The Wise Dragon: Jaehaerys I

King Jaehaerys, Good Queen Alysanne, and their son, Aemon, by Magali Villeneuve

After the reigns of Aenys and Maegor, the short-lived Targaryen dynasty was in shambles. The thirty-seven years of Aegon’s reign had been quite promising, but it looked like the dynasty that was built by one king would be broken by two. Yet at the moment when Aegon’s dream seemed in danger of dissipating, up rose a claimant that would turn the troubles into a fifty-five year golden age for Westeros and House Targaryen. It is almost universally held among the Westerosi that the best time in the country’s history was during the reign of Jaehaerys. His queen would be loved by the smallfolk for her grace and charity, and even his Hand, Septon Barth, would become a by-word for an able and competent administrator and a meritocratic role model for the smallfolk, a man that was in his own way even greater than the legendary Ryam Redwyne. This one king reversed a slide into oblivion and made the Targaryen dynasty to lofty heights that even Aegon might have been hard-pressed to match.

Much of this essay builds off my previous essay “The Genius of the Old King,” so this piece will focus more upon what we learned about Jaehaerys in The World of Ice and Fire, rather than from other sources that have been previously discussed.

Winning Without Fighting: Building the Perfect Campaign

“Though young to the throne, Jaehaerys revealed himself from an early age to be a true king.” –A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

Even from a young age, Jaehaerys demonstrated his skill for unifying the nation that he would one day rule. He had escaped from the control of his tyrannical uncle and found safe haven with Lord Robar Baratheon of Storm’s End. Maegor’s unceasing war and butchery of the Faith Militant earned Maegor plenty of opponents. The Faith Militant found new leaders in Ser Joffrey Doggett and Septon Moon, who rallied much of the religiously devout Riverlands behind them, including House Tully. In the Westerlands, many of the noble houses has offered protection to Jaehaerys’s older brother, Aegon, and lost nobles and levies alike in his failed succession crisis. These houses were eager to pay Maegor back his bloody coin, and House Lannister stood behind them as well, lending Jaehaerys the support that they would not offer Aegon the Younger.

The only advantage Maegor had was Balerion the Black Dread, but even as mighty as Balerion was, it wasn’t enough. While dragons are the most powerful weapons of war in Westeros by a vast margin, dragons have several shortcomings which make it folly to rely exclusively upon them. Dragons cannot occupy territory the way infantry can. They cannot be converted to a peacetime use. An army can win a war with dragons, but not only with dragons.

Thus, even though Maegor had the largest dragon in the realm and was himself a great warrior, he had no support for his campaign. His mother had died of age, and she had been one of his principal supporters. House Tully supported him earlier against Aegon the Younger, but now rose in revolt with the Faith. House Velaryon absconded with the royal fleet, Storm’s End and the Riverlands fenced King’s Landing in on all sides, so escape was not an option. Maegor was left to stare defeat in the face, lost before he had even drawn battle. With Jaehaerys’s large and powerful army backing this new dragon prince, Maegor’s days were numbered. The bloody king would die ignobly, and King Jaehaerys would ascend unopposed.

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Statue of Julian the Apostate, Emperor of Rome

There are some odd parallels in Jaehaerys and Maegor’s non-confrontation in the historic Roman Empire. The sitting emperor, Constantius II, had no living child of his body (though his third and final wife would bear him a posthumous daughter), and his previous heir, Constantius Gallus, had been executed six years prior for corruption. Without a clear succession, unrest was rising. Julian, later known as Julian the Apostate, would be acclaimed Augustus in Paris after victories achieved by his troops in 360 A.D. This would embroil Julian in a civil war with Constantius, and the two would gather forces and marched toward a decisive confrontation. However, before Julian and Constantius could come to blows, Constantius became violently ill, and knew that death was fast approaching. As he lay dying, he named Julian as his heir and Emperor of Rome. Naming Julian spared the Empire the problems of an unclear succession as well as the troubling matter of Julian’s ‘treason’ in Paris. Like Constantius, Maegor had no surviving issue of his body, and his death paved the way for Jaehaerys to take the capital and the crown without even bringing his mighty army into battle.

“Winning without combat is the acme of skill.” -Sun Tzu, The Art of War

In winning without victory, we see the perfect use of a large army for political, rather than military reasons. In political contexts, while a large army can be often be seen as a bullying tactic, it remains an effective tool for negotiation, especially in keeping the smaller side enforcing their own end of the bargain. The United States was both famous and infamous for the use of its powerful navy as a show of force. This technique would be called ‘gunboat diplomacy,’ and it would be a major component of United States foreign policy in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, popularized with the Teddy Roosevelt witticism “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Jaehaerys, with his large stable of dragons, would be practicing his own form of ‘dragon diplomacy’ much like his storied grandfather Aegon I.

https://i2.wp.com/pre09.deviantart.net/74ec/th/pre/f/2012/222/3/9/faith_of_the_seven_by_mustamirri-d5ajd5e.jpg

The Seven, by Mustamirri

The Defender of the Faith

The peace with the Faith Militant was always one of the principal reasons Jaehaerys was thought of as a great king. I argued in my previous essay that the Crown really won out in that deal, and that original thesis holds true, but the sorry state of the Faith Militant was never very apparent until A World of Ice and Fire. While the Faith seemed able to wage ceaseless war on Maegor and absorb the devastating losses that he was able to inflict, the truth was that the Faith was in a very poor state by the end of the war. Jaehaerys’s peace deal, and the incredible one-sidedness of it all, make much more sense when this is taken into consideration.

While the Faith had shown an admirable ability to wage war, the Crown had larger armies and far more influence over the nobility of Westeros. Now with Jaehaerys, the rebel uprising had a claimant that had money, military, and a blood-right to the Throne. After he deposed his uncle, Jaehaerys could have easily resumed the war against the Faith, and given their sorry state, it would have been a hard war to win on the Faith’s part. The Warrior’s Sons had to thrown in the towel in the face of such devastating military defeats at the hands of Maegor Targaryen, but given Maegor’s notorious brutality and unwillingness to seek peace, the Faith had to keep fighting until a better option could come along. Jaehaerys would be that better option.

The Faith Militant campaign can only be seen as an appalling failure of a campaign, despite all the bloodshed. The Swords and Stars won none of the objectives that they sought to gain, and in the end, lost the right to use arms as a means to achieve objectives set by the High Septon and Most Devout. The blasphemous marriage tradition of the Targaryens continued unabated and the ‘abominations of incest’ would continue to sit the Throne and rule Westeros. Jaehaerys represented a way out that wasn’t the complete gutting of the Faith as a political force and in fact, won the Faith some hard-won legitimacy by officially tying the institutions of the Faith and the Iron Throne together. From henceforth, the sitting king would be the defender of the Faith, much as the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom bears responsibility for the defense of the Anglican Church.

Amusingly, while Maegor’s campaign of sustained brutality could not achieve his own strategic aims, it would play itself very well to helping Jaehaerys achieve his own political goals, and this played out several times in our own histories countless times. Many commanders have seen their enemies seize upon their actions, co-opting third parties onto their side to swell their numbers. Maegor ensured that the Faith itself needed protection since its own armies were completely devastated by the royal campaign, but Maegor himself could not be the ultimate victor over the Faith because of his refusal to seek a political solution for victory. By buying into Jaehaerys’s campaign early, the Faith gave the prospective claimant the backing of the entire religious institution, the same approval that Aegon I received at the hands of the High Septon that legitimized his rule over Westeros some forty years prior. By smoothing Jaehaerys’s ascension, the Faith looked to ensure they were on the winning side.

Jaehaerys’s incorporation and pardoning of the Faith is reminiscent of Tywin Lannister’s maxim: “When (your enemies) go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet.” Jaehaerys removed the Faith’s ability to cause problems further down the road, but he pulled them to their feet, renewed the ties that Aegon forged when he converted religions and received his crown from the High Septon, and won himself the title ‘Conciliator.’ From such auspicious beginnings, Jaehaerys would go on to forge even greater achievements.

Building and Pruning – Managing the Family Line

Jaehaerys’s reign would last for fifty-five years of peace and prosperity, twice the length of Aegon’s rule, and a full three times longer than the peaceful years of Aegon’s reign that followed the First Dornish War. Certainly, a push for peace was desirable among many after Maegor’s long and brutal war against the Faith Militant, but as history in both our own world and the world of Planetos informs us, anti-war feelings don’t usually last three generations. How did Jaehaerys double the feat of Aegon and pacify the many vassals under him?

His secret rested in the same technique that Aegon used to keep himself secure: a wide and balanced distribution of political offices that suggested equitable treatment and equal respect for all his vassals, while at the same time, rewarding those vassals who supported his campaign. Lord Robar Baratheon, the lord who sheltered Jaehaerys as well as his sister and mother at Storm’s End, would be named Hand of the King. This act mirrored Aegon’s reward of Lord Edmyn Tully, the first man to swear allegiance to Aegon in his campaign against Harren the Black; Edmyn was given a high position and would later serve as Hand of the King after Orys Baratheon resigned (after his maiming by the Wyl of Wyl) Later, Jaehaerys’s eldest surviving son and heir Aemon would wed Jocelyn Baratheon to further cement the blood ties between the two Houses.

Jaehaerys’s second living son, Baelon the Brave, would wed his sister in the Targaryen tradition, but the marriage of Jaehaerys’s second daughter to Lord Rodrik Arryn is most interesting. While a royal marriage to a daughter is far less prestigious than a marriage to a son, as daughters are lower in the line of succession, it is still a singular honor. But Lord Arryn did not buy into Jaehaerys’s early campaign, or at least, if he did, it was not mentioned in the same light as House Tully or Lannister. Why did Jaeherys choose House Arryn over one of these other two esteemed houses?

The answer was likely Ronnel Arryn, the first Lord Paramount of the Vale. Due to weak-willed Aenys’s indecisive action, Lord Ronnel, who had previously surrendered his crown to Aegon Targaryen and served faithfully ever since, was thrown out of the Moon Door by his brother, Jonos the Kinslayer. While Jonos was later brought to justice by Maegor Targaryen, the failure of the Targaryen lords to protect their vassals stood as a symbol of weakness for the Targaryen dynasty. While King Jaehaerys could hardly change the past, he could make amends to the Arryns for the losses they suffered at Targaryen inaction.

“Too many dragons is as dangerous as too few.” -A Feast For Crows, Samwell I

Several of Jaehaerys’s brood ended up taking roles that took them out of the succession entirely. The first, Vaegon the Dragonless, known as the first Targaryen to ever take up the maester’s chain, is an interesting case study. His epithet, the Dragonless, suggests that he either never mastered a dragon, or his dragon egg never hatched. I lean toward the former, and even entertain a fan-theory that Vaegon’s masterless dragon eventually grew to be one of the three wild dragons on Dragonstone that would later show up during the Dance of Dragons: Grey Ghost, Sheepstealer, or Cannibal, but that is less important than what being dragonless symbolizes. Without a dragon, he could not take up one of the most powerful tools and symbols of the Targaryen lineage, and had less use as a military commander or subcommander. His earning of the yellow gold mask, however, suggests that he was famously skilled at finance and economics. At the Citadel, he could do a great amount of good, give the Targaryens a greater in with the Citadel (despite the Maester’s oath), and not threaten the line of succession.

Two of his daughters, too, were given over to the Faith, and while Maegelle obeyed and became a septa, Saera fled to run a pleasure house across the Narrow Sea. It might not have been exactly what Jaehaerys wanted, but given that a brothel madam would hardly be seen as a proper inheritor of the Iron Throne, it served its intended purpose of removing prospective Targaryen claimants.

“One for the lands, one for the war/
One for the clergy, and pray for no more.” -Author Unknown

While removing lower-ordinal sons and daughters from the line of succession seems cruel and counter-intuitive in case of emergencies, the reality is that this was standard practice for the Middle Ages. Lower sons often joined the clergy or looked for other ways to advance the fortunes and status of their house without inviting succession rivalry. With the Citadel and the Faith, there were outs for members of the Targaryen household without the stigma that the Night’s Watch (who for centuries had been used as a penal colony) could impart upon a Targaryen. Later generations of Targaryens would see lower-ordinal members fulfill roles as maester or Kingsguard, but the intent was always plain: to avoid succession crises before they happened.

Winterfell, by Lino Drieghe, Fantasy Flight Games

Wrangling the Wolves

The rough relationship between House Targaryen and Stark began with the first Targaryen king. Ronnel Arryn was arranged to be married with a daughter of Torrhen Stark at the urging of Rhaenys Targaryen, to which her brothers fiercely protested. While Torrhen was content to serve as Lord Paramount and Warden, his sons entertained ideas of independence and rebellion. The North is different from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, with a different ethnic group and different religion than the rest of Aegon’s proto-nation. The Targaryen dynasty and the Seven Kingdoms were mighty, but the North was vast, with a great deal of social cleavage for the Northmen to cling to as incitement to fight. Foreign conquerors often find indigenous populations hostile when there are differences in religion and ethnicity, as the colonial European powers found in Africa and the Middle East throughout several centuries of their continents’ respective histories. The North had suitable terrain for conducting a Dornish-style insurgency, and if they could agitate successfully, even for a short time, it would undermine House Targaryen’s strength, reminding everyone of the severe weakness of Aenys I. Jaehaerys couldn’t afford to have one of his principal vassals agitating for independence and notably bristling at royal rule.

Jaehaerys’s handling of the prickly wolves of Winterfell showcased his deft hand at ‘dragon diplomacy’ and politics as a whole. Instead of attacking, however, and bringing unwelcome comparisons to his brutal predecessor Maegor I, Jaehaerys instead travelled with his queen, his dragons, and his court to Winterfell. There, he could demonstrate the power of his great flying beasts, bring his royal court to cause the Starks financial distress, and show the Lords of Winterfell that their remoteness meant nothing to the power of the Targaryen dragons. Then, Alysanne Targaryen forcibly doubled the size of Brandon’s Gift, a stretch of land to the Night’s Watch gifted by the Starks centuries ago. The Starks lost twenty-five leagues of land, yet it was done in such a fashion that protest would be seen as anti-Night’s Watch, a trait that no Stark would ever dare to admit. Through deft political wrangling, Jaehaerys and Alysanne forced the Starks into a no-win situation, reminding them clearly of who the power was, and what the price of defiance would be. Even the Stark protests to the Citadel seemed to have no effect on the Donation of Alysanne.

Later, Viserra Targaryen, one of Jaehaerys’s granddaughters, would be betrothed to the lord of a northern house, but it would not be to the Starks. That honor instead went to the Manderlys of White Harbor, one of the Stark’s principal vassals. The message was clear to all: Continue agitating, and face replacement. Loyalty had its reward. So too, would defiance.

A Roman sewer located in Spain

Jaehaerys the Builder – The Nation’s King

All of Jaehaerys’s rule, save the brief time before he officially formalized a treaty with the Faith Militant, would be at peace. There would be conflicts, even one with pirates that cost the life of Jaehaerys’s first surviving son Aemon, but there would be no costly domestic or foreign wars. What separates Jaehaerys from many other peacetime monarchs of the Targaryen dynasty was how vigorously active he was in domestic affairs, especially infrastructure. I had already touched on the vast network of roads linking King’s Landing to the various regions and principal cities, and the benefits they offer to lords and smallfolk alike in the previous essay, but A World of Ice and Fire added a great deal of information about Jaehaerys’s complimentary domestic policies to support the initial thesis..

“Great works to improve Kings Landing were also implemented – drains and sewers and wells, especially, for Barth believed that fresh water and the flushing away of offal and waste were important to a city’s health.” -A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

We learned that Jaehaerys made a great many improvements to his own capital city itself. While Maegor built up, and finished the Red Keep, Jaehaerys built a sewer network to improve the health and sanitation of Kings Landing. Maegor built to glorify the Targaryens, Jaehaerys built to better the lives of his subjects. This sewer project was credited to be the advice of Jaehaerys’s Hand, Septon Barth, who as a commoner likely had experience with the terrible sanitation of poorer areas of the city either due to his family, his experience as a septon, or both. This sewer project would be a labor-intensive undertaking, just as the road network that would be, but with the treasury flush with years of peaceful rule, Jaehaerys spent his reign just as active as any of the warlike kings that would follow later in his dynasty.

“Jaehaerys created the first unified code, so that from the North to the Dornish Marches, the realm shared a single rule of law.” -A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

Jaehaerys did not content himself on simple civic works; he also made great strides to make the realm the ‘one land, one king’ land that Aegon I envisioned when he crafted his Painted Table. When Aegon had ruled, he left the local laws the same as they were in the years before his Conquest. While this move undoubtedly smoothed tensions for the short term after Aegon’s Conquest, the long-term legal health and stability of the realm demanded a unified legal code rather than numerous (and contradictory) laws, especially with the greater inter-regional activity that Jaehaerys’s new road network would undoubtedly stimulate. After all, there were practices in the Iron Islands, like thralldom and salt-wifery, that other regions found distasteful, and so it fell to someone to make one law, for the one land under the one king.

Known as a wise and studious individual, Jaehaerys likely had the knowledge to identify common areas of law to create a single code of law to bring the nation together. While we know little about how much of the law favored the Andal, First Man, or Ironborn traditions, it’s likely that it was a predominantly of Andal influence, given that Westeros is primarily inhabited by Andals and follow southron traditions as opposed to Iron Island or Northman ones. However, unlike the dispute between the Starks of Winterfell and the Targaryen dynasty over the Donation of Alysanne, there didn’t appear to be much pushback on any changes that the law might have offered. Indeed, there are several points where it seems that the law gives great leeway to lords and exists as an overarching guideline rather than the legal codes of our own time frame. Ironborn seem to be able to take salt wives at the discretion of the Greyjoys, as long as they don’t reave on Westeros. The North still carries many of their ‘old ways,’ and we have no evidence of legal conflicts between major regions in the text.

“More pressingly, the Faith’s traditional right to judge its own had begun to prove troublesome.” -A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

In this same vein, Jaehaerys removed the ability for the Faith to conduct its own criminal trials. A World of Ice and Fire notes that these trials were often hideously corrupt, and the nobles despised the practice. However, as the predominant religion of Westeros, they had no recourse against it. Just as Jaehaerys gave the crown a hegemony over force, he gave the crown the hegemony over law. The Crown would be the sole arbiter of the law, and it would be given through the lords who owed fealty to the Throne, not the Faith or the Father Above.

Ecclesiastical courts and justice have had a long, storied history in our own time period, especially in Medieval Europe. During the 1200’s and 1300’s in England, ecclesiastical courts were rather notorious for their inquisitorial proceedings as opposed to the adversarial system typical of English courts. In the Church’s courts, for example, often compelled answers to questions in the form of religious oaths to force defendants to incriminate themselves, while such practice was against the common law of England, until Henry VIII, loving the notion of forcing opponents to confess, adopted the procedure in 1533, and it would evolve into persecuting political opponents until Charles I was compelled to end the practice in 1641.

While there isn’t much information on the Faith’s own trials, the text of A World of Ice and Fire suggests that septons and other religious officials, when under trial, were tried by their own rather than the lord as was typical. This was not restricted to crimes, but property disputes. The potential for misuse in such a system is rather easy to see. If the Faith wished a piece of property, all a septon had to do was contest the property in court, wherein the Faith would rule in favor of their own interests. By ending this practice, Jaehaerys could do well in winning friends among the nobility across the board, keeping his power base secure as he consolidated royal power.

“In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” -Orson Welles, The Third Man

This activity in service to the realm is largely what makes Jaehaerys such a highly regarded king and separates him from his grandson, Viserys I. Orson Welles’s paraphrasing of the painter Whistler is a rather infamous quote, and it has been characterized and mischaracterized throughout the generations, but one point is absolutely clear: peace is not a desirable end-state solely by itself. Jaehaerys understood the value of peace, but most importantly, he understood the value of a productive and busy peace. Much like Aegon I, Jaehaerys was a vigorous and active monarch, and worked within the realm to enrich and occupy his constituency. A good historical parallel would be one of the Five Good Roman Emperors, Emperor Hadrian. Both Hadrian and Jaehaerys would use a wide variety of civic projects to keep his people busy and employed. While Hadrian made religious buildings and Hadrian’s wall, Jaehaerys built a continent-spanning network of roads, but the effect was the same.

The Dornish Question

“…it was claimed that even in Dorne men wept and women tore their garments in lament for a king who had been so just and good.” -A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

But transitioning from an examination of new information found in A World of Ice and Fire, I thought it might be a fun thought-experiment to speculate on a particularly thorny issue. One of the great historical questions of the pre-Daeron II Targaryen dynasty was the Dornish issue. Conflicts with the Dornish plagued Westeros. Not just in the two wars fought under Aegon I and Daeron I, but the Vulture King and the War in the Stepstones proved that Dorne could have an effect on Westeros as a whole. The Dornish also shared a continent with the Westerosi, and many of the same traditions. While there was an unmistakable tinge of Rhoynish law in Dorne, especially when it came to matters of female inheritance, Dorne was Andal long before it was Rhoynish, so despite all the bloodshed, there was some common ground between Dorne and the rest of Westeros. However, it would take many years, countless skirmishes and murders, two bloody wars, two marriages, and a poorly-formed peace treaty that caused an ever larger war before Dorne was ever part of the Seven Kingdoms.

Could Jaehaerys, the master diplomat and peace-maker, have incorporated Dorne into the realm bloodlessly? Could the Old King have completed Aegon’s dream 100 years before Daeron II ever thought to complete his great-uncle Baelor’s vision? What would such a peace look like? And what would have been the consequences for the realm as a whole?

Unfortunately, while we know a great deal about Jaehaerys I, we know much less about the Martells during Jaehaerys’s long tenure on the Iron Throne. When Jaehaerys died, we knew that even the Dornish mourned the loss of a king that was ‘so great and good,’ and even if the World of Ice and Fire was being hagiographic or hyperbolic, certainly the Dornish would have reason to respect such a leader, even of an enemy nation.

Certainly, it seems likely that Jaehaerys could have found a way. Many point to the long histories of Dornish-Marcher wars, but many of the ancient kings and neighboring lands had centuries of bloodshed behind them, which Aegon and Jaehaerys were able to manage very well. Jaehaerys even managed a 50-year Blackwood-Bracken peace, and the animosity between those houses  is noted to be very long and very bloody.

However, the differing customs of the Dornish would have a large bearing on Jaehaerys’s legal consolidation. While it would be easy and safe to say that one aspect of Dornish incorporation would be the maintenance of their own traditions much like the peace treaty that Daeron II would issue a century later, this would undoubtedly cause problems during the decision as to what laws could be included. Queen Alysanne would undoubtedly push for a more Dornish succession tradition, given how she championed Rhaenys’s right to the Iron Throne over Baelon the Brave, which may have worsened the Second Quarrel between the King and his sister-wife.

Another concern would be the issue of taxation and Dornish inclusion into the central bureaucracy, which was the chief failing of Daeron II’s peace treaty. The Martells would likely jealously guard their tax income while laboring for positions in the halls of power, as would the Yronwoods, Daynes, and other senior Dornish houses. To make a treaty without granting this fiercely-cherished rights would require novel contract terms. While Jaehaerys seemed to negotiate better terms than his descendant, the Marcher lords, as well as the Baratheons and Tyrells, would chafe at Dornish appointment without something to match.

With all this, however, I do believe that Jaehaerys could have negotiated a treaty. Dornish inheritance traditions would likely hold in all lands below the Prince’s Pass and the Boneway,, but Jaehaerys’s treaty might have had economic dimensions that Dorne could have benefitted from. Issues of common trade, or of infrastructure investment into Dorne such as canal projects to bring fresh water into the desert and trade income into Dorne. A treaty based on canal projects and trade, rather than court appointments and laws, would have chafed Jaehaerys’s vassals less, as it avoids the disastrous treaty that Daeron II tried to run past his own vassals.

Though whether that treaty could have survived Viserys’s bungling and Daemon’s greed is another matter entirely.

Conclusion

He was nine-and sixty at his death, and had ruled wisely and well for five-and-fifty years…His ashes were interred with that of his beloved, the Good Queen Alysanne, beneath the Red Keep. And the realm never saw their like again.” -A World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I

Fifty-five years of peace and plenty: Jaehaerys’s track record speaks for itself. He was able not only to arrest the slide of the Targaryen dynasty, but take it and the lands it led into a golden age that few other monarchs were able to match. By using the benefits of peace to invest in his country, he won support from the smallfolk whose lives he improved, and the merchant and nobles whose coffers he expanded. With his deft hand of dragon diplomacy, he let none deny who was the supreme authority of Westeros. In his wide distribution of appointments, was able to make his vassals invested in the success of his reign, and his skillful use of dynastic marriage gave him a solid power base to count on in an emergency.

Of course, never having a serious natural disaster or large-scale foreign invasion helped Jaehaerys, and he benefited greatly from Maegor’s misrule to smooth his ascension. Jaehaerys also would lay the seeds for the Dance of Dragons by not impressing the need for authority and activity more firmly upon his successor, Viserys I. However, Jaehaerys still deserves acclaim for his great accomplishments. The realm truly never saw his like again.

16 Comments

Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Character Analysis, ASOIAF History, ASOIAF Military Analysis, ASOIAF Political Analysis, The Three Heads of the Dragon

16 responses to “The Wise Dragon: Jaehaerys I

  1. Tim

    Awesome! Great analysis!!!

  2. Nice summary, thanks.

    I think you did a better job articulating how Maegor’s cruelty helped bring an end to the conflict with the Faith than I’ve managed. Maegor was the stick and Jaehaerys was the carrot.

    I also wonder why he didn’t integrate Dorne more fully. Possibly because he had enough on his plate and Dorne was quiet?

    • somethinglikealawyer

      Well, Maegor and Jaehaerys were never in cahoots, but the mark of a successful politco is the ability to adapt to circumstances outside their control.

      As for Dorne, certainly the idea of “I’ve got a lot already to deal with” has a lot of merit. It’s also possible that he simply saw it as a solution he couldn’t win, and just never bothered.

      We’ll never know.

  3. Grant

    I think that part of the sentence might have been lost in this:

    “Given that Barth was a commoner, and likely had experience with the terrible sanitation of poorer areas of the city either due to his family, his experience as a septon, or both.”

    I presume you mean that given that Barth was a commoner and from that and his work as a septon he likely understood the value of sanitation.

    And with the Starks it raises a question about Jaehaerys. What did he do to help them? He certainly gave them reason to be both angry and worried, but not much to show them benefits of his reign. Perhaps the Gift isn’t so bad as to provoke the Starks to open defiance, but it doesn’t do anything to encourage loyalty from them either, especially since as time went on the Gift was clearly being poorly managed by its new owners.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      Thanks, that was supposed to be one long sentence that ended up becoming two.

      As for helping them, Jaehaerys built the Kingsroad.

  4. KrimzonStriker

    I’d argue that like Maegor did for Jahearys a similar pressure was needed to win Dorne over which is why I feel Dareon I should get some credit in demonstrating that Dorne could be conqured in the end despite not lasting and paved the way to being receivable to unification at last with Dareon II.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      I’ll explore that more when I get to my essay on Daeron and Baelor (and Viserys II, who I’ve given the epithet Viserys the Thankless)

      • KrimzonStriker

        Understood, I just wanted to make this assertion on why I doubt Jahearys could have won Dorne over at this time without the stick of a military sucess as well as a carrot.

      • somethinglikealawyer

        That sort of politics is about as nebulous as can be. Maybe it’s my alternate history bug or my steadfast desire to see more canals in Westeros, but I do like my idea.

        I am 100% in agreement it’s a long shot.

  5. Pingback: Three Heads of the Dragon: Viserys I | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  6. birk opgård

    While most of the things said here are rather well formulated, there was one point where you made a rather glaring oversight. the nights watch’s station at this time.

    when harren the black burned, his brother was lord commander at the nights watch, and he had 14k man beneath him. thats an army, and a rather powerfull one at that. as many others before me have argued, it seems that the stigma of the nights watch and its sebsequent weakening, didnt start until after dragon conquest.

    thus at this time(with aegon’s conquest being less than 60 years), the stigma associated with the order probably either didnt exist or it was far less than it was during the war of 5 kings.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      The decline of the Night’s Watch numbers is due largely to the peace. The large increase in war during the Century of Blood would mean a large number of prisoners. While highborn prisoners can be ransomed, carting them off to the Wall is an option which saves on overhead.

      • ecr56

        I’m sorry, but as far as I remember, the Century of Blood didn’t really affect Westeros.

        And while I’m at it, nice essays, I enjoy them very much. And about the Old King, he took the throne from his niece, the legitimate heir. It would have been nice to know your thoughts about that. It kind of led to the Dance, after all…

      • somethinglikealawyer

        Viserys made the Dance. Blaming Jaehaerys for the Dance was like blaming Aegon I for setting up the dynasty in the first place. Rhaenys wasn’t the legitimate heir.

  7. ecr56

    Would anyone here care to explain to me the context and objective of the Switzerland quote in real life? I mean, I’m not from there and I’m not very familiar with the country or its history, but I have heard of a certain Euler.

  8. Pingback: Blood of the Conqueror, Part 10: A Plague of Sparrows | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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