The Great Council is a council that is formed when the inheritance of the throne is unclear. In Westerosi history, there have been at least two Great Councils to decide the Targaryen succession to the Iron Throne, while a third decided the regents of an underaged king.
- 1 Great Council of 101 AC
- 2 Great Council of 136 AC
- 3 Great Council of 233 AC
- 4 Attempts to call a Great Council
- 5 Variants
- 6 References
Great Council of 101 AC
When King Jaehaerys I's son and heir, Prince Aemon, died in 92 AC, Jaehaerys chose Aemon's younger brother, Prince Baelon, as his heir, passing over Aemon's daughter, Princess Rhaenys. The decision caused the Second Quarrel between king and queen.
Prince Baelon died in 101 AC while serving as Hand of the King, and Jaehaerys again needed an heir. Supporters of both Prince Viserys Targaryen, the eldest son of Prince Baelon and his sister-wife, Princess Alyssa, and Laenor Velaryon, the son of Princess Rhaenys, reportedly formed armies. The king summoned from the Citadel his only surviving son Archmaester Vaegon; whether Jaehaerys offered him the throne, or only wanted advice, is unknown. Vaegon suggested that lords, maesters, and the Faith discuss the candidates in a Great Council. Jaehaerys agreed, promising to accept whatever the council decided.
As the first Great Council, no one knew how many would attend. The Crown wanted room for at least 500 lords and entourages, so chose Harrenhal. More than 1,000 lords came from throughout Westeros, gathering over a half year; some arrived as the council was ending.
The council met for 13 days. It discussed and dismissed nine lesser claims, such as from three rival bastards of Princess Saera Targaryen, and an alleged bastard of King Jaehaerys. The two final candidates as heir were Prince Viserys and Laenor Velaryon. Primogeniture favored Laenor, as his mother, Princess Rhaenys, was the daughter of Prince Aemon, who had been the eldest living son of King Jaehaerys. Yet proximity favored Viserys, who, in addition, had been the last Targaryen Prince to ride the dragon Balerion, before the Black Dread had died in 94 AC. On the other hand, Laenor had recently acquired a dragon of his own, Seasmoke.
In the end, what mattered most for the many lords in the realm, was that the male line would take precedence over the female line. In addition, Prince Viserys was twenty-four years old, while Laenor was only seven. Yet Laenor had one big advantage over Viserys: he was the son of Lord Corlys Velaryon, the wealthiest man of the Seven Kingdoms. Corlys' fame, reputation and wealth did much to support Laenor's claim. Lord Boremund Baratheon supported Laenor's claim (his sister Jocelyn was Laenor's grandmother), as did Lord Ellard Stark, Lord Blackwood, Lord Bar Emmon and Lord Celtigar, the Dustins of Barrowton, and the Manderlys of White Harbor. They were too few, however. While the maesters never revealed the actual numbers, it was rumored that Prince Viserys had won by a twenty to one vote. Amongst those who had spoken in favor of Viserys, was Viserys' younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen, who had gone as far as assembling a small army, when it was rumored that Lord Corlys Velaryon was readying a fleet to defend the rights of Laenor,. Lord Grover Tully of Riverrun, and Lord Tymond Lannister of Casterly Rock, also supported Viserys.
According to Archmaester Gyldayn, in the eyes of many, the council of 101 AC established an iron precedent on matters of succession: that the Iron Throne could not pass to a woman, or to a male descendant of a woman.
King Viserys I Targaryen named his daughter, his only surviving child by his first marriage, Princess Rhaenyra, his heir after the death of his second born son, Prince Baelon. After three sons had been born in his second marriage, Viserys would be asked about the succession repeatedly, but Viserys chose to ignore the precedents of 101 AC, and Rhaenyra remained his heir until his death. Viserys even dismissed his Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower, because Hightower would keep asking the king about the matter.
Following the death of King Viserys I, at the start of the coup for the throne by the greens, Viserys' small council examined the annals of the Great Council. They determined that the houses which had dissented during the Great Council were likely to support the claim of Rhaenyra Targaryen instead of Aegon II Targaryen.
Great Council of 136 AC
Prelude to the Council
King Aegon III Targaryen ascended the throne in 131 AC at the age of eleven. It would be five years before the king would be able to rule in his own right, but instead of naming one regent, in the conclusion of the Dance of the Dragons, a council of seven regents was named, who would rule together with the Hand of the King.
The original council of seven consisted out of the following members: Lady Jeyne Arryn, Lord Corlys Velaryon, Lord Roland Westerling, Lord Royce Caron, Lord Manfryd Mooton, Ser Torrhen Manderly, and Grand Maester Munkun. Out of these seven, only Munkun would serve the entire term (131 AC to 136 AC).
The outcome of the Council
Every time a member of the council of regents died or resigned, the council elected a replacement. However, when suddenly three spots on the council became available, a Great Council was called to name new members. The Great Council elected Willam Stackspear, Marq Merryweather and Lorent Grandison by lot.
These three members served with the other four regents until the sixteenth nameday of King Aegon III, when he dismissed them all.
Great Council of 233 AC
Prelude to the Council
King Daeron II Targaryen's heir, Prince Baelor, died after a Trial of Seven in 209 AC, making his eldest son Valarr the heir. However, later that year the Great Spring Sickness killed King Daeron and both of Baelor's sons, Valarr and Matarys. This in turn left Daeron's second son, Prince Aerys, to inherit, and Aerys was thus crowned as King Aerys I Targaryen. Aerys left no issue, and upon his death in 221 AC the crown was passed to his youngest brother, who reigned as King Maekar I Targaryen (Aerys' other heirs, Prince Rhaegel and Rhaegel's son, Prince Aelor, had predeceased Aerys). At the death of Maekar at the hands of a rebellious lord in 233 AC, the inheritance was unclear, and a council was called by Maekar's Hand of the King, Lord Brynden Rivers, to decide who would inherit the Iron Throne.
Outcome of the Council
Maekar's next son, Prince Aerion, had died in 232 AC, when he drank wildfire in the mistaken belief it would turn him into a dragon. Aerion's only issue was an infant son, Prince Maegor, who had been born 232 AC, not long before Aerion's death.
Maekar's youngest son, Prince Aegon V Targaryen, had served as a squire of a hedge knight in his youth, which had led to some of the lords mistrusting him, as they felt that Aegon's wandering with the hedge knight had left the Prince "half a peasant".
The claim of Princess Vaella was immediately dismissed. Only a few spoke up for the claim of Prince Maegor, but his ascension would mean a long regency, and in addition, it was feared that Maegor might have inherited Aerion's madness and cruelty. Thus, Maegor's claim was dismissed as well. Prince Aegon's claim seemed as the obvious choice, but due to the prince's wanderings in his youth, there were enough lords who hated him, and thus, an effort was made to offer the throne, quietly, to Aemon. Aemon, however, refused the crown.
As the Great Council was debating the matter of succession, a fifth claimant appeared. Aenys Blackfyre, the fifth son of the Pretender Daemon I Blackfyre, had written to King's Landing from Tyrosh when the Great Council had first been announced, hoping to gain the throne with words, as swords had failed his family three times already. The Hand of the King, Brynden Rivers, had offered him safe conduct to Westeros.
Upon arrival, however, Aenys was immediately arrested and dragged to the Red Keep, where he was executed. His head was presented to the council, to serve as a warning against every lord who might still have sympathies for the Blackfyres.
Consequence of the Council
The first act of King Aegon V would be to arrest the man who had gotten him elected. Brynden Rivers was arrested and sentenced to death for breaking the word of the Iron Throne, having arranged the execution of Aenys Blackfyre. Aegon would later offer Rivers the option of going to the Wall, which Rivers would accept. He travelled to the Wall together with Aemon, and served in the Night's Watch from 233 AC until he disappeared beyond the Wall in 252 AC.
Attempts to call a Great Council
King Aenys I Targaryen considered calling a Great Council, when four different rebels begin to harass Westeros, and the king could not decide himself how to handle the situation. During this Great Council, he had wanted to discuss how best to deal with the situations. The Great Council was never called, as others acted more swiftly than the king, thereby solving the troubles.
In 130 AC, after the fall of King's Landing, Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower suggested assembling a Great Council, to decide which claimant should ascend to the throne, Rhaenyra Targaryen or Aegon Targaryen. Rhaenyra, however, refused to grant the wish.
The announcement of the Tourney at Harrenhal by Lord Walter Whent gave reason for suspicion. It was rumored that there had been a "shadow host", who had been providing Lord Walter with the funds to pay the magnificent prizes which were promised. These rumors were widely believed in 281 AC, and are still believed at the present. Whilst a dozen names have been put forward for the identity of this shadow host, over the years one name seemed compelling: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen.
The tale tells that Prince Rhaegar had arranged the tourney, by sending Ser Oswell Whent, his friend, and Lord Walter's brother, as a go-between. Providing the gold for prizes, the Prince had wanted to lure as many lords and knights to Harrenhal as possible. But the Prince's interests would not have been the tourney itself. His intent would have been to gather as many of the lords of the realm together, to call an informal Great Council, hoping to discuss ways and means of dealing with the madness of Rhaegar's father, King Aerys II Targaryen. History suggests both a regency, or a forced abdication as possibilities of the hoped outcome.
If this was truly Prince Rhaegar's intent, nothing came from it, as King Aerys II Targaryen, warned of these rumors by his master of whispers, decided to attend the tourney personally, despite not having left the Red Keep for four years.
After realizing that Joffrey Baratheon was not the biological son of Robert Baratheon, Catelyn Stark suggests to Renly Baratheon that he, Stannis Baratheon, and Robb Stark, who had all been crowned as kings, should set aside their claims and call for a Great Council to determine who should be king. Renly Baratheon laughed at the suggestion.
A kingsmoot is a Great Council-like ceremony held amongst the Ironborn, where all longship captains are allowed to cast a vote as to who should be chosen as the new Iron King. The kingsmoot is traditionally held on Nagga's Hill on Old Wyk. The last kingsmoot was called in late 299 AC by the priest Aeron Greyjoy, after the death of King Balon Greyjoy. In early 300 AC, Euron Greyjoy was chosen as the new Iron King.
- Fire & Blood, The Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
- The Rogue Prince.
- The World of Ice & Fire, House Baratheon.
- The Princess and the Queen.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, House Tully.
- The World of Ice & Fire, House Lannister Under the Dragons.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
- The Hedge Knight.
- The Sworn Sword.
- The Mystery Knight.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Maekar I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 6, Jon I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aenys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Year of the False Spring.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 1, The Prophet.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Driftwood Crowns.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.