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The Driftwood Crown created for Euron Greyjoy.

A Driftwood Crown from the past.

The King of the Iron Islands (feminine equivalent being Queen of the Iron Islands) is the ruler of the Kingdom of the Iron Islands. It was a title of the sovereign kingdom of the Iron Islands prior to the creation to the conquest of the Riverlands.

Traditionally, the King of the Iron Islands sat on the Salt Throne and wore the Driftwood Crown. Unlike the crowns of other kingdoms, which were usually reused by at least a few generations of monarchs, each and every driftwood crown was prepared specially for each individual king by the Drowned Men. Upon death, each crown would be broken up and cast back into the sea or put to sea with the king's remains, and a new one made from fresh driftwood.

Balon Greyjoy twice declared himself King of the Iron Islands.

Originally, the King of the Iron Islands was a non-hereditary elective monarchy selected by a Kingsmoot. Major noble families such as the Hoares or Greyjoys frequently had kings elected from their number, but succession of their sons was in no way automatic.

The title has twice been revived by Balon Greyjoy in attempts to secede from the Iron Throne's rule, first during the Greyjoy Rebellion against Robert Baratheon and again during the War of the Five Kings, with Balon as one of the eponymous kings.

After Balon Greyjoy's death, his brother Euron is elected king, though Balon's daughter Yara disputes his legitimacy and claims to be the rightful queen. After Euron allies with Cersei Lannister and pledges fealty to her, he only refers to himself as a lord in her presence and refers to the residents of the Iron Islands as her subjects.

Yara becomes the de facto Queen of the Iron Islands after the Retaking of the Iron Islands, although she had relinquished the title as of the Great Council of 305 AC.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Iron Islands were an independent sovereign kingdom from the Dawn Age, up until they were conquered by Aegon I Targaryen three centuries ago during the War of Conquest.

"Kingship" over the Iron Islands actually has an odd history compared with practices on the mainland, particularly because the position is not necessarily hereditary. For much of their history, each island was its own "kingdom" with two kings: a "Rock King" who ruled the land, and a "Salt King" who commanded at sea. The "King of the Iron Islands", also known as the "High King" or "Iron King", was an over-king set above the rest. Moreover, the "High King of the Iron Islands" was an elective kingship, not a hereditary one (somewhat similar to early practice in the Holy Roman Empire). Each new High King was elected in an assembly known as a Kingsmoot.

Five thousand years ago, Urron Greyiron killed all of candidates at the Kingsmoot, and established a dynasty that ruled the Iron Islands as hereditary kings for a thousand years. The Greyirons were destroyed four thousand years ago during the Andal Invasion, when they were deposed by House Hoare. Even so, House Hoare apparently summoned a Kingsmoot to confirm their new rule when they overthrew the Greyirons, but the practice was not revived and House Hoare continued to rule as hereditary kings for the next four thousand years, up until their destruction in the Targaryen Conquest. House Greyjoy was subsequently selected to rule over the Iron Islands on behalf of the Targaryens. During the first Greyjoy Rebellion, Balon Greyjoy declared himself king and rebelled against the mainland, his claim to kingship over the rest of the ironborn partially based on the fact that he was already overlord of the islands.

The kings did not have crowns which were handed down through dynasties. Each new king made a new Driftwood Crown out of actual driftwood, and their styles varied widely (some large and ornate, others small and elegantly simple). At the end of their reigns their crowns were broken up and the pieces cast back into the sea for the Drowned God, and their successor would make a new crown.

During the War of the Five Kings, Balon Greyjoy makes a second attempt to secede from the mainland and declares independence once again as King of the Iron Islands. Later, Balon pretentiously styles himself "King of the Isles and the North" (alternatively "King of the Iron Islands and the North") - a new title which he makes up after his subordinates conquer several strongholds in the North; Balon ignores the obvious fact that he does not control the entire North, only a small part of it. As if it is not enough, Balon pompously creates more titles for himself - "King of Salt and Rock" and "Son of the Sea Wind". Following Euron's coronation, he styles himself with all those self-fashioned titles.

It is pointed out within the narrative that the matter of Balon's succession is unclear, given the Iron Islands' unusual practices in the past of elective kingship. Even after the Kingsmoots ended, when the kingship became hereditary, the line of succession within the royal family was often very unstable, and decided at the point of a sword. The revived "Kingdom of the Iron Islands" has not yet settled upon a new pattern of inheritance law, thus there is some dispute and jockeying for position over who exactly is Balon's designated heir. Following the primogeniture laws of the mainland, Theon would be Balon's heir as his only surviving son. However, under equal primogeniture laws (such as in Dorne), his older sister Asha (Yara in the TV series) could be argued to be the heir. Moreover, other forms of inheritance laws (similar to real-life Anjou) would actually place the king's brothers ahead of his children, thus favoring Balon's brothers Euron and Victarion. Euron has been exiled from the islands, however, and Balon's youngest brother Aeron voluntarily does not consider himself eligible to succeed because he is a priest of the Drowned God. Ultimately, the matter might be decided by a Kingsmoot, in which case the most popular potential heir would succeed. In such a scenario, Theon isn't very popular, and Asha/Yara would have difficulty succeeding to power as a woman in the misogynistic culture of the ironborn, while Victarion is very well respected as the commander of the Iron Islands' navy. This leads to considerable bickering over who exactly is considered to be Balon's royal heir. In contrast to the kingship, succession over simple lordships in the Iron Islands (such as Balon's lordship of Pyke island), follows the male primogeniture laws of the mainland.

See also