Free Northman Reborn

Ranks of nobility in Westeros - Dukes, counts and barons in all but name

83 posts in this topic

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

There are.  One of those is a Trial by Seven.

How so? You have no right to demand a Trial of Seven if the other side doesn't agree on the issue. You can demand a Trial of Seven as a trial-by-combat if you are a nobleman or knight and stand accused of a crime, but it isn't some kind of final way to settle a contended issue between a vassal and his king.

Maegor and the Warrior's Sons both agreed to go through with the Trial of Seven proposed by Visenya but either of them could have dismissed this idea as ridiculous.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

And I think, and most scholarship I've read agrees, that legitimate power is intimately tied into effective power. 

That is pretty much a philosophical question. Within the framework of a monarchy legitimate power only exist within the rules and tradition of that monarchy. I reality, power might be in the hands of other people, but the king usually is the one in whose name everything happens. That kind of narrative cannot really change in a monarchy.

Just look how ridiculous the British look in our modern day and age. They have a parliamentary system but their government is the government of the queen, and their courts dispense justice in the name of the queen, not the people. That is a fundamental difference to a republican system.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

We see Daeron II has less authority than he might due to the allegations of his bastardy (that the accusers have reasons to want more independence is obviously related, but still).

Daeron II's reputation might have been tarnished by the rumors about his parentage, but he crushed the Blackfyre Rebellion and that was essentially the end of such talk. Apparently his government and authority was stronger than that of his son Aerys I. At least in Aerys I's first two years.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

At least two separate kings, and kings with multiple dragons, no less, feel they are bound to get buy in from their vassals in order to guarantee their choices of successor (Jaehaerys I and Viserys I). 

Viserys I didn't need his vassals permission or input to determine his successor. He named Rhaenyra his Heir Apparent and told his lords to do her homage and swear vow of obeisance to her. And they did that.

And Jaehaerys I wanted to arrange a peaceful succession. That's why he convened a Great Council. He wasn't obliged to do that. And if he had been a shithead like Aegon IV he may have named both Viserys and Laenor his heir, or he may have said that only the strongest was worthy to succeed him - like legend claim Alexander the Great said on his deathbed.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Edward I acted without consulting Parliament whenever he could get away with it, too, but at the end of the day he DID require their assistance in some matters.  Likewise, the Targaryen monarchs also need to call Great Councils to settle weighty matters, and on a less formal basis, the Small Council itself can be seen as something of a sounding board for noble opinions.

The Targaryen kings don't need to call Great Council to do anything. They convene such councils when they want to. They are not obliged to do so. And in fact, only one king ever convened a Great Council - Jaehaerys I. King Aenys thought about it, and later on Munkun and Bloodraven convened the second and third Great Council. The former had to appoint new regents and the latter determine the succession of King Maekar. Both were pressing matters of state, but it wasn't mandatory that the lords have a say in any of those matters. Had the original council of regents remained stable or had King Maekar himself named an heir before his sudden death there wouldn't have been a need for those Great Councils.

The Small Council has pretty much no authority at all. The king isn't obliged to listen to the advice of its members nor has the king follow any procedures and regulations as to who he can appoint to the council. The Small Council is entirely in the hands of the king. He doesn't even have to appoint noblemen to the council.

In fact, it seems the great houses of the Realm are usually conspicuously absent from the council.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

But in that case there can be no legal or illegal action, as long as one acts in the name of the king.  We need to inject some sense of common sense into this debate.  Roose Bolton can't enforce the (explicitly illegal) right of First Night, say it's in the name of the king, and have it be kosher.  Dagon Greyjoy isn't acting in the name of the king when he raids the North and Westerlands.

Of course. I think I wrote that every legal act is done in the name of the king, right? Illegal acts would per definition not be done in the name of the king - even if the criminals claim to do that - because the king is above the law. He cannot actually commit crimes (or be punished for crimes if he were to commit them considering that his royal person is inviable).

If a lord were to pretend to act in the name of the king, butchering people or enforcing false laws, etc. then this would of course be an illegal act.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Similarly, vassals have wide latitude to act on their own, both in-universe and IRL.  Ned Stark is executing (heh) a very specific legal duty laid on him by the Crown when he executes Gared, presumably.  But one of his legal duties is not necessarily to fight the ironborn, who are fellow vassals. 

Well, Dagon Greyjoy attacked both the North and the West, did he not? The Starks and Lannisters would have a right to defend themselves even without the explicit permission of the king.

In fact, as Wardens of the North and the West it would actually be their duty to keep the king's peace in the regions in which they are the highest military authority.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

As you say elsewhere, one of the primary duties (if not THE primary duty) of a feudal monarch is to maintain peace and order.  Bloodraven and Aerys explicitly don't do this.  We're told that they don't stir to help their vassals; it isn't that they told the Starks and Lannisters to handle it, we know that the Starks and Lannisters had to handle it of their own accord, when one of the expectations they should have of their liege is material assistance when attacked.  That is WHY the whole episode is phrased that way; GRRM is making a further case to undermine Targaryen legitimacy by showing that they are more concerned with a possible threat to their line than an actual threat to their vassals.

That is how Ser Kyle the Cat sees and portray things, and that's how things apparently look from the point of view of the average hedge knight. But the thing is - Ser Kyle the Cat is not privy to whatever transpires at Aerys' court. He is also not privy to the letters that went back and forth between Winterfell/Casterly Rock and the Red Keep. The man knows pretty much nothing.

He and people like him - Septon Sefton in TSS - are windows in the mind of the common people who don't live and court and hear garbled rumors and reports what's going on there from a variety of sources but they do not act as people who give us accurate information.

If you take the stuff Kyle and Sefton tell us at face value you also have to believe that Sansa killed Joffrey and transformed herself into a winged wolf or that Stannis slew Robert in the guise of a boar, etc.

TSS and TMK build up Bloodraven as this ominous presence - a cruel and potentially evil character with nefarious motivations - and when we finally meet him in TMK he is little more than a stern middle-aged man who is surprisingly lenient with men like Lord Frey and Ambrose Butterwell. He also doesn't seem to have issues with Prince Maekar or any intention to antagonize the man.

And if the man actually was Maynard Plumm in disguise - which is very likely - then he has also shown a surprising sense of humor as well as genuine empathy for Dunk. He isn't what the rumors and stories in TSS and TMK made him out to be.

The same would go for the entire situation at Aerys' court. The idea that Shiera is actually bathing in maiden's blood is very unlikely to be true, either. 

In that sense - the idea that Kyle the Cat condemning Aerys I and Bloodraven for not taking up arms against Dagon Greyjoy personally doesn't mean Aerys I and Bloodraven did not command the Lords Lannister and Stark to do that in the king's name (or give them permission to that after they asked the Iron Throne's permission to do so).

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

You can't have this both ways.  If Lyonel Baratheon is a rebel, then Aegon V wouldn't be willingly committing another of his rapidly dwindling dynastic pawns to the heir of a defeated rebel.  The very fact that Egg is giving this guy the opportunity to save face, and THEN giving this defeated rebel even more royal favor, speaks incredibly eloquently to the fact that there is a lot of sympathy for the Baratheon position in this dispute.

You are not really making sense here. It is possible that you are right here, but the truth is that we don't really know any details about this entire affair. And we cannot deduce anything about the motivations of the people involved simply from the facts we have.

What we do know about Lyonel, Egg, and Dunk is that they became friends at Ashford in THK and that this friendship continued and prospered, eventually leading the Targaryen-Baratheon betrothal. 

Lord Lyonel obviously feels humiliated by Duncan's decision to marry Jenny, but his rebellion doesn't mean either he or Egg don't want to come to an understanding. If two men wanted to resolve their conflict peacefully it would have been these two. Just think how Robert and Ned would have acted if such an issue had divided them.

Those men have been friends for a long time. And might have other positive interactions between 209 AC and 239 AC. The idea that only political factors decided the actions of the people involved in this mess is very unlikely.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

My point being, you are dismissing every single instance of lords asserting rights and privileges as them being clearly in the wrong, and rebels, when perhaps it makes more sense to consider that all of these instances come to pass because those lords consider themselves to be legally wronged, or have traditional privileges (which are basically laws, in a feudal sense) that have been violated.  A betrothal, by the way, is a marriage contract - which means Aegon V is technically breaking the law in allowing said contract to be broken.

A betrothal is just the promise of a marriage. Such promises can and are broken. It is not nice to do that but it can be done. And quite frankly, the contract would be between Duncan Targaryen and Lady Baratheon. Not between the king and Lord Lyonel. It is Duncan who is supposed to marry, not King Aegon V. Marriages are technically not enforced by the parents of the spouses. Lyonel can blame Egg that he did not force Duncan to set aside Jenny and marry his daughter instead, but he cannot blame Egg for breaking the contract. He can blame him only for taking his son's side in the struggle.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

The Whents are sworn to the Crown, so that isn't quite fair, and Walder Frey shows up a day or two late, but is still leaning Tully.  Besides which, that is far less than "half" of the Tully's strength. We know the Mallisters, Brackens, Blackwoods, Vances, and Pipers (at least) are lords on par with almost any in Westeros (save exceptional cases like the Hightowers, Redwynes, and Whents).

As Lords of Harrenhal the Whents were sworn to the Tullys of Riverrun, not the Iron Throne directly. The true allegiance of the Freys during the Rebellion is completely unclear. They came too late and claimed they intended to fight for Robert, but they would have claimed exactly the opposite if they had come too late and Rhaegar had won, right? The bottom line is that they didn't show up, and thus Hoster didn't have their support at the Trident.

We do know that Hoster fought in the Battle of the Bells prior to the Trident and that he had to crush other Targaryen loyalists in the Riverlands prior to the Trident (among them House Goodbrook). That indicates that Hoster had to fight some battles prior to the Trident, which would have had some effect on the strength of the forces he had assembled by then. After all, people die in battles.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Well the numbers at the Trident are typical GRRM being bad at math nonsense.  But I think it's fairly safe to say that the Houses which are noted to be Targaryen loyalists are basically the only major Targaryen loyalists in those regions.

That is far from clear. We do know that Rhaegar had more men at the Trident than Robert. Even if we assume - as a I do - that Robert had only have a token force of Stormlanders with him in the Riverlands, he would still have the army of the North, the Vale, and the Tullys. whereas Rhaegar had only Crownlanders, 10,000 Dornishmen, Reach men, and, perhaps, some Stormlanders who had stuck with the Targaryens, following the Connington example.

Rhaegar is supposed to have had about 40,000 men, with Robert having somewhat less. If Robert had truly the entire power of the North, the Vale, and half of the strength of the Riverlands (in addition to some Stormlanders) at the Trident, then he would have easily had more than 40,000 men there.

That sort of indicates that there must have either been severe losses during the war, not only among Robert's Stormlanders but also among the Vale men and the Northmen. That - or that there were some loyalists in those regions who did not participate in the fighting. 

Ned had more than enough time to gather a sizable army, especially if he gave command before he began his journey back home. Still, he may not have raised all the troops he could have, preferring speed to strength.

But Jon Arryn called his banners first. He would have had more than enough time to gather all his strength. Which means he would have been able to march 30,000 men (or more) into the Riverlands.

That makes it not unlikely that quite a few Lords of the Vale stayed out of the fighting - or even continued to oppose Jon after the fall of Gulltown. We don't really know what happened in the Vale after Ned and Robert left.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

In any case, I'll cut off there and summarize, because I think the specifics of the argument are actually less important than the general concept.  Absolute monarchy as we know it is pretty tightly tied to the notion of divine kingship, and certainly to the ability of monarchs to compel their subjects to obey them.  Feudalism implies a much looser control, one in which the vassal not only owes obedience, but is also owed certain rights and privileges in return.  Obviously there is a large swatch of gray area separating these two.

A king always has to give his subjects something in return. At least the important subjects, the ones sharing in his power. In that sense, there is no meaningful difference between an absolutist monarchy and a feudal monarchy. Especially not in the medieval context where the whole divine right of kings was already an integral part of the concept of kingship. That wasn't invented in modern days, it goes back to the very foundation of medieval kingship.

An 'absolutist king' ruling with the help of the army and the bureaucracy is just as fucked if treats his power base badly as a 'feudal king' is who provokes the most powerful lords of his kingdom too much.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

When the Targaryens had dragons, they had de jure absolute power.  However, because they didn't use this advantage to create the kind of centralized state that would allow them to have de facto and de jure legal power in the case the dragons all died, they end up being much closer to the typical definition of a feudal monarch by the time of the Blackfyre Rebellions til the present day.  Obviously the Targaryens were bound by laws, since they are overthrown specifically for the crime of calling for Ned and Robert's heads.  There are lines they cannot cross.  By definition, this means they are not an absolute monarchy, but even within the context of how absolute monarchy is generally implemented, they have less actual power than absolute monarchs like Louis XIV.

The fact that Aerys II was overthrown means nothing in relation to the question whether the man was an absolutist monarch or not. If there is a rebellion or a revolution everything can happen. The rebels can be crushed. Or they can be victorious.

But the very fact that Jon Arryn rebelled to protect Ned and Robert doesn't mean the man was right and that Aerys II was wrong. It only means that Aerys provoked Jon - and subsequently Ned and Robert, too - to rebel against him. But they could have rebelled for other reasons, too.

And if the only way you have to show your displeasure with the current government is rebellion then you basically have little to no legal power in your own right.

In a society in which you or your class have legal ways to defend your rights and to get the justice you think you deserve there are clear legal ways how to do that. Independent courts, for example. Or the legal right a parliament might have. And so on.

In the Seven Kingdoms the average lord has to do whatever the king commands him to do. He can complain but he has to follow orders. If he doesn't want to follow orders and he can't convince the king to rescind the orders he can, apparently, only rebel. And that is by definition an illegal act. If it wasn't illegal we would not call it 'rebellion'.

That kind of monarchy is pretty much absolutist to me. It is absolutist in the sense that there is no legal institution limiting the legal power of the king.

In feudal monarchies we talk about - England, France, etc. - the great lords did actually share in the power of the king. They are, at times, mandatory members of the king's council. They had fixed hereditary positions and office within the government of the realm, etc. Nothing of that sort exists in the Seven Kingdoms.

And in that sense the Seven Kingdoms are an absolutist monarchy. One that doesn't seem to have the institutions that would make it functional in a realistic setting. In reality such a kingdom could not exist. But in the novels we have to close our eyes and go along with it, realism be damned.

In a realistic setting the Starks most likely would never have been more than distant figureheads in places like Barrowton and the Dreadfort. Not to mention Last Hearth, Sea Dragon Point, or Cape Kraken.

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On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

How so? You have no right to demand a Trial of Seven if the other side doesn't agree on the issue. You can demand a Trial of Seven as a trial-by-combat if you are a nobleman or knight and stand accused of a crime, but it isn't some kind of final way to settle a contended issue between a vassal and his king.

Maegor and the Warrior's Sons both agreed to go through with the Trial of Seven proposed by Visenya but either of them could have dismissed this idea as ridiculous.

If both sides agree on the issue then the act of dispensing justice is obvious.  Trials by combat are for when there is a fundamental dispute about guilt (e.g. Tyrion, Dunk, Naerys, etc).  The monarch or lord can accuse anyone of anything, I suppose, but there are ways to exculpate yourself from an unjust claim.  There are also obviously expectations about a reasonable standard of justice, as we see with Aerys II.  If the Targaryens were absolute monarchs, then Dunk would have no recourse when accused by Aerion, and Tyrion none when accused by Tywin/Cersei/"Tommen".

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Just look how ridiculous the British look in our modern day and age. They have a parliamentary system but their government is the government of the queen, and their courts dispense justice in the name of the queen, not the people. That is a fundamental difference to a republican system.

Well this is a question of de jure vs de facto power.  The monarch still has the technical ability, in the UK, to not seat an elected Prime Minister. Now, it would provoke a constitutional crisis an result in the monarch being stripped of that power, but the British system makes perfect sense in the context of history.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Daeron II's reputation might have been tarnished by the rumors about his parentage, but he crushed the Blackfyre Rebellion and that was essentially the end of such talk. Apparently his government and authority was stronger than that of his son Aerys I. At least in Aerys I's first two years.

I mean, it explicitly isn't the end of it, because Eustace Osgrey is still talking about it after the First Blackfyre Rebellion.  And yes, Daeron's government was stronger, because Westeros is a martial aristocracy and he had a bunch of martial sons who embodied the concept of kingship, and because he had heirs.  Aerys I didn't give a shit, and thus, the various lords in the realm began to assert independence.  Power in a feudal system is dependent on the character and energy of the monarch; Aerys I put literally no effort into governing Westeros or even having an heir, and Bloodraven was only focused on Bittersteel.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Viserys I didn't need his vassals permission or input to determine his successor. He named Rhaenyra his Heir Apparent and told his lords to do her homage and swear vow of obeisance to her. And they did that.

And Jaehaerys I wanted to arrange a peaceful succession. That's why he convened a Great Council. He wasn't obliged to do that. And if he had been a shithead like Aegon IV he may have named both Viserys and Laenor his heir, or he may have said that only the strongest was worthy to succeed him - like legend claim Alexander the Great said on his deathbed.

But in both these cases neither monarch feels comfortable with the idea that they can name an heir without the buy in of their vassals (and in Viserys' case, a plurality, if not a majority, of the realm believes they have a right to have a say in the succession).  This is crucial.  This is the Targaryens at the literal height of their power, with the most dragons, the most prestige, etc.  And both of those monarchs think either they NEED widespread support in order to legitimize their claim, or at the very least, that they don't have the authority to unilaterally name an heir and expect that choice to be respected.  The actions themselves gives the lie to the idea of absolutist monarchy.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Well, Dagon Greyjoy attacked both the North and the West, did he not? The Starks and Lannisters would have a right to defend themselves even without the explicit permission of the king.

In fact, as Wardens of the North and the West it would actually be their duty to keep the king's peace in the regions in which they are the highest military authority.

Of course, and I agree.  But this is my point; we know that the rulers of Westeros have certain obligations to their vassals, and this goes down the feudal chain.  One of those is "Protector of the Realm".  Under Aerys I, there is no protecting going on.  It's all well and good to say "the Starks and Lannisters handled it, which means the system is functioning," but that clearly is NOT the way the system is meant to operate.  When armies land from Essos, there is a royal presence.  When Balon Greyjoy rebels, it's the Throne which leads the way.  The very absence of a royal presence in fighting Dagon speaks to a breakdown in the way the system is supposed to function.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

He and people like him - Septon Sefton in TSS - are windows in the mind of the common people who don't live and court and hear garbled rumors and reports what's going on there from a variety of sources but they do not act as people who give us accurate information.

Agreed, and I don't take everything at face value.  But when those opinions line up with the general context of what we know from other sources (such as the WOIAF), then I give them more credence.  We have no evidence of royal involvement in helping their vassals during Bloodraven's tenure, and plenty of evidence of intervention whenever the Blackfyres are involved.  We have to ask why it's explicit in the one case and not the others; the logical conclusion is that the Crown was not bothering to help their vassals in non-Blackfyre matters.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

You are not really making sense here. It is possible that you are right here, but the truth is that we don't really know any details about this entire affair. And we cannot deduce anything about the motivations of the people involved simply from the facts we have.

What we do know about Lyonel, Egg, and Dunk is that they became friends at Ashford in THK and that this friendship continued and prospered, eventually leading the Targaryen-Baratheon betrothal. 

Lord Lyonel obviously feels humiliated by Duncan's decision to marry Jenny, but his rebellion doesn't mean either he or Egg don't want to come to an understanding. If two men wanted to resolve their conflict peacefully it would have been these two. Just think how Robert and Ned would have acted if such an issue had divided them.

Here is what we know.  Due to a broken betrothal, Lyonel Baratheon, who as you say is personally friendly with Aegon and Dunk, outright rebels.  And instead of being punished, he is given another royal match.  We don't need to be told motivations to arrive at logical conclusions. Aegon V is attempting to build a coalition to support his reform efforts through marriage alliances.  Presumably, one of them is with the Baratheons in part due to the pre-existing good feeling between them.  One would expect that after an outright rebellion, royal favor would be directed towards one of the Houses that helped put down said rebellion, not to the rebels themselves!  And this doesn't generate any additional ill will that we are told of.  Which means that there was probably widespread sympathy for the Baratheon cause, or at least a feeling that Aegon V had seriously wronged them.

And by the way, if Lyonel Baratheon "wanted to come to an understanding" he'd have demanded a different marriage before revolting, not after.  He didn't want an understanding, he wanted to make a point.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

That is far from clear. We do know that Rhaegar had more men at the Trident than Robert. Even if we assume - as a I do - that Robert had only have a token force of Stormlanders with him in the Riverlands, he would still have the army of the North, the Vale, and the Tullys. whereas Rhaegar had only Crownlanders, 10,000 Dornishmen, Reach men, and, perhaps, some Stormlanders who had stuck with the Targaryens, following the Connington example.

Rhaegar is supposed to have had about 40,000 men, with Robert having somewhat less. If Robert had truly the entire power of the North, the Vale, and half of the strength of the Riverlands (in addition to some Stormlanders) at the Trident, then he would have easily had more than 40,000 men there.

That sort of indicates that there must have either been severe losses during the war, not only among Robert's Stormlanders but also among the Vale men and the Northmen. That - or that there were some loyalists in those regions who did not participate in the fighting. 

Well this is the issue.  The Northmen and the Valemen haven't really suffered any major losses.  Ned raises the North.  Hoster Tully the Riverlands.  Robert the Stormlands.

Even if you assume the Tullys and Baratheons aren't raising their full forces (lets say half, to be extraordinarily conservative), you still have the full military power of the North, most of the Vale, and half the combined Stormlands and Riverlands.  At minimum.  In other words, even if you take the most unreasonable possible position, that the Stormlands and Riverlands go half and half royalist/rebel (and it's pretty clear they weight more heavily towards the rebels, from what info we have), that means the forces of the tiny Crownlands, plus 10,000 Dornishmen, outnumber the entirety of the North and the majority of the Vale.  That isn't a lack of info, it's a MAJOR worldbuilding error, and one which GRRM is very prone to.

There aren't any good Watsonian arguments as to why Rhaegar outnumbers Robert at the Trident, just "it makes for a more compelling story".  If Dornish forces can mobilize and march to the Trident in time, so should the power of the North and Vale.  And since the Dornish are the weakest kingdom, and the Crownlands don't even qualify as one, it just doesn't make sense that a fraction of Dorne and the Crownlands outnumbers the North and the Vale.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

Ned had more than enough time to gather a sizable army, especially if he gave command before he began his journey back home. Still, he may not have raised all the troops he could have, preferring speed to strength.

But Jon Arryn called his banners first. He would have had more than enough time to gather all his strength. Which means he would have been able to march 30,000 men (or more) into the Riverlands.

That makes it not unlikely that quite a few Lords of the Vale stayed out of the fighting - or even continued to oppose Jon after the fall of Gulltown. We don't really know what happened in the Vale after Ned and Robert left.

It's hard to believe that many stayed clear.  Again, none of these are convincing arguments, because it requires the Crownlands to be able to raise 30,000 men, and the North and the Vale to raise less than 40,000 combined. This is also making the fundamentally flawed assumption that the Riverlands and Stormlands split 50/50.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

The fact that Aerys II was overthrown means nothing in relation to the question whether the man was an absolutist monarch or not. If there is a rebellion or a revolution everything can happen. The rebels can be crushed. Or they can be victorious.

But again, this just isn't right.  The definition of an absolute monarch is thus: A form of monarchy in which one ruler has supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs.  This is unquestionably not the case in Westeros.

You are arguing that the the Targaryens were powerful enough to be considered absolute monarchs.  We can continue debating that, but at the end of the day, the Targaryens are explicitly not absolute monarchs.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

In the Seven Kingdoms the average lord has to do whatever the king commands him to do. He can complain but he has to follow orders. If he doesn't want to follow orders and he can't convince the king to rescind the orders he can, apparently, only rebel. And that is by definition an illegal act. If it wasn't illegal we would not call it 'rebellion'.

This is highly debatable.  We have many examples of lords refusing to violate guest right.  And let me turn this on you; if there are certain things that a king cannot command without sparking off a rebellion, then doesn't that mean he doesn't have the right to demand it?  We know that, from a theoretical standpoint, you're wrong and the Targaryens aren't absolute monarchs.  You are arguing that from a practical perspective, they can do what they want and thus should be consdered absolute monarchs.

My rebuttal to that is, and has been, that if they can't do whatever they want without sparking unrest and rebellion, then in a practical sense, they aren't absolute monarchs either.  You're argument rests on this fundamental premise that any rebellion is by definition illegal, and thus, the king can order anything he wants "legally".  But that isn't right.  You can make that argument about ANY form of government.  Nothing is stopping Congress from passing a law enslaving black people again.  But presumably, the President wouldn't enforce it and the people wouldn't abide by it, because it violates the Constitution.  Does that constitute a rebellion?  And if not, why is that different than a lord refusing to obey a command which contradicts his fundamental privileges and customs?  These lords have feudal contracts which are implicit in their vassalage; to rip that up in commanding some action is the same as ignoring the Constitution - you'll only get away with it to the extent your counterparties allow you to.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

That kind of monarchy is pretty much absolutist to me. It is absolutist in the sense that there is no legal institution limiting the legal power of the king.

Except we see again and again, that certain commands and certain actions provoke rebellion.  So effectively, this is not true.

On 1/10/2018 at 7:04 PM, Lord Varys said:

In a realistic setting the Starks most likely would never have been more than distant figureheads in places like Barrowton and the Dreadfort. Not to mention Last Hearth, Sea Dragon Point, or Cape Kraken.

This is not necessarily true, at all.  Plenty of emperors and kings managed to make their physical presence felt through annual royal progresses (Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, etc - all of whome ruled empires bigger than the North), and there is no reason the Starks should be any different.  Especially since there seems to be a custom of journeying to Winterfell every year to pay homage.  Sure, the commoners probably have no idea, but the political elite is almost certainly in reasonably constant contact with the Starks.

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5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

If both sides agree on the issue then the act of dispensing justice is obvious.  Trials by combat are for when there is a fundamental dispute about guilt (e.g. Tyrion, Dunk, Naerys, etc).  The monarch or lord can accuse anyone of anything, I suppose, but there are ways to exculpate yourself from an unjust claim.  There are also obviously expectations about a reasonable standard of justice, as we see with Aerys II.  If the Targaryens were absolute monarchs, then Dunk would have no recourse when accused by Aerion, and Tyrion none when accused by Tywin/Cersei/"Tommen".

A trial-by-combat - or trial in general - only seems to take place when guilt is uncertain. If you are caught red-handed or whoever is supposed to judge you thinks you are guilty, you don't get a trial. This is not a society where have a right to get a trial under all circumstances. And only privileged people (i.e. nobles and knights) can demand a trial - or certain types of trials.

You overlook that Aerion isn't the king. If King Daeron II had mistreated Tanselle, and Dunk had beaten the crap out of him, Dunk would have been killed then and there. And Dunk only gets his trial because Baelor Breakspear - the Hand and the Protector of the Realm - is there and takes his side. If he hadn't been there, Maekar and Lord Ashford would have just killed Dunk. Or they would have taken his hand and feet.

Tyrion gets a trial because he is the uncle of the king, brother of the Queen Regent, and the son of the Hand. And because his guilt is not obvious.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Well this is a question of de jure vs de facto power.  The monarch still has the technical ability, in the UK, to not seat an elected Prime Minister. Now, it would provoke a constitutional crisis an result in the monarch being stripped of that power, but the British system makes perfect sense in the context of history.

With Britain still being a monarchy without a written constitution it would be rather difficult to take anything from the monarch the monarch isn't willing to give up. They could never legally transcend from a monarchy to a republic without the monarch's consent.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

I mean, it explicitly isn't the end of it, because Eustace Osgrey is still talking about it after the First Blackfyre Rebellion.  And yes, Daeron's government was stronger, because Westeros is a martial aristocracy and he had a bunch of martial sons who embodied the concept of kingship, and because he had heirs.  Aerys I didn't give a shit, and thus, the various lords in the realm began to assert independence.  Power in a feudal system is dependent on the character and energy of the monarch; Aerys I put literally no effort into governing Westeros or even having an heir, and Bloodraven was only focused on Bittersteel.

Aerys I has more than enough heirs, one martial brother and at least on martial nephew. In addition to a very capable martial uncle who serves as his Hand.

The impression that he is a weak king seems to come more from the fact that Westeros is struck with a succession of catastrophes, beginning with the Great Spring Sickness.

Nobody seems to assert independence. Dagon raids the coast but he doesn't secede, and there is no indication that the Lannisters and Starks do not act with the full knowledge and approval of the king and his government.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

But in both these cases neither monarch feels comfortable with the idea that they can name an heir without the buy in of their vassals (and in Viserys' case, a plurality, if not a majority, of the realm believes they have a right to have a say in the succession).  This is crucial.  This is the Targaryens at the literal height of their power, with the most dragons, the most prestige, etc.  And both of those monarchs think either they NEED widespread support in order to legitimize their claim, or at the very least, that they don't have the authority to unilaterally name an heir and expect that choice to be respected.  The actions themselves gives the lie to the idea of absolutist monarchy.

The problem aren't the lords. The problem is the fact that there are too many heirs with claims. This is a hereditary monarchy which isn't really ruled by a sacrosanct line of succession. Heirs must have royal blood, but the problem is not whether the lords accept such an heir - they have to - but whether the other members of the king's family do accept them.

Jaehaerys I correctly feared that Daemon and Corlys would come to blow over the succession if the matter wasn't settled in a manner that made it clear that one of the potential heirs had overwhelming support. Usually people only start civil wars when they think that a decent number of the population will join them. The overwhelming support for Viserys put the Velaryons back into place.

And the Dance only began because Alicent and Otto staged a coup and crowned Aegon II, creating facts. If that hadn't happened the lords later declaring for Aegon II wouldn't have rebelled against Rhaenyra, demanding that Aegon be crowned instead.

But in general - the question of the succession is always problematic even - or especially - in absolute monarchies because there is a power vacuum and interregnum between the death of the king and coronation/proclamation of a new king.

Nobody rebelled against Jaehaerys I or Viserys I over the question of the succession while they lived. In fact, everybody publicly acknowledged Rhaenyra as Viserys I's heir, especially the Hightowers at court. Alicent asked her royal husband to change the succession but neither she nor Otto ever were of the opinion that Rhaenyra wasn't the heir while she was the heir.

They only questioned that whole thing in council after Viserys I had died.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Of course, and I agree.  But this is my point; we know that the rulers of Westeros have certain obligations to their vassals, and this goes down the feudal chain.  One of those is "Protector of the Realm".  Under Aerys I, there is no protecting going on.  It's all well and good to say "the Starks and Lannisters handled it, which means the system is functioning," but that clearly is NOT the way the system is meant to operate.  When armies land from Essos, there is a royal presence.  When Balon Greyjoy rebels, it's the Throne which leads the way.  The very absence of a royal presence in fighting Dagon speaks to a breakdown in the way the system is supposed to function.

There are more than a few examples where neither the king nor his heirs or members of his family are involved in a fight against the king's enemies. The king can act through his lords and often does so. Ned knows that it would be his duty to deal with Mance Rayder - in Robert's name, of course. We see something similar happening during the Dance, where the two pretenders themselves participate in very few battles. In some royal princes are involved, but others are fought in the names of various kings without any members of the royal family being involved at all.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Agreed, and I don't take everything at face value.  But when those opinions line up with the general context of what we know from other sources (such as the WOIAF), then I give them more credence.  We have no evidence of royal involvement in helping their vassals during Bloodraven's tenure, and plenty of evidence of intervention whenever the Blackfyres are involved.  We have to ask why it's explicit in the one case and not the others; the logical conclusion is that the Crown was not bothering to help their vassals in non-Blackfyre matters.

There might have been more pressing concerns in addition to the whole Blackfyre thing. The Great Spring Sickness seems to have killed hundreds of thousands of people - perhaps even millions. The drought would have killed even more. Keeping the infrastructure of the center of the Realm intact is a more important priority than dealing with some pirates. And allowing a pretender to topple you is more important still.

Kings in medieval monarchies should also care for their subjects, etc. but their foremost interest is to remain in power. They are not there in the name of the people or for the people. They are where they are by right of royal birth, and it is both their duty and prerogative to enjoy the life they have been born to live. They can be responsible and caring. But they don't have to.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Here is what we know.  Due to a broken betrothal, Lyonel Baratheon, who as you say is personally friendly with Aegon and Dunk, outright rebels.  And instead of being punished, he is given another royal match.  We don't need to be told motivations to arrive at logical conclusions.

That isn't a logical conclusion. A logical conclusion would - in this context - mean the outcome follows deductively. But we don't why Egg ended up marrying Rhaelle to Lyonel's heir. We also don't know what led to the end of the rebellion or how exactly the trial-by-combat ended - or what was at stake there? We don't know what would have happened if Dunk had lost, for instance.

The mere fact that Lyonel - an aging man at that time, possibly already beyond fifty - had to fight a trial-by-combat himself instead of naming a champion (as King Aegon V did) implies that Egg had the upper hand in that conflict. Dunk could also have volunteered, of course - but the thing is - we simply do not know any details.

We see to know that Lyonel lost and Dunk won. Which means Lyonel was guilty of whatever crime/issue was determined by the trial-by-combat. Unless they fought over some minor issue, Egg likely would have had the right to hang Lyonel after he lost. After all, he would have been a guilty rebel then, right?

Lyonel's rebellion doesn't mean all that much in the entire context. His house and honor had been wounded by the actions of the Prince of Dragonstone. It doesn't mean he had a right to rebel. But the fact that he did rebel doesn't mean Egg has to hate him now or that he cannot try to end the violence or that they cannot also be friends - or a personal level - while they have to be political enemies due to the circumstances. 

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Aegon V is attempting to build a coalition to support his reform efforts through marriage alliances.  Presumably, one of them is with the Baratheons in part due to the pre-existing good feeling between them.  One would expect that after an outright rebellion, royal favor would be directed towards one of the Houses that helped put down said rebellion, not to the rebels themselves! 

Why not? If said rebel always was (and still is) your friend, despite his rebellion? Kings can grant favors to their defeated for. Robert Baratheon is famous for doing that.

And by the way - chances are that the Tyrells, Tullys, and Redwynes stood with Aegon V against Lyonel. They may have even reaped royal favors in the process of that, only to cause trouble themselves after the Jaehaerys and Shaera pulled off their stunt a year later.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

And this doesn't generate any additional ill will that we are told of.  Which means that there was probably widespread sympathy for the Baratheon cause, or at least a feeling that Aegon V had seriously wronged them.

As of yet, that's just a baseless assumption. You could be right there. But again - we don't know why Rhaelle was married to Lyonel's heir or what Aegon V thought when he arranged that.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

And by the way, if Lyonel Baratheon "wanted to come to an understanding" he'd have demanded a different marriage before revolting, not after.  He didn't want an understanding, he wanted to make a point.

See above. Making a point is often the first part if you want something. Lyonel may have intended to give up his crown in exchange for Egg enforcing the Duncan-Baratheon marriage. We simply don't know.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Well this is the issue.  The Northmen and the Valemen haven't really suffered any major losses. 

That is what we actually don't know. We don't know what happened in the North or the Vale during the Rebellion. I'm pretty positive that Aerys II didn't have (m)any supporters up in the North (although the Manderlys and/or some of their vassals might not have been keen to march against the Iron Throne), but we don't know anything about the events in the Vale after Robert and Ned left. Why didn't Jon Arryn march to the Riverlands sooner? They aren't all that far away, are they? Additional battles in the Vale could explain why he didn't move his ass sooner. Or he might have shown up with fewer men than expected because a number of Vale lords didn't come with their full strength. The fact that men did come doesn't mean they all came with their full strength.

And Ned not raising all the Northmen could, by and far, also help explain why the rebels weren't as strong as Rhaegar at the Trident.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Even if you assume the Tullys and Baratheons aren't raising their full forces (lets say half, to be extraordinarily conservative), you still have the full military power of the North, most of the Vale, and half the combined Stormlands and Riverlands. 

We do know how many men Robert raised after the Battles of Summerhall (where he did only have a token force) but we do know that his entire host was crushed, either in the Battle at Ashford (by Randyll Tarly) or later on after Robert had continued on into the Riverlands. He was without an army at Stoney Sept when the Battle of the Bells began. And there is no indication any Stormlanders later joined Robert for the Trident. If there were any Stormlanders at the Trident it must have been very few men indeed.

We can also not really go with half of the entire strength of the Riverlands siding with Hoster Tully. No major lord seems to have been as cautious as Walder Frey, but there may have been quite a few who did not show up with their full strength when Hoster called his banners - even if they answered his call rather than Aerys'.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

At minimum.  In other words, even if you take the most unreasonable possible position, that the Stormlands and Riverlands go half and half royalist/rebel (and it's pretty clear they weight more heavily towards the rebels, from what info we have), that means the forces of the tiny Crownlands, plus 10,000 Dornishmen, outnumber the entirety of the North and the majority of the Vale.  That isn't a lack of info, it's a MAJOR worldbuilding error, and one which GRRM is very prone to.

Actually, that whole thing is easily resolved by the fact that we know Rhaegar had also men from the Reach with him at the Trident. And considering the enormous manpower of the Reach it would be hardly surprising if 15,000-20,000 of Rhaegar's men were from the Reach.

The strength of the Crownlands are as of yet not assessed, but considering the size of the KL and the fertility of the lands in the region, especially around Duskendale and the Blackwater, I'd not be surprised if the Crownlands could muster a sizable army in their own right. Especially if you take the potential of KL into account.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

But again, this just isn't right.  The definition of an absolute monarch is thus: A form of monarchy in which one ruler has supreme authority and where that authority is not restricted by any written laws, legislature, or customs.  This is unquestionably not the case in Westeros.

Well, in what way do laws, legislature, or customs actually restrict the Targaryen kings? And in what way are the Targaryen kings not the supreme authority?

The fact that people can have trials, that lords hold land in the name of the king, etc. doesn't restrict the king's power in any way. Especially not if he can take away the lands and titles if he wants to - which he can.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

You are arguing that the the Targaryens were powerful enough to be considered absolute monarchs.  We can continue debating that, but at the end of the day, the Targaryens are explicitly not absolute monarchs.

They fit the examples of absolute medieval monarchs much better than the picture of medieval 'feudal kings'. There is no Targaryen king that was deposed. There is no Targaryen king who was forced to agree to some Magna Carta-like document. There is no Parliament-like legal institution, nor any cabinet or council of ministers limiting the absolute power of the king in any way, shape, of form (e.g. the king also has to ask no one for permission when he wants to raise taxes - something Kevan as the Lord Regent considers doing in the Epilogue). No Targaryen king ever had any trouble with a vassal or subject acquiring too much power. Tywin and Bloodraven were powerful and capable Hands, but they never took the king hostage (like the Earl of Warwick did with Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses) or had, in their own right, more power and support in the kingdom than the king himself. And so on. The scenario of the French kings - who, at times, didn't have all that much real power in France - is even farther away.

The only thing we have is the blatant fact that lords can rebel. But everybody can rebel, be the system of government a democracy, constitutional monarchy, or absolute monarchy.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

This is highly debatable.  We have many examples of lords refusing to violate guest right.  And let me turn this on you; if there are certain things that a king cannot command without sparking off a rebellion, then doesn't that mean he doesn't have the right to demand it?  We know that, from a theoretical standpoint, you're wrong and the Targaryens aren't absolute monarchs.  You are arguing that from a practical perspective, they can do what they want and thus should be consdered absolute monarchs.

For me they pretty much are absolute monarchs because they pretty much fit the description for that. There are no legal institutions limiting their power, and everything is done in the king's name. The lack of proper institutions to enforce the king's will everywhere limits this absolute power somewhat, but that doesn't mean it is not there, in principle.

Guest right is a tradition that is important for the kings, too. It protects you from treason when you visit somebody at home - which kings do, too.

However, it is never stated that guest right allows you to harbor criminals and outlaws. Such people are pretty much defined as people who can (and should) not be harbored and instead be killed on the spot. Now, the proper way to deal with the guest right issue would be ask/demand that a guest leave when you learn that they are wanted by your king or liege. You most likely don't have to arrest them within your halls but you could do so after you have officially led your guest out of your castle/home. That's pretty much how Lord Manderly gave himself permission to kill the Freys.

If you continue to extend guest right to traitors and criminals you risk being seen as such yourself.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

My rebuttal to that is, and has been, that if they can't do whatever they want without sparking unrest and rebellion, then in a practical sense, they aren't absolute monarchs either.  You're argument rests on this fundamental premise that any rebellion is by definition illegal, and thus, the king can order anything he wants "legally".  But that isn't right.  You can make that argument about ANY form of government.  Nothing is stopping Congress from passing a law enslaving black people again.  But presumably, the President wouldn't enforce it and the people wouldn't abide by it, because it violates the Constitution.  Does that constitute a rebellion?  And if not, why is that different than a lord refusing to obey a command which contradicts his fundamental privileges and customs?  These lords have feudal contracts which are implicit in their vassalage; to rip that up in commanding some action is the same as ignoring the Constitution - you'll only get away with it to the extent your counterparties allow you to.

Well, unless there are laws and customs allowing you when and how to overthrow an unjust government then rebellion is by definition illegal. After all, the very concept entails that it isn't done in accordance with the law.

The Seven Kingdoms know the concept of tyranny (and Aenys I is denounced as such by the High Septon) but that doesn't mean it is clearly defined what a tyrant is nor how you are allowed to deal with him. There are things a king in Westeros shouldn't do. But that doesn't mean he isn't technically not allowed to do them.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Except we see again and again, that certain commands and certain actions provoke rebellion.  So effectively, this is not true.

We see that happening in autocracies and absolute monarchies, too. Does this mean those autocracies (Russia under the Romanovs) and absolute monarchies (Louis XIV-XVI in France) weren't autocracies and monarchies because people eventually successfully rebelled against them and changed the political system?

No, it doesn't mean that. And thus the fact that people rebelled against the Targaryens doesn't mean that their power was legally restricted by any institutions.

5 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

This is not necessarily true, at all.  Plenty of emperors and kings managed to make their physical presence felt through annual royal progresses (Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Charlemagne, etc - all of whome ruled empires bigger than the North), and there is no reason the Starks should be any different.  Especially since there seems to be a custom of journeying to Winterfell every year to pay homage.  Sure, the commoners probably have no idea, but the political elite is almost certainly in reasonably constant contact with the Starks.

History doesn't tell us anything about royal progresses of the Starks (there may have been some, but we do know of royal progresses only from the Targaryens, various dynasties in the Riverlands, and the Gardeners).

By the way - Rome was more a very well-organized military dictatorship. It had the means to move its armies from one end of the empire to the other, and thus much better infrastructure than any medieval kingdom in Europe or Westeros.

What makes it pretty clear that the Starks were never as powerful kings as the Targaryens is the simple fact that the Boltons survived as long as they did after all the crap they pulled off. They likely never surrendered unconditionally. They repeatedly bent the knee but they obviously always were able to keep not only their lives but also the Dreadfort and a lot of land. In light of their Stark-skinning habits that only makes sense if the Starks weren't ever in a position of absolute strength when they came to terms with them.

The Targaryens most likely would have eradicated them all had they ever tried to pull something like that off with them. Especially during the dragon days, but most likely also thereafter.

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