Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VIII, ACOK

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“When a king dies, fancies sprout like mushrooms in the dark.”

Synopsis: Tyrion, Varys, Littlefinger, and Cersei deal with the fallout from Renly’s death.

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:

Thematically, Tyrion VIII is a study in political advantage in a world of feudal politics; what’s a bit odd is plot-wise it comes in kind of a relatively slow-paced setup chapter whose importance isn’t immediately apparent to the first time reader, and right before the fireworks of the King’s Landing riot and the Battle of Blackwater.

The Nature of Rumor

One of the real advantages of the limited-third person POV that George R.R Martin uses is that he gets to play around with partial information in interesting ways. Here, we the audience knows what’s really happened to Renly while the Small Council doesn’t, just as we know better than the folks in King’s Landing what’s actually going on north of the Wall, further emphasizing the way in which the political center is getting distracted from what’s really important:

“It would appear Renly was murdered most fearfully in the very midst of his army. His throat was opened from ear to ear by a blade that passed through steel and bone as if they were soft cheese…A groom says that Renly was slain by a knight of his own Rainbow Guard. A washerwoman claims Stannis stole through the heart of his brother’s army with his magic sword. Several men-at-arms believe a woman did the fell deed, but cannot agree on which woman. A maid that Renly had spurned, claims one. A camp follower brought in to serve his pleasure on the eve of battle, says a second. The third ventures that it might have been the Lady Catelyn Stark.”

At the same time, we’re also learning a lot about the power and limitations of rumor as a factor in intelligence work. On the one hand, Varys’ intelligence is incredibly accurate as to the matter of Renly’s death, which suggests he had an agent on hand to see the body before Loras took it. On the other hand, the confusion of events means that even a seasoned professional like the Spider has to parse through contradictory reports (although it’s possible he’s hiding the truth amidst false reports intentionally, as he will do later in ASOS). The groom and the first men at arms fit in with Loras’ version of events, the third man at arms has clearly conflated Catelyn’s proximity for culpability, and only the washerwoman comes anywhere close to the truth, but once again the fantastical is dismissed in favor of the politically plausible.

Another interesting detail here is the relationship between Varys and Littlefinger. Contrary to any supposition that they might secretly be working together, it’s pretty clear that the two of them hate each other:

“Dear dear Petyr,” said Varys, “are you not concerned that yours might be the next name of the Hand’s little list?”

“Before you, Varys? I would never dream of it.”

“Mayhaps we will be brothers on the Wall together, you and I.”

While I don’t think that Varys and Littlefinger are going to wind up in the Night’s Watch any time soon, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they do check out at the same time.

The Creation of a Very Specific Threat

A second key issue that Varys’ intelligence brings up is that Stannis had garnered the support of most of Renly’s army at Storm’s End. One of the things we can see from this is how GRRM’s tight plotting has created Stannis as a carefully calculated threat:

“The greater part of his foot remains at Bitterbridge. Most of the lords who rode with Lord Renly to Storm’s End have gone over banner-and-blade to Stannis with all their chivalry.”

“Led by the Florents, I’d wager.”

“Not Loras Tyrell, nor Randyll Tarly, nor Mathis Rowan…a fifth of Renly’s knights departed with Ser Loras rather than bend the knee to Stannis…Ser Loras is likely making for Bitterbridge…his sister is there, Renly’s queen, as well as a great many soldiers who suddenly find themselves kingless. Which side will they take now? A ticklish question. Many serve the lords who remained at Storm’s End, and those lords now belong to Stannis.”

It’s crucial for the plot that Stannis be genuinely capable of threatening King’s Landing, and so Stannis now has 15,000 knights added to the 5,000 soldiers he had already, which gives him three times as many troops as Tyrion has to hand, just enough to make an assault viable. However, it’s also crucial that Stannis doesn’t become the same kind of war-ending behemoth that Renly was, in order to make the eventual outcome of the Battle of Blackwater plausible and his later conflict with Mance Rayder more dramatic, so the “greater part of his foot” remains at Bitterbridge waiting for Randyll Tarly to remake the military calculations of Westeros with fire and sword.

On a political level, there remains a bit of confusion about which houses (and their attendant military forces) went where. Given the size and power of the Tyrells, Tarlys, and Rowans and those who went with them (a topic I’ll cover more in Davos II), it’s unlikely that 5,000 men represents the whole of their horse. So where are the rest of them?

Another issue that’s crucial here is timing – as I’ll discuss in a second, there are critical timing issues involved with Loras and Mace Tyrell getting to Bittebridge, but it’s also important for the plot that Stannis be somewhat delayed at Storm’s End. After all, it needs to be plausible that Tywin, who’s about to march west to the relief of the Westerlands, should be able to get back in the nick of time before Stannis’ army crushes Tyrion’s defenses. Thus, “we should thank the gods that Ser Cortnay Penrose is as stubborn as he is. Stannis will never march north with Storm’s End untaken in his rear.” This ensures that Stannis will be delayed just long enough – more of which on in Davos II.

The Foundation of the Tyrell/Lannister Alliance

While Tyrion’s resentment of his father in ASOS largely revolves around being robbed of credit for the Battle of Blackwater, I would argue that Tyrion’s more impressive feat is his initiative in seizing the opportunity to redraw the political battlelines of the War of Five Kings by bringing the Tyrells into alliance with House Lannister. It’s very clear in this chapter that, while Varys was involved in bringing the intelligence to Tyrion and mentioning the open question of the loyalty of the Reach, this is very much Tyrion’s call:

Tyrion leaned forward. “There is a chance here, it seems to me. Win Loras Tyrell to our cause and Lord Mace Tyrell and his bannermen might join us as well. They may have sworn their swords to Stannis for the moment, yet they cannot love the man, or they would have been his from the start…they loved Renly, clearly, but Renly is slain. Perhaps we can give them good and sufficient reasons to prefer Joffrey to Stannis…if we move quickly.”

“What sort of reasons do you mean to give them?”

“Gold reasons…honors, lands, castles.”

“Bribes might sway some of the lesser lords,” Tyrion said, “but never Highgarden.”

“It seems to me we should take a lesson from the late Lord Renly. We can win the Tyrell alliance as he did. With a marriage.”

“…You mean to wed King Joffrey to Margaery Tyrell.”

There’s a distinct difference here between Littlefinger and Tyrion’s grasp on the matter (or at least how much of a grasp Littlefinger chooses to display here) – Littlefinger suggests bribery while dismissing the warrior ideology of honor as any kind of a barrier, whereas Tyrion shows a keener grasp of human psychology and is faster to understand that “The Knight of Flowers is the key.” While Littlefinger’s methods do work – look how he’s corrupted so many of the lords of the Vales – there are limitations, as he can’t really manipulate people like Bronze Yohn Royce who aren’t motivated by money, nor can he really bribe a house as rich as the Tyrells. By contrast, Tyrion understands the non-material desires of people around him, in this case Loras’ desire for vengeance and Mace Tyrell’s intense desire for a royal connection that would elevate his house’s social standing above the many houses of the Reach who can boast a stronger connection to the Gardener kings.

Moreover, as with Myrcella, Tyrion has a good eye for the long-term, especially the advantages of dynastic alliances. Littlefinger is far too much of an improviser and too ego-driven to make long-term alliances – if you look at the people who ally or work for him, his relationships are all transactional, and often quite acrimonious.

Cersei’s Reaction and the Prophecy

In light of what we learn about Cersei from her AFFC chapters, Cersei’s reaction to the idea of marrying Joffrey to Margaery Tyrell offers a lot of insight into her psychology and the impact of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy on her motivation:

 “Joffrey is betrothed to Sansa Stark…”

“Margaery is said to be lovely . . . and beddable besides…”

“My son is too young to care about such things…Joffrey is made of finer stuff.”

“So fine that he had Ser Boros rip off Sansa’s gown.”

“He was angry with the girl…”

“The Stark girl brings Joffrey nothing but her body, sweet as that may be. Margaery Tyrell brings fifty thousand swords and all the strength of Highgarden.”

“…You would not speak so if you were women. Say what you will, my lords, but Joffrey is too proud to settle for Renly’s leavings. He will never consent.”

This passage is Exhibit A why I firmly believe that Cersei was afraid that Sansa might have been the younger, more beautiful queen, and it explains why she continually declares over and over again that Sansa is dumb, because an unintelligent woman wouldn’t be a threat to Cersei. Cersei doesn’t give a damn whether Sansa is brutalized in open court – in fact, in so far as it shows that Sansa can’t manipulate Joffrey, her abuse makes Cersei feel more secure about her future safety. It’s a chilling example of how suffering does not automatically bring about empathy or morality in those who endure it, and why so often the oppressed seek to elevate themselves by disdaining other individuals or groups who experience the same thing, even if they don’t go to the extent of becoming oppressors themselves.

Politically, it’s a weird inversion of the normal logic of dynastic alliances – as an isolated hostage from a rebel House, Sansa brings no political advantages to her betrothal to Joffrey, but that also means that Sansa can’t possibly develop political influence that might threaten Cersei’s grasp on power. So long as Sansa is betrothed to Joffrey, Cersei can rest easy that the prophecy can never come to pass. However, Margaery has all of the features of the younger queen. Margaery is both physically beautiful and sexually available to Joffrey (which Cersei can’t be), which sends Cersei into immediate denial. Margaery also has access to enormous military and economic power, which would give her enormous influence within the court, and would make it extremely difficult for Cersei to replicate the same level of control over her that she has over Sansa.

This passage also gives us an interesting perspective into Cersei’s relationship with Joffrey. Her attempt to prevent Joffrey from becoming an abuser was clearly doomed from the beginning – her admonitions run completely counter to her need to disparage Sansa as her potential enemy and her twisted understanding of what a strong ruler looks like. Instead of intervening, Cersei goes into denial, because to truly comprehend the situation would be to admit her own complicity in re-creating her own marriage in her son’s betrothal. The same factors seem to be behind Cersei’s belief that Joffrey is not sexual – because Cersei doesn’t believe in male sexuality that’s not grounded in sexual aggression and violence (with the exception of Jaime), if she recognizes that Joffrey has a sexuality (let alone his unique brand of sexual sadism), it means that Joffrey has become like Robert, because all men like Robert.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

The need to send an embassy to the Tyrells creates an opening for the various players on the Small Council to try to remove their rivals from the capitol – in political systems that don’t recognize a distinction between the person and the office, this is the kiss of death (the end of many a political career in the Middle Ages and Renaissance ended with banishment, as opposed to lobbying and speaking gigs). Of course the irony here is that continued proximity to power means keeping one’s self in the path of an oncoming army:

“If we send you, Tyrion, it will be as if Joffrey went himself. And who better? You wield words as skillfully as Jaime wields a sword.”

“You are too kind, sister, but it seems to me that a boy’s mother is better fitted to arrange his marriage than any uncle.”

“Your Grace, my lord Hand,” said Littlefinger, “the king needs both of you here.”

“”You?” What gain does he see in this? Tyrion wondered.

“I am of the king’s council, yet not the king’s blood, so I would make a poor hostage. I knew Ser Loras passing well when he was here at court, and gave him no cause to mislike me. Mace Tyrell bears me no enmity that I know of, and I flatter myself that I am not unskilled in negotiation.”

He has us. Tyrion did not trust Petyr Baelish, nor did he want the man out of his sight, yet what other choice was left him?

Cersei and Tyrion’s fencing is rather obvious, and one gets the sense that it’s all rather half-hearted. Cersei doesn’t have the power to send Tyrion anywhere, and Tyrion doesn’t have the pretext to send Cersei away. Littlefinger’s move is much more interesting.

Now, in the past I’ve tried to correct for what I believe to be a fairly widespread over-estimation of Littlefinger as a conspirator  – Littlefinger is not a flawless mastermind, and has some rather glaring weaknesses. However, I do have to give credit where credit is due, because this is a rather brilliant maneuver. At worst, Littlefinger secures his personal safety and gets the hell out of a potentially besieged city; at best, Littlefinger can parlay political carte blanche and 300 soldiers into real political power. And indeed, with the Purple Wedding, we see how much Littlefinger is able to leverage the relatively modest amount of power he’s given here.

However, this is not a Xanatos Gambit, with Littlefinger having pulled the strings for years. Rather it’s an improvisation – Baelish could not have planned for Renly’s death or the Tyrells’ ability to defect and make it to Bitterbridge to become players (imagine if Stannis gets to Bitterbridge first or manages to capture Loras), and there were significant risks that his embassy could have failed. Littlefinger’s embassy could have been attacked, negotiations could have failed, or Littlefinger might have been just a day late to get the details to Tywin.

Historical Analysis:

In the past, I’ve talked a bit about how Littlefinger resembles Thomas Cromwell. But now that Littlefinger has embarked on the mission that most neatly parallels his career and that of the legend of Putney, it feels appropriate to talk about how Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power was bound up by his working relationship with Anne Boleyn. Any suggestion that this is related to me devouring Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, the Broadway play of same, the BBC TV series of same, some recent biographies,  and getting a bit obsessed about Cromwell is entirely without merit.

If anything, Cromwell’s rise to power was even more meteoric than his Westerosi counterpart. Baelish started with his feet on the lowest rung of the nobility, but Cromwell started as the son of a Putney blacksmith – a fact that would be used to his advantage and disadvantage throughout his career. After running away from home at an early age, Thomas spent several years as a mercenary, a banker, and a cloth merchant in Italy and the Lowlands before returning to England where he quickly established himself as a lawyer with a gift for land law. As with Littlefinger, his financial and legal acumen and their usefulness to powerful men would be key to his fortunes.

As Jon Arryn was to Littlefinger, Cardinal Wolsey was to Cromwell – he became Wolsey’s lawyer and adviser, and helped the Cardinal dissolve (i.e, seize the land and other arrests of) a number of monasteries in Northern England to pay for the creation of Cardinal (later Christ Church) College at Oxford, another skill that would be highly useful to his later career. But while Cromwell was a tireless loyalist of Wolsey and would never have betrayed him as Littlefinger betrayed Jon Arryn, as long as Wolsey was in power, Cromwell would never be anything but his lawyer.

But within a month of Wolsey falling from power in 1529, Cromwell was an MP in Parliament despite defending the most hated man in England. Within six months, Cromwell was working for Henry, helping to seize the land that Wolsey had seized for his colleges for the king. A month after Wolsey’s death in 1530, Cromwell was a Privy Councilor. What could explain this sudden, phoenix-like political resurrection?

Ultimately it comes down to Cromwell making himself useful to Henry and to Anne, whom Cromwell shared a cosmopolitan gift for languages (both spoke fluent French and had spent much of their lives on the continent), a taste for the finer things in life (Cromwell’s experience in the cloth markets putting him in good stead with the luxury-loving court), and a secret adherence to Protestantism. Where Wolsey had failed to bring about Henry’s divorce within the Catholic Church, Cromwell showed the way to accomplish it outside the Church.

In 1532, Parliament passed several key bills authored by Cromwell through parliamentary maneuvers orchestrated by Cromwell – the Act in Restraint of Annates suspended church taxes paid to Rome and steered the 30,000 pounds a year into Henry’s coffers, while the Supplication Against Ordinaries was a parliamentary petition to the king attacking the Church’s independent legislative and judicial powers (this last part was the crucial issue, as Henry’s divorce was in church courts)and declaring the king “the only head, sovereign, lord, protector, and defender” of the English Church. When the Convocation of Canterbury (the Church’s major legislative body) attempted resistance, they were threatened with legal charges of praemunire unless they paid 100,000 pounds (equal to about 32 million today). The Convocation submitted.

The following February, Cromwell’s crown jewel, the Restraint of Appeals declared that:

“this realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same, unto whom a body politic compact of all sorts and degrees of people divided in terms and by names of Spirituality and Temporalty, be bounden and owe to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience.”

Any appeal from English religious courts were forbidden, which allowed Thomas Cromwell’s ally (and Anne Boleyn’s former confessor) (and secret Protestant) Thomas Cranmer to sit in judgement on Henry’s divorce as the Archbishop and declare the union dissolved in May of 1533. June 1st, Henry and Anne were wed. And not so coincidentally, Thomas Cromwell was now Master of the Jewel House and Chancellor of the Exchequer, giving him control of English finances.

What came later…well, you’ll have to wait to find out.

What If?

There’s no way that Tyrion or Cersei are leading the embassy, so there’s really only one interesting hypothetical here:

  • the embassy fails? Littlefinger’s mission is not an easy one. The timeline is exceedingly tight – in two bare months, Littlefinger has to travel the 520 miles across a warzone to Bitterbridge, the messenger has to get from Bitterbridge to Tywin’s army (roughly 600 miles, depending on where Tywin retreated to), the Tyrells have to march 410 miles from Bitterbridge to Tumbler’s Falls, and then Tywin has to force march 260 miles in time to meet up with Mace before Stannis breaks down the gates of King’s Landing – and everything has to go right in order for GRRM’s plot to work. If anything slips – if Littlefinger or the messenger is captured or attacked or even delayed, even so much as by a few hours, then King’s Landing falls to Stannis.
  • And the various stages where things could go wrong lead to very different outcomes – let’s say Littlefinger never makes it to Bitterbridge, either due to bad luck or because he decides to play it safe and head to the Eyrie instead. King’s Landing is going to fall, but Tywin’s in the field, and god only knows what savagery happens when someone like that with an army that’s still above 10,000 men goes bandit. More importantly, the Tyrells are unlikely to bend the knee, given Stannis’ grudges, the internal politics of the Reach, and Loras’ influence – it’s quite possible the Reach breaks away from King’s Landing. In that scenario, you could see Westeros break apart into the North and the Riverlands (and technically the Westerlands) vs. the Iron Islands (and parts of the North) vs. the Crownlands and Stormlands (the Durrendon kingdom restored!) vs. the Reach, with the Vale and Dorne in splendid isolation.
  • Let’s say the messenger never makes it to Tywin. I really do not think Mace moves on his own – there’s a reason his army waited at Tumbler’s Falls all that long while – which could lead to the interesting outcome where the city falls despite both Tywin and the Tyrells being on the same side. What happens then? Does Mace back on the deal, since the material basis for the deal is dead? Make a new deal? (Tywin’s not married, after all) I think this one would largely depend on whether Tywin can retake control of the Westerlands or whether Robb can close the net on him.

Book vs. Show:

Littlefinger in Season 2 gets a lot of criticism – this is the season when the term “Middlefinger” gets coined, after all – but I think the picture is a bit more mixed than people give the show credit for. To begin with, Littlefinger being present at Storm’s End to negotiate with Renly and then with the Tyrells is a good innovation, and it’s hardly more teleportational than his flitting about in the books (seriously, look at the miles we’re talking about above, and then add Littlefinger’s jaunt to the Eyrie and back in two weeks in ASOS). And his being there gives us a much better opportunity get Margaery’s character fleshed out more; her mission statement about wanting to be “the queen” vs. “a queen” is key to understanding what comes next.

However, I do agree that Littlefinger’s sidetrip to Harrenhal is rather unnecessary. So it’s not that I think the criticism is completely off-base, it’s more that it’s a bit selectively forgetful. Season 2 has many faults, but Benioff and Weiss are not consistently awful – it would be a lot easier to explain when/where the show goes off the rails if they were.

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79 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VIII, ACOK

  1. Iñigo says:

    I really liked the historical parallel.

    About Littlefinger, I think he could be losing control over the rich men he bought through corruption. We would later find out that a man that was bought by Littlefinger joined the antler men, and he might not be the only one. These kind of people can be bought with money, but when their life is in danger, they change sides quickly.

    If he anticipated that merchants related to him would defect to Stannis, leaving the city was the only option, because Tyrion would use the chance to send him to the wall(the chances of Varys not finding out are zero, IMO).

    • winnie says:

      Not to mention Sansa suspects Lynn Corbray of being against Baelish despite the fact that he’s on LF’s payroll

      • John says:

        The marriage Littlefinger brokered for Lyn’s brother is a pretty clear insult to Lyn, who was hoping to succeed to Heart’s Home himself.

    • AzureOwl says:

      I have always had the theory that the Antler Men were wealthy individuals loyal to Littlefinger and that Varys took the opportunity to either manipulate them into, or framed them for, the attempt to open the gates.

      In essence, that Varys took an opportunity to purge the city from some of Littlefinger’s power base.

    • Thanks!

      Yeah, the problem with buying people is that, once they’ve got the money, they don’t always stay bought.

  2. winnie says:

    Well another ‘what if’ Steve, is that a different emissary other than LF is sent, (even if it isn’t Tyrion or Cersei) then that causes a lot of dominoes. Without being the guy who helped broker the Tyrell alliance, Baelish isn’t rewarded with Harrenhaal and thus can’t marry Lysa Arryn. Moreover, without Baelish encouraging Loras to join the KG and spreading stories about Joffrey then the PW might not have taken place either.

    For the record having LF at Harrenhaal might not have been necessary but seeing Tywin swat him down “You say it like you’re the first man to ever think of it” was a lot of fun.

    And I think Cromwell in his way was far more principled than Baelish. He was trying to advance something other than himself whatever one thought of his methods. Probably a lot smarter too not that It saved him. And Baelish is going down. Probably the moment he arrives in WF…

    • David Hunt says:

      Who are they going to send if not Littlefinger? As I see it, it needs to be either a member of the Small Council or a close relative to Joffrey/Cercei. The only close relative that I can think of if KL besides Tyrion and Cercei is Lancel and he’s so obviously unsuited for the job that he’s not worth the pixels that I’ve spent on him.

      Who on the Council are they going to send? Jaime might have been a good choice if he weren’t rotting in Riverrun, but he’s rotting in Riverrun (say that five times fast). Nobody would trust Varys as an emissary regardless of the written authorizations that he was bearing and Pycelle is currently on the outs and he’s too frail for a hasty journey over such distances, anyway. I don’t think I’m being Presentist to say LF was the obvious choice and he just figured that out and volunteered before anyone else, making himself look better. Tyrion might have seen that before LF stepped up if he hadn’t been busy sniping with Cercei.

      • John says:

        I suppose the other plausible possibility is to send a raven to Harrenhal to send Kevan to Bitterbridge – since Tywin has to be informed anyway, this doesn’t seem *too* impractical.

    • The tricky thing is who exactly they would send. Tyrion and Cersei are out, Pycelle and Varys probably wouldn’t work, no one else is high-enough status.

  3. Space Oddity says:

    I have said it in private, and I’ll say it in public–to my mind, Cromwell is a poor fit for Baelish. Cromwell after all, actually DID his job, and was loyal to his employer. To my mind, the clear fit is Antonio Perez, Philip II’s secretary. If you’ll allow me to make my case…

    *ahem*

    1) Just as Petyr Baelish is in a strange position as both a de jure insider and de facto outsider to the nobility, so was Antonio Perez, who as the illegitimate son of a noble-born priest (who was his predecessor in the role of Philip’s secretary) received just enough privilege to get him started in life, but not enough to keep him there without scrambling on his part.

    2) Just like Petyr Baelish, Perez got his position thanks to the patronage of a trusted elder adviser of the King, the Prince of Eboli.

    3) Just like Petyr Baelish, Perez rose further in political influence when that patron died.

    4) Much like Petyr Baelish, Perez was scandalously involved with his late patron’s wife, a noblewoman of an old family.

    5) Much like Petyr Baelish, Perez was involved in a great deal of spying and murder plots.

    6) Rather like Petyr Baelish, Perez hid out in a mountainous, wealthy kingdom nominally ruled by his employer and exploited local custom and the regional elites to protect himself from trouble. (Obviously, this one is much rougher.)

    Obviously the parallels are inexact, but on the whole, Baelish is a lot more like the scheming secretary than he is Cromwell, and so I have little problem with arguing he’s a more likely primary fictional genetic donor than Henry’s third Lord Chancellor. Of course, one hopes that he gets a more fitting fate than Perez, who wound up a guest of the English and French courts where he spent his time peddling anti-Philip II screeds, and enjoying himself until he died of old age.

    • winnie says:

      I think a better parallel to Cromwell in the series might be Varys or Davos. They were both from humble origins. Both rose to power through their abilities. Varys like Cromwell seeks to serve the Realm through a massive reform no matter how much blood he has to wade through to do it. Davos is loyal unto death as Cromwell was and also seasoned in battle.

      • Space Oddity says:

        I very much agree. One can argue there’s a sprinkling of a Cromwell in all three characters, but Littlefinger really does not seem to have much of the man in him. He’s a closer match to more notorious advisers, like Perez, or Anton von Streithorst, whose efforts to assist Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel’s finances involved minting coins of cheap metal that wound up ruining the state’s credit.

        • winnie says:

          Exactly. Baelish has also been disastrous for the Crowns finances and that’s just the beginning of the damage he’s done.

    • Roger says:

      Real interesting comparision!

    • 1. Who is GRRM more likely to be familiar with?

      2. Did Perez have a gift for finances?

      • Littlefinger is basically what Cromwell’s enemies made him out to be – it’s like GRRM read about Cromwell, read what was said of him, and went “Hmm. What if he actually had been as shady as they thought… Or worse?” Honestly if Stannis had won Blackwater, one of his first moves would’ve probably had to be to find a closer to reality Cromwell analogue to fix this mess.

        Though I will say that Perez guy does sound a lot like Littlefinger, Space Oddity has a good point there. I’m just with you on the wondering how likely it is GRRM would’ve come across him in research.

  4. Keith B says:

    Tyrion is smart, Littlefinger is cunning, but neither is a miracle worker. The only reason they’re able to create the alliance with the Tyrells is that it’s exactly what Mace Tyrell wants to do at this point. He’s been pushing the Margaery option all along, and this is the only place he has to go.

    Back in AGOT in Arya 3 we learn that Renly and Loras were planning to marry Margaery to King Robert. This would have promoted Mace Tyrell’s ambition to make his grandson through Margaery King of Westeros, so he was behind the plot. Since they can’t do it without getting rid of Cersei, and there’s no point unless they also remove her children, they all must have known about the incest. However, like Stannis, they were waiting first for Jon Arryn and then for Ned Stark to reveal it, so they would have clean hands.

    But Jon Arryn dies, and then Robert dies, so where can Mace turn? He’s still expecting that Joffrey will be exposed and overthrown. That makes Stannis next in line, but he’s already married. So the only choice is to marry Margaery to Renly and have Renly proclaim
    himself King. Loras would have been lobbying for this option, since he’s Renly’s lover.

    At this point Renly still can’t reveal the incest, because that would make Stannis the rightful King. Renly can’t step aside for Stannis, even if he were inclined to, because Mace and Loras need him to be King in order to fulfill their own ambitions. So Stannis has to reveal Joffrey’s illegitimacy, and Renly feigns surprise and pretends it doesn’t matter.

    This is why Renly has to kill Stannis. Once he does, he can declare Joffrey illegitimate, and he will be King by right. However, Melisandre kills Renly instead. That completely disrupts the Tyrells’ plans.

    If Stannis had won the battle and captured Renly, he would have been able to impose terms on him, and they could have been very generous. It was unlikely that Selyse would give him a son, so by making Renly his heir he would still have enabled the Tyrells to fulfill their ambitions.
    They only would have had to wait longer than they expected. Thus, the Baratheon-Tyrell alliance would have remained in effect. Stannis needed Renly to live, even if he didn’t realize it, just as Renly needed Stannis to die. It’s possible that Melisandre’s action cost Stannis the war.

    But with Renly dead, a Baratheon alliance is no longer able to fulfill Mace’s dream. He still can’t marry Margaery to Stannis. So where can he turn? A Robb-Margaery marriage won’t do it. Robb is only claiming to be King of the North, and has no plausible claim to the Iron
    Throne. A marriage between Willas and Sansa, even if it were possible, won’t work either. At this point, the only way he can get what he wants is by propping up the Lannisters, as distasteful as that might be, and marrying Margaery to Joffrey. He’s more than willing to accept the deal Littlefinger is offering.

    The plotting here is excellent work from GRRM, because everything flows logically and naturally from completely understandable motives of the characters involved. The only fly in the ointment is the shadow ex machina of Melisandre’s dark magic. GRRM writes this story as a political thriller, and adding an arbitrary magical element to the plot is a flaw. But it’s certainly much better than the Theon storyline, which simply piles one arbitrary and unbelievable event on top of another, for no apparent purpose other than GRRM’s determination to achieve the result he wants by any means necessary.

    • winnie says:

      Agree that on paper the Lannister/Tyrell alliance must have seemed like a great deal to Mace but man has it been disastrous in practice to the point where it may even be the destruction of their House because of the personalities involved.

      And fair point Steve that Cersei no doubt saw Sansa as a way around the curse while she considered Margaery a threat from day one.
      Which would only make it all the more delicious if Sansa were in fact the YMBQ after all…

      • Keith B says:

        I used to think Daenerys was the YMBQ, now I think Cersei will be destroyed before she gets there.

        Mace clearly didn’t understand how messed up Joffrey and Cersei really were. When Olenna found out, she took action.

        Cersei’s reaction to the prophecy shows how crazy she really is. “You will be replaced by a younger and more beautiful Queen” isn’t really a prophecy, it’s a fairly safe prediction. Almost an inevitablilty. If Cersei had been sane, she would have embraced it, not fought it.

        • David Hunt says:

          Well, the seeming prediction that her children would proceed her in death gives her an incentive to derail the whole thing. And, she’s so obsessed with keeping and exercising power now that she has it, I think that the idea of managing a peaceful transfer of “queenship” is so alien to her psychology, that it’s literally unthinkable to her.

          Also, note that the word “queen” never actually appears in Maggy’s prophecy about the YMBQ. “Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” It implies that the “another” that casts her down will be a queen, but it doesn’t actually specify that as I read it. I think it will be a woman who is or about to to be queen, but I can see some wiggle room there…

          • ajay says:

            Also, note that the word “queen” never actually appears in Maggy’s prophecy about the YMBQ. “Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”

            Exactly – in the slightly antiquated language of the prophecy, that could equally just be “until there comes another person”. Presumably, given that they’re described as beautiful, another female person. But not necessarily a queen.

            And, also, Cersei is obsessed with thinking it means “someone who is more beautiful than me right now” which limits the suspects rather, because for most of the books she is generally acknowledged to be pretty beautiful herself. But all it means is “someone more beautiful than me at the time”. If the downfall happens after Cersei has been made ugly in some way (such as by having her head shaved?), well, virtually anyone could qualify.

            My personal guess is that it’s Brienne, and “taking all that you hold dear” is a reference to Jaime, and her involvement in a) weakening his loyalty and affection for Cersei and b) getting him to fall into BWB hands.
            And the irony there would be wonderful – Brienne really is the Least Likely Suspect because everyone thinks of her as a freakishly ugly woman, and Cersei as the beautiful golden-haired queen…

          • David Hunt says:

            @ajay,

            Yeah. If you go with the theory that the “doused in boiling oil at the Siege of Dragonstone” story is a lie, Loras would be a good candidate. Loras’ beauty is stressed at just about any point that he gets even a line of dialogue.

          • ajay says:

            Loras is the “younger, more beautiful queen”? Well, I suppose he does qualify on all three counts… that would be hilarious.

          • David Hunt says:

            Loras being the one would come from the idea that “another, younger and more beautiful” is simply referring to another person rather than another “queen.” GRRM throws in all sorts of jokes that refer to things outside the books occasionally, but he does it subtly. There’s no way he’d resolve a prophecy in a way that depended on a modern slang for a gay man as opposed to the word meanings and uses of Westeros. So unless Cercei mockingly declares Loras the “Queen of Flowers…”

          • I think this is a stretch. “another” is a pronoun, referring to “queen.”

        • John says:

          If Margaery or Arianne is the younger, more beautiful queen, that is just terrible, terrible plotting on Martin’s part.

          • John says:

            And, I should say, the entire existence of the Aegon plot points to terrible, terrible plotting on Martin’s part. If he’d just kept the fucking five year gap, he’d have easily been able to get Dany to Westeros in time to take out Cersei. Instead he was so sad about losing — what? Brienne wandering around the Riverlands? — that he completely fucked up his story.

          • winnie says:

            I agree that neither Margaery or Arianne could work as the YMBQ and even if Dany did get to Westeros in time she’s problematic as well since there’s no *personal* connection of any kind between her and Cersei.

            And unlike Sansa, Dany played no role in Joffrey’s death or indeed any of Cersei’s current troubles.

        • Petyr Patter says:

          I put actually together a huge thread about all the “YMBQ” candidates, no matter how out there they seemed.

          http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/93920-compiling-the-younger-more-beautiful-queens/

          There are a lot of possibilities, including some that should be more obvious, such as Myrcella, and others that are just fun to consider: Nymeria.

          • John says:

            The only ones that would have any reasonable thematic relevance are Sansa and Dany.

    • David Hunt says:

      I always thought that Mace was not brought into the info about the incest. It was my impression that Loras and Renly were the driving forces behind things up until Renly died. Loras was Mace’s favorite child and could reliably promise that he could get his father to go along, as long as those plans gave Mace a grandson sitting on the Iron Throne. Once Renly’s dead, Mace makes the deal to marry Margaery to Joffrey, while Olena and LF scheme to have her end up with the infinitely less psycho Tommen. I’m not sure whether Mace ever believed the rumor of the incest and bastardy, but even if he did, he probably convinced himself that only Joffrey was illegitimate.

      • Keith B says:

        I know it’s not in the book, but I think Mace had to be in the loop. The plot was for his benefit more than anyone’s and he had to agree to the marriage. When Robert died, would he have been so eager to marry Margaery to Renly if he had believed Renly was legitimately fourth in line to the throne rather than second? No doubt Loras sold him on the plan, but he knew what he was doing. Book Mace isn’t the fool that he is in the show.

        • Grant says:

          He could if he thought that Cersei’s children could be pushed aside with the same force of arms that he was betting would push Stannis aside. It doesn’t really matter if you’re second or fourth in line if the answer to that problem applies equally to either situation.

          • ajay says:

            “He could if he thought that Cersei’s children could be pushed aside with the same force of arms that he was betting would push Stannis aside. It doesn’t really matter if you’re second or fourth in line if the answer to that problem applies equally to either situation.”

            Trickier, in that case, though. The whole point about the incest information is that it gives you a way to undermine the Lannister side’s legitimacy and weaken their side. If Mace thinks that the kids are legitimate, then he’s planning to team up with Renly and revolt against not just the Lannisters (who are backing Joffrey, obviously) and the Crownland loyalists, but also every other supporter of the status quo. Which would include Stannis, don’t forget – if Mace thinks the kids are legitimate, then he will be expecting Stannis to support their claim to the throne. Hell, most of the 7K would support the kids’ claim. The odds wouldn’t be good.

          • No, that really wouldn’t work. Pushing Cersei’s children aside by force of arms would lead to a massive civil war…with no justification to rally the noble houses of Westeros against an older legitimate male heir.

        • This is where I stand. Mace had to be brought into the loop, because it’s the only explanation that makes political sense.

    • John says:

      Well, Mace could marry Margaery to Robb Stark, I suppose. And he could marry Willas or Loras to Shireen Baratheon.

      • Keith B says:

        Margaery-Robb wouldn’t work for Mace. He wants his grandson on the Iron Throne, and Robb isn’t claiming it and has no plausible reason to. Willas-Shireen might be possible, but the greyscale and Shireen’s youth are in the way, and Stannis just doesn’t think that way.

    • A very good political precis. Now I’m jealous 😉

  5. jpmarchives says:

    Great work again Steven. I had a suspicion that you would be a fan of Mantel – she’s my favourite author and at the risk of offending some of the hardcore ASOIAF fans her prose makes GRRM look like a literary naif. Which probably isn’t fair considering his strengths lie in characterization and plot…

    As a comparison I understand why Littlefinger is compared with Cromwell, but Mantel’s vision of the man has badly affected how I view him – how can you compare the principled, empathetic and crafty protagonist of Wolf Hall to Petyr “I’m an unbelievable shit” Baelish?

    But in reality you’re probably right – as a ruthlessly effective schemers in service to monsters, fictional LF and real world Cromwell are a good fit.

    • Space Oddity says:

      But LF isn’t that at all–he’s a con artist and fraud who’s really only effective at self-advancement.

    • Thanks!

      Well, I’ve read more than Mantell on Cromwell, and I don’t know where I’d put down Cromwell on the principled vs. pragmatic scale. Cromwell betrayed his fair share of people.

  6. KrimzonStriker says:

    If the embassy is even a little bit delayed or Petyr bailed to the Eryie I feel the ensuing mess might be even worst then you imagined Steven. Myrcella certainly either loses or GAINS in value as the remaining Lannister heir to the occupied throne so Dorne’s up in the air, while having Tywin by his balls in that case. Petyr could improvise again by deciding to have Lysa and the Eyrie back Robb after all, provided Harrenhal is rewarded to him, certainly he won’t want Stannis to succeed so it behooves him to shore up an alternate power base until he’s ready, while being a popular move to rally the lords of the Vale. Tywin himself will suddenly be trapped between an uncertain Reach, and the Riverland/Roose Bolton armies which actually sees Edmure’s original plans come to fruition and likely Robb racing back to finish Tywin off. If Petyr chooses to go forward with the embassy he could change his tune quickly by enticing Mace to join Robb and then proceed to crown himself King of the Reach (won’t THAT be poke in the eye to his bannermen?) and invade the weakened Westerlands.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah, basically without LF’s teleporter, the Lannister’s would have been doomed and the Red Wedding becomes impossible. Once again, Martin’s tipping the scales to make things turn out as badly as possible for the Starks.

      • Grant says:

        It’s not as though fortune is kind to any of the factions really. Stannis went from weak to strong to weak in a pretty short space of time, Renly chose to oppose his older brother only to die because his brother had access to powers Renly couldn’t predict, Tywin got the golden children he wanted and it turned out they would ruin his plans in part by accident and in part by design.

        The Starks have suffered serious setbacks that couldn’t be predicted it’s true, but most of them are still alive and about half are in the middle of acquiring power.

    • John says:

      Depending where Tywin is and whether Tyrion or Cersei told him where Tommen is, he might be able to secure Tommen before Stannis. Stannis won’t know where he is, and Tywin might, and if Tywin’s still at Harrenhal, say, he might be able to nab Tommen before Stannis can find him.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I doubt it, Harrenhal would either be under siege or fallen to Roose, Hoat, and Arya/Jaqn. Trying to cut across though the Tyrell’s lands without the alliance secured and no way to be resupplied would have destroyed Tywin before he got to the Crownlands to Tommen, even if he gets To Rosby he’d be exposed to both Robbs forces to the north and Stannis to the south at King’s Landing.

    • That’s a good point.

  7. Andrew says:

    1. Lannister disunity is on display with Cersei and Tyrion not even seeming to unite with approaching danger that could spell the end for them all.

    2. “there’s still much to be said for a Tyrell marriage. It may be the only way that Joffrey lives long enough to reach his wedding night.”

    That a Tyrell marriage does. I do like the irony.

    3. “Varys giggled. ‘Joffrey is such a grateful sovereign, I’m certain you will have no cause to complain, my good brave lord.

    The queen was more direct. ‘What do you want, Petyr?’

    Littlefinger glanced at Tyrion with a sly smile. ‘I shall need to give that some consideration. No doubt I’ll think of something.””

    The last line may be a clue towards Littlefinger’s intentions towards Tyrion, especially after Tyrion’s mole-finding mission and the damage to Littlefinger’s ego from it. Perhaps, Littlefinger manipulates Joffrey into ordering Moore to kill Tyrion like he did with Ned. Of course, Tyrion has something Ned doesn’t have: Pod, the world’s most loyal squire.

    4. Cersei usually opposes Tyrion’s plans like these, but I seldom see her offer any alternatives. Her attitude can be summed up as “They should see they should support me just because my kids sit the Iron Throne.” She has no taste for alliances as Steven has noted, and doesn’t seem to grasp how necessary they are for a regime’s survival.

  8. axrendale says:

    As much as I appreciate that comparing Littlefinger to Thomas Cromwell gives you a reason to produce some great pieces of writing about the career of the latter (keep up the good work!) I have to agree with those who’ve said that it’s an imperfect parallel. For my part I’ve always seen more of Talleyrand than Cromwell in Littlefinger – he and Varys are to King’s Landing what Talleyrand and Fouché were to Napoleonic France. (“Vice leaning on the arm of Crime” as someone remarked when they entered a room together.)

    Also, I don’t think that you give Baelish enough credit in this chapter as a psychologist. Tyrion may have originated the idea for the marriage alliance, but it’s Littlefinger’s understanding of the family politics of House Tyrell that will enable them to pull it off.

    Regarding the logistics of the Lannister-Tyrell hook-up after Baelish has struck his deal with the Tyrells, one of the things I took away from my last re-read was that it took place *during* the Battle of the Fords. The implications of this are funny, in a bitter sort of way – Edmure came within inches of being defeated in battle by the Lannisters for a second time, but he never realized it because he mistook the enemy withdrawal from the engagement as a rout, instead of the truth: that Tywin had just recieved Tarly and Rowan, and instead of charging the Fords was hightailing it for Tumbler’s Falls. Poor Edmure – he truly is the butt-monkey of fate as much as his own incompetence.

    • Winnie says:

      Like the Tallyrand comparison.

      LF may have understood the *Tyrell* dynamics to some extent, but he makes plenty of mistakes in judging people elsewhere. Lynn Corbray may be more a threat than he realizes, I don’t think he ever fully understood Varys’s game, and he’s definitely going to be proven wrong about Sansa.

      Of course the biggest question now after “Hard Home,” is how Baelish could hold up against the White Walkers-my guess is that’s one problem he’d be absolutely hopeless at, (can’t lie your way out of it, can’t wheel deal it, can’t arrange to poison any of them, etc. etc.) while ironically a lot of the people he defeated were better equipped for the issue. Ned didn’t believe the deserter but he would have paid attention to Jon and/or Lord Mormont and Starks *do* understand winter. Jon Arryn was a man of prudence who would have been good at gathering reserves for the coming troubles and a capable administrator. Heck, even Robert Baratheon, (whatever else his flaws,) was a helluva soldier. But as they noted at the Previously TF forums, a guy like Baelish is just about useless for a situation like this.

      • axrendale says:

        If Littlefinger knew about the White Walkers, he would have loaded a ship with all the gold he’s filched from the treasury, and sailed east at the first favorable wind.

    • Tallyrand didn’t know a damn thing about finance, he was a very prominent and incredibly wealthy aristocrat, etc. He doesn’t really fit the Baelish model any more than any other courtier in European history does.

      Yes and no. It’s Tyrion who understands the dynamics here, not LF.

      Re; the Battle of the Fords. That’s not right. Tywin hadn’t received word until after he’d withdrawn.

  9. Wadege says:

    I like that you pointed out Cersei’s thinking on the new marriage, when I first read this chapter, I was like ‘Oh, Cersei, you are so incompetent!’, but when you factor in her prophecy and the fact that she clearly has Sansa under her thumb at this point, it makes sense that she would be so hostile to a new queen entering the fold.

    • zonaria says:

      Also, in other situations Cersei’s thinking would actually make a good deal of sense. Powerful and ambitious in-laws make for competition for power and office, as Cersei understands full well since until recently the Lannisters filled precisely that role themselves.
      Of course, Cersei being Cersei, she goes for precisely the wrong strategy for the moment in question…

      • Not particularly. Without powerful in-laws, you don’t have power. Not that you don’t have to manage your in-laws – look at how Tywin gives the Tyrells just enough of what they want to keep them happy, but makes sure that they don’t run away with the shop.

  10. Roger says:

    I’ve another What if. What if Stannis had marched against the Tyrells? Perhaps with a forced march he could have caught Loras, Tarly and the rest before they get to Bitterbridge. Or make a surprise attack to the Tyrell’s campment there before they could react. Many infantrymen at Bitterbridge are Stormlanders, much less enthusiastics about Renly than the Reachmen. Also their lords had changed sides to Stannis.

    Also Stannis could win Mace promising him anything: King’s Handship, Shireen marrying to WIllas or Loras, castilanship of Storm’s End, etc. The Lannister look like a defeated force at the moment.

    Of course they have still numerical advantage, and Stannis is unsure about the loyalty of his new vassals, so it’s a risky trick.

    • winnie says:

      A match between Shireen and one of the Tyrell brothers might well have been tempting to Mace since Stannis’ s lack of sons would all but guarantee a child with the last name Tyrell on the IT someday.

      But waiting for Shireen to ‘flower’ would take some time and there was the issue of her greyscale. Also Mace might have thought it impossible to negotiate with Stannis after backing Renly first and that might have even been true. Stannis isn’t known for his forgiving nature.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Plus, there’s the whole “I feasted outside his walls as I besieged this guy.”

        I really think that’s sort of influences Mace’s thinking as regards Stannis.

      • David Hunt says:

        Stannis pardons a number of lords that had declared for Renly. If he wanted a real army, he needed the men they were beholden to. If Mace Tyrell had offered to bend the knee, I think Stannis would have taken him in.

        However, I’m not sure he would have allowed a marriage pact between Shireen and Wyllis/Loras though. One’s a cripple and the other’s gay. Based on my impression of Stannis, he’d be more likely to excuse an injury over Loras’ “moral failure,” but Wyllis is close to twenty years older than Shireen. The only thing such a deal would have going for it is that Selyse is still at Dragonstone and can’t sabotage all attempts at any form of diplomacy.

        • Roger says:

          Davos is a cripple, but still Stannis made him his Hand. Of course he crippled him himself, but…
          Being gay doesn’t mean you can’t conceive children. Only that, most probably, you would have a sad marriage.
          Also Stannis could simply do that:
          – Make Shireen Lady Paramount of the Stormlands. With Loras as her husband, Lord Protector, etc. Not as good as having a half-Tyrell king, but good enough for a former rebel.
          – After gaining Tyrell’s support, declare his marriage to Selysse Florent nulified. After all, they married before the Seven, and only R’hllor can bend two souls together. But he of course legitimizes his daughter! Next he can marry Margaery Tyrell for example. (Of course that would bring lots of problems and be very un-Stannis, but it’s still a possibility).

      • David Hunt says:

        I had forgotten the whole “feasted in sight on Storm’s End” that Space Oddity mentions above. I don’t think that would have stopped Stannis from allowing Mace to join his army, but might have made a big difference in his willingness to marry his daughter on one of the guy’s sons.

        However, there’s no reason to wait for Shireen to “flower” to marry her off. Tyrek Lannister was married to an infant. You have the wedding immediately and it’s consummated years later.

    • Very risky. Most of the foot at Bitterbridge would be Reachermen having to draw swords on House Tyrell in all its power.

  11. Amestria says:

    Oh yay, a new update 🙂

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, I am popping in to compliment you for a continuing run of articles that vary in quality only between the ‘Unsurpassed’ and the merely ‘Excellent’ (also so that I might take the opportunity to thank you for such a fine sequence of reading material!).

    I would also like to say that while the incursion of WOLF HALL into the House of the Iron Throne was unexpected, upon consideration I must admit to being unsurprised by your enthusiasm for Ms. Mantel’s magnum opus (I find her work to be invariably well-written and meticulous in historical minutia, but found my enthusiasm for her novels flagging a little midway through WOLF HALL – possibly because I’m simply not very keen on the characters she chose to follow – after reading BRING UP THE BODIES all the way through); I have to admit that I have also watched every episode of the TV Series based on the aforesaid, but must admit that I found it wanting in some crucial respect.

    I am not sure I can put my finger on the exact weakness in the production that caused it to fail to win my affection to the same degree as THE TUDORS (flawed as an evocation of History – although not uniformly or unrelievedly so – but immensely enjoyable and entertaining) but if I had to venture a summation it would be that like an inferior copy of Holbein WOLF HALL captured the image perfectly but failed to express the spirit of the subject that moves us so powerfully even after almost five hundred years.

    The fact that only once in the entire series did Mr Damien Lewis’ Henry VIII make me cry “THERE’S our little touch of Great Harry for the night!” (when after several episodes of lounging about in the background like a well-behaved but discontented ginger house-cat he FINALLY steals his scene in the proper leonine glory and selfishness one expects of the latest in a long line of screen Henries – a quality alluded to by Mr Bernard Hill’s excellent Norfolk but seldom evidenced over the course of this adaption).

    I admit that my lack of fondness (as opposed to admiration) for this work may stem from my suspicion that Ms. Mantel treats Mr Secretary Cromwell more generously than he may deserve – after all, his great achievement was to turn Henry VIII into an even MORE powerful despot, King AND Pope – although I fear a Catholic upbringing may play a part in my lack of fondness for the fellow.

    I readily admit that Sir Thomas More was a zealot, but he was also a man who died because he REFUSED to give King Henry what he wanted, rather than because he had FAILED to give Great Harry what he wanted.

    I hope that this difference in taste will not kill any chances of friendly correspondence between us, but fear that I may have struck a fatal blow to my chances of being taken seriously so far as personal taste is concerned! (I’ll just to console myself with another re-read of BLACK AJAX and MR AMERICAN by the late, great George MacDonald Fraser, a far from dreadful prospect the view from which I heartily recommend to you).

    • jpmarchives says:

      As someone who loved Wolf Hall and hated the Tudors I respect your opinion, but can I suggest that previous adaptions of the story of Henry VIII coloured your view of it? Expecting Henry to be a bigger monster than Lewis portrayed him as was a purposeful decision after all, as was a picture of a crueler Thomas More and a kinder Thomas Cromwell.

      What Mantel captured in her novels was a fresh perspective on a familiar cast of historical characters; we’d seen Henry as a raving, selfish bastard, and Thomas More as the principled and justly canonized servant of god (in the slightly grovelling “A Man for All Seasons”) so it seems she judged her approach rather well.

      With all that said, how on earth you could prefer the glossy, vacuous rubbish of the Tudors to Peter Kosminsky’s superb adaption is a total mystery to me. It was the difference between a big mac and a sirloin steak in my opinion.

    • Glad you liked it!

      Funny, I loved the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall a lot more than I did the Tudors, which was really dodgy historically, despite some fine acting by Dormer and Frain.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        JPMArchives, I would just like to say that my mental image of Henry the Eighth is not that he was more blatantly cruel than Mr Lewis’ depiction of him, more that he was a far BIGGER personality – and Mr Lewis, while a fine actor, lacks the ‘Idol of Millions’ quality which I associate with Old King Henry.

        As a note I’m quite satisfied with WOLF HALLs depiction of Mister Secretary Cromwell and not unhappy with the depiction of Sir Thomas More therein (who was a man of principle, a zealot and quite likely to be a saint despite himself), I’m just inclined to note that as we see events from Mr Secretary Cromwell’s perspective, we are naturally inclined to be more biased in his favour of his views than they might very well deserve.

        I’m also less than fond of the idea of making an absolute monarch (which the Tudors after Henry the Eighth very definitely became, to the great disadvantage of the Realm when their Stuart kinsmen sought to emulate them … and failed) still more absolute; whatever else might be said of the Medieval Papacy, The Pope had a fine habit of taking arrogant Kings down a peg or two (or trying to do so).

        In all honesty I should admit that when it comes down to it I prefer that grand old classic THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY THE EIGHTH and THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY THE EIGHTH by Mrs Margaret George to both WOLF HALL and THE TUDORS when it comes to getting a fix of drama salted with proper Tudor History – but call me Goliath and sneer at my taste, for I am philistine enough to find THE TUDORS more to my taste that WOLF HALL.

        I would never say that the former is objectively better than the latter in any way – with the most obvious exception of Miss Natalie Dormer, on which point I refuse to be argued with! – only that I enjoy watching THE TUDORS far more.

        Although Mr Jonathan Rhys Meyers is definitely more of a Henry the Fifth or a Henry the Seventh than a Great Harry in physical looks!

  13. Amestria says:

    “although it’s possible he’s hiding the truth amidst false reports intentionally, as he will do later in ASOS”

    I doubt that’s the case here. Varys really wants to defeat Stannis, so there’s no reason to distract from a rumor that the guy might be a kinslaying sorcerer. Later when poor Courtney Penrose plunges to his death Varys confides to Tyrion his suspicions that magic is behind it. So it’s likely that the Spider is just as confused as everyone else about what happened.

  14. […] Lannister army would probably miss the rendezvous with Littlefinger’s messenger, given how tight the timing is, King’s Landing falls, and at that point Kevan probably swings round to the Gold Road to get […]

  15. […] on the battlefield away from witnesses. And Littlefinger has been out of King’s Landing since Tyrion VIII. Some people have suggested that he’s still in communication with people inside the city, […]

  16. […] take any of that back, I do have to say that this is Littlefinger at his best. For undertaking one mission, Baelish gets himself one of the richest fiefs in Westeros, which he will springboard off of to […]

  17. beto2702 says:

    Was the “What if Stannis captures Loras/Randyll?” scenario considered?

  18. […] marriage, Sansa dredges up a host of grief and regret, and the the case of Renly’s murder of Robar a huge amount of unacknowledged guilt. Thus, even before the thought of marrying Loras enters the […]

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