- "Every time I use it, it'll be like cutting off Ned Stark's head all over again."
- ―Joffrey Baratheon
Widow's Wail is one of two Valyrian steel blades made from Ice, the ancestral sword of House Stark. It is given by Tywin Lannister as a wedding gift to his grandson King Joffrey Baratheon at the breakfast prior to the wedding ceremony. Its sister blade is Oathkeeper.
A member of the Kingsguard presents the sword in its scabbard for the king's approval while Tywin announces that it is one of only two swords of Valyrian steel in King's Landing. Overjoyed, Joffrey quickly draws the blade and begins to toy with it, leading Pycelle to warn him of Valyrian steel's famous edge. Joffrey responds with a swift hack at his copy of Maester Kaeth's Lives of Four Kings (which Tyrion had just presented him with a few moments earlier), but it takes him several more swipes to completely destroy it. He then asks the other guests present at the breakfast to think of a name for the blade. After a few suggestions, he quickly settles on the name "Widow's Wail", befitting to Joffrey’s petty cruelty whilst noting that it would be like beheading Ned Stark whenever he used it.
When the ceremonial pigeon pie is brought out at the wedding feast, Joffrey uses Widow's Wail to slice the crust open so the birds can fly out. His cut was so savage that some of the pigeons inside are decapitated. He never leaves the wedding with it however, as he is poisoned moments later.
While naturally, Widow's Wail would have been passed down to Tommen Baratheon, by choice or advice, he never took up the weapon. Unseen after Joffrey's funeral, it was assumed to reside somewhere within the Red Keep, possibly tainted in the eyes of potential inheritors as consequence of the cruelty of Joffrey during his reign, though the blade itself was not wielded during any of the atrocities committed.
Jaime Lannister takes to carrying Widow's Wail after his return from the Riverlands. After the Sack of Highgarden, Olenna Tyrell notices Jaime wielding Joffrey's sword and asks him if he will use it to kill her, to which Jaime replies that he will not, choosing to use poison instead. When Olenna asks what Joffrey called his sword, Jaime replies, "Widow's Wail", to which Olenna calls Joffrey a cunt and to which Jaime agrees silently.
Jaime later brings it with him when he leaves King's Landing and heads north.
Widow's Wail is temporarily confiscated by Grey Worm upon Jaime's arrival in Winterfell. It is returned to him after Sansa allows Jaime to remain in Winterfell and fight the army of the White Walkers. Jaime later uses Widow's Wail to knight Brienne. The weapon is then used with proficiency by Jaime to slay dozens of wights during the Battle of Winterfell.
Jaime takes Widow's Wail with him upon leaving Winterfell to return to King's Landing. However, it is confiscated when he gets arrested by Daenerys's soldiers. He cannot reclaim it once he is released by Tyrion, leaving the exact current whereabouts of the sword unknown.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Widow's Wail is described as having a cherry red hue in the steel under strong light. The hilt also featured a red leather grip for the handle, with golden lion paws for the crossguard, whereas the show counterpart is modeled around silver stags with a ruby set in the middle, symbolizing the Lannister-Baratheon alliance.
Joffrey never used Widow's Wail to cut open the pigeon pie at his wedding feast, because Margaery insisted that it would be inappropriate to use it for such a task. Joffrey orders Ilyn Payne to give him his greatsword to cut it instead. Sansa, remembering that the headsman used her father's own blade Ice to decapitate him, notes that he must have discarded it. Tyrion, however, puts two and two together, and realizes that Ice was melted down to make Widow's Wail. He then regrets never returning the blade to Robb when the latter demanded it back as part of his peace terms (which occurred at the beginning of Season 2 in the TV series).
It is not mentioned in the books what has become of the sword after Joffrey's death. According to George R.R. Martin, Widow's Wail was passed down to his younger brother Tommen when he ascended to the throne - but while Tommen technically owns the sword, he is still too young to wield it (he is only eight years old when Joffrey dies in the books).
In the books, it is mentioned that Joffrey named his new sword "Widow's Wail" by picking it out from several names the crowd suggested, but it does not list what the other names were. In this episode (which Martin himself wrote anyway), some alternate names are heard, including "Stormbringer", "Terminus", and "Wolf's Bane". "Stormbringer" is apparently a reference to the sword of the same name wielded by the main character in Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga (as well as Joffrey's believed Baratheon descent), while "Terminus" references "Terminus Est", the blade wielded by the protagonist of Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun novel series (Martin lists Wolfe as a major influence).
- Joffrey selected the name because it reminded him of Ned Stark's beheading, but Sansa was Ned's daughter, not his widow: Catelyn Stark was not present. It's possible that Joffrey was trying to mock both Sansa and the late Catelyn, but it's more likely that Joffrey, as usual, just did what came to mind without justification.
- Ironically (or perhaps appropriately), his mother, Cersei Lannister (a widow herself) mourns his death a few hours later. Appropriately, Joffrey's own widow did not wail.
- There was confusion in the series over what happened to the weapon after Joffrey's death, since neither Tommen nor Jaime was seen with it. It was not until "The Queen's Justice" that it was confirmed that Jaime had started using it, meaning it was at least being kept by Cersei in the Red Keep.