It would also be fair to say uneasy rests the rear that sits on an iron throne, but this blog post is about fashion not furniture. It’s time to talk about crowns.
This article will be discussing characters and plot points from the first three seasons of HBO’s excellent series Game of Thrones. If you are caught up on the television show (or have read up through roughly 2/3rds of the way A Storm of Swords) then there won’t be any spoilers here.
I am going to mention very small details from the books in the same timeframe as the show, but I promise, non-spoilery details.
Kings and Crowns
In the beginning of the A Song of Ice and Fire epic (in both book series and TV show) there is a king of the Seven Kingdoms, an uncrowned king in exile, and a northern barbarian who has declared himself King-Beyond-the-Wall.
As the story progresses, we lose two of these kings but quickly there are five more. (And Daenerys, I am not forgetting her. I promise to add her in later.)
Then we lose some more kings.
The television show is more or less on track with the books in regards to kings. The main difference is in the number of crowns.
War of the Five Kings, War of the Five, or Two, Crowns
In the books, each monarch who participated in the War of the Five Kings had a unique crown.
Joffrey Baratheon inherited his crown from the previous king, Robert Baratheon (I assume King Bob had a bigger crown for his big manly head and Joffrey had one made to fit.)
Stannis Baratheon, the legitimate heir by blood wore a crown with a flame design, signifying his devotion (or at least, connection) to the fiery Lord of Light.
Renly Baratheon, who just couldn’t wait to be king, sported an impressive crown of antlers growing like vines.
Robb Stark’s practical northern blacksmiths fashioned him an iron crown with a theme of sword points, fitting head gear for a king forged in war.
Finally, Balon Greyjoy wore a crown made of driftwood. Like Stannis, this crown was a symbol of royal power but also divine power, a reference to the Ironborn Drowned God.
Here the television show differs from the books.
Of those five crowned heads in the books, only Renly and Joffrey are sporting coronas. The other three wear no crowns. (Which is why my pics of those kings have them crownless.)
So, why is that? Why are most of the heads of state in HBO’s Game of Thrones missing a crown?
A Plausible Theory
It’s possible that the show-runners wanted to show that Balon, Robb, and Stannis had something to prove, and were delaying a coronation.
Television Stannis might not want to wear a crown until the entire realm actually agreed that he was king. He might have his heart set on having a coronation in the ancient sept of Baelor in King’s Landing. Because that would be the right thing to do.
Robb Stark might want to solidly establish the secession of the Riverlands and the North from the Seven Kingdoms first, before wearing a crown. It certainly seems that he wanted Joffrey to pay for the execution of his father, Lord Eddard. So his crown might be waiting for his ultimate victory over Joffrey. (A victory that would never come. Poor Robb. Damn you Walder Frey! Roose Bolton!)
Balon, likewise, might be waiting for the secession of the Iron Islands to be an indisputable fact before putting on the Driftwood Crown. After all, he wore it during the last rebellion and got spanked. (But for all we know, Balon might be constantly wearing the crown in public already. We haven’t seen any scene taking place with Balon outside his living room by the cool squid fireplace, so it’s hard to say. But I’m going with what we’ve seen.)
Renly, of course, is just super-eager to wear a crown, so he had a coronation and a celebration as soon as he could.
Although these theories are somewhat plausible, I don’t buy any of them. There’s no evidence in the show that the characters have these kind of goal-centric motivations that are restricting them from wearing crowns.
Instead, I think that the show-runners have decided that wearing crowns in lame. And that only lame kings wear them.
Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Lame Crown
The kings that wear crowns on the show are all somewhat less-than-stellar kings.
Robert Baratheon, although a brave man and powerful warrior, was an awful king. His excesses drained the kingdom’s resources and he turned a blind eye to shenanigans. When he died, he had so little legitimate authority that his dying wishes were ignored by his court, dooming Ned Stark.
Joffrey Baratheon is a mad king in the making.
Renly Baratheon was only briefly a king. And I just don’t like him. He had the chance to assist Ned but selfishly opted to pursue his own path to the throne, as a pawn of the Tyrells. The realm has already forgotten about him.
The uncrowned kings are somewhat more impressive.
Although Stannis had a tremendous setback at the Battle of Blackwater, he otherwise is an effective war-leader, being the first off the boats and up the walls. He was a hero of the previous rebellion, stoicly defending Storm’s End during a hellish siege. Although he’s in bed (double entendre!) with the somewhat malevolently aspected Lord of Light, he seems a stand up guy otherwise. (Feel free to read my full thoughts on Season 1-3 Stannis.)
Robb Stark sadly made several bad decisions, but was super-kingly. Young, brave, handsome, charismatic, he was elected king by his men, who’d rather follow a King in the North than bow to some flowerly southern clown. He’s dead, but not forgotten. The North Remembers.
Balon Greyjoy (who I admit might wear his Driftwood Crown when not chilling by the fireplace) is also an imposing force. Just surviving his last rebellion against Robert is a point in his favor, not against him. Had he been a weaker individual, Robert (who respected strength) would have had the Lord of Pyke’s head on a King’s Landing pike. (I’ve said more about Balon Greyjoy in the past.)
Not convinced that Wearing a Crown == Not All That Kingly?
Mance Rayder is King-Beyond-the-Wall, has an army on the move in the range of a hundred thousand. He united dozens of warring clans and peoples to follow him as their king, and the Wildlings notoriously don’t follow anyone.
No crown on that head. Although to be fair, the only thing I’d want on my head would be something fur-lined. Dude, put on a hat at least!
Viserys Targaryen, the beggar king, was so eager to get an army with which to take back the Iron Throne, he sold his sister into sexual slavery to Khal Drogo.
He couldn’t be patient, and ended up with a golden crown.
Where Does Daenerys Fit In With All This?
Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains hasn’t been shown wearing a crown.
It’s not like she needs one. She has dragons.
Crowns in the Future
Obviously, I could be wrong. Next season, Balon, Stannis, and Mance all might be running around with amazing crowns. But I’m predicting that they won’t be.
A crown is something very obvious that says “I Am The King!” and we know what Tywin Lannister has to say about that:
“Any man who must say, ‘I am the king’ is no true king.”
Tywin needs no crown. He’s in charge.
It is known.
(I hope you enjoyed reading my second Fashion-post for Game of Thrones. If you are interested, my first one can be found here.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.
* “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” is from William Shakespeare (Henry IV)
I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the non-Shakespearian text here, so there.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved