Jump to content
Free Northman Reborn

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

Recommended Posts

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

I think this is central to our disagreement.  By your argument, all monarchies are absolute, because the monarch is "above the law".  But if Elizabeth II tried to go on a killing spree and then claim she's above the law, she'd be deposed.  Which means she is subject, in reality, to the laws and traditions of the UK.

Your argument is circular and impossible to dispute, because you are arguing that the mere fact of being royal means you are entirely above the law.  Which history, both in real life and in the text, is shown to be very much not the case.  If acting in whatever way you want will provoke rebellion, you aren't above the law.

On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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

Right... but the whole point is you wouldn't grant guest right to a criminal.... so what are you getting at?  If I know you are a criminal and give you bread and salt, of course I've committed to giving you guest right.  Which, of course, I can rescind at any time if I find out later you're a criminal.  Guest right protects you from hostile acts from your host, not an indefinite right to remain.  That doesn't seem like a hard concept to grasp.

On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

What crap did they pull?  They were rival kings, but that applies to dozens of major Houses across Westeros, and isn't evidence of disloyalty or anything.  We actually have extremely little firm evidence of Bolton disloyalty, and a lot of examples of them being loyal vassals (such as during the Worthless War).  Roose even takes up arms during Robert's Rebellion.  What times to we have where the Boltons are notably disloyal?  Their "rebellion" during the dotage of Edrick Snowbeard is notable in that they are one of many "Northern rivals" to cause problems for the Starks.

And you seem to be employing a very biased view, here.  The Martells are honored members of the realm despite multiple atrocities committed against the Westerosi.  The Baratheons still exist after the Rebellion of the Laughing Storm.  Many Houses that participated in the Blackfyre Rebellions still exist, if weakened.  If anything, the Targeyens, especially post-dragons, are weaker than the pre-Conquest Starks.  You don't wipe out rebellious Houses in a feudal system, normally, which is why when it happens (such as with the Reynes and Tarbecks) it's so notable.

On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Very few Houses that we hear of surrender "unconditionally".  The Redwynes and Hightowers are coopted via marriage.  I'm not sure why you are considering the rival Bolton kings as beholden to the Starks in any way.

On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

Except, the Westerosi can move their armies across the realm as well.... so what is your point?  Yes, the Romans had a better and more centralized bureaucracy, but this isn't the way to prove it.  In point of fact, the Romans rarely moved armies far beyond their stations, which is why so many cities grew up around legionary camps, and still exist to this day.  Yes, in rare campaigns they could bring legions from far flung corners of the Empire, but the Westerosi can do that as well - the War of the Ninepenny Kings, for one.  Or the Blackfyre Rebellion, where Daemon marches around most of the south of the continent in his campaign.

On 1/12/2018 at 7:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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.

So name an example of the Targaryens "eradicating" any Houses? I think we get two, the Harroways and the Darklyns.The Toynes go extinct in part because of Aegon IV, but he doesn't actually extinguish them.  But you are arguing as if the Targaryens are able to routinely extinguish noble lines, which is clearly not true.  And we have plenty examples of Houses that are in outright rebellion against the Iron Throne, and still exist.  Look at the Peakes!  They're repeat offenders and still exist.  And the Boltons were a more loyal House than the Baratheons, for example, who are on at least three occasions prior to Robert's Rebellion act in an openly rebellious manner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

I think this is central to our disagreement.  By your argument, all monarchies are absolute, because the monarch is "above the law".  But if Elizabeth II tried to go on a killing spree and then claim she's above the law, she'd be deposed.  Which means she is subject, in reality, to the laws and traditions of the UK.

Well, I'm not talking about madness like that, I simply pointed out that the British couldn't really get rid of their monarchy without causing some sort of crisis of their unwritten constitution because the legal framework of their society is a monarchy. If the monarch refused to give up the powers and privileges she still has, they could not just take it from her - or rather, the legality of such a taking wouldn't be guaranteed.

Most (Western) monarchies that were abolished were abolished by means of a revolution or a coup d'etat. Monarchs also can abdicate of their own free will and all, but that rarely happens.

I mean, as boarder who actually served in the British military has written here once, you actually do swear a solemn vow on defending the monarch, the Prince of Wales, and the lawful succession if you join the British military. That is likely very ceremonial but if there were real attempts to depose the monarch then the monarch certainly would be justified to call upon loyal British soldiers defend her and her rights. After all, those people have sworn vows, right?

I'm not sure how seriously soldiers and officers take such vows today, but I'm not exactly a military man, either.

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Right... but the whole point is you wouldn't grant guest right to a criminal.... so what are you getting at?  If I know you are a criminal and give you bread and salt, of course I've committed to giving you guest right.  Which, of course, I can rescind at any time if I find out later you're a criminal.  Guest right protects you from hostile acts from your host, not an indefinite right to remain.  That doesn't seem like a hard concept to grasp.

Sure. Which means that this isn't really an issue when we are talking about the power or rights of a king in Westeros. Everybody - including the king - wants to be safe under another man's roof. That's why guest right is usually important in medieval contexts. If you cannot trust each other you are pretty much fucked.

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

What crap did they pull?  They were rival kings, but that applies to dozens of major Houses across Westeros, and isn't evidence of disloyalty or anything.  We actually have extremely little firm evidence of Bolton disloyalty, and a lot of examples of them being loyal vassals (such as during the Worthless War).  Roose even takes up arms during Robert's Rebellion.  What times to we have where the Boltons are notably disloyal?  Their "rebellion" during the dotage of Edrick Snowbeard is notable in that they are one of many "Northern rivals" to cause problems for the Starks.

The Boltons rose up in rebellion against the Starks a number of times. And they skinned Starks alive not only while they were the Red Kings of the Dreadfort but also while they rose up in rebellion against the Kings in the North.

If the Starks allow people who do crap like that to keep their castle and a powerful lordship then I honestly don't know who deserves to be attainted.

It is not that the Starks have to kill all the Boltons and Bolton cousins they can find. It would be enough to extinguish the main line and then grant the title and the lands to some other more trustworthy Northern family (which the Starks did in a number of other cases).

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

And you seem to be employing a very biased view, here.  The Martells are honored members of the realm despite multiple atrocities committed against the Westerosi.  The Baratheons still exist after the Rebellion of the Laughing Storm.  Many Houses that participated in the Blackfyre Rebellions still exist, if weakened.  If anything, the Targeyens, especially post-dragons, are weaker than the pre-Conquest Starks.  You don't wipe out rebellious Houses in a feudal system, normally, which is why when it happens (such as with the Reynes and Tarbecks) it's so notable.

Nope, I'm not. The Starks were the Kings in the North. And the Boltons rebelled against their rule not only once but repeatedly, committing very heinous acts against Starks themselves in the process of that. No houses you mention up there did skin members of the Targaryen family alive and wore their skins as cloaks. If any had done that, they would have been extinguished.

The Martells never rebelled against the Targaryens, they fought legitimate wars against them, as the rulers of an independent nation. Lyonel Baratheon and Aegon V (and Ser Duncan the Tall) were old friends. Neither of them had likely an interest to extinguish the other. And it seems that the most stalwart followers of Daemon Blackfyre were indeed destroyed as noble houses. Their leaders were executed, and the surviving family members were attainted and/or had to go into exile.

Again - you don't have to kill any scion of a noble bloodline to destroy a noble house. Far to the contrary, actually.

And, sure, eradicating houses and bloodlines is quite common in Westerosi history. It happened during the Stark conquest of the North, during the Lannister conquest of the West, the Andal invasions, etc. It is uncommon to do it as ruthlessly as Maegor, Tywin, and Aerys II did it, but it is not uncommon at all.

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Very few Houses that we hear of surrender "unconditionally".  The Redwynes and Hightowers are coopted via marriage.  I'm not sure why you are considering the rival Bolton kings as beholden to the Starks in any way.

Again, I'm not necessarily talking about the Red Kings of the Dreadfort (although the shit they pulled could also have caused a self-respecting Stark king to show no mercy to them after he had them finally on their knees - which then didn't happen). I'm talking about the Boltons rising up against Stark rule after the last Red King had given up his crown.

The fact that things went smoother in the Reach than at many other places is actually discussed in TWoIaF. The Starks also secured some of their holdings through marriages but they had to conquer most of their territories, replacing quite a few old houses with new ones.

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

Except, the Westerosi can move their armies across the realm as well.... so what is your point?  Yes, the Romans had a better and more centralized bureaucracy, but this isn't the way to prove it.  In point of fact, the Romans rarely moved armies far beyond their stations, which is why so many cities grew up around legionary camps, and still exist to this day.  Yes, in rare campaigns they could bring legions from far flung corners of the Empire, but the Westerosi can do that as well - the War of the Ninepenny Kings, for one.  Or the Blackfyre Rebellion, where Daemon marches around most of the south of the continent in his campaign.

The point is just that Roman Empire isn't even remotely comparable to a medieval monarchy or the type George has created for the series. The true power in Rome lay with the men leading/controlling the army. The nobility/royalty of blood wasn't as important in Rome as it is in the average medieval monarchy or in Westeros.

And there is simply no proof that the Starks made any royal progresses the way Charlemagne and others did (they could have, but no Stark king is mentioned doing that, unlike various other kings). And they most definitely didn't have a professional army as powerful as the Roman legions, right? This is why the comparison here doesn't make a lot of sense.

11 hours ago, cpg2016 said:

So name an example of the Targaryens "eradicating" any Houses? I think we get two, the Harroways and the Darklyns.The Toynes go extinct in part because of Aegon IV, but he doesn't actually extinguish them.  But you are arguing as if the Targaryens are able to routinely extinguish noble lines, which is clearly not true.  And we have plenty examples of Houses that are in outright rebellion against the Iron Throne, and still exist.  Look at the Peakes!  They're repeat offenders and still exist.  And the Boltons were a more loyal House than the Baratheons, for example, who are on at least three occasions prior to Robert's Rebellion act in an openly rebellious manner.

The Targaryens were obviously capable of eradicating noble houses - both while they were having dragons and while they didn't have dragons.

The point I'm making is that the Boltons would have gone had they pulled off shit like skinning royal princes and wearing their skin as cloaks if they had tried to pull that with the Targaryens. Yet we know they did that with the Boltons and the Starks did pretty much nothing to punish them as a house. Granted, it could be that the individual Boltons responsible for this shit were killed or executed, but the Starks apparently did never have the strength to attaint the Boltons.

Why that never happened is very odd. Especially since we know the Starks actually extinguished other noble and royal houses.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/01/2018 at 10:56 PM, Lord Varys said:

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).

   

   I do disagree with you. Louis XIV, the called Sun King, had much more power compared to the Targaryens. He was an absolute Monarch. The Targaryens were not. Since the time of his father Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu removed the feudal Noble right to “defend”themselves.when he ordered almost all fortified castles razed, so the Nobles could not have defense against the Crown if they were to be invaded or arrested or in case of Rebellion. The Warden and his vassals have fortified Castles and Fortifications in ASoIaF..

   Also the King in France had a powerful intern “army” in which the Nobles only participated if there was a foreign war were they were put in the chain of command, like the Prince Condé and other Dukes and Marquis had.  In ASoIaF the King depends mostly of the Warden’s and the vassal of theirs to get an army. You see that when there was a rebellion or war the Ruler ordered their Wardens to call their banners and fight it.

   Also you said before that no Targaryen were ever  removed/deposed by their vassals. Maegor the Cruel was not literarily deposed because he died/killed himself in the Iron Throne days before his inevitable removal! The Warden and vassal of his realm were so full of him and his tyranny that finally his Wardens of the Houses of Lannister, Tyrell, and Arryn came out against him and the Tully joined them. Do you know what happened when Maegor called “his” banners. They hated him so much that very few answered his all and he barely reached four thousand men.  Again it shows they were closer to a medieval monarchy then an absolute one. He refused to take the Black, was surrounded, ”his” army defeated and obviously would had been removed and killed or send to the Night’s Watch. Why because the Targaryen did not have a permanent army, unless it was from bondage of marriage to other Great Houses or he was part of a Great House himself, so Robert  Baratheon was also Lord Paramount of the Storm Lands and he and his vassals would fight for him, not because he was the King, but because they are vassals to the Lord Paramount. Also the Targaryen had Dragonstone and few vassals their and so on. A monarch permanent independent (from vassal) army is essential for an absolute monarchy and the King in Westeros did not have it. Joffrey based his power on his grandfathers and his Tyrell fiancée’s army and also the Baratheon who believed he was one of theirs.

   Also you said that France would not be a good feudal example of the Targaryens power in Westeros. I do disagree. It depends what timeframe you use. I give an example. Philip IV of France, called the Fair. He increased a lot the monarchy’s power in France. He arrested High Nobles, increased taxes on his vassal lords and burgs, expelled gentle and jews and took over their properties and gold, suppressed the Knights Templar and took their gold and lands and imposed a 50% income taxes on all Catholic Lands, removed the Pope from power and transferred the Curia Romana to Avignon and therefore controlled the Catholic Church in all his domains. There was no Magna Carta, there was no Parliament, the King had a lot of power and it was a still a feudal monarchy. Philip the fair ruled from 1285 to 1314.

   So as you see, the Targaryen are very much more related to a Feudal Monarchy a lá French Philp IV then to an absolute Monarchy a lá Louis XIV.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@HallowedMarcus

The issue is that the concept of the monarchy - especially in the countries you are citing here - was always that the king technically or de iure had absolute power. He just acted through his lords and the other nobles who held lands in his name. Effectively that meant that those lords and nobles had a lot of real power, allowing them to defy the kings they were technically supposed to obey but could afford to ignore or challenge.

Philip the Fair wasn't an absolutist king yet, but he acted like one - and he did that because the divine right of kings, etc. wasn't exactly a later invention but always part of the level of kingship. It was simply not always realized in the same form.

But the point I was actually making is that even the French absolutist kings were de iure weaker than the Targaryen kings. They could not rise the taxes without the Estates-General - which is why Louis XVI had to convene them in 1789. The Targaryens don't have to ask the lords or their other subjects when they want to raise or introduce new taxes. They just do it.

I'm also kind of a loss at this whole dichotomy between absolute and feudal monarchy. An absolutist cannot do everything he wants, either. The place of the semi-independent ruling class (powerful magnates and nobles, etc.) is simply taking by members of the king's bureaucracy and, if we are talking about a real and powerful absolute monarchy, the standing army.

An absolutist king mistreating, underpaying, or otherwise provoking his own generals and royal officials - not to mention the majority of the common soldiers - isn't going to rule or live long. Just as a 'feudal king' isn't going to rule long if constantly mistreats and provokes the lords on whose support he is dependent on to remain in power.

In that sense there is no deep and meaningful difference between these two.

And in the Seven Kingdoms the king might lack a standing army but his lords do not have any rights nor did they ever behave the way powerful magnates did behave in the days when monarchies were weak in the real middle ages (like imprisoning or deposing kings, or forcing them to sign treaties or listen to their advice in councils, etc.). The Targaryen kings always ruled with an amount of power than can be described as absolute. They acted through their lords, true, instead of appointed royal officials, but those lords didn't have the (legal) power to challenge the power of the king outside of illegal and violent rebellion.

An absolute monarchy usually is defined as one where there are no legal institutions limiting the power of the king. And that is very much true for the Seven Kingdoms. Even the Faith was no longer a rival power center after Maegor broke them.

If we had some sort of parliament, a (semi-)independent justice system, independent religious leaders, or at least the great lords of the Realm having mandatory seats in the king's council (like it was the case in medieval England, say) then we could say the Targaryen monarchy wasn't absolute insofar as the institutions are concerned.

But that simply isn't the case. Whether it is realistic that lords as far removed from KL as the Starks or even the Lannisters and Arryns would feel obliged to obey those distant king is another matter entirely (I don't think that makes sense) but that is the way the author has set things up.

As to Maegor (and Aegon II and Aerys II) being nearly deposed:

That's true. But it never came to that. And thus there is no precedent for this kind of thing.

Besides, there is a difference between a succession struggle between members of a royal bloodline (the question which royal is supposed to sit the throne) and the question of the deposition of a king strictly by his underlings. The former operates within the framework of the monarchistic system, the latter can (and often does) lead to the abolishment of the monarchy itself.

The former clearly did happen, but the latter never happened. Now, deposing a king most definitely would damage the concept of kingship and the way the king as a person is seen, but again - it never happened.

Especially the Maegor example makes little sense in this regard - the man didn't need armies to keep his throne. He had Balerion the Black Dread. He had the power to eradicate not only House Baratheon (and the pitiful child pretender they were supporting) but also destroy their castle with them. This fact alone is actually a strong sign that Maegor must have been murdered rather than committing suicide.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Well, I'm not talking about madness like that, I simply pointed out that the British couldn't really get rid of their monarchy without causing some sort of crisis of their unwritten constitution because the legal framework of their society is a monarchy. If the monarch refused to give up the powers and privileges she still has, they could not just take it from her - or rather, the legality of such a taking wouldn't be guaranteed.

Most (Western) monarchies that were abolished were abolished by means of a revolution or a coup d'etat. Monarchs also can abdicate of their own free will and all, but that rarely happens.

I mean, as boarder who actually served in the British military has written here once, you actually do swear a solemn vow on defending the monarch, the Prince of Wales, and the lawful succession if you join the British military. That is likely very ceremonial but if there were real attempts to depose the monarch then the monarch certainly would be justified to call upon loyal British soldiers defend her and her rights. After all, those people have sworn vows, right?

I'm not sure how seriously soldiers and officers take such vows today, but I'm not exactly a military man, either.

Actually, I'm not sure this is true.  Obviously the vows are holdovers from when the monarch exercised de facto power as well as de jure.  And I don't think there would be any sort of crisis if the monarchy was abolished; they have no real power anyway, the only vestige being that they sit the Prime Minister.  But if they refused to do so, that right would be constitutionally taken away, so.... yeah.  I mean, what really changes if the royals go away?  There is a fairly strong movement in the UK to do it anyway.  The only place I see it being tricky is in regards to "crown" property, and how that is treated, but that's not exactly what we're arguing.

And actually, lots of monarchs abdicate, and relatively few were overthrown, especially in Western Europe.  Really, the French, the Portuguese, and maybe the Germans are the only ones that come to mind (since Wilhelm technically abdicated).  The rest either still exist, or went out through a popular referendum.

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure. Which means that this isn't really an issue when we are talking about the power or rights of a king in Westeros. Everybody - including the king - wants to be safe under another man's roof. That's why guest right is usually important in medieval contexts. If you cannot trust each other you are pretty much fucked.

OK?  My point is that this is a right that transcends royal power and prerogative.  Kings who have attempted to force hosts to give up guests incite rebellion, which means that it is considered a law above that of the king's word (which is impossible in an absolute monarchy).  Rhaenyra orders Lord Mooton to kill Nettles, his guest, and Mooton switches sides rather than comply.  Aerys II doesn't spark off Robert's Rebellion with the abduction of Lyanna, or the murder of Rickard and Brandon, but when he demands Jon Arryn violate guest right.

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The Boltons rose up in rebellion against the Starks a number of times. And they skinned Starks alive not only while they were the Red Kings of the Dreadfort but also while they rose up in rebellion against the Kings in the North.

If the Starks allow people who do crap like that to keep their castle and a powerful lordship then I honestly don't know who deserves to be attainted.

It is not that the Starks have to kill all the Boltons and Bolton cousins they can find. It would be enough to extinguish the main line and then grant the title and the lands to some other more trustworthy Northern family (which the Starks did in a number of other cases).

I'm asking you to name those times.  I can only find one instance where we know the Boltons rebelled against the Kings in the North, and it sounds like they were one of many Houses to do so.  The Targaryens, for example, permit House Baratheon to allow face mutilation and don't retaliate.  Plenty of other Houses rebel, numerous times, and aren't wiped out.  Part of the problem kings had with feudal aristocracies is that loyalty and land is firmly attached to one House, so getting rid of it is nearly impossible.

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The fact that things went smoother in the Reach than at many other places is actually discussed in TWoIaF. The Starks also secured some of their holdings through marriages but they had to conquer most of their territories, replacing quite a few old houses with new ones.

Well, actually what is discussed is that the final resolution of those conflicts, not the inconclusive warfare that preceded it.  And the Starks do the same - we know that after centuries (presumably) of being unable to fully conquer the Neck, they finally secure it through marriage.

I think the Wiki is an excellent resource as far as it goes, but the facts it highlights are clearly meant to be demonstrative about certain themes.  The Valemen, Stormlanders, and Riverlanders fight the Andals and get swamped because they're too fractious and too eager to use the invaders for their own ends.  The Lannisters and the Gardeners go for cultural assimilation and it works.  The whole point of the entire pre-Targaryen era of Westeros is that no one kingdom can conquer another; that's why the success of the marriage alliances is emphasized (or that is how I read it).

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The point is just that Roman Empire isn't even remotely comparable to a medieval monarchy or the type George has created for the series. The true power in Rome lay with the men leading/controlling the army. The nobility/royalty of blood wasn't as important in Rome as it is in the average medieval monarchy or in Westeros.

I agree with this, to a point.  But my disagreements are pretty minor and technical, so lets not get into that here.

8 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The Targaryens were obviously capable of eradicating noble houses - both while they were having dragons and while they didn't have dragons.

The question isn't whether they are physically capable, it's whether they are politically capable.  And I think the answer is no; we have almost no evidence of it, even when the Targaryens have a dozen or so automatic "win buttons" on their side during the draconic era.  As even Aegon realizes, he needs to assimilate himself into the existing political order if he ever hopes to rule the Seven Kingdoms; his dragons can't be everywhere, and despite being the equivalent of a nuclear weapon, we see in the Dornish Wars that they are not invincible.

Similarly, if the Starks were to go about extinguishing the Boltons, what does it accomplish them?  They could try and raise up some random distant cousin to a lordship, but in order to exercise legitimate power, that person probably takes the name Bolton (as tradition is super important in feudal societies).  They can't give those lands to their bannermen, really, because that is just replacing one overmighty vassal with another, potentially MORE powerful one.

Frankly, we don't have enough evidence about what the Starks do in retaliation to make a statement here.  For all we know, they really did curtail or circumscribe the power of the Boltons on many occasions.  But that land needs a noble steward, and the Bolton name is entrenched there.  And while the Boltons seem to be particularly brutal, we have no indication that they're THAT far outside the norm, since we know that the Northerners regularly used to practice human sacrifice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

Actually, I'm not sure this is true.  Obviously the vows are holdovers from when the monarch exercised de facto power as well as de jure.  And I don't think there would be any sort of crisis if the monarchy was abolished; they have no real power anyway, the only vestige being that they sit the Prime Minister.  But if they refused to do so, that right would be constitutionally taken away, so.... yeah.  I mean, what really changes if the royals go away?  There is a fairly strong movement in the UK to do it anyway.  The only place I see it being tricky is in regards to "crown" property, and how that is treated, but that's not exactly what we're arguing.

Well, from what I know, they should still have a lot of informal power if they know how to use it. Not to mention that they are surrounded and cared for by, you know, all the officials that have existed since the time of the Plantagenets and Tudors. The cabinet is still technically just a committee of the Privy Council. Now, perhaps the British feel comfortable in a legal framework like that. I wouldn't.

Within their legal framework (no written constitution) I don't see how the monarchy could go in a legal way against the will of the monarch. But then - I'm certainly no expert on British law.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

And actually, lots of monarchs abdicate, and relatively few were overthrown, especially in Western Europe.  Really, the French, the Portuguese, and maybe the Germans are the only ones that come to mind (since Wilhelm technically abdicated).  The rest either still exist, or went out through a popular referendum.

An abdication isn't the same as the abolishment of the monarchy as a system of government. It usually only extends to the person of the monarch. Now, it can coincide with the abolishment of the monarchy as such, but it doesn't have to.

Within the framework of a constitutional monarchy (with a written constitution and clearly defined functions and limits to the power of the king and the other state authorities) the legislature could easily change the system from monarchy to republic, etc. But that usually works only within that legal framework. Usually, we had an absolutist monarchy prior to a constitutional monarchy, with a revolution or revolution-like uprising forcing the monarchs to give up the absolutist monarchy in favor of a constitutional monarchy.

But from a legal viewpoint - and if we don't talk about a real revolution like the American or French Revolution - this could only be legal because the king - in his absolute power - decided to give up that power and limit by the means of accepting a constitution limiting his power.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

OK?  My point is that this is a right that transcends royal power and prerogative.  Kings who have attempted to force hosts to give up guests incite rebellion, which means that it is considered a law above that of the king's word (which is impossible in an absolute monarchy).  Rhaenyra orders Lord Mooton to kill Nettles, his guest, and Mooton switches sides rather than comply.  Aerys II doesn't spark off Robert's Rebellion with the abduction of Lyanna, or the murder of Rickard and Brandon, but when he demands Jon Arryn violate guest right.

Actually, the problem with the Mooton example is not so much the guest right issue, but rather the fact that the Mootons find themselves in a dangerous conundrum no matter what they do. If they kill Nettles they risk the ire of Daemon and Caraxes after the deed is done since Rhaenyra commanded them to spare Daemon. If they killed both Nettles and Daemon they risk the ire of Rhaenyra and her allies. And the same goes if they spare Nettles (which they do) - which is why they chose to declare for Aegon II instead, so that they are now at least part of a movement/faction which could help them survive.

Guest right is not completely irrelevant in the south, but it isn't a big deal, either. You don't kill your guest under normal circumstances, but nobody is going to fault you if you kill a person your king has declared a traitor and outlaw. Such people simply do not deserve guest right.

And I daresay this should be similar in the North. If some kinslayer Stark ran away from Winterfell after murdering his father and was welcomed as a guest at White Harbor - with the lord there not yet knowing what this man did - then nobody would blame him if the host complied with the command of his lord or king to kill this man and send the head back to Winterfell.

Whether guest right played a role in Jon Arryn's decision is completely unclear as of yet. The author tells us that the deciding factor was the love Jon Arryn felt for the boys his king had commanded him to kill.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

I'm asking you to name those times.  I can only find one instance where we know the Boltons rebelled against the Kings in the North, and it sounds like they were one of many Houses to do so. 

I really suggest you go back to read all the instances the past of House Bolton is mentioned in the novels. The whole Red Kings stuff is exclusively TWoIaF - we only learned in that book that the Boltons once wore crowns. The novels always speak about the Lords of the Dreadfort when they mention the skinning stuff - and that implies that those instances involved them rebelling against the Kings in the North repeatedly.

In fact, we can mark down two concrete instances. There is talk about there having been Stark princes who were skinned alive by Boltons, and then there is the case of the son of Bael the Bard - a ruling Stark - who was also skinned alive by the Boltons.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

The Targaryens, for example, permit House Baratheon to allow face mutilation and don't retaliate.  Plenty of other Houses rebel, numerous times, and aren't wiped out.  Part of the problem kings had with feudal aristocracies is that loyalty and land is firmly attached to one House, so getting rid of it is nearly impossible.

Sorry, you are just making stuff up here. Stuff that is clearly wrong. There are numerous instances where a larger lordship loses lands and possessions which are then given to other, more trustworthy lords (e.g. Maegor giving Harroway lands to the Darrys and Butterwells, the Peakes losing two castles, Bloodraven taking Whitewalls and four fifths of their land from Ambrose Butterwell, Aerys II taking most of their lands from the Conningtons when he sent Jon into exile, reducing the lordship to the level of landed knight, etc.).

There are certainly houses that weren't destroyed despite the fact that they did (repeatedly) rebel. But that doesn't mean that the kings didn't have the legal or factual power to destroy them - it just means that they did, for whatever reason, not go down that route.

For instance, there is a pretty clear indication as to why the Peakes may not have been destroyed after Maekar's death. The long version of the account we have informs us that the Red Lion killed a number of captured Peakes to avenge his father (who had died, too) before Prince Aegon could reach him. Killing prisoners is usually seen as a crime, which, in turn, might have caused King Aegon V later on to allow whatever Peake survived to keep Starpike.

This could also explain how it came that Margot Lannister is married to Lord Titus Peake. Depending on the age of these two it is actually possible that Titus was infant when Starpike fell, and that he was raised as a ward at Casterly Rock where the marriage between him and Margot was arranged. Considering Egg's friendship with Lord Gerold it is not unlikely that he would have arranged stuff like that.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

Well, actually what is discussed is that the final resolution of those conflicts, not the inconclusive warfare that preceded it.  And the Starks do the same - we know that after centuries (presumably) of being unable to fully conquer the Neck, they finally secure it through marriage.

What we know about the Reach indicates that there was little to no warfare between the four kingsdoms that should eventually make up the Reach. The explanation given for this kind of thing is that they were all closely interrelated from the start, and that the Gardeners always took precedence among the petty kings because they were of the senior branch of Garth the Green, sitting on their living throne, etc.

The conquest of the North was clearly a much more bloody affair.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

I think the Wiki is an excellent resource as far as it goes, but the facts it highlights are clearly meant to be demonstrative about certain themes.  The Valemen, Stormlanders, and Riverlanders fight the Andals and get swamped because they're too fractious and too eager to use the invaders for their own ends.  The Lannisters and the Gardeners go for cultural assimilation and it works.  The whole point of the entire pre-Targaryen era of Westeros is that no one kingdom can conquer another; that's why the success of the marriage alliances is emphasized (or that is how I read it).

Your last sentence doesn't make a lot of sense. The Riverlands actually were conquered by the Ironborn, were they not? And the Gardeners and Hoares were slowly but surely ripping apart the Stormlands, too. 

There are indications were marriage alliances help to end wars, etc. but in the Reach it is pretty clear that the Gardeners actually pretty much conquered the entire Reach by marriage only. That wasn't the way in the other kingdoms.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

The question isn't whether they are physically capable, it's whether they are politically capable.  And I think the answer is no; we have almost no evidence of it, even when the Targaryens have a dozen or so automatic "win buttons" on their side during the draconic era.  As even Aegon realizes, he needs to assimilate himself into the existing political order if he ever hopes to rule the Seven Kingdoms; his dragons can't be everywhere, and despite being the equivalent of a nuclear weapon, we see in the Dornish Wars that they are not invincible.

Aegon himself extinguished the Hoares, Gardeners, and Durrandons (Orys did marry Argella, but that was just a way to sweeten the deal - Orys Baratheon, reputed bastard, was made a great lord in his own right simply by a word of Aegon. And he raised up Edmyn Tully, Harlen Tyrell, and even Vickon Greyjoy in a similar manner.

Nobody doubts that it might not be advisable to attaint or destroy a great house without good reason, but this doesn't mean it isn't possible (or can't be smart and necessary in certain circumstances).

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

Similarly, if the Starks were to go about extinguishing the Boltons, what does it accomplish them?  They could try and raise up some random distant cousin to a lordship, but in order to exercise legitimate power, that person probably takes the name Bolton (as tradition is super important in feudal societies).  They can't give those lands to their bannermen, really, because that is just replacing one overmighty vassal with another, potentially MORE powerful one.

See above. They could cut up their lands and raise a dozen smaller lords where once had been only one. And again: The Starks did oust, exile, or extinguish quite a number of noble and royal houses. They should have been able to do it with the Boltons, too - assuming they had the strength. Which I think they apparently did not have.

They could also have done this with the Umbers, etc. but the Boltons really are the only known Northern house which repeatedly rebelled against the Starks and killed some of their own in a very gruesome manner.

1 hour ago, cpg2016 said:

Frankly, we don't have enough evidence about what the Starks do in retaliation to make a statement here.  For all we know, they really did curtail or circumscribe the power of the Boltons on many occasions.  But that land needs a noble steward, and the Bolton name is entrenched there.  And while the Boltons seem to be particularly brutal, we have no indication that they're THAT far outside the norm, since we know that the Northerners regularly used to practice human sacrifice.

Now you are just grasping for straws. We are not talking about general cruelty here (all Northmen are pretty cruel), we are talking about hideous crimes committed by the Boltons against the Starks. If that's not something that deserves the most severe punishment then I don't know what does.

I mean, think about it - what crime could possibly cause a king to attaint an entire noble line? Surely skinning princes alive would be pretty much at the top of that list.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

If we had some sort of parliament, a (semi-)independent justice system, independent religious leaders, or at least the great lords of the Realm having mandatory seats in the king's council (like it was the case in medieval England, say) then we could say the Targaryen monarchy wasn't absolute insofar as the institutions are concerned.

   I do understand what you mean to say. Indeed the Targaryen had a lot of powers that could be considered to be part of an absolute monarchy but also they have a lot of parts that are considered of a feudal monarchy, like the vassal of the Great Houses answering and obeying more their Lord Paramount than the King and like not having a standing army depending on the Warden's men to have one. It seems that GRRM made a feudal system with a powerful central kingship.

9 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Especially the Maegor example makes little sense in this regard - the man didn't need armies to keep his throne. He had Balerion the Black Dread. He had the power to eradicate not only House Baratheon (and the pitiful child pretender they were supporting)

   

With pitiful child pretender you meant Jaehaerys who became Jaehaerys I the Conciliator? The rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms, being the oldest male son of former King Aenys I, considering his oldest brother was killed in battle and the other tortured to death by Maegor? When a King dies his son becomes the Ruler not his brother.

   Are you talking about the “pretender” that rules more than 45 years? The one that ended the right of the first night that the Lords had? He set one law for the whole Kingdom because before each part (North, Storm Lands and so on) had its own laws? Who was considered by many as the best King Westeros ever had? A Scholar known as the Wise? The one who hose a commoner and Septon Barth as Hand of the King which is now considered by many as the best Hand who ever existed? Who made peace with the Faith and became its Protector?

   No, no, no. Of course not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, HallowedMarcus said:

   I do understand what you mean to say. Indeed the Targaryen had a lot of powers that could be considered to be part of an absolute monarchy but also they have a lot of parts that are considered of a feudal monarchy, like the vassal of the Great Houses answering and obeying more their Lord Paramount than the King and like not having a standing army depending on the Warden's men to have one. It seems that GRRM made a feudal system with a powerful central kingship.

If you want to phrase it like that, we are pretty much in agreement. Nobody has doubted that the king effectively acts through his lords, especially when justice is done or the peasants are kept in their place. But for some reason they don't *really* see themselves as an independent class, hell-bent on setting themselves up as *little independent kings* as it would happen in a realistic scenario.

A central monarch in a Seven Kingdoms like setting in the real world should have about as much real power as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (in the later middle ages/early modern times) and the whole absolutist thing should be realized on the level of the high nobility directly beneath the king - like it also happened in the Holy Roman Empire, with the various kings and princes and dukes demanding pretty much absolute control over their petty territories.

But that's not how things are portrayed. Lords can certainly rebel against their kings, but that's pretty much all they can do. They have no voice in the governance of the Realm. All they can do is obey the king's command and decrees or rebel. And by the way - it is hardly a given that the vassals of a (great) lord are going to support him in a rebellion. In the Vale, the Stormlands, and the Riverlands there were Targaryen loyalists during Robert's Rebellion. Whether a house stands with his liege or his king would be usually dependent on the circumstances. Siding with Robert, Ned, etc. against the Mad King sounds a lot more reasonable/tempting than, say, siding with Lord Peake against a king as ferocious and powerful as Maekar.

But then - there are hints that the Iron Throne does have a lot of real power everywhere, especially in the financial sector. The Martells got the right to determine the amount of taxes they owe to the Iron Throne all by themselves, with no Targaryen oversight - which implies that the other (great) lords outside of Dorne do not have that right. That means that the sizable bureaucracy of the treasury (which actually exists, although it is usually only mentioned in passing) actually have their agents in the places where the Iron Throne can really collect a sizable amount of taxes (most definitely in the five large cities - Littlefinger's stint as a royal toll collector in Gulltown is confirmed, after all) but likely also in other profitable places in the Realm - the many market towns in the Reach, the Riverlands, and the West, say.

9 hours ago, HallowedMarcus said:

With pitiful child pretender you meant Jaehaerys who became Jaehaerys I the Conciliator? The rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms, being the oldest male son of former King Aenys I, considering his oldest brother was killed in battle and the other tortured to death by Maegor? When a King dies his son becomes the Ruler not his brother.

Sorry, back when Jaehaerys was still a boy he hadn't yet done anything remarkable. And neither he as a person nor the size of his dragon - or the sizes of the dragons of his sisters - could stand against Balerion the Black Dread and Maegor himself. If Maegor and Balerion had faced Jaehaerys/Vermithor, Rhaena/Dreamfyre, and Alysanne/Silverwing (Alysanne was then only a girl of twelve!) in battle, chances are about zero that they could have defeated Balerion. Some lucky bursts of fire could have injured or killed Maegor on Balerion's back - and that would have been their strategy, one assumes - but the chances to succeed that way would have been very slim. Just remember how quickly the fight was over when Sunfyre's fire finally hit Moondancer... And we do know that the fire of those ancient dragons burned very hot. It might be that Vermithor/Dreamfyre/Silverwing would have fallen burning from the sky had they had direct contact with Balerion's fire.

The point I'm raising is just that Maegor clearly wasn't yet done when he was apparently done. If he had taken his dragon to Storm's End to burn it along with his sister-in-law and her children and the treasonous Baratheon, then this rebellion would have been over. A man like Maegor doesn't really need an army to crush a rebellion. Even if he had been forced to leave KL for a time - Maegor and Balerion doing the same thing as Aemond/Vhagar did during the Dance in the Riverlands could easily have led to the eventual downfall of a King Jaehaerys. A king who cannot protect his people from his enemies is no king at all. And a dragonrider who controls a dragon the size of Balerion is really literally unstoppable when he employs only hit-and-run tactics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't know if this SSM has been quoted yet in this topic:

Question:

The territory of Westeros is huge, and the fact of survival of the local royal houses (like the Starks) suggests a relatively loose connection (more loose than that of a 14th century France, for example, where the Dukes - as independent and selfish as they were - were all in fact blood relatives of the Crown). The position of a Targaryen king reminds me somewhat of that of a Holy Roman Emperor - a monarch of course, but ruling over the more or less cohesive federation of territories with their own local ruling dynasties. It doesn't mean that such a monarch has no power - it means that his power is much more dependent on the strength of his personality than that, say, of a king of France.

Martin's answer:

There's a certain amount of truth to this, yes. Although the early Targayens also had the advantage of dragons, which the Holy Roman Emperor lacked.

End Quote

So basically, once the dragons died, the power of the Targ's decreased along with it, away from an absolute monarchy to more of a federal system of sorts.

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
59 minutes ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

 

So basically, once the dragons died, the power of the Targ's decreased along with it, away from an absolute monarchy to more of a federal system of sorts.

I would take out of it a slightly different notion, namely that there was no really substantial change between the time the Targaryens had dragons to the time they didn't in large part because the early period with dragons gave the Targaryens a very strong base to bind the realm to the concept of unity under one king such that that binding persisted even to the present era (consider the Greatjon referencing how the North had chosen to follow the "dragons" (aka Targaryens) but they're gone so why do we care about their throne or kingdom anymore?)

I do think that the realm is nearer to the Holy Roman Empire than to France, but I don't see a vast shift between, say, Viserys I and Jaehaerys II in this regard, in either direction. It's more unified than the HRE after the early rebellions post-Aegon, and largely stayed that way such that the biggest turmoil in the post-dragon era was just over which Targaryen descendant would sit the throne.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

So basically, once the dragons died, the power of the Targ's decreased along with it, away from an absolute monarchy to more of a federal system of sorts.

More like away from strong feudal monarchy to a weaker and looser one, I think.

The chief attribute of absolutism seems the idea that the monarch stands completely above the law and custom. In the era of dragons, wise Targaryen Kings explicitly avoid such behavior. Aegon the Conqueror adopts Westerosi ideas about kingship, uses pre-existing local laws to rule the land and leaves the Faith with its privileges; Jahaerys I negotiates with religiously-motivated opposition (leaving out the polygamy, but retaining incest) and even gauges opinions of nobility on the matter of succession, creating the Great Council - an institution that, while not permanent, is looked to afterwards to avoid chaos and disorder, naming new King in time of uncertainty and even electing rulers to run the realm in absence of adult King. When dragonriding Targaryen Kings try to act as absolute monarchs, they never manage to make it stick. Maegor the Cruel tries to act like he is absolute monarch whose word can override law and custom at will - and his rule collapses, even his loyalists abandon him at the end, leaving him a lone man in his own castle ready to be shanked. Viserys I tries to act like he can override the most basic custom of sons going before daughters in the succession, but that works out rather poorly - half the realm rejects his ruling and Aegon II is eventually recognized as the actual King, Rhaenyra being merely a rebel. Rhaenyra in turn acts in the vein of Maegor - mass repressions, violation of taboos about bastards and guest right and such - and the results are very Maegor-like: her rule collapses, her bannermen either distance themselves openly from her rule (Cregan acclaiming Aegon II as King post-mortem and publicly acting to ostensibly defend deceased Aegon II's rights) or tacitly let placing Aegon II into the books as the real monarch - until it becomes a fact for the next generations like Stannis and Gyldayn just like Great Council's ideas on inheritance.

Once dragons die, Targaryens take a huge step away from absolutism - Aegon III, Daeron I, Baelor I (in a bit quirky religious way, but still), Vyseris II all act in the confines of law and custom. Aegon IV teeters on the edge of pulling Viserys I, but ultimately stays on the precipice. During more active phase of Blackfyre Rebellions, Bloodraven tries to act like de-facto despot, but he is outsted to the Wall, his police state dismantled. Aegon V tries to change the balance of power between nobility and commons, coming dangerously close to absolutism, but that never quite works out and his reforms are quickly rolled back under Aerys II. Aerys II himself goes crazy and in his craziness tries to act as an absolute monarch who can make mockery of what is seen as justice by Westerosi - and gets promptly deposed. 

In other words, Targaryens started out as strong feudal monarchy under Aegon the Conqueror, bound by custom and laws, then tried to break out into absolutist monarchy several times, but failed every time, unable to impose the idea of unrestricted royal power upon the society.

Edited by Myrish Lace

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 20.1.2018 at 10:54 PM, Free Northman Reborn said:

So basically, once the dragons died, the power of the Targ's decreased along with it, away from an absolute monarchy to more of a federal system of sorts.

George comments on the comparison somewhat, but the Holy Roman Empire is remarkably different from the system in Westeros. For one, if one really considers the Holy Roman Empire in the time of its glory as the Holy Roman Empire - which would be in the later middle ages, when the time of the more powerful Imperial dynasties was over, and the emperor essentially reduced to a prestigious yet vastly powerless figurehead (at least outside his own territories - which were vast indeed, when we enter the period of the Hapsburgs) - then this simply isn't the way the Seven Kingdoms are set up. The Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire did not, in fact, rule the empire - the various lords, dukes, and princes ruled their domains pretty much in their own right. The empire could - and did - function without a king-emperor in many of the interregnum period.

In that sense, the comparison the reader makes in that SSM is simply wrong. The Holy Roman Empire didn't work the way he is implying, and thus George answer isn't really all that accurate. However, it is pretty clear that the Targaryen kings (and Robert) rule through their lords. That's how it is done. And there is no question about that.

However, unlike the HRE this obviously didn't lead to a rival power bloc of nobles who either collectively or individually challenged and limited the power of the king-emperors - which is what happened there. The princes enshrined the whole elective emperor thing in law, and they - not the emperor (outside the Hapsburg lands, of course) - ended up implementing absolutist principles. There was no powerful HRE absolutist power bloc but eventually you get Prussia and Austria as the two main German powers, along with many other smaller and smallest princedoms, all ruling with the aura and presumptions of absolutist rulers.

There is only one king in the Seven Kingdoms - the King on the Iron Throne. And only he is inviable, above the law, etc. His word is basically the last word on everything, including religious matters (since Maegor and Jaehaerys I).

23 hours ago, Ran said:

I would take out of it a slightly different notion, namely that there was no really substantial change between the time the Targaryens had dragons to the time they didn't in large part because the early period with dragons gave the Targaryens a very strong base to bind the realm to the concept of unity under one king such that that binding persisted even to the present era (consider the Greatjon referencing how the North had chosen to follow the "dragons" (aka Targaryens) but they're gone so why do we care about their throne or kingdom anymore?)

We have Gyldayn telling us that the Dance did not only have a terrible effect on the last living dragons, reducing them vastly in number, but also making the Targaryens themselves less powerful.

With TSotD and TRP in mind we can, I think, see a difference between the rule of Aegon I to the Dance, namely that the Targaryens really had the lords very much under their thumb in those days. They didn't establish many royal institutions - like a vast bureaucracy or a standing army - but it very much seems their word was law.

One can really see that with Maegor - he starts his reign with butchery and cruelty yet he has really no trouble finding men to fight for him. They just come. He also doesn't have to haggle or threaten the great lords - they either stand with him, don't turn against him, or are irrelevant because the people flock to his banners still. That shows an enormous amount of real power.

From Aegon III onwards things would have changed, at least when there were really contentious issues, like Aegon V's reforms, or anything of that sort. Egg wouldn't have felt the need to bring the dragons back if he had been able to do what he wanted to do without dragons.

However, what's really clear that there was no power shift insofar as the institutions are concerned - meaning that, the power of the king did not actually decline in favor of the lords, collectively or individually.

That is the unrealistic part of the whole setup. In a real scenario the Seven Kingdom should not have survived the death of the dragons as a united political entity under the rule of powerful king. The power of the kings should have declined to the level of ceremonial figureheads.

23 hours ago, Ran said:

I do think that the realm is nearer to the Holy Roman Empire than to France, but I don't see a vast shift between, say, Viserys I and Jaehaerys II in this regard, in either direction. It's more unified than the HRE after the early rebellions post-Aegon, and largely stayed that way such that the biggest turmoil in the post-dragon era was just over which Targaryen descendant would sit the throne.

I think we can say that there is a remarkable shift of royal power between Aerys II and Robert Baratheon. It is quite clear that Aerys II could do (and did) things Robert most definitely could not do. The way a man like Tywin perceived Aerys II - a scion of the semi-divine Targaryen bloodline - in comparison to Robert the Usurper make that abundantly clear.

Or take the situation in THK where even the good and just Baelor Breakspear doesn't even question the law that punishes a man striking a prince of the blood by losing the limb which was used in the attack. That law is pretty much dead and gone in the Baratheon era - and that's not just because Robert is such a nice guy, but because he sees himself (and is seen by others) as different (i.e. weaker) than the Targaryens.

There is a very strong aura in the novels that the royal Baratheons (real or fake) are simply not in the same league as the Targaryens prestige-wise.

That is why the Realm shatters in a way after Robert's death like it has never before. We do not only get a succession war but also two secessionist movements, in addition to a lot of plotting in other fields.

Can anybody imagine that the North and the Riverlands would have crowned their own king if Stannis and Renly had been Targaryens? Or can anybody imagine that an ambitious Targaryen would have just come up with Renly's justification for his own bid for the throne - with two major regions following him - without there being a successful usurper prior to that, a man who liked to say it his power as a warrior made him king?

I don't think so.

After Robert, men like Aemond would have simply slit the throats of their elder incapacitated brothers, taking the throne for themselves. A man like Daemon would have pushed mild Viserys aside to make himself king. And after the death of Aegon II Aegon the Younger and Jaehaera would have been thrown in the dry moat, making the Iron Throne a price for the strongest man, not some thing that was inherited by scions of a particular royal bloodline.

Back when we had the first glimpse on TPatQ I thought those other kings Gyldayns speaks in the beginning would turn out to be secessionist kings like we get them later with Balon and Robb (and Lyonel Baratheon). They did not. They were just other, more obscure Targaryen pretenders. And it is pretty clear that George is sending a message there. The concept of a united Realm under the rule of a Targaryen king was very strong indeed while the Targaryens were still around.

But when they are gone the whole concept is shattered. And the outcome we can see right now. But the world we see in the novels isn't the same world we see under the Targaryen rule. And we really have the D&E stories as a comparison.

10 hours ago, Myrish Lace said:

The chief attribute of absolutism seems the idea that the monarch stands completely above the law and custom.

We actually do have positive evidence that the king is above the law in the Seven Kingdoms. He is not bound by any laws, he is making them. And no king ever made any laws restricting his power or the power of his successors.

An absolutist monarchy is also not this weird concept of the king being able to do anything. He is not supposed to be bound by any man-made laws, but even theorists of absolutism do not propose that a king can do anything. He is supposed to stick to natural law and religious commands.

The Targaryens actually go against both with their incest. We don't have any talk about natural law in Martinworld, but it is pretty clear incest is abhorred by all the religions in Westeros (even Victarion is irritated by the idea of marrying Asha, when he thinks she is proposing to him).

In that sense, George has actually set them as a dynasty of kings that is clearly above the laws of gods and men. 

But the main tenant of absolutism as a political ideology simply is that the power of the king is not limited by any legal institutions - which is exactly the case in the Seven Kingdoms. There is no parliament, no independent justice system, no mandatory participation of the great lords in the governance of the Realm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

10 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

We actually do have positive evidence that the king is above the law in the Seven Kingdoms. He is not bound by any laws, he is making them.

We have positive evidence of the opposite. Viserys I tries to act like he is not bound by Great Council's decisions, but this fails completely and Great Council's vision of the matter stands. Hence even if we accept your definition of absolutism as "the power of the king is not limited by any legal institutions", it is self-evidently not true in Westeros.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

At the end of the day, the legalities are mere technicalities for idle discussion among those who care about it. In the end, it comes  down to power. And the truth is that from the evidence, any of the Lords Paramount could decide to rebel, and most of his kingdom would follow his lead, bar maybe the Riverlands and Reach, where the Lords Paramount are in general less respected than in the kingdoms where older lineages hold sway.

Sure, there would have been the odd ambitious vassal lord who saw greater prospects for himself by aligning with the Iron Throne, as we saw even in Robert's Rebellion, but it seems pretty clear from the Rebellion itself, that a large number of vassal lords - certainly the majority in the North, and arguably in the Vale too - saw their duty to their Lord Paramount as greater than the duty to the Iron Throne. Else there could have been no rebellion, let alone a successful one.

We know this was also true in Dorne, hence their repeated rebellions, and in the Iron Isles. As it was in the West under Tywin's rule.

So just based on that, the "legitimate" power of the Iron Throne was certainly not recognized as above all else in much of Westeros. It would seem that the legitimate rule of the Lords Paramount ranked higher in the view of the majority of lords. Bear in mind that even those lords who did support the Iron Throne in the Rebellion, in most cases did so because their Lords Paramounts were backing the Throne. Had the Tyrells and Martells refused Aerys's call for support, Aerys would have been left with a fraction of the forces he ended up with.

So in my view Lords Paramount trump the Iron Throne when it comes down to an ultimate choice of loyalty in most of Westeros. With some obviously exceptions in some cases, as we saw with a minority of disobedient vassal lords in the Vale, Riverlands and Stormlands, who backed the King in defiance of their Lords Paramount. 

Edited by Free Northman Reborn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
46 minutes ago, Myrish Lace said:

We have positive evidence of the opposite. Viserys I tries to act like he is not bound by Great Council's decisions, but this fails completely and Great Council's vision of the matter stands. Hence even if we accept your definition of absolutism as "the power of the king is not limited by any legal institutions", it is self-evidently not true in Westeros.

The Great Council of 101 AC pretty much has nothing to do with Aegon II defeating Rhaenyra during the Dance. It was also not fought over the issue that was on the table in 101 AC. It is a different succession issue - whether a grandson through the male line or a great-grandson through the female line should inherit has pretty much nothing to do with the question whether an older daughter should come before a younger son.

But the issue of the succession hasn't anything to do with the nature of the monarchy, either. A king can be an absolutist monarch without the succession being clear - just look at the Romanovs. They ruled Russia as autocrats for centuries before they finally ruled on the succession. Prior to that, it was everyone against everyone whenever a Tsar died - and the outcomes were pretty surprising.

And it is not a sign that a monarchy isn't absolute when the succession is challenged or overturned on occasion. In fact, the very nature of a medieval monarchy (i.e. one without the framework of the rule of law and a constitution) makes the time between the death and the rise of a new monarch very dangerous. It is a time of uncertainty, even if the succession is crystal clear. While the king is dead and the new king hasn't been crowned yet (or gone through all the other rituals that make him king) the country is without a ruler. 

The only thing giving peace and order to monarchy the type we are talking about is the person of the king. Even more so if there are no institutions who can properly function without him.

In modern societies there are usually clear procedures what to do when a head of government/state dies. In a medieval monarchy they have rules for that as well but they are much more vague and the people involved usually much less inclined to follow some standard protocols if they have other interests.

There is no law binding the king in the Seven Kingdoms, nor is there any succession law accepted or drawn up by the kings. As Ran told us recently, Princess Aelora was King Aerys I's Heir Apparent after the death of her twin-brother Aelor, not their uncle Maekar (he only came after Aelora had killed herself) - a fact that should finally put to rest this idea that the succession of the kings was not determined on a case-by-case basis.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

30 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

As Ran told us recently, Princess Aelora was King Aerys I's Heir Apparent after the death of her twin-brother Aelor,

And?

Rhaenyra was heir apparent too. The only thing that proves that both Viserys I and Aerys I were not very smart people, which we know already. The reality of Great Council's decision has (re)asserted itself regardless of what this or that monarch might think on the matter. Unlike the decrees of Aerys I and Viserys I, Great Council's decision stands and the Greens (who eventually succeeded in putting their candidate on the Throne as the legitimate monarch) explicitly derived their legitimacy from the decision of Great Council - against the decree made by the King. Hence the difference between Romanovs and Targaryens - Romanov successions were not limited by precedents laid out by a representative body of noblemen. There is indeed a law binding the King. The King might try to flaunt it, but it all ends rather poorly - either with King's ideas falling through (like Aegon V's) or King's reign outright collapsing (like Maegor's).

You take lack of permanent institutions as a sign of unrestrained power, but in reality it cuts both ways - the King may not have a permanent Parliament hovering over his shoulder, but the Lords don't have royal bureaucrats controlling them either. No governors to oversee them, no judges to override their rulings, no generals with packs of soldiers and mercenaries to force them back in line. Hence seemingly unrestrained power of Targaryens, even with dragons, is an illusion which collapses on itself the moment the Lords stop playing along. Maegor has the biggest dragon, but a dragon can't gather an army or arrest outlaws. Viserys enjoys peak dragon power, but that doesn't translate well into execution of his will. Rhaenyra has dragon power advantage and most competent warlords, but it's not enough to secure her power over the continent. Or even over aforementioned warlords.

Time and again, the Crown tries to play absolute monarchy and time and again, it fails, because whatever this or that King might think, Targaryen realm is a feudal monarchy. Their occasional delusions of grandeur are not backed by institutions that gave absolute monarchies power and thus are doomed to failure.

Edited by Myrish Lace

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Myrish Lace said:

 

And?

Rhaenyra was heir apparent too. The only thing that proves that both Viserys I and Aerys I were not very smart people, which we know already. The reality of Great Council's decision has (re)asserted itself regardless of what this or that monarch might think on the matter. Unlike the decrees of Aerys I and Viserys I, Great Council's decision stands and the Greens (who eventually succeeded in putting their candidate on the Throne as the legitimate monarch) explicitly derived their legitimacy from the decision of Great Council - against the decree made by the King. Hence the difference between Romanovs and Targaryens - Romanov successions were not limited by precedents laid out by a representative body of noblemen. There is indeed a law binding the King. The King might try to flaunt it, but it all ends rather poorly - either with King's ideas falling through (like Aegon V's) or King's reign outright collapsing (like Maegor's).

Nope. The only reason Princess Aelora did not rule as Queen Regnant is because she did not kill herself.

And the Great Councils do not stand above the king. Jaehaerys I named Viserys Prince of Dragonstone and Heir Apparent to the Iron Throne. The fact that he did that - and that he did not immediately became that after the last session of the Great Council ended (which Jaehaerys himself did not attend) makes it very clear that this body had only advisable capacity. They had no power to force the king to do anything. Jaehaerys could have named Laenor or any of the other claimants his heir. He just chose to not do this, just as he chose to convene the council in the first place.

And the precedents we are talking about here are all royal decrees and decisions. The lords have pretty much nothing to do with that. 101 AC is a stronger precedent because the king heard most of his lords on the matter he was ruling on, but it is he who does the ruling in the end, not the lords. 

That is why there are people who do not think it is a wise idea of Viserys I to go against the 101 AC precedent - it could cause opposition. But that doesn't mean that opposition would be justified in their opposition.

1 minute ago, Myrish Lace said:

You take lack of permanent institutions as a sign of unrestrained power, but in reality it cuts both ways - the King may not have a permanent Parliament hovering over his shoulder, but the Lords don't have royal bureaucrats controlling them either. No governors to oversee them, no judges to override their rulings, no generals with packs of soldiers and mercenaries to force them back in line. Hence seemingly unrestrained power of Targaryens, even with dragons, is an illusion which collapses on itself the moment the Lords stop playing along. Maegor has the biggest dragon, but a dragon can't gather an army or arrest outlaws. Viserys enjoys peak dragon power, but that doesn't translate well into execution of his will. Rhaenyra has dragon power advantage and most competent warlords, but it's not enough to secure her power over the continent. Or even over aforementioned warlords.

That is why it is pretty clear that the lords of the Realm actually act as hereditary royal officials and governors. As a class, they are not collectively or individually opposed to the idea that they are more or less enacting the will of the king on the lands they hold in his name. They are not constantly fighting with the king for more privileges or independence from central rule.

That is a flaw in George's design, but it is an inevitable fact of his fictional world.

You could just as well claim the lords don't hold any real power because they sworn swords and men-at-arms could turn against them, killing them, seizing all their wealth, and establishing the People's Republic of Westeros. The lords simply don't seem to be aware or care that they could band together and wrest power from the king. 

Rebellions are an exception, not the rule in Targaryen history. And the major rebellions all go back to Targaryens, their bastards, or descendants of Targaryens (Robert). There is not a single 'lords' movement' in the history of Westeros that tried to weaken the power of the king and strengthen the power of the lords as a class. Not a single one. Sure, there were people opposing Egg's reforms, but those reforms were actually attacking the lords, taking away some of their rights and privileges while strengthening the power of the commons instead.

In a modern absolutist setting - say, in Prussia under Frederick the Great or France under Louis XIV - that would be akin to favoring the farmhands and peasants over the army and bureaucracy your power is based on. It would cause opposition no matter whether the system is officially 'absolutist' or not. 

The Romanovs could do whatever the hell they wanted. But when they actually did that they were killed or had to deal with rebellions and conspiracies just like any other monarch. But that still did nothing to prevent the amount of power they legally had.

The fact that action A might cause a rebellion doesn't mean action A is illegal. It just means that it might be unwise to do action A.

And this has pretty much nothing to do with the Dance. The Dance was just a war. It could have gone either way. The legal power of the monarchs has pretty much nothing to do with that.

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

×