The Winter Queen: Jeyne Westerling Part 2: The Wolf’s Widow

Introduction

In part 1, we examined the background of Jeyne Westerling and her rise to becoming Queen in the North. While her lineage was unlikely, and her marriage built on scandal and lost honor, young Jeyne had already demonstrated the grace, devotion, and good sense admirable in a queen.  Yet she would not have the chance to grow into her role and mother a line of Kings in the North after Robb; treasons from without and within her own household would destroy her queenship and leave her only as he tragic reminder of a lost kingdom.

A Bride from a Lesser House: The Frey Reaction

No matter how gracious and sweet Jeyne was, of course, her marriage had been a terrific political blow to Robb’s nascent kingdom. Catelyn had bargained away her son’s hand in marriage long before Robb ever stormed the Crag.  Her fellow negotiator was expecting at least one royal wedding, and would not be persuaded otherwise.

Walder Frey had good reason to be eager for a match between a daughter of his line and Lord of Winterfell (and then King) Robb. While families like the Starks and Lannisters were kings in their own right for many millennia before the invasion of the Andals, much less the conquest of the Targaryens, House Frey could not boast such an exalted lineage.  Indeed, House Frey had not existed until some 300 years before the arrival of the Targaryens; its founder had received his lands and titles after beginning construction on a great bridge over an advantageous spot on the Green Fork.  No matter how profitable the Freys became, however, their tolls could not buy them the old blood which their riverlands neighbors could boast; while the other riverlords had either in fact ruled the riverlands or claimed the right to (or served as powerful vassals of those who did rule, as the Tullys did), the Freys had no great political connections in their homeland. Indeed, their mercantile income likely hurt more than helped their cause.  Just as Gawen Westerling was derided for marrying the granddaughter of a merchant, so the Freys would have been looked down upon for being mere “coin-collectors,” pretenders who bought their way into nobility. The Freys might have shown good sense in building a bridge in such an invaluable strategic position, but sense counts for little among the haughtiest of the Westerosi nobility.

House Frey had not survived 600 years simply because of its toll bridge, however. The Freys, aware of their strategic position on the Green Fork, had made careful political choices to ensure that, in the contests of greater powers, the Freys stayed alive. Forrest Frey might have fought and fallen for Rhaenyra, the woman he once loved, but other family support for political struggles had been tepid at best. While the Freys were at the center of the abortive Second Blackfyre Rebellion (though their real gain came in wedding an un-maiden daughter to the wealthy Lord Butterwell), Lord Frey and his brother Ser Franklyn surrendered quickly once Bloodraven’s loyalist forces arrived. Old Lord Walder (a child at the time of the Second Blackfyre Rebellion) had followed this reserved example and withheld his troops until victory for his liege Hoster Tully seemed assured. Frey might have been mocked, but he kept all his choice holdings, and no other family had the ability to build a bridge to rival his own.

The Late Lord Frey had made a comparatively active move in declaring for Robb Stark before the boy’s victory was won, and he expected to be rewarded. If Robb married one of his many female descendants, no riverlord could then scoff at House Frey; Brackens and Blackwoods might have once been riverkings in their own right, but the lordly Starks of Winterfell (and then, even more grandly, the new line of Kings in the North) would have first the blood of the Freys before any of their prouder riverlord neighbors. A half-Frey Stark heir would allow no one to cross the Lord of the Crossing.

Jeyne, of course, could not have know of any of this. The histories of the Riverlands were no more to her than the smattering of names and places the Crag’s maester would have had her memorize. A younger son or descendant of Walder Frey might have made an adequate match for her, given Walder’s enormous brood and her own low standing among her westerland neighbors.  Other than its nuptial potential for her, however, House Frey was simply another liege house of a different realm. What little information would have trickled in from the east would almost certainly not have concerned the betrothal of the (then) heir to Winterfell and a Frey maiden.

Even when she herself married Robb, Jeyne likely did not know (at least immediately) that the King in the North was betrothed.  An oath of betrothal is a serious matter – not merely a public religious pledge whose breaking would be a crime against the Seven, but a legally binding contract.  When marriages are less (if ever) matters of love and much more exchanges of lands, wealth, and power, the breaking of a betrothal cannot be taken lightly.  Even when the Starks were openly traitorous to the King on the Iron Throne, Joffrey and his court had to acknowledge publicly what made the betrothal between Joffrey and Sansa null and void:

Joffrey raised a hand. “I would like to heed the wishes of my people, Mother, but I took a holy vow.”

The High Septon stepped forward. “Your Grace, the gods hold betrothal solemn, but your father, King Robert of blessed memory, made this pact before the Starks of Winterfell had revealed their falseness. Their crimes against the realm have freed you from any promise you might have made.” (“Sansa VIII”, A Clash of Kings)

If Robb offered to wed her, Jeyne would not have reasonably suspected that he himself was already betrothed. True, Jeyne was in scandal herself, but her situation could – and had been quickly – remedied with a marriage, to restore some of her lost respectability.  For a lord – or indeed a king – to forswear a dual religious-legal vow, however (at least without the proper niceties Joffrey’s court ensured), was a grievous scandal.  The rest of the Westerosi nobility – particularly the Freys – would not know or care how little Jeyne had actually been aware of her new husband’s betrothal.  Not quite a century prior, Crown Prince Duncan Targaryen had forsaken his Baratheon fiancée for the commoner Jenny of Oldstones; Jeyne was not quite as lowborn as Jenny (though she was only three generations free of the commons on her mother’s side), but the fury of her husband’s (former) betrothed’s family would be at least equal to that of the Laughing Storm, and she would not be spared.

By the time Jeyne had become Queen in the North, however, she had good reason to know just who the Freys were – and why they hated her so much. Black Walder Frey had all but threatened to murder her shortly after her marriage was made, and the Frey forces had publicly abandoned the King in the North after threat of a battle. As stated before, she had demonstrated her good sense in pleading with Robb not to retaliate against Black Walder’s remarks. Nevertheless, the words likely stung. Jeyne was realizing that there was much more to her marriage than simply her honor and Robb’s love.  Robb had made a costly political move in marrying her as well, and would pay a grievous political price.

Homage to Queen Jeyne: The Red Wedding

That price was not, on face, immediately grievous (except, perhaps, to Edmure Tully). Robb would travel to the Twins, to witness his uncle’s marriage to Roslin Frey and apologize for his marriage to Jeyne.  His queen, however, would be left in Riverrun. It was a move of safety; with the Riverlands still in a state of war, Robb could not risk the potential mother of his heir traveling through the lands of the Trident merely to make a courtesy appearance at his uncle’s wedding.  The parting would be hard on both of them (with Jeyne even daringly – though, to Robb, somewhat embarrassingly – riding to him to plead for an invitation), but the visit would presumably be a short one, after which husband and wife could be reunited.

Leaving Jeyne in RIverrun was also, however, a move of practical wisdom. Walder Frey had never been shy about airing his opinions about family and foes alike, as Catelyn well knew; even at their initial treating together, Walder had called Edmure a fool and declared the Starks and Tullys no friends of his. To bring Jeyne was to invite Walder’s candid criticism toward her.  Jeyne might have withstood the insult from Black Walder, but Old Lord Walder could – and in all likelihood would – be much more direct in his biting comments; Jeyne might have had the sense to talk Robb out of immediate retaliation then, but the honor of the husband in hearing his wife insulted by Lord Frey might have jeopardized the wisdom of the sovereign in renewing the Frey alliance. The future was still highly uncertain for the King in the North: Robb faced the dual power of the Iron Throne and the ironborn on every front, he had lost crucial men at Duskendale for no gain, and Winterfell was sacked and burned. He needed the Freys now; to show off his marriage to the “lowborn” Queen Jeyne would be to court Walder’s wrath.

Even without Jeyne’s physical presence, however, House Frey showed its displeasure at its nominal queen, starting even before Robb’s party reached the Twins:

“I do not see the woman.”

By the woman Ser Ryman meant Jeyne Westerling, all knew. Lady Catelyn smiled apologetically. “Queen Jeyne was weary after so much travel, sers. No doubt she will be pleased to visit when times are more settled.”

“My grandfather will be displeased.” Though Black Walder had sheathed his sword, his tone was no friendlier. “I’ve told him much of the lady, and he wished to behold her with his own eyes.” (“Catelyn VI”, A Storm of Swords)

Lothar Frey might have promised to renew the Twins’ fealty to the King in the North with Edmure’s marriage, but there was not the slightest hint of fealty in the words of Ryman and Black Walder.  Catelyn had probably prepared herself for such a reaction; her words seem practiced, a reply carefully crafted to mollify hurt relations and give a reasonable explanation to Jeyne’s absence.  Her response also, gently but pointedly, reminded the petulant Freys of Jeyne’s royal status. Her gooddaughter was not a mere “woman” or “lady”, but their liege’s consort and their queen, and by her position she commanded their respect.

Still, Walder Frey noticed Jeyne’s absence as well:  

“And where’s your bride, Your Grace? The fair Queen Jeyne. A Westerling of the Crag, I’m told, heh.”

“I left her at Riverrun, my lord. She was too weary for more travel, as we told Ser Ryman.”

“That makes me grievous sad. I wanted to behold her with mine own weak eyes. We all did, heh. Isn’t that so, my lady?”

Pale wispy Lady Frey seemed startled that she would be called upon to speak. “Y-yes, my lord. We all so wanted to pay homage to Queen Jeyne. She must be fair to look on.” …

“Fairer than my own get, heh? Elsewise how could her face and form have made the King’s Grace forget his solemn promise.” (“Catelyn VI”, A Storm of Swords)

Robb might have taken the words at their face value, but the tone of Lord Walder’s words should be noted with suspicion.  Walder had specifically noted Jeyne’s Westerling background and Robb’s broken betrothal – ominous signs that the Lord of the Crossing had neither forgiven nor forgotten the slight done to his family. Though Robb and his company could not have known it, Lord Frey had engineered this entire wedding not to celebrate a daughter of his line becoming Lady of Riverrun but to seek vengeance against those who had so wronged House Frey.  Lady Catelyn had engineered the match, giving him false hope before “allowing” her son to betray Lord Frey; Catelyn had to die. King Robb had broken his betrothal and chosen an arguably lesser woman for his bride; Robb had to die.  Jeyne Westerling, of uncertain birth, had insulted his house; Jeyne had to die.    

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A Price of Honor (image credit to nejna)

Unfortunately for Walder, Jeyne had frustrated his plans. He could not punish the Queen in the North for her “crime” against House Frey if she had not attended.  Behind the walls of Riverrun, Jeyne was untouchable; the most Walder could do to her was throw out subtle barbed comments against the King in the North’s impulsive marriage to her.  He could, however, attack another Westerling: her brother Raynald.

Ser Raynald Westerling had been the only member of Jeyne’s family to accompany Robb to the Twins.  The elder son and heir of Lord Gawen and brother of Jeyne, Raynald was a genial young knight; while his official position was standard-bearer for the King in the North, his practical place was as Robb’s effective replacement for his foster brother Theon and half-brother Jon.  Aware that the Lord of the Crossing  would find his presence intolerable, Robb had cleverly directed Raynald to care for Grey Wind outside of the feasting hall; Lord Walder would be unable to insult the Westerling clan to the face of one of its members.  His Westerling blood, however, marked him as an enemy of the Freys. and without Queen Jeyne as an outlet for their vengeance, Ser Raynald made an easy target.   

Sybell, of course, had arranged a deal with Tywin Lannister, which – at least in her imagining – ensured Raynald’s safety in the Red Wedding:

“Raynald knew nought of any . . . of the understanding with your lord father. He may be a captive at the Twins.”

Or he may be dead. Walder Frey would not have known of the understanding either. “I will make inquiries. If Ser Raynald is still a captive, we’ll pay his ransom for you.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

Yet when Jaime inquired further, the Freys had a ready answer for the lack of Ser Raynald – alive or dead:

“The knight of seashells?” Edwyn sneered. “You’ll find that one feeding the fish at the bottom of the Green Fork.”

“He was in the yard when our men came to put the direwolf down,” said Walder Rivers. “Whalen demanded his sword and he gave it over meek enough, but when the crossbowmen began feathering the wolf he seized Whalen’s axe and cut the monster loose of the net they’d thrown over him. Whalen says he took a quarrel in his shoulder and another in the gut, but still managed to reach the wallwalk and throw himself into the river.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

It may be that the Freys took the opportunity, in the midst of the chaos, to cut down Raynald Westerling where he stood in the yard.  Uninformed of the plot to keep Raynald alive (and then presumably send him back to his mother), the Freys had chosen short-term revenge on Raynald for his sister’s “crime”.  It would not be the only time the Freys had reached for a highly implausible explanation to cover their own vengeance: when Davos visited the Merman’s Court, the three visiting Freys had sworn that the King in the North and his lords had transformed into wolves, and that the Red Wedding was really a measure of self-defense.

With Robb and many of his bannermen dead or captive, the Kingdom of the North and Trident seemed to have died as well. Still, his court was not entirely gone.  One lonely figure remained: Queen Jeyne Westerling

The Girl Worth a Kingdom: Jeyne at Riverrun

“Your daughter is worth ten of you, my lady.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

Jeyne could not have known how badly her husband’s visit to his nominal vassal would go. Certainly she would not have relished the time spent apart from Robb.  The northlords and riverlords who had solemnly watched their young king’s coronation in Riverrun’s great hall had dispersed; some had returned to their own seats, some journeyed on the king’s last mission, and some had accompanied Robb on his fateful visit to House Frey. With only Catelyn’s veteran uncle Brynden Tully left to guard her and the Westerlings – a stranger to her, if devoted to his mission – Jeyne must have found the newly quiet Riverrun an isolating place indeed. In happier circumstances, Queen Jeyne might have welcomed the daughters of Robb’s bannermen as her lady companions, inviting the Alys Karstarks and Wynafryd Manderlys of his new realm to her court. With the ironborn closing off the Neck at Moat Cailin, however, and the riverlands burning with war, such courtly niceties were impossible.

Catelyn had played a similar waiting game in her early married life. Married to Eddard Stark, she spent only a single day with him before Eddard rode to war.  Like her goddaughter, Catelyn would have passed her days isolated in the middle of war, with no companion but her sister.  Jeyne, however, lacked the comfort Catelyn had; not only was she far from her childhood home (instead of being within it), but Robb had not left her with the son for which they had both desperately hoped. Nor would Jeyne ever greet the victorious Robb the way Catelyn had at the end of the Rebellion, husband and wife ready to return to Winterfell – or, in Jeyne’s and Catelyn’s cases, to see their husbands’ seat for the first time.

Instead, Jeyne received the horrific news of the massacre that would later be termed the Red Wedding. How Jeyne came to know what happened, or even how long she waited before she knew the truth, is a mystery. By letter or messenger, the words would have been no less than deeply shocking.  In a single stroke, Jeyne had lost her kindly mother-in-law, who had been a budding figure of maternal guidance for the young Queen; her brother, presumably not far in age from herself, one of her few remaining reminders of home; and, most terribly of all, the man she loved so dearly. The murderous betrayal disgusted even the allies of the men who had concocted it, but for Jeyne, “disgust” likely barely covered her sentiments.

Indeed, Jeyne likely experienced a volatile mix of feelings upon hearing of the Red Wedding.  There was shock: no lord would dare contravene the unwritten law of guest right, which had ruled in Westeros long before even the Andals came.  There was horror: Robb’s bloody death by knife and bolt, the vulgar effigy made with his body and his wolf’s head, Catelyn’s body thrown into the river in a perversion of Tully funereal rites, the mystery of her brother’s disappearance and likely murder. There was confusion: Jeyne would have been trained to appreciate a king who died heroically sword in hand (like Daeron the Young Dragon or Daemon Blackfyre), but not a husband who was murdered in the midst of his allies at a wedding.  Overpowering all, perhaps, was a deep sense of guilt and grief. Jeyne knew that she had been the cause of Robb’s breaking his betrothal with the Freys, and that this massacre had to have been the revenge of Lord Walder for his “crime”. Yet she survived, while the husband she loved so deeply had been cruelly murdered.

Jeyne was now Queen Dowager in the North and of the Trident, but the only one left to address her with royal style would have been Brynden Tully. The Queen Dowager herself had never attached much importance to her royal state nor seemed comfortable in rank and formality, even gently requesting Catelyn to use just her first name in conversation. Still, with her king dead, Jeyne might have given some thoughts to her political position. The Freys and Boltons had obviously abandoned their king, as had the Karstarks; few of Robb’s bannermen would likely be willing to continue a war against a Westeros now united after the defeat of Stannis at the Blackwater. Nor did the confusion of the succession aid matters. Without some child of Robb’s, and with Bran and Rickon Stark believed dead, the bronze-and-iron crown could go to any number of heads. There was Sansa, married to Tyrion Lannister and a virtual prisoner in King’s Landing; Arya, secretly alive (and close) but dead to Robb’s court’s knowledge; and Jon, the bastard and brother of the Night’s Watch. Consequently, Jeyne would have expected a fair bit of attention on herself in the immediate aftermath of the Red Wedding; if she bore Robb’s posthumous child, she could become a strong rallying point for her husband’s bannermen.

The Lannisters, of course, could not allow such a scenario to happen. The entire political purpose of the Red Wedding was to end the North-Riverlands insurrection quickly and finally, without the messiness and further cost of continuing the war. An unborn child could spur the lords of the north and Trident – whose devotion, especially that of the northlords, to the Stark name was pronounced – to resume the war. With winter coming, the realm could not afford to continue spending resources it did not have.  

There were, however, more subtle reasons for the Lannister coalition to ensure that Jeyne was not pregnant.  Jeyne had not perished at the Red Wedding, but she had suffered her own treason, from within her own household and family. Sybell Spicer had encouraged Robb to wed her deflowered daughter, but her loyalties to the King in the North were not absolute.  Every lord, but especially every westerlord, knew the fates of the Tarbecks and Reynes, who had so disastrously renounced their allegiance to Tywin Lannister.  Curiously, however, Tywin showed no great distress – and even some amusement – at the idea that Sybell had defied the lion of Lannister:

“The Crag is not so far from Tarbeck Hall and Castamere,” Tyrion pointed out. “You’d think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there.”

“Mayhaps they have,” Lord Tywin said. “They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you.”

“Could the Westerlings and Spicers be such great fools as to believe the wolf can defeat the lion?”

Every once in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold. “The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them,” he said[.] (“Tyrion III”, A Storm of Swords)

Sybell was no great power figure in her own right.  Unlike the Reynes, who could boast older royal descent than the Lannisters themselves, Sybell’s family stood just barely above the Westerosi merchant class.  Her husband’s family might have been old, but the Westerling wealth was virtually nonexistent. A Spicer-Westerling Rebellion would be laughable in comparison to that of the Reynes and Tarbecks; with the Westerlings commanding barely a handful of household knights and a crumbling castle, the rebellion would not merit even a footnote in the annals of the westerlands, much less those of Westeros.  Tywin was nothing if not merciless to those who mocked him, his house, and his authority: all the gains the Spicers had made in four generations – from commoner merchants to marriage into one of the most ancient houses of the west – would be undone in a bloody, Tywin-esque stroke.  

To be sure, King Robb was the victor of every battle he fought, and might be trusted to protect his queen and her family – but Robb was not carving a kingdom in the west.  Indeed, the night of Jeyne’s deflowering was the same night on which Robb learned of the Sack of Winterfell. Sybell would have paid good attention to that notification: not only would he not be able to defend the Spicers and Westerlings indefinitely in the west, but now it appeared that Robb could not even hold his own ancestral seat.  Between the Young Wolf, whose kingdom seemed to be crumbling, and the Old Lion, who always paid his debts, Lady Sybell had to choose.  It would not be unreasonable to suspect that it was at this moment, on this night, that Sybell Spicer made that fateful choice: to ensure Robb’s destruction by a coerced marriage with her daughter and collect handsomely on his downfall from Tywin Lannister.

For the Westerlings and Spicers did do well off the fall of Robb and the Kingdom of the North and Trident. First to benefit was Ser Rolph Spicer, Lady Sybell’s brother, who gained a very thematically appropriate seat out of the operation:

“This grants Ser Rolph Spicer title to the castle Castamere and raises him to the rank of lord.” Tommen scrawled his name. (“Jaime IX”, A Storm of Swords)

The Spicers had seemingly never had a seat of their own (at least, not to the extent readers are made aware); Rolph was merely the castellan of his goodbrother’s seat.  To be granted the seat of what was once the second family in the west (even if it were still flooded from the Rebellion and its modest keep burned) gave a social significance to the Spicers of which the siblings’ merchant grandfather never could have dreamed.  Castamere had been the seat of the Reyne kings long before the first Lannister sat in Casterly Rock; now its status and wealth (if the Spicers could access it, at least) would be transferred to a dynasty only a few generations old. There was no clearer sign that the Spicers rested in the favor of Tywin Lannister; under such protection, no force could challenge or mock them again.

Sybell was not done with her boons, however:

“Your lord father promised me worthy marriages for Jeyne and her younger sister. Lords or heirs, he swore to me, not younger sons nor household knights.”

“Mention was made of a match for [Raynald] as well. A bride from Casterly Rock. Your lord father said that Raynald should have joy of him, if all went as we hoped.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

These proposed marriages underlined Sybell’s dynastically ambitious nature.  Her family had been dismissed as merely upjumped merchants by the rest of the westerlords, and her children coldly denied lordly marriages for their “base” lineage. Now, having betrayed her sometime son-in-law, Sybell was determined to show the haughty westerlords that her children were indeed worthy of great matches. Jeyne and Elena would have lords or the heirs of lords for their husbands – an impressive feat, considering Kevan Lannister’s earlier shocked refusal to betroth Jeyne to one of his twins (and Jeyne’s own sharply fallen value in the Westerosi marriage market, having lost her virginity). A bride from Casterly Rock for her heir Raynald, however, would be the greatest boon of all.  Every westerlord likely hoped for such a bride, to show their closeness to their liege’s family and their high favor with the might Lannisters.  Marriage between Ser Raynald and some daughter of the Rock would silence forever all who criticized the Spicer-Westerlings’ nobility.  

For Jeyne, however, the political gains to be made from Robb’s murder meant nothing compared to her emotional turmoil.  This divide between the political and the personal can be seen in Jaime’s first observation of the dowager queen:

Her face was puffy, and there was a scab on her forehead, half-hidden by a lock of brown hair. “What happened there?” he asked her.

The girl turned her head away. “It is nothing,” insisted her mother, a stern-faced woman in a gown of green velvet. A necklace of golden seashells looped about her long, thin neck.  “She would not give up the little crown the rebel gave her, and when I tried to take it from her head the willful child fought me.”

“It was mine.” Jeyne sobbed. “You had no right. Robb had it made for me. I loved him.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

Jeyne clung to her bronze-and-iron crown, not out of some pride in her royal position, but out of devotion to her husband. So long as Jeyne wore her crown, she still held some piece of Robb.  He had had it forged for her, a testament of his love for her; a more callous man would have left Jeyne deflowered in the Crag, but Robb had cared for her enough to wed her and make her his queen.  The removal of that crown would be the final reminder that her brief, tragic marriage to Robb was over – that she was no longer his beloved consort, the Queen in the North, but merely Jeyne Westerling, a prisoner inside Riverrun.  Jeyne would not be Alyssa Arryn, to receive the news of her husband’s death in stony silence; her tears would run, a testament to how deeply and sincerely she mourned her king.

“As you will.” Jaime turned to the daughter. “I am sorry for your loss. The boy had courage, I’ll give him that. There is a question I must ask you. Are you carrying his child, my lady?”

Jeyne burst from her chair and would have fled the room if the guard at the door had not seized her by the arm. “She is not,” said Lady Sybell, as her daughter struggled to escape. “I made certain of that, as your lord father bid me.” (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

Once again, Jeyne reacted personally to what, to her mother and Jaime Lannister, was a political question.  This may have been the first moment Jeyne realized that the “posset” her mother had sworn would help her fertility was actually designed to ensure the opposite; no matter when she did so, that realization would have deeply hurt her.  Jeyne’s ambition – as a queen and, more fundamentally, as a devoted wife to Robb – was to provide her husband an heir.  To hear that her mother had actively conspired to deny her this outcome – despite the denial’s political pragmatism – must have made Jeyne furious, and inspired such a volatile reaction.

Indeed, defiance toward her mother would define the last glimpse of Jeyne we as readers have received in the books:

The widow rode with downcast eyes, huddled beneath a hooded cloak. Underneath its heavy folds, her clothes were finely made, but torn. She ripped them herself, as a mark of mourning, Jaime realized. That could not have pleased her mother. (“Jaime VII”, A Feast for Crows)

Sybell might pretend that the marriage of Robb and her daughter had never existed, but Jeyne would never submit to such a dishonorable scheme.  She had been Robb’s wife and queen, and she would do all she could to remind the world that theirs had been a true and loving marriage.  Her mother had robbed her of her crown, to deny her the status of queen dowager; she had ensured Jeyne would not conceive, to forbid her becoming queen mother; she had consented to their return west, to remove Jeyne from her short-lived kingdom and subjects; and she had engineered the possibility of a new marriage for Jeyne, to strip her of her Stark identity. All Jeyne could do was rend her garments – a small but important sign that, no matter what her traitorous family believed, Jeyne was a widow, mourning for her beloved king.

Conclusion: Would That We Had Been Given the Chance to Know Her

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Jeyne Westerling (image credit to cabins)

With the surrender of Riverrun, the Kingdom of the North and Trident died.  In its prime, the kingdom had been brilliant: led by the heroic and tactically intelligent Young Wolf, supported by the unheard-of allegiance of all the northlords and riverlords, victorious and independent. Yet its glory had been brief.  Robb had won the war on the battlefield but lost it in a bedroom; his honor – or, more precisely, his perception of honor – had blinkered his sense of royal duty and political necessity.

The tragedies of Jeyne’s brief time as queen are relatively minor, perhaps, in the larger picture of the War of the Five Kings; yet this character should not undermine their impact on Jeyne’s life.  She did not choose to be caught in the war of her father’s liege and his enemy, no more than any of the noble families ravaged by the was.  To be sure, her position was much better than that of many young maidens throughout Westeros: she gave herself seemingly willingly to Robb, instead of being raped, and was married by the (relatively) honorable king instead of being abandoned by him, her virtue tattered. She could not, however, have known the depth of her mother’s scheming nature, or the willingness of Sybell Spicer to betray for material gains the man who had married her daughter and raised her to a throne.  Jeyne had been the pawn of her mother’s, to act for ambition she herself most certainly did not possess and then lightly discard the boy with whom she had fallen in love. Nor did Jeyne deserve to have her husband murdered, and in such a brutal manner, for the “crime” of their marriage.

Jeyne never had the chance to be a true queen, but not for lack of good character. Her gentleness, grace, and willingness to learn indicate a young woman who, in time, would have proved a worthy matriarch of the royal Stark line.  Her devotion to Robb is praiseworthy in a world where highborn marriages are contracts of power and marital fidelity is often preached but less than often practiced.  It was Jeyne’s unfortunate fate to be the doom of the man she loved, but this fate should not for that reason undermine her own praiseworthiness.  Short though her reign was, Jeyne made a good and gentle queen.

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6 responses to “The Winter Queen: Jeyne Westerling Part 2: The Wolf’s Widow

  1. Sir Theodred of Pennytree

    Great essay, i always had this question, would the freys continue to suport robb after the battle of blackwater, after witch robb was essentialy doomed ?, if robb still married a frey, i think the freys would still jump ship, they are a family that likes to be in the winning side .

    • Tywin of the Hill

      I’m not sure.
      Certainly the Freys aren’t known for their loyalty, but after being joined by marriage to Robb, they compromised themselves with his cause. Even after the Battle of Blackwater the Freys remain loyal to Robb, but they think that he must bend the knee.
      Perhaps Lord Walder may have tried to influence Robb to bend the knee, but appart from that, I can’t see him risking his daughter and his future grandson. As Merret notes, Lord Walder “believes in taking care of his own”.
      Anyway, I don’t think they would have done something as horrible as the Red Wedding unless they had been dishonored first.

      • Sir Theodred of Pennytree

        Sure, but if robb wouldnt bent the knee, and he wouldnt, i think that he would betrayem, the future of his house his worth the live of a grand daughter, and yes he takes care of his family but he seems to not care much for them he even seems to take some plazer in seing them fight against one another.

  2. Tony Moore

    I don’t suppose you could be cajoled into reading this aloud podcast-style like BBFish has been doing? If we send you some lemoncakes??

  3. Alisha

    I believe the Freys originally intended to keep Catelyn as a highborn hostage, rather than having plans of killing her. That changed after she slit Jinglebell’s throat and went a little mad at the end. I could be wrong though.

  4. Pingback: Episode 12: Year in Review | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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