Arryn succession conflict (134 AC)
|Note: The title of this article is pure conjecture and may be subject to change.
|Arryn succession conflict (Regency era)
Part of Regency of Aegon III
|Vale of Arryn
A succession war broke out in the Vale of Arryn upon the death of Lady Jeyne Arryn, during the second half of the regency of Aegon III. Because the realm was still recovering from the Dance of the Dragons, the crown's response was initially limited.
Jeyne Arryn became Lady of the Eyrie in 97 AC when she was three years old, after her father and older brothers were killed at the hands of the Stone Crows. Lord Yorbert Royce ruled the Vale as the Lord Protector of the Vale and her regent presumably until his death.[N 1]
Her inheritance was twice contested, however, by her first cousin Ser Arnold Arryn - her father's closest male heir. After Arnold's "second failed rebellion" (at some point before the Dance of the Dragons), he was imprisoned in one of the Eyrie's sky cells.
Lady Jeyne herself, however, never married or produced any heirs of her own. Some rumors say she never wed because she had a voracious sexual appetite for different men, though it was also widely rumored that she prefered other women, particularly her longtime "dear companion" Jessamyn Redfort.
While the Vale's armies marched to other parts of Westeros to fight on Rhaenyra Targaryen's side during the Dance of the Dragons from 129 AC to 131 AC, the Vale itself was relatively untouched by the civil war. In the aftermath, a council of seven royal regents was assembled for the young king Aegon III, with members drawn from both sides, among which was Jeyne Arryn. In 132 AC, Jeyne returned to the Vale from King's Landing to deal with increased raids from mountain clansmen, though she remained a regent. Soon after, the Vale was struck by the Winter Fever from 132 AC to 133 AC.
The Knight of the Bloody Gate, the Mad Heir, and the Gilded Falcon
Lady Jeyne survived the Winter Fever - only to then fall gravely ill in 134 AC from a chest cold, dying in the arms of her companion Jessamyn Redfort. Having no children, on her deathbed Jeyne managed to dictate a last testament officially naming her fourth cousin as her heir: Ser Joffrey Arryn, Knight of the Bloody Gate, who had served her well for ten years fighting against the mountain clansmen. This passed over her more closely related first cousin Arnold, who had twice rebelled against her, and had now gone mad after long years in the Eyrie's sky cells and the dungeons under the Gates of the Moon - and it also passed over Arnold's son, Ser Eldric Arryn.
Ser Eldric was sane, shrewd, and ambitious, and when he came forward to press his father's claim, many lords of the Vale rallied to his banners, insisting that long-established laws of inheritance could not be put aside by "the whim of a dying woman".
Surprisingly, a third claimant stepped forward: Isembard Arryn, head of the Gulltown Arryns, an even more distant cadet branch of the family that split off from the main line during the reign of King Jaehaerys. While Isembard could not be said to have a greater claim than Joffrey or Arnold, he did have much more gold - his family had gone into trade, becoming among the wealthiest merchants in Gulltown. Isembard was known as the Gilded Falcon for his gold coin and gold falcon sigil, and he used his substantial wealth to bribe lesser lords into supporting his claim, and to hire armies of sellswords from across the narrow sea.
Lord Thaddeus Rowan, the Hand of the King, commanded that the rival claimants come to King's Landing for arbitration, but they ignored his decrees. Eventually, Ser Corwyn Corbray came to the Vale in person, where he ruled that Lady Jeyne's will must prevail, and declared Joffrey Arryn as the rightful Lord of the Eyrie. The other two claimants refused to accept the ruling, however, so he had Isembard imprisoned, and outright executed young Eldric - but somehow, the mad Ser Arnold (who had apparently been released to his son's custody) managed to elude Corwyn and flee to Runestone, seat of House Royce, where he had served as a squire as a boy. When Corwyn arrived, old Lord Gunthor Royce, known as the Bronze Giant, rode out to parley with him. Heated words were exchanged, then curses and threats. This climaxed when Corbray drew his sword Lady Forlorn - whether to actually strike Royce or merely to threaten him is unknown, because at this sight a crossbowman on the castle's battlements shot him through the chest. Corwyn Corbray had been one of Aegon III's seven regents at the time, and killing him was an act of treason - instead of negotiation the only course of action for the rival claimants now was rebellion, and war spread across the Vale of Arryn.
Civil war in the Vale
The main vassals of the Vale split between the three rival claimants:
- Ser Joffrey Arryn, Knight of the Bloody Gate, was supported by House Corbray of Heart's Home, House Redfort of Redfort, and House Hunter of Longbow Hall, as well as House Crayne. Joffrey also had the support of the Iron Throne, though the crown's aid was delayed.
- Ser Arnold Arryn, called the Mad Heir, was supported by House Royce of Runestone, House Coldwater of Coldwater Burn and House Tollett of the Grey Glen (vassals of the Royces), along with House Templeton of Ninestars, House Dutton, and the minor lords of the Fingers and the Three Sisters.
- Despite the captivity of Isembard Arryn, dubbed the Gilded Falcon, his supporters fought on to support his claim, primarily Gulltown and its rulers House Grafton. This gave them control of the Vale's only city, and with so much wealth that they were able to bribe several other lesser lords and hire sellsword armies from Essos.
Response by the Iron Throne
As the lords supporting the rival claimants continued to ignore royal decrees to lay down their arms, Lord Rowan took counsel with Alyn "Oakenfist" Velaryon to put down the rebellion by force, and they decided on a two-pronged attack by land and sea. With Spring thought to be coming soon to melt the snows in the mountain passes, Lord Thaddeus's eldest son Ser Robert Rowan would lead an army up the high road through the Mountains of the Moon, while Lord Alyn would lead an attack on Gulltown with his Velaryon fleet.
Neither assault was entirely successful, marred by poor weather and political infighting, and their progress stalled.
Robert Rowan led an army of 5,000 out of King's Landing, swelled as they advanced north by levies from Maidenpool, Darry, and Hayford. After they crossed the Trident they were joined by 600 Freys and a thousand Blackwoods under Lord Benjicot himself. Altogether, they numbered 9,000 strong when they entered the mountains.
Unfortunately, the high road through the mountains turned out to be far less clear than had been hoped, where winter still held its grip. Robert Rowan's host found itself struggling through deep snows that slowed their advance to a crawl, at which their baggage train came under repeated attack by the Vale mountain clans. Though poorly armed, the hill tribes were starving after years of long winter, and could not be deterred no matter how many were killed. Robert Rowan was himself crushed by a falling boulder when the clansmen unleashed a landslide that toppled half a mountain down upon the column, after which "Bloody Ben" Blackwood took up command. Cold, snow, hunger, and nightly attacks took a heavy toll, so that by the time the host finally arrived at the Bloody Gate, they had lost a full third of their number. Instead of serving as a relief force for Ser Joffrey, when he saw them he instantly realized that it was he who was saving them from their harrowing journey. Moreover, Joffrey realized that the remaining six thousand men were half-starved and half-frozen and in no condition to fight, so they halted their advance at the Bloody Gate to spend months recuperating - without having actually faced the rebel lords of Ser Arnold himself.
The sea attack fared slightly better, but the chain of command was confused due to political infighting on the regency council - between those who supported and opposed House Rogare during the Lysene Spring. Rather than make use of the royal fleet commanded by Lord Unwin Peake's uncle Ser Gedmund, Thaddeus Rowan instead asked the Oakenfist to rely on his own substantial fleet - while their land army would be commanded by Larra Rogare's brother, Moredo Rogare. Though Moredo was a brave and fearsome warrior, he was not fluent in the Common Tongue, and several people questioned the wisdom of putting a Lyseni in command of an army of Westerosi knights. Unwin Peake and his followers cited this as proof of what they had been whispering for half a year, that Thaddeus Rowan had sold himself to the Rogares and their supporters.
While Alyn Oakenfist's fleet easily swept aside the Gilded Falcon's sellsails to capture Gulltown's harbor, the subsequent land assault under Moredo Rogare was a debacle. Hundreds died storming the well-defended port walls in a direct assault, and thrice as many died during brutal house-to-house urban combat that followed. Worse, Moredo's translator was slain in the street battle, resulting in him having great difficulty communicating with his own troops. They didn't understand his orders and he didn't understand their reports, and chaos ensued. While the Iron Throne did manage to capture Gulltown, it was only after a sloppy assault with grievous loss, and any advance beyond the city itself was halted.
Soon after, House Rogare's power collapsed, and Moredo yielded up his command of the army in Gulltown to Alyn Velaryon so he could set sail for Braavos, to raise an army of sellsails to attack his family's enemies in Lys itself.
By this point, the Iron Throne's armies had stalled at the Bloody Gate and Gulltown, Isembard Arryn's forces were defeated, but Arnold Arryn's supporters had not even been blooded against a royal army.
The exact course of the succession war afterwards is unclear, save that soon after the turn of the new year 136 AC it finally ended (a little over a year after it began). By that point, Alyn Velaryon and Benjicot Blackwood had at last forced Isembard Arryn, Arnold Arryn, Gunthor Royce, and all their supporters to bend the knee and do homage to Joffrey Arryn.
Alyn and Benjicot returned to King's Landing soon after the turn of the new year to take part in a council to name three replacement regents on the seven-man regency council (for the remaining half a year before Aegon III came of age). When they arrived, they were accompanied by Quenton Corbray, Gunthor Royce and Isembard Arryn, along with Lord Joffrey himself. Isembard would soon be pardoned and actually named the new master of coin to help the crown deal with the massive economic crisis caused by the collapse of the Rogare bank. Ser Arnold's fate is unclear.