A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation: On the Great Councils, Part II

Seemingly for the first time in recorded history, lords from all over Westeros had gathered together. The greatest Targaryen king in history had summoned them together to provide a peaceful mechanism for deciding the succession of the Iron Throne. And thanks to the fecklessness of Viserys I, their work would make a peace that would last only 28 years.

The End of the Beginning: The Council-that-never-happened of 130 and the Council of 136

For when Viserys I died after temporizing his way through life, the Dance of the Dragons was sure to follow. However, to give Alicent Hightower credit for being slightly less idiotic than every other participant in that civil war, she did at least suggest a Great Council to resolve the dispute between her son and Princess Rhaenrya:

“Upon seeing that resistance was hopeless, the Dowager Queen Alicent emerged from Maegor’s Holdfast with her father Ser Otto Hightower, Ser Tyland Lannister, and Lord Jasper Wylde the Ironrod. (Lord Larys Strong was not with them. The master of whisperers had somehow contrived to disappear.) Queen Alicent attempted to treat with her stepdaughter. “Let us together summon a great council, as the Old King did in days of old,” said the Dowager Queen, “and lay the matter of succession before the lords of the realm.” But Queen Rhaenyra rejected the proposal with scorn. “We both know how this council would rule.” Then she bid her stepmother choose: yield, or burn.”(P&Q)

While ultimately only a historical footnote (but then again, I am a historian and footnotes are where the devil leaves his details), Rhaenyra’s response is quite curious. Did she reject the proposal because she believed that the unequal number of lordly houses between the blacks and the greens meant that she felt she would lose an appeal from the bullet to the ballot, as it were, or did she fear that the precedent of the Great Council of 101 would automatically bar her from the succession without her father alive to insist otherwise? Whichever the case might have been, the Great Council of 130 never happened, and instead thousands of Westerosi murdered each other over which selfish, bloodthirsty inbred aristocrat would sit the Iron Throne.

And when the killing was done and the survivors looked once more to the future, something entirely unexpected happened. In the wake of the Winter Fever of 132-133 and the political instability of the False Dawn, Grand Maester Munkun turned to the Great Council once again:

“Order reestablished itself, with Munkun serving as Hand and regent for the rest of the remaining year until new regents were appointed and a new Hand was found. The time of the regency finally ended on the sixteenth nameday of the king, when he entered the small council chamber, dismissed his regents, and relieved his then-Hand, Lord Manderly, of his office…

THE REGENTS OF KING AEGON III…

WILLAM STACKSPEAR Chosen by lot in the Great Council of 136 AC.

MARQ MERRYWEATHER Chosen by lot in the Great Council of 136 AC.

LORENT GRANDISON Chosen by lot in the Great Council of 136 AC.” (WOIAF)

While we have the least amount of evidence about the Council of 136 of all of the Great Councils, there’s a lot that we can induce from what we do know. First, Munkun’s turn to the assembly model was likely due to the issue of three vacancies at once (previously, the Council of Regents had only had to deal with one or two at a time), compounded with the extreme lack of trust between the Regents in the aftermath of the (former green) Lord Unwin Peake’s attempt to make his daughter queen through murder and treason and Ser Marston Waters’ attempted coup against Lord Thaddeus Rowan over the Rogare affair. Second, the Council of 136 seems largely to have been an extension of a previous political logic: the Great Council had been deemed to be a legitimate source of authority to nominate a successor to the Iron Throne, so it was clearly also competent to name successors to a lesser position. (Although notably that logic had not held from 131-135 AC…)

Third, the Great Council’s lack of familiarity with their new mission led to the adoption of a novel method of election: allotment. While this method has some advantages in terms of preventing competition and strife between the ruling lords, and preserves the principle that all lords are equal in the Great Council, it has notable drawbacks. Firstly, it’s pretty easy to corrupt the system by either stuffing the ballot box or by bribing the person charged with withdrawing the chosen names; indeed, the Medici of Florence dominated (or corrupted, depending on your political leanings) the Republic through the simple expedient of controlling the political officials who selected the names, thus allowing them to control the political system from behind the scenes. Secondly, unlike with actual elections, there’s no way for any faction to put forward a slate of candidates, which means whoever wins doesn’t have the support of anyone in the Great Council – especially if, as happened in 136, the lots went to a trio of nobodies from lesser Houses who failed to leave any mark on Westerosi politics.

There is one other factor, and that is the ever-important issue of timing. The Great Council of 136 was called at the very end of Aegon III’s minority and thus the three men selected by it to serve on the Regency Council would serve less than a year. If the Great Council had been called earlier, perhaps in 132-133 when the Winter Fever carried off the Hand of the King Tyland Lannister, Ser Torrhen Manderly’s father and brother (leading to his departure from the Regency Council), Lord Roland Westerling, and possibly Lady Jeyne Arryn and Lord Manfryd Mooton as well, then perhaps it might have been able to provide a stabilizing force on government, leading to the regularization of Great Councils in Westerosi politics.

The Unlikeliest Election: The Great Council of 233

While there is no evidence that the Council of 136 was reviled among the political class, something must have happened, because no one resorted to another Great Council for almost a hundred years. Even when Daeron was murdered and Baelor vanished in Dorne, even when Baelor was on the verge of death or seemingly had lost his mind, even when Viserys II inherited before his nieces, even when Aegon IV threatened to disinherit his son, no one thought to do it. Only after the devastation of three Blackfyre Rebellions and the dislocations to the succession caused by the Great Spring Sickness was another called:

“When King Maekar died in battle in 233 AC, whilst leading his army against a rebellious lord on the Dornish Marches, considerable confusion arose as to the succession. Rather than risk another Dance of the Dragons, the King’s Hand, Bloodraven, elected to call a Great Council to decide the matter.

In 233 AC, hundreds of lords great and small assembled in King’s Landing. With both of Maekar’s elder sons deceased, there were four possible claimants. The Great Council dismissed Prince Daeron’s sweet but simple-minded daughter Vaella immediately. Only a few spoke up for Aerion Brightflame’s son Maegor; an infant king would have meant a long, contentious regency, and there were also fears that the boy might have inherited his father’s cruelty and madness. Prince Aegon was the obvious choice, but some lords distrusted him as well, for his wanderings with his hedge knight had left him “half a peasant,” according to many. Enough hated him, in fact, that an effort was made to determine whether his elder brother Maester Aemon might be released from his vows, but Aemon refused, and nothing came of it.” (WOIAF)

There’s a lot to unpack from this passage: first, we can see further proof that there had been a precedent set in 101 AC; just as Viserys II was able to disinherit Daena the Defiant with barely a murmur from the court, here Princess Vaella’s claim was “dismissed…immediately.” Second, this does not seem to have been a Great Council that liked its options. Aerys I had eliminated his line of succession through his refusal to consummate his own marriage to Aelinor Penrose, the line of Rhaegel (which would have had powerful backing from the Arryns) had ended in violence and madness; Aerion had produced a male heir before his death, but we can see the depth of hatred for the Brightflame (“no sane man wanted any blood of Aerion’s on the throne” (AGOT)) from how few spoke up for his son Maegor, despite the clear legal case on his behalf.[1]

In the end, the decision came down to a choice between the ineligible and the undesired. Prince Aemon was by this point a chained Maester of the Citadel, and thus could not legally serve. Despite that, “first they offered it, quietly, to Aemon. And quietly he refused. The gods meant for him to serve, not to rule, he told them. He had sworn a vow and would not break it, though the High Septon himself offered to absolve him.” (AGOT) Aegon, meanwhile, despite his laudable service[2] in the Third Blackfyre Rebellion was “hated” enough that he became the candidate of last resort, due to his popularity among the smallfolk and his reformist tendency. Clearly, social and political conservativism was not purely the province of the Blackfyre loyalists in these years.

credit to Gawen Westerling

That being said, just as had happened in 101 AC, the authority of the Great Council was undermined by a sudden spurt of violence, with political murder brought to the very doorstep of the assembly:

“Even as the Great Council was debating, however, another claimant appeared in King’s Landing: none other than Aenys Blackfyre, the fifth of the Black Dragon’s seven sons. When the Great Council had first been announced, Aenys had written from exile in Tyrosh, putting forward his case in the hope that his words might win him the Iron Throne that his forebears had thrice failed to win with their swords. Bloodraven, the King’s Hand, had responded by offering him a safe conduct, so the pretender might come to King’s Landing and present his claim in person.

Unwisely, Aenys accepted. Yet hardly had he entered the city when the gold cloaks seized hold of him and dragged him to the Red Keep, where his head was struck off forthwith and presented to the lords of the Great Council, as a warning to any who might still have Blackfyre sympathies.” (WOIAF)

Always an instinctive authoritarian, Bloodraven’s actions were intended to have two effects: first, it eliminated the immediate threat that Aenys Blackfyre might actually win election at the Great Council. (Which in turn suggests something of the extent of Blackfyre sympathies within the nobility, even after two bloody wars and as many minor rebellions.) Second, it was also clearly an attempt to intimidate the Great Council to toe the line of political orthodoxy as Bloodraven defined it; because if he was willing to break the custom of safe conduct, what might he do to any minor lord who had no such promise?

As an unintended result, however, Brynden Rivers actions forced the question of how the government had to respond to his actions. While the Great Council doesn’t seem to have had the same tradition of legislative immunity that had emerged in England in the 17th century, the lords of the realm could not help but feel threatened by his actions and respond. Indeed, the fact that “THE FIRST ACT of Aegon’s reign was the arrest of Brynden Rivers,” suggests that King Aegon was under a lot of political pressure to do something. As the WOIAF puts it, “King Aegon felt he had no choice but to condemn the Hand, lest the word of the Iron Throne be seen as worthless.” Indeed, it may have been the case that Aegon’s actions here were designed to head off any move to establish legislative immunity or similar privielges by outraged or fearful members of the Great Council, and thus to ensure that government would remain monarchical and not Parliamentary.

For as much as Aegon V was definitely a progressive reformer, parliamentary government was clearly not on his agenda. Indeed, in so far as much as the dislike for him in the Great Council of 233 was reflective of overall noble attitudes, Aegon V likely would have seen further Great Councils as a vehicle for reactionary elements to oppose his reforms in the name of their “our gods-given rights and liberties.”

And thus any residual momentum behind the Great Council receded once again…

The Second Council That Never Was: The Tourney at Harrenhal

Prior to the publication of the World of Ice and Fire, fans of ASOIAF were primarily familiar with the Tourney at Harrenhal as part of the story of Rhaegar, Lyanna, Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, and Howland Reed. With WOIAF, however, we learned an entirely different purpose for the festivities:

“If this tale be believed, ’twas Prince Rhaegar who urged Lord Walter to hold the tourney, using his lordship’s brother Ser Oswell as a go-between. Rhaegar provided Whent with gold sufficient for splendid prizes in order to bring as many lords and knights to Harrenhal as possible. The prince, it is said, had no interest in the tourney as a tourney; his intent was to gather the great lords of the realm together in what amounted to an informal Great Council, in order to discuss ways and means of dealing with the madness of his father, King Aerys II, possibly by means of a regency or a forced abdication.” (WOIAF)

To give some political background to this hypothetical Great Council: as Aerys II declined into madness and Tywin the Hand began to lose influence with his monarch, politics in the royal court began to shift into factionalism. Just as had happened with Aegon IV and Prince Daeron, at the center was a split between the king’s party and the prince’s party:

“If indeed this was the purpose behind the tourney, it was a perilous game that Rhaegar Targaryen was playing. Though few doubted that Aerys had taken leave of his senses, many still had good reason to oppose his removal from the Iron Throne, for certain courtiers and councillors had gained great wealth and power through the king’s caprice and knew that they stood to lose all should Prince Rhaegar come to power.

…Chief amongst the Mad King’s supporters were three lords of his small council: Qarlton Chelsted, master of coin, Lucerys Velaryon, master of ships, and Symond Staunton, master of laws. The eunuch Varys, master of whisperers, and Wisdom Rossart, grand master of the Guild of Alchemists, also enjoyed the king’s trust. Prince Rhaegar’s support came from the younger men at court, including Lord Jon Connington, Ser Myles Mooton of Maidenpool, and Ser Richard Lonmouth. The Dornishmen who had come to court with the Princess Elia were in the prince’s confidence as well, particularly Prince Lewyn Martell, Elia’s uncle and a Sworn Brother of the Kingsguard. But the most formidable of all Rhaegar’s friends and allies in King’s Landing was surely Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.” (WOIAF)

The politics of this split are rather interesting, in that we don’t see many of the Great Houses involved (compared to say, the Great Council of 101 or the Dance of the Dragons): Aerys seems to have drawn his support primarily from his direct vassals in the Crownlands (Chelsted, Staunton), some lesser lords from the periphery of King’s Landing (Velaryon, Merryweather), while Rhaegar’s more diverse coalition included the Conningtons and Lonmouths from the Stormlands, the Mootons and the Whents from the Riverlands, and the Martells and Daynes from Dorne.

But with the Tullys, Arryns, Baratheons, and Starks together in the Southron Ambitions Conspiracy and Tywin Lannister very much his own man, the only Great Houses left to be recruited were the Tyrells and the Greyjoys. And while the Greyjoys I wouldn’t expect to be part of any faction given their isolation from royal politics, it is particularly puzzling that the Tyrells would have been absent from the political maneuverings of these years, given their intense desire for royal favor during the reigns of King Robert and King Joffrey.

credit to Paolo Puggioni

Nevertheless, the Tourney of Harrenhal raised a whole host of issues: some of Aerys’ loyalists “had even gone so far as to suggest that Aerys should disinherit his “disloyal” son,” hoping that Viserys’ young age would “certainly mean a regency, wherein they themselves would rule as regents. With the king’s party looking to disinherit the Crown Prince and the Crown Prince backing forced abdication by proxy, clearly there was a growing element of brinksmanship in royal politics. The degree of rising tension can be seen in the ridiculous idea of Lords Chelsted and Staunton (really, Aerys’ coalition does not inspire confidence) to ban tourneys with Lord Merryweather faintly arguing for some sort of sanity. Unfortunately for Aerys’ partisans, the King’s sudden surge of confidence (helped along by Grand Maester Pycelle), put the issue of abdication and regency firmly back on the agenda:

“If that was indeed the king’s intent, it was a grievous miscalculation. Whilst his attendance made the Harrenhal tourney even grander and more prestigious than it already was, drawing lords and knights from every corner of the realm, many of those who came were shocked and appalled when they saw what had become of their monarch. His long yellow fingernails, tangled beard, and ropes of unwashed, matted hair made the extent of the king’s madness plain to all. Nor was his behavior that of a sane man, for Aerys could go from mirth to melancholy in the blink of an eye, and many of the accounts written of Harrenhal speak of his hysterical laughter, long silences, bouts of weeping, and sudden rages.

Above all, King Aerys II was suspicious: suspicious of his own son and heir, Prince Rhaegar; suspicious of his host, Lord Whent; suspicious of every lord and knight who had come to Harrenhal to compete … and even more suspicious of those who chose to absent themselves, the most notable of whom was his former Hand, Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock.” (WOIAF)

This was in many ways a perfect scenario for Rhaegar Targaryen: his father’s mental collapse made self-evident at the same time that his own knightly virtues were made manifest through his own victories at the Tourney, all in front of the eyes of the entire political class of Westeros. With a few whispers in the right ears, a Great Council could be called into session and Aerys and his cronies could be swept out in a day. Indeed, if Stefan is right about the Southron Ambitions Conspiracy, there might have been a majority coalition who would be sympathetic to calls to remove mad kings, in exchange for a compromise on royal power vis-à-vis the nobility. In that bargain, might a strengthening of the Great Councils be possible, even if it was closer to the reforms of Edward I than of 1688-9?

Needless to say, any possibility of a Great Council or of majority support for Rhaegar’s machinations evaporated the moment that Rhaegar named Lyanna his Queen of Love and Beauty. Given the cultural implications of such an action, the Starks and Baratheons would have to oppose him politically lest they be seen as condoning his insult, and the Tullys and Arryns would be unwilling to cross their close allies. Rather than being seen as a “perfect prince” to replace an ailing monarch, now Rhaegar had the air of a feckless adulterer just as lacking in judgement as his father. All of which makes this scene rather baffling:

Rhaegar had put his hand on Jaime’s shoulder. “When this battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but…well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.”

Those were the last words Rhaegar Targaryen ever spoke to him. Outside the gates an army had assembled, whilst another descended on the Trident. So the Prince of Dragonstone mounted up and donned his tall black helm, and rode forth to his doom. (ASOS)

While providing further proof that Rhaegar had indeed intended to turn the Tourney at Harrenhal into a legislative assembly, I have to admit I don’t understand Rhaegar’s political thinking here. Just as before, his father and his father’s coterie would oppose out of self-interested paranoia, likely claiming that Rhaegar and the rebels had conspired together to overthrow the king (why was Rhaegar not there for the initial fighting, hmmm?). But unlike in 281, there was no opening to the Rebel Alliance. The deaths of Rickard Stark, Brandon Stark, and Elbert Arryn at Aerys’ hands, the “kidnapping” of Lyanna Stark, and all the blood shed since would harden their anger and resentment. Perhaps the aura of a victorious warrior-prince might sway some, but with the Dornish no longer in his coalition and unable to comply with the marital demands of the Lannisters or the Tyrells, I don’t see where Rhaegar was going to assemble a majority in the Great Council to do anything.

Perhaps he should have stuck to prophecies…

Conclusion:

In all of ASOIAF, the idea of a Great Council really comes up only in ACOK, when Catelyn Stark proposes it as a way to stop the fighting between the anti-Lannister forces:

“”Robb will set aside his crown if you and your brother will do the same,” she said, hoping it was true. She would make it true if she must; Robb would listen to her, even if his lords would not. “Let the three of you call for a Great Council, such as the realm has not seen for a hundred years. We will send to Winterfell, so Bran may tell his tale and all men may know the Lannisters for the true usurpers. Let the assembled lords of the Seven Kingdoms choose who shall rule them.”

Renly laughed. “Tell me, my lady, do direwolves vote on who should lead the pack?” Brienne brought the king’s gauntlets and greathelm, crowned with golden antlers that would add a foot and a half to his height. “The time for talk is done. Now we see who is stronger.” Renly pulled a lobstered green-and-gold gauntlet over his left hand, while Brienne knelt to buckle on his belt, heavy with the weight of longsword and dagger.”(WOIAF)

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, Renly’s curt refusal of Catelyn’s suggestion speaks to the lack of substance behind the shiny surface. However, I think it speaks to the larger problem of the power of the political community vs. the power of the sword: when your political community is made up of a warrior caste which has little inhibition about resolving an unfavorable election at the point of a sword, how do you compel people to abide by the majority vote? Just as the erosion of the taboo against political violence ultimately doomed the Roman Republic, that temptation to “see who is stronger” would always be there.

This is not to say that a Great Council couldn’t resolve these tensions – it has in the past, after all. But what is necessary for conciliarism, let alone parliamentarianism, take root, is for the political powers that be to see their interests as being bound up with those of the institution, whether that’s the nobility seeing their collective voice as a way to protect their rights or check monarchs or monarchs seeing these assemblies as a way to win consensus and compliance for royal policies and taxation. Formal power and political culture will need to change at the same time.

[1] Following the precedent of 101, Maegor was the male heir of the oldest son of the king to produce male heirs. Moreover, Maegor had a claim both through his father and grandfather, but also through his maternal grandfather Rhaegel Targaryen.

[2] “Of the deeds done then, both good and ill—of the leadership of Maekar, the actions of Aerion Brightflame, the courage of Maekar’s youngest son, and the second duel between Bloodraven and Bittersteel—we know well.” (WOIAF)

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44 thoughts on “A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation: On the Great Councils, Part II

  1. Sean C. says:

    The 136 Council is the most interesting to me, though it’s also the one we know the least about.

    I do wonder about the timing, though, seeing as Aegon III was mere months from attaining the age of majority and thus rendering the council of regents unnecessary.

  2. medrawt says:

    On reflection, I think the assessment of the Great Councils suggests a failure of the Targaryen dynasty: they built institutions and traditions of symbolic power – the Kingsguard, the Iron Throne itself – which are potent enough that they continue to be respected in the wake of the dynasty’s overthrow*, but they did not appear to succeed in building institutions and traditions which would actually strengthen their government and rule. The fuzziness about inheritance and transfer of power in slightly complicated cases is a prime example.

    As to Rhaegar, I say always and forever that he was a schmuck**. But while I used to think that his intent to overthrow Aerys II was an idea in his mind that he never actualized, I’ve come to believe that he really did lay the seeds for it (but, like Doran Martell, kept his powder too dry for too long and was overtaken by events). I think the three Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy (including the damn Lord Commander!) considered their loyalty to Rhaegar to supersede their loyalty to Aerys II, and Rhaegar must have actually said something to recruit their loyalty. So while I used to think that he hoped something “organic” would happen at the Harrenhall Tourney, I now think he probably had A Plan. But he fucked it up, because: see the first sentence of this paragraph.

    * Though I’m one of those who thinks the Iron Throne (as an object and as an idea) doesn’t survive the series.

    ** Not helped by us not only not having access to his mind, but not even having access to the things which were informing his mind.

    • Murc says:

      As to Rhaegar, I say always and forever that he was a schmuck**.

      I cut Rhaegar a ton of slack because he might actually have saved the world. It doesn’t necessarily excuse everything he did, but it kind of elevates him above schmuckitude.

      I would like to know more of what he was thinking, tho. Rhaegar seemed dead-set convinced that the prophecy, whose details we still do not know, would come true in either his lifetime or his childrens. Why? What were the signs and portents he observed?

      Rhaegar was also in close communication with other learned people who take these things seriously; Aemon knew a lot of Rhaegar’s mind on this subject, which means Rhaegar must have been corresponding with his great-granduncle at the Wall. (Did Aemon save that correspondence? Is it in his chambers somewhere?) What did they thing of all this?

      • medrawt says:

        Exactly. I don’t know what Rhaegar believed, but here’s what I do know:

        (1) Unless Rhaegar believed some extraordinarily specific things, out of step with the way prophecies are usually delivered in this setting, he went about his business like a fucking moron. I don’t think what the show did in terms of annulment will turn out to correspond to the books, but frankly if Rhaegar was going to wind up cosigning his father’s murder of a couple hundred people, including a Lord Paramount and two LP’s heirs, he really should’ve decided to pursue other transgressive options. But without knowing what he really believed, I don’t know what he thought was necessary and what he thought was expedient (or desirable).

        (2) Rhaegar was probably right in the broad strokes, but he was also DEFINITELY WRONG, at least twice: once when he thought he was the PtwP, and once again when he thought his children with Elia were going to be part of the world-saving shenanigans. He’s making a lot of very specific decisions when we know his very specific conclusions were often incorrect. I’m gonna say “misplaced hubris” is part of Rhaegar’s character here.

        (3) I will continue to whinge about this element of Martin’s world-building: not only do we, defensibly, not have access to Rhaegar’s mind, we don’t even know what the PtwP prophecy really says. We don’t know for certain whose prophecy it is. We don’t know for certain if R’hllorites other than Melisandre believe the PtwP and the return of Azor Ahai are the same thing or not. We don’t know what the Last Hero did. We don’t know if there are native Westerosi traditions about the return of the Last Hero. We don’t know all sorts of things that are obviously relevant to the plot, which would be cultural common knowledge for ALL of our POVs, to the extent that Old Nan’s story gets cut off when it gets to the good part, because Martin is coy about this stuff in a way I find personally quite annoying.

      • So both Rhaegar and Aemon believed that “the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet.”

        • Murc says:

          Huh, I’d forgotten that passage.

          I’ll be honest that seems like some weak, weak tea. The comet is indeed a powerful sign and portent, but everything else is… hrrm.

          Summerhall must have been something really fucking spectacular, a disaster built on top of magic built on top of dragon eggs built on top of Targaryen bodies, for Aemon, who generally seems to have his head screwed on pretty tightly, to regard Rhaegar’s birth occurring on that day, as well as a heavy dose of conjecture, as being some great herald of things to come. Unfortunately Summerhall is yet another thing we’re being played coy on in this regard.

          And it still doesn’t explain why he thought he needed Lyanna Stark in particular to get the third head of the dragon once it became clear that a third pregnancy would probably kill Elia.

          I still want to see that correspondence, tho. For that matter, Bloodraven was really into all this mystical stuff as well. What did he and Aemon talk about while Bloodraven was Lord Commander and Aemon was his maester? What plans did they lay, what counsels did they take together? What information flowed from Bloodraven to Aemon to Rhaegar, if any? Did Aemon know what happened to his great-uncle?

          … it suddenly occurs to me that Jon Snow never did go look at that copy of the Jade Compendium that Aemon told him to look at.

          • LadyKnitsALot says:

            I really want to get some insight into Aemon and Rhaegar. Convenient for GRRM to retain the mystery around Rhaegar by having Aemon die en route to the Citadel, where he could have told Sam those things…

    • I think it speaks more to the issue of the dracocracy meaning that the Edwardian bargain of Parliament for taxes isn’t as necessary.

      But yeah, I think Rhaegar definitiely screwed it up majorly.

      • medrawt says:

        Well yes, on the dracocracy, but I would say that was a massive unforced error on the Targaryens’ part. They ran into problems that having dragons didn’t solve, as evidenced by the massive civil war that contributed to the depletion of the dragon stock. Indeed, the Dance basically ended the dracocracy, though they might not have realized it for a little while, since per the Wiki of Ice and Fire there were only four left alive; Cannibal was never tamed, Sheepstealer disappeared with his rider*, Silverwing apparently went off to sulk on her own, and Morning was a baby, and it seems like only one dragon was hatched after Morning, neither of them living very long by draconic standards. So dragon-power was basically wiped out after 131 years, and the Targaryens were still going to limp along for another 150 or so. So, in retrospect, Aegon I (who only had three to start with) and Jaehaerys should have done a lot more to shore up institutions that weren’t purely reliant on showing up with a firebreathing flying dinosaur to scare people into compliance.

        * I find the idea of Nettles becoming basically a goddess among the mountain clans to be really engaging, and I keep imagining something like a Rosemary Sutcliff-style melancholy young adult novel about a boy on the cusp of manhood going on the journey to visit her.

  3. KrimzonStriker says:

    Given that minor lords votes were equal and not tied to their Lord Paramounts as seen in previous Great Councils I could see Rhaegar leverage his personal popularity which remains even year, and the fact that his father is clearly mad and hated on every corner with few likely to vote for Aerys if he’s the only alternative to Rhaegar, and his victory over the rebels would solidify a majority in his favor, however grudgingly in some corners.

    Also, the more I look at Harrenhal and the aftermath the more I’m convinced Rhaegar and Lyanna ran off based more on genuine emotion and love then his prophecy obsession though it is still a factor, but too many things are impulsive and uncharacteristic of Rhaegar surrounding the matter, between his absence and him throwing away his initial plans to unseat Aerys etc.

    • medrawt says:

      The problem I have with prioritizing Rhaegar’s romantic emotions over his prophetic ones – though surely they reinforced and justified each other – is what happens to Lyanna afterwards: she is shut up in a tower, awaiting childbirth, guarded by 3/7ths of the Kingsguard, presumably neither free to leave nor to communicate with the outside world. Until proven otherwise, I’m going to refuse to believe that whatever Lyanna’s initial intentions she would have been alright with knowing what happened to Rickard and Brandon, and NOT communicating some version of what was going on with her to Eddard. Indeed, this could’ve been Rhaegar’s saving throw: he emerges from seclusion, discovers or “discovers” his father’s actions, disavows them, puts the best possible face on his actions with Lyanna, and joins the rebel cause. Would it have worked? Well, I’m manufacturing the scenario, so I think it had a chance, and I know he died in the real timeline.

      But in any case, he rides out as the Prince of Dragonstone intending to make war against Lyanna’s brother, leaving her under guard of his cronies, almost certainly denying her a voice (perhaps out of a pure desire for control, or perhaps out of a desire to conceal her location). I don’t think what he left behind was, above all, the object of his infatuation; it was, above all, the womb gestating his prophecied hero-baby.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        She was pregnant and later died from the condition it so I’m inclined to believe that was primary reason for being bedridden at the very least for now. And joining the rebel cause is a little late in the game for Rhaegar as well, considering his and Lyanna’s actions sparked the whole thing to begin with, Robert being in charge certainly wouldn’t have made that possible in my view. There’s really no good solution to any of this by the point Rhaeger returns, heck by that point Robert’s already declaring himself king.

        I honestly have no idea what Lyanna’s mindset would be, I could see your point but on the other hand I could see her so racked by guilt that she doesn’t respond at all, and with Robert bearing down on them (which she is aware of as well) I could see her being too afraid to contact Ned as long as he rode by Robert’s side, realizing that they were at a point of no return. To me the Tower of Joy seclusion and leaving 3 kingsguard, who have orders not to ride out for anything even after Rhaegar’s death or attempt to communicate with Dragonstone after the Sack of King’s Landing to me suggests the seclusion intention and worst case scenario plan of fleeing across the Narrow Sea after Jon is born. And if that were all she was to Rhaegar then I feel as though her name wouldn’t be on his lips as he lay dying versus said prophecy baby’s. Again not saying it’s a factor but the impulsiveness of how it started just speaks more to emotion than cold logical detachment you’re characterizing by the end.

        • medrawt says:

          Well, just because Lyanna died in pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean we can infer something about her condition when Rhaegar left. Women commonly died in childbirth, and one question I wonder about is whether there was a maester at the Tower of Joy or not (maesters being the highest level of medical care available in Westeros, and more advanced in that field than actual medieval medicine; this also has implications on whether there were messenger ravens available). Plus, I don’t think we have a great detailed timeline for Robert’s Rebellion, but I suspect Lyanna had at least a few months of pregnancy left, given all the travelling that had to happen between Rhaegar leaving and Ned arriving, especially with some of that happening with large armies which couldn’t move that quickly.

          Also, I don’t think Martin has said anything more specific than that Robert declared himself around the time of the Battle of the Trident … which means when Rhaegar left Dorne, he had not yet done so. Robert was hugely personally pissed and defending his life against a King who wanted him dead, but marking him as the main mover and shaker is retrospective: Arryn was the first to call his banners, the Starks and Arryns had the most egregious outrages to avenge, and Robert’s own Stormlanders would have been at best a quarter of an army made up of Northmen, Valemen, and Riverlanders whose allegiance was bound by marriage to the North and the Eyrie, not to Storm’s End. I don’t like to get too deep into the details of counterfactuals because I think it’s a questionable exercise, but I think Rhaegar kept doing things in a way that foreclosed on less awful outcomes.

          I have considered that Lyanna’s silence might have been due to a depressive episode rather than functional imprisonment, but until I know otherwise, I prefer to imagine it was the latter. The more agency Lyanna had available to her, the worse she looks, and I don’t like the idea of dumping all of that on a sixteen year old when there’s an incredibly powerful adult right there who seems like he should be shouldering the responsibility for all of this going terribly wrong.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            Well, a few months pregnancy left means she won’t be able to move or really travel regardless even in a normal pregnancy situation.

            My impression was that Robert had been identified as the prime mover a fair bit before the battle of the Trident, given that when Rhaegar set out from King’s Landing with his army he identified Robert personally as the one he was fighting to Jaimie before he departed for the Trident, which as you stated given he was leaving with an Army would take some time. I feel this was also the case after the Battle of Summerhall when Aerys started replacing his hands to counter Robert specifically and when Jon Connigton voices the possibility he could have ended the Rebellion had he killed Robert at Stony Sept, both of which happened before Rhaegar would have heard about what was going on. Given all the battle’s he was winning it feels like Robert was really becoming the face of the Rebellion even in its earliest stages and had earned the respect of all the men fighting it, not just his own bannermen. And it doesn’t change the fact that Robert was also personally pissed at Rhaegar as well over Lyanna, not just about his life being threatened.

            But we both suspect she did have agency given that we almost all think she ran away of her own free will in the beginning, so she does share some of the responsibility no matter how we slice it over what happened. And given she would make Ned promise to protect Jon she’d also have knowledge about events that transpired beyond the Tower of Joy and the dangers posed to Jon, so we can’t claim the Kingsguard were keeping her ignorant as well.

    • I would slightly disagree – I think for Rhaegar the prophecy always came first, that the politics was a means to ready the kingdom for the wars to come.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        You can’t have one without the other though, we all suspect that Jon is legitimate which is a political decision as well, otherwise what army is he supposed to save the world with. There’s just a lot of clashing contradictions is all I’m saying, that the decision to crown Lyanna Queen of Love and Beauty, of running off without a word… Again, not saying prophecy is not a big factor, especially in garnering Rhaegar’s initial interests but his impulsiveness afterwards just speaks more to emotion than compulsive reasoning to me. Just my two cents on the matter, I expect it really won’t be as clear cut one way or another though and I suppose my point is to not try and fit Rhaegar into a box given how many clashing views we get of him.

        • Maria says:

          Apart of the prior comments, I know the Fandom thinks Rhaegar died calling for Lyanna, but that it’s not what the text said, I’m of the idea that the woman’s name he called was “Visenya”, means, he was sure Lyanna was carrying a girl.

          Also, it’s weird that the 3/7 Kingsward was left for “safety” in the Tower of Joy, but when Ned arrives he saw the 3 of them outside (waiting inside would have been safer for Lyanna and for those 3) and head Lyanna screaming for him, so I’m guess she wasn’t happy her “husband” 3 friends were outside meaning to kill her brother while she was giving birth, without too much help as it seems.

          About movility, pregnancy is not a disease, even in the setting. Pregnant woman move around, see Laena Targaryen going around in Essos with her husband, on dragonback even, pregnant with twins. Let’s asume that Lyanna pregnancy was complicated and Rhaegar didn’t let her move and kept her in the Tower of Joy: in a 9-month pregnancy, let’s asume the last 3 or 4 months were difficult.

          Jon and Robb’s conception occur at close time, so by the time Lyanna was getting pregnant both her father and brother were death, Ned have go and came back from the North to the Riverland and marry Cat, and Robert have already fought some mayor battles, as well as the siege at Storm Ends have already started. She could have move around without problems. If she didn’t, either she didn’t know or she was kept from moving (this is the same girl who fight 3 squires in disguise and won, of course she would have run away to her family even pregnant).

          So, unless Lyanna was ridiculously cold, I asume she didn’t know about the war at the time, and maybe Rhaegar didn’t know either or was just gaslighting her, but when he resurged from the South either he was extremely aloof about the hell he had brought upon Westeros, or very ignorant about it. And my interpretation of his acts is that he was more concerned about keeping his heir status (and that of his offsprings) that about keeping face with his lords. Instead of feighning ignorancy and take the side of the rebels,something he had cause to do, he fight for the dinasty.

          In consecuence, Rhaegar was a douche.

  4. Anon says:

    Maegor and Vaella seem to drop off the map completely after 233 AC. For the latter I could definitely see kind Uncle Aegon finding a place for her at court, since in her own right she has no effective claim. But Maegor at the very least should have been given to the Faith immediately after the council, since his claim is far stronger than Aegon’s (regardless of Aerion’s madness, Maegor would have been an obvious puppet candidate to rally behind if there were widespread dissatisfaction with Aegon’s reforms). But the fact that he disappears from the record immediately afterwards makes it seem like he died young (naturally or otherwise, although I can’t imagine Aegon ordering the death of an infant no matter how dynastically dangerous he was ).

    • Hedrigal says:

      Honestly, considering how he was an infant, I wouldn’t put it past things that he just died in the cradle naturally of measles or something.

    • Obvious, but not ideal, given his name and his father.

      But as to what happened to him, I guess we’ll have to wait for Dunk & Egg and/or Fire and Blood Vol II.

    • LadyKnitsALot says:

      Maegor’s disappearance fascinates me.

      I did some maths one day, and worked out that, if Maegor married in his early 20s, he’d be the right age to be Varys’ father (assuming Varys is late 30s-early 40s in AGOT-ADWD)

      Is that Varys’ angle perhaps? The Brightflame, not the Blackfyre?

      • Maria says:

        Moquorro drop-named a Bright Dragon as well as a Black Dragon…
        Maybe a red herring, meybe not.

        • LadyKnitsALot says:

          The six dragons Moqorro prophecy is SO heavy handed and specific. Young and old – Dany and Aemon (the known Targs.) True and false – Jon and fAegon (the hidden/unknown Targs.) Bright and Dark – a Brightflame and a Blackfyre. Clearly. And based on what we have… Varys and Illyrio are our best bets for these two.

  5. Grant says:

    Rhaegar, I think, was still holding out hope that he could make this all work out somehow. By the time of the Trident (or more likely, the Bells) there was no way he could have a throne that wasn’t super dependent on (at best) Tyrell, Lannister and Martel soldiers bought by royal favors, royal marriages and Elia’s chilren*, but he kept thinking about changes.

    *And what a great coalition he’d have, two of the three houses hate each other and all three of them are at best lukewarm to the king and possibly despise him.

    • Very much a case of an idealist losing himself in his own imaginary…

      • LadyKnitsALot says:

        I just don’t understand how Rhaegar thought, at the time he was having that conversation with Jaime, how the hell he could actually fix everything.

        If he survived, Dorne and the North would have to deal with the reality that Rhaegar had discarded Elia publicly for Lyanna – whether we’re dealing with (legally non-binding) polygamous second marriage or dodgy annulments or installing Lyanna as the Royal Mistress (like Madame de Pompadour in Louis XIV’s court) …. that’s two major regions that are going to be seriously up in arms about the political ramifications of King Rhaegar’s love life, let alone the ramifications of Rickard and Brandon Stark’s deaths OR Elia being held hostage during the war by Aerys.

        If Rhaegar wins, would that mean Robert would be dead? I mean, I can’t see an AU where Robert goes quietly back to Storm’s End under a pardon, do you?

        So Stannis becomes Lord of Storm’s End, but still has a grudge against the Tyrells and the Reach.

        What does Rhaegar do with Ned? Or Jon Arryn? What are the political ramifications for Tywin keeping the Westerlands out of the rebellion? Tywin was able to secure Lannister power in the new regime by offering up Cersei as a bride to Robert Baratheon once Lyanna was dead. He doesn’t have that option with Rhaegar, and Rhaegar would be justified to have serious questions about why Tywin’s support for the royals didn’t come sooner.

  6. artihcus022 says:

    For as much as Aegon V was definitely a progressive reformer, parliamentary government was clearly not on his agenda. Indeed, in so far as much as the dislike for him in the Great Council of 233 was reflective of overall noble attitudes, Aegon V likely would have seen further Great Councils as a vehicle for reactionary elements to oppose his reforms

    Well within the books, the Great Councils are reactionary right from the very beginning. They don’t serve as a body to introduce legislation, and none of them ever proposed or introduced any of the lasting laws and reforms. Unlike the real world, where Parliament in England came because the barons managed to appeal to some broad base and instituted over rebellion, the Great Councils were created from above by Jaehaerys I.

    In fact you can probably take J-1 to task because his personal majesty, act of benevolence, and grandeur meant that the lords of the council were too intimidated from stepping over their bounds. In that regards, the Great Council is closer to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which combined parliamentary feudalism with serf-run feudalism and existed primarily to halt reforms and the creation of any centralized government.

    And actually, it has been my theory for sometime that Southron Ambitions wasn’t formed to curtail the madness of Aerys II. It was formed to protect the interests of the Great Houses from potential acts of tyranny such as…Egg’s reforms. That unnamed lord in TWOAIF who complained that the King trampled over their god-given liberties…there’s a solid chance that could have been a young Jon Arryn. The reason why Southron Ambitions doesn’t work as an anti-mad king movement is that it included Steffon Baratheon who Aerys II considered his friend, and for most of his reign Aerys wasn’t mad, just a little eccentric. There was little outrage over Duskendale.

    • Grant says:

      The timing doesn’t really work, especially looking at the royal events. There was no similar movement in Aegon V’s lifetime, simply resistance to his policies that he needed royal marriages to overcome and he didn’t get those marriages. Then, after his death, his policies were all undone by his successors, so the lords would have no need to plot pseudo-treason behind Aerys’ back throughout his reign if opposition to pro-smallfolk policies were their greatest fear.

      And when was Steffon Baratheon a member of the group? The first we seem to see of Baratheons being involved is Robert being taken as Jon Arryn’s ward.

      And setting aside that Denys Darklyn had seized the king himself, what tells us that there was little outrage?

      • artihcus022 says:

        And setting aside that Denys Darklyn had seized the king himself, what tells us that there was little outrage?

        Well Brienne visits Duskendale in AFFC and the townsfolk more or less see the Darklyns fate as deserved, and likewise much of the blame is placed on the Myrish wife. There was no rebellion provoked by it, and Denys Darklyn seemed to have jumped the gun. The takeaway from the Defiance of Duskendale was Ser Barristan being Badass.

        The timing doesn’t really work, especially looking at the royal events. There was no similar movement in Aegon V’s lifetime, simply resistance to his policies that he needed royal marriages to overcome and he didn’t get those marriages.

        The so-called Southron Ambitions as outlined by Stefan Sasse has two components. The marriages between multiple LP houses to different regions, and the idea that this was some kind of attempt to form a power-block. Within ASOIAF, the only early attempt to do that was by Egg who wanted his children to marry into multiple houses across the Seven Kingdoms to bind them and House Targaryen into a single family. Since those marriages didn’t work, and the reforms remained controversial and even harder to accept now that there was no reward for the LPs, I think the so-called Lords Paramount decided to co-opt Egg’s idea of marriages between houses.

        I mean whatever can be said about Robert’s Rebellion it was not a pro-smallfolk event at all. Hoster Tully slaughtered House Goodbrook and killed a lot of villagers and peasants, Robert’s regime as governed by Jon Arryn and his Small Council largely maintained the status-quo of the time Tywin served as Hand to Aerys II…and let’s not forget that the people of King’s Landing saw the army that sacked their cities and butchered them after being let in under a peace agreement (and as such not being fair game as per the norms of Siege warfare outline by Steven) get rewarded and reinstalled as the new rulers. And Littlefinger as we know from ACOK and his other essays, stiffed and robbed many merchants in king’s landing who were willing to risk their lives to turn the city over to Stannis. Likewise, Jon Arryn is held in high regard in the Vale, aka the most snobbish and class-preserving region of the Seven Kingdoms. He can’t have had an Egg-like sensibility and have that reputation.

        The one attempt at noblesse oblige is Hoster Tully fostering Littlefinger, and in his case he was minor nobility…and well that didn’t work out.

        • Grant says:

          They place the blame on his wife, as a way of admiring their lord who had been trying to improve the place while not officially saying he was right to kidnap a king. And we have nothing to say that the other lords weren’t at least concerned by the punishments, even if they wouldn’t rise up over them (since he, you know, had committed blatant and unprovoked treason).

          And a big point is Robert’s Rebellion had a class element? To start, we know for a fact that at least some of the smallfolk had a very strong admiration for Robert. That’s how he survived Jon Connington, the non-nobles of Stoney Sept protected him even when it meant their own were threatened. I don’t believe we ever hear about anything like that being done for anyone on Aerys’ side.

          From there, that Tully destroyed a village is not strong evidence of more than common noble behavior during war, and we can’t count Tywin as some reactionary agenda of the government’s because he acted purely on his own. Tywin himself is reactionary, but describing the war that way is taking a major leap.

          That Tywin’s policies were left in place (at least the ones not removed over the Kingswood Brotherhood) doesn’t really suggest a political desire to stop kings from being Aegon V’s since all of the anti-smallfolk policies had been made law by the king they were forming alliances against. Like I said, the nobles wouldn’t have any need to form alliances to make the throne do what it was already doing.

          Baelish’s actions can’t be taken as some sort of reactionary effort to put down the smallfolk either. He was committing crimes. Crimes that went by because Robert wasn’t a very good king. And we know that Jon Arryn, from that “snobbish and class-preserving region” worked with Stannis to try to convince Robert to fire Janos Slynt, a man who was preying on smallfolk and not nobles. So clearly even if they weren’t following Aegon V’s policies, there was never a policy among the leaders of KL that smallfolk should be repressed.

          Hoster Tully fostering Baelish wasn’t about responsibilities as a noble to lessers, it was because Baelish’s father had befriended him and taking wards is something you sometimes do for friends and nobles.

          So I’d say there really is nothing to indicate that their actions before, during and after the rebellion indicate any more than the common lack of concern for smallfolk we see among nobles, not some noble alliance to with the explicit goal of fighting against a king following Aegon’s policies. They tried to ally because Aerys was clearly pretty unstable even before Duskendale (randomly murdering and torturing people on baseless suspicions, burning gifts sent to Viserys, policies that were only consistent in being the opposite of Tywin’s) and after Duskendale anyone who saw Aerys at court knew he was completely insane. And insane kings are really bad for the realm.

          • artihcus022 says:

            See if Southron Ambitions as a conspiracy predated the Rebellion and if it was because LPs were concerned about the Targaryens extending their power too much and wanting to check royal authority, then it has to have some plausible point of origin. In the history of Westeros, Aegon V was the last king who tried to extend centralization of the crown, so it follows that at least part of the impetus for that was acting to make sure something like that didn’t happen again. And you know from their perspective, what Egg tried to do, Summerhall and so on was part of the so-called Targaryen madness thing.

            Robert’s Rebellion was essentially a fight between two noble factions, one of whom (robert’s) had genuine grievances, but I don’t think this was a fight that barring one or two exceptions (Stoney Sept being the big one) that really had any concern to the rest of Westeros. Sure there might have been noble and legal intentions to check feudal powers and ensure some kind of equal justice but the minute they pardoned and condoned Tywin’s sack and the killing of Rhaegar’s children, that ended, as Ned himself notes, when he reminds Robert that they fought a war to ensure that Kings couldn’t arbitrarily kill and quits when his King orders Dany’s execution in AGOT…We know for a fact that Davos Seaworth’s motivations for relieving the siege of storm’s end was making money and it was seeing Stannis in person and his general personality, that Davos really converted. We know from the Sistermen that the basic attitude was “wait-and-see”, and sit on the fence. So I don’t think there was a lot of grand sentiment behind the Rebellion…the ones who might have felt that, like Ned and Stannis, were on the margins.

    • LadyKnitsALot says:

      I’ve been saying this for a while: Jon Arryn was the mastermind of the Rebellion, not just because he was asked to behead his two wards. He had been planning this for a long time. https://ladyknitsalottheoriesoficefire.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/jon-arryn-rebellion-mastermind/

      When you go back over the Targaryens in the generations leading up to Big Bobby’s Bellion Bash, you have … not the greatest of hits, really:

      * Rhaegar – had the opportunity to machinate a coup against his mad father, chucked it away for Lyanna’s pretty face
      * Aerys II, the Mad King
      * Jaehaerys II – insulted Lyonel Baratheon by running off with the sister who was supposed to be wed to Lyonel’s son, not very martial, died relatively young
      * Aegon V – “half a bloody peasant, taking away our gods-given liberties”
      * Maekar – seems to be fine?
      * Aerys I – nucking futs! and he let Bloodraven run a personal Stasi
      * Daeron II – the Good, but also the king who faced the Blackfyre Rebellions. “Round of belly and spindly of shoulder” – not the warrior king the warrior class desired.
      * Aegon IV – the Unworthy. Nuff said.
      * Viserys II – held the kingdoms together during his brother’s and nephews reigns, only to be killed by his son
      * Baelor the Blessedly Insane, totally unfit to govern
      * Daeron I – too busy chasing glory to actually govern
      * Aegon III – too traumatised to rule, saw the death of the final dragon
      * Aegon II or Rhaenyra, depending on your view – civil war
      * Viserys I – created the circumstances that led to the Dance
      * Jaehaerys – the Old King, did well
      * Maegor the Cruel – yikes
      * Aenys – not great
      * Aegon the Conqueror – everyone was afraid of him and his dragons.

      It doesn’t take a political genius to work out that the Targaryens only ruled with firm power when they had dragons, and they had not had dragons for a long time. So why were the Seven Kingdoms, nobles of a warrior feudal class who agree to be governed by the best warrior amongst them, agreeing to being governed by this incestuous household of lunatics and poor excuses for warriors?

      How long had the nobles been muttering amongst themselves that the Targs were too hit and miss, that surely there had to be a better option? How many wondered why they couldn’t return to independence – to quote Greatjon Umber, “we bowed to the dragons and now there ain’t none”

      The Rebellion didn’t spring out of romantic notions of rescuing Lyanna, no matter what fetishising Robert did as he aged. The Rebellion had been in motion for decades, as the Great Lords made marriage alliances that united the Seven Kingdoms against the Crown, and created a powerful block (excluding only the Greyjoys and Tyrells, based on the original marriages proposed which could have involved Cersei Lannister/Oberyn Martell, Jaime Lannister/Lysa Tully or Elia Martell, Brandon Stark/Catelyn Tully, Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon fostered by Jon Arryn) Tywin’s pride meant that he pulled out of the alliance to sook after Joanna’s death, and then even further after Jaime’s appointment to the Kingsguard and Aerys refusing his proposal for Rhaegar/Cersei – interestingly, it seems Joanna’s plans were Cersei/Oberyn and Jaime/Elia, whereas Tywin’s plans were Cersei/Rhaegar and Jaime/Lysa – hedging his bets politically, with a foot in each camp, alliance and royals, whereas Joanna just wanted her twins married to her friends’ kids.

      The reforms of Aegon V and the madness of Aerys II were simply the last straws for nobles who had spent generations wondering “why are we following these idiots? They don’t even have dragons anymore. They can’t roast us out of existence now.”

      • artihcus022 says:

        When you go back over the Targaryens in the generations leading up to Big Bobby’s Bellion Bash, you have … not the greatest of hits, really:

        See much as I do see Egg’s reforms as one of the influences and immediate causes for the Rebellion, I don’t see the downfall of the Targaryens as being A) Inevitable, B) Inherent, C) Long in the making. I also dispute some of the assessments. For one thing both Baelor the Blessed and Daeron the Young Dragon, and Daeron II are popular kings. Whether they are good kings or responsible ones is not the same thing. Yes the books often have characters like Tyrion mocking Baelor and the maester accounts say that but that’s a minority view within Westeros. Sansa admires Baelors’ piety and the men of the Vale being strong in the Faith would probably not think too badly about the Builder of the Great Sept.

        Likewise the Blackfyre Rebellions as Steven Attewell noted was a revolt of lesser houses and vassals, and that is something that the likes of Jon Arryn and others would support the Targaryens wholeheartedly. Especially Jon Arryn. I mean Robert’s Rebellion kind of enshrined the feudal system of lower houses being loyal to their immediate suzerains over the central King, since that justifies Jon Arryn’s and Hoster Tully’s punitive strikes against the Graftons and Goodbrooks.

        So why were the Seven Kingdoms, nobles of a warrior feudal class who agree to be governed by the best warrior amongst them, agreeing to being governed by this incestuous household of lunatics and poor excuses for warriors?

        Until Aerys II, the last incestuous king was Daeron II the Good. Even Aegon IV Unworthy wasn’t incestuous (his mother was Rogare). Aerys I, Maekar I, Aegon V, Jaehaerys II were both products of Targaryen-Martell, Targaryen-Dayne and Targaryen-Blackwood. As for “poor excuses of warriors”…the Targaryens produced Aemon the Dragonknight, Baelor Breakspear, Maekar, Aegon V, and Prince Rhaegar. And of course every Knight and Lord looks at Daeron Young Dragon as their role model.

        I know fans tend to fixate on incest but the actual evidence doesn’t give any sense that it’s more responsible than other factors. I mean you look at any dynasty that rules in power over a long time and you are bound to find bad seeds and lunatics. If you consider Steven’s four worst Targaryen Kings: Maegor and Aerys II are incestuous, Aerys I and Aegon IV are not.

        The Rebellion had been in motion for decades,

        That’s conspiratorial thinking. The Rebellion had some roots in immediate history, just like the Blackfyre Rebellion had roots in the War of Dorne. Egg’s Reforms, the breaking of his marriage pacts, Lyonel Laughing Storm’s Rebellion had some bearing but there’s no direct line…just as there’s no direct line between the Dornish Wars and the Blackfyre Rebellions.

        Southron Ambitions most likely had no parliamentary motive, or any grand plan to check the King’s madness…the only one with those notions was Prince Rhaegar, and well he changed his mind. Southron Ambitions was most likely formed as a means and end to extend the Lord Paramounts influence and protect their interests.

    • I don’t think it’s Egg’s reforms – they’d just seen those reforms completely undone over two kings to great political acclaim. Why would they feel the need to form a conspiracy in that context?

      • artihcus022 says:

        I never said that Egg’s reforms are the sole and only cause. But merely one of it. And that Southron Ambitions in so far as it was an anti-Targaryen movement most likely traced itself to Egg and his failed marriage proposals. Because the fact is Southron Ambitions and the inter-marriages of LP houses very much seems like a moral substitute of Egg’s plan to cement his reforms, marry his houses to LP families and/or major houses (like the Redwynes). Here the LP decided to marry amongst themselves to strengthen ties so that attacking the interests and person of one is attacking a huge chunk of Westeros.

        And just because the reforms are dialed away and reversed doesn’t negate the possibility or need for an organized movement to prevent the further possibility of revival.

        The Southron Ambitions was a movement to depower and limit the power of the Targaryen monarchy and lead to more power to the Lords Paramount, but that doesn’t mean it was a movement towards parliamentary representation, or that it had any real noble ideology aside from preserving a status-quo.

        The evidence we have shows that Rhaegar was the one who considered a Great Council but we have no inkling or suggestion that any in the Rebellion considered it. The only inklings of any ideology for the rebellion is Ned Stark telling Robert in AGOT that they fought the Mad King to prevent the deaths of children and arbitrary abuses. Stannis who is the most legal-minded of the Rebellion so the Rebellion in personal terms of family loyalty over that of the crown, now admittedly that was Young Stannis and we know he had the capacity to grow. Ser Davos the most team smallfolk of the POV says plainly that he only helped Stannis because he wanted to make a profit in Storm’s End and his conversion and loyalty to Stannis is entirely personal.

  7. Gonzalo says:

    To be fair, Alicent only proposed the Great Council after the war was going in the blacks’ favor and not when Viserys I died.

    • artihcus022 says:

      At that point, the Great Council idea was little more than a performance, given that she was defeated and playing a compliant pacific victim helped make Rhaenyra look bad now that she had won, and that did more to undermine the Blacks than the Greens capability in battle ever did.

      Catelyn Stark’s proposal in ACOK was a good deal more serious and rational, and I keep thinking that it was a missed chance she didn’t bring it up to Stannis in their parley, if only to get a sense of how Stannis would react to that. Obviously a Great Council would appeal to Stannis’ sensibility but the Legal preference wouldn’t entirely be on his side. Bloodraven’s GC established a precedent for Lords to outright reject a legal heir for someone else they think is capable and more stable. Stannis would be polarizing, even Book 5 Stannis, being that he’s a Rhllorist and that he has centralizing ambitions and plans for legal reforms such as bringing Wildlings into the 7 Kingdoms that even the Starks would never do. And as goodqueenaly said of Queen Rhaenyra, Stannis didn’t do coalition building in his years as Prince of Dragonstone and Master of Laws while Renly did do that, I think he was trying to do that with Jon Arryn, hence the whole Sweetrobin fostering thing,,,but Jon died before that happened. So a Great Council would not probably not have gone Stannis’ way and instead you would see a situation like the black comedy of AFFC’s Kingsmoot…where Renly (aka Euron with a Human Face) wins.

      Which by the way reminds me to correct something from the main post:
      … which selfish, bloodthirsty inbred aristocrat would sit the Iron Throne.

      I don’t like being pedantic Steven, but neither Rhaenyra or Aegon II were inbred…both were products of Targaryen-Arryn and Targaryen-Hightower marriages. The only inbred people in that conflict were Rhaenyra’s kids with Daemon Rogue Prince: Aegon III and Viserys II, and both of them turned out fine. Now I am sure you can quibble about multiple generations of Targaryen in-breeding (which could also be applied to all houses of the 7Kingdoms aka the cousin-marrying Starks) but fundamentlaly Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne were far more inbred than the protagonists of the Dance…and the only major Targaryen who was fully inbred was Daemon Rogue Prince and I don’t think his issues are down to incest.

      ,

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Aemma Arryn was herself half Targaryen.

      • Space Oddity says:

        Don’t forget Aegon II’s kids by his sister, who were very weird, and once again make me ask what the hell is up with the HIghtowers? Who remember regularly produce members that look eerily like Targaryens, much like their next-door neighbors the Daynes…

  8. Brilliant as ever. I am reminded of Renly refusing the GC by Rhaenyra refusing the idea, showing these two unpleasant characters who too much of the fandom likes aren’t really willing to test this ultimate idea of legitimacy. Though to clarify I don’t like Aegon either and think the whole Viserys I-succession was left horribly uncertain, and Stannis would not like a GC because by the laws of the 7K he is the clear heir. Anyway, I think Alicent’s idea was pretty decent, and didn’t ensure she would win. Rhaenyra had the North and Vale with her, and in the safer setting of a Great Council other Houses might be more willing to push their support. Though there is still that precedent. And of course the implication is if a GC can make a monarch… can they unmake a monarch?

    With the GCs during the regency of Aegon III… well, I suppose we must wait for Fire and Blood. If they had been afforded a few more years there certainly could have been changes enacted, such as more say in Small Council appointments and decisions. I’d be interested to know how the ballot worked. I presume it was a certain number of Lords getting their names placed in, and not all Lords or more likely you would have got minor Lords.

    As for the GC of 233… I wonder how Maekar was planning to handle his succession. Did he mayhaps name Egg as regent for Maegor, but the paper saying so went missing? Maekar seems the lawful sort and would probably have preferred the normal laws to be followed. Did Bloodraven influence Egg’s election, hoping that with their Blackwood wife they could easily be influenced, especially as Maekar if he did start a regency probably would leave Bloodraven right out. How permanent would this GC’s decree be? Would it be proximity over primogeniture, or just this if the heir under strict primogeniture was a child?

    Rhaegar’s plan, well it certainly had a fair shot pre-tourney. Rhaegar looks the ideal Prince as compared to his clearly insane father, who hasn’t been making friends and just has some cronyistic Crownlander lords. Rhaegar would have Dorne with him, and made friends in the Stormlands and Riverlands. With the Southron Ambitions Conspiracy… they might well have reached out to Rhaegar. He would need support from some of those Houses. We could see the beginnings of the Westerosi Parliament through this. Alas. It’s this that really makes me question Varys’ greater good ideas, something the show didn’t really address, especially as they are going with the Rhaegar was the ideal Prince angle. Varys had his plan and refused to believe anything else could suit but what he had planned for the 7K.

    But Rhaegar’s plan during RR… too little, too late. The Lords would already view the Targaryens with anger. Even if he deposed Aerys many prominent Houses had lost relatives or been directly threatened by Aerys. How would the Lords agree to this? Tywin might want Aerys out but there are still problems.

    There are occasions where the 7K could have progressed, but the three centuries of Targ rule have seen a lot of misfortune and missed opportunities, with the Targ line thinning out and possible progressions prevented.

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