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191610-who-should-rule-westeros

Who Should Rule Westeros in ‘Game of Thrones’?

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Robb Stark, Daenerys Targaryen, and Some New Faces

 

6. Young Griff / Aegon

Spoiler Alert: Please note that this character has not yet appeared in the TV series, so if you have not read the books and don’t want the story spoiled, you may want to skip this entry.

Origin of Claim:

The TV series has introduced us to two Targaryens, and we are told that these are the last of the line; their siblings having been murdered as children. But are they indeed the last? The books introduce us to “Young Griff”, whom Tyrion discovers is actually Aegon Targaryen, the murdered prince, son to Rhaegar Targaryen.

Validity of Claim:

Aegon is believed to have been murdered by the Mountain, Tywin Lannister’s evil henchman, as he dashed his brains against a wall. When we meet Young Griff, he is in the company of a character called Griff. It is revealed that he is actually Jon Connington, Lord of Griffin’s Roost and loyal friend to Rhaegar Targaryen, Aegon’s uncle. Prior to the sack of King’s Landing, Connington whisked Aegon away and replaced him with a tanner’s infant son, and it was this child, not Aegon, that the Mountain butchered.

Should They Rule:

We do not yet know enough of this character to necessarily determine that he would be a great leader. We know he has been trained since a child in all things a ruler might require, but he has also lived a very sheltered life and is very young. The smartest move does indeed seem to be to have this young prince marry his Aunt Daenerys, as the Targaryens have done for centuries, and have them rule together. But our little Dany is becoming quite the ruler in her own name, and may not be so quick to share leadership. We will really need to see once they actually meet to know if things might lead in this direction.

 

7. Quentyn Martell

Spoiler Alert: Please note that this character has not yet appeared in the TV series, so if you have not read the books and don’t want the story spoiled, you may want to skip this entry.

Origin of Claim:

Quentyn Martell is son to Prince Doran, Prince of Dorne and Lord of Sunspear. We learn in the books that Prince Doran had made a secret pact; that his daughter Arianne Martell was promised to Prince Viserys in return for Dorne’s support in helping him regain his Iron Throne. However, upon the death of Viserys, Doran now instead wants Quentyn to wed Daenerys, since she is now claiming rights to the Iron Throne.

Validity of Claim:

This all sounds like a great plan, but will it work? We have seen a Princess of Dorne wed to the dragon before, so it seems like a natural match to make. But nobody from Dorne has ever spoken with Dany to see if she is even interested. Quentyn makes the dangerous voyage to seek out his intended Queen, but things do not go as planned.

Should They Rule:

A Prince of Dorne should be a good match for Dany as someone to rule beside her in Westeros. The Martells are not close with the Lannisters and would like to see Targaryens back on the throne. However, the lad is young and seems an unlikely ruler, based on what we learn from him in the books. Also, he arrives too late, as the Queen is just about to wed Hizdahr zo Loraq, a noble from Meereen. Dany seems to take pity on Quentyn and invites him to visit her dragons. Despite being dismissed and urged to return to Dorne, he does not wish to go empty-handed. He hatches a plot to attempt to tame one of the dragons, and gets his companions to agree to assist. Whilst in the dragon pit, he turns his back on one dragon while trying to deal with the other and is burned alive. His wounds are so devastating that he dies a few days later. As he was unable to complete any of the tasks set forth, I doubt he would have made a good ruler or mate for Daenerys.

 

8. Robb Stark

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Origin of Claim:

Now to be fair, Robb never claims the Iron Throne. He is heralded as the “King of the North”, a title once held by his ancestors, but given up hundreds of years before him. He does not make the claim himself, but it is bestowed upon him by one of his bannermen. He goes along with it, since it seems to get his army all riled up and ready for battle.

Validity of Claim:

Certainly he has no claim to the Iron Throne, but calling himself King of the North seems valid enough. It was a title granted to his house decades before, and in order to truly rise up against the Iron Throne and rally all the houses of the North behind him, “king” seems to have a nice ring to it. Men are more likely to die for a king than just a Lord.

Should They Rule:

His claim is valid and he has real cause to rebel against King’s Landing, since the Lannisters murdered his father, are holding his sisters as hostages, and have been raping and pillaging his mother’s homeland. He is young, but seems to be making real strides in the war and had a real sense of battle strategy. He had only the one real mistake: wronging the Freys. If he had only done as he pledged, and married a Frey girl and made her his Queen, he would have retained all the power of the Twins and possibly won the war and kept his crown. Alas, love is a fickle thing, and it not only cost him his crown, but also his head.

 

9. Jon Snow

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Spoiler alert: Please note that this entry is based on certain conspiracy theories that have developed from the books. To date, there has been nothing really in the books or the TV series to support this claim, but I am putting it out there as a supposition. If you do not want the story ruined, again, you may wish to skip this one.

Origin of Claim:

There is a conspiracy theory stemming from plot developments in the book that holds that Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Ned Stark, but is instead the son of his sister Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. He was supposedly conceived when Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna and held her in the Tower of Joy. The promise that Ned Stark makes to Lyanna on her death bed is never revealed in either the books or the TV series, but many believe he promises to take her newborn son and raise him as his own.

Validity of Claim:

Assuming that this theory is correct, Jon Snow is then in fact, Jon Targaryen. Based on the rules of Westeros, since Aerys and his heir Rhaegar are dead, the throne would then pass to Jon. Some may still state that he is not a true Targaryen, having been still born a bastard. The conspiracy theory goes on to say that since other Targaryens have had multiple spouses, that Rhaegar followed suit, married Lyanna in secret, which makes him now a true born heir. Many find this hard to swallow, since there is little in the books or TV series to support this, but it is an interesting twist.

Should They Rule:

Jon Snow (Targaryen?) has proven that he is loyal and brave. He has also proven himself in battle and that he is a natural born leader. There’s just that little sticky thing about his vow to the Night’s Watch. We see repeatedly that he does not take these vows lightly. Even when tempted with a Lordship and Winterfell, something he has always secretly desired, he remains a loyal brother to the Night’s Watch. Now, if his true ancestry was revealed, would that change his mind? Would he feel more compelled to protect the whole realm from the seat of the Iron Throne as opposed to the Wall? A far-fetched theory to be sure, but a thought-provoking one at that.

 

10. Daenerys Targaryen

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Origin of Claim:

Daenerys is the sister to Viserys and the daughter of the Mad King. The Targaryens have been the ruling family in Westeros for years and years. If they had not been disposed by Robert’s rebellion, a Targaryen would still be seated on the Iron Throne.

Validity of Claim:

Once Viserys is murdered, Daenerys would be next in line as now the last living Targaryen. Although the rules of Westeros state that the line of succession seems to skip females, she is the last heir, and certainly seems to believe she has the right to rule.

Should They Rule:

The story certainly seems to favour Daenerys and her claim, since she is one of the main POV characters in all the books, and is given ample airtime on the show as well. As one of the most popular characters, we seem to want to see her succeed. She has proven her ability to lead, but more importantly, has demonstrated caring and compassion for those she means to rule, which is one of her strongest points. She may “only be a young girl and know little of the ways of war”, but she is certainly looking like a strong contender. And… she has dragons!

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