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Grand Maester.svg Grand Maester
Grand Maester.svg
Grand Maester Pycelle.jpg
Grand Maester Pycelle by Amok ©

Title Grand Maester
Born 216 AC[1]
Died 300 AC (aged 84)[2]
the Red Keep, King's Landing

Played by Julian Glover
TV series Game of Thrones:
Season 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Pycelle is a Grand Maester of the Citadel[3] who has served in King's Landing and on the small council for over forty years. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones, he is played by Julian Glover.

Appearance and Character

Pycelle has only sparse hair that runs around his bald, spotted head.[4][5] He has a long, snowy beard that runs down to his chest[5] and broad stomach.[4] Pycelle often strokes the beard, which hides his small mouth, missing teeth, warts, and wrinkles.[6] He has pale, rheumy eyes.[7]

Pycelle's maester's chain consists of two dozen heavy chains wound together to stretch from neck to breast.[4] Its links consist of brass, bronze, copper, iron, gold, lead, platinum, silver, steel, and tin, and the chain is decorated with amethysts, black pearls, emeralds, garnets, and rubies.[4] Instead of the grey robes worn by most maesters, Pycelle wears a red velvet robe with an ermine collar and golden fastenings.[8]

Pycelle bends the vows of his order to suit his needs, indulging the needs of the flesh[9] and dabbling in poisons[10] and politics with a skill few maesters dare approach. He enjoys sweetened iced milk.[7]


Pycelle forged his maester's chain in Oldtown as a young man during the hot summer in the reign of King Maekar I Targaryen.[7]

After Grand Maester Merion died on his way to serve Aegon V Targaryen, Pycelle was granted his position. He has been the Grand Maester of the Seven Kingdoms for forty years, serving Aegon V and Jaehaerys II before Aerys II Targaryen.[7] Pycelle wrote Observations Upon the Recent Blood-Letting on the Stepstones about the War of the Ninepenny Kings.[11]

During the reign of Aerys II Targaryen, Pycelle came to greatly admire and respect Aerys's Hand, Tywin Lannister. Out of all the members of the small council, Pycelle assisted Tywin the most in the governance of the realm. Pycelle wrote the Citadel often, praising Tywin's leadership, stating that the man was born to rule. While Aerys grew increasingly jealous and resentful of Tywin's capability, Pycelle became a staunch ally to the Hand, until Tywn resigned his office in 281 AC.[12]

Aerys also mistrusted his own son and heir, Prince Rhaegar, who had become wary of his father's behavior.[13] At court tensions were growing between the factions loyal to the king and those loyal to Rhaegar. It fell to Pycelle and the new Hand, Lord Owen Merryweather, to try and keep the peace between the factions. Pycelle even dispatched a letter to the Citadel writing that tensions and division at court strongly resembled those before the Dance of the Dragons. Pycelle was fearful that a civil war between those loyal to the king and Rhaegar's supporters would break out unless some accord could be reached that would satisfy both factions.[14]

Near the end of Robert's Rebellion, Pycelle convinced King Aerys to open his gates to his former Hand, Tywin, in the hope that Tywin would take the throne. This led to the Sack of King's Landing.[9][15] During the coronation of Robert I Baratheon, Pycelle was pardoned for his service under Aerys II and allowed to continue on the small council.[16][17] Despite his oath to serve the realm, Pycelle has generally promoted the interests of House Lannister on the council for years.[9][18]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Pycelle by Tiziano Baracchi ©

Lysa Arryn reports to her sister, Catelyn Stark, that Pycelle was helpless in saving the life of Lord Jon Arryn.[19]

Pycelle convenes an urgent meeting of the small council upon Lord Eddard Stark's arrival from Winterfell to take up the role of Hand of the King.[4] When Eddard makes inquiries about the death of the previous Hand, Lord Arryn, Pycelle states that, from his experience, Jon's illness did not seem suspicious. When confronted with Lysa's accusations that poison was the culprit, he points the finger of suspicion on Lord Varys.[7] Pycelle provides Eddard with The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, With Descriptions of Many High Lords and Noble Ladies and Their Children, which Lord Arryn had been reading.[20] The Grand Maester supports assassinating Daenerys Targaryen before she can provide Khal Drogo with an heir.[21]

After Eddard is injured in a street fight with Ser Jaime Lannister, Pycelle tasks himself with maintaining Eddard's healing.[16] When it is discovered Ser Gregor Clegane had led raids into the riverlands, burning several villages, Pycelle tries to delay any action taken against Lord Tywin Lannister. Eddard becomes more and more convinced that Pycelle is the creature of Queen Cersei Lannister.[22]

Pycelle tends to King Robert I Baratheon's wounds after he is injured by a boar in the kingswood, and he reports to Eddard upon Robert's death.[23] He is present when Eddard presents Robert's will and is arrested at court.[24] Pycelle wears black to mourn Robert's death.[25] The new king, Joffrey I Baratheon, has the Grand Maester read royal decrees at his first court.[8] Under Cersei's direction, Pycelle visits the grief-stricken Sansa Stark after her father Eddard's death and examines her intrusively before giving her a potion to calm her.[26]

A Clash of Kings

Grand Maester Pycelle by Brittmartin ©

Tyrion Lannister, serving as Hand, is not sure whom he can trust, so he tells different secrets to Varys, Petyr Baelish, and Pycelle, tasking the Grand Maester with sending two copies of a single letter to Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne. Pycelle does send one copy, but shares the other one with Cersei, who proceeds to confront Tyrion, unwittingly falling in Tyrion's trap. In the time it takes Pycelle to send one of the letter's copies, Tyrion has time to help himself to a mild poison from the maester's cabinet, which he uses later on Cersei. Pycelle is present when Tyrion gives his terms for peace with the north.[5][27]

At midnight, Tyrion takes Shagga and Timett and confronts Pycelle in his chambers, where he is found naked in bed with a servant girl. With help from Shagga, Tyrion intimidates Pycelle, who wets the bed in fear of the clansmen. While Shagga shaves off Pycelle's signature white beard with his axe, Tyrion learns Pycelle has betrayed the realm over and over in service to House Lannister. He allowed Jon Arryn to die when he could have easily saved him, convinced Aerys II Targaryen to open the gates to Tywin's forces during Robert's Rebellion, and would have finished Robert off himself if the wounds from the boar had not been so fatal.[9]

Pycelle justifies Jon's death, since he was close to the truth about Cersei's incest with her brother, Ser Jaime, and King Joffrey I Baratheon's parentage. He admits Maester Colemon was treating Lord Arryn properly but the queen needed him dead. Pycelle justifies Robert's death, since his brother Renly had been plotting with the Tyrells to kill Cersei and wed Margaery Tyrell to Robert. Tyrion has Pycelle thrown in one of the black cells and stripped of his title and seat in the council.[9]

A Storm of Swords

Pycelle is restored to his position by Lord Tywin Lannister after he learns the Citadel is planning on naming Gormon Tyrell as Pycelle's replacement.[28]

Pycelle, with his beard shaved off and weakened from his time in the black cells, appears to be a broken man. He falls asleep during the wedding of King Joffrey I Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell and is unable to take any action to prevent Joffrey's death at the banquet from poison, something that sours Queen Cersei's opinion of him. During the trial of Tyrion Lannister for Joffrey's murder, Pycelle is called as a witness for the prosecution to discuss poisons and how Tyrion might have killed the King.[10]

Pycelle continues his service to the newly-crowned King Tommen I Baratheon. He is ordered by Tywin to heal Ser Gregor Clegane, who was poisoned by Prince Oberyn Martell in the trial by combat and is slowly dying in agony. Tywin plans on having Gregor executed to appease House Martell but needs it to be seen to be the King's Justice who does the deed, not poison. Pycelle is unsuccessful and Tywin refuses his suggestion of confining the other Dornishmen till they reveal what poison Oberyn used as Tywin cannot risk further offending Dorne. Tywin fears they might join Stannis Baratheon which would prolong the war for years.[29]

A Feast for Crows

Following Tywin's death, the relationship between Pycelle and Queen Regent Cersei Lannister becomes more strained. He opposes the naming of Qyburn, a disgraced maester, to the small council. Cersei blames him for the deplorable state of Lord Tywin Lannister's corpse.[30] Taena of Myr casts suspicion on Pycelle when she reports to Cersei that he is found often in the company of Queen Margaery Tyrell.[31] Pycelle objects to many of Cersei's edicts, such as her refusing to honor the debts the crown owes the Iron Bank of Braavos and her decision to allow the Faith of the Seven to re-institute the Faith Militant. After pressure from Cersei, Pycelle admits publicly to giving Margaery moon tea, a contraceptive. This discovery is crucial in Cersei's efforts to frame Margaery for adultery and treason, delivering her to the captivity of the new High Septon.[32]

Cersei considers having him replaced, and Pycelle's future at court looks uncertain. However, when Cersei is arrested by the Faith, Pycelle successfully seizes control of the council, as Aurane Waters and Orton Merryweather have abandoned the capital. He removes Osfryd Kettleblack as commander of the gold cloaks so Osfyrd will not be able to use the Watch to try and free Cersei and his brother Osney, both of whom are prisoners of the Faith. He also raises Humfrey Waters of the Dragon Gate to command the Watch. Qyburn states to Cersei that the realm is effectively being ruled by Pycelle and Harys Swyft. Pycelle dispatches a message to Ser Kevan Lannister offering him the regency.

A Dance with Dragons

Pycelle continues his duty as Grand Maester but is wary of Lord Mace Tyrell, who is wroth with Pycelle for revealing Maergary's requests for moon tea. He requests guards from Ser Kevan Lannister out of fear for his personal safety. Pycelle's fears prove justified, as he is killed in his chambers, not by Tyrell men but by Lord Varys, who removes both him and Kevan to ensure they cannot repair the damage Cersei had done to the kingdom and the Lannister-Tyrell alliance.[33]

Pycelle served six kings during his time as Grand Maester: Aegon V, Jaehaerys II, Aerys II, Robert I, Joffrey I, and Tommen I.

Quotes by Pycelle

Pycelle by Joshua Cairós © Fantasy Flight Games

Minds are like swords, I do fear. The old ones go to rust.[7]

—Pycelle to Eddard Stark

Once I counseled King Aerys as loyally as I council King Robert now...[34]

—Pycelle to the small council

Treason is a noxious weed. It must be torn up, root and stem and seed, lest new traitors sprout from every roadside.[8]

—Pycelle to the court of Joffrey I Baratheon

Tyrion: How long have you been spying for my sister?

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 to open his gates....

Tyrion: So the Sack of King's Landing was your work as well?[9]

Tyrion Lannister and Pycelle

Pycelle: I was your lord father's man, and a friend to you in the matter of Lord Arryn. I could not survive the dungeons, not again ...

Cersei: Why does Margaery send for you?
Pycelle: Moon tea. Moon tea, for ....

Cersei: I know what moon tea is for. Very well. Get off those saggy knees and try to remember what it was to be a man.[18]

—Pycelle and Cersei Lannister

Quotes about Pycelle

How many have you betrayed, I wonder? Aerys, Eddard Stark, me... King Robert as well? Lord Arryn, Prince Rhaegar? Where does it begin, Pycelle?[9]

Tyrion Lannister to Pycelle

Pycelle is a toad. But better a Lannister toad then a Tyrell toad, no?[28]

That one has outlived any usefulness he ever had, the queen decided. All Pycelle ever seemed to do of late was plague her with cautions and objections.[35]

Cersei Lannister's thoughts

This is no man, she thought, only the ruins of one. The black cells robbed him of whatever strength he had. That, and the Imp's razor.[2]

Cersei Lannister's thoughts


  1. See the Pycelle calculation.
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 36, Cersei VIII.
  3. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 20, Eddard IV.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
  6. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 25, Eddard V.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 57, Sansa V.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion IX.
  11. The World of Ice & Fire: The Westerlands (unabridged).
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II.
  13. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  14. The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring.
  15. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 39, Cersei IX.
  19. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  20. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 27, Eddard VI.
  21. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
  22. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 43, Eddard XI.
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 47, Eddard XIII.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 49, Eddard XIV.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 51, Sansa IV.
  26. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 67, Sansa VI.
  27. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 20, Tyrion V.
  28. 28.0 28.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 12, Tyrion II.
  29. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
  30. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
  31. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 28, Cersei VI.
  32. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 43, Cersei X.
  33. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  34. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 33, Eddard VIII.
  35. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 32, Cersei VII.
Preceded by Grand Maester
259300 AC
Served under: Aegon V Targaryen
Jaehaerys II Targaryen
Aerys II Targaryen
Robert I Baratheon
Joffrey I Baratheon
Tommen I Baratheon