- "The Seven Kingdoms are at war with one another... false kings destroying the country... the Usurper is dead. The Starks fight the Lannisters, the Baratheons fight each other."
- ―Daenerys Targaryen to Ser Jorah Mormont
The War of the Five Kings was a major multi-theater civil war in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros that erupted in the wake of the death of King Robert I. In essence, the war was a three-way battle for the Iron Throne fought alongside two independence movements. The five kings in question were Robert's heir apparent, Joffrey Baratheon, Robert's younger brothers, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, the "King in the North" Robb Stark, and the "King of the Iron Islands" Balon Greyjoy. The conflict was orchestrated by Petyr Baelish, the Master of Coin, with the help of Lysa Arryn, who poisoned her husband Jon Arryn, Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon, and sent a letter to her sister Catelyn Stark claiming that it was the Lannisters who had poisoned her husband. Petyr, from the small House Baelish, ignited the war in order to gain more power for himself.
Upon Robert's death, his heir apparent Joffrey takes the Iron Throne. However, the revelation that he, along with his brother and sister, are bastards born of incest between Queen Consort Cersei and her twin brother Jaime, leads both Stannis and Renly to claim the throne for themselves. Stannis sees himself as the rightful heir by right of blood, being Robert's heir with the removal of Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen from the line of succession, due to them being bastards born of incest. Renly claims the throne on the basis that he would be a better king, despite being second to Stannis in the lawful line of succession.
Meanwhile, Robb Stark, the Lord of Winterfell, is declared the King in the North by his bannermen in the wake of the execution of his father, on false charges of treason by Joffrey. Robb had been in command of a host marching south to free his then-imprisoned father and to relieve a Lannister attack on the Riverlands. As the King in the North, Robb declares that the North and the Riverlands, ruled by his maternal grandfather Hoster Tully, are a sovereign Kingdom of the North no longer subject to the rule of the Iron Throne.
With the attention of the North and the Iron Throne diverted, Balon Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke and ruler of the Iron Islands, seizes the opportunity to declare the Iron Islands independent once more, restoring the Kingdom of the Iron Islands. He then styles himself King of the Iron Islands and launches raids in the North, while most of the Northern armies are distracted south of the Neck fighting the Lannisters in the Riverlands and the Westerlands.
By 303 AC, all of the original five kings were either assassinated or killed in battle, leading to the total and complete end of the War of the Five Kings. Ironically, many of the same events Littlefinger put in motion to increase his own power and influence were eventually discovered by the remaining members of House Stark, which were ultimately used as evidence against him for his execution.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Opening moves
- 1.2 The rise of kings
- 1.3 The fall of kings
- 1.4 A tenuous rule
- 2 Aftermath and derivative conflicts
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Combatants
- 5 In the books
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Tyrion Lannister's abduction
The stage was set for the war when Catelyn seized Tyrion, unjustly accusing him of the attempted murder of her son Bran, based on false claims made by Littlefinger. Bran had previously been crippled by Jaime after watching him having sex with Cersei, though he had no memory of this. House Lannister, led by Lord Tywin Lannister, summoned its armies and marched on the Riverlands, ruled by House Tully, Catelyn's house, with 60,000 men. Ser Gregor Clegane led an auxiliary force and began striking at Houses supporting Catelyn's father, Lord Hoster Tully, in reprisal. 
The death of Robert Baratheon
King Robert, rather than use his authority to defuse the situation, left the capital for his entertainments, and soon afterwards died. Immediately upon hearing of Robert's death and having failed to win the support of Eddard Stark, in securing the throne for himself, Renly fled King's Landing with his lover Loras Tyrell, the heir to the Reach, and rode for Highgarden. Joffrey immediately claimed the throne upon Robert's death with his mother's backing; however, Eddard had learned from research by Jon Arryn, who had been assassinated by his wife and Littlefinger, the true parentage of Joffrey and his siblings. Eddard had a proclamation written by King Robert which named him Regent and Protector of the Realm, but it was ignored by Cersei, whom Eddard had unwisely forewarned of his knowing the truth about her children.
When Eddard tried to take Joffrey into custody as an imposter, Joffrey, who had been forewarned by Littlefinger, had Eddard arrested instead. Littlefinger held Eddard with a dagger to his throat while Janos Slynt had the City Watch turn on and destroy Eddard's household guards. Joffrey was unaware that Eddard had already sent a letter to Stannis, telling him that Joffrey was not legitimate and the crown belonged to Stannis by right; he was also unaware that Renly knew this and was gathering his supporters in the Stormlands and the Reach. On Dragonstone, Stannis likewise claimed the throne and began gathering his own supporters.
War in the Riverlands
- "Ser Gregor will head out with five hundred riders and set the riverlands on fire from Gods' Eye to the Red Fork."
- ―Tywin Lannister
The Lannister force separated into two armies of 30,000 men each. Jaime led one force with the aim of capturing Riverrun, the principal stronghold of House Tully. Jaime smashed the Riverlords at the Battle of the Golden Tooth, and followed through on his victory by laying siege to Riverrun. Tywin led the other force himself, Jaime's victories allowing him to move northwest through the Riverlands unimpeded.
Receiving news of his father's arrest and, Robb mobilized the armies of the North. He marched to the relief of the Riverlands, which were ruled by his maternal family, House Tully. Tywin moved to the east bank of the Green Fork of the Trident to intercept the Stark force. Robb won the support of House Frey, and it him Robb an advantage in transportation and local intelligence. Robb sent 2,000 men to pretend to attack Tywin's army. As planned, this small force was destroyed at the Battle of the Green Fork, but it delayed the Lannisters long enough for Robb's main army to slip past them and into the Whispering Wood near Riverrun. Robb inflicted [[a significant defeat upon the Lannisters, destroying much of Jaime's host and capturing Jaime himself. Receiving word of Jaime's defeat, Tywin retreated to Harrenhal, intending to fortify it and use it as a base of operations to conduct raids in the Riverlands.
The rise of kings
By this time, news of Renly and Stannis gathering armies had reached both the Stark and Lannister camps. Both men had claimed the Iron Throne: Stannis as the legitimate heir after his brother's death, and Renly on the claim that he could be a better king than his brothers. Meanwhile, in King's Landing, Eddard falsely confessed to treason and recognized Joffrey as the King, to protect his daughter Sansa, who was held as a hostage by the Lannisters. However, Joffrey ordered Eddard's execution instead of allowing him to join the Night's Watch. Eddard's death caused the vengeful Northmen to reject the authority of the Iron Throne. After considering joining forces with one of the Baratheon brothers, the Northmen and the Riverlords chose the path of independence, rejecting the authority of the Iron Throne all together and swearing fealty to Robb as the King in the North.
Robb followed up on his success at Whispering Wood with several minor skirmishes against Lannister forces. Barely days after Joffrey was declared King, the faction backing his rule only held the Westerlands and the Crownlands (except for the island Dragonstone, which was controlled by Stannis), as well as a small strip of the southern Riverlands. Meanwhile, Robb Stark controlled the North and most of the Riverlands, Renly controlled the Reach, and the Stormlands were divided between the Baratheon brothers. Meanwhile, the other three kingdoms - the Vale, Dorne and the Iron Islands - had not yet declared their support for any one side in the conflict.
Robb Stark invades the Westerlands
- "The Lannisters have been running from us since Oxcross."
- ―Robb Stark
With Tywin encamped at Harrenhal, Robb instead launched a limited invasion of the Lannister homelands in the west, winning several more battles: the Battle of Oxcross,  the Battle of the Yellow Fork, and the Surrender of the Crag. With the Lannister homelands under attack and a Baratheon attack on King's Landing imminent, Tywin marched his Lannister forces back to King's Landing, having authorized secret negotiations with House Tyrell, the rulers of the Reach, following Renly's death, in the hope of winning an alliance with them and their powerful army.
All of the territories between Riverrun on the Red Fork of the Trident River and Harrenhal at the north shore of the Gods Eye lake to the south were a war zone facing raids and counter-raids by Stark-Tully and Lannister forces. As a result of Edmure Tully's mistake at the Battle of Stone Mill, Robb failed to lure the Lannisters into a trap; instead, the Lannister forces in the Riverlands regrouped and then rushed to the defense of King's Landing against Stannis.
The death of Renly Baratheon
Stannis and Renly, both claimed the Iron Throne of Westeros. Stannis had a small army at Dragonstone and was under the influence of Melisandre, a Red Priestess of the Lord of Light and a powerful sorceress, while Renly amassed the strength of his bannermen in the Stormlands and those of the Reach by marrying Margaery Tyrell, daughter of Mace Tyrell.
By this point, Renly's faction was the most powerful in terms of sheer numbers; he could call upon over half the bannermen of the Stormlands as well as the armies of the Reach, the most populous region of Westeros. Renly was receptive to an alliance with the Stark-Tully faction, on condition that Robb recognize his continued sovereignty over the North. Unfortunately for the Starks, Renly was assassinated before anything came to fruition.
Following Renly's death, the troops of the Reach withdrew for Highgarden, while Renly's Stormlords swore fealty to Stannis as the remaining legal head of House Baratheon. With a formidable army of stormlanders and the Dragonstone fleet under his command, Stannis began preparations for an invasion of King's Landing.
Riot in King's Landing
During the course of the war, the streets of the capital city began to overflow with many starving refugees escaping the war. Joffrey and the Royal Court gathered in the docks to see Myrcella being sent to Dorne as part of their hopes of securing an alliance with House Martell. On their way back, the commoners of King's Landing hurled insults at Joffrey, and ultimately, hurl cow excrement into Joffrey's face. Despite being accompanied by only a few dozen guards facing hundreds of peasants, Joffrey impetuously shouts orders for his soldiers to kill them all. A general riot then broke out, and chaos reigned throughout the city. The riot was eventually put down, but many commoners and City Watch guards were killed, along with the High Septon.
Rise of the kraken
- "The North is ripe for the taking."
- ―Balon Greyjoy
While the Lannister and Stark forces were fighting in the Riverlands, Theon Greyjoy traveled to Pyke, to make an alliance with his father Balon, under Robb's orders. Balon, however, proclaimed himself King on the Iron Islands once more, and made plans to attack the North. The ironborn attacked the coasts of the North: Yara Greyjoy led most of the fleet to take Deepwood Motte, while Theon was assigned to raid small villages. Under Dagmer's advice, Theon changed his plans and seized Winterfell. Bran and Rickon soon escaped with two of their household servants and their direwolves. Theon failed to find them, and convinced his men and the rest of the North they had been tracked-down and killed by hanging the charred corpses of two children atop the walls of Winterfell. Yara arrived shortly thereafter, warning him that the North wanted him dead for killing the Stark boys, and in any case his position was too far from the sea to resupply or reinforce. In spite of this, Theon decided to hold Winterfell.
A relief force of five hundred men, led by Ramsay Snow of House Bolton and sent under Robb's orders, laid siege to the castle. Theon's men betrayed him, and as soon as they delivered Theon to the Boltons, Ramsay killed them all.
The Battle of the Blackwater
Stannis's army and fleet launched an assault on King's Landing in what came to be known as the Battle of the Blackwater. The initial attack was blunted when Tyrion sprung a trap, destroying half of Stannis's ships and many of his men with wildfire. Stannis rallied the surviving troops and launched an assault at the city.
Just as the city seemed about to fall, a combined Lannister-Tyrell charged and broke through Stannis's flank, sending his army into a panic and fleeing from the field. Stannis retreated to Dragonstone with only the tattered remnants of his army. House Tyrell formally declared themselves for King Joffrey in return for a marriage pact between him and Margaery, giving Joffrey a massive numerical advantage over the Houses in rebellion.
The decisive Lannister-Tyrell victory also coincided with several egregious political blunders made by Robb. Robb lost the support of House Frey when he chose to marry Stark. Not long after, the men of House Karstark deserted him after he had their lord Rickard Karstark beheaded for the murder of Lannister prisoners. Having lost a large number of troops, and his enemies having more than doubled in numbers, Robb's faction found suddenly itself in great danger.
The fall of kings
The Red Wedding
Robb subsequently withdrew his forces back to the Riverlands. He liberated Harrenhal, but the Lannisters had simply withdrawn and gave no battle. Robb marched his army back to Riverrun, but faced a bleak situation. The Lannisters meanwhile focused on consolidating the south with their new Tyrell allies, content that time and resources were now on their side.
Robb's army was ultimately lured into a trap at the Twins where he was betrayed by the Freys and Boltons, who had switched sides to the Lannisters. At the marriage of Lord Frey's daughter and Edmure, the Frey and Bolton bannermen slaughtered many of the Northern and Riverland lords.
Robb, Talisa, his mother, and most of his loyal bannermen were murdered in the massacre, which subsequently became known as the Red Wedding. The entire Northern army Robb had led to fight in southern Westeros was annihilated, with the few survivors captured as political hostages including Edmure. Only a small number of Tully bannermen, led by Robb's great-uncle, Brynden Tully, managed to escape.
Aftermath of the Red Wedding
The destruction of Robb's army marked a major turning point in the war, with the allied Houses of Lannister and Tyrell achieving a major victory over their most significant enemy. Joffrey's faction now physically controlled nearly all of the Seven Kingdoms, the only exceptions being the Iron Islands, parts of the North controlled by the ironborn, and the strongholds of Storm's End, Dragonstone, and Riverrun. The Vale and Dorne remained neutral in the conflict. As a reward for their betrayal of the Starks, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey were named Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the Trident, respectively.
Stannis remained free and determined to continue fighting, his army seriously decreased. The Stormlords who had rallied to his side had either died at the Blackwater or were trying to curry favor with the Lannisters for a pardon. The ironborn, who had partially occupied the North, still commanded great sea power and Balon Greyjoy refused to bend the knee to the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, the outlaw band known as the Brotherhood without Banners remained active in the Riverlands, as did the Blackfish and his rebel Tully bannermen at Riverrun. Added to this, the majority of the Houses in the North and the Riverlands held nothing but hatred for the Boltons and the Freys, due to their betrayal of their king and the deaths of many of their kinsman at the Red Wedding.
At the same time, the Iron Throne emerged weakened from the conflict. Its debts to foreign lenders such as the Iron Bank of Braavos were still far from being repaid and, if the debts should default, the Bank would turn its support to others who could guarantee the repayment of the loans, such as Stannis.. The Iron Bank was later convinced to fund Stannis.
The Lannisters' position steadily decayed and became worse, as their hold as the 'strongest' House waned. Concerned over the growing power of Daenerys Targaryen in Essos, Tywin sought to gain the support of the Martells, who hated House Lannister as a result of the death of Elia Martell and her children during the Sack of King's Landing.
The Purple Wedding
During his own wedding to Margaery, Joffrey was killed by poison." Tyrion was arrested and put on trial for regicide. Sansa managed to flee King's Landing with help from Littlefinger, who had devised the plot to kill Joffrey together with Olenna Tyrell.
Joffrey was succeeded as King by his younger brother Tommen. Joffrey's death ended up being beneficial for the Lannister-Tyrell alliance: he had been an unpredictable, incompetent and universally hated ruler whose impulsive, sadistic decisions had taken a devastating toll on his kingdom. Tommen, by contrast, was a shy, gentle-natured boy who could be counted on to delegate matters to wiser advisors, such as Tywin and Margaery. After his coronation, Tommen reappointed Tywin (his grandfather) as Hand of the King and also granted him the title of Protector of the Realm, making Tywin the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Tommen was also betrothed to Margaery, in order to keep the loyalty of House Tyrell; his early friendship with Margaery, despite their age differences, helped ease some of the tension between the Lannisters and Tyrells.
A tenuous rule
The trial of Tyrion Lannister
During his trial, Tyrion was faced with many accounts of his confrontations with King Joffrey to prove his guilt. Tywin Lannister had brokered to give his son a way out if he would plead guilty and join the Night's Watch so that Jaime, would leave the Kingsguard and accept his title as Tywin's heir again. However, the perjury of Shae led Tyrion to refuse the deal and demand a trial by combat. Cersei chose Ser Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane as her champion, while Tyrion was approached by Oberyn Martell to act as his. Oberyn's sought vengeance against Gregor for the rape and murder of his sister Elia during the Sack of King's Landing. Although Oberyn managed to severely wound and poison the Mountain during the duel, he was himself killed, sealing Tyrion's fate.
The death of Tywin Lannister
Before his execution could take place, Tyrion was freed from confinement by Jaime in conjunction with Varys. Before escaping the city, Tyrion strangled Shae, and assassinated his father, leaving the rule of King's Landing in an uncertain position.
In the wake of his brother's death, Kevan Lannister has been appointed as the new leader of the Lannister armies. In addition to the nobles, Tywin's death brought new forces to King's Landing: the religious Sparrows entered the capital.
Cersei seized control of the small council, appointing her ally Qyburn as the new Master of Whispers (as Varys is believed to have released Tyrion), and Lord Tyrell as the new Master of Coin. However, Kevan rebuffed Cersei's offer as the new Master of War on the basis that the Queen Mother holds no position of authority, and the small council had become nothing more than a chamber of sychophants. After storming off and leaving for Casterly Rock, Cersei's hold on power became all the more tenuous.
In order to cement their alliance with the Tyrells, the Lannisters rapidly married King Tommen to Margaery, to Cersei's dismay, who felt her power waning just as Margaery's influence over her son grew. In addition, the Iron Bank called in ten percent of the debt owed by the Crown. Cersei sent Lord Tyrell to Braavos to negotiate directly with the bankers.
Stannis's campaign in the North
After a failed attempt by Yara to rescue her brother from the Boltons, Ramsay retook Moat Cailin. Roose rewarded Ramsay's actions by legitimizing him as a Bolton. With the surrender of Moat Cailin, the Bolton army returned north and the ironborn began evacuating the North. Roose subsequently led his reassembled forces to reclaim the Stark ancestral seat of Winterfell.
Facing invasion from a wildling army under the command of Mance Rayder and with rumours of an even greater threat coming from beyond the Wall, the Night's Watch sent word to all the high lords of Westeros to send aid. Only one answered: Stannis. He headed north to the Wall and defeated the wildling army, taking their leader prisoner and saving the Night's Watch from destruction, and the North from invasion. With this victory, Stannis planned to march south to liberate Winterfell and gain the support of the disgruntled Northern Houses against Lannister-backed Bolton rule. However, he was rebuffed by most, such as House Mormont.
As Roose Bolton set up his seat of power at Winterfell, he planned a marriage for Ramsay with Sansa, the heir to Winterfell who was hiding from the Lannisters in the Vale under the protection of Littlefinger. Littlefinger proposed an alliance between the North and the Vale, for protection against their enemies and to react against any Lannister retaliation once they learnt that Sansa has wed Ramsay.
Littlefinger returned to King's Landing, where he informed Cersei that the Boltons planned to marry Sansa to Ramsay. He requested permission to lead the Knights of the Vale to the North. Once Stannis and the Boltons had bled each other dry, he planned to destroy the remaining forces and take the North. Cersei approved his plans and promised to appoint him Warden of the North once the battle was won.
As Stannis marched on Winterfell, the the weather worsened, and men started to abandon Stannis. Melisanre, however, believed that it was still possible to move towards Winterfell, and suggested to sacrifice Shireen. Stannis initially refused.
Ramsay wreaked havoc on Stannis's camp; his few remaining supplies were destroyed, as well as the few hundred horses he had left. In his desparation, Stannis conceded to sacrificing Shireen so that his army could move once again. After it was done, Stannis mobilized his army towards Winterfell.
With Stannis's defeat, the Boltons claimed a great victory, discouraging further resistance against them. By this time, most of the Northmen had, if ever reluctantly, accepted their rule. Houses Umber and Karstark declared their allegiance to Boltons, but House Manderly refused to bend the knee to the Boltons. Meanwhile, the last of the ironborn had been expelled from the North after House Glover successfully reclaimed Deepwood Motte. House Bolton's rule over the North was now seemingly unopposed; Sansa's escape, however, has weakened their claim.
The death of Balon Greyjoy
With the passing of Balon, the ironborn held a Kingsmoot to elect a new king of the Iron Islands. Euron was ultimately elected as the new King of the Iron Islands. Yara and Theon fled the Iron islands with much of the Iron Fleet and their supporters.
In order to take back the Iron Islands, Yara and Theon decided to beat their uncle to Daenerys and sail for Meereen, stopping at Volantis on the way. Once they arrived in Meereen, they formed an alliance with Daenerys.
Conflict in the Riverlands
- "As long as I'm standing, the war is not over!"
- ―Brynden Tully to Jaime Lannister
After the Red Wedding, Brynden Tully managed to reform the armies of House Tully and retake Riverrun from the Freys. Tommen sent Jaime at the head of a Lannister detachment to force Riverrun's surrender. Jaime tried to negotiate with Brynden to peacefully surrender, but the Blackfish refused to yield.
Jaime persuaded Edmure to yield Riverrun. Later, Jaime is informed of Brynden's death.
At a celebration in the Twins, Arya Stark killed Walder Frey as a revenge for the Red Wedding, and afterwards killed many of the Freys. In response to the extinction of House Frey, Lannister soldiers are sent to the Riverlands in order to keep the peace.
Fall of the mockingbird
Following the Battle of the Bastards, House Stark retook Winterfell and restored its power in the North. Sansa became the Lady of Winterfell, while Jon was declared the King in the North by the lords of the North and the Vale.
While Jon negotiating with Daenerys on Dragonstone as she begins her invasion of Westeros, Bran and Arya returned to Winterfell. Gradually losing his influential hold over Sansa, Littlefinger plotted to turn the Stark sisters against each other; however, his plot was foiled, and Baelish was tried and found guilty of conspiring against House Stark. He was executed by Arya, marking the extinction of House Baelish and the complete end of the War of the Five Kings.
Aftermath and derivative conflicts
The War of the Five Kings officially concluded in a hollow victory for the forces of the Iron Throne, controlled by House Baratheon of King's Landing, a puppet of House Lannister. All five kings died, including Joffrey, who was succeeded by Tommen. Despite the War of the Five Kings ending, the Lannisters' victory ended almost as soon as it began and the tide began to turn in favor of their surviving enemies. Localized hostilities and conflicts continued throughout Westeros as tensions only heightened throughout the Seven Kingdoms; some of these hostilities ultimately undid the Iron Throne's. These smaller "aftermath conflicts" that grew from the War of the Five Kings and continued to destabilize Westeros are detailed below:
Rise and fall of the Sparrows
Although the Lannister-Tyrell alliance formed at the Battle of the Blackwater had allowed the Iron Throne to emerge victorious in the war, the destructive conflict had served to fracture the already fragile coexistence between the nobility and the commoners. Abused and overtaxed by their rulers, the smallfolk began to turn to new masters and new justices. Religious fervor, unseen in Westeros since the Faith Militant uprising, swept over the people as they either clung to their known Gods in hopes of salvation, or turned to other deities new to Westeros.
In this context, a new sect emerged among the followers of the Faith of the Seven: the Sparrows. They included dispossessed commoners and disillusioned nobles, such as Lancel Lannister. Following the flood of refugees caused by the war, the Sparrows eventually moved into King's Landing after the death of Tywin.
Cersei saw opportunity in the newly-formed sect to move against her rivals in House Tyrell, and formed an alliance with the High Sparrow, leader of the sect. Cersei engineered his election as the new High Septon and authorized the Faith Militant, the enforcement branch of the Faith charged with defending the faithful, to rearm.
Putting this new power to use, the High Sparrow sent his armed followers to destroy what he perceived as the vices of King's Landing. This led to the arrest of Loras. This flagrant move against one of the Great Houses was the first sign of a reaction against the abuses comitted by the nobility against the common folk.
Though the High Sparrow arrested Loras on charges of homosexuality and Margaery, on charges of lying to the Faith on oath, he also had Cersei imprisoned on the charges of incest and murdering King Robert, crimes which are confessed by Lancel, who joined the Sparrows and conspired with Cersei in these crimes.
The High Sparrow had dug his claws deep into King Tommen, and influenced him into forming a new "holy alliance" between the Crown and the Faith. In response to the standoff at the Great Sept of Baelor, Tommen dismissed Jaime from the Kingsguard and sent him off to the Riverlands to assist House Frey in taking back Riverrun. For her role in the forgery of this alliance, Margaery wass forgiven for her crimes, though Loras and Cersei still had to stand trial.
Eventually, Cersei managed to destroy her enemies. After being informed of Margaery's death, Tommen committed a suicide. Cersei then ascends the Iron Throne, proclaimed as the Queen of the Andals and the First Men and Protector of the Seven Kingdoms.
War for the North
Despite their role in defeating Stannis, House Bolton betrays the Iron Throne when Roose weds Sansa to Ramsay. This alliance is forged by Roose and Littlefinger.
Sansa escapes from Winterfell arrives at Castle Black, where Jon had recently been resurrected by the will of Davos and Melisandre, after facing a mutiny. Sansa and Jon plot to retake Winterfell from the Boltons, and gather troops of Northmen and wildlings.
Meanwhile, at Winterfell, Ramsay seizes power when he murders his father Roose, his stepmother Walda, and his newborn half-brother. Ramsay has the backing of House Karstark through Harald Karstark, as well as House Umber through Smalljon Umber, who hands over Rickon to Ramsay.
After an uneventful parley, the Stark-wildling and Bolton armies clash just outside of Winterfell at the Battle of the Bastards. Though the Stark and Free Folk forces are on the verge of complete annihilation, they are relieved by a cavalry force of the Vale. The Bolton is defeated. At a meeting between the lords of the North and the Vale, Jon is proclaimed the King in the North, thus reviving the Kingdom of the North.
Coup in Dorne
Angered by the deaths of Elia and Oberyn Martell at the hands of House Lannister, Ellaria Sand demanded justice. She gathered the support of three of the Sand Snakes, Oberyn's bastard daughters: Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria. They plotted to assassinate Myrcella in retaliation for Elia and Oberyn's deaths. After receiving a threatening message, Cersei sent Jaime and Bronn to rescue Myrcella.
Jaime and Bronn infiltrated the Water Gardens, where they duel against the sand Snakes. However, they were stopped and imprisoned by Areo Hotah, the Captain of the Guards for Prince Doran. Jaime was eventually brought before Prince Doran. Knowing that King Tommen insists on Myrcella's return to King's Landing, Doran agreed as long as Trystane could sit at the small council.
Myrcella was poisoned by Ellaria. Soon afterwards, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes staged their coup d'etat, killing Doran, Areo Hotah, and Trystane. Thus, House Martell went extinct as Ellaria and the Sand Snakes seized power over Dorne.
The War of the Five Kings severely weakened the Iron Throne; specifically, the Baratheon dynasty, which had, after Robert's death, essentially become a Lannister puppet. It was the largest civil war since the Dance of the Dragons, resembling the endless internal conflicts that the Seven Kingdoms used to face before the Targaryen conquest unified the Seven Kingdoms into one realm under the rule of the Targaryen dynasty which had been overthrown less than two decades before the War of the Five Kings in Robert's Rebellion.
The war devastated the countryside of Westeros, leaving villages and towns burnt to the ground. Tens of thousands of smallfolk were killed in the conflict, and the bloody acts of war created great rift between the nobility and the commoners.
Furthermore, for the first time since the Targaryen conquest of Westeros, the lineup of the Great Houses was dramatically shaken and altered. Tensions continued to remain between the great and noble families even after the war came to a formal close.
Ultimately, these continued tensions would go on to impact Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros, which commenced only a couple years after the War of the Five Kings ended, as well as the Great War between the living and the army of the dead, controlled by the White Walkers, an ancient and long forgotten enemy to all that lives in the world.
Joffrey Baratheon is said to be the eldest son of King Robert. After Robert's death, Joffrey was crowned as the new King, and his mother was named Queen Regent in defiance of Robert's will. As Joffrey actually sat on the Iron Throne, however, he was referred to as "the King on the Iron Throne." Joffrey was primarily backed by House Lannister, the Lords of the Westerlands and the de facto controllers of the Iron Throne. After the Battle of the Blackwater, he was also supported by House Tyrell. He was later assassinated during the Purple Wedding in 301 AC, becoming the third of the five kings to die in the war.
Stannis claimed the Iron Throne on the basis that he was the rightful heir to his late brother Robert, since Robert's three "children" were in fact fathered by Jaime. Though technically the rightful heir, Stannis found himself with little support due to his blunt nature and lack of charm and charisma. He did, however, have the support of Melisandre, who believed Stannis to be The Prince That Was Promised, as well as his vassals sworn directly to Dragonstone. He was killed in the Battle of Winterfell in 302 AC, becoming the fourth of the five kings to die in the war.
Renly laid claim to the Iron Throne just as his elder brother Stannis did, as well as his alleged nephew Joffrey. Although the youngest Baratheon brother, Renly believed that he would be a better king than Stannis, noting how the line of succession did not matter when Robert usurped the Iron Throne from Aerys II Targaryen during Robert's Rebellion. Renly also had the backing of the vassals of the Stormlands, plus the wealthy House Tyrell and its vassals in the Reach. Assassinated on the orders of Stannis in 299 AC, he was the first of the five kings to die in the war.
Robb did not lay claim to the Iron Throne; instead, following his father's execution, he was declared the King in the North by his bannermen, and proclaimed independence for the North and the Riverlands, constituting a revived Kingdom of the North. He was later betrayed and killed in the Red Wedding in 300 AC, becoming the second of the five kings to die in the war.
Balon Greyjoy did not lay claim to the Iron Throne, but instead re-declared independence for the Iron Islands and proclaimed himself the King of the Iron Islands. The islands' leaders came together to form the resurgent Kingdom of the Iron Islands. As the War of the Five Kings unfolded, Balon launched an invasion of the North, while the majority of its bannermen were in the Riverlands fighting the Lannisters. He was assassinated by his brother Euron in 303 AC, becoming the fifth and last of the five kings to die in the war.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the War of the Five Kings is one of the major storylines which the narrative revolves around.
The name is first mentioned in the third novel: shortly before Joffrey's wedding, Tyrion muses that the struggle that the maesters are calling the War of the Five Kings - is all but at an end.
In the TV series, it is first named in dialogue in Season 2's episode "A Man Without Honor", when Tywin Lannister says that people are calling it the "War of Five Kings". Apparently he was just speaking loosely, and the formal name is still the same in the TV continuity, because Joffrey later prominently refers to it as the "War of the Five Kings" during his wedding in Season 4 episode "The Lion and the Rose".
While it is popularly known as the War of the "Five" Kings, in the fourth novel an archmaester named Benedict points out that this is somewhat inaccurate, as Balon openly declared himself King of the Iron Islands only slightly after Renly died, so there were never five kings actively fighting each other at one time. Nonetheless the name has stuck, and it does still refer to the fact that five kings were involved. For the TV series, however, it might be somewhat accurate, depending on when Balon Greyjoy's secession of the Iron Islands "officially" began. Renly was killed at the beginning of the fifth episode of Season 2. Balon explains to Theon that he intends to make himself a king by force in the second episode of Season 2, but this isn't followed by a polite declaration: the ironborn make a surprise attack against the North at the beginning of the sixth episode of Season 2, taking Torrhen's Square and Winterfell. Thus Balon briefly claimed the title of King while Renly was still alive, but the first the other factions knew about this was when ironborn raiders were at their doorsteps, after Renly died.
It is generally a four-sided war, between the Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons, and Greyjoys. Renly's brief time as a claimant, controlling most of the armies of the Stormlands and the Reach, did affect the strategic position of the Lannisters, but he didn't set out to engage them on the battlefield. Instead the Tyrells had cut off the Roseroad, effectively blockading resources and foodstuffs from reaching the capital, and Renly was content to sit back and let the Lannisters exhaust themselves against the Starks while he built up his own strength to overwhelming levels, at which point he intended to march directly on King's Landing. Also while there are four "sides", this does not include political machinations and large territories changing sides, i.e. the Vale of Arryn or Dorne, and particularly House Tyrell, which considerably tipped the balance of the war when they switched their allegiance to the Lannisters. Due to simple geography, of course, any one faction isn't actively fighting three others all the time. Simply due to the fact that they are located on opposite coasts of the continent the Greyjoys (off the west coast) and Stannis (off the east coast) aren't actively fighting each other while he's on Dragonstone. Stannis does nominally consider the North to be in rebellion against him, but in practice doesn't actively fight the North, because he's more concerned with retaking the capital city from the Lannisters. As seen in the TV series, the Starks do send peace overtures to the Baratheons, but Stannis refuses to allow the North to secede and take away vast territories which he feels are rightfully his. While the Greyjoys aren't actively fighting Stannis, they are not on the side of the Starks or the Lannisters, and are truly looking out only for their own interests.
By the point the novels reached, only one of the five titular leaders in the War of the Five Kings is still alive - Stannis.
- "First of His Name"
- "Fire and Blood"
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 map, special features - Areas of Control
- "Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things"
- "You Win or You Die"
- "Fire and Blood"
- "The Pointy End"
- "Garden of Bones"
- "A Man Without Honor"
- "The Prince of Winterfell"
- "The Old Gods and the New"
- "The Night Lands"
- "What Is Dead May Never Die"
- "Valar Morghulis"
- "Valar Dohaeris"
- "Dark Wings, Dark Words"
- "Walk of Punishment"
- "Kissed by Fire"
- "The Rains of Castamere"
- "The Laws of God and Men"
- "The Stormlands"
- "The Lion and the Rose"
- "Breaker of Chains"
- "The Mountain and the Viper"
- "The Children"
- "The Wars to Come"
- "The House of Black and White"
- "High Sparrow"
- "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"
- "The Gift"
- "The Dance of Dragons"
- "Mother's Mercy"
- "The Red Woman"
- "The Door"
- "The Broken Man"
- "Battle of the Bastards"
- "No One"
- "The Winds of Winter"
- "The Dragon and the Wolf"