GRRM is pretty fuzzy with dates, which can be rather annoying when you’re trying to work out who was where and when, and how long things took (and when babies were born…)
The Rebellion is one of these awkward, fuzzy, vague timelines. It took somewhere around 9-18 months? Maybe?
I got sick of not being sure, so I
investigated procrastinated one night and worked it all out. because who needs to write their postgrad papers huh?
This is what I reckon happened, and when.
So some months before the shit hit the fan with Lyanna and Rhaegar, there was the Tourney of Harrenhal. And sometime before and after that, Elia Martell was nearly dying in childbirth. And some months after that, Rhaegar was dying in battle, and Lyanna was dying in a bed of blood….
Who did what when?
When does the Rebellion start – officially?
Rhaegar ‘taking’ Lyanna is the event which set in motion the Rebellion, but it isn’t the start of the Rebellion. The decisive act of “OK, it’s on” is when Jon Arryn refused to give the Mad King the heads of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark, and then the lords of the Vale, the North and the Stormlands called their banners for war.
This was preceded by the romantic tragedy (or the tragic romance) of Rhaegar and Lyanna, and Robert Baratheon holds on to that moment as being the start… but it wasn’t.
And even calling the banners, that wasn’t the start of Shit Hitting The Fan, it was just the start of the Rebellion as an actuall rebellion proper.
The shit hits the fan when Brandon Stark charges into King’s Landing calling for Rhaegar Targaryen, the Crown Prince, to come out and duel him for the insult of taking his sister Lyanna.
Rhaegar doesn’t hear this challenge. We have no idea what he thought of it.
But Aerys II heard it: he had Brandon Stark and his companions locked up for treason, and demanded Rickard Stark come south to answer for his son’s insolence.
Anyway. Rickard travels to King’s Landing as fast as possible, because you don’t keep the Mad King waiting. Things go badly.
Things appear to happen quite quickly after Aerys roasts the Starks, but do they?
How long does it take for war to start?
Aerys sends a raven to the Vale, demanding Jon Arryn kill his wards Robert Baratheon (Lyanna’s betrothed) and Ned Stark (the new heir of Winterfell) because obviously there’s a massive conspiracy going on (I mean there was, but Rhaegar had nothing to do with it….)
War starts. But… not much happens for a while?
Ned returns to Winterfell and calls his banners. Robert is smuggled into the Stormlands (because presumably the royal navy was sent to Storm’s End to stop him from being able to call his banners?) and does the same. Jon Arryn gets the Vale ready.
There’s some skirmishes. Riverrun is yet to commit their troops to the cause, despite earlier promises, so there’s some weddings: Ned upholds Brandon’s marriage contract, and Jon marries Lysa.
This is significant, because of what Lysa reveals to Sansa in ASOS: she wanted to marry Petyr Baelish, Littlefinger, and was pregnant with his baby. She told Hoster that she was with child and wanted to marry Littlefinger. Lysa was dosed with moon tea to force her into miscarriage, and Littlefinger was booted the fuck out of Riverrun.
But when exactly did that all happen?
We know Brandon is hanging around Riverrun some months before Rhaegar/Lyanna run off. We know that Brandon duels Littlefinger and gravely injures him, almost to the death. We know it takes Littlefinger some time to heal, and he isn’t kicked out of Riverrun until he is well enough to travel (although still far from completely healed) as per his dialogue with Sansa/Alayne in AFFC.
So…. what, two months? Three months?
And what was Brandon doing in the south for all those months in between Harrenhal and his sister’s
capture elopement? Seriously? The more I think about it, the weirder it is that Brandon Stark wasn’t at Riverrun, he wasn’t at Barrowton, he wasn’t at Winterfell…. he was just “away from Riverrun….” WTF does that mean?
Was Brandon based in Riverrun, and going off on diplomatic missions for Team Southron Ambitions/Replace the Targaryens for three months prior to his sister running off with the married Crown Prince?
It’s possible. But we don’t know. GRRM is fuzzy with details!
Whatever happened, we need enough time for:
- Brandon and Littlefinger duel
- Lysa loses her virginity to Littlefinger while he’s massively injured and off his tits on milk of the poppy – he calls her Cat
- Lysa sleeps with Littlefinger at least one more time while he’s convalescing (because remember, he brags about taking both Tully girls’ virginity, but actually only slept with Lysa – and I think he knows that.)
- Sometime after the duel, Littlefinger is sent away from Riverrun by litter – he’s not healed enough to walk or ride on his own.
- Brandon isn’t at Riverrun when Lyanna goes AWOL, but he is in the Riverlands
- Hoster doesn’t immediately join the Rebellion, despite being an ally and partner of Team Southron Ambitions/Replace the Targs
- Jon Arryn’s heir(s) die in battle prior to his wedding to Lysa
- Lysa is forced to abort her child without consent – we know it was a bloody affair (from Hoster’s ramblings while dying and Lysa’s exposition dump/psychotic break in ASOS) and she is convinced that it was a baby boy (which means she could have been far enough along for the foetus to have identifiable features, or it could mean she just assumed baby = boy because wahey misogyny in Westeros.)
It is strongly speculated that Lysa was quite a way into her pregnancy (i.e. late first trimester, early second trimester) before she told her father, in the hope that he would let her marry her beloved Petyr to avoid scandal, and as such Hoster made the Riverrun maester give her an extra strong dose of moon tea, which may have contributed to her problems with fertility later on. But we don’t know that and could be wrong. We do know, from the World of Ice and Fire app, that the experience nearly killed Lysa, which supports the latter theory!
The thing is…
Either there was a few months of Brandon fucking around in the Riverlands, during which time Littlefinger and Lysa knocked boots and Lysa told daddy “I’ve made up my mind, I’m keeping my baby.”
Or, there’s a few months in between Brandon and Littlefinger duelling, Lyanna going AWOL and the Riverlands entering the Rebellion. During which time:
- it takes Robert a while to get into the Stormlands and rally his bannermen (and instruct Stannis to hold Storm’s End to the bitter, hungry end.)
- it takes Ned a while to gather his Northern forces
- there’s a few opening skirmishes over a few months
- and during all this time, Hoster is dealing with the Littlefinger/Lysa drama
The latter is probably more likely. It would also explain on a more personal level why Hoster Tully got cold feet to Team Southron Ambitions – he was dealing with other shit closer to home at the time.
But why is that important? Because Jon Arryn only marries Lysa after Hoster ‘cleanses’ her of her ‘problem’ and she is ‘soiled goods,’ and his previous Arryn heirs have been lost in battle. We need a few months at least, if not 6 months in total, from the time Brandon wounds Littlefinger and Lysa sleeps with him, to Ned/Cat and Jon/Lysa getting married in a politically motivated dual wedding during the Rebellion.
You spent a night going through the Wiki of Ice and Fire didn’t you?
Yes, yes I did. And it was interesting…. I found out some things that I hadn’t ever been really clear on before.
Like… when Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen were born, relative to when Rhaegar went AWOL. Dad of the Year? Nope. And this realisation that Brandon Stark was AWOL in the Riverlands for months without explanation, which makes my crackpot Southron Ambitions Turned Up To 11 theory much less crackpotty – it actually sounds like Brandon was gathering intel in the south.
Piecing together the timeline: step by step
- Rhaegar Targaryen marries Elia Martell (start of year – Jan, Feb?)
- Elia Martell gives birth to Princes Rhaenys, (later part of year – Sep, Oct assuming she was almost immediately pregnant after their wedding?) and is bedridden for 6 months
- Lord Whent announces he will hold a grand tourney in the following year
- Tourney of Harrenhal.
- Elia Martell is well enough to travel – i.e. so if Rhaegar and Elia married in Jan 280, and she got immediately-ish pregnant, she gave birth in Sep-Oct 280, thus the Tourney is around March-April 281 AC
- Ser Jaime Lannister is appointed to the Kingsguard. Lord Tywin Lannister not only cracks the shits and leaves the tourney, but he resigns as Hand of the King (after many fractious years of struggling to govern through Aerys’ madness and Tywin/Aerys’ simmering feud.)
- THEREFORE from ~March/April 281 AC, we start the progression through Aerys’ many post-Tywin Hands of the King.
- Lord Owen Merryweather appointed Hand of the King
- Elia Martell gives birth to Aegon at the start of the year (Jan?) and nearly dies.
- the scene that Dany witnesses in her House of the Undying visions must take place here. Rhaegar is still at Dragonstone, Aegon is a “babe at the breast” and Rhaegar is telling Elia that “there must be one more – the dragon has three heads.” Which I’m sure the woman who just barely survived her second pregnancy was fucking THRILLED to hear….
- Also: if Elia was supposedly so sick she was bedridden for 6 months after Rhaenys’ birth… and she’s giving birth about 9 months after the Tourney of Harrenhal… then Rhaegar was pressing his ‘marital rights’ to ensure that she spat out another kid ASAP. Because she would have been pregnant at the Tourney, which was the first time she had been out of her sick bed in a long time. Which means that Rhaegar wasn’t waiting for his wife to properly recover before knocking her up again…
- Rhaegar leaves Elia and children on Dragonstone early in the year (Feb? Mar?), taking to the road with Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Oswell Whent
- I’m sorry, his children were how old? Did he even hold baby Aegon before he buggered off onto the road to capture Lyanna Stark???
- Brandon Stark is at Riverrun; Petyr Baelish challenges him for Cat’s hand. (Mar-Apr?)
- Brandon leaves Riverrun shortly afterwards, but not for Winterfell?
- Lyanna travels to Riverrun, is “abducted” by Rhaegar and Co somewhere near the Isle of Faces (somewhere around May-ish?)
- Brandon goes troppo when he finds out, rides for King’s Landing
- Thinking…. maybe he knew Rhaegar wasn’t at Dragonstone? Was this publicly known, that the Prince was travelling around? He was well known for skulking around Summerhall… Anyway: if Brandon knew Rhaegar wasn’t at Dragonstone, this supports the idea Brandon was spending time in the south gathering intelligence for Team Replace The Targs/Southron Ambitions?
- Aerys arrests Brandon and his mates. Demands Rickard comes to King’s Landing.
- We know that it took Brandon ~2 weeks to get from Riverrun to King’s Landing, which is also consistent with the time it took Tywin Lannister’s forces to get from Casterly Rock to King’s Landing later in the Rebellion.
- So mid-late May, then it would take Rickard and the other Northern fathers summonsed to King’s Landing about a month to get to the capital… the Starks die in late June/early July.
- Farcical trial of Brandon and Rickard Stark results in their deaths.
- Aerys sends a raven to Jon Arryn, demanding Bob and Ned’s heads.
- War breaks out, officially. Approx July 282 AC.
- Now… it takes time for everything to happen. Remember: Westeros is about the same size as South America, according to GRRM. So travelling from the Eyrie to Winterfell takes weeks, not days. There’s no magic jetpacks here!
- Jon Arryn rallies the Vale troops
- Ned Stark travels to Winterfell and rallies the Northern troops
- Battle of Gulltown – Aug-Sep 282? Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn seize Gulltown, consolidating rebel power in the Vale and officially kicking off the Rebellion’s fighty times.
- Robert Baratheon smuggled into Storm’s End to rally his troops.
- Lord Merryweather sacked as Hand, Jon Connington promoted to Hand of the King by Aerys
- Battles of Summerhall – Oct-Nov 282? Robert leads three battles in one day, consolidating his power in the Stormlands.
- Battle of Ashford – Randyl Tarly outmaneuveres Robert Baratheon in the Reach, leading to the rebels’ first (and really only) defeat – late Nov 282?
- Tyrell army invades the Stormlands (Dec 282?), lays siege to Storm’s End with Stannis Baratheon (and Renly) holed up inside. Mace Tyrell and co don’t move much for the rest of the Rebellion, feasting daily outside Storm’s End while those inside slowly starve.
I’m not sure when, but at some stage after the Rebellion broke out, Elia Martell and her children are summoned to King’s Landing, to ensure that the Dornish fought on the royal army’s side of the rebellion. This was prior to Queen Rhaella and Viserys being sent to Dragonstone in 283 as Jaime describes the Queen and Viserys being sent away after the Trident, but Elia + kids being kept in King’s Landing as insurance.
So… let’s say that Elia is summoned either after the Battles of Summerhall or after the Battle of the Bells. Otherwise she’s at Dragonstone.
- Jon Connington decided to be an active Hand, and promised Aerys he’d bring back the rebel’s heads. That didn’t work out. Battle of the Bells. Start of the year (Jan?)
- NB: this is where Jon Arryn’s heir dies, therefore the dual weddings must be AFTER this event.
- It was this Battle that made Aerys realise that this rebellion was serious, according to Jaime, and accordingly the Mad King sent out some of the Kingsguard to rally/organise the royal troops and ordered Rhaegar to return to the capital and lead the armies of the King.
- If this was the battle that made Aerys start treating the Rebellion seriously, then it would make sense that it was after this that Elia was summoned to King’s Landing, in about Feb 283
- Importantly… Aerys summoned Tywin Lannister to provide forces for the royal armies. Tywin’s silence in response to this command freaked Aerys out completely, and this triggered the pyromancer kaboom King’s Landing plan.
- JonCon sacked as Hand, replaced by Lord Qarlton Chested, previously Master of the Coin on Aerys’ Small Council. also Feb?
- Aerys sends Ser Barriston Selmy and Ser Johnathor Darry to Stoney Sept to pull together the royal forces. Ser Gerold Hightower, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, is sent off to find Rhaegar and get him home to lead the royal armies. Say they head out around late Feb/early Mar, and it takes Hightower ~4-6 weeks to track down Rhaegar in Dorne. That brings us to Mar-Apr when Rhaegar is being summoned back home.
- Ned and Jon marry Cat and Lysa at Riverrun – April-ish? No – can’t be, see calculations about Jon and Robb’s birth date below. If the boys are born in late 283, say Dec, then Cat and Lyanna were getting pregnant around March. In exchange, the Riverlands’ troops enter the Rebellion.
- Rhaegar returns to King’s Landing.
- Given the extraordinary steps he took to ensure a child of ice and fire, there’s no way that Rhaegar left the TOJ until he was certain that Lyanna was pregnant. But Jon isn’t born until late in 283, like Robb… so like Cat, Lyanna wasn’t pregnant until March/April 283. Which means that it’s likely that Rhaegar dilly-dallied around after Hightower came to the Tower of Joy until he was sure that Lyanna was through her first trimester, and didn’t leave for King’s Landing until June-ish. Assume it took him a month to travel from the Prince’s Pass in the Dornish mountains to King’s Landing.
- Chested is sacked as Hand, after he protests the wildfire kabooming King’s Landing plan. Daenerys is conceived by rape after Chested’s burning, and Jaime was one of the Kingsguard on duty.
- Unclear if this happens before or after Rhaegar turns up to King’s Landing. So Dany is conceived – and the wildfire caches start being placed around King’s Landing – somewhere in April/June.
- Battle of the Trident. July? August? How long does it take everyone to muster their troops and head for the Trident? Ned is supposed to have only spent a couple of weeks with Cat at Riverrun before riding off to the Trident, which should put their wedding later than March, but because Jon is meant to be slightly younger than Robb, Cat’s post-wedding shagfest can’t occur any later than early April!
- Rhaegar dies at Robert’s hand.
- The Late Lord Frey turned up after it was all over, earning Lord Tully’s distrust and suspicion (justifiably – the arsehole had been summonsed with the rest of the Riverlands’ troops much earlier in the war.)
- Robert wounded in battle.
- July? August? Queen Rhaella (pregnant) and Prince Viserys are sent from King’s Landing to Dragonstone for safety, but Elia Martell and her children are kept in King’s Landing because Aerys’ is convinced that the Dornish troops under Lewyn Martell’s command turned against him and lost them the battle at the Trident (which we know is bullshit.)
- Battle of the Mander – aka House Greyjoy’s perfunctory contribution to the Rebellion.
- Tywin Lannister leads the Westerlands forces to King’s Landing.
- Ned leads the Rebels armies as fast as possible to King’s Landing, hoping to beat Tywin there.
- Sack of King’s Landing.
- Tywin gets to King’s Landing first, a fortnight after the Battle of the Trident. Therefore this must be in either early August, if the Battle at the Trident took place in July, or late August, if it took place in August.
- Grand Maester Pycelle convinces Aerys to open the gates, against Varys’ advice
- The Westerland forces rampage through the city
- Aerys commands Rossart to set off the wildfire.
- Jaime kills Rossart to prevent the wildfire plan from being executed. Then he kills Aerys, and sits on the Iron Throne waiting to see what happens next (as a shellshocked 17 year old knight who just broke the biggest of his kingsguard vows…)
- Why didn’t Jaime hide his killing of the Mad King? Because he was discovered moments after by Lannister soldiers, whom he tells to advise all fighting that the king is dead (presumably hoping that his father would order his army to stop raping the city.)
- The Mountain that Rides and Amory Lorch scale Maegor’s Holdfast, break into the royal chambers where Elia Martell and her children are hiding, rape and murder Elia, repeatedly stab little Rhaenys, and smash Aegon’s head against the wall.
- Ned arrives, too late to stop the raping and looting, but not too late to stop Tywin Lannister from crowning himself – yet Jaime Lannister is sitting on the Iron Throne, with the deceased Mad King at his feet…
- Robert Baratheon is proclaimed King of the Seven Kingdoms
- Robert arrives in King’s Landing ~late Aug/early Sep and is formally, but hastily crowned by Jon Arryn and the other rebel leaders.
- Tywin Lannister presents the new King Robert with the bodies of Elia Martell, Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen. Much to Ned’s disgust and horror, Robert smiles at the sight of the “dragonspawn.”
- Unable to calm the anger between Ned and Robert, Jon Arryn suggests Ned ride to Storm’s End with the royal troops to lift the siege, while Robert remains in the capital to consolidate his new regime.
- Siege of Storm’s End lifted. Oct/Nov?
- Stannis is ordered to build a new fleet and attack Dragonstone to capture the remaining members of House Targaryen (presumably at this point Robert made his brother Master of the Ships?)
- Ned disappears into Dorne with only a few trusted companions (six to be precise) and returns some time later with Lyanna’s body.
- It’s highly likely that over the course of the rebellion, Ned had plenty of time to think about his sister’s disappearance. Benjen most likely told Ned at Winterfell when Ned was calling his banners that Lyanna was in love, and as such Ned knew to expect that Lyanna would be pregnant or with a baby, which explains why he only took a limited number of very trusted people with him to Dorne.
- It’s also likely that Ned had time to realise that no one had seen hide nor hair of Ser Arthur Dayne or Ser Oswell Whent, despite Aerys sending all the Kingsguard except Jaime Lannister out to rally the royalist troops at various stages in the Rebellion. Where would be the smartest place to start asking questions? STARFALL, home of Ashara Dayne, Arthur’s sister. (Also, look at a map – Starfall to the Tower of Joy is not very far, comparatively. It’s highly likely that Rhaegar and his companions kept the TOJ stocked with supplies from Starfall, which wasn’t the nearest holdfast, but was perhaps the nearest trusted holdfast.)
- Alternatively, Ned and co went straight to the TOJ, courtesy of a heads up as to where it and Lyanna were from Ashara Dayne sent during the war.
- Somewhere late in 283 AC, two Stark babies are born: Robb Stark, to Catelyn in Riverrun, and Jon Snow, to Lyanna at the Tower of Joy. Counting backwards, if the boys are born around late Nov/Dec 283, then Cat and Lyanna were pregnant from Feb-Mar.
- how long did it take Ned to find the Tower of Joy?
- Ned returns to Winterfell with Jon and Wylla the wetnurse.
- Rhaella Targaryen gives birth to Daenerys, and dies. If she went to term and was impregnated in June 283, then this should be March 284. But… she could have gone into early labour, or the Chelsted burning was earlier than June… ???
- Ser Willam Darry and a few others flee Dragonstone with Viserys, Daenerys and a wet nurse, as other members of the remaining Targaryen household staff and retinue were preparing to sell out the Targaryens to the incoming Stannis Baratheon and the new royal (Baratheon) fleet
- Stannis seizes Dragonstone, the Rebellion is officially over.
- Stannis is named Lord of Dragonstone, in a backhanded swipe from his older brother, who is both honouring Stannis by officially making him his heir until he has sons, and punishing Stannis for failing to capture the Targaryen children. (I don’t think this is just Stannis’ paranoia and resentment talking – Robert is described as furious at his brother’s ‘failure.’ A big showy FUCK YOU is precisely Robert’s style. Generous and shitty at the same time.)
- Robert Baratheon marries Cersei Lannister.
- Catelyn and Robb move from Riverrun to Winterfell when Robb is ~6 months old (so in June-July 284?) Cat finds another ~6 month old baby already there and loses her shit.
So the whole Rebellion takes 12-18 months, although it sounds on paper without dates like it only took a matter of months. But Jon Arryn refuses the summons to kill Robert and Ned in 282 AC, and Stannis takes Dragonstone in early 284 AC.
The key thing to remember is that Westeros is supposed to be around about the same size as South America – it’s a continent. So it takes weeks, if not months, to march an army from Winterfell to Stoney Sept, or Storm’s End to Summerhall, or the Trident to King’s Landing.
We know Lyanna was already pregnant before Rhaegar left to return to the foray, because that’s how babies are made people! We also know that Jon is slightly younger than Robb – or at least, that’s what Ned has told everyone for years and there’s no one in universe who has any reason to doubt that. Jon is certainly not months older than Robb, because Cat would’ve noticed the difference between her baby and this stranger’s when she arrived in Winterfell when Robb was ~6 months old. (i.e. Ned + Ashara = Jon is off the table, and Brandon + Ashara = Jon is TOTALLY off the table.) But maybe Ned fudged the dates by a few days or weeks? Just to ensure that Jon was the younger, less threatening son to Cat?
In terms of hitting important beats in the plot, we need sufficient time for:
- Lysa to tell Hoster she’s pregnant to Littlefinger, and to have a bloody, nearly deathly forced miscarriage/abortion.
- Ned and Cat marry early 283 and Robb is born late 283.
- Rhaegar and Lyanna conceive Jon early 283 and he’s born late 283
- Aegon, who was a tiny baby when Rhaegar left Dragonstone in 282, has grown into a toddler who had obviously Targaryen features like blonde hair in 283 when his face has been smashed to pieces and all that remains are a few scraps of blonde hair on the back of his skull. He’s too old to have been swapped by Varys without Elia or any of her handmaidens (who may/probably were on Aerys’ payroll and had to report anything weird to him) without everyone noticing that there’s a completely different toddler in the Red Keep. (i.e. Varys’ story is made up after the Mountain conveniently smashed up the real Aegon.)
The battle to months ratio is pretty low. There’s really only a handful of actual battles in the Rebellion:
- Arryn and Baratheon seize Gulltown
- 3 Battles in one day at Summerhall. Robert Baratheon’s personal best (except for the Trident, which was probably more personally satisfying to him.)
- Battle of Ashford – Randyl Tarly’s win and the Rebels’ only loss
- Tyrell invasion of the Stormlands and siege of Storm’s End
- Battle of the Bells
- Battle at the Trident
- Battle of the Mander (aka the Greyjoys do something as token support for the rebellion)
- Sack of King’s Landing
- End of the siege of Storm’s End (although this wasn’t a battle per se – Ned just turned up and said “Oi, you lost” and the Tyrells packed up and pissed off?)
- Seizure of Dragonstone
10 battles in 18 months? Seems like quite a lot of fuss over not much, really. Were all medieval wars this anticlimactic?
But anyway… that’s the who, what, when and where of Robert’s Rebellion.