- "The seed is strong."
- ―Jon Arryn's last words.
Lord Jon Arryn was the Lord of the Eyrie, Lord Paramount of the Vale, Warden of the East, and the head of House Arryn. He served as the first Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon until he died of mysterious circumstances.
Jon Arryn was the Lord of the Eyrie and the head of House Arryn, one of the Great Houses of Westeros. Jon was the Warden of the East and Defender of the Vale. He was a respected nobleman and both Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon were fostered by him during their adolescence. The Mad King condoned the alleged kidnapping of Eddard's sister, Lyanna, who was also Robert's betrothed, and demanded that Eddard and Robert, still in the Vale, be turned over to the King's justice. Instead, Lord Arryn rebelled, calling his banners to war. House Stark and House Baratheon followed suit. The rebels forged an alliance with House Tully through marriage, with Eddard married to Catelyn Tully and the then-elderly Jon to the young Lysa Tully.After the rebel victory in the war, Robert became King and appointed Jon as his Hand. Jon served the realm well for many years as Hand of the King. Indeed, Jon Arryn was essentially the man really holding the realm together for the next seventeen years, while Robert drank, ate and whored his way through his reign.
Jon Arryn died in King's Landing immediately prior to the events of the series, sparking King Robert's search for a replacement. Jon is survived by his wife Lysa and their six-year-old son, Robin Arryn. Near the end of his life, Jon was investigating the legitimacy of the children of Queen Consort, Cersei Lannister. He later died from unknown, and unexplained, causes just after discovering that the children were secretly not the biological children of Robert Baratheon.
His dying words were to Robert Baratheon, "The seed is strong."
Jon Arryn's body is laid out in state in the throne room of the Red Keep in King's Landing. Ser Jaime Lannister and Queen Cersei discuss Jon's attempts to learn the truth about their incestuous relationship and his failure to do so. Later, news of Jon's death reaches Eddard Stark at Winterfell, who is shocked and upset as he considered Jon to be a second father to him. Catelyn then receives a letter from Lysa accusing House Lannister for murdering Jon.
When Eddard Stark attends his first Small Council meeting in King's Landing, he is shocked to learn that the realm is six million Gold Dragons in debt, and refuses to believe that Jon Arryn would let this happen. Grand Maester Pycelle and Renly Baratheon explain to Lord Stark that while Jon gave wise and prudent advice, King Robert did not always follow it.
Arryn had asked Pycelle for The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, a book detailing genealogies of the nobility, which notes the heredity preponderance for black hair in House Baratheon.
Eddard Stark is told that Arryn visited with an armorer, Tobho Mott, several times before his death and also talked with his apprentice Gendry, inquiring about his mother. Stark immediately realizes upon meeting with Gendry that he is King Robert's bastard son." On the day he died, Arryn met with Mhaegen, a prostitute at Lord Petyr Baelish's brothel. She showed him her infant daughter, Barra, who was fathered by King Robert Baratheon.
Under forceful interrogation by Tyrion Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle confesses that he knew that Jon Arryn had unearthed the truth upon seeing Robert's bastard children that Queen Cersei's three children were not conceived by Robert, but by her twin brother Jaime Lannister. Pycelle states that Jon Arryn intended to act and reveal his discovery to King Robert. When Tyrion accuses Pycelle of having Jon poisoned to keep the truth from getting out, he angrily denies that he killed him. Tyrion then points out that Pycelle must have realized that someone had poisoned Arryn (and he wasn't simply sick), but he let him succumb anyway, so he has Pycelle thrown into the Black Cells.
After being reunited with Petyr Baelish, Lysa obsessively declares her love for him and the things she has done to demonstrate it, including lacing Jon's wine with Tears of Lys and then sending a letter to Catelyn accusing House Lannister of the assassination.
Eventually, Petyr is forced to answer for his many crimes, including his role in the Assassination of Jon Arryn, when Sansa Stark unexpectedly puts him on trial. Sansa publicly accuses Petyr of persuading Lysa (whom Petyr also murdered) to poison Jon with Tears of Lys and write a letter to her sister Catelyn, falsely accusing the Lannisters of killing her husband, igniting the conflict between both great houses. Sansa has her sister Arya Stark slit his throat, exacting justice for Jon.
|Season One appearances|
|Winter Is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Petyr Baelish||Alys Arryn|
- Eddard Stark: "I will not believe Jon Arryn allowed Robert to bankrupt the Realm."
- Pycelle: "Lord Arryn gave wise and prudent advice. But I fear His Grace doesn't always listen."
- — Eddard and Pycelle discuss Jon Arryn's tenure as Hand of the King.[src]
- Eddard Stark: "Jon was a man of peace. He was Hand for 17 years – 17 good years. Why kill him?"
- Varys: "He started asking questions."
- — Eddard discovering there was more to Jon Arryn's death.[src]
- Tyrion Lannister: "How many Hands have you betrayed, Pycelle? Eddard Stark, Jon Arryn..."
- Pycelle: "Lord Arryn! He knew, he knew the tr-truth abou-about the Queen and he planned to act, to tell King Robert!"
- Tyrion Lannister: "So you poisoned him?"
- Pycelle: "No! Never!"
- Tyrion Lannister: "But you let him die! Made sure he succumbed!"
- — Tyrion confronts Pycelle about his role in Jon's death.[src]
- "What wife would do the things I've done for you? What wife would trust you the way I've trusted you? When you gave me those drops and told me to pour them into Jon's wine. My husband's wine. And you told me to write a letter to Cat telling her it was the Lannisters..."
- ―Lysa Arryn to Petyr Baelish, admitting her role in the death of Jon.
Behind the scenes
Originally it was intended that Jon Arryn's death in King's Landing would open the series, following the depiction of the book's prologue, and the event would be discussed by Grand Maester Pycelle and Queen Cersei Lannister in a new scene not in the books. This scene was not filmed for the pilot episode in favor of retaining the opening of the novel. Jon Arryn was played in these scenes by John Standing.
In a November 2015 interview, Standing described the death scene he filmed: Jon Arryn is feverish and bedridden (from being poisoned), but with a last desperate burst of strength he drags himself across the floor from his bed to a writing desk, and from the ground he reaches for the pen and ink on it. As he pulls it down his strength fails him, however, and he ends up spilling the ink pot all over himself. In his last seconds of life he feebly attempts to move his hand to write something with the pen - only for Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) to stamp on his fingers to stop him, at which he dies from the poison. Standing said that filming was difficult because he found out the night before that his younger brother had died (though filming had been scheduled for weeks in advance).
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Jon Arryn is a great lord, wise counselor, and canny tactician. He is loved as a second father by both Eddard and Robert, and commanded great respect in the Vale of Arryn. His nephew and heir Elbert Arryn was among Brandon Stark's companions who were imprisoned and killed by the Mad King, sparking Jon Arryn's decision to join the rebellion.
Jon Arryn's first wife, Lady Jeyne Royce, died in childbirth, and their daughter was stillborn. His second wife, Rowena, died without issue. Lysa Tully, some forty years his junior, became his third wife as part of an alliance with Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun. The marriage was loveless and produced only one surviving child, the sickly Robert.
In the books, Eddard Stark discovered that Arryn and Stannis Baratheon inquired together about Cersei's children and Robert's bastards. In fact it was Stannis who initiated the investigation, while in the TV series he is not mentioned at all in respect of Arryn's actions prior to his death – this was likely changed so that TV-first viewers weren't confused about the actions of yet another unseen character.
When Tyrion confronts Pycelle with his guards, Pycelle admits that Jon Arryn was being treated by maester Colemon, who gave him purges to get the poison out; that treatment might have cured Arryn. Pycelle, aware that Arryn knew the secret of Cersei's incest, sent the other maester away and just gave Arryn painkillers to ease his passing. In the TV series the emphasis is slightly different: Pycelle presents it as that he simply didn't intervene when he realized Lord Arryn was poisoned, though Tyrion points out that even his inaction when he could have saved Lord Arryn makes him an accomplice to the murder. In the TV series, Tyrion just vaguely asserts that Pycelle must have "made sure he succumbed", but in the book version he goes slightly beyond inaction, deliberately dismissing a maester who might have saved him.
Even in the books, Pycelle didn't know who actually poisoned Jon Arryn, but it was convenient for Pycelle that someone else poisoned him before he had to deal with it.
In the book, Lysa blurts out the whole truth about Arryn's death while she is dragging Sansa Stark to the Moon Door. Littlefinger tries in vain to hush Lysa, feeling uncomfortable that she reveals this secret in the presence of Sansa and Marillion.
Lysa's reason for poisoning Jon is actually a little less obsessive, but just as selfish: he planned on having their son sent to Dragonstone to be fostered by Stannis Baratheon, in keeping with accepted tradition for noble boys in the Seven Kingdoms and the fact that Stannis was the only one – aside from Ned – he could trust. This didn't matter at all to Lysa of course, as she could not bear the thought of being separated from her son.
Littlefinger apparently wanted Arryn dead to trick the Starks and Lannisters into fighting each other (aided by the letter he had Lysa write to Catelyn), and also so he could later marry Lysa and take control of the Vale. Thus while the situation was the same in the books, Lysa's motivation and Pycelle's role were a little more complicated.