High Septon (Aenys I)
The High Septon during the Faith Militant uprising as depicted by Douglas Wheatley in Fire & Blood.
|Faith of the Seven
|In 9 BC
|In 43 AC (aged 53), the Starry Sept, Oldtown
Appearance and Character
By the time of his death, at fifty-three, the High Septon was robust, tireless, fearless, and renowned for his strength. He sometimes preached for day and night, without sleep or nourishment.
The constant, though largely unintentional, slights suffered by the Faith of the Seven during the reign of King Aenys I Targaryen, led to a revolt by the Faith against the Iron Throne. The High Septon spoke out against the polygamous marriage of Prince Maegor to Alys Harroway. To appease him, Aenys exiled Maegor, and named Septon Murmison as Hand of the King.
The final straw was in 41 AC, when King Aenys had his daughter, Princess Rhaena, marry his son and heir, Prince Aegon. The High Septon condemned the marriage as an obscenity, warning that children born of it would be "abominations in the sight of gods and men", and expelled Septon Murmison for performing the wedding ceremony. Aenys responded by sending a letter to the High Septon, explaining the history of incestuous marriage among Valyrians, and asking for "good Murmison" to be reinstated. The High Septon responded to the king's request with a blistering denunciation, addressing "King Abomination" as a pretender and a tyrant, with no right to rule the Seven Kingdoms. Pious lords, and even smallfolk who once loved Aenys, turned against him, beginning the Faith Militant uprising. An envoy of the Iron Bank of Braavos, sent to treat with Lord Hightower, wrote to the bank that the High Septon was "the true king of Westeros, in all but name".
The conflict continued during the reign of King Maegor I Targaryen, who in 42 AC burned the Sept of Remembrance in King's Landing to the ground, and killed seven hundred Warrior's Sons. Maegor then commanded the Poor Fellows to disarm, and when this decree had no effect, commanded his loyal lords to disperse them by force. In response, the High Septon called upon "true and pious children of the gods" to take up arms in defense of the Faith, and put an end to the reign of "dragons and monsters and abominations."
Later in 42 AC, after the wedding of Maegor to his third wife, Tyanna of the Tower, the High Septon denounced "the abomination and his whores." And when Princess Rhaena gave birth to her brother Aegon's daughters, Aerea and Rhaella, the High Septon proclaimed that they too were abominations, the fruits of lust and incest, and accursed of the gods.
In 43 AC, Maegor outlawed the Faith Militant, and commanded the High Septon to deliver himself to the Red Keep, to stand trial for high treason. In response, His High Holiness commanded the king to present himself to the Starry Sept in Oldtown, to beg the forgiveness of the gods for his sins and cruelties. Later that year,[N 1] Maegor and his mother, Visenya, atop Balerion and Vhagar, burned down the seats of pious lords in the westerlands and the riverlands, and then turned towards Oldtown. The High Septon called down the wrath of the gods on the Targaryens, as the Warrior's Sons of Oldtown, led by Ser Morgan Hightower, surrounded the Starry Sept. However, the Targaryens and their dragons arrived the next day, to discover the High Septon had died the previous night, and the city welcomed them.
The cause of High Septon's death remains debated, especially as he had been a healthy man. Some believe he took his own life, either the act of a craven afraid to face the wroth of Maegor, or a noble sacrifice to spare the people of Oldtown from dragonflame. Others claim the Seven struck him down for the sin of pride, for heresy, treason, or arrogance. Many more are certain he was murdered. One of the suspects is Ser Morgan Hightower, at the command of Lord Martyn Hightower, who was seen entering and leaving the High Septon's privy chambers the night of his death, and was the only Warrior's Son ever pardoned by Maegor. Others point to Patrice Hightower, Lord Martyn's maiden aunt and a reputed witch, who had sought an audience with His High Holiness at dusk, though he was alive when she departed. Other suspects are the archmaesters of the Citadel, through the use of the dark arts, an assassin, or a poisoned scroll, as messages were sent between the Citadel and the Stary Sept during the night of the High Septon's demise. The final suspect was Queen Visenya Targaryen, another reputed sorceress.
In The World of Ice & Fire, it is stated that "The unexpected nature of the High Septon's death in 44 AC aroused much suspicion, however, and whispers of murder persist to this day. Some believe His High Holiness was removed by his own brother, Ser Morgan Hightower, commander of the Warrior's Sons in Oldtown (and it is undeniably true that Ser Morgan was the sole Warrior's Son pardoned by King Maegor)." However, it has been confirmed that Morgan Hightower was not the High Septon's brother, and that the statement was in error.[N 2]