Prince Jon Targaryen

Why did Varys warn Aerys II of the attempt to call a great council?

48 posts in this topic

It is said by some that in 281 AC, Prince of Dragonstone Rhaegar Targaryen attempted to call a Great Council at Harrenhal by using the nameday tourney of Lord Whent's daughter as a cover. All the great lords of the realm would be there. However, King Aerys II Targaryen was advised by Varys, master of whispers, to attend and prevent this from taking place. He did so and Rhaegar was unable to convene said Council. Why, if Varys knew Aerys was mad, did Varys not withhold this advise and let Rhaegar remove Aerys? This probably have prevented the Rebellion because with Rhaegar as king, Aerys would not have been able to hold power, and abuse the realm as he did. Rhaegar even may not have crowned Lyanna Stark as Queen of Love and Beauty due to the work of assembling a Great Council being top priority. Varys claims to serve peace (indeed, this is what he tells Ned Stark) and seems to want a Targaryen on the throne (killing Kevan in the interest of continued misrule to allow Aegon VI to take power.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One theory is that Varys' claim to serve "peace" and the "realm" is utter bullshit. He actually is after the same thing that Baelish is - chaos. Unrest. Destruction of the realm.

According to that theory Varys is working to upset the realm and to bring in the Blackfyres to power. Hence the Faegon VIth of the His Name showing up in 300AC.

Hence the tip off about Harrenhall was Varys stirring shit up.

Aerys' presence supresses seditious talk? Pisses off even more lords and his son? Good! Stoke the fires of discontent! Stoke the fires of Aerys' paranoia!

Batshit crazy Aerys on the throne was good for Vary's plan.

Varys was already the master of puppets here.

With Rhaegar who - although already giving signs that he was "excentric" was not "bonkers enough" - on the throne Varys would have to mold a new puppet.

 

Edited by TMIFairy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was not his job to judge the king, it was his job to serve the king. He was simply loyally doing his job, as he did until the end when he advised Aerys not to let Tywin inside the gates.

It's afterwards when he sees that just doing his job didn't work out for the best (Rhaenys and Aegon particularly haunt him) that he decides he needs to take a more hands on approach and becomes the game playing Varys of the series.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

He was already playing the game. He is likely descended from one of the exiled Blackfyres/Targaryens and was trying to sow the long term destruction of the Red Dragon. His first step was to weaken them. He managed to convince Aerys that Tywin was plotting against him, but he also didn't want Rhaeger to come to power. So he continued to play on Aerys paranoia and poison his relationship with anyone important. It somewhat backfired when Robert actually overthrew the Targaryen's and united the realm. So he would have to start again later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is actually not clear that Varys convinced Aerys to attend the tourney. What we know is that other members of Aerys' Small Council grew very paranoid over Rhaegar's plans, doing everything they could to fuel Aerys' suspicions about his heir and preventing him from succeeding Aerys.

Even if Varys was involved there we can be reasonably certain that Rhaegar's plans would have plunged the Realm into war, a war similar to Robert's Rebellion with Rhaegar on one side and his father on the other.

Rhaegar could not hope to convene a real Great Council. Not with King Aerys and the Hand being absent. I don't doubt that a pretty big number of the lords would have agreed with Rhaegar behind closed doors that the madness of the king was troubling and that something had to be done. But only a tiny fraction of those men would have dared to openly demand the king step down or accept a regency government led by Rhaegar as Prince Regent. That would have been treason. And it would have set a very bad precedent of a son trying to usurp the crown/power of his father. If Prince Rhaegar can steal his father's crown then the son of any aging, infirm, weak, sick, etc. lord could feel justified in his desire to take the place of his father.

And no lord of the Seven Kingdoms would want that.

Thus many lords would decide to join Aerys against Rhaegar if push came to shove, especially those (like Rickard Stark) who really wanted favors from the Iron Throne. The king always trumps the future king if we are talking land grants, titles, castles, offices, or other favors. The reward of the king is immediate, the reward of an heir is just a promise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always felt the answer to this question is the answer to what Varys really wants. With respect to the many good commenters who've analyzed Varys and Illyrio, I don't think we know enough about the former's true motivations and identity to really uncover the secret, or if Varys was involved in any other events that set off the Rebellion, either. I do accept that he believes what he's doing is for the best - but I don't accept that we have proof of why he thinks it's for the best, or even what the best is to him. 

Maybe Varys really is tied to the Blackfyre cause. Maybe he's tied to Illyrio and made a deal to put his son on the throne if he could be made the perfect prince. Maybe he's some other Targaryen descendant, as has been speculated. Maybe he genuinely thought he was doing the right thing, helping Aerys - or maybe he knew that he could feed his paranoia to bring his downfall. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are we sure Varys warned him? He doesn't seem to have shown up with the armed men one would normally need to put down a revolt.. should it manifest. 

What we do know about the sequence of events.

- Arys shows up when he isn't expected (basically walks into a potential trap)

- Arys inducts Jamie into the Kings guard then forbids him from participating in the tourney (pisses off the most powerful lord there)

- Arys seems happy and unconcerned at the feast until....

- He freaks out when he hears about the Knight of the Laughing Tree (somebody apparently insignificant)

 

Now there seems to be a sort of consensus that Varys warned Aerys about the potential great council and that Varys was driving the King mad with reports of plots and schemes. 

 

I'm going to propose a different reason for Aery attending. Aerys recognized the tournament as being in prophecy and that certain events would occur there which were part of a prophecy foretelling of the fall of house Targaryen. Like Mad Queen Cersei, Mad King Aerys decided that he was going to prevent prophecy by interrupting it. When Arys shows up gives the white cloak to Jamie and sends him away he has prevented Jamie from participating in the tourney. At this point he seems happy and content. I believe this is because Aerys believed that Jamie's participation in the tourney would fulfill some part of prophecy. I'm guessing something like "the undefeated knight bla bla gold ransom bla bla bla will be the cause of the great rebellion which overthrows house Targaryen". Filthy rich Jamie might not bother demand a ransom for the armor of the knights he was about to defeat so Aerys think Jamie is the prime candidate for this role. He sends him away. Then at his leisure he is relaxed and enjoying himself at the feast when he hears about the knight of the laughing tree and Aerys loses it. He declares that the KOTLT is his enemy literally out of the blue. I think KOTL fulfilled the prophecy Aerys thought he had prevented when he sent jamie away. 

 

As we are reasonably certain the KOTL was the cause of the rebellion which overthrew house Targaryen. Futhermore we do know that Aerys' paranoia about having servants bring a blade into his presence (to cut his hair and manicure his nails) was oddly prescient since his servant Jamie did skewer him with a blade. 

 

TL;DR - Aerys shows up not because of anything Varys did but to prevent a prophecy foretelling of the fall of house Targaryen which the KOTLT eventually fulfils, and if KOTLT is Lyanna then yeah, the KOTLT did cause the fall of House Targaryen. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Wiki says the following:

Quote

Varys alerted Aerys to the possibility that his son Rhaegar was using attendance at the tourney at Harrenhal as a pretext to rally lords to his cause in removing Aerys as king. This caused Aerys to attend the tournament ...

Reference:  ADwD, Ch 67

I don't have the books handy so I can't look up the exact phrasing used in the book. But it does seem to indicate that Varys' involvement did directly lead to Aerys' attendance at the Harrenhall Tournament.

I can think of two possible explanations for Varys' seemingly contradictory behavior ("unquestionably" serving a crazy king [Aerys] and then later working against the current monarch in order to place a more stable monarch on the throne):

1. Varys' story to Ned about serving the realm is bullshit and he is attempting to destabilize the realm in order to place a Blackfyre on the throne. If he was truly working for the good of the realm it stands to reason that he would have assisted Rhaegar in his attempt to depose Aerys.

2. Varys saw the damage that unquestioning loyalty can lead to and changed his mind. After serving Aerys while ignoring his decline into madness, Varys saw the suffering it led to and decided to serve the realm not the monarch.

These are the only two I can come up with off the top of my head, can anybody think of other situations that would reconcile these seemingly contradictory behaviors?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 minutes ago, Red Man Racey said:

2. Varys saw the damage that unquestioning loyalty can lead to and changed his mind. After serving Aerys while ignoring his decline into madness, Varys saw the suffering it led to and decided to serve the realm not the monarch.

But in such a case could he had not stepped in earlier? Blow the whistle on Baelish - if LF actually is embezzling funds, and not simply giving more to Robert for him to waste?

Blow the whistle on Cersei?

Depose Robert and bring in Stannis as regent/King?

Or is Varys' knowledge actually a far cry from "knows everything about everybody, besides RLJ", as he is presented in most posts here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe Varys thought Rhaegar would clean house if he was able to depose Aerys. The way that Stannis said he would once he became King. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/17/2017 at 4:06 PM, Prince Jon Targaryen said:

It is said by some that in 281 AC, Prince of Dragonstone Rhaegar Targaryen attempted to call a Great Council at Harrenhal by using the nameday tourney of Lord Whent's daughter as a cover. All the great lords of the realm would be there. However, King Aerys II Targaryen was advised by Varys, master of whispers, to attend and prevent this from taking place. He did so and Rhaegar was unable to convene said Council. Why, if Varys knew Aerys was mad, did Varys not withhold this advise and let Rhaegar remove Aerys? This probably have prevented the Rebellion because with Rhaegar as king, Aerys would not have been able to hold power, and abuse the realm as he did. Rhaegar even may not have crowned Lyanna Stark as Queen of Love and Beauty due to the work of assembling a Great Council being top priority. Varys claims to serve peace (indeed, this is what he tells Ned Stark) and seems to want a Targaryen on the throne (killing Kevan in the interest of continued misrule to allow Aegon VI to take power.)

That's not really a fact.  It was not until Rhaegar was about to leave for the trident when he expressed his intent to call for a Great Council.  Varys would know that Rhaegar is not a good future king.  A man who would leave his wife and kids to chase a woman engaged to another is a slime.  Varys serves the realm and the realm rightly belongs to the Targaryens.  The realm was prosperous under Aerys.  Look how much ruin the Baratheons brought in 16 short years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, Tour De Force said:

That's not really a fact.  It was not until Rhaegar was about to leave for the trident when he expressed his intent to call for a Great Council.  Varys would know that Rhaegar is not a good future king.  A man who would leave his wife and kids to chase a woman engaged to another is a slime.  Varys serves the realm and the realm rightly belongs to the Targaryens.  The realm was prosperous under Aerys.  Look how much ruin the Baratheons brought in 16 short years.

Except that happened a while after Harrenhal. Rhaegar was studious, well read, a very good knight and beloved by the smallfolk. No potential King since him has those attributes. 

Edited by Ethelarion

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
44 minutes ago, Tour De Force said:

That's not really a fact.  It was not until Rhaegar was about to leave for the trident when he expressed his intent to call for a Great Council.  Varys would know that Rhaegar is not a good future king.  A man who would leave his wife and kids to chase a woman engaged to another is a slime.  Varys serves the realm and the realm rightly belongs to the Targaryens.  The realm was prosperous under Aerys.  Look how much ruin the Baratheons brought in 16 short years.

Actually, Rhaegar said he intended to do something. It is the fandom that has translated that into a call for a Great Council.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
20 minutes ago, bent branch said:

Actually, Rhaegar said he intended to do something. It is the fandom that has translated that into a call for a Great Council.

It isn't, it is a theory Yandel mentions as being a thing in Westeros. Prior to TWoIaF nobody thought about Harrenhal being a covert Great Council.

26 minutes ago, Ethelarion said:

Except that happened a while after Harrenhal. Rhaegar was studious, well read, a very good knight and beloved by the smallfolk. No potential King since him has those attributes. 

There are certain hints that Rhaegar looked pretty good and competent but that he would have turned out to be a not exactly great king. He had a strong melancholic trait, he allowed prophecy to guide his actions (which is silly at best and very dangerous in a worst case scenario) and he apparently could not keep his pants up.

We all know that Robb was a good lad, too, but the Jeyne affair proves he was not great king material, either, just as Duncan the Small wasn't. Kings have to have the ability to look beyond their selfish desires.

Edited by Lord Varys

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Lord Varys said:

 

There are certain hints that Rhaegar looked pretty good and competent but that he would have turned out to be a not exactly great king. He had a strong melancholic trait, he allowed prophecy to guide his actions (which is silly at best and very dangerous in a worst case scenario) and he apparently could not keep his pants down.

We all know that Robb was a good lad, too, but the Jeyne affair proves he was not great king material, either, just as Duncan the Small wasn't. Kings have to have the ability to look beyond their selfish desires.

Oh I completely agree there are hints for us readers and I would agree with you Rhaegar probably wouldn't be a good King, but  'playing sad songs on his harp' and 'he likes some of the millions of women that adore him' aren't warning signals for Varys to know he wouldn't be a good King. His hanging around in Summerhall is just weird though. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, TMIFairy said:

But in such a case could he had not stepped in earlier? Blow the whistle on Baelish - if LF actually is embezzling funds, and not simply giving more to Robert for him to waste?

Blow the whistle on Cersei?

Depose Robert and bring in Stannis as regent/King?

Or is Varys' knowledge actually a far cry from "knows everything about everybody, besides RLJ", as he is presented in most posts here?

No.

He's not intending to "step in" to save Robert, ever. He's judged Robert not fit to rule after he didn't punish Tywin for his crimes against the children. From that point on it's all about creating and sitting a good king on the throne, Aegon. That's his goal, everything is either preparation for Aegon's conquest or just staying afloat, bobbing along.

There are good reasons for him not doing those things you're suggesting, you're acting as though they come at no cost or that he'd be sure to win out over the opposite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, Ethelarion said:

Oh I completely agree there are hints for us readers and I would agree with you Rhaegar probably wouldn't be a good King, but  'playing sad songs on his harp' and 'he likes some of the millions of women that adore him' aren't warning signals for Varys to know he wouldn't be a good King. His hanging around in Summerhall is just weird though. 

Yeah, sure, if Varys was involved in getting Aerys to Harrenhal and didn't have nefarious plans with that whole thing his most likeliest motivation would have been to prevent the inevitable civil war that would have come had Rhaegar actually tried to convince the lords to move against Aerys. Aerys' council would have stood with him, and many other lords, too, most notably all the lords - very likely to include Tywin - who planned to marry their daughter to Aerys' new heir, Prince Viserys.

Not to mention the overall fact of the problem of a son rebelling against his father.

4 minutes ago, chrisdaw said:

No.

He's not intending to "step in" to save Robert, ever. He's judged Robert not fit to rule after he didn't punish Tywin for his crimes against the children. From that point on it's all about creating and sitting a good king on the throne, Aegon. That's his goal, everything is either preparation for Aegon's conquest or just staying afloat, bobbing along.

There are good reasons for him not doing those things you're suggesting, you're acting as though they come at no cost or that he'd be sure to win out over the opposite.

It is not just that, it is also the fact that even a less smart political mind than Varys would have quickly realized that the new Baratheon dynasty wasn't stable. Balon's Rebellion proved that. And the War of the Five Kings sealed the deal. Varys actually tried to prevent the outbreak of a war around the time Robert died but he failed, not just due to Littlefinger's meddling but simply because nobody got along with anybody. Cersei loathed Robert's brothers, Stannis basically hates everyone, Renly wanted to be king, the Martells and other Targaryen loyalists are sharpening their knives, etc.

Without the prospect of a Targaryen restoration - either in the guise of Aegon or Daenerys or both - the Realm would fracture for good. Right now the most promising non-Targaryen contender for the Iron Throne isn't Stannis but Euron Greyjoy. And even Stannis could, most likely, never keep the Realm together. The Iron Islands, the North, and Dorne most likely would leave the Realm for good, even more so if he tried to beat them into submission.

But the Targaryens are the dynasty everybody can accept. They are loved and idolized and idealized by their subjects. They have the necessary prestige and authority to demand homage of all the great houses.

And that is why a man like Varys - who seems to be playing the game to end the game of thrones (a game to create a king who could give the Realm another grand period of peace and prosperity as Jaehaerys I did) - has to work with a Targaryen - or at least the Targaryen name.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is the main reason I do not believe Varys was or is a Targaryen loyalist. Even though it is his job to inform the king, he should have been careful where his whispers might encourage Aerys's paranoia to flare up.

That said, I don't think it's inconceivable that Rhaegar might have become so desperate that he put Varys up to whispering this to Aerys, hoping to provoke Aerys into attending and exposing the extents of his madness to the whole realm in a way Rhaegar's words never could have.

But if Rhaegar had a plan to restrict Aerys going into the Harrenhal Tourney, he does not appear to have been faithful to that plan, as he pretty much created a crisis for the realm before his father could.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Bael's Bastard said:

This is the main reason I do not believe Varys was or is a Targaryen loyalist. Even though it is his job to inform the king, he should have been careful where his whispers might encourage Aerys's paranoia to flare up.

That said, I don't think it's inconceivable that Rhaegar might have become so desperate that he put Varys up to whispering this to Aerys, hoping to provoke Aerys into attending and exposing the extents of his madness to the whole realm in a way Rhaegar's words never could have.

But if Rhaegar had a plan to restrict Aerys going into the Harrenhal Tourney, he does not appear to have been faithful to that plan, as he pretty much created a crisis for the realm before his father could.

The fact that Aerys had so many loyalists rallying to his side in the beginning of the actual rebellion - with Rhaegar being out of the picture or perhaps even being branded a traitor by his father, too, at this stage - makes it very clear that there was a very good chance that half the Realm or more would have backed Aerys against Rhaegar's attempted coup had he gone along with the covert Great Council idea.

In that sense, Aerys attending the tourney helped to prevent 'the Rhaegar rebellion' people at court were expecting. At least until the false interpretation of the crowning of Lyanna led to another dangerous situation that eventually exploded, but I'm pretty sure it is going to turn out to be Aerys' suspicions of Rhaegar that caused Robert's Rebellion. The Starks will turn out to be executed because Aerys thought they were Rhaegar's accomplices, I'm pretty sure of that.

Aerys was trying to crush Rhaegar's Rebellion when he caused Robert's Rebellion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

It isn't, it is a theory Yandel mentions as being a thing in Westeros. Prior to TWoIaF nobody thought about Harrenhal being a covert Great Council.

I don't see how what you're saying is any different than what I am saying. The novels don't actually say that Rhaegar was attempting to convene a Great Council. This is just something the fandom has decided since seeing that Great Councils can be called.

How one understands something depends greatly on what information they pay attention to. For instance, we are told from the rebel's POV that Aerys was crazy paranoid, even doubting his Hand and son. Then TWOIAF reveals that Tywin made a statement that got that gossip going. Aerys actually had some reason for doubting his Hand and his son.

We know that Varys was brought in about two years before RR. After that point, Aerys appears to trust Rhaegar, but he takes Jaime hostage against Tywin. This suggests that it was Tywin, not Rhaegar, who was working against Aerys. Or at least that Varys was warning Aerys against Tywin, not Rhaegar.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now