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[1]
Place King's Landing
Result Lannister victory
Aerys killed by Ser Jaime Lannister
Murder of the Targaryen children and Elia of Dorne
House Baratheon.svgRebels:

House Lannister.svgWesterlands, led by House Lannister

House Targaryen.svgIron Throne/House Targaryen:
House Lannister.svgLord Tywin Lannister House Targaryen.svgKing Aerys II Targaryen RossartSigil.pngLord Rossart
12,000[2] Several thousand loyalists[2]
Unknown Aerys II Targaryen
Elia Martell
Rhaenys Targaryen
Aegon Targaryen[3]

The Sack of King's Landing[4][5][6] was the final battle in Robert's Rebellion, taking place "close to a year"[2] after the war had begun. Soldiers of House Lannister sacked King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms.[2]


The Battle of the Trident resulted in a loss for the loyalists. Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, was killed by Robert Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End. Prince Lewyn Martell and Ser Jonothor Darry, members of the Kingsguard of Aerys II Targaryen, were also killed in the battle. Ser Barristan Selmy, the third and last knight of the Kingsguard who had accompanied Rhaegar to the Trident, was a severely-wounded captive of the rebels.

The loyalist army broke and ran, with the survivors fleeing back to King's Landing. Robert Baratheon had taken a wound from Rhaegar, and so gave command of the vanguard to Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, who chased the loyalists to the capital. There, King Aerys was located in the Red Keep, protected by several thousand loyalists.[2][7] When news about Rhaegar's death arrived at King's Landing, Aerys sent his pregnant wife, Queen Rhaella Targaryen, and their young son, Prince Viserys, to Dragonstone, their second stronghold, for safety. However, convinced that Lewyn and his ten thousand Dornishmen had betrayed Rhaegar at the Trident, Aerys refused to allow Rhaegar's wife, Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, and Rhaegar's two young children, Princess Rhaenys and the infant Prince Aegon, to go to Dragonstone as well. Instead, he kept them at the Red Keep as his hostages, to ensure the loyalty of Dorne.[7][8]

Aerys had been preparing his wildfire plot for a while prior to the Battle of the Trident. Three pyromancersRossart, Garigus and Belis—came and went day and night at the Red Keep, and Aerys's Hand of the King, Lord Qarlton Chelsted, eventually became suspicious. When he discovered Aerys's wildfire plot, Qarlton attempted to convince Aerys otherwise, by reasoning, jesting, threatening, and begging the king. Nothing could convince Aerys, however, so Chelsted resigned his office.[7] For that, Aerys had Chelsted dipped in wildfire and burned alive.[7][9][10] After the Trident, Aerys named Rossart as his new Hand.[8]

The Sack

Tywin's Betrayal

Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, had remained neutral throughout the war, ignoring calls to arms by both the loyalists and the rebels. However, about a fortnight after the Battle of the Trident[11] he appeared at the gates of King's Landing with a force of twelve thousand men from the westerlands.[2] He claimed his loyalty was with Aerys, and requested entrance into the city.[2] While Lord Varys, the master of whisperers, told Aerys keep the gates closed, Grand Maester Pycelle convinced the king to open his gates to Tywin.[7][12] The Lannister forces began to sack the city, killing people of all ages and raping women.[13] A handpicked group of men raced to the Red Keep to storm the walls.[8]

The Kingslayer

Ser Jaime Lannister slays King Aerys II Targaryen, by Michael Komarck © Green Ronin

Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard, who was holding the Red Keep,[8] asked permission to make terms when he realized King's Landing would fall. Aerys refused and ordered Jaime to instead kill his father, Lord Tywin.[9][7]

With the Lannister forces sacking the city, Aerys held an audience with his new Hand of the King, Lord Rossart. When Jaime's messenger informed him that Rossart had just left from the king, Jaime realized that Aerys meant to burn the entire city with wildfire.[7][14] Jaime found Rossart at a postern gate before the latter could leave the Red Keep, however, and killed him.[7] While Rossart fought back, he was no match for Jaime.[9]

With Rossart's death, the execution of the wildfire plot had temporarily been halted. Jaime next went to the throne room of the Red Keep, where Aerys was waiting, and informed him of killing Rossart.[7] In shock, Aerys attempted to flee onto his throne. Jaime hauled Aerys off the steps and slashed his throat,[9] killing the king before he could find another to send messages to the pyromancers.[7] Just in time to witness Aerys's death, several knights from the westerlands, including Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Roland Crakehall, burst into the hall.[9] Unable to deny having killed Aerys, Jaime's act earned him the nickname "Kingslayer".

Jaime ordered his father's men to spread the news that Aerys was dead. Roland asked Jaime if they should proclaim a new king, and for a moment Jaime considered Prince Viserys Targaryen,[9] who had become Aerys's new heir after Rhaegar's death,[8] and Prince Aegon Targaryen, Rhaegar's young son. Realizing both descended from Aerys, he told Roland to proclaim whomever he liked. Climbing the steps of the Iron Throne, Jaime sat down with his sword across his knees to await who would come and claim the throne.[9]

Meanwhile, Lannister soldiers were fighting the remaining loyalists on the serpentine steps of the Red Keep and in the castle's armory. Lord Eddard Stark arrived at King's Landing from the Trident and led his army of northmen through the King's Gate.[9] Eddard eventually rode into the throne room, and without saying a word, stared at Jaime, until the latter got up from the Iron Throne; Jaime told Lord Stark he had been keeping the throne warm for Robert.[2]

Gregor and Amory

Ser Gregor Clegane kills Prince Aegon Targaryen in front of Elia Martell, screencap from Game of Thrones Blu-ray

The Lannisters needed a way to prove their loyalty to Robert's cause and Rhaegar's children had to die to ensure Robert's claim to the Iron Throne,[15] so two of Tywin's knights, Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch, scaled the walls of Maegor's Holdfast. Amory dragged Princess Rhaenys Targaryen from under Rhaegar's bed and stabbed her half a hundred times.[15] Gregor smashed the head of the infant Prince Aegon in front of his mother, Princess Elia Martell, in the nursery, and the Mountain then raped and murdered Elia with Aegon's brains still on his hands.[5][16][17]

When Robert Baratheon arrived in King's Landing, Tywin laid the bodies of Elia, Aegon, and Rhaenys beneath the Iron Throne and presented them to Robert as tokens of his fealty. The children were wrapped in crimson cloaks to hide the blood.[18] While Rhaenys was recognizable, Aegon was a "faceless horror of bone and brain and gore", and no one looked long at him, believing Tywin at his word when he stated it was Aegon.[19]

Although the actions of Gregor and Amory have been discussed in rumors and are even considered common knowledge in Casterly Rock,[20] the murderers of Elia and her children have never been publicly confirmed. Some explanations gathered by Maester Yandel for his work The World of Ice and Fire include that the Mad King commanded their deaths after learning of Tywin's betrayal, or that Elia killed her own children to prevent them from falling into rebel hands.[8]

Oberyn Martell is convinced Tywin himself ordered the deaths of his sister, Elia, and her children in revenge for her marriage to Rhaegar, whom Tywin had wanted to marry to his own daughter, Cersei.[21]


Eddard Stark finds Jaime Lannister seated on the Iron Throne, by Amok©

Lords Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon argued over the killing of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's family. While Eddard believed it to have been unjustified murder, Robert had been satisfied with the deaths of Rhaegar's children, whom he described as "dragonspawn". Jon Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie, was not able to calm their anger, and Eddard rode south the next day to lift the siege of Storm's End by Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden. Afterwards, Eddard travelled with a small group to the tower of joy in the Red Mountains of Dorne, where they battled the three remaining Kingsguard knights of Aerys II and found his sister Lyanna Stark dying. Only the grief Eddard and Robert shared over the death of Lyanna eventually reconciled them.[2][22][23]

Lord Tywin Lannister 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. Both knights chose the Wall.[24]

Robert was crowned before Eddard managed to lift the siege of Storm's End.[25] While Lord Stark had argued that Ser Jaime Lannister should be stripped of his white cloak and sent to the Wall, Robert listened to Lord Arryn's counsel instead.[25] At Robert's coronation, Jaime, Varys, and Pycelle were forgiven for their crimes and taken into Robert's service.[26] During the coronation feast, Robert joked to Jaime about the fact that he was being called "kingslayer".[7] In the days following the Sack, Jaime hunted down and killed Belis and Garigus, the two other pyromancers who had known about Aerys's wildfire plot. Garigus wept for mercy, and Belis attempted to bribe Jaime with gold in exchange for his life.[7]

The deaths of Elia Martell and her children infuriated House Martell. Prince Oberyn Martell's attempts at another rebellion were stopped by his elder brother Doran, Prince of Dorne, following Jon Arryn's visit to Dorne the year after Robert took the throne.[15][27] Doran continued to plot a Targaryen restoration in secret,[28] however, working closely together with Oberyn.[29]

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 to have been necessary to end the war.[2]

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 had felt that the war had been lost after the death of Rhaegar. With Aerys mad, and Viserys and Aegon too young, Pycelle admits that he had hoped that Tywin would have been the new king.[12]

Ser Amory Lorch is fed to a bear after the fall of Harrenhal.[30]

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."[31]

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.[7]

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.[15] However, Tywin's explanation for Elia's brother, Prince Oberyn Martell, is that only Amory was responsible for the murders, an attempt by Amory to impress the future king, Robert.[15]

Arrested for the death of King Joffrey I Baratheon, Tyrion confirms for Oberyn that Gregor was involved in the murders of his kin.[32] Oberyn duels Gregor to avenge the deaths of his sister and her children, but the Red Viper is slain by the Mountain. During the trial by combat, the poisoned Gregor publicly admits to killing Elia and Aegon.[21] Tyrion kills Tywin and disappears from the Red Keep.[33]

A Feast for Crows

As thousands of nobles and smallfolk pay their respects to Tywin's body in the Great Sept of Baelor, Jaime thinks that many are happy at his father's death, as King's Landing still remembers the Sack.[34]

A Dance with Dragons

Ser Balon Swann delivers the Mountain's skull to Oberyn's brother Doran, the Prince of Dorne.[29]

Illyrio Mopatis, Varys, and the Golden Company support Young Griff, a youth claiming to be Aegon Targaryen.[35][36] Varys allegedly smuggled the infant prince away to safety in the Free Cities, so that Gregor actually killed the so-called pisswater prince.[37]


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.[2]

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.[12]

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.[13]

Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty. By what right does the wolf judge the lion? By what right?[7]

Justice is in short supply this side of the mountains. There has been none for Elia, Aegon, or Rhaenys.[32]


  1. A Dance with Dragons, Appendix.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
  3. Tyrion Lannister learns that Young Griff claims to be Aegon Targaryen in A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 18.
  4. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 3, Tyrion I.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The End.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
  10. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  11. Rossart was named Hand of the King after the Battle of the Trident (The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The End) and was Hand for a fortnight in total (A Storm of Swords, Jaime II), which ended with his death at the Sack of King's Landing.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 25, Tyrion VI.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 23, Daenerys II.
  14. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 53, Tyrion VI.
  16. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  17. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 63, Daenerys V.
  18. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  19. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  20. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
  21. 21.0 21.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 70, Tyrion X.
  22. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 39, Eddard X.
  23. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Lyanna Stark.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 21, Tyrion III.
  25. 25.0 25.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  26. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  27. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 38, Tyrion V.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 41, Alayne II.
  29. 29.0 29.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 38, The Watcher.
  30. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 47, Arya IX.
  31. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 48, Daenerys IV.
  32. 32.0 32.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion IX.
  33. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 77, Tyrion XI.
  34. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
  35. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  36. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 61, The Griffin Reborn.
  37. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.