The Lion’s Shadow: Why Kevan Lannister Doesn’t Deserve His Good Rep


Ser Kevan seldom “had a thought” that Lord Tywin had not had first. (AGOT, Tyrion VIII)

Ser Kevan Lannister is one of the characters for whom many ASOIAF fans have a special fondness. Whether it’s his cool epilogue chapter from A Dance with Dragons or his tart retorts against Cersei Lannister in A Feast for Crows, Kevan is viewed with some affection by fans. We also briefly glimpse his time in power and see that he works to undo many of the follies that Cersei Lannister enacted during her time in power in A Feast for Crows. Characters from Jaime Lannister to Varys to even Sansa have a relatively positive impression of Kevan Lannister. However, is this good reputation earned or not?

If you’ve read my title, you know my answer on it. Ser Kevan Lannister is a well-developed character who in true A Song of Ice and Fire fashion is not drawn as white or black. Instead, Kevan resides in the grey territory that all characters in A Song of Ice and Fire occupy. The rub comes in when we start to talk shades of grey. Many would argue that Kevan Lannister occupies a lighter of shade of grey, but I think he’s a darker shade of grey than most fans would think. This darker shade of grey manifests itself in Kevan Lannister in a form that haunts all currently-living Lannisters: the less-than-dearly departed Tywin Lannister. In the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister might occupy the darkest spot on GRRM’s gray spectrum. And it’s only in relation to Tywin Lannister that Ser Kevan Lannister can be evaluated.

For Kevan Lannister is nothing if not Tywin’s shadow.

Tywin’s Vanguard Follower

“My uncle Kevan would make a passably good regent if someone pressed the duty on him, but he will never reach for it. The gods shaped him to be a follower, not a leader.” (ADWD, Tyrion VI)

Artwork by HBO

Much of the last third of A Game of Thrones revolves around the opening moves of the War of the Five Kings. In an escalating series of engagements, the Westerlands and the crown find themselves squaring off against the North and the Riverlands. As far as we know when war broke out, Ser Kevan Lannister was simply serving Tywin Lannister as a household knight prior to the great civil war that would engulf Westeros. Kevan earned his knighthood first by serving as a page and squire for the Lord of Castamere and finally through valiant service during the War of the Ninepenny Kings.

Lord Tytos’s three eldest sons also acquitted themselves well upon the Stepstones. Knighted on the eve of the conflict, Ser Tywin Lannister fought in the retinue of the king’s young heir, Aerys, Prince of Dragonstone, and was given the honor of dubbing him a knight at war’s end. Kevan Lannister, squiring for the Red Lion, also won his spurs, and was knighted by Roger Reyne himself. (TWOIAF, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons)

While we know that Kevan grew to be a good swordsman as well as a good knight in his own right, he was Tywin’s from the first to the last. When Tywin became the Lord of Casterly Rock, Kevan stood at his side as a household knight. Seemingly, all of Kevan’s exploits came at the behest of Tywin Lannister: Kevan’s good act in ridding the Westerlands of robber knights and outlaws, for instance, occurred because Tywin Lannister ordered it.

In defense of Kevan, his subservient role to his older brother is not without precedent. Stannis Baratheon did his duty as the younger brother to Robert in Robert’s Rebellion due to Robert’s seniority and was incensed when his younger brother Renly refused to recognize his seniority and claim to the crown.

“His,” Stannis broke in, “when by rights they should be mine. I never asked for Dragonstone. I never wanted it. I took it because Robert’s enemies were here and he commanded me to root them out. I built his fleet and did his work, dutiful as a younger brother should be to an elder, as Renly should be to me. (ACOK, Prologue)

Kevan Lannister was serving his brother Tywin before the War of the Five Kings, and this subservience as Tywin’s shadow is the key component to Kevan’s personality. While we cannot say for certain, we can be fairly confident that Kevan Lannister marched with Tywin to King’s Landing when it was sacked. And as a household knight to Tywin Lannister and modelling off of what we see in A Game of Thrones, it’s almost a certainty that Kevan sat on war councils with Tywin Lannister and thus was a part of the planning process for the horrific sack of King’s Landing. But Kevan’s specific role was likely one not simply to listen and give feedback to Tywin.

Ser Kevan was his brother’s vanguard in council, Tyrion knew from long experience; he never had a thought that Lord Tywin had not had first. It has all been settled beforehand, he concluded, and this discussion’s no more than show. (ASOS, Tyrion III)

Thus, if Kevan were there and there was a strategy session between Tywin and his subordinate commanders (a certainty), it’s very possible that it was Kevan (though we know it was Tywin’s thought first) who broached the idea of sacking King’s Landing. To put it simply, Kevan’s potential role as the mouthpiece for the cruel sack  means that he has some moral complicity with the sack itself.

Giving the Order

Chevauchee (Mounted Hobilars) by Mariusz Kozik

Returning to events from A Game of Thrones, when war finally broke out, it was initiated militarily by the actions of House Lannister. Following a series of war atrocities dressed up as military raids by Gregor Clegane, the main Lannister host marched east into the Riverlands. We first meet Kevan Lannister sitting with Tywin Lannister in Tywin’s command tent. He recounts the campaign to Tyrion as such:

“Your father and I have been marching on each in turn,” Ser Kevan said. “With Lord Blackwood gone, Raventree fell at once, and Lady Whent yielded Harrenhal for want of men to defend it. Ser Gregor burnt out the Pipers and the Brackens …” (AGOT, Tyrion VII)

At this point in the story, the horror of over-and-beyond Lannister chevauchee of the Riverlands has only started, and faithful, complicit Kevan Lannister is only doing his part by marching in turn with Tywin. And as we know, Kevan’s role in Tywin’s council is to first broach battle plans that Tywin has already dreamed up. So, we can surmise that Kevan Lannister was the one who gave the “advice” to unleash Gregor Clegane on the Pipers & Brackens, and that’s to say nothing of Gregor’s prior war crimes against the Darrys — war crimes that were likely discussed and approved at during Lannister war councils.

But moving the story ahead to past the Battle of the Green Fork, Tywin, Kevan and Tyrion receive word that Jaime Lannister’s host has been destroyed by Robb Stark and Jaime himself captured, a war council is held. Various strategies are discussed therein. But in the end, Tywin Lannister dispatches Tyrion for King’s Landing while he prepares to march for Harrenhal. He gives a very specific task to Kevan Lannister.

“Unleash Ser Gregor and send him before us with his reavers. Send forth Vargo Hoat and his freeriders as well, and Ser Amory Lorch. Each is to have three hundred horse. Tell them I want to see the riverlands afire from the Gods Eye to the Red Fork.”

“They will burn, my lord,” Ser Kevan said, rising.I shall give the commands.” He bowed and made for the door. (AGOT, Tyrion IX)

If you don’t take away anything else from this analysis, take away this: Though Kevan Lannister likely didn’t personally raise a sword against the smallfolk, participate in a rape of a peasant or light a torch, he is entirely complicit in mass murder, mass rape, and burning of the Riverlands. Giving immoral, evil orders that take innocent life is something that Kevan Lannister fans don’t remember often. But it’s there in the text all the same. And the results of Kevan Lannister’s complicity are awful:

  • Innocent, unarmed non-combatants are murdered from the God’s Eye to the Blackwater to the Trident. Children are also murdered such as 8-year old Lyman Darry (ACOK, Catelyn I).
  • Half of the fields are reportedly burned. (ACOK, Arya II)
  • Smallfolk women, as well as Lord Bracken’s daughter, are brutally raped by the Mountain (ADWD, Jaime I)

Though Tywin Lannister, Gregor Clegane, Amory Lorch and Vargo Hoat are looked at as the perpetrators, it should not be forgotten that Kevan Lannister’s only response to the immoral and unjust order by Tywin was, “They will burn, my Lord. I will give the command.”

The Deeply Personal Slights of Cersei Lannister

As Tywin Lannister’s shadow, Kevan Lannister also seems to have shared traits of Tywin Lannister which are not wholly apparent at first glance. In the past, I’ve argued that Tywin Lannister is not the Machiavellian moral consequentialist that many believe him to be. Instead, he’s a man who holds deep grudges and moves the politics and warfare of the nation to quench his deep emotional thirsts. In a similar fashion, Kevan Lannister holds the same Tywin-esque desire to visit vengeance on those who wronged him.

Following the War of the Five Kings and Tywin’s death, Kevan Lannister  came into conflict with Cersei Lannister. The centerpiece of this conflict was Kevan’s role in the new regime. Cersei Lannister knew that Kevan had some leadership ability, but Kevan (rightly) only saw disaster in Cersei Lannister. Additionally Kevan Lannister was exhausted from conducting all of those war atrocities and wanted to be with his wife and mourn his dead son, Martyn.

Thus, early in A Feast for Crows, Kevan Lannister and Cersei squared off in a passage which a lot of Kevan fans look at with some admiration. To give Kevan a fair shake, his interactions with Cersei demonstrated that he possesses the sarcastic wit of a Lannister. But when examined closer, something crops in that isn’t often explored. Kevan is humiliated by Cersei Lannister, and this humiliation inevitably leads to Cersei’s walk in A Dance with Dragons.

Here’s how the conversation goes down

“I am tired.” Her uncle reached for his wine cup and took a swallow. “I have a wife I have not seen in two years, a dead son to mourn, another son about to marry and assume a lordship. Castle Darry must be made strong again, its lands protected, its burned fields plowed and planted anew. Lancel needs my help.”

“As does Tommen.” Cersei had not expected Kevan to require coaxing. He never played coy with Father. “The realm needs you.”

“The realm. Aye. And House Lannister.” He sipped his wine again. “Very well. I will remain and serve His Grace . . .”

“Very good,” she started to say, but Ser Kevan raised his voice and bulled right over her.

“. . . so long as you name me regent as well as Hand and take yourself back to Casterly Rock.” (AFFC, Cersei II)

Cersei was shocked that Kevan would even suggest that she relinquish any power. But instead of simply rejecting Kevan, she had to make it personal. She started by throwing wine into Kevan’s face and insulting his social standing

She threw the contents of her wine cup full in his face.

Ser Kevan rose with a ponderous dignity. “Your Grace.” Wine trickled down his cheeks and dripped from his close-cropped beard. “With your leave, might I withdraw?”

“By what right do you presume to give me terms? You are no more than one of my father’s household knights.” (AFFC, Cersei II)

But she wasn’t done there. That could have been the end of it, but Cersei decided that she had to add great insult to injury and deny Kevan something that he deserved: the Wardenship of the West. But more than that, Cersei even denied Kevan Lannister the role of castellan of Casterly Rock. Instead she named Daven Lannister the Warden of the West while Damion Lannister became the castellan of the great Lannister stronghold.

Your service was required here. Cersei had named her cousin Damion Lannister her castellan for the Rock, and another cousin, Ser Daven Lannister, the Warden of the West. Insolence has its price, Uncle. (AFFC, Cersei III)

Regardless of that service, Kevan Lannister had served House Lannister. To be denied the Wardenship of the West or even the castellanship of Casterly Rock was a deliberate slap in the face; one that Kevan likely felt quite deeply. When Jaime Lannister met up with Daven Lannister near Riverrun, Daven related Kevan’s attitude.

“Aye. He passed here on his way west. I asked him to help us take the castle, but Kevan would have none of it. He brooded the whole time he was here. Courteous enough, but chilly. I swore to him that I never asked to be made Warden of the West, that the honor should have gone to him, and he declared that he held no grudge against me, but you would never have known it from his tone. He stayed three days and hardly said three words to me. Would that he’d remained, I could have used his counsel. Our friends of Frey would not have dared vex Ser Kevan the way that they’ve been vexing me.” (AFFC, Jaime V)

But it wasn’t simply politics that fed Kevan’s grievance. Cersei’s relationship with Lancel was the impetus for Lancel’s decline, eventual turn to the Faith and abandonment of the Lordship of Darry. Cersei’s arrest ensured that Kevan found out about Cersei’s relationship with Lancel. When Kevan and Cersei interact again for the first time, this is one of the first things that Kevan and Cersei speak about.

You think I care about a cup of wine? Lancel is my son, Cersei. Your own nephew. If I am angry with you, that is the cause. You should have looked after him, guided him, found him a likely girl of good family.” (ADWD, Cersei I)

Kevan was deeply offended by Cersei’s actions, and the slights suffered at Cersei’s direct intervention. And if the opportunity would present itself, Kevan Lannister would not let those slights go unanswered.


Filed under ASOIAF Character Analysis

61 responses to “The Lion’s Shadow: Why Kevan Lannister Doesn’t Deserve His Good Rep

  1. Agree with the essay. Until now I couldn’t help shake off the feeling that Kevan was utterly appalling in putting his own niece into public humiliation whatever their personal issues were. As horrible Cersei is, I really hope she gets back at him.

    • Well, with Kevan’s death at the end of A Dance with Dragons, she won’t have the opportunity to strike back at him personally, but that’s not to say that his children might not suffer the lioness’ wrath. (Lancel perhaps if ends up not being mauled by Ser Robert Strong in Cersei’s upcoming Trial by Combat)

      • Abhinay

        You think Lancel might be pitted against Ser Robert Strong in the trail? I am hoping the faith will select some one in a league similar to Ser Strong.

      • Lancel, Theoden Wells or Bonifer Hasty would be my picks. Of the 3, I think Wells in the books and Lancel in the show will fight Ser Robert Strong.

      • Lann

        I thought Cersei asking after his wife in the Epilogue was pretty suspicious. She may be vain, foolish and greedy but she is her father’s daughter (and uncle’s niece appartently)

      • gavinbyrnes

        Don’t we want Cersei’s Faith trial to be the Clegane Bowl?

    • KrimzonStriker

      The Cersei apologist regarding that scene always see to forget that the person most responsible for her situation was Cersei herself. And I refuse to pin the blame for its consequences on anyone else however they might deal with the fallout.

      • I think people can acknowledge that Cersei more or less dug herself into that hole but still deplore the walk of shame for being an evil and cruel thing to do. This is something Martin has done with both Theon and Cersei–torture an unbeloved character and horrify us with that torture. It’s an effective way to bring home that vengeance is wrong.

  2. Sir Theodred of Pennytree

    I think saying that Kevan was the «mastermind» benind the sacking of kings landing, is a bit a stretch, i personaly never thought that kevan was the best person ever but a always seen as a mostly good person, i think thas varys says it all, but a i still realy enjoyed the essay, keep up the good work.

    • I’m not saying that he’s the mastermind. Tywin was certainly the mastermind behind the Sack. My point was that Kevan acts as Tywin’s vanguard in council meetings, and that Kevan might have been the one to publicly offer the suggestion to the war council (At Tywin’s behest — take a look at that Tyrion quote that kicks the article off about Kevan rarely “having a thought” that Tywin had not had first.). But even if he’s not the mastermind, he does bear moral complicity in the act due to him playing a supporting role in the action.

      • Sir Theodred of Pennytree

        Sure he has some blame, but he was following orders and never seems to take plesure in it, but he also never objects and sometimes even seems eager to please his brother, is a complicated situation, but i always thought him the dutifull brother and thats it a person that as to carri out some gruesome orders, i always blamed Tywin above everyone else.
        Could Kevan as i household knight desobey a order directly, i always wondered ?

      • on kevin feeling guilty about putting cersei through the walk while tywin didnt when it came to his fathers mistress kevin was cerseis uncle

  3. “He was following orders”

  4. Byron Mars

    I don’t agree… I feel that Kevan is “light grey” remember that the opinion we get of Kevan and his thoughts not being his own is from Tyrion. Tyrion can’t objectively judge Tywin or Kevan on a reread I believe that Tywin was making steps to keep Tyrion safe while perusing his own agenda… You have convinced me that Kevan might have had more to do with the walk of shame. But, it was necessary that she lost power for house lannister and for her an Tommon’s own good. But, I still don’t think that you can say for sure that he had a hand in it he could have been feeling guilty because he did not rescue he with is army… But we know why he doesn’t. Trust Vary’s opinion of him because has the most info to judge and he looks at objectively. By GRRM own account if you had his point of view you would kno too much

    • LD

      Why would we trust Varys? Varys lied to him about Aegon, and he wouldn’t tell him when he was dying that he was a bad person. It is not Varys style.

      The walk of shame was not necessary, he could do something else to make her lose her power. Her walk of shame was a parallel to a walk of shame of his father mistress. Was walk of shame really the only option? It was obvious he was personally offended. And he took an opportunity to get his revenge.

      I agree that Tyrion can’t objectively judge Tywin, but we saw how Kevan repeated and agreed to everything Tywin said. Kevan loved and admired Tywin, he didn’t think how Sack was a bad thing, or how Tywin was vile and cruel. He admired him and he agreed with him.

      • Crow's Eye

        “Varys lied to him about Aegon”

        Why would Varys lie to someone on their deathbed?

  5. Chimeny

    “the evil of Tywin Lannister”… *sigh*… Tywin was not evil.

    • The Badinator

      Well, but yeah he actually kind of *really* was.

    • LMfan

      He was evil. He drowned hundreds of people when he could’ve done something else, he ordered his son’s wife to be raped by a whole garrison, he ordered sacking of KL, he ordered the death of thousands of peasants. No matter the endgame, his acts were evil.

      • Chimeny

        Where do you draw the line? It’s not like Ned, Robb, Tyrion, Robert or Dany have clean hands is it? Yet they are lauded as heroes by most people.

        And let me take real life examples then, are we to assume the Allies were evil in WW2? Or specifically, Montgomery and Eisenhower were evil? I mean, the Allies killed millions of innocent Germans, Japanese, Italians etc. they targeted civilian populations (on occasion), they ordered executions of German prisoners who hadn’t done anything wrong (on occasion), some soldiers were given a pass on rape and/or murder and besieging a city for a prolonged period, would starve and kill thousands of innocent people and when the city was taken there was at least some level of sacking as well.
        Now, of course this isn’t evil, this was war and terrible, terrible things happen in war. And the Allies despite all that, were actually the good guys in WW2, which proves my point even more so.
        And yes, I know I’m comparing ASOIAF/Tywin’s actions to WW2, but I do it to show an “extreme” (if you can even call it that) example that proves my point… that despite terrible things being done in war, the person or people that perpetrate these things, aren’t necessarily terrible themselves.

        All I’m saying is that to label Tywin “evil” is to misunderstand him completely. If we are to assume he is evil, then we can assume the likes of the Allies in WW2, William Wallace, Richard The Lionheart, Saladin etc. were all evil too, because the things they did were not too dissimilar to what Tywin did.

      • Jagger

        The sacking of KL and the death of thousand peasants are amoral actions and the proof Tywin was ruthless to the core, losing touch with humanity for diverse reasons.

        But the destruction of the Reynes and Tarbecks is something they brought upon themselves by a constant passive aggressivity towards their liege House, their constant thirst for power and the fact certain Lords were expelled out of their small strongholds for refusing their proposal are all examples of what I say.

        The Loyalty of these Houses were blatantly shaky and, to be honest, highly questionable. In times of war, they could have pulled the same strategy the Bolton and the Frey used on the Stark for the mere benefit of getting the Lannisters back and finally obtaining Casterly Rock. Hypothetically speaking, if Tywin had forgiven them, his actions would not have a positive feedback from the rest of the Westerlands, Crippling them? That’s what Tywin offered, but instead, Lady Reyne decided it would be a better idea to challenge House Lannister to a single combat or take Kevan Lannister as some sort of hostage.

        They brought it upon themselves by being stubborn, overly ambitious and narrow minded.

  6. teg

    I think another thing that irritates me about the Kevan fandom (for lack of better word) is this idea that both him and Tywin were political geniuses. While both were clearly capable men in their own way, Tywin in particular had a cripplingly narrow political-strategic vision and Kevan, unlike Oberyn/Doran, Willas/Garlan/Margery/Loras, or Aegon/Rhaenys/Visenya, Kevan never balances his sibling’s more negative personality traits. At several points, Tywin chooses excessively brutal, Machiavellian options (the Sack of King’s Landing, the Red Wedding) when a more nuanced or honorable course would produce the same or better results. For instance refusing to reinforce the Watch, in completely contradictory terms to boot, gave the initiative in the North to Stannis even before the Lannisters gained the initiative through the Red Wedding.

    • The Red Wedding was excessively brutal for the Freys and perhaps Boltons, not Lannisters. It was hugely beneficial for Tywin. He didn’t break Guest Right, had no public role in the massacre, gained powerful allies in the North/Riverlands, and removed the enemy’s leadership and main army without losing more of his own men. The Lannisters are in a shit position right now, but it would be much worse if they still had to worry about Robb Stark.

      What more honorable or nuanced course regarding Robb would have produced a better outcome for the Lannisters?

  7. KrimzonStriker

    I disagree, not with your assertions regarding what his actions were, in fact I thought that was the case from the beginning but more as a compromise with the faith that served everyone’s purposes while also SAVING Cersei at the same time rather then be a mastermind behind it, but that Kevan visited this as some sort of personal grievance against Cersei who no matter what he still has a genuine concern for. I believe based on everyone’s assessment of his character that he truly did do everything for House Lannister and that his brooding can be ascribed one part Lancels religious fervor and another part watching Cersei screw up the realm, which included the Wardenship and being Castilian.

  8. marie

    A very good analysis but one minor point; In the extract above isn’t Lancel Lannister a cousin to Cesei? Or have I got it wrong?

    • Alice

      Yes, but the text is wrong. Lancel is Cersei’s first cousin because Kevan is Tywin’s brother, not Cersei’s, and the text usually gets that right. But given Cersei’s much greater age and marriage, she might be considered to have the more senior relationship of an aunt in practice, which is also a modern habit of referring to older cousins. The chapter does actually say nephew. I believe it has more rhetorical power that way because it directly invokes a relationship typically associated with age disparity and guidance, which is what Kevan is rebuking her for abusing.

      • marie

        I just thought it odd and in my mind it isn’t accurate to describe her as Lancel’s Aunt….As someone else pointed out Tywin and Joanna were also first cousins. It would have been better to rebuke Cersei for being older than Lancel and therefore more morally culpable IMHO….

  9. badvibesdude

    Nothing “sub” about Heydrich when it comes to the Holocaust. He was central to it in numerous ways.

  10. Alice

    Great write up. The strongest part of this piece imo is the direct evidence Kevan feels personal complicity in Cersei’s walk, which I’d missed previously. The suggestion it was due in part to Kevan feeling personally slighted I am not sure about; the destruction of Lancel’s marriage with the Freys, the antics in KL, Jaime, Cersei accruing her own awful reputation, burning down the Tower of the Hand, etc., could very easily be construed as outwardly facing disgraces improper for House Lannister. That being said, and this riffs a bit on the associated Tywin piece, the disempowerment of Kevan in favour of less likely cousins is also a very public embarrassment that draws questions about disunity between Lannisters. Using Tywin logic, it would in fact be very easy and indeed human for Kevan to conflate his personal grievance with that outward shame and deal with it as ‘threatening House Lannister’.

    Also raises a very salient point about complicity in this series. At what point does individualist moral analysis become subsumed by awareness of collective crime? Way before the destruction of the Riverlands. The book itself touches multiple times on collective duty vs. individual responsibility, particularly in Stannis’s and Davos’s early arcs and later in Sandor’s, so to defer to in-universe morals as some commenters are doing does miss the mark, I think. A quote you missed but implicitly referenced is Genna’s analysis of the fraternal dynamics between the Lannister boys, which, I think, is rather revealing about motives:

    ‘It was hard for all my brothers. That shadow Tywin cast was long and black, and each of them had to struggle to find a little sun. Tygett tried to be his own man, but he could never match your father, and that just made him angrier as the years went by. Gerion made japes. Better to mock the game than to play and lose. But Kevan saw how things stood early on, so he made himself a place by your father’s side.’

    The shades of grey are that Kevan genuinely loves his brother (whom he rationalises or perceives to be truly just and competent and a saviour of House Lannister), really is a tired and grieving old man, and does try to stabilise the realm as regent. But he chose over and over again to be complicit in a way which isn’t really justifiable for acts that aren’t defensible, unlike the other brothers, who from what we know largely divorced themselves from these things (but tbf I don’t remember if any of them had the opportunity to participate in key parts of things like the Sack, being dead).

  11. Zhivik

    Even though i believe this an entertaining essay, I disagree with the hypothesis that the Walk of Shame was suggested by Kevan Lannister. I agree it is possible, but in my opinion rather unlikely. Using the same quotes, you omit the significance of the quote that “the High Sparrow needed to be appeased”. Given that it is a personal thought of Kevan and not a conversation line, we can assume it is true. It shows clearly that the High Sparrow was insisting on some form of public punishment in order to reinforce the Faith. After all, if the high-born get away with such crimes, who would ever follow the Faith?

    One of your main arguments in support of Kevan’s involvement is that this punishment was implemented only once, by Tywin Lannister. I don’t believe we have evidence to support or dismiss that statement. Only because no one speaks about it doesn’t mean it’s not there. After all, no one is really surprised about the punishment, which implies it is not something unusual. In contrast, everyone was talking about how the Mad King used to burn his victims alive, something apparently unusual even for Targaryen kings.

    My personal interpretation would be that Kevan did nothing to prevent the Walk of Shame, which is why he is feeling guilt. He saw an opportunity to humiliate Cercei in public and he took advantage of it, even though he knew how proud his niece was and what a devastating effect this humiliation would have on her. I believe this gives enough reasons to feel guilt, don’t you agree?

    In the end, I don’t discard the possibility that it was Kevan’s idea all along. However, if it really was his idea, it would seem he is not so bad in political scheming after all. It also contradicts the remaining part of the essay, namely that he was only his brother’s shadow. Therefore, I believe the most probable scenario is that Kevan simply took advantage of the situation, rather than manipulated the events surrounding it. I completely agree with your thoughts on Kevan’s motivation, but I believe the rest is only one of several possible interpretations.

    • Emma

      “One of your main arguments in support of Kevan’s involvement is that this punishment was implemented only once, by Tywin Lannister. I don’t believe we have evidence to support or dismiss that statement. Only because no one speaks about it doesn’t mean it’s not there.”

      This is true, but we also have to remember that we are spoonfed information by an author that leaves a ridiculous amount of clues scattered throughout the text regarding pretty much every character in the series. Thus, the very fact that Tytos’ mistress is the only known Walk of Shame prior to Cersei is important in and of itself, and The Reader has to determine why. I believe the above essay is an interpretation of those facts, and I find it plausible that Kevan may have had a hand in the Walk of Shame, although I doubt he was involved to the extent that is proposed here or that the personal motivation was as strong as is suggested.

      Other than that, I tend to agree with you 🙂

  12. Vanessa

    I agree with your essay that he’s probably a darker shade of grey, but my reason for that is more that he has been complicit with Tywin Lannister’s schemes for so long – I think that serving such a man for so long is going to put you on the darker side of the moral spectrum no matter however good your initial intentions were.

    OTOH, I disagree with some of the points about Cersei. First of all, I don’t think that Kevan particularly wanted the position as Warden of the West. Yes, he was moody when Daven spoke to him, but he has had a beloved brother killed, he found out his eldest son was sleeping with Cersei, and his younger son was dead as well. Not to mention that Lancel was getting under the power of the septons as well. He had enough things on his minds to bring him down, and I doubt that it was simply resentment that made him taciturn and gloomy with Daven Lannister. Another reason I don’t believe he was so resentful is that Kevan didn’t seem to have a great lust for positions of power. He even refused the Handship because it would put him under Cersei’s demented rule (Yes, he did ask for the regency, but he knew that Cersei would never give it to him – her hunger for power was one of the traits about her that turned him off). I don’t think politics played a role at all in his disgust of Cersei.

    Also, while I don’t think Kevan was on Cersei’s side during her Walk of Shame, I also disagree that he orchestrated the whole thing because of her slight of him. Again, she had done far worse (sleeping with her brother, lying about the paternity of her children, starting a war that led to the death of thousands etc.). I think he suggested the idea, not because of slights to his person. Cersei did contribute greatly to the downfall of House Lannister. Due to her treasonous actions, House Lannister is most certainly doomed to failure. If she had kept herself in check, the Lannisters would have risen up in influence, and become even more powerful than the Baratheons. Instead, they have lost their patriarch, her children are widely disparaged as bastards, and her actions have led to the War of 5 Kings.

    I do think that Kevan is a flawed individual, but I disagree that he was out to “get” Cersei for shaming him. He was resentful of her, for sure. But that was mostly because she used her power and beauty to seduce a teenage Lancel Lannister, instead of looking after him like a true cousin would. It would be hard for anyone who knows her actions, to not feel resentful against someone like Cersei Lannister. But that’s an understatement. It would be hard for anyone who knows her, to not hate Cersei Lannister for her actions, which have caused great harm to others, both in her family sphere and outside of it.

  13. Seeing how our introduction of Kevan comes from Tyrion, and the focus he puts on the brother/brother relationship, that aspect is usually in my mind when reading about him. The general impression was that Kevan was simply a champion of “All Things Lannister”, and was proud and willing to do anything Tywin asked because of the restoration of Lannister glory Tywin brought to The Rock.
    Tyrion mentions his use as counsel to Tywin, but the rest of the books spend more time showing him just following orders and not on any wise counsel or advice that Kevan brings to Tywin.
    But, as the story went on I made the assumption his personality must have been strong enough in his own right, even if he stayed in the shadows in direct dealings with other families, because there is never any account of Tywin having to micro manage Kevan and no account to assume that he wasn’t an incredibly capable battle commander.
    “Kevan gets things done” was probably his personal guard’s motto 🙂

    I can honestly say that through four reads, I never really moved emotionally one way or another with Ser Kevan, unlike Tywin, and I never found myself amazed at the gall, pride and unabashed devotion to amoral power and dominance his brother exhibited. He just existed as a big tool to be wielded by Tywin.
    And that simple build up had me more surprised than I would have imagined with how quickly and decisively he acted when the opportunity arose.
    That was when I saw him as not just a brother and commander, but a real consigliere and protege to his brother. His time at Tywin’s side was not wasted just carrying out orders. Tyrion was able to see that counselor in Kevan and Jamie saw the capable commander. But with Tyrion out of KL, we were left with no other POV to show Kevan’s subtlety and political prowess.

  14. Another excellent piece! You have highlighted some points that had not stood out to me before, but make perfect sense. It will be interesting to see what TWoW reveal.

  15. You make me like Kevan even more. Not for his complicity in Lannister atrocities but for his actions against Cercsi, I have nothing but praise and admiration. The kingdom did indeed loose a good, competent, sane man when Varys murdered him.

  16. Kevan is certainly a grey character but I think this piece is a bit too harsh on him. His only contribution to Tywin’s atrocities was passing the orders to the respective commanders. Any sort protests or willful disobedience would have been futile; Kevan was just one of the most important cogs in Tywin’s machine but never a crucial one. Just following orders may seem a trite defense but considering the societal emphasis on deference to ones elder, liege lord and commander and the realities of Westeros, Kevan dutifully passing on Tywin’s commands shouldn’t make him as culpable as Tywin, who gave the orders in the first place.

    The second point of contention is Cersei’s walk of shame- I have no doubt that Kevan fully condoned it, if he wasn’t the one to suggest it in the first place. But! I find it highly unlikely that the act was simply Kevan venting his spleen for the damage Cersei had done to his son, House Lannister and the Seven Kingdoms in general. Rather her walk of shame was a necessary compromise done in Cersei’s best interests in order to appease both the Faith and the Tyrells. As humiliating and soul crushing the walk had been it was undoubtedly less damaging than what the Queen’s many enemies wanted.

    The High Sparrow had no qualms in engaging in what are nowadays considered acts of torture to extract confessions whist Mace Tyrell had to be constantly reminded of his daughter’s marriage to Tommen to keep him from taking revenge. Cersei’s declawing was supposed to have a positive effect- even for her- not only was she getting out of the Faith’s dungeons but reducing her political power got her out of the firing line.

  17. Roger

    Personaly I liked Kevan. He was a good enough man. I’m not saying he was flawless. I’m not saying he did well adoring Tywin so much and always obeying him. General Sherman burned half Georgia and is considered a war hero. Medieval armies lived of stealing peasants. So did Robb Stark in the Westerlands. Or when he allowed Roose Bolton to sack his own kingnom (the Riverlands) to get supplies for him. Lord Tully, who has been prasied here, burned villages and castles of his own “rebel” subjects during the Rebellion.

    About the sacking of King’s Landing, we have no proof Tywin ordered it. In fact, ordering a sack while you still have to assault the Red Keep is a non-sense. Most probably his men started to fight Gold Cloaks in the streets or meet civilian resistance. Or simply they lost order after a forced marched and fell into temptation.

    I don’t think Kevan acted due to hate. Of course he disliked Cersei.No only for Lancel. But for Jeoffrey’s cruelty. And her incest with Jaime. But he needed to make amends with the High Septon. With most of the army at Riverrun, he can’t fight the Orders without burning the city. And he can’t trust the Tyrells.
    Also don’t forget Kevan KNOWS Cersei is the worst queen possible. Having her confess isn’t enough she has to be sunked. And better the faith do it than himself.

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  19. I’ll accept your overall thesis, that Kevan was not a “good guy”, he was complicit in atrocities ordered by Tywin, and he might well have instigated Cersei’s walk of humiliation. In a moral sense, there isn’t much to choose between Kevan and Tywin.

    OTOH, I disagree with your claim that Tywin is the “darkest” character in ASOIAF, and with comparisons to the Nazis.

    Tywin’s a real bastard, no doubt about it. He will cold-bloodedly order the rape and murder of entire towns to make a political point. Referring to “war crimes” is anachronistic though; it takes a mid-20th-century legal concept and drops it into a more-or-less 14th-century world. Sadly, the sort of atrocities ordered by Tywin were not even mildly unusual in medieval warfare.

    The point is, once Tywin has accomplished his political and military goals, he will stop. He doesn’t order torture and murder just because he’s bored, or he dislikes the victims’ ancestry or religion. This sets him apart from *even worse* characters in ASOIAF, such as Mad King Aerys, Joffrey, and Ramsay Bolton. It also sets him apart from the Nazis — they undertook genocide *as an end in itself*, even when it undermined their other war aims.

    If you’re going to compare Tywin to a figure from European history, he’s more like Peter the Great of Russia than Hitler. Peter was a ruthless despot, he committed what we would now consider war crimes, and he caused the death of his own son, but he was also a capable and pragmatic ruler by the standards of his time.

  20. The Broke Howard Hughes

    I resent the implication that Tywin was a grey character. Having a good reason to do a bad thing doesn’t absolve you of it, it just means you’re a bad guy doing bad things with a pretty solid excuse, in the end, of course, you’re still guilty.

  21. Too much of this relies on thinly sourced assertions that are then just assumed as true for the rest of the piece (because Tyrion once mentioned that Kevan parroted Tywin at council and had been used to make suggestions, you somehow conclude that Kevan actually had the idea to sack King’s Landing, for example). This would have been a lot stronger if you had brought up the WWII parallels earlier: Kevan is a competent leader, and a good man relative to many he is often surrounded by, but he took orders that he likely knew to be evil and executed them. He’s a much closer parallel to a Nazi officer than he is to Tywin.

    • Emma

      I inherently disagree with the WW2 parallels, as they are entirely too anachronistic. To be a true and fair comparison, you have to compare the book sources with their real world *medieval* parallels (unfortunately, I didn’t do a history degree so I can’t rattle names off from the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure someone will be able to).

  22. Kevan had enough reason to revenge after what she did to his son.I don’t think he overreacted, so that does not make him a good or bad person.

  23. Khanya Ncoyini

    I am going to strongly disagree bro. No disrespect but I feel you are assuming a little too much. Kevan followed his older brother in the belief that shaming house Lannister was to be avoided at all cost. Its made clear that his version of paying Cercei back was to send her back to the Rock. The High Sparow couldn’t let her go just like that, so the walk was a compromise. It just happened to work in Kevan’s favour.

  24. Chimeny


    Tywin was not evil… this is ASOIAF, not Star Wars…

    • Murdering tens of thousands of innocents is evil. There is no relativistic cultural lens to view this action in a favorable moral light.

      • Chimeny

        This was part-and-parcel of medieval warfare, in literally every war I’ve studies during the Middle-Ages this kind of pillaging goes on. Would you say William Wallace or Richard the Lionheart were evil? Or Joan of Arc? Salladin? They all participated in similar actions.
        And in the story he isn’t the only one who pillages… when Robb invades the Westerlands he pillages as well, and just because we don’t see the effects of it doesn’t mean it was any less horrific. So Robb is evil too yes?

      • Moral equivocation isn’t an argument. Saying “But Robb did bad stuff too” does not address the issue of Tywin murdering peasants to advance his interests. But even if you want to talk historical scale: the level of chevauchee that Tywin imposed on the Riverlands far and exceeds anything done by any war party in Westerosi history or even human history.

      • Chimeny

        (I can’t see the reply button to your other comment, so will have to reply here) There’s no equivocation here, I’m simply saying that if you label one evil, why not the other? Is Robb’s pillaging not as bad because he’s more of a “hero” than Tywin?
        And while Tywin’s is larger on scale than many historical examples, look to the Mongol invasions to see their raiding and pillaging… Genghis Khan and the Mongols in general were brutal even for their time, but according to you they were evil yes?

      • Chimeny

        Wait, never mind that bit about not seeing the reply button, I’m still getting used to this website. Haha.

      • Chimeny

        And when I say “look at the Mongol invasions and pillaging” I meant look at that compared to Tywin’s. You said that no other example in Medieval history compares and while it’s true for the most part, it’s not true for the whole part as the Mongols prove.

  25. I think you’ve demonstrated that Kevin had an ego, and was guilty of war-crimes, yes – but I think your evidence that he masterminded the walk-of-shame is a bit of a stretch. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the evidence you gathered on that point can equally be said to show he simply chose not to resist when the Faith decided on that course of action. Since he had the power to resist yet chose not to, I agree this makes him culpable and opportunistic, but I don’t think you’ve shown the idea originated with him.

    I look forwards to learning in the future books whether or not he was!

    I would also point out, the taking of the title of Lord Regent was politically savvy, as the title announced to the Realm that they could breath easier and trust that Tommen was “under new management”. I think it’s absolutely possible Kevan took vindictive satisfaction in how this would make Cersei feel, but ultimately, it was a politically savvy choice of title, not merely a personal indulgence.

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  27. Atrocious acts taken during the WoFK withstanding, I personally feel that most of the other things that you have listed are a bit of a stretch.
    While Kevan’s taking of the regency while Cersei was out of commission can be seen as opportunistic and somewhat spiteful (from a certain point of view (if you are really looking for justification to make this claim?)), the result of this is still the same; the Tyrells are more willing to negotiate with Kevan, as he does not show an open contempt for their house as a whole.
    Strategically, anything that Kevan did (again, aside from military engagements) can be seen as a necessary action. On one hand, you have Cersei, who has a knack for making enemies and a disdain for making friends (instead of working with the Tyrells, while intervening in affairs of state like Tywin did, Cersei framed one of their number for infidelity(the irony is lost on no one).
    And even if Kevan did engineer the Walk of Atonement, this was merely good strategy. How willing would Cersei be to leave her post as regent had she not been publicly shamed as a price for her freedom? Her dignity would be intact and she would have gotten away with a slap on the wrist; hardly enough to destroy all faith in her.
    Because of the walk, she will no longer be able to put up a fight, because despite any attempt to regain the confidence of her lords, they would all keep picturing her naughty bits swinging in the breeze. This allows Kevan to rule practically uncontested, along with shoring up relations with House Tyrell by providing them with a more amicable partner.

  28. Kevan King

    I got a woman pregnant 20 years ago then never called her back.

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  30. WMS

    I disagree here-for one the concept of war crimes and collective responsibility doesn’t exist in this medieval world. Two-Kevan is doing his duty to his family and liege lord-that’s what’s expected of you. It would be worse of him not to obey his brother. As for Cersei-she very clearly needed to be politically neutralized and her relationship with Lancel was as predatory as it was damaging for him-thus Kevan has every right to be angry at his niece.

  31. Aerdor

    Hello !
    First, I wanted to say I love your essays (and the other on this blog). I agree with your point of view of Tywin in “The Lion’s Fury: The Deeply Personal Actions of Tywin Lannister”, but I think you misread Kevan.


    It’s true he doesn’t question his brother’s décisions, but it is expected of a little brother in Westeros.
    They are many examples of this :
    – Stannis obeys Robert over his king (Aerys II) and expect Renly to do the same.
    – Victarion never question Balon’s military décisions (admittedly, there both pretty bad at strategy)
    – Bran is expected to become a councelor or a Bannerman of Robb by maester Luwin
    – etc.

    The younger has to obey the elder, that seems to be a rule of society.
    Given that, the fact that Kevan doesn’t oppose Tywin’s decisions is not a sign he is a monster.


    Both Tyrion and Cersei think that Kevan is a follower, not a leader. However, the text doesn’t back these believes.

    “Ser Kevan seldom “had a thought” that Lord Tywin had not had first.”
    —Tyrion Lannister’s thoughts, AGOT, Tyrion VIII

    Yet Kevan knew of the incest between Cersei and Jaime when Tywin thought it wasn’t true.

    “The next Hand will know his place, she promised herself. It would have to be Ser Kevan. Her uncle was tireless, prudent, unfailingly obedient. She could rely on him, as her father had. The hand does not argue with the head.”
    —Cersei Lannister’s thoughts, AFFC, Cersei I

    Yet Kevan refuses the position of Hand if Cersei doesn’t meet his conditions. She assumes it is because she is a woman (which is probably at least partially true), but I think it also show that Kevan will always voice is opinion, despite what Cersei and Tyrion think.

    “My uncle Kevan would make a passably good regent if someone pressed the duty on him, but he will never reach for it. The gods shaped him to be a follower, not a leader.”
    —Tyrion Lannister to Aegon Targaryen, ADWD, Tyrion VI

    We do not know how pressed the duty was on Kevan when he agreed, but we do know he asked Cersei to name him regent in the beginning of AFFC, proving what Tyrion says is not true.

    You write that Kevan is the vanguard of Tywin, but it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t question Tywin’s opinion. How I see it, this is a clever tactic on Tywin’s and Kevan’s behalf to discuss the issue beforehand and then let Kevan “propose an idea” to the other commander, idea on which Tywin then publicly agrees. It shows to the commanders that Tywin doesn’t make the decision alone without listening to what the others have to say, but it is all a mummer farce, as Tyrion underline it.

    If this is true, and they discuss the issue together, we can assume that Kevan voices his objections in private, showing a united front in public. Even if he finally obeys his brother’s order, we don’t really know if he doesn’t argue about them with him. The text of AFFC/ADWD shows very well that Kevan is not the “unfailingly obedient” follower he appears to be.


    My personnal opinion is that, whereas Tywin is driven by personal motives at his core, Kevan is a true utilitarist. Which means, it seems, occasionally committing war crimes (a notion that is not so precisely defined in medieval time as it is today).

    In this regard, Kevan always saw Tywin has an utilitarist too, and so he agreed with him. He told this to Tyrion in ASOS :
    “Tywin seems a hard man to you, but he’s no harder than he’s had to be. Our own father was gentle and amiable, but so weak his bannermen mocked him in their cups. Some saw fit to defy him openly. Other lords borrowed his gold and never troubled to repay it. At court they japed of toothless lions. Even his own mistress stole from him. A woman scarcely one step above a whore, and she helped herself to my mother’s jewels! It fell to Tywin to restore House Lannister to its proper place. Just as it fell to him to rule this realm, when he was no more than twenty. He bore that heavy burden for twenty years and all it earned him was a mad king’s envy. Instead of the honor he deserved, he was made to suffer slights beyond count, yet he gave the Seven Kingdoms peace, plenty and justice. He is a just man.”

    When Kevan agrees to order the burning of the Riverlands, he is obeying his brother alright, but he also agree that this is a good idea strategically (indeed, it will drive some Riverlands’ bannermen to go back to their land and abandon the main army, making them easier to crush for the Lannisters).


    On the matter of the walk of shame, I don’t know if I agree with your opinion of the involvement of Kevan, but even if Kevan is the one to propose this solution, we have to understand that this is not to humiliate Cersei. Especially because the text say us that this isn’t the reason : Kevan feels guilty, but never once in his thoughts the idea that Cersei deserved it for insulting him appears.

    The first of Kevan motivation is to liberate Cersei from the cells of the High Sparrow. If he didn’t want that, he wouldn’t be discussing it with him.
    However, there are two issues with this :
    – The High Sparrow had to agree
    – Cersei had to be kept out of power

    Maybe the walk of “atonement” is Kevan’s idea. As you wrote in your essay, the only other woman to endure this sort of treatment was the mistress of Kevan’s father on the order of Kevan’s own brother and model. But I think he found it appropriate, because he thought this was a good way to end the power of a woman :

    “All the self-seekers who had named themselves her friends and cultivated her favor had abandoned her quickly enough when Tywin had her stripped naked and paraded through Lannisport to the docks, like a common whore. Though no man laid a hand on her, that walk spelled the end of her power.”
    —thoughts of Kevan Lannister, ADWD, Epilogue

    In addition, this was an old punishment that would appeal to the conservative views of the High Sparrow, and he would likely agree (which he did).


    It is my opinion that Kevan obeyed Tywin’s orders and admired him because Kevan was an utilitarist and also saw Tywin as one (like lots of people in- and out-universe).

    When he proposed the walk of “atonement” to the High Sparrow, he manage to get Cersei back to the Red Keep without her power and with the agreement of the High Sparrow. This appears to me like a very utilitarist political move : the mean is horrible, but the end is achieved.

    P.S. : Sorry it is so long of a comment, but I wanted to give arguments and not just a baseless opinion. I hope I made my point with clarity.
    P.P.S. : I am not a native English speaker (or writer in this case), so I apologize for any mistake I have made.

  32. Kingslayer

    You forget that it was the Starks that started the war by seizing Tyrion and nearly killing him. Ned then admitted it was his order. If Cat suspected Tyrion then she should’ve brought him to King’s Landing and accused him in front of the King (the foremost judge in the country, all justice is done in his name). There’d be a trial, and he’d either be found guilty or innocent. Instead she took it into her own hands. Would you expect Ned to do nothing if the Lannister’s had abducted Robb unprovoked on the road? If it was his son on the line I have no doubt Ned would do the exact same thing. Would he not also try to corner Tywin on the street/attack him if it meant getting his son back? A chevauchee is meant to weaken the productivity and strength of a region. Killing those peasants also diminished the amount of conscripts the Riverlands could call on, and the number of people to work their fields/build their weapons/pay taxes etc. War is expensive, and without the raids the Riverlands would be much stronger. At Oxcross all of those people were untrained peasants too, do you fault Robb for burning/trampling/slaughtering them before they could reach for their weapons?
    If Ned Stark said to Jaime or in his message to Tywin “I’ll tell my wife to release Tyrion, this is a misunderstanding.” Then it could’ve been avoided, or peaceably solved. Instead Ned escalated it. To Tywin/Kevan/Tyrion it was completely unprovoked, only Jaime/Cersei knew about Bran.

  33. Josh

    Interesting piece, and I only have a couple of problems with it. The first and primary issue is you are filtering the characters and their decisions upon your own, modern morality, and not that of A realistic ‘medieval fantasy’. The last sentence proves as much—characters within the story should, to some degree, be judged by the morality of their fictional world and time period. Not that I disagree with anything you said. I found the piece to be well researched and thought out. Secondly, fans of the books typically like Kevan bc he is as smart and cunning as his brother, not bc he’s morally superior. The Cersei vs Kevan dinner in Feast proves that. It’s also interesting that he offers sound, clever council to her after he gets wine in the face, not before, proving he is politically savvy, and perhaps proving he cares more for House Lannister than himself, if only a little bit. Good article either way.

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