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TheWitch

The Problem with a King Stannis

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This isn't an attack on Stannis, in fact out of the many contenders for the Iron Throne, he has the most qualities to make a good King (in my opinion). Stannis is cold and (for me personally) un-charismatic, he is however focused on the rule of law, a man who leads from the front and has genuine ambition to run a 'clean' government. Great.

However, a seemingly obvious problem to Stannis be successful monarch is lost on most of his ardent fans, and that's the not so small issue of his conversion to the faith of R'hllor. 

Stannis being generally un-popular with the small-folk is a problem, but not one that is a reason to doubt his ability to form a strong enough government. However, the idea that a man of a different religion could take the Iron Throne without disastrous resilience is delusional. Imagine a a French Prince converting to Islam and attempting to take the throne in the 12th century, its inconceivable. Generally the Faith doesn't appear to be quite as strong as the Medieval Catholic Church, but it's existence and power is intrinsically tied with the monarchy. On top of that, Westeros is undergoing a resurgence in piety in the fallout of the war of the five kings. The world the story is set in appears to have small level of religious tolerance. There are temples of alternative faiths in Oldtown, and the Royal Court has a resident Red Priest. However, we don't know if Thoros was an exception under Robert or a rule of the court, and the Red Temple in Oldtown is more likely to please traders as opposed to a promotion of religious tolerance. The majority of Essos is multi-religious, and in those areas most pre-dominantly of R'hllor worship, their is a level of peaceful cohabitation. However, we know that believers of the faith are absolute in their rejection of other gods whom they label false idols, and are told by their religious leaders, ought to be burned away. I would say that the situation in Essos is best compared to pre-partition India, where multiple religious groups leave peacefully, as that peace benefits social order and prosperity. However, I would imagine people still married and socialise predominately in their religious/ethnic groups, and tensions lay under the surface.

The problem with Stannis is that he hasn't been converted by a Priest who is only interested in converting those who want to be converted, hes got Melisandre in his ear. After three books, we all know that Mel is pretty hard-line with her beliefs, and that Stannis saving Westeros isn't just about 'the others' but saving souls as well. There is no way that Stannis would be able to balance having a new faith and being King of a predominately faith of the seven nation. As discussed previously, he would most likely face huge resistance from the nobility and small folk, I imagine nothing short of a complete violent uprising. With the unshakeable views and influence of Mel, I very much doubt Stannis could keep his beliefs to himself, he would allow her to start a mass conversion. I imagine a lot of people would be burnt throughout Kings Landing long before any Dragons arrived.

 

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The Faith seems to have close to zero power, nothing equivalent to the Catholic Church, and the people don't seem to give two shits about religion in general to the point where peasants killed and ate the not-Pope because they were hungry and the Riverlords accepted an Old God worshipping pagan as their king. It's one of the most unrealistic aspects of the setting, but it's there.

Stannis is also an atheist. If Melisandre ceases to have use to him and/or becomes a liability, he'll get rid of her and then publicly convert to something else.

Edited by Nihlus

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3 minutes ago, Nihlus said:

The Faith seems to have close to zero power, nothing equivalent to the Catholic Church, and the people don't seem to give two shits about religion in general to the point where peasants killed and ate the not-Pope because they were hungry and the Riverlords accepted an Old God worshipping pagan as their king. It's one of the most unrealistic aspects of the setting, but it's there.

Stannis is also an atheist. If Melisandre ceases to have use to him and/or becomes a liability, he'll get rid of her and then publicly convert to something else.

I see a lot of your point. If I had written the books, I would have made the faith a bigger presence from the start. My guess would be GRRM avoided that so he didn't have to come up with and swamp us with the details of Seven rituals and mythology. 

I wouldn't say the faith has no power, the whole plot line of the sparrows was showing the faith as a much tamed beast (since the Targaryens) finding its feet and voice again. Good Catholics in the middle ages used violence against religious figures during periods of unrest, so I don't think the death of a well known corrupt Septon is any reason to doubt the spirituality of Kings Landers. There are many examples in the books of Stannis being referred to as a heretic and Mel a demon or witch.

The Riverlords is an interesting point. However, they loyalty to Rob was also one familial duty, Rob still had a god pious mother at the end of the day. On top of that, The Old Gods are certainly pagan, but they aren't an alien concept to the people of Westeros, and would garner much less of a strong reaction.

I avoided saying Stannis was devout because I think its irrelevant to the point. Stannis is interested in and dependent (at least in his own mind) on the power that Mel gives him, promises him and wields herself. I can't see him giving up on one of his most trusted advisers anytime soon.

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9 minutes ago, TheWitch said:

I see a lot of your point. If I had written the books, I would have made the faith a bigger presence from the start. My guess would be GRRM avoided that so he didn't have to come up with and swamp us with the details of Seven rituals and mythology. 

I wouldn't say the faith has no power, the whole plot line of the sparrows was showing the faith as a much tamed beast (since the Targaryens) finding its feet and voice again. Good Catholics in the middle ages used violence against religious figures during periods of unrest, so I don't think the death of a well known corrupt Septon is any reason to doubt the spirituality of Kings Landers. There are many examples in the books of Stannis being referred to as a heretic and Mel a demon or witch.

The Riverlords is an interesting point. However, they loyalty to Rob was also one familial duty, Rob still had a god pious mother at the end of the day. On top of that, The Old Gods are certainly pagan, but they aren't an alien concept to the people of Westeros, and would garner much less of a strong reaction.

Well, my point on Robb and the High Septon is that your comparison to a Muslim king conquering France breaks down because the people of France would be just as unwilling, if not more unwilling, to have a pagan as their king. At least the Muslims (and R'hllor's followers) are monotheists; a 12th-15th century French king following the religion of e.g. the guys targeted in the Northern Crusades (from eastern and northeastern Europe) would be unthinkable, even if he also had Catholic relatives. But in Westeros no one bats an eye at the direct equivalent of the Northern pagans (that direct equivalent being literal Northern pagans) ruling over a kingdom of mostly Seven adherents. Heck, the Targaryens wanted those pagans to be part of the royal family that ruled the continent.

It just doesn't work. Religion has little to no power in GRRM's setting. Even the Faith's revival in the current setting which was directly catalyzed by extraordinary circumstance after extraordinary circumstance (like Cersei directly empowering them) is underwhelming. They have a couple hundred knights and a few thousand untrained poorly armed peasants in the capital. That's pretty much it.

Quote

I avoided saying Stannis was devout because I think its irrelevant to the point. Stannis is interested in and dependent (at least in his own mind) on the power that Mel gives him, promises him and wields herself. I can't see him giving up on one of his most trusted advisers anytime soon.

He left her behind both during Blackwater and the battle of Winterfell because he didn't want to be seen as being dependent on her power. So I disagree. He'd probably stop listening to her if he actually won.

Edited by Nihlus

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If Melisandre had been wrong about the Others but right about Stannis's destiny to be king, of course there would have been some problems among his more rabid followers, attempting to burn godswoods and the like.

But, as you said, Stannis is focused on the rule of law. He'd hang the R'hlorrist fanatics who broke the law in their zeal, right alongside any Sevenist fanatics who broke the law in theirs. And he'd keep hanging fanatics from both sides until people got the message.

I think the problem is that you're trying too hard to fit Westeros and everything in it to medieval Europe. Yes, medieval Europe is the basic foundation for GRRM's design, but not everything there is identical

Religious tolerance is much, much higher in Westeros than in Medieval Europe. Sure, it's hard to imagine a French king converting to Islam and being accepted. But it's just as hard to imagine French people swearing oaths to "the old gods and the new", lumping the Trinity in with the old pagan gods. Or to imagine most of Aquitaine worshipping the Celtic pantheon and the rest of the French not only being fine with that, but intermarrying with them. So obviously, Westeros is not much like medieval France.

Even most of our own world wasn't like medieval France. There were Mongol and Turkish khanates that were inherited by converts to a minority religion all the time—a Jew taking over a Tengrist khanate, a Muslim taking over a Manichaean khanate, a Christian taking over a Buddhist khanate, etc. There are a handful of examples of intolerance and forced conversion, but more often, nobody revolted and nobody was put to the sword. A lot of nobles and a smaller number of commoners converted, and some people picked up religious laws or traditions from the leadership without converting (e.g., Khazari Christians apparently kept scrupulously kosher households). Over time, the now-minority religion adapted to being a minority religion (e.g., imams in the Keraite khanates interpreted the Koran to count Buddhists as people of the book).

Also, Melisandre isn't interested in "saving souls". That's an idea specific to Christianity and Islam. It doesn't exist in Judaism, Shinto, etc., and it doesn't seem to exist in most of the religions of Planetos either. She wants to convert people because her religion says that anyone who isn't fighting for R'hllor is fighting for the Great Other, and she needs more warriors for R'hllor. And she doesn't do it by appealing to people about the afterlife, but by telling them they need to fight for R'hllor to save this world.

And Stannis isn't even interested in that. As long as R'hllorism is useful, he's a R'hllorist. He doesn't care who else is. He doesn't even try to convert Davos. He does ask Jon to reject the Old Gods, but he doesn't even grit his teeth when Jon refuses, which shows how little he personally cared.

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Stannis is only unpopular with the smallfolk, IMO, because he’s still an invader, for all intents and purposes. I think if he were sitting on the Iron Throne, his treatment of other Lords and refusal to allow them to skirt the law based on birth would make him many friends among the populace.

He’d lose those friends if he ever actually outlawed prostitution, though.

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A *reason that Rob had success ruling the Riverlands is that he had no desire to destroy the septs and grow a weirwood in the rubble.   It is likely that Mel would desire to destroy the Great Sept of Balor and convert all to the faith of the Lord of the Ligh.  Even if Stannis would stop Mel before the destruction of the Great Sept, the fact that an extremest who desired the destruction of their religion was his close adviser would irritate not only the Faith but the more religious Lords.  

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Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed. GoT Ned 13

This has nothing to do with religion and simply Stannis being Stannis

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50 minutes ago, elder brother jonothor dar said:

Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed. GoT Ned 13

This has nothing to do with religion and simply Stannis being Stannis

But we see with Renly's bannermen that Stannis forgives, even though he doesn't forget.  IIRC Varys said the quote you had, and I tend to think he is wrong here.  I think Varys has his own motives that have nothing to do with looking out for the good of the realm.  Stannis probably would off Varys and other powerful folks in court Robert shouldn't have pardoned, but Stannis isn't going to start kicking up shit with the Tyrells or Greyjoys once he sits the Iron Throne.

Interesting discussion all around.  I agree Stannis' association with R'hllor is problematic for a stable and successful rule if he were to have won the throne in book 2, but seeing him without Mel by his side in the north ("there will be no more burnings, pray harder") and knowing he is focused on defeating the Others before pressing his claim to the kingdom ("I was putting the cart before the horse...") I think he won't have a problem with the religious aspect if he successfully saves the kingdom and then marched south.  But with Aegon and Daenerys coming to town, not to mention Euron and Cersei, even if Stannis survives the Boltons and battles with the Others he really does have his work cut out for him.

Edited by Lucius Lovejoy
Spelling corrected

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“Davos, I have missed you sorely,” the king said. “Aye, I have a tail of traitors, your nose does not deceive you. My bannermen are inconstant even in their treasons. I need them, but you should know how it sickens me to pardon such as these when I have punished better men for lesser crimes. You have every right to reproach me, Ser Davos.” clash

Stannis instinct is to punish (kill)? Them all, but he needs them to take power, Robert and Renly would have won them over and mayhaps the Tyrells too.

Clearly the Tyrell do not relish him as king and neither does LF who speaks the warning to Ned above.  I agree with the sentiment that Stannis and his religion is a barrier to him being a great king but so is Stannis the man just as great a barrier for many of the nobles.  I imagine that many of them could not tell the differences between him and the mad king should he start killing them on mass justifiably or otherwise.

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10 hours ago, elder brother jonothor dar said:

Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed. GoT Ned 13

This has nothing to do with religion and simply Stannis being Stannis

Thats someone who is trying to denigrate Stannis. Besides, even a caricature of Stannis wouldn’t punish Targ loyalists.

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Yes, P.R. would've been a problem. Renly would've helped here.. wink wink.

Even if Melisandre persisted, now wouldn't be the right time to spread the good word of the red god around to the 7K. Probably would've concentrated on ruling and the threat beyond the wall and maybe taken a back seat to religion by now.  Still would've needed a male heir, add that to the list... maybe with a new wife? Probably not, but a successor is needed.

I'd say a good chunk of characters wouldn't be too fond of him on the IT, let alone the Tyrells and Baelish, but if someone is trying to sabotage, they would've been punish accordingly.

 

Do you think the marriage to Selyse would've last? I'm still hedging on duty, but when you have a crown on your head, things might change and a new duty will appear.  (Who would've arranged this match?)

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12 hours ago, elder brother jonothor dar said:

Every man who fought beneath the dragon banner or rose with Balon Greyjoy will have good cause to fear. Seat Stannis on the Iron Throne and I promise you, the realm will bleed. GoT Ned 13

This has nothing to do with religion and simply Stannis being Stannis

That was in the first book though. To judge Stannis' ability as King on how he was then completely ignores everything his character has gone through since. He said it himself. He had the whole thing backwards. Instead of sitting on Dragonstone, brooding that no one would respond to his demands of fealty, he should've been out on the field fighting to earn it.

Look at where he is at the end of ADWD? The North expressly rejected his claim to the Throne and would've fought against him if circumstances had turned out differently and, yet, he's up there fighting for them, risking the lives of his few loyal men because it's his duty as their King, whether they want him or not. He'd never have done that pre-Blackwater.

Besides, Varys isn't exactly the most trustworthy source is he?

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The quote is LF people 

"Stannis had given her their lives. Yet she sensed no true mercy in the man. He was determined, beyond a doubt. Nor did he lack for courage. Men said he was just … and if his was a harsh, hard-handed sort of justice, well, life on the Iron Islands had accustomed Asha Greyjoy to that. All the same, she could not like this king. Those deep-set blue eyes of his seemed always slitted in suspicion, cold fury boiling just below their surface. Her life meant little and less to him. She was only his hostage, a prize to show the north that he could vanquish the ironborn." Kings prize Dance.

It does not sound like Stannis has changed his nature. OP argues Stannis would make good king if not for his religion, I would add to that his personality.  Robert inspires loyalty not fear, Robert was a bad king and the kingdom prospered, Stannis would be a good king and the kingdom would bleed.

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Regardless, Littlefinger is hardly unbiased either is he? Stannis becoming King is pretty much Petyr Baelish's worst nightmare. We can debate about whether the realm would bleed under Stannis but Littlefinger certainly would. It might very well be the reason for killing Jon Arryn when he discovered that Stannis was Robert's real heir.

Asha's hardly the best person to judge whether Stannis has changed or not either. As she said, she's an enemy soldier. Also - she might believe that she means nothing to him but the fact that she's still alive, despite the scarcity of food and his men's grumbling, suggests he might have other plans for her.

If you look at his actions since losing on the Blackwater, I'd say it's undeniable that he's changed, and is continuing to do so, albeit out of necessity. For example, he's gone from sending Davos, the uneducated and lowborn "Onion Knight", to make demands of Lords, and seething when they refused, to personally visiting the Northern Mountain clans and requesting that they help him take Winterfell and free Ned's daughter. He'd never have done that in Clash. Certainly not without demanding they bend the knee and change their religion anyway.

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I don't think the church in the seven kingdoms has nearly as much power as they did in europe in the 12th century. I think that it would be a huge problem though.  The seven and the iron throne are intertwined and the faith militia was disbaned because one of the targ kings said that the crown would defend the faith. And the faith has made a massive resurgence since the war of five kings. I think he would have a reign of constant rebellion because of it.

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6 hours ago, StraightFromAsshai said:

Do you think the marriage to Selyse would've last? I'm still hedging on duty, but when you have a crown on your head, things might change and a new duty will appear.  (Who would've arranged this match?)

Stannis might eventually agree that his duty to produce an heir outweighed his duty to live up to his marriage contract when his wife had never broken her side of the bargain.

But I think long before that, Melisandre would offer Selyse a solution: She's figured out a way to guarantee that Selyse becomes pregnant, and with a son, as long as Selyse can get Stannis into bed one time. Oh, and they need to sacrifice someone with king's blood, like Shireen. And nine months later, when Selyse dies in childbirth while birthing a stillborn boy—well, now Stannis is free to marry again.

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On 9/20/2017 at 2:04 PM, TheWitch said:

Stannis being generally un-popular with the small-folk is a problem, but not one that is a reason to doubt his ability to form a strong enough government. However, the idea that a man of a different religion could take the Iron Throne without disastrous resilience is delusional. Imagine a a French Prince converting to Islam and attempting to take the throne in the 12th century, its inconceivable.

Imagine a Roman Emperor converting to Christianity, or an English King forming his own Church. Both were "unthinkable" and not without consequence, but they happened all the same. I suppose the difference is that both Henry VIII and Constantine I were already well established monarchs at the time of their conversion.

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20 minutes ago, snow is the man said:

I don't think the church in the seven kingdoms has nearly as much power as they did in europe in the 12th century. I think that it would be a huge problem though.  The seven and the iron throne are intertwined and the faith militia was disbaned because one of the targ kings said that the crown would defend the faith. And the faith has made a massive resurgence since the war of five kings. I think he would have a reign of constant rebellion because of it.

Surely that depends on exactly how he'd rule?

I mean, sure, if he burned the Great Sept of Balor and demanded that all must convert to the Lord of Light then, yes, they'll rebel but if he rules fairly and makes sure that everyone has enough to eat then surely only the biggest zealots would actually care? Most would go "Well, he's better than Tommen, that abomination".

The Old Gods and the Seven seem to have been able to co-exist for centuries. The Riverlords and House Manderly had no problem accepting Robb as their King, despite their religious beliefs. Besides, Stannis doesn't even believe in the Lord of Light. He believes in Melisandre's power and wants to use it to do what needs to be done. If he was going to force people to convert then he wouldn't have made Davos his Hand.

That's another thing actually. I realise he did it because he values honest counsel more than high birth but making Davos the Hand of The King should surely do a lot to win the smallfolk over? How can they hate someone who has taken one of their own, a common smuggler from Flea Bottom, recognised his worth and raised him to the highest position that he could?

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3 hours ago, Damon_Tor said:

Imagine a Roman Emperor converting to Christianity, or an English King forming his own Church. Both were "unthinkable" and not without consequence, but they happened all the same. I suppose the difference is that both Henry VIII and Constantine I were already well established monarchs at the time of their conversion.

Constantine had several other differences from Stannis, regarding religion:

  • Christianity in the Roman Empire was established and growing.
  • The traditional pantheon was withering away and losing influence with the people.
  • Constantine very gradually embraced Christianity.
  • Prior emperors were, at least, sympathetic to Christianity (Alexader Severus was even tutored by Origen, one of the more fascinating theologians in Christianity’s long history of fascinating theologians).

Regarding the idea of Stannis converting the Sept of Baelor into a Temple of R’hllor, FWIW, my headcanon is that he’d give Melisandre the remains of the dragonpit to build herself a temple there.  Far better fire pedigree, anyway.

Edited by DominusNovus

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