In Part 1, we discussed the intertwining of marriage, love, and prophecy that plagued the generations of Prince Rhaegar’s grandfather and father, and the impact this intertwining had on the prince’s own life. In Part 2, we investigated the marriage of Rhaegar, Prince of Dragonstone, to Elia Martell, Princess of Dorne. In Part 3, we examined Lyanna Stark and the web of alliances woven by her father Rickard (along with several other high lords) referred to as “southron ambitions”. In Part 4, we considered the causes of, and notable events during, the great tourney thrown at Harrenhal in 281 AC, the so-called “Year of the False Spring”.
Though the tourney had attracted nearly all the high lords of Westeros – Lords Arryn, Baratheon, Tyrell, and (probably) Tully all attended, as well as the heir to the North and Prince Oberyn of Dorne – one great lord was notably absent: Tywin Lannister. The “Lion of the West” had reached a breaking point with his royal patron, preferring to brood in his great Rock than face a king who openly despised (and feared) him. Brooding – for more than one reason – with him was his beautiful (and still very eligible) maiden daughter, Cersei. Father and daughter had hoped for her to be queen, but instead of allying with the dragons, each would assist in cementing their downfall.
Hand of the Dragon: The Tywin-Aerys Relationship
Tywin Lannister (credit to Matt Smith – website here)
Why did Tywin so blatantly avoid the first outside venture of King Aerys since the Defiance of Duskendale – especially as the Lord of Casterly Rock was still Aerys’ Hand? The answer lies not in the decision of the moment, but rather in the nearly 20-year political relationship Tywin and Aerys enjoyed.
Aerys and Tywin’s personal relationship stretched back even farther. Sometime shortly after 254 AC, Tywin Lannister, heir to his father Tytos, was sent to King’s Landing to serve as a cupbearer at the court of King Aegon V. Having children serve as cupbearers is a tradition among highborn Westerosi children:
At eight, like many another highborn girl, the princess [Rhaenyra] was placed into service as a cupbearer … but for her own father, the king. (“The Rogue Prince”)
Like the fostering of children discussed in Part 3, sending young nobles to serve as cupbearers can forge important ties among lordly families:
“Horas was to come with us in your place, whilst you remained in the Arbor as Lord Paxter’s page and cupbearer. If you had pleased him, you would have been betrothed to his daughter.” (Randyll Tarly, to Samwell Tarly, “Samwell II”, A Feast for Crows)
Yet as with any exchange of noble children between families, pressing children into service as pages and cupbearers can create unofficial hostage situations. Though she never lived on the Westerosi continent, Daenerys knows well enough the value of holding noble children against the good conduct of their parents:
“We must keep them safe as well. I will have two children from each of them. From the other pyramids as well. A boy and a girl.”
“Hostages,” said Skahaz, happily. “Pages and cupbearers. If the Great Masters make objection, explain to them that in Westeros it is a great honor for a child to be chosen to serve at court.” (Daenerys Targaryen, to Skahaz mo Kandaq, “Daenerys II”, A Dance with Dragons)
Maester Yandel, author of The World of Ice and Fire, states only that Lord Tytos dispatched his young son to court to serve as a page. Yet the honor of serving the king himself surely could not have been secured by a lord on his own, even the paramount lord of the westerlands. Instead, it seems more likely that King Aegon (or his Hand) would have invited the Lannister heir to the Red Keep; the subsequent question, of course, is why.
As seen in Part 1, Aegon V had grand plans for aligning the great lords to his pro-smallfolk reforms; by marrying his five children into great lordly families, the king hoped to ensure these houses’ loyalty, even while his reforms undercut their power. However, instead of winning their support, Aegon was left with their ire, as one by one his children chose their spouses (or lack thereof) as they pleased.
A solution seemed to present itself in the form of House Lannister. Perhaps, having burned relations with Lords Tully, Tyrell, Redwyne, and (partly) Baratheon, Aegon hoped to ensure at least one future great lord would remain on his side. Moreover, the king had noted the weakness of Lord Tytos, even sending royal knights to calm the westerlands on three occasions. Perhaps Aegon wanted to draw young Tywin away from the poor, venal influence of his father and give him a strong, pro-royalist upbringing (and keep him as insurance against his father’s keeping the king’s peace in the West).
Whatever the cause of Tywin’s service at court, the boy soon made a close friend: Prince Aerys, only son of the heir-apparent, Jaehaerys. The two served as pages, along with a third boy, the prince’s first cousin Steffon Baratheon. Maester Yandel calls their relationship “inseparable”, and certainly Aerys would remember both friends over the course of his eventual reign. Yet even beyond their mutual service at court, another force would serve to cement the three boys’ relationship: the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
With the strong Aegon V gone, and the highly unmartial Jaehaerys II on the throne, the last Blackfyre pretender Maelys (along with a group of adventurers) invaded Westeros in 260 AC. Tywin – by then a knight – fought alongside his boyhood friends on the Stepstones, and even received the honor of knighting the prince when he earned his spurs the same year. The war provided the opportunity for many lords, fighting alongside one another, to forge lasting friendships; Hoster Tully, for one, became so acquainted with a minor lord from the Fingers that he took the man’s son, Petyr, as his ward at Riverrun – an unusual honor for a minor noble. That the war would do the same for Aerys, Tywin, and Steffon seemed assured.
In 262 AC, not long after the end of the war, Aerys came to the throne as King Aerys II; his first – and, according to the highly pro-Lannister Maester Yandel, wisest – decision was to name his friend Tywin as his Hand. The new Hand, the youngest ever named, had his work cut out for him. The young king was impulsive, constantly proposing grand but implausible ideas that he never pursued. To combat this erratic behavior, Tywin took firm control of the government, and for around five years peaceably directed the king’s actions.
But the peace could not last, for both personal and political reasons. The personal centered on Tywin’s cousin and wife, Joanna. Aerys had himself been attracted to the pretty Joanna since at least 259 AC, when she came to King’s Landing to serve as a lady-in-waiting to Princess Rhaella. What relationship the two of them enjoyed is a matter of some debate:
The scurrilous rumor that Joanna Lannister gave up her maidenhead to Prince Aerys the night of his father’s coronation and enjoyed a brief reign as his paramour after he ascended the Iron Throne can safely be discounted. As Pycelle insists in his letters, Tywin Lannister would scarce have taken his cousin to wife if that had been true, “for he was ever a proud man and not one accustomed to feasting upon another man’s leavings.”
It has been reliably reported, however, that King Aerys took unwonted liberties with Lady Joanna’s person during her bedding ceremony, to Tywin’s displeasure. Not long thereafter, Queen Rhaella dismissed Joanna Lannister from her service. No reason for this was ever given, but Lady Joanna departed at once for Casterly Rock and seldom visited King’s Landing thereafter. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Joanna Lannister and Aerys Targaryen (image credit to Salina – DeviantArt here)
What Maester Pycelle “insists” should be taken with some reservation; as a Lannister loyalist, Pycelle has good reason to dismiss any scurrilous rumors about the great Lord Tywin’s beloved wife. Additionally, as The World of Ice and Fire has been prepared for first King Robert and subsequently his two “half”-Lannister sons, Maester Yandel has little reason to explore further the possibility of the king’s deceased mother-in-law/grandmother reigning as mistress of the deposed Targaryen villain Aerys.
What is certain, however, is that Aerys was deeply infatuated with the Lady of Casterly Rock. Even Maester Yandel acknowledges the liberties taken at the bedding of Tywin and Joanna, as does Barristan Selmy:
The white knight chose his words with care. “Prince Aerys … as a youth, he was taken with a certain lady of Casterly Rock, a cousin of Tywin Lannister. When she and Tywin wed, your father drank too much wine at the wedding feast and was heard to say that it was a great pity that the lord’s right to the first night had been abolished. A drunken jape, no more, but Tywin Lannister was not a man to forget such words, or the … the liberties your father took during the bedding.” (Barristan Selmy, to Daenerys Targaryen, “Daenerys VII”, A Dance with Dragons)
While Aerys is unlikely to have done anything truly serious – openly raping Joanna in front of the assembled courtiers of King’s Landing would have been highly illegal and cause for justified retaliation – the king’s more-than-enthusiastic carrying out of the bawdy bedding traditions would have earned him no love from a man who hated others’ mockery of him and his House. Nor did Aerys cease there:
At the great Anniversary Tourney of 272 AC, held to commemorate Aerys’s tenth year upon the Iron Throne, Joanna Lannister brought her six-year-old twins Jaime and Cersei from Casterly Rock to present before the court. The king (very much in his cups) asked her if giving suck to them had “ruined your breasts, which were so high and proud.” The question greatly amused Lord Tywin’s rivals, who were always pleased to see the Hand slighted or made mock of, but Lady Joanna was humiliated. Tywin Lannister attempted to return his chain of office the next morning, but the king refused to accept his resignation. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
More than simple infatuation, Aerys’ inappropriate behavior toward Joanna Lannister reflected his unhappiness over his own marriage to Queen Rhaella. Tywin was clearly in love with Joanna, the only woman who could make him smile and even laugh; Aerys had been forced to marry his sister by his father’s belief in prophecy. Within three years of their marriage, Tywin and Joanna were parents to a set of healthy, beautiful twins; Queen Rhaella seemed unable to produce a viable child after Rhaegar, instead suffering a series of stillbirths, miscarriages, and deaths in early infancy. Aerys was intensely jealous of his Hand, and this jealousy, coupled with the king’s own declining mental health, developed into deep distrust severing the once-close relationship.
Politically, too, Aerys distrusted Tywin. The Hand had taken the reins of government, restoring many prerogatives to the nobility which the reforming Aegon V had removed from them. Tywin had also personally taken on the debt Jaehaerys II had received from the Braavosi during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, paying the Iron Bank back with Casterly Rock gold. Nor was Tywin ignorant of the value of associating his name with public good: he lowered tariffs in port cities and organized a number of popular tourneys. Such action meant that Tywin was widely regarded as the true power behind the throne, Aerys a king in name only – a thought the inherently jealous Aerys could not stand. While allowing Tywin to rule had given Aerys free rein for his mistresses and courtly pleasures, Tywin’s courting the nobility and wealthy likely disturbed Aerys’ paranoia.
Indeed, after 270 AC, the king began to quarrel more with his Hand. He dismissed Tywin’s westermen at court, fearful of a coterie of “Hand’s men” forming around him. The king also undermined the Hand’s reputation, not only by rejecting his decisions but by targeting him for undeserved blame:
Over his Hand’s strenuous objections, the king doubled the port fees at King’s Landing and Oldtown, and tripled them for Lannisport and the realm’s other ports and harbors. When a delegation of small lords and rich merchants came before the Iron Throne to complain, however, Aerys blamed the Hand for the exactions, saying, “Lord Tywin shits gold, but of late he has been constipated and had to find some other way to fill our coffers.” Whereupon His Grace restored port fees and tariffs to their previous levels, earning much acclaim for himself and leaving Tywin Lannister the opprobrium. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Their personal relationship finally deteriorated completely when, at the death of Joanna in childbirth in 273 AC, Aerys commented caustically on the newborn Tyrion:
Upon hearing of his birth, King Aerys infamously said, “The gods cannot abide such arrogance. They have plucked a fair flower from his hand and given him a monster in her place, to teach him some humility at last.” (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Tywin was probably well aware of the rumors of his wife’s relationship with the king. Now grieving for the woman he truly loved, and stuck with a deformed, twisted son who at worst could have been the king’s bastard, what Tywin wanted to hear least was the king’s mockery. While he continued to serve as Hand, whatever closeness had existed between him and the king was gone. Hardly surprising that, when the king was taken at the Defiance of Duskendale in 277 AC, Lord Tywin decided to act without great concern for the king’s safety:
Most of the small council were with the Hand outside Duskendale at this juncture, and several of them argued against Lord Tywin’s plan on the grounds that such an attack would almost certainly goad Lord Darklyn into putting King Aerys to death. “He may or he may not,” Tywin Lannister reportedly replied, “but if he does, we have a better king right here.” Whereupon he raised a hand to indicate Prince Rhaegar. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Lord Tywin’s interest in Prince Rhaegar had not begun at the Defiance. In fact, had Lord Tywin gotten his way, Rhaegar would have been not just a better king, but his own son-in-law.
The Queen Who Might Have Been: Rhaegar and Cersei
Cersei Lannister (image credit to Elia Mervi – DeviantArt here)
To call Cersei “the Queen Who Might Have Been” may seem slightly misleading. After all, Cersei did become Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and ruled (until recently) as Queen Regent for her two royal sons. Yet neither Cersei nor her lordly father would have imagined, in her girlhood, that she would eventually marry Robert Baratheon. While a second cousin of the Prince of Dragonstone, Robert was no more than the Lord of Storm’s End during her youth; Tywin had far grander aspirations for his only daughter.
That Rhaegar would have a marriage outside of his own family was a fact; as discussed in Part 1, without a viable sister for him to wed – and with the male Targaryen line reduced to Aerys and Rhaella’s issue – Rhaegar would need to find a non-royal bride.
Tywin may well have expected Aerys to choose one a daughter of one of his high lords. After all, when Daeron II had found himself in a similar situation – having four sons and no daughters or female relatives from close Targaryen lines – he married his princes to nobles: his heir Baelor to a Dondarrion, Aerys to a Penrose, Rhaegel to an Arryn, and Maekar to a Dayne. Nor were any of these ladies’ houses, with the possible exception of the Arryns, as exalted as House Lannister. Maester Gyldayn noted the importance of an exalted lineage in the royal consort:
The Hightowers of Oldtown were an ancient and noble family, of impeccable lineage; there could be no possible objection to the king’s choice of a bride. (“The Rogue Prince”)
Aegon V had wished to marry his children to the offspring of paramount lords. A marriage between a Lannister of the Rock and the Prince of Dragonstone, though not imagined in his scheme, would nevertheless cement as he had envisioned the relationship between the crown and its powerful lords. In a highly feudal government such as that in Westeros, the crown necessarily depends on high lords remaining loyal; when lords, and not the crown, control the vast majority of the armed forces and much of the realm’s wealth, snubbing lords invites rebellion.
Thus, in 276 AC Tywin hosted a tourney at Lannisport, inviting the king to see the westerlands for the first time in nearly 10 years. Ostensibly a celebration of the birth of Prince Viserys – the first surviving Targaryen child born since Rhaegar, then seventeen – the Lannisport tourney couched a hidden objective: to obtain Aerys’ agreement to the betrothal of Cersei to Rhaegar.
Certainly, Cersei herself was aware of her father’s mission, and had been from an early age (the age, in fact, when Aerys humiliated her mother at the Anniversary Tourney, suggesting the public disgrace as the moment when Tywin began to place his hope on Rhaegar rather than Aerys):
“When she was just a little girl, her father had promised her that she would marry Rhaegar. She could not have been more than six or seven. “Never speak of it, child,” he had told her, smiling his secret smile that only Cersei ever saw. “Not until His Grace agrees to the betrothal. It must remain our secret for now.” (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
Nor had Tywin kept the secret from Genna, his trusted sister, or from the Princess of Dorne, when she sought to arrange a Martell-Lannister match:
The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought, giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the queen. Her aunt had confided that truth to her before the tourney. “You must be especially beautiful,” Lady Genna told her, fussing with her dress, “for at the final feast it shall be announced that you and Prince Rhaegar are betrothed.” (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
“What I did not tell you was that my mother waited as long as was decent, and then broached your father about our purpose. Years later, on her deathbed, she told me that Lord Tywin had refused us brusquely. His daughter was meant for Prince Rhaegar, he informed her.” (Oberyn Martell, to Tyrion Lannister, “Tyrion IX”, A Storm of Swords)
Certainly, the tourney was a magnificent sight, as both Cersei and Maester Yandel relate:
Seventeen and new to knighthood, Rhaegar Targaryen had worn black plate over golden ringmail when he cantered onto the lists. Long streamers of red and gold and orange silk had floated behind his helm, like flames. Two of her uncles fell before his lance, along with a dozen of her father’s finest jousters, the flower of the west. (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
There, seated on his throne amongst hundreds of notables in the shadow of Casterly Rock, the king cheered lustily as his son Prince Rhaegar, newly knighted, unhorsed both Tygett and Gerion Lannister, and even overcame the gallant Ser Barristan Selmy, before falling in the champion’s tilt to the renowned Kingsguard knight Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Yet Tywin was doubtless undismayed by his brothers’ and knights’ poor showing against the Prince of Dragonstone. Victories for them would have potentially shamed and infuriated King Aerys, and put confirmation of the betrothal in jeopardy. Far better to have the dashing prince win against the chivalry of the west, the better to put Aerys in a good mood and more amenable to Cersei and Rhaegar’s engagement. Consider how the hedge knight Ser Kyle the Cat saw his tilt against Ser Joffrey Caswell:
If any man upon the field felt worse than Dunk this morning, it had to be Lord Caswell, who had drunk himself insensible at the feast. “It’s a wonder he can sit a horse, after last night,” said Dunk. “The victory is yours, ser.”
“Oh, no.” Ser Kyle smiled a silken smile. “The cat who wants his bowl of cream must know when to purr and when to show his claws, Ser Duncan. If His Lordship’s lance so much as scrapes against my shield, I shall go tumbling to the earth. Afterwards, when I bring my horse and armor to him, I will compliment His Lordship on how much his prowess has grown since I made him the first sword. That will recall him to me, and before the day is out, I shall be a Caswell man again, a knight of Bitterbridge.” (Ser Kyle the Cat, to Ser Duncan the Tall, “The Mystery Knight”)
By arranging for such a splendid tourney, with large prizes and a great gathering of western knights, Tywin demonstrated that the westerlands was a realm to be respected, a wealthy and powerful ally to the crown.
Unfortunately for Lord Tywin, the betrothal did not occur as planned:
Her laughter died at tourney’s end. There had been no final feast, no toasts to celebrate her betrothal to Prince Rhaegar. Only cold silences and chilly looks between the king and her father. Later, when Aerys and his son and all his gallant knights had departed for King’s Landing, the girl had gone to her aunt in tears, not understanding. “Your father proposed the match,” Lady Genna had told her, “but Aerys refused to hear of it. ‘You are my most able servant, Tywin,’ the king said, ‘but a man does not marry his heir to his servant’s daughter’. Dry those tears, little one. Have you ever seen a lion weep? Your father will find another man for you, a better man than Rhaegar.” (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
It was a consummately callous dismissal on the part of the king. Tywin was indeed a servant of the crown, yet while he served (and Aerys played), the realm prospered. For Tywin, Aerys’ dismissal of Cersei as a bride for Rhaegar was a political disaster, a refutation of House Lannister as a dynasty worthy to mingle its blood with that of the dragon – in fact, an undermining of Tywin’s whole scheme to glorify his House. For Cersei, the disaster was more personal:
When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes. He has been wounded, she recalled thinking, but I will mend his hurt when we are wed. Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
Rhaegar was the acme of a romantic young Westerosi girl’s desires: handsome, gallant, excelling in chivalry and seemingly deeply soulful. Indeed, Rhaegar is the only person Cersei acknowledges to be more beautiful and desirable than her own beloved Jaime – a high mark of praise. Nor does Cersei ever forget Rhaegar. During her regency for King Tommen, she give honors and – eventually – a fleet to Aurane Waters, a young man whose Valyrian heritage lends him a slight resemblance to the nearly twenty-years-dead Prince of Dragonstone.
The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. (“Cersei III”, A Feast for Crows)
Aurane Waters seemed as bored as Cersei by all this prattle about septons. Seen up close, his hair was more silvery than gold, and his eyes were grey-green where Prince Rhaegar’s had been purple. Even so, the resemblance… She wondered if Waters would shave his beard for her. (“Cersei IV”, A Feast for Crows)
Cersei explicitly references his resemblance to Rhaegar as the reason for her noting him, and subsequently raising him to the admiralty. That Aurane fought for her bitter enemy Stannis, and is largely inexperienced for his position, makes no difference to Cersei. In fact, her blindness toward Aurane, focusing solely on his visual similarity to Rhaegar, eventually betrays her, as Aurane absconds with the dromonds he persuaded her to build in lieu of repaying the crown’s debt to the Faith or the Iron Bank.
For Cersei, and for Kevan Lannister, Rhaegar remains a lost hope, a symbol of what could have been a glorious union of lion and dragon, and avoided the bloodshed of Robert’s Rebellion:
If she had only married Rhaegar as the gods intended, he would never have looked twice at the wolf girl. Rhaegar would be our king today and I would be his queen, the mother of his sons. She had never forgiven Robert for killing him. (“Cersei V”, A Feast for Crows)
Cersei could have given the prince the sons he wanted, lions with purple eyes and silver manes … and with such a wife, Rhaegar might never have looked twice at Lyanna Stark. (“Epilogue”, A Dance with Dragons)
Tywin, however, was not a man to look nostalgically at what might have been. Cersei would not be Rhaegar’s queen, but House Targaryen would learn the cost of mocking the lions.
The Un-laughing Lion: The Lannisters’ Role in the Targaryens’ Demise
Despite the humiliation Tywin suffered at the Lannisport tourney, he continued to serve as Aerys’ Hand. The king had already once refused his resignation – after his scandalous remarks at the Anniversary Tourney – but perhaps Tywin himself saw the advantage of remaining close to the king. After the Defiance of Duskendale in 277 AC, Aerys had descended fully into madness, refusing to leave the Red Keep or let any blades near his person save those of his Kingsguard. Even touching the king was forbidden, leaving the once-handsome Aerys an unwashed, grotesque figure. With such an unpredictable, violent (he demanded the deaths of all the Darklyns and Hollards of Duskendale, save only young Dontos Hollard) man on the throne, Tywin may well have wanted to keep near him, the better to predict and counter any moves Aerys might make against him.
Certainly, any lingering trust Aerys had in his boyhood friend and Hand had completely evaporated. In 278 AC, Aerys sent their other friend, Steffon Baratheon, to the Free Cities to find a bride for Rhaegar. Maester Yandel notes the implications of the king’s decision:
That His Grace entrusted this task to the Lord of Storm’s End rather than his Hand, or Rhaegar himself, speaks volumes. The rumors were rife that Aerys meant to make Lord Steffon his new Hand upon the successful completion of this mission, that Tywin Lannister was about to be removed from office, arrested, and tried for high treason. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Nor would Aerys deign to meet with his Hand, save in the presence of all seven Kingsguard. Even the accidental death of Steffon after his failed mission – his ship being destroyed in the aptly named Shipbreakers’ Bay – was blamed on Tywin, the king expressing fear that if he dismissed his Hand he would be “murdered” as well. Then, in 281 AC, Aerys offered a white cloak to Jaime, Tywin’s eldest son and heir.
Other lords might dream of their sons wearing a white cloak, but for Tywin, Aerys’ offer was nothing short of humiliating. Jaime was just 15 but already a promising knight, dubbed by the great Kingsguard Ser Arthur Dayne for valor against the outlaw Kingswood Brotherhood. More importantly, the tall, golden-haired, handsome Jaime was Tywin’s hope for the continuation of the Lannister line; with Jaime made a Kingsguard, Casterly Rock would by law pass to Tywin’s second son, the dwarf Tyrion. Worst of all, to have a son named to the famed Kingsguard was ostensibly a great honor, one to which Tywin Lannister could not openly object, as Cersei knew well.
Old Ser Harlan Grandison had died in his sleep, as was only appropriate for one whose sigil was a sleeping lion. Aerys would want a young man to take his place, so why not a roaring lion in place of a sleepy one?
“Father will never consent,” Jaime objected.
“The king won’t ask him. And once it’s done, Father can’t object, not openly. Aerys had Ser Ilyn Payne’s tongue torn out just for boasting that it was the Hand who truly ruled the Seven Kingdoms. The captain of the Hand’s guard, and yet Father dared not try and stop it! He won’t stop this, either.” (“Jaime II”, A Storm of Swords)
Though Tywin could not know that his own daughter had schemed to place his son in the Kingsguard, Aerys’ choice finally broke the relationship between king and Hand.
Yet Grand Maester Pycelle tells us that when Aerys II announced Ser Jaime’s appointment from the Iron Throne, his lordship went to one knee and thanked the king for the great honor shown to his house. Then, pleading illness, Lord Tywin asked the king’s leave to retire as Hand.
King Aerys was delighted to oblige him. Lord Tywin accordingly surrendered his chain of office and retired from court, returning to Casterly Rock with his daughter. The king replaced him as Hand with Lord Owen Merryweather, an aged and amiable lickspittle famed for laughing loudest at every jape and witticism uttered by the king, no matter how feeble. (“Aerys II”, The World of Ice and Fire)
While Aerys made a great show of investing Jaime with the white cloak at the Harrenhal tourney, Tywin brooded in his imposing seat. With many westermen present at the tourney, Tywin would doubtless have heard of Aerys’ spectacle; as a man who himself appreciated the value of public displays, he would have recognized the very public snub Aerys intended Jaime’s investiture to be. For Tywin, the ceremony would likely have brought back cruel reminders of another humiliation to House Lannister: the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion.
End of the Reynes of Castamere (image credit to Robin F – DeviantArt here)
During his youth, Tywin’s father Lord Tytos had been an easygoing, forgiving overlord, allowing his bannermen to take out vast loans against Casterly Rock which they never repaid. Instead, his lackadaisical rule allowed two of his bannermen, Houses Reyne and Tarbeck, to grow powerful and defiant:
Old, rich, and powerful, the Reynes had prospered greatly from Lord Tytos’s misrule. Roger Reyne, the Red Lion, was widely feared for his skill at arms; many considered him the deadliest sword in the westerlands. His brother, Ser Reynard, was as charming and cunning as Ser Roger was swift and strong.
As the Reynes rose, so too did their close allies, the Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall. After centuries of slow decline, this poor but ancient house had begun to flourish, thanks in large part to the new Lady Tarbeck, the former Ellyn Reyne. Though she herself remained unwelcome at the Rock, Lady Ellyn had contrived to extract large sums of gold from House Lannister through her brothers, for Lord Tytos found it very hard to refuse the Red Lion. Those funds she had used to restore the crumbling ruin that was Tarbeck Hall, rebuilding its curtain wall, strengthening its towers, and furnishing its keep in splendor to rival any castle in the west. (“House Lannister Under the Dragons”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Lady Ellyn had been frustrated in her attempt (with two Lannister marriages) to become the Lady of Casterly Rock; instead, she and her Reyne kin worked to undermine the power of the weak-willed Tytos. The lord might have been forgiving of such action, but his heir was not:
Ser Tywin began by demanding repayment of all the gold Lord Tytos had lent out. Those who could not pay were required to send hostages to Casterly Rock …
Lord Reyne reportedly laughed when his maester read him Ser Tywin’s edicts and counseled his friends and vassals to do nothing. (“House Lannister Under the Dragons”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Even more shockingly, when Tywin imprisoned Lord Walderan Tarbeck for coming to Casterly Rock to protest the debt repayment, Lady Ellyn captured three Lannisters: two Lannisters of Lannisport and the heir of Lord Tytos’ late brother Jason. Instead of retaliating, however, Lord Tytos agreed to release Lord Walderan and exchange him for the Tarbeck prisoners, even forgiving the Tarbeck debts.
Tytos might have been forgiving, but for Tywin, the defiance of Houses Reyne and Tarbeck could not go unpunished. They had used and mocked House Lannister, and even seized three Lannisters and held them imprisoned. The time had come to teach them a brutal lesson about the power of his House:
Late in the year 261 AC, he sent ravens to Castamere and Tarbeck Hall, demanding that Roger and Reynard Reyne and Lord and Lady Tarbeck present themselves at Casterly Rock “to answer for your crimes.” The Reynes and Tarbecks chose defiance instead, as Ser Tywin surely knew they would. Both houses rose in open revolt, renouncing their fealty to Casterly Rock …
House Tarbeck was the first to feel Ser Tywin’s wroth. In a short, brutal battle, the Tarbecks were broken and butchered. Lord Walderan Tarbeck and his sons were beheaded, together with his nephews and cousins, his daughters’ husbands, and any man who displayed the seven-pointed blue-and-silver star upon his shield or surcoat to boast of Tarbeck blood. And when the Lannister host resumed its march to Tarbeck Hall, the heads of Lord Walderan and his sons went before them, impaled on spears … (“House Lannister Under the Dragons”, The World of Ice and Fire)
With the Tarbecks and their castle destroyed, Tywin turned to the Reynes, who had hidden in the deep former gold mines beneath the modest keep of Castamere:
[Tywin] commanded that mines be sealed. With pick and axe and torch, his own miners brought down tons of stone and soil, burying the great gates to the mines until there was no way in and no way out. Once that was done, he turned his attention to the small, swift stream that fed the crystalline blue pool beside the castle from which Castamere took its name. It took less than a day to dam the stream and only two to divert it to the nearest mine entrance …
Ser Reynard had taken more than three hundred men, women, and children into the mines, it is said. Not a one emerged. A few of the guards assigned to the smallest and most distant of the mine entrances reported hearing faint screams and shouts coming from beneath the earth one night, but by daybreak the stones had gone silent once again. (“House Lannister Under the Dragons”, The World of Ice and Fire)
Tywin had not simply put down two rebellious lordly families; he had thoroughly and ruthlessly eliminated them. The brutal manners in which he retaliated against the Tarbecks and Reynes – butchering anyone wearing the Tarbeck arms, forcing every Reyne seeking safety (including women and children) to drown – emphasized how deeply personal Tywin considered rebellion against his House. The quelling of the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion was not simply a political move designed to re-emphasize the power of House Lannister, but an act of personal vengeance on the part of the vengeful and unforgiving Tywin.
Like the defiant Reynes and Tarbecks, Aerys had used and abused the wealth and resources of House Lannister (in the person of Tywin). Like Lord Reyne and Lady Tarbeck, Aerys had indicated (by callously refusing Cersei as a match for Rhaegar) that House Lannister was not a family to be respected. Like Lady Ellyn, Aerys had taken a Lannister hostage, by seizing Ser Jaime for his Kingsguard. The trials of the Reyne-Tarbeck Rebellion were replaying themselves before Tywin’s eyes, and he would not hesitate to teach the Mad King the same brutal lesson he had taught Lady Ellyn and the Red Lion.
Although he sat out much of the Rebellion, Tywin took control of sacking King’s Landing at the Rebellion’s end. With a force of 12,000 westermen, Tywin appeared before the city gates, promising loyalty to the crown, and Aerys made a fatal choice:
Aerys Targaryen must have thought that his gods had answered his prayers when Lord Tywin Lannister appeared before the gates of King’s Landing with an army twelve thousand strong, professing loyalty. So the mad king had ordered his last mad act. He had opened his city to the lions at the gate. (“Eddard II”, A Game of Thrones)
Instead, Tywin unleashed his unblooded westermen on the city, and what followed was a sack of such brutality that it sickened even the battle-hardened Ser Jorah Mormont:
“Your Grace,” said Jorah Mormont, “I saw King’s Landing after the Sack. Babes were butchered that day as well, and old men, and children at play. More women were raped than you can count.” (Jorah Mormont, to Daenerys Targaryen, “Daenerys II”, A Storm of Swords)
Even more horrifically, Princess Elia and her two young children – kept in King’s Landing as hostages against the loyal behavior of Dorne – were brutally murdered by Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch:
“Elia of Dorne,” they all heard Gregor say, when they were close enough to kiss. His deep voice boomed within the helm. “I killed her screaming whelp.” He thrust his free hand into Oberyn’s unprotected face, pushing steel fingers into his eyes. “Then I raped her.” Clegane slammed his fist into the Dornishman’s mouth, making splinters of his teeth. “Then I smashed her fucking head in. Like this.” (Ser Gregor Clegane, to Oberyn Martell, “Tyrion X”, A Storm of Swords)
“It is justice. It was Ser Amory who brought me the girl’s body, if you must know. He found her hiding under her father’s bed, as if she believed Rhaegar could still protect her. Princess Elia and the babe were in the nursery a floor below.” (Tywin Lannister, to Tyrion Lannister, “Tyrion VI”, A Storm of Swords)
Elia Martell’s Last Moments (image credit to Achen089 – DeviantArt here)
Tywin Lannister himself gave the order for the murders of Aegon and Rhaenys, to eliminate the late Rhaegar’s heirs and end the Targaryen line. Curiously, however, Tywin seemed to keep himself largely free from blame from the brutal manner it was done, as well as from the rape and murder of Elia:
“I grant you, it was done too brutally. Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”
“Then why did the Mountain kill her?”
“Because I did not tell him to spare her. I doubt I mentioned her at all. I had more pressing concerns…The rape…even you will not accuse me of giving that command, I would hope. Ser Amory was almost as bestial with Rhaenys. I asked him afterward why it had required half a hundred thrusts to kill a girl of…two?” (Tywin Lannister, to Tyrion Lannister, “Tyrion VI”, A Storm of Swords)
What is strange about this exchange is the way in which Tywin quickly attempts to change the subject when confronted by Tyrion about the Mountain’s orders. Tywin brings up the rape of Elia – which Tyrion had not mentioned – and then quickly dismisses the idea that he could have commanded Ser Gregor to rape the Dornish princess. The diversion tactic reads eerily similarly to what Cersei tried against the High Septon, after being arrested:
“In time,” said the High Septon. “You also stand accused of conspiring at the murder of your own lord husband, our late beloved King Robert, First of His Name.”
Lancel, Cersei thought. “Robert was killed by a boar. Do they say I am a skinchanger now? A warg? Am I accused of killing Joffrey too, my own sweet son, my firstborn?” (The High Septon, to Cersei Lannister, “Cersei I”, A Dance with Dragons)
Like her father, Cersei brings up the murder of Joffrey – a crime she obviously did not commit – to distract from the accusation about the death of Robert – a hunting accident she certainly helped orchestrate and make fatal. The implication seems clear: Tywin ordered, if not the rape, definitely the murder of Princess Elia and her children, and gave free rein to two of his most brutal knights to do so. While Elia had not personally wronged Tywin, she had secured what Tywin had most desired: marriage to Prince Rhaegar. She represented one of Aerys’ great slights against House Lannister, and for that, she had to die:
“Well, Prince Rhaegar married Elia of Dorne, not Cersei Lannister of Casterly Rock. So it would seem your mother won that tilt.”
“She thought so,” Prince Oberyn agreed, “but your father is not a man to forget such slights. He taught that lesson to Lord and Lady Tarbeck once, and to the Reynes of Castamere. And at King’s Landing, he taught it to my sister.” (Oberyn Martell, to Tyrion Lannister, “Tyrion IX”, A Storm of Swords)
By ordering the large-scale destruction of King’s Landing and the brutal murders of the Princess of Dragonstone and her children – including the new heir to the throne – Tywin had taught his former royal patron the same lesson he had taught his unruly bannermen: the lion of Lannister is a beast to be feared, not mocked.
What, then, of Rhaegar’s would-be queen, Cersei? Tywin still had royal ambitions for her, and unlike Aerys, he succeeded in fulfilling them:
And Cersei . . . I have Jon Arryn to thank for her. I had no wish to marry after Lyanna was taken from me, but Jon said the realm needed an heir. Cersei Lannister would be a good match, he told me, she would bind Lord Tywin to me should Viserys Targaryen ever try to win back his father’s throne. (Robert Baratheon, to Eddard Stark, “Eddard VII”, A Game of Thrones)
After the Rebellion, Tywin Lannister was the richest and most powerful lord in Westeros – and unlike the also-wealthy Mace Tyrell (whose military power remained largely intact), Tywin had proven himself loyal to the new dynasty. With Lyanna Stark dead, both the Tully maids wed, and Jon Arryn without a daughter to offer, Cersei was the only eligible candidate of the great pro-Baratheon Houses for Robert to wed.
From her early youth, Cersei had dreamed of marrying Rhaegar. Instead, she had seen him first married to the good and gentle Elia of Dorne, then abandon his princess for the wild and fiery Lyanna Stark. None of these ladies likely ever knew the true, prophetic-driven machinations of Rhaegar’s mind. Yet by investigating their lives, we can begin to understand a little more the complexities of the time and place we as readers never see – a world whose dramatic events directly influence and shape the current age of A Song of Ice and Fire.
Thanks to everyone for reading this series! I hope you enjoyed reading about these ladies as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them. You can always find me (and the blog!) on Twitter for more ASOIAF fun.