Good old Tywin Lannister. The man who ruled Westeros with an Iron Fist for the Iron Throne…. right?
Art by SerClegane via Deviant Art
Well, sorry Lannister lovers. I detest the man, which I kind of hope was the point of this vicious and manipulative character on GRRM’s part.
There are four major crimes which stand out for me as evidence that Tywin Lannister was a grade A arsehole toerag and, for three of these incidents under international law about the conduct of armed conflict which I’m going to apply to Westeros despite the lack of a Geneva Convention in ASOIAF, make the head of House Lannister a war criminal.
- His mass murder of Houses Reyne and Tarbeck in the massacre known as the “Rains of Castamere” – now technically this doesn’t make Tywin a war criminal, because there was no armed conflict at the time. It just makes him a mass murderer!
- The unnecessary and visceral murders of Elia Martell and her two children, Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen, during the Sack of King’s Landing, carried out on Tywin’s orders by Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch.
- The ravaging of the Riverlands which preceded and crossed into the civil war dubbed The War of the Five Kings, also by Gregor Clegane, Amory Lorch and their band of Bloody Mummers, again on Tywin’s direct orders.
- Finally, the big one: the Red Wedding.
Now, as wonderful as Charles Dance’s performance of Tywin was on Game of Thrones, let’s just take a quick moment to savour Tywin as he is described in the books, mutton chops and all… (I couldn’t get this wonderful image to load, but take the time to go and check out the link. THAT is the image I had in my head reading, before it was displaced by Charles Dance!)
This blog is going to look at the first two. A further blog will dissect the Riverlands rampage and the Red Wedding (because it’s late, and I want to sleep…)
The Rains of Castamere
Tywin believed that the only way to rule was through fear and ruthlessness, a direct reaction to his father’s incredibly mellow (and admittedly disastrous) way of running the Westerlands. Lord Tytos Lannister wanted to be everyone’s buddy, giving out loans, running the gold mines of Casterly Rock dry in his attempts to be popular and fun with the locals, and ultimately being taken gross advantage of by renegade bannermen like the Reynes and Tarbecks.
Now, time to put on my lawyer hat, dust off my notes from my LLM unit on the law of war (shout out to Tim McCormack and Dan Mori, who taught me at undergrad and postgrad level respectively,) and do this properly:
The first question that must be asked when working out if the law of armed conflict (LOAC) applies to any situation is whether or not there is an armed conflict. Put simply, the law of war only applies when there is a war. Otherwise, these appalling events are just ordinary criminal offences, conducted in an extraordinary way.
So, was there an “armed conflict” at the time that Tywin Lannister eliminated Houses Reyne and Tarbeck?
Maybe? As documented in TWOIAF, one of the notable features of Lord Tytos’ reign as Lord Paramount of the Westerlands, apart from his fondness for a good party, was that he regularly lost control of his region, and royal forces under the command of King Aegon the Unlikely and then King Jaehaerys had to be sent in to restore order in the region. Looting, pillaging, raping, plunder – the crooks of the Westerlands had a field day under Lord Tytos Lannister. It sounds like Richmond and Footscray before the hipsters moved in and gentrified these areas which had previously been known for high crime rates fuelled by heroin addiction.
But is a breakdown of social order enough to satisfy the customary international law requirements of “armed conflict”? I don’t think so. So the law of armed conflict does not apply to Tywin’s conduct against the Reynes and Tarbecks, even though what he does would meet the definition of a crime against humanity. The language used in the Geneva Conventions and other texts relied upon to form the law of armed conflict is that a crime against humanity, as distinct from a war crime, is some conduct that “shocks the conscious of humanity” with its awfulness. A war crime is merely a breach of the laws of armed conflict – things like discipline, failing to wear identifiable uniforms when engaging in combat, targeting and so on. It sounds like a lot of legal wank, but it is an important distinction between the “sexy” international law that most politics and law students think the law of war is about, and the rather more mundane reality of court martialable offences that the law of war is actually about to soldiers and commanding officers.
For those who haven’t yet read The World of Ice and Fire, this is a short summary of what Tywin Lannister did to the Reynes and Tarbecks. This incident is the “inspiration” for the ASOIAF in-universe song The Rains of Castamere, which has a prominent and chilling role in the Red Wedding. (Also: go and get TWOIAF. Even if you find the history boring, which I doubt because it’s fascinating depth to ASOIAF, the art work is incredible.)
Tywin had taken control of Casterly Rock’s forces after returning from the War of the Ninepenny Kings to find the Houses of Reyne and Tarbeck in outright rebellion to their Lord Paramount, Tytos Lannister. They refused to repay the debts they owed Casterly Rock, and rejected Tywin’s demands to come to the Rock and answer for their breaches of bannermen loyalty. So he went to them…
First, House Tarbeck’s lands were attacked by the Lannister forces. Any Tarbeck hostages held by the Lannisters were executed, as were all Tarbeck soldiers and men. The Lannisters used siege weapons to destroy Tarbeck Hall, trapping many people within. Tywin Lannister then ordered that the hall and all Tarbeck lands be burned and salted – he wasn’t content to destroy the buildings and kill the people. He wanted to (and succeeded in doing) utterly wiping out House Tarbeck.
Then he went to House Reyne of Castamere, which was an odd castle. Built into the mountain where the Castamere river flowed, most of the castle was underground with the mines which gave House Reyne its wealth.
Tywin ordered Lannister forces to seal up every single crack into or out of the castle, and diverted the waters of the Castamere to flood the castle. The people of House Reyne died slowly over the coming days as the mines and then the castle flooded, slowly but surely. Again, the lands were burned and salted, so no one could re-establish House Reyne in any capacity.
Dunno about you, but that sure as shit shocks my conscience. If we consider the Tarbeck-Reyne Rebellion to be “armed conflict”, then Tywin has most certainly committed a crime against humanity. But if not, then he just casually committed mass murder, ordering his men to carry out gross acts of violence with an inhumane lack of mercy, over debts and insults.
The Sack of King’s Landing
Tywin Lannister hedged his bets during Robert’s Rebellion, avoiding getting involved on either side for as long as possible, until it became clear that the young Baratheon’s forces would win. Partly this was because his beloved golden son who he still considered his heir (despite the laws around kingsguard vows), Jaime, was held hostage by the Mad King as Aerys’ “personal kingsguard” in King’s Landing.
But once Robert smashed Rhaegar’s forces at the Trident and won the Battle of Stoney Sept, it was clear the Rebellion would succeed. Suddenly Tywin springs into action: he summoned 12,000 men (not that many, considering how many knights, horse and fighting men available in the Westerland) and rode hard for King’s Landing, determined to be the force that sacked the capital and brought down the Mad King.
Official Westerosi history says that brave Grand Maester Pycelle opened the gates to Lord Tywin’s forces, and the Lannister men were joined by Ned Stark’s Northern armies to quickly and peacefully ensure that King’s Landing was handed over to Robert Baratheon.
What actually happened was that Tywin beat Ned to King’s Landing, his arsekissing buddy Pycelle opened the gates in defiance of Aerys’ orders to keep them closed, Aerys’ was slain by Jaime Lannister (in one of Jaime’s rare fits of honour, even though he refused to tell anyone but Brienne the truth of why he killed the Mad King), and Tywin’s forces rampaged through the city, sacking and looting. The most violent of Tywin’s men, Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch, climbed the walls of the Red Keep, stormed the rooms of Crown Princess Elia Martell, and then raped her before murdering her, killing her children in front of her in a vicious and visceral violent manner.
Why? Because as Tywin reveals in Chapter 53 of ASOS to Tyrion, he knew that House Lannister had to do something big to convince the rebels that their late enthusiasm for their cause was genuine. And Tywin had the daring to do the one thing that he considered necessary for Robert Baratheon’s reign to be secure: eliminate Rhaegar’s heir, the toddler Aegon.
We had come late to Robert’s cause. It was necessary to demonstrate our loyalty. When I laid those bodies before the throne, no man could doubt that we had forsaken House Targaryen forever. And Robert’s relief was palpable. As stupid as he was, even he knew that Rhaegar’s children had to die if his throne was ever to be secure. Yet he saw himself as a hero, and heroes do not kill children
So using the law of armed conflict…
- Is there an armed conflict?
- Did Tywin order Clegane and Lorch to carry out these murders?
Yes. He explicitly admits this to Tyrion. He ordered his most viscious and violent dogs of war to kill the children by any means necessary. He maintains that he didn’t order the death of the Crown Princess, but he didn’t tell them to keep her alive either.
“I grant you, it was done too brutally. Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”
- Were Elia and her children legitimate targets of opposing soldiers?
No. The principle of distinction is the first and most important rule of the LOAC. Only enemy combatants, enemy military targets are legitimate targets. Civilians are not legitimate targets.
There is no doubt about this one: Tywin Lannister ordered the cold blooded murder of non-military targets during an undisciplined sack of King’s Landing. The murders were carried out with a notable and disturbing level of violence, such that the body of toddler Aegon was left unrecognisable (convenient for Varys… I will do a blog summarising my views on the fake Aegon theory later!)
Part 2 coming soon: the Bloody Mummers in the Riverlands, and the Red Wedding.