The Stark Political Situation in Westeros

Posted: January 12, 2020 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
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Game of Thrones is over, but that shouldn’t stop us from talking about the show or the logical consequences of what might happen going forward in this fictional universe. Particularly in regards to politics, because the political situation in Westeros was a topic that we could all (mostly) discuss with our family at Thanksgiving, without fear of being written out of the will or something.

Arya: Cowards! Challenge your Republican relatives to Trial by Combat!

The final storyline in the show, after Season 8 dealt with the White Walkers (Arya took care of business by stabbing the icy Night King), dealt with the treacherous Lannisters (Daenerys Targaryen brought the Red Keep down on Cersei and Jaime Lannister), dealt with a Daenerys who was tired-of-not-being-taken-seriously (Jon Snow took her seriously and pulled an Arya on her), was the show dealing with the question of who would be on the Iron Throne at the end.

Well, not exactly that, since the Iron Throne was now slag.

Instead, a great council was convened to deal with the power vacuum left with Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys’ deaths.

Well, a council was convened. It didn’t really demonstrate Great Council energy in its visuals.

It might still be a council. Just not great, Pod.

And it was unclear that these lords had been assembled specifically for choosing a new king. Maybe they had been though. There were some fairly important people there: The Lord of Riverrun (and presumably new Lord of the Riverlands) Edmure Tully. The new Prince of Dorne (who went unnamed.)

New Prince of Dorne: I prefer to be anonymous, since it makes assassination attempts more difficult if no one knows who I am.

Maybe I’m overstating the importance of these quorum members.

The primary objective on the docket seemed to be negotiating with the Unsullied, who had captured Kings Landing and were stuck there without a queen to serve, following Dany’s unfortunate demise. In their possession were two prisoners: Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow. They were both in figurative hot water.

  1. Tyrion had betrayed Daenerys by freeing his captive brother Jaime, and then had been insolent after she nuked Kings Landing
  2. Jon stabbed Daenerys when they were alone, with the only witness being Drogon who conveniently took the body away.

Quick aside, what the hell happened right after Jon stabbed Dany?

Jon: Grey Worm, I insist that you arrest me for the crime of regicide.
Grey Worm: What? Where’s our queen?
Jon: Oh, Drogon flew away with her body, so there’s no evidence backing this up, other than my good word.
Grey Worm: The good word of a queenslayer?
Jon: And kinslayer. I waive all rights to counsel, and I don’t think corpus delicti is even a thing.

Okay, regardless of how that all played out, the Unsullied must have had a reason for not executing Jon and Tyrion on the spot. As well as keeping them alive and reasonably well treated during however long it took to get all of these various lordlings from their keeps down to Kings Landing.

Grey Worm: We were kind of keeping Jon Snow alive just in case he’d lost his mind and only imagined he’d killed Daenerys. His unsupported confession did seem Pretty Crazy to us Unsullied, to be honest. When the queen never returned, it seemed reasonable to keep him alive so we could get some free boat passage to Naath.

In order to break the impasse between the King’s Landing occupiers and those who wanted to get the country into post-warfare recovery mode, Tyrion Lannister was called upon to guide the assembled lords in declaring a new Supreme Executive. The Unsullied were prepared to accept the ruling of a king, rather than an assemblage of lords.

After weeks and weeks of arguments and debates, involving dozens of candidates with vested interests in ruling Westeros making their claim – or rather, 2 to 3 minutes of consideration by the dozen lordlings in attendance, Bran Stark was affirmed to be the new king.

Tyrion was pardoned, Jon Snow was sentenced to the Wall, Sansa Stark was installed as Queen in the North leaving Bran with the rest of the kingdoms, and the Unsullied made an orderly retreat Naath-ward.

Quick aside, I recognize that it would have made sense for the unnamed Prince of Dorne and Yara Greyjoy to follow Sansa Stark’s motion to make their own secession move. But, I’m personally fine with the show having those two sticking with the others mainly because their declarations of independence would undercut Sansa’s maneuver, and the show definitely owed Sansa an unambiguous win.

Also, it would probably play off rather weak-seeming:

Sansa: Angelica
Yara: Eliza
Prince Martell: AND PEGGY!

Everyone can feel free to head canon Bran eventually dealing with the Iron Islands and Dorne breaking away. (Or head canon spooky King Bran having dirt on Yara and Prince Peggy Martell, to keep them in line.)

When the dust cleared in the dragonpit, two Stark siblings had control of the divided continent. So, the show ended on a happily-ever-after moment? King Bran and Queen Sansa go on to rule their lands wisely and well, like Middle-Earth monarchs Anarion and Isildur ruled their tandem kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor after the end of the Second Age? (Spoiler alert for the Silmarillion, Anarion died with Isildur inheriting his brother’s lands, and Isildur then died when The Ring abandoned him during an orc ambush.)

We can certainly assume that the Stark kids rule peacefully for a long time and not worry about it, but we can also assume otherwise as an academic exercise. We just don’t know what happens next.

Recently on Twitter, I posed two questions using simple polls to investigate what might happen if either Sansa or Bran died early in their reigns (to imply that there was not yet a respective heir) and what rights the surviving royal sibling would have in regards to the dearly departed’s domain.


A fair amount of my Twitter followers are fans of Game of Thrones and/or A Song of Ice and Fire, so I was not surprised that I got good engagement and strong opinions backing up their votes.

I’m not claiming that these polls are scientifically based. I’m not doing a research paper, comrades, just having fun. With that disclaimer out of the way…

Both polls showed decisive rulings from the participants that Bran would have no claim to the North upon Sansa’s death, nor would Sansa have an actionable claim to Bran’s southern kingdoms.

Reasons given were varied, but the most compelling argument to deny Bran taking ownership of Winterfell and the North was posed by the formidable legal account Laws of Ice and Fire.

Honestly, everyone should follow @WesterosLaw – their extended response (with GIFs) was so great, it was nearly immediately translated into Italian for International attention. Don’t believe me?

If we go with the assertion that the North’s bid for independence trump Bran’s bloodline right, Bran seems to have removed himself from consideration for a northern crown by being a southron king.

In regards to Sansa’s claim to Bran’s lands on his death, her rights run afoul of the assumption made by many poll responders that the Six Kingdoms were now an elective monarchy. A great council might consider her claim as a basis for her being a candidate should she wish to pursue it, but her blood tie to Bran would not automatically confer preference to her the way Stannis’ claim to the Iron Throne on Robert’s death should have been recognized.

We’ll return to that assumption in a moment.

Some interesting implications based on the survey responses:


If Sansa died (I got into some hot water just suggesting that) …

– without Arya being available to take over (guys, she’s sailing off the edge of the world), or without Jon Snow being pardoned and reinstated as King in the North, then there would no longer be a Stark in Winterfell.

We can all agree that after Bran fled Winterfell and until Sansa returned, there were no Starks in Winterfell. But with Bran excluded from ruling and Sansa dead, this is a more serious and long-term situation.

It would be the end of thousands of years of Stark rule in the North, unless one of the Karstarks could be renamed. (The Karstarks are a cadet branch of the Stark bloodline, so this wouldn’t be too unusual.)

But would it be a problem for the Starks to no longer rule? It would probably get people (people in this world) angry that all of their mythological assessments and meta-analysis about Summer Kings and Winter Queens would have a wrench thrown in the mix. I guess.

Some responders assumed that Northern rule would also be determined by the results of an election. That might be a stretch to assume. It’s fair to say that the North isn’t taking cues from the south, if they wouldn’t let Bran rule on Sansa’s death.


In regards to the south, it’s unclear if the process to elect Bran is now the new law of the land. Although Tyrion did imply that when he was hand-waving away the negatives for Bran Stark as a candidate…


But, that council had to select someone and there weren’t blood relatives of former monarchs to look to.

Jon Snow: What?
Gendry Waters: What?

Sam Tarly was trying to push the idea that things should get radically democratic in Westeros, but the rest of the assembled blue-bloods were more conservative in their outlook, so the decision to elect Bran doesn’t have to be interpreted as setting a new binding precedent.

During the Great Council of 100 AC (maybe it was 101 AC, IDK) fourteen claimants to be the heir of Jaehaerys I were examined and considered, even though Viserys Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon were the obvious headline contenders. The decision of that great council did not set a precedent that all successions going forward would be determined by committees; birthrights still held sway. So it seems premature to insist that the Six Kingdoms were now a staunchly elected monarchy. Particularly because that first Great Council took six months and included a thousand people, instead of an afternoon and a softball team.

Tyrion with a different chain of office.

Tyrion: Doesn’t matter. Once I was made Hand, it became the law of the land.

Although the kingdoms certainly could have embraced such a system if they were tired of child monarchs, and since Bran cannot have children, a great council will be likely to be called if he doesn’t have a designated heir. Could he even designate an heir in an elected monarchy? Could Sansa be that heir?

To know more, we’ll have to see what happens on Bran Stark’s death bed, sometime in the future.


The ultimate answer to these questions returns once again to the riddle of Lord Varys and his answer about power.

“Power resides where men believes it resides.”

Almost anything can happen in the political landscape of Westeros, should there be sufficient belief and will to make it happen. But it was interesting to pose these question to Twitter, and see what my demographic of followers believed. Some of the beliefs were interesting.

Like Bran never being able to claim Sansa’s kingdom, because obviously Sansa would never die –


Or Bran designating his own successor by warging into someone else, eliminating the need for a great council to make any decisions of that nature.

Almost anything can happen in Westeros.

For me, personally, getting people sharing their different opinions about the ending of Game of Thrones and discussing was satisfying, because it appears that more people have gotten further along through their stages of grief.

We’d gotten past the denial phase (although possibly people still in denial would refuse to participate in polls), and while some residual anger at the show seemed to be in evidence (people mad at Dorne not splitting too) no one was outraged. Thankfully, the bargaining phase of people demanding HBO remake the 8th (and maybe the 7th) season is over. Depression? Sure, we’re probably all still a little bit sad that the show didn’t land its ending the way we wanted.

But if we’re having a discussion of politics and social consequences, from the imperfect and unimpressive great council scene, then we’ve moved along to acceptance.

And that’s good.

We’re honestly just here for the buffet.

Because we still don’t know when the books are coming out. So talking about the show is going to have to do until then.

And once we’ve closed the pages on A Dream of Spring, maybe I can repeat my polls and see what people believe, in regards to power and the shadows on the wall.

(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.)

Image from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) 

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2020 Some Rights Reserved

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