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Canon Claude

How much of the Crown’s debt was due to Robert?

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While I certainly believe that Robert would beggar the realm with all his feasting and hunting, I can’t help but wonder whether he really could manage to spend six million dragons in fifteen years. 
 

We know that Robert, while a hedonist, was not a materialist. He didn’t give a damn about fancy stuff or owning a lot of possessions. He was given all sort of knives as gifts, but he only ever used the plain knife that Jon Arryn gave him. Things like that, plus the sort of men who held positions at his court, make me wonder whether it wasn’t so much Robert spending money as it was the others spending money under his nose.

First, there’s Renly. Unlike Robert, Renly IS a materialist. He likes to dress well, for example, and we all know how expensive the world of fashion can be. I don’t know how much revenue the Lord of Storm’s End can demand, but I imagine it’s not that much. The Stormlands have no cities, nor are they very large. They’re more like the North than the other Seven Kingdoms in that they are a warrior culture which is more focused on rural lifestyles. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Renly was dipping into his big brother’s wallet for a few of his purchases.

Janos Slynt is another corrupt guy to consider. Stannis brings up Janos’ corruption to Robert himself, and Robert just laughs it off. Again, no knowing how much money he was taking for himself, but there’s no denying that he was taking something for himself.

The biggest contender, though, is Littlefinger. He’s the man with the books, the man who’s borrowing from everyone and manipulating the figures to suit his own ends. There’s no telling how much money he’s taken for himself, given how he’s never worried about debt or money. Whatever happens to the realm, he’s secured himself at least a dozen nest-eggs hidden away like a demented Machiavellian Easter Bunny.

and yes, I do get that since Robert was in charge, so the buck stops with him, but like Ned said in the first book, it’s hard to imagine him spending all that money himself. I can definitely imagine why he’d want to ignore Stannis’ nagging, but Jon Arryn was supposedly his father figure, and it’s weird to think that Robert would blatantly ignore him too. Otherwise, why would Stannis even talk to Jon about the illegitimate kids?  

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Canon Claude said:

While I certainly believe that Robert would beggar the realm with all his feasting and hunting, I can’t help but wonder whether he really could manage to spend six million dragons in fifteen years. 
 

We know that Robert, while a hedonist, was not a materialist. He didn’t give a damn about fancy stuff or owning a lot of possessions. He was given all sort of knives as gifts, but he only ever used the plain knife that Jon Arryn gave him. Things like that, plus the sort of men who held positions at his court, make me wonder whether it wasn’t so much Robert spending money as it was the others spending money under his nose.

First, there’s Renly. Unlike Robert, Renly IS a materialist. He likes to dress well, for example, and we all know how expensive the world of fashion can be. I don’t know how much revenue the Lord of Storm’s End can demand, but I imagine it’s not that much. The Stormlands have no cities, nor are they very large. They’re more like the North than the other Seven Kingdoms in that they are a warrior culture which is more focused on rural lifestyles. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Renly was dipping into his big brother’s wallet for a few of his purchases.

Janos Slynt is another corrupt guy to consider. Stannis brings up Janos’ corruption to Robert himself, and Robert just laughs it off. Again, no knowing how much money he was taking for himself, but there’s no denying that he was taking something for himself.

The biggest contender, though, is Littlefinger. He’s the man with the books, the man who’s borrowing from everyone and manipulating the figures to suit his own ends. There’s no telling how much money he’s taken for himself, given how he’s never worried about debt or money. Whatever happens to the realm, he’s secured himself at least a dozen nest-eggs hidden away like a demented Machiavellian Easter Bunny.

and yes, I do get that since Robert was in charge, so the buck stops with him, but like Ned said in the first book, it’s hard to imagine him spending all that money himself. I can definitely imagine why he’d want to ignore Stannis’ nagging, but Jon Arryn was supposedly his father figure, and it’s weird to think that Robert would blatantly ignore him too. Otherwise, why would Stannis even talk to Jon about the illegitimate kids?  

I think we are going to get a golden horde scene in harrenhal sometime soon, revealing all of littlefinger's wealth which he stole during robert's reign

Edited by Wunjō
Clarification

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We have to blame Robert for it. He may not have bought a lot of luxury goods for himself - although one imagines he liked to eat extremely well and exotic spices are very expensive - but we know he was 'carelessly generous'. Not just with the titles and castles he threw on his brothers but clearly also with the price money for his tourneys. It is certainly possible that Renly received a generous allowance from Robert in addition to his incomes as Lord of Storm's End, but Renly was just in his early twenties when he died. He would not have been able to waste a lot of money considering he only came of age a couple of years before AGoT.

Slynt seems to be a pretty new guy and chances are not that good that whatever money he got was even remotely in the league of the sums you need to waste to actually beggar the Crown. Slynt's corruption seems to be more about him taking money from criminals and shady characters and the like than him being paid more money by the Crown to do illicit business.

Littlefinger was only brought in when the treasury Robert inherited was empty and they were starting to have trouble to find enough money to pay for Robert's lifestyle. In that sense, Littlefinger likely has nothing to do with Robert's spending habits of the general state of the treasury when he took over.

I'm sure Littlefinger also effectively embezzles money, but that he would do by taking more from the profits he makes for the Crown than he says, so that nobody but him will even know that he is stealing. Littlefinger stealing money that is already literally in the treasury or at least in the official books would be a bigger risk.

In the end, Littlefinger's entire career hinges on his ability to keep the treasury afloat and prevent Robert from going bankrupt. If that ever happened while Robert was still around Littlefinger would be sacked ... and possibly even punished severely for his failure. Jon Arryn and Robert both would need a scapegoat, and nobody would come forth to defend a nobody like Littlefinger.

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I don't think much, we have to keep in mind that the crown likely had some savings and that it produces money every year, by way of taxes, so Robert would need to, in only fourteen years, outspend the GDP in such a way to empty the coffees and get in a six million gp debt just by feasting and tournies, nah, I think that vast majority of it was due to LF and other actors, tho the blame still goes partially to Robert's negligent rule.

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Frankly, I'm happy to blame Robert for all of it. Whether he personally spent the money or not, he was an incredibly irresponsible ruler. He turned a deaf ear to the only sensible men on his small council and allowed corruption to continue unabated. It's his butt which sits on the Iron Throne, so as Claude said, the buck stops with him.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Littlefinger was only brought in when the treasury Robert inherited was empty and they were starting to have trouble to find enough money to pay for Robert's lifestyle.

Is this described in the text? Sorry, I don't recall anything quite like that.

There's more than one kind of materialist. Robert clearly had no interest in "counting coppers," but he loved his wine and women and tournaments, and probably feasts and festivals too. His lack of financial sophistication may have led him to squander large amounts of money. And his lack of interest in ruling left some doors open for others in the Red Keep to exploit. Remember Jamie's conversation from a later book, about all the jailers, underjailers, and turnkeys for a dungeon that was mostly empty most of the time. There was probably a lot of that sort of thing going on throughout the Red Keep.

But Yes, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that Littlefinger stole more than all the others combined.

Edited by Aebram

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7 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

I don't think much, we have to keep in mind that the crown likely had some savings and that it produces money every year, by way of taxes, so Robert would need to, in only fourteen years, outspend the GDP in such a way to empty the coffees and get in a six million gp debt just by feasting and tournies, nah, I think that vast majority of it was due to LF and other actors, tho the blame still goes partially to Robert's negligent rule.

That doesn't make sense considering that Littlefinger didn't become Master of Coin in 283 AC. He was only fifteen years old at that time. Littlefinger's career started later and later still he was brought to KL by Jon Arryn to work in the treasury. He only became Master of Coin when Robert needed a financial wizard to keep the system working.

Robert was a wastrel long before Littlefinger ran the treasury. It might be that he also had some incompetent Masters of Coin before he turned to Littlefinger, but as Littlefinger himself says: The Master of Coin finds the money, the king and the Hand spend it.

5 hours ago, Aebram said:

Is this described in the text? Sorry, I don't recall anything quite like that.

We know that Littlefinger got his job at Gulltown around 289 AC, some years later he was brought to KL by Jon Arryn to work with the treasury, and three years later - presumably in the mid-290s - he was Master of Coin.

This means Littlefinger had little to no influence on Robert's finances for most of Robert's reign.

5 hours ago, Aebram said:

There's more than one kind of materialist. Robert clearly had no interest in "counting coppers," but he loved his wine and women and tournaments, and probably feasts and festivals too. His lack of financial sophistication may have led him to squander large amounts of money. And his lack of interest in ruling left some doors open for others in the Red Keep to exploit. Remember Jamie's conversation from a later book, about all the jailers, underjailers, and turnkeys for a dungeon that was mostly empty most of the time. There was probably a lot of that sort of thing going on throughout the Red Keep.

The gaoler system seems to have been something set up by Varys back during Aerys' reign to allow him to use various aliases. That might also be a way to embezzle the Crown, but that's not the way to steal vast amounts of money.

5 hours ago, Aebram said:

But Yes, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that Littlefinger stole more than all the others combined.

The way Littlefinger may have enriched himself is more by taking more of the profits he made for the Crown with his investments as well as by selling offices in the treasury to wealthy Kingslanders and by collecting bribes. But we should assume that the foundation of Littlefinger's wealth goes back to his early career in Gulltown. There he made contacts with wealthy people, showed he knew how to make profits, meaning by the time he was Master of Coin he would already have been a wealthy man. Of course, he would have made even more profits in his new office, but Littlefinger clearly isn't a guy who needs to steal to become rich.

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The other aspect to consider is any reduction in the crown's income. Robert liked to be popular, and taxes are unpopular

Aerys left a strong treasury in part because there was a long period when people were used to paying taxes to the Targaryens, and for most of that time the crown was strong enough to enforce those taxes. 

With Robert taking the throne, already done some of the richer regions were resentful if him and not fully accepting of his authority and likely emboldened to hold back taxes - that is part of what Littlefinger was later bought in to fix.

And Robert's generosity might have extended into this area as well - any lordling comes to court to petition for lower taxes; Robert would rather reward the ones who fought for him & turn the old enemies into friends by granting what they wanted, then take them hunting, than actually deal with the case on merit.

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Posted (edited)
Just now, Buried Treasure said:

 

 

Edited by Buried Treasure
Replied to my own post instead of editing!

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14 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That doesn't make sense considering that Littlefinger didn't become Master of Coin in 283 AC. He was only fifteen years old at that time. Littlefinger's career started later and later still he was brought to KL by Jon Arryn to work in the treasury. He only became Master of Coin when Robert needed a financial wizard to keep the system working.

Robert was a wastrel long before Littlefinger ran the treasury. It might be that he also had some incompetent Masters of Coin before he turned to Littlefinger, but as Littlefinger himself says: The Master of Coin finds the money, the king and the Hand spend it.

Yeah, but we are talking debt, no? I mean, I can see Robert spending more money that he made, specially considering what @Buried Treasure said above, I can even see him making a debt in the crown's coffers, but six million GD in debt seems like a lot. A few months back we tried to figure out how much was a GD in dollars, and I think we landed in something between 500-1000 dollars for one GD, so that would be between 3 and six billion dollars in debt. But regardless, we know how much food can cost, and we know (kinda) how much a tourney can cost, I don't think you get to outspend your national gross for forty years, empty your coffers and get a debt as huge as that in only fifteen years of tournies and feasts.
 

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I think George wanted to paint Robert as a imbecile and so the blame falls on him regardless of data.

Six million GD isnt supposed to be much considering that a lowborn archer like Anguy managed to spend ten thousand GD in less than a year, but paradoxically it's also described as being a lot

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On 7/18/2021 at 2:28 AM, Lord Varys said:

We have to blame Robert for it. He may not have bought a lot of luxury goods for himself - although one imagines he liked to eat extremely well and exotic spices are very expensive - but we know he was 'carelessly generous'. Not just with the titles and castles he threw on his brothers but clearly also with the price money for his tourneys. It is certainly possible that Renly received a generous allowance from Robert in addition to his incomes as Lord of Storm's End, but Renly was just in his early twenties when he died. He would not have been able to waste a lot of money considering he only came of age a couple of years before AGoT.

 

Considering what "careless generosity" meant through history, I would assume he also gave massive tax exemptions to major nobles in order to secure their support. If his expenses were financed by debt instead of taxes...

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23 hours ago, Buried Treasure said:

The other aspect to consider is any reduction in the crown's income. Robert liked to be popular, and taxes are unpopular

Aerys left a strong treasury in part because there was a long period when people were used to paying taxes to the Targaryens, and for most of that time the crown was strong enough to enforce those taxes. 

With Robert taking the throne, already done some of the richer regions were resentful if him and not fully accepting of his authority and likely emboldened to hold back taxes - that is part of what Littlefinger was later bought in to fix.

And Robert's generosity might have extended into this area as well - any lordling comes to court to petition for lower taxes; Robert would rather reward the ones who fought for him & turn the old enemies into friends by granting what they wanted, then take them hunting, than actually deal with the case on merit.

Reduced taxes are possible, I guess, but are nowhere mentioned. And one would expect that they would have raised the taxes again - or invented new ones - when Robert's finances got into trouble. Loans are usually not the matter of choice to deal with an ever growing deficit.

In any case, reduced taxes do not explain how Robert emptied the full treasury he inherited.

12 hours ago, CamiloRP said:

Yeah, but we are talking debt, no? I mean, I can see Robert spending more money that he made, specially considering what @Buried Treasure said above, I can even see him making a debt in the crown's coffers, but six million GD in debt seems like a lot. A few months back we tried to figure out how much was a GD in dollars, and I think we landed in something between 500-1000 dollars for one GD, so that would be between 3 and six billion dollars in debt. But regardless, we know how much food can cost, and we know (kinda) how much a tourney can cost, I don't think you get to outspend your national gross for forty years, empty your coffers and get a debt as huge as that in only fifteen years of tournies and feasts.

The currency thing is inconsistent. Anguy lost 10,000 gold dragon in a couple of weeks - which would be 5-10 million dollars if your suggestion would be correct. Not to mention that Sandor would walk around literally with 20-40 million dollars - a sum that should allow the Brotherhood to literally hire tens of thousands of sellswords.

We don't really know how high the running expenses of the Crown are. Could be that you make only a minor profit on average if you rule soberly. Robert didn't rule soberly, though, he was a wastrel. Having a full treasury he may have spend thrice or four times as much money as came in while the treasury was still full ... and afterwards he never really got down to a tight budget considering he knew that Cersei and her family were, quite literally, cash cows.

In addition, Robert also had to fight another war with the Greyjoy Rebellion and he had to rebuild the royal fleet - and we know from AFfC that building ships is very expensive.

7 hours ago, Aldarion said:

Considering what "careless generosity" meant through history, I would assume he also gave massive tax exemptions to major nobles in order to secure their support. If his expenses were financed by debt instead of taxes...

Could be, although if that were the case we don't know anything about that.

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1 hour ago, Lord Varys said:

The currency thing is inconsistent. Anguy lost 10,000 gold dragon in a couple of weeks - which would be 5-10 million dollars if your suggestion would be correct. Not to mention that Sandor would walk around literally with 20-40 million dollars - a sum that should allow the Brotherhood to literally hire tens of thousands of sellswords.

Yeah, we ignored Anguy and called it 'early book syndrome' because otherwise it was imposible to determine anything, we mostly used the prices of things as parameters.

 

Quote

In addition, Robert also had to fight another war with the Greyjoy Rebellion and he had to rebuild the royal fleet - and we know from AFfC that building ships is very expensive.

Now this is completely fair and I absolutely forgot about that.

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Don’t forget his wife or “children”. And all of their extravagant desires & retainers. Tywin sure as hell isn’t covering all of their expenses (anything beyond her Red Cloaks).

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On 7/17/2021 at 7:12 PM, Canon Claude said:

While I certainly believe that Robert would beggar the realm with all his feasting and hunting, I can’t help but wonder whether he really could manage to spend six million dragons in fifteen years. 
 

We know that Robert, while a hedonist, was not a materialist. He didn’t give a damn about fancy stuff or owning a lot of possessions. He was given all sort of knives as gifts, but he only ever used the plain knife that Jon Arryn gave him. Things like that, plus the sort of men who held positions at his court, make me wonder whether it wasn’t so much Robert spending money as it was the others spending money under his nose.

First, there’s Renly. Unlike Robert, Renly IS a materialist. He likes to dress well, for example, and we all know how expensive the world of fashion can be. I don’t know how much revenue the Lord of Storm’s End can demand, but I imagine it’s not that much. The Stormlands have no cities, nor are they very large. They’re more like the North than the other Seven Kingdoms in that they are a warrior culture which is more focused on rural lifestyles. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Renly was dipping into his big brother’s wallet for a few of his purchases.

Janos Slynt is another corrupt guy to consider. Stannis brings up Janos’ corruption to Robert himself, and Robert just laughs it off. Again, no knowing how much money he was taking for himself, but there’s no denying that he was taking something for himself.

The biggest contender, though, is Littlefinger. He’s the man with the books, the man who’s borrowing from everyone and manipulating the figures to suit his own ends. There’s no telling how much money he’s taken for himself, given how he’s never worried about debt or money. Whatever happens to the realm, he’s secured himself at least a dozen nest-eggs hidden away like a demented Machiavellian Easter Bunny.

and yes, I do get that since Robert was in charge, so the buck stops with him, but like Ned said in the first book, it’s hard to imagine him spending all that money himself. I can definitely imagine why he’d want to ignore Stannis’ nagging, but Jon Arryn was supposedly his father figure, and it’s weird to think that Robert would blatantly ignore him too. Otherwise, why would Stannis even talk to Jon about the illegitimate kids?  

Going back to what I wrote before, look at what happened to Byzantine Empire after Basil II's death. By 1025., Basil II had an annual revenue of 7 000 000 nomismata, and accumulated a reserve of 14 400 000 nomismata (200 000 pounds of gold). So what happened to that? It was all wasted in several years, thanks to Constantine VIII. and Romanos III. Argyros. And it is telling how they did it:

  • favoritism to the nobility
    • Romanos III abolished the allegyon tax in 1028., which fell upon the dynatoi specifically
    • Constatine VIII and his successors allowed free peasants to fall to serfdom
    • thematic troops were reduced to status of serfs - which meant that they paid taxes to the nobility 
  • massive expenditures on economically unviable things
    • churches and monasteries
  • gifts
    • Constantine IX once sent an Arab leader a gift of 500 000 gold coins, or two tons of gold
    • as noted, nobility - both in general and specific nobles - were often given tax exemptions

If Robert was anything like the impression I ganed of him and Renly tells me, then we will have seen all of the above. But gifts and tax exemptions might well have been the greatest point of expenditure. I suspect that Renly himself made use of his familial relation to Robert, and tended to draw upon the royal treasury for most of his needs - Stormlands aren't exactly rich, and Renly was quite a peacock. And drawing upon medieval Hungary, it is possible that other nobles close to Robert also used the royal treasury for their own expenses. And if Robert gave tax exemptions to his supporters, there would be little from where to draw revenue necessary to keep the treasury afloat, especially with all the parasites drawing from it.

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On 7/17/2021 at 1:12 PM, Canon Claude said:

While I certainly believe that Robert would beggar the realm with all his feasting and hunting, I can’t help but wonder whether he really could manage to spend six million dragons in fifteen years. 
 

We know that Robert, while a hedonist, was not a materialist. He didn’t give a damn about fancy stuff or owning a lot of possessions. He was given all sort of knives as gifts, but he only ever used the plain knife that Jon Arryn gave him. Things like that, plus the sort of men who held positions at his court, make me wonder whether it wasn’t so much Robert spending money as it was the others spending money under his nose.

First, there’s Renly. Unlike Robert, Renly IS a materialist. He likes to dress well, for example, and we all know how expensive the world of fashion can be. I don’t know how much revenue the Lord of Storm’s End can demand, but I imagine it’s not that much. The Stormlands have no cities, nor are they very large. They’re more like the North than the other Seven Kingdoms in that they are a warrior culture which is more focused on rural lifestyles. So it wouldn’t surprise me if Renly was dipping into his big brother’s wallet for a few of his purchases.

Janos Slynt is another corrupt guy to consider. Stannis brings up Janos’ corruption to Robert himself, and Robert just laughs it off. Again, no knowing how much money he was taking for himself, but there’s no denying that he was taking something for himself.

The biggest contender, though, is Littlefinger. He’s the man with the books, the man who’s borrowing from everyone and manipulating the figures to suit his own ends. There’s no telling how much money he’s taken for himself, given how he’s never worried about debt or money. Whatever happens to the realm, he’s secured himself at least a dozen nest-eggs hidden away like a demented Machiavellian Easter Bunny.

and yes, I do get that since Robert was in charge, so the buck stops with him, but like Ned said in the first book, it’s hard to imagine him spending all that money himself. I can definitely imagine why he’d want to ignore Stannis’ nagging, but Jon Arryn was supposedly his father figure, and it’s weird to think that Robert would blatantly ignore him too. Otherwise, why would Stannis even talk to Jon about the illegitimate kids?  

Agreed, Robert is responsible because he is king, but it's not like he personally spent six million dragons on tourneys and feasts. Much of it is being swindled by Littlefinger. We see just a taste of this when Jaime looks into the black cells, which has all of two prisoners being guarded by a dozen or so gaolers, under-gaolers and a chief gaoler. Most of this is patronage, with a good portion of their salaries going right back to Petyr. Same thing with, say, a building project on the city walls. Put out bids to the various masons, choose the most expensive one and get a kickback for maybe half. And no one is the wiser because Petyr has also appointed the Keeper of the Keys, the officials at the treasury and anyone else who's supposed to be watching.

But I also suspect that Petyr is doing all of this in league with Illyrio, not to beggar the realm so it can be taken over, but to drive the Iron Bank into insolvency so Pentos can regain its autonomy.

 

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Either Robert personally spent all the money or he enabled the corrupt environment that allowed the people around him to spend it. If not both. Either way it falls on him as king. I really don't see how that's debatable.

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