cuy, Mullendore, Estermont, Selmy, Hightower, Oakheart, Crane, Caswell, Blackbar, Morrigen, Beesbury, Shermer, Dunn, Footly, even House Florent…they will make me king.”
As I explain in my Hollow Crowns essay, this is an incredibly dangerous and tyrannical idea, dressed up in the attractive clothing of populism, and threatening the destabilization of the monarchy. To win the crown, Renly is putting himself in the hands of the Tyrells, making them the true power behind the Iron Throne. And while it’s true that Renly has more skill and understanding of politics than Robert did (even as Renly attempts to parallel his actions to Robert’s), Robert had the advantage of a broad coalition; with the support of the Tullys, Arryn, Starks, and the Baratheons, he wasn’t reliant on any one House for their support, even the Lannisters.
The larger point here is that both of these candidates, the only kings who could credibly try to topple Joffrey off the Iron Throne (since neither Robb nor Balon are claiming it), would be terrible kings, with no real thought for the good of their subjects, and no interest in protecting them. Stannis might be correct about his rights, but his stubborn refusal to let go of his grievances would have made him a vindictive, backward-looking monarch. It won’t be until Stannis is forced by defeat to mature and forced by Davos to re-examine his theory of the monarchy and put the good of the realm first (much as Varys would have wanted, ironically) that he becomes a king worth following. As for Renly…well, unfortunately for him, he won’t live long enough to get a second chance.
An Argument of Kings: A Debate on Truth
As Catelyn points out, Stannis’ own conception of monarchy as founded on the right of inheritance by blood hinges on the truth of his public statement about the paternity of Cersei’s children:
“You are very free to name others traitor and usurper, my lord, yet how are you any different, you say you alone are the rightful king, yet it seems to me that Robert had two sons. By all the laws of the Seven Kingdoms…we are all traitors, however good our reasons.
“Joffrey is not my brother’s seed…nor is Tommen. They are bastards. The girl as well. All three of them abominations born of incest.”
“Isn’t that a sweet story, my lady?…I was camped at Horn Hill when Lord Tarly received his letter, and I must say, it took my breath away…I had never suspected you were so clever, Stannis. Were it only true, you would indeed be Robert’s heir.”
“Were it true? Do you name me a liar?”
“Can you prove any word of this fable?”
“Lord Stannis…if you knew the queen to be guilty…why did you keep silent?”
“I did not keep silent…I brought my suspicions to Jon Arryn…from me, such accusations would have seemed peevish and self-serving, a means of placing myself first in the line of succession. I believed Robert would be more disposed to listen if the charges came from Lord Arryn, who he loved.”
“Ah,” said Renly. “So we have the word of a dead man.”
“…Cersei had him poisoned, for fear he would reveal her. Lord Jon had been gathering certain proofs-“
“-which doubtless died with him. How inconvenient…”
“My sister Lysa accused the queen of killing her husband in a letter she sent me at Winterfell…”
Several threads come together here: Catelyn’s presence is absolutely key to this debate, because she provides a link back to Lysa’s letter, the attack on Bran (although she won’t put two-and-two together until next Catelyn chapter), and Ned’s investigation. And her confirmation of Stannis’ claims is important, because it throws into harsh relief Renly’s pretense of skepticism and disbelief. It suits Renly at this moment to pretend that he was ignorant of the incest, because as long as Joffrey is the rightful king, Stannis and Renly are equal as traitors (as Catelyn acknowledges) and the choice between them can be reduced to the qualities of the individual.
But beneath Renly’s appearance of doubt (and how appropriate is it that all of Renly’s challenges to Stannis’ letter are all about the appearance of Stannis’ argument rather than the fact of the claim?), he absolutely knew the truth all along. I recognize that this is a rather controversial claim, but bear with me. Let us begin with the fact that all of the Small Council – Littlefinger, Varys, Pycelle, Jon Arryn, Stannis, and Eddard – knew about the incest. Does it seem likely that someone with Renly’s skill in the game of thrones would be the only one to be ignorant of the truth, to not have spies on Cersei to overhear or see her coupling with Jaime or to not have spies on Jon Arryn or Stannis or Eddard to find out what they had uncovered? Moreover, consider Renly’s offer to Ned in AGOT: why would Renly fear for his life at Cersei’s hands if he didn’t know that a live Baratheon was an existential threat to Cersei (or if he thought Cersei knew he knew)? Third, as Stannis himself points out, Renly’s Tyrell Conspiracy doesn’t make sense if he didn’t know:
“A year ago you were scheming to make the girl one of Robert’s whores.”
“A year ago, I was scheming to make the girl Robert’s queen…but what does it matter?”
If Renly thought that Joffrey and Tommen were legitimate heirs, there’s no point in making Margaery Robert’s queen. Even if Robert set aside Cersei as Queen Consort, she would remain Queen Mother to the Crown Prince of Westeros, and the future King Joffrey would surely revenge himself on the woman who displaced his mother and the men who supported her. Nor would Mace Tyrell agree to marry his daughter if it didn’t mean he would get what he wants most, “that one day he may see his grandson with his arse on the Iron Throne.” (ASOS) Those who argue that the Tyrells would simply try to displace Cersei’s children with Margaery’s children miss a vital point: there would be no legal means of doing so. When the Hightowers attempted to replace the Arryns in the succession during the reign of Viserys I, they could argue that a male child comes before a female child; when Unwin Peake sought to replace Queen Jaehaera with his own daughter, Jaehaera and King Aegon III had had no issue; when the Hightowers and the Harroways and Tyanna of the Tower attempted to supplant one another in the succession through Maegor, they did so because Maegor had no heirs.
The only way for Mace to achieve his ambitions, and for Renly to persuade him that a marriage between Margaery and Robert was the way to do it would be to put Joffrey and Tommen out of the line of succession. Indeed, given the extreme difficulty of a King putting aside his wife – see Aegon IV and his wife Naerys – there would also need to be a reason to set Cersei aside. And the reason for both of these things was there at hand: Cersei’s incest and the illegitimacy of her sons.
And there is one final piece of evidence as to why Renly knew – and the evidence was living under his own roof for the last twelve years. Everyone who’s ever looked Edric Storm in the face has seen the living image of Robert Baratheon and compared that to the utter lack of semblance between Robert and Joffrey, and Renly would have seen Edric regularly. Once again, Renly was not a stupid man and as Varys says, “the bastards were there for all to see…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.” And with Loras Tyrell fostered at Storm’s End as Renly’s page and squire, Renly would have the perfect witness to testify to Mace Tyrell that Cersei and her children could be set aside at the opportune moment.
No wonder Renly defaults to “you may have the better claim, Stannis, but I still have the larger army.”
An Argument of Two Kings: The Peace Offers
“I propose that you dismount, bend your knee, and swear me your allegiance…if truth be told, I’ve never liked you, Stannis, but you are my own blood, and I have no wish to slay you. So if it is Storms End you want, take it…as a brother’s gift.”
“It is not yours to give. It is mine by rights.”
“I am not without mercy,” thundered he who was notoriously without mercy…”Strike your banners and come to me before dawn, and I will grant you Storm’s End and your old seat on the council and even name you my heir until a son is born to me. Otherwise I shall destroy you.”
On the face of it, these aren’t terrible offers – Storm’s End, the Lord Paramountcy of the Stormlands, and in Stannis’ case, the position of Crown Prince of Westeros, as the price of standing aside. The problem is one of personal factors causing both to present the offers in their worst light. While it’s probably the case that Stannis couldn’t particularly help himself turning a peace offer into an open threat (he was being baited after all), Renly is skilled enough at politics to know that opening peace talks with a series of insults about Stannis’ popularity, his own superior virtues, his dislike for Stannis, and a statement that Stannis is a cuckold is a bad way to go about it. There really isn’t good faith on either side here – Renly clearly has no interest in peace, and Stannis believes that Renly is destined to die.
As historical theories go, this is as good a brief for the Great Man Theory (or individual agency) as you can get. The course of Westerosi history is being decided here by the fact that Stannis and Renly simply can’t stand each other.
And this is a major – if not the major – turning point in the War of Five King. If either of these two candidates had taken the other up on their offer, the Lannisters cannot win the War of Five Kings. According to Errant Bard’s timeline, at the very moment that Renly and Stannis are conferring, Robb Stark has destroyed Stafford Lannister’s army at Oxcross and will force Tywin to march west. If their horse had ridden to King’s Landing at this very moment, they would have hit the city the same day that Tywin marches west to Riverrun, 380 miles from the capitol, too far away to to relieve the capitol. Instead, the delay caused by their conflict will delay Stannis marching for another three weeks, just long enough for Tywin to fight the Battle of the Fords and make it back to King’s Landing.
And of course, the only one who recognizes this is Catelyn Stark, who really becomes an actor rather than an observer in this part of the chapter, as she offers a third proposal:
“If you and your brother were to put aside your quarrel-“
“We three share a common foe who would destroy us all.”
“This is folly…Lord Tywin sits at Harrenhal with twenty thousand swords. The remnants of the Kingslayer’s army have regrouped at the Golden Tooth, another Lannister host gathers beneath the shadow of Casterly Rock, and Cersei and her son hold King’s Landing and your precious Iron Throne.”
“Listen to yourselves! If you were sons of mine, I would bang your heads together and lock you in a bedchamber until you remembered that you were brothers.”
“We ought to be hammering out the terms of an alliance…”
Cat’s proposal – that Stannis and Renly should temporarily set aside their quarrel, join with the Starks, and destroy the Lannisters – is a good one. If there is a failing here, it’s that Catelyn doesn’t press the politics of her argument hard enough. As the second-largest army in Westeros, the Starks should have thrown their weight around and “held out the hand of friendship” to whichever of the brothers agreed to Catelyn’s proposal, while threatening to ally with the enemy of whichever brother rejected it first. In return, why not offer that Robb Stark might bend the knee as she’ll do next chapter?
Interestingly, Catelyn also enters the debate over the nature of kingship, portraying her son as an elected monarch, who “reigns as King in the North, by the will of our lords and people,” and who uses his powers for the common weal: “you each name yourself king, yet the kingdom bleeds, and no one lifts a sword to defend it but my son.” This is a slightly odd argument – Catelyn has always defined the purpose of the war in terms of her family’s interests as opposed to some larger conception of the common good, and she will continue to do so in the future. To some extent, this suggests that GRRM needed a mouthpiece for this perspective and simply used Catelyn.
The War of Five Kings: The Siege of Storm’s End (299 AC)
The funny thing about Catelyn III from a military perspective – and we’ll see more of this in Catelyn IV – is that this is a chapter about a battle that doesn’t happen, as the armies of Stannis and Renly never actually come to blows at Storm’s End. However, there are some odd things going on here that should be examined. First, there is the question of Renly’s army:
“Tyrell swords will make me king. Rowan and Tarly and Caron will make me king…Tarth swords and Penrose lances, Fossoway, Cuy, Mullendore, Estermont, Selmy, Hightower, Oakheart, Crane, Caswell, Blackbar, Morrigen, Beesbury, Shermer, Dunn, Footly, even House Florent…they will make me king. All the chivalry of the south rides with me, and that is the least part of my power. My foot is coming behind, a hundred thousand swords and spears and pikes.”
…when he’d learned of his brother’s assault on Storm’s End, Renly had split his forces…his great mass of foot he had left behind at Bitterbridge with his young queen…while Renly himself led his knights and freedriders in a swift dash east….
As I mentioned in the last Catelyn chapter, there’s something strange about this army. To begin with, even though Renly claims the support of House Hightower, House Caswell, House Shermer, House Dunn, House Footly, and House Blackbar, their banners didn’t show up at Bitterbridge when we saw this army last. Moreover, the numbers have changed. Previously, Renly had claimed to have 80,000 men at Bitterbridge, which would mean 60,000 foot were left there – but here, Renly is claiming to have 100,000 foot in addition to the 20,000 cavalry here. Now, it’s quite possible that Renly’s lying or exaggerating here, but it’s important to know how many men have been left behind at Bitterbridge and what will happen to them.
Moreover, there’s a problem with the representation of Houses here – Renly names 22 Houses as present (via their banners), of which 16 are of the Reach, and only 6 are of the Stormlands – which would suggest that 72% of his cavalry is of the Reach. And yet, 80% of this army is going to go over to Stannis following the events of Catelyn IV – but you’d assume that most of the defectors would be Stormlanders. Moreover, while we know that the Reach Houses Florent, Meadows, Mullendore, Crane, and Fossoways (along with the Varners, who Renly doesn’t mention and don’t show up in Catelyn II but who shows up later) will side with Stannis instead of their liege lord Mace Tyrell, the Rowans, Oakhearts, Tarlys, Tyrells, Cuys, and Beesburys don’t (nor presumably do the other Reacher houses Renly claims support from who haven’t shown up) – and given that those Houses are 27% of the total number, how did Stannis get 80% of Renly’s cavalry? (And for that matter, how is it that between the Reach and the Stormlands, there’s only 20,000 cavalry?)
Likewise, there’s some weirdness with the Stormlands Houses as well. Renly mentions the Houses Tarth, Penrose, Morrigen, Estermont, Selmy, and Caron, but only the Morrigens, Estermonts, and Carons will see action under Stannis’ banner. Moreover, Stannis will have the support of the Stormlands houses Connington, Errol, Hasty, Bollings, Horpe, Peasebury, Fell, Wylde, Grandison, and Wensington, even though they haven’t shown up at all to date. (There’s also a number of Crownlands Houses who show up that I will discuss later) Now, while some of these are perhaps not important enough to be mentioned, the Conningtons, Errols, Fells, Peaseburys, and Wyldes are significant houses with named castles, and yet they haven’t been mentioned by Renly or Catelyn.
This feels to me like GRRM letting the world-building slip a bit.
Regardless – up against Renly’s 20,000 cavalry, Stannis has only “five thousand and be generous, codfish lords and onion knights and sellswords…you have fewer than four hundred horse, my scouts tell me.” It would seem as if he was drawing dead at Storm’s End unless he was entirely trusting to Melisandre, which seems out of character for an arch-combat pragmatist like Stannis.
My own suspicion is that Stannis had something very different in mind when he came down to Storm’s End: with less than 400 horse, he’s certainly not planning to meet Renly head-on in a traditional clash of knightly charges. Rather, given what we learn of Stannis’ army from the Prologue, Stannis has an overwhelming advantage when it comes to infantry (especially archers), and has had time to construct fieldworks: “Stannis Baratheon’s foragers had cut the trees down for his siege towers and catapults.” I think that Stannis planned for something like Crécy, in which the force of Renly’s cavalry would be blunted by earthworks and his disciplined infantry, leaving them vulnerable to his archers.
And had this battle taken place, it’s highly likely that Renly would have complied, because the inexperienced younger brother had left himself badly exposed and in need of a quick resolution, as Catelyn notes:
“Ned would surely have prevailed upon Robert to bring up his whole force, to encircle Stannis and besiege the besiegers. That choice Renly had denied himself in his headlong rush to come to grips with his brother. He had outdistanced his supply lines, left food and forage days behind…he must come to battle soon, or starve.”
Moreover, when we see Renly’s command tent, we see that he’s planning an aggressive attack, and ignoring his best commander, by offering “Lord Mathis, you shall lead the center of my main battle. Bryce, you’ll have the left. The right is mine. Lord Estermont, you shall command the reserve…the greatest glory by rights belongs to the greatest knight. Ser Loras shall strike the first blow.” Even Mace Tyrell, no one’s idea of a great general, knew to put Randall Tarly in charge of his vanguard – and without his experience, there’s no way a glory-hungry Loras in his first battle is going to see a trap coming.
One major reason why Loras isn’t going to see it coming is that his mission is to kill Stannis for Renly. During their parlay, Renly mentions Lightbringer and quips that “Loras will make me a gift of it after the battle” – which obviously implies that Stannis is going to be dead. Renly will be a lot more open about this in Catelyn IV, but it’s clear that the moment he sees that Catelyn Stark gives credence to Stannis’ comments, he’s decided to kill his brother:
“Your brother is the lawful heir.”
“While he lives…”
“I ask your leave to return to Riverrun.”
“You do not have it…you shall see what befalls rebels with your own eyes, so your son can hear it from your own lips.”
When the fandom discusses Renly Baratheon, especially in the context of whether Renly or Stannis would make a better king, one of the things that most often counts against Stannis is his supposed kinslaying. What’s more often overlooked is that Renly Baratheon is arguably more guilty of the same crime; as I’ll discuss in the next Davos chapter, Stannis’ culpability for the shadowbaby assassin is unclear, but Renly clearly intends to kill his brother, eliminate his claim to the Iron Throne, and wants Catelyn to witness this as a threat to her son. Underneath the pleasant surface, Renly’s substance is far darker than many think.
When we last left George of Clarence in 1471, he’d been forgiven for his manifest treason and was now quarreling with his brother Richard over the estate of his father-in-law, the Kingmaker. In the wake of the Battles of Tewksbury and Barnet, the Lancastrian claim seemed completely obliterated, so Edward IV could enjoy the good life (which he did in full, increasingly giving himself over to wine, women, and food that would eventually turn the svelte warrior king into the image of Robert Baratheon). However, George of Clarence found himself largely on the outside of royal favor – he was given the Earldom of Warwick, although Richard’s marriage to Anne Neville meant he couldn’t get all the lands he believed himself due; by contrast, Richard was made the Lord President of the Council of the North, and relied upon by his brother for successful campaigns against Scotland and France.
By contrast…George went a little nuts. His wife Isabel died of postpartum infection in 1476, and George had Ankarette Twynyho, her lady-in-waiting, arrested, charged with murder by poisoning, and then proceeded to:
“caused her to be brought to the Guildhall at Warwick before divers of the justices of the peace in the county then sitting in sessions and caused her to be indicted…the justices arraigned the said Ankarette and a jury appeared and found her guilty and it was considered that she should be led from the bar there to the gaol of Warwick and from thence should be drawn through the town to the gallows of Myton and hanged till she were dead, and the sheriff was commanded to do execution and so he did, which indictment, trial and judgment were done and given within three hours of the said Tuesday, and the jurors for fear gave the verdict contrary to their conscience, in proof whereof divers of them came to the said Ankarette in remorse and asked her forgiveness.”
After this little quasi-murder, Clarence then tried to re-marry in 1477, this time to Mary Duchess of Burgundy, which Edward IV squashed (not wanting his disloyal brother to be Duke of the Low Countries), causing Clarence to leave the court.
At which point, he apparently began consulting Dr. John Stacey, an Oxford astrologist and magician, trying to find out when Edward IV would die, and if possible, bring it about by black magic. This, plus apparent attempts to start up yet another rebellion, pushed Edward over the line, and he had George attainted, and then executed. The story that George was drowned in a but of malmsey wine was only mentioned after his death, but may have been an allusion to George’s descent into alcoholism after the death of Isabel.
One of the funnier bits of Tudor propaganda was the attempt by William Shakespeare to turn the compulsively treasonous George into an innocent condemned to the Tower and murdered by Richard III to send Edward IV to an early grave. Never has anyone less deserved a posthumous redemption.
Man, there are some fascinating hypotheticals in this chapter. So let’s jump right into them:
- Stannis accepts Renly’s offer? Now, this one is the least likely. Let’s face it, Stannis would probably die rather than back down. But if Stannis had a complete personality transplant, Renly would absolutely steamroll the Lannisters, albeit not without some pretty high casualties before Renly realizes the value of Randall Tarly. Especially with Balon Greyjoy taking Moat Cailin, Robb Stark would likely bend the knee to Renly, while retaining the title of King in the North. Especially without suffering the losses of Duskendale and the Ruby Ford, and without the Riverlanders being in danger and needing to stay home, Robb would easily have enough manpower to retake the North. The interesting thing is what happens in the south – do the Tyrells become the new Lannisters, overreaching in-laws who try to monopolize power and antagonize the other Great Houses? Does Melisandre strike down King Renly to put King Stannis in his place? How does Littlefinger and Varys adapt to a new political order?
- Renly accepts Stannis’ offer? This one actually makes a lot more sense for Renly, if he were inclined to be cautious – he’s young, his wife’s family makes him incredibly powerful, and Stannis is unlikely to have a male heir. Militarily, things go even better than before – Stannis is too skilled a general to make some of Renly’s mistakes, which likely results in a much lower casualty bill. Politically, things get very tricky – Renly is definitely waiting for Stannis to die as soon as possible, and we know the Tyrells are not above a spot of assassination; likewise, I imagine Stannis probably alienates a lot of people as king, with Renly acting as the “good cop” in the wings and everyone choosing between the King’s party and the Prince’s party, as happened in the reign of Aegon IV (not that I’m comparing the two).
- Stannis accepts Catelyn’s offer? Here’s where I think Catelyn failing to bring Robb Stark’s allegiance into question held her back. As we saw in the Prologue, Stannis isn’t above allying with the Starks as long as he’s not being shamed by his wife, and especially if Robb Stark is willing to bend the knee, I think that solves his problem. Especially in comparison to the Reach and Stormlands lords whose allegiance he accepts later, I think Stannis understands Robb’s position, even while his own absolute commitment to justice bars him from acknowledging it. The political consequences are rather interesting here: now Renly has to deal with the fact that Stannis now has two Kingdoms backing him just as Renly does, and all of the sudden Stannis looks a lot more politically viable even without his brother’s army. You might get an interesting situation in which Stannis sets sail from Dragonstone, lands on the north bank of the Trident to link up with Robb’s forces there, and then marches on King’s Landing. Alternatively, if Stannis accepts this offer and then Renly dies, you might get one hell of a donnybrook if the Battle of Blackwater gets altered with, say, Edmure pushing east and Roose Bolton pushing south, after the Battle of the Fords to hit Tywin’s rear just as Tywin hits Stannis’ flank.
- Renly accepts Catelyn’s offer? I’ve already discussed this a bit in Catelyn’s previous chapter, but the best Stark scenario at this point is if the post-Renly Tyrells defect into their camp instead of the Lannisters, on the grounds that they have a deal with the Starks already and the Starks have a young king on hand. As I’ve argued before, there’s no point in Robb Stark staying loyal to disloyal Freys – if he has to break his word to get the Tyrells to back him and absolutely destroy the Lannisters, Machiavellian theory says he should do it.
- Both of them accepted Catelyn’s offer? I’ll discuss this in greater depth in next Catelyn chapter once she brings up the Great Council theory, but the politics of such a scenario are quite interesting. If an alliance of Three Kings eliminate the Lannisters, a number of possible outcomes could occur: possibly, you could get Westeros splintering into the Kingdom of the North, the Kingdom of the South, and the Kingdom of the Middle. Possibly, you could get some very interesting negotiations in the Great Council – who votes for the Westerlands with the Lannisters out of the picture? Which way does Robb vote his two kingdoms? Do the Vale and Dorne take part, and which way do they vote? Do the Iron Islands participate, or are they too busy fighting the Starks and/or the Tyrells? More on this later.
Book vs. Show:
I don’t really have much to say about the adaptation of this scene – as far as I’m concerned, the show executed from the books absolutely perfectly, and I now have the show’s image of this scene in my head when I read the chapter. Besides that, I love the ad-lib about Stannis being a ham.