This post will be discussing plot points and character backgrounds from HBO’s excellent series, Game of Thrones. Therefore, if you’re not caught up on the show (or haven’t read the books) and you read this and get spoiled, you have no one to blame but yourselves. So there.
Season Five wrapped up with the death of Stannis Baratheon, the last of the original royals in the War of the Five Kings.
Oh, sorry, I totally forgot about you, Balon. We last saw you in Season Three or something, so I assume you’ve survived the War of the Five Kings by hiding. Congratulations on a winning strategy.
It’s unusual to have so many kings running around (and to tell the truth, since Mance Rayder was active north of the Wall during that time, there were more than five kings…) but to balance that out, the show has also had several kingslayers, individuals who have taken the life of a king.
The seriousness of killing a king varies from situation to situation, but historically (in our world) kingslaying was a big deal. In general, kings were treated with special status; their lives were not to be so easily taken, and usually not without the approval of a peer. (I assume a king once set this as a precedent. Establishing that kings were to be considered inviolate might turn out to be an insurance policy for themselves.)
A large number of kings die during the course of Game of Thrones, and it’s interesting (at least to me) to examine the wheres and whys of the circumstances of their deaths. Dario Morghulis! (All kings must die!*)
Ser Jaime Lannister – THE Kingslayer
Perhaps the most infamous act of kingslaying was Ser Jaime Lannister’s role in cutting King Aerys down. Ser Jaime was a member of the kingsguard, and therefore not expected to be a danger to the king. Talk about workplace violence!
Robert pardoned him, probably for political reasons. Clearly Robert didn’t think it was a problem to retain Jaime as one of his elite bodyguards. Robert didn’t really do a lot of thinking. He did do a lot of drinking, though.
If you ask anyone familiar with the show “Hey, who is the Kingslayer?” – they’d probably tell you Jaime. Even though others fit the bill.
Viserys’ crowning by Drogo is a fine example of one king executing another king, if we consider that Viserys’ claim to the throne was legitimate. (Please don’t argue that Drogo isn’t a king.)
Although they were effectively allies, due to Daenerys being traded to Drogo in exchange for an army to conquer Westeros, the Beggar King couldn’t patiently wait for the bargain to come full circle. It was unsurprising that Viserys’ impatience fueled some pretty outrageous behavior, and equally unsurprising that Drogo’s patience with Viserys came to an end.
And an end for Viserys.
But it can’t be argued that Viserys didn’t get a golden crown, one terrible to behold.
Okay, it was technically the boar that killed King Robert in the end, but certainly the king’s squire Lancel was complicit by keeping Robert well supplied with strongwine when probably everyone else on the hunt was drinking Coors Light.
Currently, Lancel seems to have gotten a pass on the kingslaying charge by the High Sparrow, but part of that stems from him ratting out Cersei’s extramarital situations and her scheming to have Robert killed during that hunt.
Should I consider Cersei a kingslayer too? Err… I don’t know if I want to go that far. Lancel took direct action to harm the king by getting him dangerously drunk. Cersei was certainly involved though. We’ll talk more about that when I cover the next guy.
If we consider both Stannis and Renly kings (Stannis had the better claim, but Renly had the bigger army) Renly’s death provides another example of one king killing another, but under less honorable circumstances than Drogo’s poetic execution of Viserys.
Wait a minute! Renly was stabbed by a shadow-baby! If Cersei doesn’t get a kingslayer label, how come Stannis does?
Is this some sexist double standard? Both had a flunky/sex-partner (Lancel and Melisandre) set the stage for a 3rd party (boar and shadow assassin) to get the job done!
Yeah, I recognize that, but I think there’s a significant difference. In the show, Brienne had stated that the solid smoky shadow that killed Renly had Stannis’ face. (I’ll have to take her word for it, it’s pretty hard to tell.)
After his defeat at Blackwater, Stannis was full of regrets and said that he murdered his brother. It wasn’t so much of an “I ordered his death” or “I was okay with something killing Renly.” It really sounded like Stannis was owning up to the deed, personally.
It’s a very Macbeth-y sounding moment, and I have this sense that when the demon was off to attack Renly, Stannis was connected to it and directing it. So I’m saying that Stannis killed Renly. Feel free to argue with me, you.
Stannis is typically honorable to a fault, but not in this scenario. In Stannis’ eyes, Renly was a usurper and therefore committing a grave offense by pressing his claim to the throne, but Stannis had him assassinated during a time of truce that he himself had established. Stannis gave Renly the night to reconsider his options, but killed his brother before dawn.
Not cool, Stannis.
During Daenerys’ brief stay in Qarth, her sponsor (and suitor) Xaro Xoan Daxos staged a coup d’etat with the aid of the Warlocks, killing the rest of the Thirteen (the trading oligarchs who ruled Qarth) and declared himself the King of Qarth.
Unfortunately for Xaro Xoan Daxos, his complicity in aiding and abetting the warlocks’ theft of Dany’s dragons, as well as their attempt to entrap her did not sit well with the Mother of Dragons. The Khaleesi, after roasting the warlock Pyat Pree with dragonfire, locked the new Qartheen king in his own impenetrable vault.
Okay, we don’t know Xaro’s fate for sure, but that vault was supposed to be extremely hard/nigh impossible to get into, and odds are he’s still trapped inside and therefore dead. If so, Dany is a kingslayer. That scamp!
If anyone still wants to argue with me about Dany, disputing her being a kingslayer… she also smothered her husband, Khal Drogo, in Season One. And I’m still not entertaining arguments that Drogo wasn’t a king. Boom.
“Elected” king by proclamation from the northern host (and river lords), young Robb Stark, the King in the North, appeared to be the best of the five kings in the war. Robb wasn’t trying to take the Throne, he just wanted justice for his father and independence for his parents’ two home “kingdoms” from Lannister abuse and interference.
Undefeated on the battlefield, Robb was his own worst enemy though, ruining a political marriage by following his heart and further reducing his forces by his stubborn punishment of Lord Rickard Karstark, and delivering himself as a lamb to the slaughter in the fortress of grudge-carrying hospitality-breaking Walder Frey.
Lord Walder’s crossbowmen participated in Robb’s death, but it was Robb’s fellow northman Lord Roose Bolton who gave Robb the Lannister’s regards.
Wait! Are you implying that Lady Olenna killed Joffrey? And wasn’t Littlefinger involved?
Fine, Baelish gets part of the blame, but it was the Queen of Thorns who took a poison crystal from Sansa Stark’s necklace and sleight-of-handed it into King Joffrey’s wine cup. There were a lot of moving parts: Baelish had the poison jewelry made, Ser Dontos gave it to Sansa, Sansa wore the necklace unknowingly to the feast, but it was Olenna who killed the king.
She’s so spunky and fun! (Don’t tell her I ratted her out.)
Stannis Baratheon was on the verge of killing his second king, Mance Rayder the King-Beyond-the-Wall, by choosing to burn the recalcitrant and uncooperative wildling king alive.
But Jon Snow, feeling pity for his former captor, ended Mance’s life with a merciful arrow to the heart, and therefore killed a king.
In many ways, this was a legitimate execution of a king, even though Jon wasn’t a royal peer himself. Mance had been a member of the Night’s Watch and his defection north of the Wall and embracing of the Wildlings made him a deserter from the Watch and therefore a man eligible for execution.
The Night’s Watch have the right to deal with their own. (Of course, it would have been more legitimate had Jon been Lord Commander, like he was in the books, before killing Mance and denying Stannis his due.)
Brienne of Tarth
Oh Stannis, maybe you shouldn’t have killed your little brother Renly. Then you wouldn’t have ended up on the business end of Brienne’s sword Oathkeeper. Brienne took her oath seriously as kingsguard to Renly, and if I can reference another awesome warrior, Taarna from the movie Heavy Metal:
To defend . . . this is the Pact. But when life loses its value, and is taken for naught, then the Pact is . . . to avenge.
Brienne had a duty to defend her king, and when he died, she felt she had a duty to bring his killer to justice.
What? Jon’s not a king. Olly’s just a Lord-Commander-Slayer!
Fine. But I love talking about Olly.
But I don’t think I’m too far off base. Jon had not been far from being a king.
Acknowledged as Ned Stark’s bastard boy, he certainly had a claim on the Stark name, although Ned’s true sons and daughters have the rightful claim. So what? Ned wasn’t a king.
But Robb was, at least as far as the North was concerned.
The North knows but one king, and his name is Stark.
When Robb died, the kingship might have passed to Bran (or Rickon) but everyone assumes that those boys are dead. Rule of the north would then pass to Sansa, but had Jon accepted Stannis’ offer to be legitimized, it actually would have given him a greater claim to Winterfell than Sansa.
Had the North wanted to, they might have followed Jon Stark as the new King in the North. Which would have extremely pissed off Stannis.
But that didn’t happen, so Olly doesn’t end up being a kingslayer. Just a hypothetical one.
I mean, there’s no other reason I can think of that implies Jon was destined for the throne. Any throne…
Thank you for checking out what on the surface was just a big list of “people who’ve killed kings in Game of Thrones“, hopefully I provided something more than just that.
I could probably come up with another one or two examples if I really stretched a metaphor.
For example, Rhaegar and Elia of Dorne’s baby son Aegon technically was king (just uncrowned) since his grandfather Aerys and his father Rhaegar died before he did (and the claim of a son is stronger than the claim of an uncle.) If I can call baby Aegon a king, then Gregor Clegane is another kingslayer.
Discuss. (But follow my spoiler-discussion advice below…)
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text.
* Dario Morghulis is my best guess at “All Kings Must Die”, thanks to a Valyrian -> English guide I found online. And can’t find again. 😦
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