Welcome to the third and penultimate installment of this multi-part series, which documents and explores the houses relevant to HBO’s Game of Thrones. These are an attempt to familiarize non-readers of A Song of Ice and Fire with (and remind readers of) the history of the most important houses in the show.
If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the first two installments, The North, and The Riverlands, The Vale, & The Iron Islands, as there are references contained in this piece which are explained in more detail in previous parts.
Here are the houses of the mighty Westerlands:
Words: “Hear Me Roar!”
Seat: Casterly Rock
Title: Lord of Casterly Rock; Shield of Lannisport; Warden of the West
Ancestral Weapon: Brightroar – Valyrian Steel Greatsword
House Lannister, one of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, is descended from Lann the Clever, a legendary prankster from the Age of Heroes, who is famed for tricking the Casterlys into giving him Casterly Rock. After this, they reigned as Kings of the Rock until the Targaryen Conquest, when, like the rest of Westeros, they bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror. House Lannister once possessed a Valyrian steel greatsword named Brightroar, but it has long since been lost.
When Tytos Lannister reigned over Casterly Rock, the house underwent some difficulty due to his kindness, which was so uncharacteristic of a Lannister that it was perceived as weakness. He and his house were exploited by his vassals. However, his eldest son, Tywin, moved to restore the honor of House Lannister, bringing the rebellious vassal houses to heel. One such instance is famously recorded in the song, “The Rains of Castamere”. When House Reyne of Castamere, another proud and wealthy house, openly declared rebellion against House Lannister, Tywin not only quashed the rebellion, but completely exterminated House Reyne. In doing so, Tywin not only restored respect to House Lannister, but simultaneously declared himself a force to be reckoned with. Soon after, Tywin was appointed Hand of the King by the Mad King, Aerys II Tarygaryen.
Tywin has three children; the twins Cersei and Jaime, and Tyrion “The Imp”. At an early age, due to being confined to Casterly Rock and being close since birth, Cersei and Jaime began an incestuous relationship. Tyrion has always been despised by his father, due to the fact that Joanna, Tywin’s late wife, died while giving birth to him. Since Tywin had been appointed Hand, Jaime and Cersei had been unable to regularly see each other, due to Cersei moving with her father to King’s Landing, while Jaime stayed at Casterly Rock. As such, Cersei urged Jaime, a very promising young knight, to join King Aerys’ Kingsguard, so that they could be together. Upon Jaime joining the Kinsguard, Tywin was both devastated and furious, as he had seen Jaime as the one worthy heir to House Lannister. As a result of this, coupled with Aerys’ refusal to wed Cersei to Prince Rhaegar, Tywin resigned the Handship, moving his household back to Casterly Rock. Jaime was now stuck in King’s Landing, separated from his sister, sworn to protect a man whom his father now hated.
Lord Tywin remained neutral throughout the majority of Robert’s Rebellion, only acting once Prince Rhaegar had been slain at the Trident by Robert Baratheon. He marched his forces to the gates of King’s Landing, claiming that he wished to join his forces with the Targaryens in order to repel the rebels. However, Tywin had plans of his own. King Aerys, long since consumed by his infamous madness, and under counsel from secret Lannister loyalist Grand Maester Pycelle, opened the gates and welcomed Tywin’s forces with open arms. The Lannister forces then sacked King’s Landing, and Jaime slew King Aerys, earning him his mock title “Kingslayer”. In order to prove his loyalty to Robert’s cause, Tywin had his knights kill every remaining Targaryen in the city. Afterwards, Cersei was wed to King Robert. This marriage, paired with the increasing amount of gold owed to Tywin by the crown, has only increased Lannister power.
More recently, since Robert’s death, Cersei has taken a more authoritative role within King’s Landing as she acts as Queen Regent for the as yet unmarried boy king, Joffrey. Tyrion has since been the survivor of a murder attempt during the Battle of the Blackwater, the culprit of which he believes to be his sister. Lord Tywin has once more moved his full household to King’s Landing, where he is now Hand of the King, and accepts sole responsibility as the savior of the city. Meanwhile, Jaime is being transported towards King’s Landing by Brienne of Tarth, at the behest of Catelyn Stark, in an effort to trade him for the Stark girls.
Seat: Clegane’s Keep
In the vast history of Westeros, House Clegane is a relatively new house. When Lord Tytos Lannister was out hunting one day, he was attacked by a lioness, the animal of his very own sigil. Before she could deal the finishing blow, however, his kennelmaster arrived with a pack of hounds and managed to drive the beast away. As a result of this valiant effort, the man lost a leg and three dogs (symbolized in the Clegane sigil), but gained lands and a knighthood. Thus, House Clegane was formed. The kennelmaster’s son, the father of Gregor and Sandor Clegane, mysteriously died in a hunting accident not long after Robert Baratheon was crowned king. A sister of the brothers also died under strange circumstances.
Ever since their youth, the brothers Clegane have despised each other. It is common knowledge that a young Gregor held Sandor’s face against the red hot coals of a fire, after he had caught Sandor playing with one of his toys. Four years later, Gregor was knighted by Rhaegar Targaryen. Sandor believes that Gregor is behind the deaths of both their father and sister, as well as the “disappearance” of countless servants in Clegane Keep.
Gregor, more commonly referred to as “The Mountain that Rides” or simply “The Mountain”, is utilized by Tywin Lannister for brutal assignments. The Mountain gained infamy in both Westeros and Dorne after the Sack of King’s Landing, during which he murdered Rhaegar Targaryen’s baby boy, Aegon, by smashing his head against a wall. He also raped and murdered Rhaegar’s wife, Elia of Dorne.
The rise of his brother to knighthood has created in Sandor a bitter resentment of all knights and their supposed chivalric code. He took service with House Lannister to avoid his despised brother, however he did not swear the vows of knighthood. After serving the Lannisters for many years, Sandor eventually abandoned his post after the Battle of the Blackwater.
Words: “Growing Strong”
Title: Lord of Highgarden; Warden of the South; Lord Paramount of the Reach; High Marshal of the Reach
House Tyrell is one of the great houses of Westeros, surpassed in wealth only by House Lannister. From their seat of Highgarden, they hold lordship over The Reach, a lush expanse of fields and meadows, and the most fertile land in the Seven Kingdoms. Like many of the Great Houses, they trace their lineage to the Age of Heroes, and are descended from the legendary Garth Greenhand, the first King of The Reach.
During Robert’s Rebellion, or the “War of the Usurper”, House Tyrell stayed loyal to Aerys II Targaryen, and delivered a crushing defeat to the Baratheon forces at the Battle of Ashford. Following their victory, they laid siege to Stannis Baratheon in the Baratheon stronghold of Storm’s End. However, after the Sack of King’s Landing, Lord Mace Tyrell bent the knee to Robert, who pardoned him and accepted his service.
Lord Mace Tyrell rules over Highgarden and the entire expanse of The Reach. His son, Loras, was Renly Baratheon’s closest friend and secret lover, serving as his personal squire in King’s Landing, where Renly served as Master of Laws on King Robert’s Small Council. Dubbed as “Knight of the Flowers”, he showed prowess at both swordplay and jousting during the Tourney of the Hand in King’s Landing, even managing to defeat the ferocious Gregor Clegane at the tilts. As a result of both his skill as a knight and his close relationship with Renly, he was appointed as Lord Commander of Renly’s Kingsguard after the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings. Margaery is Lord Mace’s daughter and the sister of Loras. During the War of the Five Kings, she was married to Renly in an effort to join Houses Baratheon and Tyrell. However, upon Renly’s death and House Tyrell swearing allegiance to House Lannister, she was betrothed to King Joffrey. Despite Margaery’s young years, she is highly intelligent, and very politically shrewd, traits inherited from her grandmother.
Lady Olenna Redwyne is the mother of Lord Mace, and grandmother of Loras and Margaery. She is perhaps one of the oldest living people in the Seven Kingdoms, although her age has not blunted her shrewdness. Nicknamed “The Queen of Thorns”, she has a cunning wit and is never wary of sharply stating her opinion, holding such a high position of prestige and honor that she is very rarely reprimanded.
House Tyrell declared for King Renly during the War of the Five Kings, but were pardoned when they sided with House Lannister following Renly’s death, smashing Stannis Baratheon’s forces at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Words: “Fire and Blood”
Seat: Exiled (previously Dragonstone & King’s Landing)
Title: None recognized by Westeros. In Essos Daenerys is Khaleesi, and the Mother of Dragons
Ancestral Weapons: Blackfyre, Dark Sister
House Targaryen, now exiled and lying on the brink of ruin, was once the greatest house in Westeros, ruling the Seven Kingdoms for centuries. The Targaryen sigil is a three-headed dragon, symbolizing Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters.
The origins of House Targaryen date back to before the Doom of Valyria. They were one of the forty ancient houses of the great empire known as the Valyrian Freehold. Among many Valyrian houses, the Targaryens were dragonriders, and possessed the skill to tame and command their steeds. When the Doom came, claiming the lives of most of the Valyrian people, the Targaryens managed to escape, and sought refuge on the island stronghold of Dragonstone, off the east coast of Westeros. One hundred years later, Aegon I Targaryen set his sights on Westeros; it was his ambition to establish House Targaryen as a noble and respectable house once more. He aspired to unite the seven separate Westerosi kingdoms under one ruler. Along with his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya (who were also his wives), their dragons, and a small military force, Aegon set forth for Westeros, landing at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush. Thus began the Wars of Conquest, earning Aegon both lordship over the Seven Kingdoms, and his title, Aegon the Conqueror. A city was constructed in the area where Aegon’s force had landed, and named King’s Landing. Aegon had a throne fashioned from the swords of his enemies, forged with the help of his dragon, Balerion the Black Dread. King’s Landing was established as the capitol of the Seven Kingdoms, and Dragonstone now served as the seat of the Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne.
More recently, just before the story of Game of Thrones picks up, Aerys II Targaryen ruled over Westeros. The beginning of his reign showed promise, and he was assisted by his proud and loyal Hand, Lord Tywin Lannister. However, Aerys began to become increasingly paranoid and delusional following his abduction during the Defiance of Duskendale. Although eventually rescued by Ser Barristan Selmy, the kidnapping had taken its toll on Aerys’ sanity. Thereafter, he was known as the Mad King.
King Aerys was married to his sister, Rhaella, who bore him a son and heir, Rhaegar. Prince Rhaegar showed promise from an early age, and resolved himself to prove a better monarch than his father had. The Prince of Dragonstone was beloved throughout the Seven Kingdoms by both lords and smallfolk alike. Rhaegar married Elia Martell of Dorne, who gave him two children, Rhaenys and Aegon. Despite Elia’s frailty and poor health, Rhaegar loved and cared for her. He was a kind, tolerant man, exceedingly intelligent, and a very talented musician and knight. Rhaegar excelled at everything he put his mind to, and the Westerosi people looked to the day he would be crowned king with excitement and enthusiasm. Alas, it was not to be.
During the Tourney of Harrenhal, Prince Rhaegar emerged as the champion, defeating all of his opponents at the joust, including Brandon Stark and Barristan Selmy. The champion of the event was required to name and crown his Queen of Love and Beauty. In a bold and scandalous turn of events, Rhaegar named Lyanna Stark, giving her a crown of blue winter roses. Apart from the fact that Rhaegar was already married to Elia of Dorne, who was present at the tourney, Lyanna was betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon, also an attendee. Robert, until then a Targaryen loyalist, took this action as a serious affront. One year later, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna for reasons unknown. When Lord Rickard Stark and his son Brandon stormed into the throne room of the Red Keep to protest against Rhaegar’s actions, the Mad King had them murdered, burning Lord Rickard alive while Brandon was forced to strangle himself in an effort to rescue his father.
These events sparked Robert’s Rebellion, unleashing war throughout the Seven Kingdoms. Rhaegar commanded the royal army, and led them to eventual defeat at the Battle of the Trident. It was here, in a legendary duel amidst the rushing waters of the Trident, that Robert defeated Rhaegar, smashing in his breastplate with his warhammer. With Rhaegar dead, the Targaryen heirship naturally passed on to young Viserys, brother of Rhaegar and son of Aerys and Rhaella. However, the Mad King had sent Viserys, along with his pregnant wife, Rhaella, to Dragonstone, in an effort to keep them safe from the outbreak of war. During the Sack of King’s Landing, the Mad King was slain by Ser Jaime Lannister, a member of his very own Kingsguard, and the son of his former Hand. Rhaegar’s wife, Elia, and their children, Rhaenys and Aegon, were murdered by Lannister troops on the orders of Lord Tywin. Stannis Baratheon was dispatched to Dragonstone to seize the remaining Targaryens, but he arrived too late. Rhaella had died while giving birth to her only daughter, Daenerys, who was spirited away across the Narrow Sea with her brother Viserys to ensure the survival of House Targaryen. The events of Robert’s Rebellion, or the War of the Usurper, ended three hundred years of unbroken Targaryen rule, and marked the very first time a non-Targaryen ruled from the Iron Throne. House Targaryen had fallen a long way from the days when Aegon the Conqueror established a powerful and respectable dynasty through “Fire and Blood”.
Across the Narrow Sea in Essos, Viserys raised his sister, and they were constantly on the move for fear of assassins sent by King Robert. Viserys fashioned himself as the rightful heir to the Iron throne, demanding respect and aid from various merchant princes. Few took him seriously, calling him the Beggar King. Years later, through Magister Illyrio Mopatis of Pentos, Viserys arranged a betrothal for his sister with Drogo, a mighty and powerful khal of the Dothraki. During the wedding ceremony, Ser Jorah Mormont swore himself to the siblings Targaryen, and Illyrio gifted Daenerys with three petrified dragon eggs. Viserys intended to use Drogo’s Dothraki horde to cross the Narrow Sea and reclaim the Iron Throne. What originally started off as a terrifying arranged marriage for Daenerys eventually grew unto a true, loving relationship, and she became more integrated into the Dothraki lifestyle and customs. Seeing his sister rise in power and become a respected khaleesi infuriated Viserys, and this, paired with his arrogance, resulted in his execution at the hands of Drogo, as a changed Daenerys calmly looked on.
Since then, Daenerys has been the only surviving Targaryen. After the death of Drogo, and the miscarriage of their unborn child, Rhaego (named in honor of Rhaegar), Daenerys is left barren by a curse from Mirri Maz Dur, a Lhazareen priestess, sealing the fate for the long-term future of House Targaryen. However, Daenerys is determined to reclaim her father’s throne with the help of her three dragon hatchlings, Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion. After boldly leading her khalasar through the Red Waste and being welcomed as an esteemed guest in the city of Qarth, Daenerys defeated the warlock Pyat Pree in the House of the Undying. Following this, she secured the treasures of the pretender Xaro Xhoan Daxos as her own, with the intent to purchase a ship to further seek supporters loyal to her claim.
Thank you for joining me in this exploration of the Westerlands, the Crownlands and the Reach. If you managed to read and understand the sections on Houses Lannister and Targaryen fully, give yourself a pat on the back, because I’m still confused even though I wrote them!
I look forward to sharing the fourth and final part of this series with you, an exploration of the Stormlands and Dorne. Check out the full series here:
1. The North
2. The Riverlands, The Vale & The Iron Islands
3. The Westerlands, The Crownlands & The Reach
4. The Stormlands & Dorne
Cian is a student of Theology and History. He frequently confuses the real world with Westeros, and if he’s not talking about A Song of Ice and Fire…he’s talking about Game of Thrones. Mainly interested in old HBO classics such as Rome, Deadwood and The Wire, he currently maintains a vested interest in Treme and Game of Thrones. He also runs a personal blog detailing his writing endeavors.
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