Regarding Renly Baratheon

Posted: August 27, 2014 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , ,

This post will be referencing plot points throughout the four seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones. If you’re not caught up, shame on you! It’s the most pirated show in the universe!

But I shouldn’t be slack-shaming. Should you need to get caught up, please do so and come back.


Being King is Awesome!

My work colleagues are great; the office is a Game of Thrones-friendly environment. Many of us have read the books and nearly everyone’s watching the show.

When I started blogging about Game of Thrones last year, I didn’t necessarily expect my teammates to follow my blog but they have been, since it gives them more Game of Thrones things to talk about (and the opportunity to make fun of my grammar and bizarre typos and run-on sentences and Fnord.)

Most of my early posts were “In Defense of … ” articles, where I’d try to rationalize or defend one of the major character’s bad decisions. After a few of those articles were on the blog, one of my colleagues asked me when I’d go on the offensive and not defend someone, but take them to task.

That time is now.

Busting Renly’s Chops

I don’t have a lot of issues with King Robert’s youngest and more charming brother, but I do have to call him out for at least one thing: he selfishly hung Ned Stark out to dry.


I’m Totally Going to Let You Get Killed, Man.

Did I say one thing? I have some other issues with young Renly, and again it’s all from his desire to be king.

But let me take a step back.

Casus Belli, Yo

I’m not necessarily interested in labeling any one person as responsible for the chaos of the War of the Five Kings which splintered the Seven Kingdoms, ruined the North, bankrupted the crown, and ravaged the Riverlands.

(That same chaos also ended up being a ladder for treacherous, allegedly lecherous Littlefinger to ascend to the Eyrie. So that’s extra bad. Boo.)

Obviously Joffrey played his part in impulsively ordering Lord Eddard’s execution. Others get yelled at too.

Catelyn Stark has her detractors.


Nothing Bad Can Happen From This…

They insist that her anxiety-driven action in arresting Tyrion Lannister was the primary cause of the war, since it prompted Jaime’s ambush on Ned and for the Mountain’s chevauchee on the Riverlands.

But she was reacting to an earlier event…


I’ll be Forgiven in a Few Seasons… Sorry Brandon, You Scamp

Many point out Jaime crossed the Rubicon when he pulled an Arryn on Bran and made the bad boy fly.

Those are all valid points, all certainly contributed to the Stark/Lannister conflict. But those actions were decided in the heat of the moment, with little chance of taking the action back. (Catelyn probably had the most leeway until she brought Tyrion to Lysa. Then she had as much control over Tyrion’s fate as Jaime did over the force of gravity on Bran, or Joffrey’s chances of reviving Ned. None.)

But one man had a chance to make a difference, to secure the stability of the realm or shatter it. He had the opportunity to think through his course of action, to act decisively and not impulsively.

Renly Baratheon. Whom no one seems to think ill of. Really?

Renly Makes His Move

In Season One, Renly was accompanying his brash and boastful brother on one of his endless boar hunts.


There’s a Reason Ser Elmer of House Fudd Hunted Ducks and Rabbits, but not Boars.

Sometimes, you get the boar, sometimes the boar gets you.

King Robert returned to the capital grievously injured. He had time to arrange for a peaceful and stable succession: he dictated a decree naming Ned the Lord Protector.

Renly wasn’t a fool, he knew Cersei wouldn’t allow this, particularly after Ned had sent the Stark fighting retinue with Beric Dondarrion to interdict the Mountain. Renly took Ned aside and made an offer:

  • Renly would provide Ned 100 men in case Cersei made a move to seize power.
  • In exchange, Ned needed to support Renly to be the new King.

Ned was uncomfortable with Renly’s offer, and refused the terms.

Renly fled the city with his retainers the moment of King Robert’s death, avoiding having to swear fealty to Joffrey. And avoiding having some kind of “accident”, if you know what I mean.


No One Can Argue with that Crown’s Claim to Greatness!

Safe in Highgarden, he declared himself the king.

Shortly after, Joffrey executed Lord Eddard, Robb Stark was declared King in the North,  more serious-than-a-heart-attack Stannis Baratheon scrambled about, telling anyone and everyone that he’s the king since Joffrey was not Robert’s son, and grey and joyless Balon Greyjoy declared himself the King of the Iron Isles and proceeded to invade the under-defended North.

The War of the Five Kings had begun.

Bad Brother Renly

Renly’s fraternal duty to his dying eldest brother would have been to support his royal last wishes. If Ned needed men to resist Cersei’s coup d’etat, an honorable younger brother would have offered his men with no strings attached. Or at least strings less majestic.

Demanding to be king as a condition to do his duty was disrespectful to the spirit of Robert’s dying wishes.

Demanding to be king was disrespectful of Stannis’ rights. Now, Stannis might not be that awesome a guy, but during Robert’s rebellion, he had faced a similar choice. He could have supported his older brother in a rebellion, or he could have rejected his brother’s wishes, paving the road for him to replace rebel Robert as Lord of the Stormlands.

Instead of pursuing personal glory (i.e. pulling a Renly), Stannis backed his brother Robert in full.

The Domino Theory

It’s one thing to not support Ned, it’s another thing to disrespect Stannis by ignoring his claim, but the bigger issue that arose by Renly inventing his claim to the Throne: it encouraged the secession of two of the Seven Kingdoms.

  •  Had Renly backed Ned, to keep things stable until Stannis showed up for a coronation (followed by some Stannis-style justice on Tywin for invading the Riverlands), the North would not have had to mobilize, Robb would not have had to submit to Walder Frey’s extorted demands, and the Red Wedding would not have happened. Eventually, Ned could have visited Jon Snow and told him about his mother.

Instead, Renly abandoned Ned, leading to Stark’s betrayal and capture. Robb mobilized and headed south, getting metaphorically in bed with the Freys. Which ended badly.

  • If Renly, after fleeing King’s Landing and leaving Ned to his fate, had not declared himself king, but instead grudgingly backed Stannis, it’s conceivable that Robb Stark would never have declared himself King in the North. Because there would have been a clear successor to the Throne. With Renly in the mix, there was room for other opinions on the legitimacy of authority.


With the Throne seemingly up for grabs, the secession of the North from the Seven Kingdoms seemed like the right thing to do.

Wait, that’s not bad, right?

Sure, I don’t think it was necessarily wrong for the North to want to declare independence from the central government that had been imposed on them by force, three centuries before. But…

… it gave someone else the incentive to secede, and conditions to support it.

Remember him? Where'd he go? Found on

Renly, Stannis, and Joffrey are All Claiming to be King? Robb Stark Says He’s King in the North? I STARTED THAT TREND TEN YEARS AGO!

Balon had already learned the dangers of seceding from a reasonably united Seven Kingdoms. But with Westeros splintered among four monarchs? The opportunity was there. In no time at all, the Ironborn controlled the western coastline of the North, and Winterfell was in ruins.

Bad Planning, Renly

Renly did no one any good in pursuing a pretense for the throne (especially not himself.)

Renly’s position, had he supported Stannis, would have been greatly improved. Before Robert’s death, here’s the list of names (in order of succession) between Renly and the Iron Throne.

  • Robert
  • Joffrey
  • Tommen
  • Stannis

(We’ll ignore the incestuous nature of Joffrey and Tommen for this exercise, and ignore Robert’s bastards.)

After Robert’s death, had Renly backed Stannis (and his claims of incest), here’s the list of names (in order of succession) between Renly and the Iron Throne.

  • Stannis

Dude. Stannis had no male heir, not even any bastards (that we know of.) Being king is a dangerous job, especially if there are people who can immediately benefit from that monarch’s death.


I Have Absolutely No Idea What You’re Nattering-On About.

It might have been smarter to maintain the peace and security of the realm, and pick a better time to get head measurements for a crown. (Anyway, all the cool kings eschewed crowns.)

And Ned would have lived. And he would have gotten a chance to see Jon again. Dammit.

Good King Renly

When Renly made his initial offer to Lord Stark, he stated that the soldierly Stannis would not make a good king, but boldly declared that he would instead. Would Renly have made a good king? It’s hard to say for sure.

His initial argument was really “at least I’m not Stannis.”

He said that his older brother “inspires no love, no loyalty.” I’m not so sure about that.


Exhibit 1: Davos. No Loyalty? NO LOYALTY?

Let’s say he’s right, and Stannis was totally a dud. I don’t know if we have much evidence that implies Renly would be that much better, since he’d probably be a puppet king.

There’s a fine line between Book Renly and Show Renly. There were enough references to Renly’s charisma in the first two books to demonstrate that he’d be able to get legitimate backing as the authority. It’s harder to lay that out on television without spending a lot of time with Renly, and the television show only has so many hours.

The show opted to have it summed up with some exposition between Renly and his good friend Ser Loras.

Loras: You know, you’d make a great king, Renly.
Renly: Dude, you’re just saying that.
Loras: No way, you’d be a great king, everyone loves you.
Renly: I’m also gay, by the way.
Loras: Me too!
Unaware Book Readers: WHAT?
George R. R. Martin: Didn’t everyone know those two were gay? It’s so obvious in the books!

I’d like to think that Renly would be a wise king. On the show at least, he was willing to make concessions with Robb to allow the North and Riverlands some autonomy while still swearing fealty to King’s Landing.

The negotiations meeting between Renly and Catelyn Stark was a nice moment, opening up the possibility of a positive outcome for the Starks.

Then this happened:


If the Shadow-Assassin is Stannis’ Shadow Baby, then this is Reverse-Nepoticide, Right?

Had Renly prevailed over Stannis, he might have been a good king, but odds are he’d have been a puppet for the wealthy Tyrells. Renly was literally in bed with them. One implication from the scene with Loras is that Renly was being pushed into a game-playing position by Highgarden.

Lady Olenna mentioned in Season Three that she’d been against supporting Renly to be king, but it’s very easy for her to say that with Renly dead and her granddaughter engaged to Joffrey, a monarch her household had been previously opposing. I have no problems imagining Olenna having had her calculating eyes on Renly for quite a long time.


I Really Have No Idea what the Young Man is Insinuating. Please Bring Him these Poiso… Special Lemoncakes.

Would that be a bad thing? It’s unclear. The Tyrells are certainly as ruthless as the Lannisters, and as rich. They’re a lot better at public relations though.

In Conclusion (or possibly Inconclusive)

As people on Game of Thrones go, Renly seemed more decent than most. He would inarguably made a better king than Joffrey.

But I can’t let go of his lost opportunity to support Ned during the critical time after Robert’s death. So he’s in the doghouse as far as I’m concerned.

But I’m not the final arbiter of character assessment on Game of Thrones. (Sadly. I should be. You fools need to treat my opinions as gold!)

Let me know if I’m wrong (or unbelievably if I’m right, that’s cool) via comments.

I’m sure there’s someone who was delighted with the choices that Renly made.


Melisandre Has No Complaints With Renly. His Choices Definitely Helped Her Out.

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones, obviously.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved

  1. MikeOsaer says:

    Completely agree. Even though i thought we was very well played in the show, at the moment of Robert’s death where he claimed he’d make a better heir i honestly didn’t know who he was. His scenes with Stannis were brilliant, but utterly infuriating. That said, were it not for his treachery we wouldn’t have had the other six ASOIAF books so y’know… swings and roundabouts…


  2. Hey man, thanks for the feedback. I appreciate the agreement.

    I’m with you on the difference in Renly between Season One and Season Two. He actually was pretty kingly at the end.

    Then, boom.


  3. I generally find Game of Thrones to be a bit overrated, with a couple really good episodes a season, sometimes because of some major twist. But….if they hired you, Ser Pat, to oversee their work, and you brought the same level of thought to it that you do to these blogs….THAT Game of Thrones would be solid gold.


    • Dan the Wildling!

      I’ll work on some scripts and send them your way! Then you and Scot can do a dramatic reading of this golden prose on your podcast (the Serious TV Drama podcast, which everyone within sound of my … typing… should be listening to. Maybe more people than that…)

      Thanks for your feedback, man!


  4. Dave Yngvar Hayes says:

    If kinslayer is the worst thing you can be, how respected can Renly be after not supporting either his eldest brother’s Hand (& commands) at his time of need, or his older brother’s rightful claim to the throne after Robert’s death. I know honor isn’t a huge thing to most major players in Westros, but most of them at least make the attempt at the appearance…


  5. momninate says:

    Now that you’ve started on the offensive, have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, Ned had some fault too? I mean, I know he said he was trying to be merciful when he confronted Cersei about her and Jaime and their sons, but seriously? I thought Ned was a good warrior. He just gave the advantage over to Cersei in that moment. Or maybe it’s not nice to speak ill of dead (and beheaded) people…


    • 🙂 Great comment! I won’t try to convince you that Ned did the right thing in showing his hand to Cersei, because it clearly led to his downfall. It is consistent with his aversion to children being killed, but it might be motivated by other reasons that GRRM has hinted at, but not explicitly stated.

      I think Ned felt his position was more secure, he hadn’t considered that Cersei had arranged a hunting accident.

      But you are right, I do love defending Ned, but he wasn’t perfect.


      • momninate says:

        I do like Ned and I think he’s a really honorable man. He made the perfect Hand and would have been a better Regent than Robert was as a king. And I agree with you that he isn’t perfect. I just didn’t think talking to Cersei was really wise of him. Although, if he didn’t do what he did, would the story have developed the way it did? Lol.

        Thanks for replying to my comment. I really look forward to your posts, especially the spoilers. Sometimes I think suspense is a little overrated. 😀


  6. rizlatnar says:

    uhhhh……… Well, good post! I think that’s in order. But, uh, I kinda disagree with you here (no offense :)). The thing that you have to remember about Renly is that he’s young and rather inexperienced. He’s a man of summer, a boy who didn’t fight in the Rebellion, and he sees an amazing opportunity (which turns out to end up killing him….) From my point of view, Renly came to the completely logical decision that if he could beat Stannis and Joffrey, then he should be king. Whoever has the bigger army wins, right? Acting impulsively is not necessarily acting wrongly (at least for his own interests). If Renly hadn’t died, he’d have won. He’d have had King’s Landing, and gradually crushed his enemies with his superior resources, and might have been able to stand up to the White Walkers. And if Ned Stark had stayed as the Hand I can’t see Tywin Lannister being all like “I didn’t like my grandchildren anyway……..” even if Cersei took the advice to go to Essos. The war would only need a spark….. and that spark would probably come from Daenerys or the Martells. And then there’d still be war.
    So, in other words, it’s not entirely Renly’s fault. And plus he’s one of my favorite characters :). If only because of his quotes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comments. I can’t fault Renly on his turn of phrases (I use the “bigger army > better claim” quote, more or less, in my blog’s subheader.)

      No worries on disagreeing with me, I appreciate the perspective.

      I see what you’re saying about Renly thinking that if he could beat Stannis and Joffrey, then he should be king. It’s just a bad precedent.

      And you’re right about his inexperience, Catelyn said it best when she observed that Renly was playing at being king, having parties and tournaments on his slow pre-victory march to King’s Landing.

      Renly certainly might have been a decent king, I’m just mad at him for abandoning Ned.

      I admit that I haven’t given much thought to how things would play out with Tywin had Cersei fled with the children had Ned persuaded her to. I’ll have to think about the scenario where Robert returns hale and whole, or if he comes back gored.

      If Cersei was gone, Ned would probably have enough legit authority to keep things calm until Stannis showed up, unless Renly did a coup instead. Tywin wouldn’t have pushed for taking on the entire Seven Kingdoms probably.

      Interesting. I’ll have to mull this over.

      Hey, thanks for your feedback here and on my Littlefinger article. They’re both very appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great points! I think that your point about Renly having the most time to think about his bad decision is maybe the best one. The dominoes all fall from there… and it did NOT go well for Renly. Not even a little.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. picard578 says:

    “Stannis might not be that awesome a guy”

    Eh? Stannis is about the only king in the series with a brain (only other people who are not brain-dead are not technically royalty, though they might rule or otherwise command – such as Tywin Lannister or Jon Snow). I’d say that is awesome enough.

    (To clarify: Robert cares only about his whores and his boars, screw the ruling and Seven Kingdoms; Joffrey is a murderous dog excellent at alienating people; Renly is a pretender who didn’t think it through; Robb doesn’t think about who he f***s and who he beheads – really, he made the same mistake that Cersei did in beheading Lord Karstark, when he could have thrown him in a prison for life and used him to secure loyalty of the Karstark host; Balon might have chosen a good time to get independence, but he must be aware that, once there is a king on the throne, the Ironborn will be done for very quickly; and Daenerys is inexperienced and too quick to burn on impale people).

    “He said that his older brother “inspires no love, no loyalty.” I’m not so sure about that.”

    I think Renly spent too much time in the King’s Landing. Of course Stannis would not inspire loyalty by schemers in KL – he’d get them all beheaded. But he does inspire loyalty by his soldiers and common people, much like Caesar did, which Renly simply does not care about. So Renly is being stupid there, but you can understand his argument once you know his straw-narrow view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with pretty much everything you said, but Stannis does have his weaknesses. In regards to the show, had he not had Davos with him in Braavos, he would not have secured his loan, and that was based entirely on his lack of interpersonal skills.

      I’m a big fan of Stannis, other than in his pro-burning policy (which I will quickly agree, is because of Melisandre.)


      • picard578 says:

        “but Stannis does have his weaknesses”

        As does everybody else. But Stannis will at least listen to his advisors, and as you said, Davos compensates for his greatest weakness(es). Which is not something you can say for Joffrey/Cersei or Robb.

        “I’m a big fan of Stannis, other than in his pro-burning policy”

        Agreed. Which is one of reasons I like books better than the show. To quote:

        “Half my army is made up of unbelievers,” Stannis had replied. “I will have no burnings. Pray harder.”

        Liked by 1 person

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