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"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[src]

The War of the Five Kings, also known as the War of 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 two 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.[1]

Upon Robert Baratheon's death, his heir apparent, Prince Joffrey Baratheon, 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, Ser Jaime Lannister, leads both of Robert's younger brothers, Stannis and Renly Baratheon, 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, Eddard Stark, on false charges of treason by Joffrey.[2] 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.[3]

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.

Course of the conflict

Opening moves

Tyrion Lannister's abduction

"That bit of theater will haunt our family for a generation."
Tyrion Lannister to Cersei Lannister, speaking about the Execution of Eddard Stark by her son Joffrey.[src]

The stage was set for the war when Catelyn Stark seized Tyrion Lannister at the Inn at the Crossroads and accused him of the attempted murder of her son, Bran, based on claims made by Petyr Baelish. Bran had previously been crippled by Ser Jaime Lannister after he caught Jaime having sex with his sister and the king's wife, Queen Cersei Lannister, though he had no memory of this.[4] 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.[5] Ser Gregor Clegane led an auxiliary force and began striking at Houses supporting Catelyn's father, Lord Hoster Tully, in reprisal. [5]

The royalist force tasked by Ned Stark in Robert's name that would go on to become the Brotherhood Without Banners attacks the Lannister army in the Riverlands.

The death of Robert Baratheon

King Robert attempted to defuse the situation but failed, and soon after died.[5] Immediately upon hearing of his brother's death and having failed to win the support of Eddard Stark, the Hand of the King, in securing the throne for himself, Renly Baratheon fled King's Landing with his lover Ser Loras Tyrell, the heir to the Reach, and rode for Highgarden.[5] Prince Joffrey Baratheon immediately claimed the throne upon Robert's death with his mother's backing; however, Eddard Stark had learned from research by Jon Arryn, the previous Hand of the King who had been assassinated by Littlefinger (though seemingly by the Lannisters), that Joffrey and his siblings were not Robert's children at all: they were bastards born of incest between Queen Cersei and her own brother, Ser Jaime.[5] Lord Eddard had a proclamation written by King Robert which named him Regent and Protector of the Realm, but it was ignored by Queen 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 Lord Baelish, had Eddard arrested instead. Littlefinger held Lord Eddard with a dagger to his throat while Janos Slynt had the City Watch turn on Lord Eddard's household guards. The Lannister soldiers finished off the rest of the Stark household in King's Landing.[5] Unfortunately for Joffrey, he was unaware that Eddard had already sent a letter to Robert's brother, Lord Stannis Baratheon, 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.[5] On Dragonstone, Stannis likewise claimed the throne and began gathering his own supporters.[6]

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[src]

The Lannister force separated into two armies of 30,000 men each.[5] Ser Jaime Lannister 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,[7] and followed through on his victory by laying siege to Riverrun.[7] Lord Tywin Lannister led the other force himself, Jaime's victories allowing him to move northwest through the Riverlands unimpeded.[7]

The aftermath of the Battle of the Green Fork.

Receiving news of his father's arrest and a demand that he come to King's Landing and recognize Joffrey as King, Robb Stark mobilized the armies of the North and assembled a host of 20,000 men; due to the urgency of the situation and the vastness of the North, he could not wait for more.[7] He marched to the relief of the Riverlands, which were ruled by his maternal family, House Tully.[7] Lord Tywin moved to the east bank of the Green Fork of the Trident to intercept the Stark force.[7] Even winning the support of House Frey and its troops, despite the Freys being Tully bannermen, could not bring Robb's forces up to parity with the Lannisters, but it gave Robb an advantage in transportation and local intelligence.[8] Robb sent 2,000 men to pretend to attack Tywin's army.[8] 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.[8] There, Robb staged a feint to draw Jaime Lannister and a portion of his army into the woodlands. During the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Robb inflicted a significant defeat upon the Lannisters, destroying much of Jaime's host and capturing the Kingslayer himself.[8]

Receiving word of Jaime's defeat, Tywin realized that the Starks and Tullys were now free to unify against him, potentially bringing much greater numbers to bear against his smaller force. He retreated to Harrenhal, the formidable castle on the north banks of the Gods Eye, intending to fortify it and use it as a base of operations to conduct raids in the Riverlands.[6]

​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 Stark confessed to treason and recognized Joffrey as the King in an attempt by the small council to reach a truce with the Starks and allow them to deal with the Baratheons. Eddard was convinced to do this to protect his daughter, Sansa, who was held in King's Landing as a hostage. However, in an unexpected move, 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 Stark as the King in the North.[6]

King Robb Stark followed up on his success at Whispering Wood with several minor skirmishes against Lannister forces intending to drive them from away from the Red Fork of the Trident, to free the lands and holdfasts of the Riverlords who had recently sworn allegiance to him. He met little serious resistance, as the Lannisters were already in the process of withdrawing their forces to Harrenhal in the western Riverlands to regroup. 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 Baratheon), as well as a small strip of the southern Riverlands. Meanwhile, Robb Stark controlled the North and most of the Riverlands, Renly Baratheon 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.

King Joffrey appointed his grandfather, Tywin Lannister, as the new Hand of the King. However, due to the precarious situation of their forces, Tywin decided against going to King's Landing and instead appointed his son Tyrion Lannister as acting Hand of the King. His task was to keep the King under control and prevent him from committing another mistake such as Eddard Stark's execution, and to prepare King's Landing for an assault by the Baratheon forces in the south.

Robb Stark invades the Westerlands

"The Lannisters have been running from us since Oxcross."
―Robb Stark[src]

The aftermath of the Battle of Oxcross.

With Tywin encamped at Harrenhal, which was too strong a fortress to attack directly, Robb instead launched a limited invasion of the Lannister homelands in the west. He launched a surprise attack on the new Westerlands army gathering at the village of Oxcross, where new conscripts were being trained to replace the Lannister army group destroyed at the Whispering Wood. Robb destroyed the green Lannister army group in the resulting Battle of Oxcross, killing Ser Stafford Lannister in the process.[9] The victory left the Westerlands lightly defended. Robb went on to win a minor victory at the Battle of the Yellow Fork[10] and force the surrender of the Crag.[11] With the Lannister homelands under attack and a Baratheon attack on King's Landing imminent, Tywin had a difficult choice to make: to ride out and meet Robb's forces in battle, abandoning their strong defensive position at Harrenhal, or to fall back on King's Landing and help defend the city from Stannis. Tywin eventually decided to ride west because of the threat Robb's forces posed to his own stronghold at Casterly Rock; however, this was later revealed to be a ruse, as Tywin was actually bringing his Lannister forces back to King's Landing.[11] Tywin had already authorized secret negotiations with House Tyrell, the rulers of the Reach, to begin following Renly's death, in the hope of winning an alliance with them and their powerful army.[12]

While Robb Stark took part of his forces to invade the Westerlands, most of the day to day fighting of the war continued in the Riverlands. 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. Much of the Riverlands was devastated in the fighting. This culminated in the Battle of Stone Mill, in which Lord Edmure Tully preemptively attacked a Lannister army led by Gregor Clegane which was massing to cross the Red Fork. Edmure inflicted two to one casualties and the Lannisters withdrew. Lord Tywin's younger nephews Willem and Martyn Lannister were also captured. However, while this was a tactical victory, it was a strategic failure: Robb Stark's actual grand strategy had been to invade the Westerlands in order to lure the Lannisters back away from King's Landing, then lure them into a trap so that Gregor's army could be surrounded and destroyed. Instead, Gregor's army was temporarily defeated but left mostly intact, allowing the Lannister forces in the Riverlands to regroup and then leave Harrenhal to rush to the defense of King's Landing when Stannis Baratheon later attacked. Robb Stark blamed Edmure for not waiting to lure Gregor into a trap to the west; even though Robb gave him no clear orders that this was his intention.

The death of Renly Baratheon

Stannis Baratheon and his younger brother, Renly Baratheon, 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. However, Renly refused to take decisive action, relying on his popularity to draw more supporters to his cause while his enemies destroyed one another. Renly was receptive to an alliance with the Stark-Tully faction, and indeed sympathized with their cause, but insisted that Robb recognize Renly's continued sovereignty over the North, in return for an alliance against Joffrey and the Lannisters. Unfortunately for the Starks, Renly was assassinated before anything came to fruition.

Melisandre at the parley of Renly and Stannis.

During a failed summit between the rival Baratheon brothers, Renly was given an ultimatum to pledge his loyalty to Stannis and prevent any bloodshed, in return for Stannis returning Renly to his position on the small council); negotiation went awry however, with Renly openly disrespecting and defying his older brother, unconcerned with the small size of Stannis' army. Later that night, Renly is killed by a shadow in his own tent that Melisandre had given birth to beneath his camp. In the aftermath of his death, the army of the Reach withdrew for Highgarden on the orders of the Tyrells, 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

"They're starving, you fool! All because of a war you started!"
Tyrion Lannister to King Joffrey Baratheon[src]

Gold cloaks hold back rioting smallfolk from King Joffrey and his entourage.

During the course of the war the streets of the capital city began to overflow with many starving refugees escaping the war. Both Tyrion Lannister and Janos Slynt warned Queen Cersei that if something was not done with the starving refugees there would be a mounting discontent with her son's rule. However, the Queen ignored their warnings. The King and the Royal Court had gathered in the docks to see Myrcella Baratheon being sent to Dorne as part of their hopes of securing an alliance with House Martell. On their way back to the Red Keep, the refugees and commoners of King's Landing hurled insults at King 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 breaks out and spreads throughout the city, with the royal party barely making it back to the castle in one piece. With most of the regular Lannister army in the Riverlands fighting in the war under Lord Tywin Lannister, the scant two thousand City Watch guards had a difficult time containing the riot, and the chaos that reigned throughout the city. In the end the riot was put down, but many peasants and City Watch guards were killed during the riot along with the High Septon who was torn limb from limb by an angry mob.[12]

Rise of the kraken

"The North is ripe for the taking."
Balon Greyjoy[src]

While the Lannister and Stark forces were fighting in the Riverlands, Theon Greyjoy traveled to Pyke, the Iron Islands capital and familial castle, to negotiate with his father, Balon Greyjoy, under Robb Stark´s orders. At Pyke, Balon Greyjoy told Theon that he would proclaim himself King on the Iron Islands once more, and attack the North.[13] He then asked his son on which side he was: his or the Starks. After much soul-searching, Theon Greyjoy chose to declare loyalty to his father.[14] Balon Greyjoy would attack the coasts of the Nort, with his navy: Yara Greyjoy would lead most of the fleet to take Deepwood Motte, while Theon was given only one ship, the Sea Bitch, and was assigned to raiding small fishing villages. Under Dagmer's advice, Theon changed his plans and sieged Torrhen's Square, and then attacked Winterfell against Balon's orders. Bran Stark yielded before him, and Theon proclaimed himself Prince of Winterfell.[12] However, Bran and his younger brother, Rickon, soon escaped with two of their household servants and their direwolves, completely evading Theon's attempts to find them. They managed to sneak back into the crypts of Winterfell, though Theon was able to convince 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.[10] Expecting support from the Iron Islands, his sister Yara arrived shortly thereafter with a retinue of only twenty men. She came to warn 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 refused his sister's offer to return to the Iron Islands, and decided to hold Winterfell.[11]

Winterfell is left sacked by Ramsay Snow after the ironborn surrender.

After Yara's departure, a relief force of five hundred men, led by Ramsay Snow of House Bolton and sent under the orders of King Robb Stark, laid siege to the castle for at least one night. Theon attempted to rally his men to defend the stronghold and die fighting with an inspiring speech; his First Mate, Dagmer betrayed him, and Theon's small force presumably handed him over to Ramsay, who had been sent with an offer of mercy to the ironborn if they handed over Winterfell and Theon. Dagmer mortally wounded the castle's Maester, Luwin, as the ironborn dragged Theon away from the courtyard. As soon as the ironborn delivered Theon to the Boltons, Ramsay broke his promise of mercy and had them all flayed alive.[15]

Ramsay Snow sacked Winterfell and put it to the torch, while a dying Luwin moved himself to the Godswood. In secret, Bran and Rickon Stark managed to see Maester Luwin off before his death and escape the castle, along with two servants and their two direwolves. [15] The majority of the castle and outlying town still stands.

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 Lannister sprung a trap, detonating a boat filled with wildfire in the midst of Stannis's fleet as they passed into Blackwater Bay. The devastating explosion destroyed half of Stannis's ships and many of his men. Despite suffering such heavy casualties at the very opening of the battle, Stannis rallied the surviving ships and was able to put ashore thousands of troops. Stannis personally led the assault, and briefly managed to scale the walls with some of his men and attack the defenders. Sandor Clegane and Tyrion Lannister himself led several sorties outside the walls that destroyed the Baratheon siege equipment, but the badly outnumbered garrison soon found themselves encircled by Baratheon troops, leaving the city virtually undefended.

Wildfire destroys a large portion of Stannis Baratheon's fleet.

As the onslaught of Stannis's attacked continued and the city seemed about to fall, the combined armies of House Lannister and House Tyrell, under Tywin Lannister and Ser Loras respectively, charged and broke through Stannis's flank, sending his army into a panic and fleeing from the field. Tywin achieved total surprise by initially moving his army in a feint against Robb Stark, and instead marching it to King's Landing. Stannis was forced to return to Dragonstone with only the tattered remnants of his army and fleet. House Tyrell formally declared themselves for the King on the Iron Throne in return for a marriage pact between the King and Margaery Tyrell, giving King Joffrey Baratheon a massive numerical advantage over the Houses in rebellion.

The decisive Lannister-Tyrell victory also coincided with several egregious political blunders made by Robb Stark. Robb lost the support of House Frey when he chose to marry Talisa Maegyr for love, rather than honoring his marriage contract with Lord Walder Frey's daughter. Not long after, the men of House Karstark deserted him after he had their lord (and his kinsman) Rickard Karstark beheaded for the murder of Martyn and Willem Lannister. With almost half of his field army gone, and his enemies having more than doubled in numbers, Robb's faction found suddenly itself in great danger.[16]

The fall of kings

​The Red Wedding

Robb Stark subsequently withdrew his forces back to the Riverlands. He liberated Harrenhal, but the Lannisters had simply withdrawn and gave no battle.[17] After the death of his maternal grandfather, Robb marched his army back to Riverrun, but faced a bleak situation.[18] The Lannisters meanwhile focused on consolidating the south with their new Tyrell allies, content that time and resources were now on their side.[19][20]

Robb Stark's army was ultimately lured into a trap at the Twins where he was betrayed by House Frey and House Bolton, who had switched sides to the Lannisters. Having determined that he might be able to re-gain the initiative with a successful attack at Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister and the capitol of the Westerlands, Robb was negotiating to win back the Freys' support for the offensive, needing their levies to have the needed men for the attack; Walder Frey pretended to agree to the marriage of his daughter and Edmure Tully. After the wedding service, the Frey and Bolton bannermen slaughtered many of the Northern and Riverland lords as they were dining in the Twins, while others ambushed the Tully and Stark bannermen outside.

Robb grabs the corpse of his wife Talisa.

The Freys and Boltons not only betrayed their liege-lords, but the Freys also broke the solemn Guest right by attacking the Starks after formally accepting them into their castle as guests, and during a wedding no less. Robb Stark, his pregnant Queen Talisa Stark, his mother Catelyn and most of his loyal bannermen (including his allies and vassals Gregor Forrester and Wendel Manderly) were murdered in the massacre, which subsequently became known as the Red Wedding.[21] The entire Northern army Robb had led to fight in southern Westeros was annihilated, with the few survivors captured as political hostages including the head of House Tully, Edmure Tully. However, a small number of Tully bannermen, led by Robb's great-uncle, Brynden Tully (also known as "The Blackfish"), managed to escape.[22]

Aftermath of the Red Wedding

The destruction of Robb Stark's army and his death at the Twins marked a major turning point in the war, with the allied Houses of Lannister and Tyrell achieving a major victory over their largest and most numerically significant enemy. Joffrey Baratheon'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 of Arryn and Dorne remained neutral in the conflict. As a reward for their betrayal of the King in the North, Roose Bolton and Walder Frey were named Warden of the North and Lord Paramount of the Trident, respectively.[22]

The victory for the Iron Throne didn't mark the end of the war, however, as Stannis Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy continued to claim their respective crowns in opposition to King Joffrey. While Stannis remained free and determined to fight to reclaim the Iron Throne, his army of twenty thousand had been broken and wittled down to four thousand, and his fleet only counting thirty-two ships.[23] 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 Stormlands descended into war as the survivors started to seize the lands of the dead and those who remained loyal to Stannis.[24] 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, though his standing forces were suffering considerable casualties against the Boltons. Meanwhile, the outlaw band known as the Brotherhood without Banners (who were followers of the Lord of Light and, therefore, supporters of Stannis) 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. The Lannisters, anxious to maintain control in the capital, gave little support to the Freys and Boltons besides their titles, which only served to shift the blame for the Red Wedding further onto them.

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 rebellious claimants like Stannis Baratheon.[19][25]. Indeed, the Iron Bank was later convinced to fund Stannis after his Hand of the King, Ser Davos Seaworth, argued that, upon Tywin Lannister's death, there was no viable successor to guarantee their interests and repay the Bank's debts.[23] Tensions continued to exist in the alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, a relationship which was beneficial to the latter but not necessarily for the former, especially due to the casualties and debts the Lannisters suffered in their battles with Robb's army. The Tyrells' popularity had also been rising in parts of the Kingdoms such as King's Landing, where they guaranteed a steady food supply.

The Lannisters' position steadily decayed and became worse, as their hold as the 'strongest' House waned. In a private conversation with his daughter, Tywin Lannister revealed that the gold mines beneath Casterly Rock had run dry years ago, and that the Westerlands did not produce the riches they used to, exacerbating the Crown's debt-crises. Concerned over the growing power of Daenerys Targaryen in Essos, Tywin also sought to gain the support of House Martell - the ruling House of Dorne and the only kingdom that successfully resisted Aegon the Conqueror - by offering Prince Oberyn Martell a seat on the small council. However, this gesture of diplomacy was impeded by the Martells' hatred for House Lannister, as a result of the death of Elia Martell, the sister of Oberyn and Doran Martell, the ruling Prince of Dorne, during the Sack of King's Landing.[1]

Forrester-Whitehill conflict
Main article: Forrester-Whitehill conflict

​The Purple Wedding

During his own wedding to Margaery Tyrell, King Joffrey Baratheon was killed by poison. His uncle, Tyrion Lannister, who had been regularly humiliated by Joffrey and was holding his wine glass before his death, was accused by Queen Regent Cersei Lannister of the king's murder.[25]" Tyrion was arrested and put on trial for regicide. His wife, Sansa Stark, was also seen as having planned the murder, as Joffrey's abuse of her was common knowledge; however, Sansa managed to flee King's Landing with help from Petyr Baelish.[26] who had devised the plot to kill Joffrey together with Olenna Tyrell.

Joffrey is killed after being poisoned.

Joffrey was succeede​d as King by his younger brother, Tommen Baratheon. 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 Lannister and Margaery Tyrell. 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 his brother's widow, Margaery, in order to keep the loyalty of House Tyrell, whose supplies were needed to feed the Kingdom and whose gold was needed to pay the Crown's debts; his early friendship with Margaery, despite their age differences, helped ease some of the tension between the Lannisters and Tyrells.[1]

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 his other son, Jaime, would leave the Kingsguard and accept his title as Tywin's heir again. However, the perjury of Tyrion's lover, Shae, who claimed that both Tyrion and Sansa planned Joffrey's murder, led him to refuse the deal and, after a brutal declaration to the court, he demanded a trial by combat.[1] Cersei chose ​Ser Gregor Clegane "the Mountain" as her champion while Tyrion was approached by Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne to act as his. Oberyn's sought vengeance against Gregor Clegane for the rape and murder of his sister, Elia Martell, 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.[27]

The death of Tywin Lannister

Before his execution could take place, Tyrion Lannister was freed from confinement by his brother Jaime in conjunction with Varys, Master of Whispers. Before escaping the city with Varys, Tyrion strangled his former lover, Shae, and assassinated his father Tywin with a crossbow, murdering the Hand of the King and leaving the rule of King's Landing in an uncertain position.[28]

In the aftermath of Tywin's death, many high lords who owed their allegiances to the Lannisters travel to the capital for the deceased Hand's funeral and, according to Jaime Lannister, to witness that he is really dead. Among those who attend the funeral is Tywin's younger brother, Kevan Lannister. In the wake of his brother's death, he 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, much to Kevan's dismay (as well as the fact that his son is one of them) since they never would have dared come when Tywin was still alive.[29]

In the wake of her father's death, Cersei seized control of the small council, announcing that she would speak on the king's behalf until he came of age, and that a new Hand of the King would not be appointed, despite offers from Lord Tyrell and Grand Maester Pycelle. She appointed her ally, former Maester Qyburn, as the new Master of Whispers (as Varys is believed to have released Tyrion), and Lord Tyrell appointed as the new Master of Coin. However her uncle, Kevan Lannister, 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.[30]

Cersei kisses the corpse of her father Tywin.

In order to cement their alliance with the Tyrells, the Lannisters rapidly married King Tommen to Margaery Tyrell, his brother's widow. This was not to the liking of Cersei, who felt her power waning with every passing day just as Margaery's influence over her son grew.[31] In addition, the Iron Bank (despite having secretly aligned with Stannis against the Lannisters) called in ten percent of the debt owed by the Crown. Lord Tyrell, as Master of Coin, told the small council that they could only pay half of that amount. Despite his offer that the Tyrells could provide the funds and be repaid in due time, Cersei refused and sent Lord Tyrell to Braavos to negotiate directly with the bankers for better terms.[30]

Stannis's campaign in the North

After the Red Wedding, Roose Bolton was appointed Warden of the North until such time a son was born to Tyrion and Sansa, the rightful heir to Winterfell and the dominions in the North. However, the ironborn still controlled the majority of the once Stark-held lands, and it fell onto Lord Bolton to reconquer them. Despite being officially supported by the Iron Throne, Bolton knew that Tywin Lannister would do nothing to help him against the Greyjoys. With the ironborn in possession of the fortress of Moat Cailin, his army remained trapped south of the Neck. Knowing that his bastard son Ramsay had captured Theon Greyjoy, he planned to use him as ransom and exchange him for Moat Cailin. First, however, he needed to return north: Bolton and a small company of his men, including Locke and his new wife Walda Bolton, smuggled themselves into the North and made for the Bolton seat at the Dreadfort. There, Bolton discovered that his bastard had badly mutilated and broken Theon, using him as a plaything more than a hostage. Angered, he was nevertheless interested to hear that Bran and Rickon Stark were still alive. Realizing that the continued existence of the Stark boys would harm his claim to the North, Bolton sent Locke to hunt them down and kill them; Locke was later killed by Bran in the ensuing confrontation north of the Wall. He also instructed Ramsay to head south and reclaim Moat Cailin in the name of House Bolton.[25]

Moat Cailin is surrendered by the ironborn to House Bolton, allowing the Bolton armies to march back north.

After a failed attempt by Yara Greyjoy to rescue her brother from the Boltons[23], Ramsay headed south to Moat Cailin with ​a Bolton army and Theon, who entered the ironborn-occupied keep with the Boltons' peace terms. When Ralf Kenning, the ironborn commander refused to surrender, his men turned on him and offered themselves up. Once the Boltons were through the gates, Ramsay flayed the ironborn garrison as a message to the remaining Greyjoys. His detachment later met up with his father's army, and 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, which although burned, wasn't destroyed.[27]

Stannis Baratheon's army attacks the wildling camp, aiding the Night's Watch in repulsing the wildling attack on the Wall.

Despite the Boltons' success in imposing their rule, a major threat lay further to the north at the Wall. 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.[22] Only one answered: Stannis Baratheon. Now backed by the powerful Iron Bank and having partialy rebuilt his army, Stannis 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.[28] With this victory, Stannis planned to march south to capture Winterfell and gain the support of the disgruntled Northern Houses against Lannister-backed Bolton rule.[29] However, despite his attempt to rally the Northmen against the Boltons, he was rebuffed by most, such as Lyanna Mormont, the Lady of Bear Island, who refused to recognize any king who wasn't a Stark. His failed attempt to convince Jon Snow, Eddard Stark's bastard son, to be legitimized as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, left him without a Stark in his midst to win over the Northmen.[30]

As Roose Bolton set up his seat of power at Winterfell, he also recognized that he wouldn't be able to hold the North if the other lords rose up against him. This was made clear when Ramsay was sent to recover taxes from Lord Medger Cerwyn, who remained staunchly loyal to the Starks. Ramsay flayed Lord Cerwyn, his wife and his brother before the eyes of his son, and returned to Winterfell with the taxes. Chastising his son for being too brutal, Roose told him that he had planned a marriage for him now that he was a legitimate Bolton: a marriage to Sansa Stark, the heir to Winterfell who was hiding from the Lannisters in the Vale under the protection of Lord Petyr Baelish. With Sansa as Ramsay's bride, the Boltons' hold on the North would be strengthened. In addition, Baelish and Bolton both know that the weakening power of the Lannisters (as a result of Tywin's death) was no longer a sure guarantee for their power and that they needed to secure new allies to maintain what they have gained thanks to the war: Baelish 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.[31]

Baelish returned to King's Landing on the orders of Queen Cersei, where he informed her that the Boltons planned to marry Sansa to Ramsay. He also told her that Stannis has left Castle Black and was marching on Winterfell. Cersei was reluctant to send an army up north, despite her fury at Bolton's betrayal, because the weather had started to turn and winter had finally arrived. Baelish requested permission to lead the Knights of the Vale, who were trained to fight in winter conditions, 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.[32]

As Stannis marched on Winterfell, the winter snows intensified and trapped his army somewhere between Winterfell and Castle Black. As the weather worsened, supplies became scarce, horses froze to death, and men started to abandon Stannis: the Stormcrows, a mercenary band of five hundred men, deserted in the dead of night. Stannis nevertheless refused to heed his Hand, Ser Davos, who advised him to turn back and winter at Castle Black. Resolutely, Stannis would not run as he had at the Blackwater. Melisanre, however, believed that it was still possible to move towards Winterfell, and suggested that by sacrificing his daughter, the power of royal blood would bring about a thaw to allow Stannis's army to march south again. Stannis refused to entertain the idea.[33]

Due to the deep snows, Roose Bolton chose to remain at Winterfell: a siege in winter would force Stannis's troops to freeze, starve, and mutiny. While Ramsay wanted to meet Stannis in the field, the worsening weather would have been too difficult to maneuver an army, so he was instead granted twenty men for a raiding party. Achieving total surprise, Ramsay's sabotage wreaked havoc on Stannis's camp; his few remaining supplies were destroyed, as well as the few hundred horses he had left.[34] In his desparation, Stannis conceded to sacrificing Shireen so that his army could move once again. He ordered his Hand to return to Castle Black and demand help from the Night's Watch, knowing that Ser Davos would object. After Melisandre gave his daugther to the flames[35], a thaw came about that allowed Stannis to mobilize his army towards Winterfell.[36]

Melisandre sacrifices Shireen Baratheon to the Lord of Light, believing that such a sacrifice will clear the snows for Stannis to march onto Winterfell.

As Stannis prepared for his final march on Winterfell in the morning, he received word that a full half of his remaining men, including all of his sellswords, deserted in the night, taking the last of the horses with them. His wife, Selyse was found by his bannermen after hanging herself from a tree in the night, and his red priestess Melisandre had been seen leaving camp for Castle Black in the early hours. In spite of everything, Stannis ordered his soldiers to prepare for an assault on Winterfell. With the former Stark stronghold in sight, Stannis readied his men to give siege, only to be met by a numerically-superior charge of Bolton cavalry, completely enveloping his army. Severely outnumbered, weary, and without cavalry of his own, Stannis gave battle as his own men started to flee.

After the bulk of his remaining army was slaughtered to a man, Stannis found himself alone a nearby forest, standing over two dead Bolton bannermen but injured. Slumped down at the base of a tree, he had been tracked down by Brienne of Tarth, who demanded justice for Renly's death; before being put to the sword, Stannis confessed to summoning a shadow to kill his own brother, and tells Brienne to "mete out her duty".[36]

The Bolton forces attack the weakened Baratheon army.

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, and their combined forces comprised the largest hosts in the North. House Manderly, which holds the North's only city White Harbor and controls the only host that can match the Umbers and the Karstarks, has refused to bend the knee to the Boltons, remaining loyal to the Starks. 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. Roose Bolton feared that, without her under their hold and without her to carry Ramsay's heir, the other Northern Houses would have an excuse to oppose them when the Lannisters march north to punish his insurrection of organizing Sansa's marriage to Ramsay. His fears were strengthened when Lord Harald Karstark came to Winterfell, revealing that the hunters sent to find Sansa had been found dead.[37][38]

The death of Balon Greyjoy

Euron Greyjoy confronts his brother Balon on the bridges of Pyke, where he kills him.

After Yara Greyjoy informed her father, King Balon Greyjoy, that House Glover had retaken Deepwood Motte and they had no more holdings on the mainland, Balon stated that he did not care and Yara declared that the War of the Five Kings was over, with him being the sole survivor of the conflict – but by no means the victor. Later that rainy night, while crossing a rickety wooden bridge, King Balon was confronted by his brother Euron Greyjoy, with Euron throwing his brother off the bridge to his death.[38]

With the passing of Balon Greyjoy, the ironborn held a Kingsmoot to elect a new king of the Iron Islands. Yara Greyjoy elected herself with the support of her returned brother promising not to waste ships and men in the fruitless campaigns of her father. While many had respect for her, the ironborn were dismayed at the prospect of a queen instead of a king.[39] Despite admitting to fratricide and regicide, Euron was ultimately elected as the new King of the Iron Islands by promising to restart hositilities with the mainlaind, build a new fleet, and seek Daenerys Targaryen's help in conquering Westeros. In the aftermath of the Kingsmoot, Yara and Theon fled the Iron islands with much of the Iron Fleet and their supporters, escapting Euron's wrath. Undeterred, Euron ordered the ironborn still remaining to build a thousand more ships using any trees they can find.[39]

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.[40] Once they arrived in Meereen, they made Daenerys an offer: in exchange for using their ships to sail her army to Westeros and supporting her claim to the Iron Throne, Daenerys must help Yara and Theon retake the Iron Islands from Euron. On condition of her agreeing, the ironborn will be prohibited from raiding in the future.[41]

Conflict in the Riverlands

Riverrun falls under siege of Houses Frey and Lannister after the Blackfish leads the Tully army into recapturing their ancestral home.

"As long as I'm standing, the war is not over!"
―Brynden Tully to Jaime Lannister[src]

After the Red Wedding, Brynden Tully managed to reform the armies of House Tully and retake Riverrun from the Freys. It is implied that the Blackfish plans to lead a counter-attack and retake the rest of the Riverlands from House Frey. After the retaking of Riverrun, Houses Mallister and Blackwood have also risen in rebellion against the Freys and the Brotherhood without Banners, led by Lord Beric Dondarrion, are raiding their supply lines and camps. Upon learning of this success, Sansa sent Brienne of Tarth to form an alliance with Riverrun, while King Tommen sent his uncle Jaime Lannister at the head of a Lannister detachment to force Riverrun's surrender.

Jaime was the first to arrive at Riverrun, accompanied by Ser Bronn and 8,000 Lannister soldiers. The Frey soldiers are making threats of hanging Lord Edmure Tully, but Brynden seem to not care about the fate of his nephew, and the Freys don't go through with their threats. After assuming command of the siege, Jaime tries to negotiate with Brynden to peacefully surrender, but as with the Freys, the Blackfish refuses to yield.[40]

Brienne arrives at Riverrun and asks to see Jaime. Once they meet, she explains the situation regarding Sansa and the campaign against the Boltons. Jaime agrees to let Brienne try to negotiate with Brynden, and lets her enter the castle. Once inside, Brienne argues with the Blackfish into helping his family take back Winterfell, but the Blackfish would rather defend his own home, Riverrun. Brienne tells her squire Podrick Payne to send a raven to Sansa, informing her she has failed to secure the backing of the Blackfish and the Tully army in their campaign to take back Winterfell.

At night, Jaime speaks with the captive Edmure about his wife Roslin Tully and their child. He offers to let him and his family live in a comfortable exile at Casterly Rock, also offering to Edmure's son a proper education and some lands when he comes of age. In turn, he would have to make the Tully forces surrender to the Freys and Lannisters. Edmure accepts the offer after some convincing, and is let into Riverrun. He orders the Tully garrison to surrender, and to put the Blackfish in chains. At this moment, Brienne and Podrick are escaping the castle by an exit that leads to a river. She suggests the Blackfish comes with her, but he says he won't run away this time, and chooses to stay and die fighting. Later, Jaime is informed of Brynden's death. He sees Brienne and Podrick escaping on a boat, and they wave goodbye to each other.[42]

Sometime after the Lannisters depart from the Riverlands following their celebration with the Freys over Jaime's victory at Riverrun, Walder summons Walder Rivers and Lothar Frey to his feast hall, but they never come. A serving girl offers him a meat pie, and after he eats a slice, reveals that she killed his sons and baked them into the pie. She then pulls off her face and reveals herself as Arya Stark, and kills Walder as revenge for the Red Wedding.[43] Afterwards, using her training learned from the Faceless Men of Braavos, Arya disguises herself using Walder's face and invites the Frey men to a feast at the Twins, where she has them all poisoned. After they fall, Arya reveals herself to the surviving Freys, warning them of the consequences to betraying the North and House Stark. In response to the extinction of House Frey, Lannister soldiers are sent to the Riverlands in order to keep the peace.[44]

Fall of the mockingbird

Following the Battle of the Bastards, House Stark retook Winterfell and restored its power in the North. Sansa Stark became the Lady of Winterfell while Jon Snow was declared the King in the North by the lords of the North and the Vale, the latter of whom came to the aid of the Starks as part of an alliance between Sansa and Petyr Baelish, the Lord Protector of the Vale.[41][43]

While Jon Snow negotiating with Daenerys Targaryen on Dragonstone as she begins her invasion of Westeros, Bran Stark and Arya Stark returned to Winterfell. Gradually losing his influential hold over Sansa, Petyr Baelish plotted to turn the Stark siblings against each other; however, his plot was foiled, and Baelish was called to trial in the great hall of Winterfell. There, he was found guilty of conspiring against House Stark, and instigating the conflict between House Stark and House Lannister, which led to the greater War of the Five Kings. He was executed by Arya Stark on Sansa's orders, marking the extinction of House Baelish and the complete end of the War of the Five Kings.[45]

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 Baratheon, who was succeeded by his younger brother, Tommen Baratheon, another bastard born of incest between Queen Cersei Lannister and her twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister. 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. Constant raids in the Riverlands and the downfall of House Baratheon in the Stormlands had destabilized both regions, laying waste to villages, towns and crops, and making countless victims among the smallfolk. The violation of guest right (held particularly sacred by the poorest in Westeros) at the Red Wedding only exacerbated the situation. 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. Rejecting material possessions in favour of pious devotion to the Seven, the Sparrows 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 Lannister, the Hand of the King. Reacting against the corruption present in the Faith's organized leadership, they forced the sitting High Septon to perform a walk of atonement through King's Landing after finding him insulting the Gods at a brothel.

Queen Mother Cersei Lannister, who had seized power after her father's death, saw opportunity in the newly-formed sect to move against her rivals in House Tyrell, whose influence had increased with Margaery Tyrell's marriage to King Tommen. Forming 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. She also restored the Faith's power to mete out justice for crimes against the Gods, a right that the Targaryens had taken from them hundreds of years prior, after similar uprisings.

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. Alcohol distributors and idolatry were banned, and Littlefinger's infamous brothels were ransacked. Men found in the act of homosexuality, a grave sin in the eyes of the Seven, were castrated. This also led to the arrest of Ser Loras Tyrell, the heir to Highgarden and the Queen Mother's bethrothed, who was himself a known homosexual. 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 Tyrell on charges of homosexuality and Margaery Tyrell on charges of lying to the Faith on oath, he also had Cersei imprisoned on the charges of incest and murdering King Robert I, crimes which are confessed by Lancel Lannister, Cersei's cousin who joined the Sparrows and conspired with Cersei in these crimes.

After undergoing a humiliating walk of atonement, Cersei returned to the Red Keep, where her uncle Kevan Lannister now serves as Hand of the King and Protector of the Realm. Kevan works with the small council and Olenna Tyrell, the mother of Lord Mace Tyrell, the current head of House Tyrell and a member of the small council himself, to deny any influence to Cersei and her brother, Jaime Lannister, who continues to serve as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Meanwhile, 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, King Tommen dismissed Ser Jaime from the Kingsguard and sent him off to the Riverlands to assist House Frey in taking back Riverrun, which was being held by an army of House Tully commanded by Ser Brynden Tully. For her role in the forgery of this alliance, Margaery wass forgiven for her crimes, though Loras and Cersei still had to stand trial.

Margaery feigned manipulation by the Sparrows, though she reassured her grandmother Olenna that she was faking it and simply playing the game to remove the High Sparrow from power. She advised Olenna to return to Highgarden, which she does. Cersei was confident that she would be able to use Gregor Clegane in a trial by combat; however, still under the High Sparrow's influence, King Tommen instead banned trial by combat across the realm. During the same royal announcement, he informed the court that Loras' and Cersei's trials will be held on the first day of the Festival of the Mother. Qyburn then approaches Cersei, informing the Queen Mother that his "little birds" have confirmed a rumor she told him.

The Great Sept of Baelor explodes from wildfire, killing all those inside and around it.

At the Great Sept of Baelor, Loras confessed to his crimes to the seven judging septons, one of whom includes the High Sparrow himself, and the gathered court, which includes Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell, and Queen Margaery. Loras is inducted into the Faith Militant as Brother Loras, much to his father's anger and disgust, though Margaery tried to reassure him that it is the only way. The High Sparrow then sent Brother Lancel to fetch for Cersei and Tommen at the Red Keep, after failing to appear at the Great Sept; instead, Lancel follows one of Qyburn's little birds beneath the city. The child later stabs Lancel in his spine, paralyzing him. The injured Lancel managed to drag himself to the end of the tunnel, where he is shocked to find cracked barrels of wildfire and three lit candles. Meanwhile, in the Red Keep, Cersei sends Gregor to prevent Tommen from attending the trial while Qyburn has Grand Maester Pycelle killed with his little birds. By the time Lancel raches the candles, it is too late; the wildfire explodes, destroying the Great Sept of Baelor and killing all of those inside and around it. A large portion of the capital is destroyed as Cersei watches on in joy, wiping out hundreds of lords, ladies, and commoners, of which include most of Cersei's enemies, while King Tommen watches in horror and shock. After witnessing the so-called "Green Trial," Gregor leaves the empty King Tommen in his room. After being informed of the confirmation of the death of his wife Queen Margaery, Tommen takes off his crown and jumps out of the window, killing himself. Later, Qyburn shows Cersei her son's corpse, and the empty Cersei has the body burnt and the ashes spread where the Great Sept once stood. Cersei then ascends the Iron Throne with Qyburn as her Hand, who proclaims Cersei Queen of the Andals and the First Men and Protector of the Seven Kingdoms. The court watches on in shock and silence while her brother, Jaime, who has returned from the Second Siege of Riverrun, watches on grimly, knowing what Cersei has done to achieve her power.

War for the North

Despite their role in defeating King Stannis I Baratheon, House Bolton betrays the Iron Throne when Roose Bolton weds Sansa Stark to his bastard son, Ramsay Bolton, who was legitimized by King Tommen I Baratheon. This alliance is forged by Roose Bolton and Petyr Baelish, who secretly helped Sansa escape King's Landing after the Purple Wedding, where King Joffrey I Baratheon had been poisoned. Sansa is believed to be one of the perpetrators, as is her former husband Tyrion Lannister, though it was truly done by Olenna Tyrell and Littlefinger himself.

With the help of Theon Greyjoy, however, Sansa escapes from Winterfell and is taken to Castle Black, accompanied by Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne, where her bastard half-brother Jon Snow had recently been resurrected by the will of Ser Davos Seaworth and Melisandre, a red priestess, after facing a mutiny for allowing the Free Folk to cross the Wall. Both Davos and Melisandre were former advisors to the late King Stannis. There, Sansa and Jon plot to retake Winterfell from the Boltons. Jon is initially reluctant, but after learning that the Boltons have taken Rickon Stark, their youngest brother, hostage, and is convinced by Sansa that they won't be safe as long as the Boltons rule, he is convinced.

Tormund helps convince the Free Folk to fight for Jon and Sansa's army. Jon, Sansa, and Davos travel around the North, appealing to various Noble Houses in the North. They are able to gain the support of House Mormont, House Hornwood, and House Mazin, though collectively their army does not have enough troops to take back Winterfell. Still, Jon insists that they must attack with what they have, so Sansa sends a raven to an unknown party requesting for assistance.

Meanwhile, at Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton 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, who is present when Ramsay assassinates his family, as well as House Umber through Smalljon Umber, who hands over Rickon Stark to Ramsay.

After an uneventful parley, the Stark-Wildling and Bolton armies clash just outside of Winterfell at the Battle of the Bastards. Rickon is killed shortly before the battle after he is pierced by one of Ramsay's arrows, which causes the Stark army to march forward and fall into a Bolton phalanx. Though the Stark and Free Folk forces are on the verge of complete annihilation, they are relieved when a strong cavalry force of House Arryn, the rulers of the Vale, arrives and smashes the Bolton army. The army is led by none other than Littlefinger and Sansa at the behest of Robin Arryn. Ramsay and his officers retreat to Winterfell, though it is liberated by the Stark army when Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, a giant, smashes through the gates. The survivors of the Bolton garrison are either killed or surrender to the Starks and wildlings.In the aftermath of the battle, Ramsay is devoured by his own hounds as a form of execution by Sansa Stark, resulting in the extinction of House Bolton. Sansa becomes the new Lady of Winterfell. At a meeting between the lords of the North and the Vale, Jon Snow is proclaimed the King in the North, thus reviving the Kingdom of the North.

Coup in Dorne

Angered by the deaths of Elia Martell and Oberyn Martell at the hands of House Lannister and Gregor Clegane, the former during Robert's Rebellion twenty years ago and the latter recently defending Tyrion Lannister during a trial by combat, Ellaria Sand, the late Oberyn's paramour, demands justice to Prince Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne. Doran refuses to hurt his ward and Cersei Lannister's daughter, Myrcella Baratheon, who is betrothed to his son, Prince Trystane Martell. Ellaria instead gathers the support of three of the Sand Snakes, Oberyn's bastard daughters: Obara Sand, Tyene Sand, and Nymeria Sand. Ellaria and the Sand Snakes plot to assassinate Myrcella in retaliation for Elia and Oberyn's deaths. The four send a threatening message to Cersei: Myrcella's stolen necklace in the clutches of a viper. Pressured by his sister and lover Cersei, Jaime Lannister recruits Bronn and the two secretly enter Dorne to rescue Myrcella, who, like Joffrey and Tommen, is also born of incest between Cersei and Jaime.

Jaime and Bronn, disguised as Martell guards, eventually infiltrate the Water Gardens, where they duel against Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria for Myrcella. However, before Nymeria can escape with the captive princess, they are stopped and imprisoned by Areo Hotah, the Captain of the Guards for Prince Doran. Jaime is eventually brought before Prince Doran, who dines with his son Trystane, Myrcella, and Ellaria. Knowing that King Tommen insists on Myrcella's return to King's Landing, Doran agrees as long as his son Trystane can sit on the small council as Oberyn was meant to and as long as Trystane and Myrcella's marriage can continue. As punishment for assaulting Prince Trystane, he has Areo Hotah brutally punch Bronn in his face.

Ellaria kisses Myrcella on her lips as she prepares to leave for the capital with Trystane, Jaime and Bronn. On the ship, Jaime attempts to explain the truth to Myrcella, but she admits to already knowing that Jaime is his father, and expresses her happiness that he is. Suddenly, blood begins to pour from her nose: she has been poisoned by Ellaria.

After learning of Myrcella's death, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes stage their coup d'etat: Ellaria and Tyene murder Prince Doran, Areo Hotah, and Maester Caleotte, while Nymeria and Obara, who infiltrated the ship, murder Prince Trystane. Thus, House Martell goes extinct as Ellaria, Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria Sand seize power over Dorne, still desperate to avenge the deaths of Elia and Oberyn Martell and to go to war against the Lannisters.


The Riverlands are among the regions that are left devastated from the War of the Five Kings.

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.


The King on the Iron Throne

Joffrey I "Baratheon", the King on the Iron Throne

Joffrey Baratheon is said to be the eldest son of King Robert I. After Robert's death, Joffrey was crowned as the new King of the Andals and the First Men, and his mother, Cersei Lannister, was named Queen Regent in defiance of Robert's will. Shortly before his death, Robert named Lord Eddard Stark the Lord Regent and Protector of the Realm until his eldest son came of age. Ned reworded Robert's will, however, changing "eldest son" to "heir," as he, like the previous Hand of the King, Lord Jon Arryn, discovered a shocking truth that not even Robert knew: Joffrey, as well as his siblings Myrcella and Tommen, were in fact bastards born of incest between Cersei and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. In order to protect them, Cersei raised them as Robert's sons. Shortly before he was executed on the orders of the new king Joffrey, Ned Stark sent a letter to Stannis Baratheon informing him of his discoveries, and reminding Stannis that this would make him the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. As Joffrey actually sits on the Iron Throne, however, he is referred to as "the King on the Iron Throne." Joffrey is 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 is 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.

The King in the Narrow Sea

Stannis I Baratheon, the "King in the Narrow Sea"

Stannis Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne on the basis that he was the rightful heir to his late brother, King Robert I. During his tenure as Hand of the King, Lord Eddard Stark discovered that Robert's three "children" were in fact bastards born of incest between Robert's wife, Cersei Lannister, and her twin brother, Jaime Lannister. Lord Jon Arryn had also discovered this; however, before he could tell anyone, he mysteriously died, allegedly from a fever, though in reality he had been poisoned by his wife Lysa Arryn on Petyr Baelish's orders. Prior to his execution on the orders of Robert's "eldest son" Joffrey I, Ned Stark sent a letter to Dragonstone informing Stannis of the truth. Stannis, being the middle child between Robert and their younger brother Renly, declared himself the rightful King of the Andals and the First Men. 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 a red priestess named 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.

The King in Highgarden

Renly I Baratheon, "the King in Highgarden"

Renly Baratheon laid claim to the Iron Throne just as his elder brother Stannis did, as well as his alleged nephew, Joffrey Baratheon. Renly was the youngest brother of Stannis and King Robert I. During Robert's reign, both of his Hands - Lords Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark - learned that Robert's three children, Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, were bastards born of incest between Robert's wife, Cersei Lannister, and her twin brother Jaime Lannister. Despite this, both Arryn and Stark died, and Joffrey succeeded his "father" on the Iron Throne with the backing of House Lannister. 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 I in 299 AC, he was the first of the five kings to die in the war.

The King in the North

Robb Stark, the King in the North

Robb Stark did not lay claim to the Iron Throne; instead, 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. Earlier, while the royal family was staying in the Stark's seat of Winterfell, young Bran Stark caught the Queen Consort Cersei Lannister and her twin brother Jaime Lannister committing incest; Jaime pushed the 10 year old boy out of a window, with the intent of killing him. Though Bran survived, he could not remember the events of that day. Tensions between the two families only worsened when Catelyn Stark's sister Lysa Arryn sent a raven to Catelyn with a message, stating that Lysa's husband, the late Jon Arryn, was poisoned by the Lannisters. Afterwards, while serving as the Hand of the King in King's Landing to King Robert I, Lord Eddard Stark learned that Robert's three children were the product of incest between Robert's wife, Cersei, and Jaime Lannister, her twin brother. Though he was able to tell Robert's brother, Stannis, of this revelation, he was ultimately sentenced to death by Joffrey I, who succeeded his "father". Meanwhile, Catelyn placed Tyrion Lannister, Cersei and Jaime's youngest brother, under arrest and had him tried at the Eyrie, the seat of House Arryn, for plotting to murder her son. Though he was released after his champion, Bronn, won a subsequent trial by combat, Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin Lannister, declared war on House Tully of Riverrun, the rulers of the Riverlands and Catelyn and Lysa's family. After learning of his father's imprisonment, the Starks sent aid to the Tullys, and intended to eventually march onto King's Landing to demand Ned Stark's release; however, after Lord Stark's execution, the Northern lords and Riverlords under Robb declared him King in 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.

The King of the Iron Islands

Balon Greyjoy, the King of the Iron Islands

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. Existence on the Iron Islands is harsh, with little available in terms of resources, and historically its sea-faring inhabitants have relied on raiding and pillaging, as evidenced by their core motto, "paying the iron price". This, as well as worshipping their own diety, the Drowned God, makes them a culturally-distinct group from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. As the War of the Five Kings unfolded, Balon sought to take advantage of the chaos of the conflict by declaring independence and resuming his peoples' customary raiding expeditions. Balon focused his reavers' pillaging on 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 Greyjoy 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 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 Greyjoy 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 of the Reach, 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 Baratheon (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.

See also