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"The Hand of the King" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season. It is narrated by Aidan Gillen as Lord Petyr Baelish.

Synopsis

Littlefinger details the successes and failures of past Hands of the King.

Narration

Petyr Baelish: What the King dreams, the Hand of the King builds, or so say the Kings, the Hands and Lords who wish to be Hands. The lowborn put it differently: "The King eats and the Hand takes the shit". The fact is most Kings hate ruling. We shouldn't blame them, their only qualification is blood, so naturally they're weary of a seat made of blades. Far better to find other men to rule in their stead. But how should a King select his Hand?

Family? One King chose his brother, Prince Maegor, a warrior who was proud and arrogant. Maegor agreed to marry the High Septon's niece to unite the Faith and the Crown, but then secretly wed a second wife in a Valyrian ceremony artfully combining bigamy and heresy. When word of it got out, the King was forced to exile Maegor and choose a septon as his new Hand. But the damage had been done. The King had trusted in family and his brother had set off a rebellion that would claim his rule and his life.

Strength? As little more than a boy, Ser Criston Cole replaced the legendary Ser Ryam Redwyne on the Kingsguard and soon rose to Lord Commander. But knights only know one way to settle disputes. When Prince Aegon's father died, Ser Criston slit the throat of an advisor who objected to Aegon's ascension over his aunt, the anointed heir. His actions so pleased the new King, Aegon, Second of His Name, that he appointed Ser Criston as his Hand in the ensuing civil war called the Dance of Dragons. Neither Ser Criston nor the King nor even the Targaryen dragons would survive it.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the wisest King in the history of Westeros made the wisest choice for his Hand. The son of a lowly blacksmith, Septon Barth had few options for advancement in the world and even fewer after his family gave him to the Faith as a child. But as royal record keeper, Barth impressed the King so much that the King, defying all his highborn advisors, made Septon Barth his Hand. Forty years of prosperity ensued. So much did Barth accomplish that many lords and commoners credited him with sorcery. No other explanation could they accept for a man without blood or skill at arms, because what Barth had was rarer than both: a sharp mind.

Years later, the realm had no sharper mind than Lord Tywin Lannister, Hand to King Aerys II Targaryen, or as history remembers him, "The Mad King." He saw assassins and plots in every shadow, heard whispers in silence and burned men alive, but his greatest madness by far was driving away Lord Tywin. The Mad King then cycled through every mistake of his ancestors. Soldiers, toadying lords and at the end even an alchemist, perhaps to save the crown's growing expenses on wildfire. Unfortunately it didn't save his crown or his dynasty.

The new King Robert chose his foster father Lord Jon Arryn as his Hand. The wisest decision Robert ever made, not that it had many rivals. Too bad it proved so...fatal. Lord Arryn was a man of honor from an ancient and proud family. But honor is no shield against the corruption of the capital, as Lord Arryn's successor, Ned Stark, learned as well.

Perhaps the Hand of the King is a flawed idea. Westeros needs a ruler who can rule, who builds what he dreams himself. A King who can't govern his kingdom is no King and a Hand who shits what another man eats is an arse.

Note

  • This video contains a major mistake: Rhaenyra Targaryen was the half-sister of Aegon II Targaryen, not his aunt. Other Histories & Lore animated features, specifically the large The Dance of Dragons (Histories & Lore) from Season 5, accurately described her as his half-sister. For that matter, the live-action episodes of Season 5 had Shireen Baratheon explain who Rhaenyra and Aegon II were, and she directly stated in dialogue that Rhaenyra was Aegon II's half-sister.
    • Of course, Rhaenyra did marry her own uncle, Daemon Targaryen, who was also Aegon II's uncle on their father's side - thus Rhaenyra actually was Aegon II's aunt by law, in a sense. Still, both sides in the war usually referred to her as his half-sister, which is a closer relationship.
  • This video continues an error introduced by the live-action TV series: when it finally depicted King Aerys II Targaryen, the "Mad King", in a brief flashback montage in Season 6, it depicted him as clean-shaven...even though he is repeatedly described as having gone so crazy that he gave no thought to his physical appearance: his hair and beard where freakishly long, past his waist, and completely filthy and unkempt, in long matted ropes. For that matter, his live-action appearance also omitted that he had stopped cutting his fingernails too, until they were several inches long. Then the Season 6 Histories & Lore video on The Great Tourney at Harrenhal depicted the Mad King as he is described in the books, and even had the narration explicitly point it out - his long and unkempt hair, beard, and fingernails which made it obvious he was insane just from his appearance. Thus the Mad King's depiction in this animated featurette is even in contradiction with the other animated featurette.
    • It even contradicts other videos in this set: the "Conquest and Rebellion" video Part 10, "The Last Dragons", accurately shows the Mad King with a crazed, large and unkempt beard.
    • Perhaps this video was simply depicting Aerys at a point before he went totally crazy and stopped cutting his hair.
  • The video does, for the first time, accurately depict the four men who served as Hand of the King in rapid succession after Tywin Lannister abandoned the Mad King: Owen Merryweather (a genial sycophant), Jon Connington (a soldier, dismissed after he lost the Battle of the Bells), Qarlton Chelsted (another sycophant, who did find the strength to refuse to implement the Wildfire plot and burn King's Landing, for which Aerys had him burned alive), and Wisdom Rossart (leader of the Alchemists' Guild, who served for all of two weeks before the rebels arrived at King's Landing, and was willing to implement the wildfire plot, but was killed by Jaime Lannister before he could).
  • When Criston Cole is shown, the video accurately depicts the heraldry of House Cole, a family from the Stormlands: ten black pellets on a scarlet field (arranged in four descending rows, 4-3-2-1).
  • Alys Harroway is accurately depicted wearing the heraldry of House Harroway: a bend sinister (diagonally cut in half from lower left to upper right), the upper left half black and the lower right half orange, with a castle in the middle, colors counter-charged (the opposite color on each side of the dividing line, so the top left half of the castle is black against an orange background, while the lower right half of the castle is orange against a black background. The castle sigil stands for their rule over Harrenhal, the largest castle in Westeros.
  • Maegor's polygamous second marriage to Alys Harroway caused great strife with the Faith of the Seven, but it was his half-brother King Aenys Targaryen's later, baffling stupid decision to marry his own son and daughter to each other (the incestuous marriage of Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena), that specifically sparked off the Faith Militant uprising. Aenys soon died from stress, and Maegor usurped the throne ahead of Aenys's own children. The full story of this is explained in The Sons of the Dragon, a prequel novella released a few weeks before this Blu-ray video in 2017. Alys was derided as Maegor's whore, and was claimed to have threesomes with Maegor and his third wife Tyanna of the Tower. Alys later gave birth to a monstrous stillbirth, however - quite probably due to poisoning by Tyanna, after which convinced Maegor that he couldn't have been the father of such a monster, and Alys was having affairs. In response, Maegor killed every living member of House Harroway, rendering it extinct, and Tyanna slowly tortured Alys to death over the course of a fortnight. This dark act started the belief that Harrenhal was cursed, and any who ruled it would come to ruin. The reality is that Harrenhal is such a prize that rule over it tends to be given away as a political favor by one faction or another, meaning its rulers tended to get caught up in highly charged civil wars more than most, resulting in a high "turnover" rate among its rulers.
  • The woman who officiates the marriage between Maegor and Alys Harroway is stated to have been performed in a "Valyrian ceremony" - note that the woman officiating the wedding ceremony is Maegor's own mother, Visenya Targaryen. Visenya had to perform the marriage, according to the ritual of the Valyrian religion, because such a polygamous marriage was considered heresy to the Faith of the Seven, and they couldn't find any septon willing to officiate it.
  • Septon Barth isn't known to have actually "practiced" magic, as far as anyone knows, though he did read extensively on the subject from various old sources, and from his research wrote an extensive compendium on magic and dragons, Unnatural History. His work was considered the definitive writing on the subject for generations, but a hundred years later King Baelor Targaryen, a pious zealot, ordered all copies burned. Only a few scattered pages survived the flames (of which Tyrion Lannister has managed to find several).

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