Sack of King's Landing

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Sack of King's Landing
Sack of King's Landing.jpg
Lannister forces sack the city, screencap from Game of Thrones Blu-ray
Conflict Robert's Rebellion
Date 283 AC
Place King's Landing
Result rebel / Lannister victory
Aerys killed by Ser Jaime Lannister
murder of the Targaryen children and Elia of Dorne
House Lannister
House Targaryen
Red Keep garrison
City Watch of King's Landing
Lord Tywin Lannister King Aerys II Targaryen
12,000[1] several thousand loyalists[1]
unknown Aerys II Targaryen
Elia Martell
Rhaenys Targaryen
Aegon Targaryen[2]

The Sack of King's Landing[3] occurred almost one year into Robert's Rebellion. Soldiers of House Lannister sacked King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.[1]


The survivors of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's army fled to King's Landing after Rhaegar's death in the Battle of the Trident. The rebel Robert Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End, was wounded at the Trident. Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell, thus led the rebel vanguard south toward the capital, where King Aerys II Targaryen, Rhaegar's father and Robert's first cousin once removed, was protected by several thousand loyalists in the Red Keep.[1][4] The king sent his pregnant wife, Queen Rhaella Targaryen, with his new heir, Prince Viserys, to Dragonstone. However, Aerys kept Rhaegar's widow, Princess Elia Martell, and children, Princess Rhaenys and the infant Prince Aegon, in the Red Keep as hostages to assure the loyalty of Dorne.[4][5]

The Sack

Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock and the Warden of the West who had remained neutral until the Trident, marched to the gates of King's Landing with a force of 12,000 men from the westerlands, claiming loyalty to Aerys and asking to be let in. Grand Maester Pycelle convinced the Mad King to open his gates to the Lannisters, which was done over the objections of his master of whisperers, Varys.[1] Tywin had been the Hand of the King to Aerys earlier in his reign.[6]

The Lannister forces began to sack the city, killing people of all ages and raping women.[7] Many pyromancers were murdered,[8] and it is also possible that Manly Stokeworth of the gold cloaks died in the fighting. In response, Aerys ordered his most recent Hand, the pyromancer Lord Rossart, to ignite hidden wildfire caches throughout the city. Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, who was holding the Red Keep, asked permission to make terms when he realized King's Landing would fall. The Mad King refused and ordered Jaime to kill his father, Lord Tywin.[9][4]

Jaime instead hunted down Lord Rossart before the Hand could leave the Red keep, thereby preventing the wildfire plot, and then he slit the throat of Aerys before the Iron Throne. At approximately the same time, other Lannister soldiers fought Targaryen loyalists on the steps and in the armory of the Red Keep, and Lord Stark was leading Robert's vanguard through the King's Gate. Upon arriving, Lord Roland Crakehall, one of Tywin's bannermen, asked Jaime if they should proclaim a new king. Left unsaid was a clear implication, asking whether Jaime would proclaim Tywin Lannister, Robert Baratheon, or a member of House Targaryen. Jaime told Roland to proclaim whichever king he wished, as well as to spread word of Aerys's death to any Targaryen loyalists still fighting, in the hope it would convince them to surrender.[9]

Ned finds Jaime seated on the Iron Throne by Amok©

Meanwhile, Tywin sent his knights Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch to scale Maegor's Holdfast and deal with Rhaegar's family, securing the throne for Robert and proving that House Lannister had forsaken the Targaryens forever. Gregor smashed the head of the infant Prince Aegon in front of his mother Elia in the nursery, and he then raped and murdered the Dornish princess. A floor above, Amory dragged Princess Rhaenys from under her father's bed and stabbed her half a hundred times.[10] It is not publicly known who killed Rhaegar's family, however.[5]

When Ned Stark arrived shortly thereafter at the head of the main rebel army, he found Jaime seated on the Iron Throne and Aerys's corpse slumped below it. Tywin presented to Robert the bodies of Elia and the children Aegon and Rhaenys as tokens of his fealty, laid out beneath the Iron Throne. The children were wrapped in crimson cloaks to hide the blood.[11]


Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon argued over the killing of Rhaegar's family, Eddard believing it unjustified murder, Robert satisfied with the deaths of Rhaegar's children; even Jon Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie, could not calm their anger. Eddard went south and lifted the siege of Storm's End and finally to the tower of joy, and they were only reconciled by shared grief over the death of Lyanna Stark.[1]

Tywin gave royalist survivors of the sack, such as Ser Jaremy Rykker and Ser Alliser Thorne, the choice of joining the Night's Watch or being executed.[12]

Jaime Lannister discretely hunted down the other two pyromancers that were part of the Mad King's wildfire plot, Wisdoms Garigus and Belis. Garigus wept for mercy while Belis tried to bribe Jaime with gold in exchange for his life, but Jaime slew both men.[4] Jaime has since been known as the Kingslayer for having killed Aerys II, the man he was supposed to protect.[13]

The first act of Robert Baratheon, the new king, was to marry Cersei Lannister, Tywin's daughter and Jaime's twin.[14] Robert I ordered his younger brother, Stannis, to construct a new royal fleet and capture Dragonstone from the remaining Targaryens.[15]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Lord Eddard Stark repeats his disapproval of the Sack, Ser Jaime Lannister's murder of King Aerys II Targaryen, and the deaths of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's children, but King Robert I Baratheon considers the actions necessary to end the war.[1]

A Clash of Kings

Grand Maester Pycelle admits to Tyrion Lannister that he had convinced Aerys to open the gates of King's Landing for Tyrion's father, Lord Tywin Lannister. Pycelle felt the Seven Kingdoms needed a new king after the death of Rhaegar, and he hoped it would have been Tywin.[16]

While in the House of the Undying, Daenerys Targaryen sees a vision of an old man telling another, "Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes."[17]

A Storm of Swords

Jaime confides in Brienne of Tarth that he slew Lord Rossart and King Aerys to prevent King's Landing from burning.[4]

Lord Tywin Lannister tells his son Tyrion that he ordered the Sack to prove House Lannister's loyalty to Robert Baratheon, the victor of the Trident, and out of worry of what Aerys would do to Jaime, his bodyguard and hostage within the Red Keep. Tywin explains that while the deaths of Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys were necessary, he had not expected Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch to be so brutal, nor for Gregor to rape and kill Elia Martell.[10]

Prince Oberyn Martell duels Gregor to avenge the deaths of his sister Elia and her children.[18]

A Dance with Dragons

Illyrio Mopatis, Varys, and the Golden Company support a youth claiming to be Aegon Targaryen.[19][20] Varys allegedly smuggled the infant prince away to safety in the Free Cities, so that Gregor actually killed the so-called pisswater prince.[21]


Eddard: I expected to find the gates closed to us.

Robert: Instead you found that our men had already taken the city. What of it?
Eddard: Not our men. The lion of Lannister flew over the ramparts, not the crowned stag. And they had taken the city by treachery.
Robert: Treachery was a coin the Targaryens knew well. Lannister paid them back in kind. It was no less than they deserved. I shall not trouble my sleep over it.
Eddard: You were not there. There was no honor in that conquest.[1]

- - Eddard Stark and Robert I Baratheon

Pycelle: All I did, I did for House Lannister. Always ... for years ... your lord father, ask him, I was ever his true servant ... 'twas I who bid Aerys open his gates ...

Tyrion: So the Sack of King's Landing was your work as well?
Pycelle: For the realm! Once Rhaegar died, the war was done.[16]

- Pycelle and Tyrion Lannister

I saw King's Landing after the Sack. Babes were butchered that day as well, and old men, and children at play. More women were raped than you can count.[7]
- Jorah Mormont to Daenerys Targaryen

References and Notes

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