High King of the Iron Islands

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Driftwood Crown by Jen Zee©

High King of the Iron Islands,[1] alternatively High King of the Isles,[2] was a title claimed by ironborn monarchs chosen through kingsmoots to rule all of the Iron Islands. These driftwood kings were eventually succeeded by hereditary Kings of the Iron Islands.[3]



In antiquity each of the Iron Islands was ruled by two petty kings, a rock king who ruled the land and a salt king who led the island's ships, with both kings chosen by the island's captains in kingsmoots.[2] Galon Whitestaff, a prophet of the Drowned God, eventually called all of the salt and rock kings and the captains to Nagga's Hill on Old Wyk, where Urras Greyiron was chosen from among them as the first High King of the Iron Islands. Urras became the first monarch to rule all ironborn since the Grey King.[4]

After the death of Urras, his eldest son Erich claimed the kingship. An outraged Galon insisted that only a kingsmoot could choose the king, however, and the ironborn who gathered to Old Wyk condemned Erich to death. The would-be king was able to spare his life by breaking up Urras's crown and casting it into the sea, and Regnar Drumm was chosen as High King instead.[4] Whenever a high king died, his driftwood crown would thus be traditionally broken into the sea, and his successor, always chosen through a kingsmoot at the Grey King's Hall on Old Wyk,[1] would then craft his own personalized crown from driftwood freshly washed up on the isle of his home.[4]

Conquests and Losses

King Qhored I Hoare as depicted in Game of Thrones: Histories & Lore

According to Archmaester Haereg's History of the Ironborn, there were at least 111 high kings.[4] At least thirty-eight of them came from House Greyiron, twice as many as any other house.[3]

While reavers of earlier generations had returned to their isles after raids, the united realm of the High Kings began to conquer distant lands.[4] The ironborn controlled the western shore of Westeros along the Sunset Sea during the reign of King Qhored I Hoare, who boasted his writ ran "wherever men can smell salt water or hear the crash of waves".[2]

Qhored was followed by weaker kings, however, and houses from the green lands such as the Hightowers, Gardeners, and Lannisters gained in strength.[4] Westermen recovered Fair Isle and Kayce from ironborn control, and Gerold Lannister, King of the Rock, led the Lannister fleet in a raid on the Iron Islands. The high kings eventually lost the Arbor, Bear Island, Flint's Finger, and much of the western shore over the following centuries.[2][2]

Final Kingsmoots

When King Urragon III Greyiron died during the Age of Heroes, a kingsmoot was called by his family while the king's oldest son, Torgon Greyiron, was away raiding the Mander. Urragon the Bald's younger sons were hoping that one of them would be elected, but the ironborn chose King Urrathon IV Goodbrother instead. The new king's first act was to order the executions of the sons of Urragon who were at the kingsmoot, and Urrathon became known as Badbrother during his two years of cruel rule.[5]

When Torgon returned to the Iron Islands, he declared the kingsmoot's decision unlawful as he had not been present to put forth his own claim. The priests, smallfolk, and captains agreed, and Urrathon was put down and hacked to pieces by his own captains.[5] Although he was not chosen at a kingsmooot, Torgon the Latecomer succeeded Badbrother as king.[4] Torgon had his son Urragon help him rule when he was old, and after Torgon died the son claimed the throne as King Urragon IV Greyiron, again without having been chosen at a kingsmoot.[4]

Urragon's own dying wish was for his great-nephew Urron Greyiron to succeed him as high king. The priests insisted upon a kingsmoot after Urragon passed, however, and hundreds of ironborn came to Old Wyk. Urron Redhand sent axemen to attack the attendees, with thirteen rock and salt kings and half a hundred priests killed.[4] House Greyiron henceforth ruled as hereditary Kings of the Iron Islands unchosen by kingsmoot,[4] and the rock and salt kings were reduced to vassal lords or extinguished.[3]

Recent History

After the destruction of House Hoare, Kings of the Isles and the Rivers, in Aegon's Conquest, the Iron Islands fell into chaos and infighting. In opposition to Qhorin Volmark, who claimed to be King of the Iron Islands, a holy man named Lodos was given a driftwood crown by priests of the Drowned God at Old Wyk. Continuing the Wars of Conquest, King Aegon I Targaryen led an invasion of the Iron Islands and beheaded Qhorin. Lodos, meanwhile, walked into the sea with his followers after his claim that krakens would destroy Aegon's fleet failed to occur.[6]

Recent Events

A Feast for Crows

Aeron Greyjoy calls for the first kingsmoot in thousands of years[7] after the death of his older brother, Balon Greyjoy,[8] who had declared himself King of the Iron Islands[9] and then King of the Isles and the North.[10] Against Aeron Damphair's intentions, his brother Euron Crow's Eye is chosen during the kingsmoot on Old Wyk.[11]

Known High Kings of the Iron Islands

The exact number of high kings chosen by the kingsmoot is unknown and their line of succession is rife with contradictions.[4]


Once the reavers had gone forth seeking food to sustain them during hard winters, wood to build their longships, salt wives to give them sons, and the riches the Iron Islands lacked, but they had always returned home with their plunder. Under the driftwood kings the practice gave way to something far more difficult and dangerous: conquest, colonization, and rule.[4]

—writings of Yandel

Thus every driftwood crown was different from those that had gone before. Some were small and simple, others huge, unwieldy, and magnificent.[4]

—writings of Yandel

Yet in the dawn of days the ironborn chose their own kings, raising up the worthiest amongst them. It is time we returned to the Old Way, for only that shall make us great again. It was a kingsmoot that chose Urras Ironfoot for High King, and placed a driftwood crown upon his brows. Sylas Flatnose, Harrag Hoare, the Old Kraken, the kingsmoot raised them all.[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Iron Kings.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: Driftwood Crowns.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
  6. Fire & Blood, Reign of the Dragon - The Wars of King Aegon I.
  7. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 11, The Kraken's Daughter.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 1, The Prophet.
  9. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 46, Bran VI.
  10. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 49, Tyrion XI.
  11. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.