Was a civil war to end the reign of Aerys II, the Mad King, inevitable?

This came up in twitter discussions the other day.

The reign of Aerys II, the Mad King, was so toxic that it was headed for a bad end, no matter what happened. Rhaegar running off with Lyanna Stark pissed off a lot of people, but it was not technically the cause of Robert’s Rebellion – the King abrogating his duty to his subjects by roasting Lord Rickard and Brandon Stark alive in a poor excuse for a trial by combat, that was the thing that made the Rebellion kick off.

So… was that kind of mistake by Aerys inevitable? Was he so psychotic, so blinded by greed and narcissism and paranoia that he would inevitably cross the line and make it legitimate for his noble lords to rebel against his rule? We know that Rhaegar had hoped to stage a coup d’état to oust his father.

Rhaegar had put his hand on Jaime’s shoulder. “When this battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but . . . well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.”

AFFC, Jaime I

But does this mean that some kind of rebellious end to Aerys’ reign was certain?

Maybe, maybe not.

It is difficult to see how Aerys’ reign could have been sustained much longer, although it is also not clear that if Rhaegar did attempt a coup d’état if that would be strongly supported by the feudal lords. What is even less clear is if Jon Arryn’s plans for a non-Targaryen regime were something he was actively working towards, or something that he simply quietly ruminated over to himself.

So in a fashion befitting a lawyer, my answer to the title question is “it depends….” 

Continue reading “Was a civil war to end the reign of Aerys II, the Mad King, inevitable?”

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The problem with Rhaegar

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They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert’s hammer stove in the dragon and the chest beneath it. When Ned had finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream, while men of both armies scrabbled in the swirling waters for rubies knocked free of his armor.

Rhaegar Targaryen is, to put it mildly, problematic.

At worst, he’s a kidnapping, prophecy-obsessed rapist. At best, he’s a fool in love who forgot everything political he knew (or ought to have known) to run off with 15 year old Lyanna Stark.

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Southron Ambitions – turned up to 11

BRING OUT YOUR TINFOIL!

Southron Ambitions is the name for a much touted fan theory that Rickard Stark married off his sons and daughter to southern houses for the purpose of aligning with other Great Houses. It’s pretty well accepted because it fits with the recent history of ASOIAF:

  • Brandon Stark was betrothed to Catelyn Tully
  • Eddard Stark was fostered at the Eyrie by Jon Arryn
  • Hoster Tully was negotiating with Tywin Lannister for Lysa to marry Jaime
  • Lyanna Stark was betrothed to Robert Baratheon
  • Oberyn Martell reminiscences with Tyrion about Oberyn and Elia visiting Casterly Rock with their mother, who had ambitions to match off her kids to the Lannister Twins (can you imagine Cersei and Oberyn? Hilarious.)

So we know for a fact that there was a lot of marriage alliances going on between all the major houses in Westeros, except for the Tyrells, who at that point didn’t have anyone of marriageable age (remember – Loras and Margaery are only 15-17 at the time of ASOS)

But I think there was more than just plans to get to know each other at the heart of these marriage alliances. Remember, in medieval times, marrying your sons and daughters off was the best way to seal a political union.

The TLDR version is:

  • Bitter Lady Dustin is correct that Rickard Stark had “southron ambitions” in arranging Southron matches for his children
  • but she doesn’t know the bigger picture: the Great Houses involved in these matches were preparing to overthrow the Targaryens for ever.
  • plan was massively accelerated when Lyanna ran off with Rhaegar as Aerys’ over reaction to Brandon’s behaviour, and killing Brandon and Rickard, gave the would be rebels the perfect excuse to launch their planned rebellion.

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Rhaegar v Robert, as depicted in The World of Ice & Fire

Continue reading “Southron Ambitions – turned up to 11”