Monday, June 24, 2019

Game of Thrones is Over So Who was Actually a King or a Queen

This is for people who have seen the series Game of Thrones in its entirety.  For those of you who did not this is your only warning…Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers… Spoilers.

So the hit series Game of Thrones has come to an end and the fans are up in arms to the point one starts to question if they actually liked the show.  I have to admit the end was kind of disappointing.  I thought it was either going to be Jon kills Daenerys and takes the Iron Throne to rule as King Aegon VI returning the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros to their glory days or Daenerys was going to kill Jon and rule as a Queen of the Kingdom of Ashes.  The first is the ending I wanted but the second I thought we were going to get and deserved.   Of course I thought when Ned Stark went to the scaffold I was about to witness a dramatic rescue scene.   

The ending we got something I was completely not expecting.  The most important part involved the two primary charters that the series seemed to have centered around. Daenerys still died at Jon’s hands but instead of assuming the Iron Throne Jon went the back to what was left of the Wall and then, as far as I can tell, went to go live with the free folk north of the Wall.  For the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros the North breaks away and the remaining six are suddenly transformed into the Holy Roman Empire.   Yes, I did not see that last part happening.   

On this blog I normally review history books and every now and again give a political opinion about something.  However since George R.R. Martin bases so much of his fictional world, stories, and characters on real historical events and people it might be fun to take a look at Game of Thrones from that perspective.  Throughout the series several characters laid claim to have been a king or a queen, the question I thought to answer would be how many of those characters would actual history books view as having been such?  Who would make the official list of monarchs of their various kingdoms when professional historians, students, and armatures looked back at events centuries later?  With that said let’s take a look.

Robert Baratheon
First claimed to be King: Prior to series start
Historically recognized: Yes

King Robert Baratheon was far and away the most successful king in the series

             Robert Baratheon was first born son of the Lord of Storms End, a position that was one of the great lords paramount of Westeros.  As a Baratheon he was closely related to the Targaryens.  Robert’s  ancestor Orys Baratheon was the bastard brother of Aegon the Conqueror and more recently his paternal grandmother was a daughter of King Aegon V.  Robert inherited his father’s title while he was still a boy when his parents were killed in a shipwreck.  Lord Robert then went to live with the Jon Arryan, the Lord of the Vale, as a ward to learn from him how to be a great lord.  There he met Eddard Stark, second son of the Lord of Winterfell, who became his lifelong best friend.

             When his attended Lyanna Stark ran off with Rhaegar Targaryen Lord Robert believing that she had been kidnapped, or refusing to believe the truth, rebelled against King Ares II.  Known as the Mad King, Aerys II had killed Rickard and Brandon Stark making Ned Stark the Lord of Winterfell.  Jon Aryyan joined an alliance with his former wards against their King.  Robert never gets Lyanna back but he kills Rhaegar and wins his rebellion.  With the Mad King dead by Jamie Lannister and the Mountain killing Rhaegar’s family Robert ascends to the Iron Throne. 

             Robert’s claim is one of the greatest.   It is even superior to that a king’s first-born son.  It is the claim my big army beat your big army.  What was won by King Aegon I can by lost by King Aerys II.  Although King Robert did not like to see it that way,  in his mind the rebellion was not his fault but a natural reaction to events where he as the victim.  King Aerys II and the rest of the Targaryens feel from power naturally and he was the rightful heir being a great-grandson of Aegon V.  Of course discovering Aerys’s other two children were still alive killed that narrative and he started to plot murder. 

            A good real life example is England’s King Henry IV.  He overthrew his tyrant cousin King Richard II and claimed the throne for himself.  Like Robert, Henry saw the rebellion as being not his fault but rather he was the victim of events.  And also like the fictional Robert, the real Henry tried to pretend that he was the natural heir to the throne, but in the end he really ruled by right of conquest.
 
King Henry IV of England the real life Robert
           In the entire series Robert is the strongest and most secure king.  He reigns for almost two decades; he successfully puts down counter rebellions or secessionists, and all former houses that stood for House Targaryen have had to make their peace with him.  At the time of his death King Robert I was the undisputed ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and clearly on any historians list.

Viserys Targaryen
First claimed to be King: Prior to series start
Historically recognized: Yes
The story of Viserys Targaryen: Woulda Coulda Shoulda

Old Pretender by rights should have been the King of England and who Viserys reminded me the most of
             This one might surprise people and I myself had to wait to very last episode before making this call. Now the first reaction might be “but this guy never really ruled how can he possibly be on any list”?  True many would/should have been kings typically do not make any official list just look at the Old and Young Pretenders.  However history has seen some would be rulers recognized as legitimate monarchs; a great example is France’s King Louis XVII.  Louis XVII was a child whose parents, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, were overthrown and killed during the French Revolution.   He himself never ruled and died in the custody of the revolutionaries.  After the fall of Napoleon the dead child’s uncle re-claimed the French crown.  The new King called himself Louis XVIII, thus recognizing his nephew’s legitimacy.

King Louis XVII of France, never on the Throne but on the list

             Born the second son of King Aerys II, Viserys spent his early childhood as a prince and the spare heir to the Kingdoms.  When his brother fell before Robert and King’s Landing was about to fall, his father the King declared Viserys his heir and sent him with his mother, Queen Rhalle, to be smuggled out of Westeros.  The Queen crowned Viserys when they heard of the death of his father.  She died giving birth to his sister Daenerys, and the two children lived as beggars on in off in Essos. Viserys survives, makes friends, and even has allies strong enough to arrange a marriage alliance for his sister.  However time in exile causes him to crack and become abusive towards his sister. In the end he is murdered by his own brother in law.

            Like little Louis, it the success and the establishment of another relative, in this case his sister (see Daenerys section), that keeps Viserys III on a historians list of Westeros monarchs.    
    
Balon Greyjoy
First claimed to be King: Prior to series start
Historically recognized: No
Balon Greyjoy, first in line a losers
            First the Greyjoys were never kings.  Even back when the Iron islands had their own independent monarch it was not the Greyjoys.  The last true King of the Iron Islands burnt in castle he built in Riverlands when Aegon the Conqueror torched it.  That wiped out the last ruling family and the Targaryens eventually allowed the Iron Islanders to select a new lord.  They chose the Greyjoys.   


           When Robert Baratheon overthrew the Targaryens, Balon wondered whether they should be loyal to the Iron Throne with a different family now controlling it.  Balon declared independence for the Iron Islands and crowned himself king.  Then Robert Baratheon showed up with his army and navy and kicked the snot out of him.  Towers were torn down and his older sons were killed and his youngest sent to live with Ned Stark.  Balon survived because he bent the knee to King Robert reestablishing the Iron Islands' connection of the Iron Throne. 

           As civil war breaks out among Lord Balon sees this as an opportunity to assert his independence again.  Once more proclaiming himself King of the Iron Islands he is approached by his long lost son Theon.  Theon offers him an alliance with Robb Stark against the Iron Throne.  Balon wants to pay the iron price for his independence and learning nothing from his previous mistakes he convinces Theon if he truly wants to be iron born he must turn on the North.  He sends his last son on a mission that was pointless where Theon got captured and his dick was cut off.  That ended the ability for Balon to continue the family through a male line.  He still had his daughter Yara who he liked better anyway, but she left to go find her brother. 

           After the war Balon is somewhat independent but that is just because no one is paying attention.  His own brother shows up and throws Balon's worthless self of a bridge.  At the end of the series Yara Greyjoy is in left in charge of Iron Islands but not as an independent queen but a lieutenant for a greater ruler.  Without the ability to establish his own independent kingdom, Balon goes down in history as a petty lord who thought he was a king.     
          
Mance Rayder
First claimed to be King: Prior to series start
Historically recognized: Maybe
Mance Rayder, one of history's great kings if Wildlings learn to read and write

            I hate to sound really mean here but this one totally depends on how literate the free folk are.  Mance Rayder a former member of the Night’s Watch who defected to the wildlings and ultimately united the tribes to earn himself the title “King Beyond the Wall.”  The thing is though does anyone know how many Kings beyond the Wall they have had?  It seems the only ones who may ever recognize Mance as a king may be the descendants of his adversaries to south.  Maybe Jon Snow taking the title at the end might help change some things up north of the Wall in regards to literacy?  Sam is not there though  so I doubt it.

Daenerys Targaryen
First claimed to be Queen: Season 1 Episode 6
Historically recognized: Yes
Queen Daenerys, everyone's favorite until those last few episodes

             For eight years the fans of Game of Thrones got to watch Daenerys Targaryen go from scared exiled princess to young kalessi to strong queen to mad tyrant.  That last one was a little hard for most of us to take.  I did not mind the result just the execution at the end was far too rushed. However was she a true queen?   The answer is yes.  For one she was indisputably the Queen of Meereen.  A second harder question is should she have been recognized as a Queen of Seven Kingdoms?   There is an argument for her not to be.  You can point out that she died so shortly after winning everything that she never had time to really be the queen.   However there are two things one needs to consider.  The first is she did, however briefly, rule it all.  The second is she made a couple of appointments that would outlive her reign: Yara Greyjoy and Gendry Baratheon.
Appointed Lady of the Iron Islands

            After losing the Iron Islands to her uncle Yara Greyjoy bends the knee to form an alliance with Daenerys in order to win them back.   With House Baratheon now extinct Daenerys decides to legitimatize King Robert’s bastard and give him the family titles.  Houses Targaryen and Baratheon were very close in the beginning and marrying in a number of times after.  Yet Baratheons betrayed the Targaryens usurping them and depriving them of the Iron Throne they had built and sat on for centuries.  Ironically Daenerys death and Jon Snow not accepting his legacy the Targaryens are now extinct but the Baratheons were saved by one the two acts of Daenerys. 
Appointed Lord of Stroms End

            When the Great Lords met at the end of the series Lord Gendry and Lady Yara were both among them and recognized by them.  And by acknowledging the legitimacy of those two they were by default acknowledging the legitimacy of Daenerys Targaryen.
         
Joffrey Baratheon
First claimed to be King: Season 1 Episode 7
Historically recognized: Yes
Joffrey Baratheon the child of evil

           As much as it may pain me to say it yes Joffrey would be historically recognized.  I know I can hear the cry “but he is an incestuous bastard.”  However some facts need to be taken into consideration.  First legally speaking he is the son of Robert Baratheon and Cersei Lannister for a husband always has presumed paternity over his wife’s children.  During his lifetime King Robert never challenged his presumed paternity over Joffrey and his siblings.  Also there is no way to really prove it short of public confession from Cersei or Jamie.  There is no such thing as a DNA test in Westeros.  Ned Stark’s recognition that “Joffrey is a blond Baratheon” may have been right but only a broken clock sense seeing it is actually a stupid argument.  His mother’s family is predominately blond.

           After his ascension Westeros plunged into civil war.  However that war was won and when the dust settled Joffrey was left sole ruler.  Despite his mother’s so called “Queen Regent” title Joffrey did primarily as he pleased as one could see with Ned Stark’s execution.  In the end the only way he could be removed was with an assassin’s poison.  
   
Stannis Baratheon
First claimed to be King: Season 1 Episode 8
Historically recognized: No
Stannis Baratheon, why did anyone like him?

            Yes I know he didn’t show up on screen to season 2.  But he been calling himself king the moment he got the raven from Ned Stark.  However he never really becomes king.  He has an army and he tries to become king but he never does.  Stannis never controls any part of Westeros outside of Dragonstone was far as I can tell.  He just keeps losing men and resources until he doesn’t have any anymore and Brienne of Tarth does him a favor and puts him out of his misery. 

             It is a good thing that he did not become king because Stannis wouldn’t have been a good one considering he is religious nut who lights people for not having the same religion, even his allies and relatives.   And since his is a minority religion he would be burning a lot of people.   

            Some might consider him a rightful king considering the true parentage of Cersei’s children, however as I said there was no way to really prove that.  Also being the rightful heir doesn’t really mean much just ask the Bonnie Prince Charlie or Viserys Targaryen. 
The Young Pretender AKA The Bonnie Prince Charlie could tell Stannis how useful it was to be the rightful heir


Renly Baratheon
First claimed to be King: Season 1 Episode 7
Historically recognized: No
Renly Baratheon, the right and wrong choice at the same time

             Renly was the only one of his brothers who had the right head to be a good moral king.  Unfortunately he lacked the ruthlessness of his brothers to succeed in the world of Game of Thrones.  Lord Renly should have arranged an assassination of his older brother Stannis the moment he heard that King Robert was dying.  Without such ruthlessness he looked like a fool who had no real claim to the Iron Throne as he was trying to seize it.

            Nevertheless it almost worked out for him, he kind or reminded me of gay version of England King Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror who through great political skill ended up in control of his all the dominions of his father.   However Renly was killed by a shadow creature before he could really rule anything. 
King Henry I of England like Renly without being fictional, gay, and killed by shadow creature

Robb Stark
First claimed to be King: Season 1 Episode 10
Historically recognized: Yes
Robb Stark, we will never be over that episode

           Despite the untimely end to a fan favorite character I have to stay he would be historical recognized.  This is true even though his bid for the Northern Independence ended in betrayal and his murder as well as several more murders.  King Robb certainly earned the right to be historically recognized through his great military prowess, but in the end that was not what did it.  Like Viserys Targaryen, a man who earned no braids[i], it was actually they success of little sister who gets him on the list.  Since Sansa is an independent Queen in the North at the end of the series Robb status as a historical King in the North is secured. 

Tommen Baratheon
First claimed to be King: Season 4 Episode 2
Historically recognized: Yes
Tommen Baratheon, worked hard to get people to miss Joffrey

           After we happily saw Joffrey die we never thought we would miss him.  But then this weak loser made it clear that removing Joffrey was such a mistake.  As bad as Joffrey was he would not have allowed his fear of violence, as he had none so long as he was in control, to prevent him from crushing a fanatical religious movement that ultimately kidnapped his brother -in-law, wife, and mother.  Stand by and do nothing while they are tortured and humiliated.  Nor would Joffrey had given in to said movement like Tommen even though it continued to harm those he cares for and put his mother in a desperate position.   When Cersei finally struck back it killed more people than would have died if King Tommen had just crushed them the moment the sparrows first tried to block his path.

          Best thing this loser ever did was throw himself out a window.

Yara Greyjoy
First claimed to be Queen: Season 6 Episode 5
Historically recognized: No
Yara Greyjoy hit her head on the iron glass ceiling

             When we first meet Yara we do not know who she is and Theon hits on her before being told she was his sister.  When he meets his father it is clear to Theon that Yara has replaced him as heir in his father’s eyes.  To earn it back Theon betrays the Starks and goes on a mission for his father that ends in his literal emasculation. 

             Theon returns to partial recovered and more mature chooses to support his sister’s claim, only to watch his sister hit the iron island glass ceiling.  Despite everything that happened the Ironborn were willing to have Theon as their leader over his sister, which means everything he went through was completely pointless!   When Theon throws his support to Yara their uncle Euron shows up, and despite him having murdered the previous leader, is elected ruler.

            Yara does eventually does get the Iron Islands.    However she does so not as an independent power but rather an agent of Queen Daenerys Targaryen and after her King Bran Stark.  So Yara goes down in history as the Lady of the Iron Islands not a queen.

Euron Greyjoy
First claimed to be King: Season 6 Episode 5
Historically recognized: No
Euron Greyjoy might have been the best Greyjoy but still a Greyjoy

            This is one is rather easy.  After taking control of the Iron Islands and proposing a possible marriage alliance with Cersei Lannister he could have possibly become a real king.  However the winners write history and Euron, like all the Greyjoys, was a loser.  Granted he was the most impressive member of his family and had some high moments but, like a Greyjoy, a failure in the end. 

Cersei Lannister
First claimed to be Queen: Season 6 Episode 10
Historically recognized: I don’t know maybe?
Queen Cersei was interesting to the end

             During the course of this series I often said that Cersei Lannister could be considered the greatest political player in the game of thrones if the world ended at the gates of Kings Landing.   Unfortunately for her Westeros was a continent.  

             Now Cersei is undoubtedly a queen consort as she was married to King Robert for number of years.  She played the role of queen mother for both Joffrey and Tommen.  Although she called herself “Queen Regent” that was a joke, she was never Regent over anyone seeing as Joffrey did whatever he wanted and Tommen did whatever other people wanted.   Now was she truly a Queen Regnant that is a queen who rules in her own right?

             Succeeding Tommen on the Iron Throne was somewhat questionable to begin with because I am not sure what lawful claim she had to it.  Also I am not sure how widely it was recognized.  After Tommen’s death Highgarden, Dorne, and the North were in full rebellion.  Daenerys controlled Dragonstone and also the Stormlands it would appear.  So it seems just the Crown Lands and Casterly Rock recognized Queen Cersei.  Eventually the Iron Islands when Euron came to town.  Jamie took Highgarden but they had to trade Casterly Rock, which may have been a good trade but then Daenerys took Highgarden right back.  Yara also took back the Iron Islands.  So where was Cersei queen but Kings Landing? 
  
Jon Snow
First claimed to be King: Season 6 Episode 10
Historically recognized: Yes
Jon Snow he really did no nothing including his own name

           Well we didn’t get to see Jon publicly recognize his lost heritage and become King Aegon VI of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.  However, as Jon Snow, he was proclaimed by his people to be the King in the North.  Granted it was a title he only held for a minute before bending the knee to Queen Daenerys, but with young sister/cousin becoming Queen in the end he will be recognized in the Northern Kingdom as one of their kings.  Also he might also now be King Beyond the Wall, again historical recognition for that may dependent on the Wildlings ability to read.

Sansa Stark
First claimed to be Queen: Season 8 Episode 6
Historically recognized: Yes
Sansa Stark, winner in the end

            Once upon a time Sansa was the one Stark I could not stand.  Yet watching grow from pawn to queen was one of the great arcs of the series.   I did think it was odd that the moment they made her brother king she decides that the North is seceding.  I would have thought the one thing to keep the North in their royal union would be Stark on melted throne.  But as Eddard Stark’s last son ascends Sansa says “we are out”?   However at the end of the series we see Sansa on her throne the established Queen in the North. 

Bran Stark
First claimed to be King: Season 8 Episode 6
Historically recognized: Yes
Brandon Stark Holy Roman Emperor, I mean King of the Six Kingdoms

          Who has a better story than Bran the Broken?  Someone whose story does not involve riding on the back of Hodor whose running through a forest as they search for a tree.  A story so exciting that it was left out of an entire season.  Which is okay is because know everything that happened to him that season. 

          "Hodor"
          "No, that is not the right tree."
          "Hodor"
           "No, that is not the right tree, either."
           "Hodor"
            "I know this is forest but we need the right tree not just any tree!" 

             I cannot think of another character whose storyline was more boring.  If given the choice between going over Bran’s story again or reading his uncle Edmure Tully’s autobiography A Search for Respect: One Lord’s Journey, with a forward written by the late Theon Greyjoy, I would learn more than I ever wanted to know about the Lord of the Riverlands.

             Brandon Stark AKA King Bran the Broken gets a reduced union of kingdoms, demoted from seven to six.  The broken king gets a broken nation when his own homeland shows it's faith by leaving.  Since we are told Bran cannot have children the remaining Kingdoms transform into a Westeros version of the Holy Roman Empire, with Bran as the first elected monarch.

HONORABLE MENTION
THE NIGHT KING
The Night King, I was hoping he would win

             He won’t count historically because I am quite certain zombies do not count their kings, despite that he grew his own crown.  However you do have to hand it this guy.  Think of all great moments the Night King had.  

The time where after defeating Jon Snow and the Wildlings on their retreat he takes all the enemy dead and raises them.  


The time where he took down a dragon with a single spear shot that he threw and later used that same dragon to bring down the Wall.  


The time where it looked like Daenerys was going to turn him into the Night Ashes but showed not only was he immune to fire but could stand in it and remain fully dressed.  (It was that last one that actually drove Queen Daenerys in sane.  Realizing that after all this time she did not have to go streaking though the fire was too much.  She burned Kings Landing just to see any clothing survived the onslaught and if so to make her into her new outfit.)


   

   It is true that he had terrible end but really who on show had a good one?



[i] Season 1 Reference.

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