Sansa arrives for the first court of King Joffrey’s reign. She has been given free rein of the castle, but is always “escorted.” The walls of the throne room have been stripped of Robert’s hunting tapestries. Three Kingsguard; Ser Mandon, Ser Meryn and Ser Preston, stand at the foot of the throne and twenty or so lords wait for Joffrey to arrive, including Lord Gyles Rosby. Other attendees include Jalabhar Xho, Horas and Hobber Redwyne, Ser Aron Santagar, Ser Balon Swann and Ser Dontos Hollard. Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys, and Petyr assume their seats on the small council and then Joffrey enters with Cersei, Ser Barristan, Ser Boros and Ser Arys.
Joffrey has Grand Maester Pycelle read off a long list of those who must come to King’s Landing to swear fealty to Joffrey or be named traitors. These include Stannis Baratheon and his wife and daughter; Renly Baratheon; Nestor Royce and his son Albar; Yohn Royce and his sons Andar and Robar; Lysa and Robert Arryn; Mace Tyrell and his brothers, uncles, and sons; Hoster, Brynden and Edmure Tully; Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr; Doran Martell; Bryce Caron; the great lords of the riverlands, Jonos Bracken, Karyl Vance, Tytos Blackwood, Shella Whent, Walder Frey and his heir Ser Stevron, and Jason Mallister; and Robb, Catelyn, Brandon, Arya and Rickon Stark. He names Lord Tywin the new Hand of the King and names Cersei to the small council as queen regent. Furthermore, he elevates Janos Slynt to Lord of Harrenhal and to the small council. Lord Janos comes in at that point with two of his sons and takes his seat on the council.
Next, the queen relieves Ser Barristan as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and names Jaime to the post. Barristan is stunned, as the oath is for life. He talks of how he had always dreamed to be a Kingsguard and joined in his twenty-third year. Ser Gerold Hightower heard his vows, and he served alongside the likes of Prince Lewyn Martell and Arthur Dayne, protecting three kings, Robert, Aerys II, and Aerys’s father Jaehaerys II. Cersei offers him land near Lannisport, but Barristan refuses, saying he will die a knight and walks out after insulting the other Kingsguard and Joffrey. Joffrey orders Barristan seized for questioning after he leaves, and Lord Janos says he will see it done. Cersei names Sandor Clegane to replace Ser Barristan on the Kingsguard. He accepts, but refuses to take a knight’s vows, becoming the first member not to be a knight. When the pronouncements are over, Sansa comes forward and begs for mercy for Eddard. Joffrey and Cersei relent and say his life may be spared if he confesses his crimes.
Ah, the first court session of his Majesty Joffrey Baratheon, first of his name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Realm, Defender of the Faith, etc. etc. There’s some truly golden Joffrey/Cersei moments in this chapter, so I’ll revert back to my usual style of running through it bit by bit.
There were no more than twenty, where a hundred had been accustomed to wait upon King Robert.
This is perhaps the strongest sign of the impact of the War of the Five Kings. I guess there had been no northern lords in Robert’s court, but all the Lords sworn to Storm’s End, Highgarden and Dragonstone would have vanished in the blink of an eye the second Robert died and the Western Lords must have ridden off to join Tywin in the fighting along with the Riverland lords who are on the defensive. Pycelle reads out a long list of names but am I along in thinking that the vast majority of the names read out have literally no intention of coming all the way down to King’s Landing just to kiss Joffrey’s ass? I mean, leaving aside the Riverland lords and those actively participating in the war, I don’t see either Royce or Martell being in any great rush to meet Joffrey. They might turn up in the capital if it’s convenient but apart from that, I get the distinct feeling that as far as they’re concerned Joffrey can go fuck himself.
So the king has decreed. The small council consents.
This makes it seem almost as if the small council has veto power. I don’t see any of this particular council having the balls (sorry Varys) to stand up to Joffrey but technically speaking, could they? I had always assumed that the monarch’s power was absolute in Westeros but it would be interesting to see if there was some sort of systemic check and balance in place to prevent the Joffreys of history from running roughshod over decades of good governance (not that that’s the case here). I’m also going to assume that Cersei is not taking up Stannis’ exact position as head of the royal navy, because given her understanding of ships from AFFC, she is hopelessly unqualified for the position. I’m also going to assume that the murmurs from the crowd at her appointment were because she’s a woman and women are not traditionally on the small council? It might be something else, but that seemed most likely to me.
“granted the ancient seat of Harrenhal … until the end of time”
Yes, if by end of time, you mean a couple of weeks.
The new-made lord, Janos Slynt, spoke up, his voice heavy and blunt. “Her Grace is trying to tell you that you are relieved as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.”
It took Slynt less than a few minutes to resume his brown-nosing. The man is just so hate-able, it’s ridiculous. Anyway, why did he get Harrenhal anyway? Is this just Cersei having no idea how rewards work? ‘Oh, good job Janos, take the biggest castle in the kingdom, because I’m just so happy right now’? Of course, Harrenhal’s curse aside, there still the matter that he’s never going to get to the castle with all the fighting going on around there. Still, my question is how exactly did a man like Slynt drive such a hard bargain? He gave Cersei Ned, or more specifically, he flipped on Ned but was that little bit of treachery really worth a castle as big and famous as Harrenhal. I think Cersei (or was it Littlefinger) got the short end of the stick there but then again it’s not like Harrenhal’s even worth all that much and as Varys said way back, titles are cheap.
“…I helped shield King Aerys, and his father Jaehaerys before him . . . three kings . . .”
“And all of them dead,” Littlefinger pointed out.
Low blow, Baelish. He wasn’t even there when Aerys died and as far as I know, Jaehaerys died of old age and I don’t think anyone could stop Robert being Robert. I guess the point still stands but its ridiculous to accuse of failing his duty and more than that, I don’t quite see the point of dismissing him. Did Joffrey just want the Hound around that badly? I mean, Sandor as a Kingsguard doesn’t change a whole lot vis-à-vis his relationship with Joffrey does it? Either way, he’s his sworn protector and if he kept Selmy around, Joffrey would have eight swords (including Sandor who wasn’t going anywhere anyway). Or was this Cersei’s doing? Maybe she thought Jaime deserved a promotion but couldn’t just engineer that directly? Or was it because Selmy was a little too sympathetic with Ned on some key issues? Anyway, it’s widely acknowledged that dismissing Selmy was a mistake but I don’t think we ever get the rationale for it.
Lord Tywin Lannister has generously agreed to grant you a handsome tract of land north of Lannisport
As far as I know, Tywin never approved of kicking Selmy out, nor do I think he knew explicitly about any land being given away. If he were around to watch this, I’d fully expect Cersei to get a stern talking to about overstepping her authority and then get sent off to bed without Jaime supper.
Even now, I could cut through the five of you as easy as a dagger cuts cheese.
So who’s left: Sers Boros ‘Food-Taster’ Blount, Arys ‘YOLO’ Oakheart, Meryn ‘Meh’ Trant, Mandon ‘Death by Pod’ Moore, Ser Preston ‘Who?’ Greenfield. Yeah, far from the most intimidating line-up – I’ve said it before but without Jaime on the list, this is by far the weakest Kingsguard I’ve seen. I mean, ok, Moore is alright in terms of his fighting skills I guess but apart from that, this is literally the sorriest excuse for a Kingsguard imaginable. The inclusion of the Hound does improve things by quite a bit but only because the rest are rubbish.
“He called me boy,” Joffrey said peevishly
Great reaction time there, Joff. Wait till he’s safely out of the room before talking smack, classic beta move. Realistically speaking, I feel like if any of the current Kingsguard had tried to take Selmy before he disarmed himself, the court room would have turned into a blood bath. Selmy might have gone down, but Joffrey would need a few more Kingsguards. Like, maybe four more at least.
“Treason is treason,” Pycelle replied at once.
Pycelle once again demonstrating how irreplaceable he is. The last part of the chapter, with Sansa pleading for Ned’s life is touching as is her optimism after Joffrey seemingly accedes but the small council seems literally to be a mummer’s farce, to borrow a Martinism. We have Varys playing the wise, sympathetic councillor who really wants to help Sansa, but can’t, while Pycelle plays up the role of the old-school, no-nonsense, maximum sentence judge. I guess a quick summary of my feelings towards the whole lot of them is that they suck and I can’t wait for them to start getting their comeuppance.