Who Should Rule Westeros in 'Game of Thrones'?

Samantha Cass

As Game of Thrones begins its fifth action-packed season, PopMatters examines the show's many contenders for the titular throne.

By now we know that there have been several “self-styled” kings, and many that have claimed the rights to Game of Thrones' kingdom of Westeros. Whether you have read all of George R.R. Martin's books to date, or are only a fan of the television series, we have been subjected to a parade of aspiring leaders that all feel they have a claim to the Iron Throne.

But of these wannabes, which of these actually would make a good ruler? Which of them actually has a true and valid claim? Which of these people would avid readers and watchers of the Game of Thrones universe actually like to see sitting atop the Iron Throne?

This article will take look at not only those that have already expressed a desire to rule, but also those that might be interesting choices, based on assumed rights (as in conspiracy theories) or the possibility that they might be what Westeros needs to bring peace back to the land.

Please note that there may be spoilers in some of these choices, so if you are not up to date, you may want to proceed with caution.

1. Viserys

Origin of Claim:

Viserys is the first character we are introduced to that stakes his claim on the Iron Throne. He even refers to himself as the “Last Dragon”, since he appears to be the last male in the Targaryen line.

Validity of Claim:

He is the son of “mad King Aerys”, the last to sit the throne before Robert Baratheon. Should Aerys had lived, he was next in line.

Should They Rule:

Despite having a really valid claim, it is safe to say that he would have made a terrible King. Not only is he selfish and egotistical; he is also unnaturally cruel. He shows time and again that he has little regard for others, and considers himself above all, including his own sister. He uses fear and intimidation to try and get his own way, which does not actually appear to really work out for him. He would in no way be putting the welfare of the realm first, and also appears to be a terrible leader and have literally no concept of warfare. Had he attempted to take King’s Landing, even with a horde of Dothraki screamers, I have a distinct feeling he would have perished long before his polished boots hit the shores of Blackwater Bay. Having been murdered early on is a clear indication he didn’t have what it takes to rule.

2. Joffrey Baratheon

Origin of Claim:

When we are first introduced to the land of Westeros, Joffrey is the eldest son of the current reigning King, Robert Baratheon. In this land, the rules of succession dictate that the eldest son would be next in line to rule.

Validity of Claim:

That’s a sticky one. As far as Robert is concerned, Joffrey is his eldest pure born son, and would be the next King. As readers and watchers, we know that Joffrey is not Robert’s son, but the product of the incestuous relationship between Robert’s Queen, Cersei, and her twin brother Jaime Lannister. This is the secret that both John Arryn and Ned Stark died for, and the truth that Stannis clings to, to claim his right… but more on him later.

Should They Rule:

Gods be good, no! If there was ever any man more ill-suited to sit in a seat of power, it is this monster. Not only does he prove over and over again that he is immature, cruel and selfish, he knows nothing of war and must rely on others to help him keep his crown. If it weren’t for his Grandfather and his uncle, he would have either been cut down on the Blackwater, or ripped apart by an angry mob, fed up with his tyrannical ways. We can only thank the gods that someone else also realized how unfit he was and removed him altogether from the equation. Who knew how lethal pigeon pie could be?

3. Stannis Baratheon

Origin of Claim:

Stannis is the eldest brother to King Robert. Should the current King have no true born (born within the confines of marriage) heirs, the crown would then pass to his eldest brother.

Validity of Claim:

For his claim to be valid, we have to prove that Robert left no true born heirs. Stannis spreads this “rumour” throughout the seven kingdoms, but without any real proof, how many actually believe? John Arryn and Ned Stark believed they had the proof, but unless Cersei actually admits her treason, the doubt will always be there, since Robert himself claimed Joffrey as his heir.

Should They Rule:

Stannis is described as “pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets.” He claims he does not really want the throne, but that it is his duty to take it, being Robert’s heir. However, I'm not sure if I buy this, since he is going to an awful lot of bother to take something he claims he doesn’t really want. But will he be a good king? He certainly knows his way around a battlefield, which he has proven in the past, but will his stubborn ways be his downfall? And we have his red Priestess Melisandre to contend with. When all is said and done, who would be ruling Westeros: Stannis or the Red Witch?

4. Renly Baratheon

Origin of Claim:

Renly is Robert’s younger brother. He also believes that Robert left no true heirs, but since he doesn’t think Stannis will make a good king, he throws his hat into the ring.

Validity of Claim:

Renly is Robert’s brother, but the younger sibling. As long as Stannis still lives and breathes, the crown should pass to the older brother, no matter what the younger brother declares. He is by far more popular than Stannis, but that does not make the claim valid. Renly realizes that he will have to take the throne by force, since he is on shaky ground as far as his claim goes.

Should They Rule:

There is no doubt that Renly knows how to dress and act the part, and he has the strength of Highgarden behind him, but is that enough to grant him the throne? He has no experience in battle, and although his little friend Loras will stand by his side, he is really only good at “knocking men off of horses with sticks”, so not sure how well that will play out in a war. He may have had all the banners run to his side, but did they really do so because they thought he had the best claim, or just following suit and thinking that the larger army had the better chance? A popular king may sit the throne, but can he keep it without having any real experience at warfare? I guess we’ll never know, since Stannis murders him before the battle even begins.

5. Balon Greyjoy

Origin of Claim:

Here is another character that is not actually claiming the Iron Throne, but instead has named himself King of the Iron Islands. He had attempted this once before, but was defeated and instead chose to bend the knee.

Validity of Claim:

As there had been Kings of the Iron Islands and Balon Greyjoy is the apparent heir, there appears to be no reason he cannot claim himself as King, but this does not sit well with those ruling from King’s Landing. As far as they are concerned, there is only one Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, and it is certainly not Balon Greyjoy. One has to wonder if he would have rebelled again if not for the letter from Robb Stark inviting him to claim the Iron Islands should he join forces with Robb and the North to help defeat the Lannisters. Perhaps if Rob had gone in Theon’s place to make the offer, he might have agreed, and not decided to reap and rave along the coast and begin claiming the North, whilst Robb and his army were busy in the Riverlands.

Should They Rule:

This man definitely does not seem just or fair, and does not appear to make a good King of anything. We see how he treats Theon so badly and seems to care little when he hears that he has been captured and is literally being flayed alive. If the small folk are looking for a King that will be protecting them and trying to better their way of living, it would appear that they need to look elsewhere. Fortunately for all, as he ends up being swept off of a bridge in his own lands, the people of the Iron Islands, or Westeros for that matter, will never have to find out.

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