Winter of the Widows
The Winter of the Widows is a poetic name that maesters at the Citadel use to refer to the period after the Dance of the Dragons, as a terrible winter began near the end of the civil war which ultimately lasted six years. This winter (130–135 AC) roughly coincided with the chaotic regency of Aegon III Targaryen (131–136 AC).
So many men died during the disastrous civil war that in the aftermath, an unprecedented number of women ruled over the noble Houses, with many of them ruling as regents for their young children after the deaths of their husbands, though some were also female heirs who inherited in their own right after all of their brothers or other men ahead of them in line of succession were killed.
In the first years after the war ended, only three out of the nine Great Houses of Westeros were ruled by adult men (Stark, Tully, Greyjoy). Three were ruled by widow-regents (Lannister, Baratheon, Tyrell), two were ruled by women who inherited in their own right (Arryn, Martell), and the crown was ruled during the king's minority by a council of seven regents (one of which was a woman). Numerous other lordly houses were also ruled by widows in this time.
Women who ruled during the Regency of Aegon III
- Lady Johanna Lannister, born Johanna Westerling, the widow of Lord Jason Lannister, regent for his son Loreon (who was only five years old when the war ended). She capably led the remnants of the shattered Lannister forces in the ongoing conflict with the Greyjoys raiding the coasts, which continued as essentially a localized war even though the Dance had formally ended.
- Lady Samantha Tarly, the widow of Lord Ormund Hightower, who eventually remarried to his heir and her stepson, Lyonel Hightower, who only reached the age of adulthood at sixteen just as the war ended. While not technically his regent, she was so politically influential that she was considered the functional co-ruler of Oldtown.
- Lady Sharis Footly, the widow of Lord Footly of Tumbleton, who ruled and rebuilt the devastated town as regent for her son, who was born after the death of her husband.
In addition, Lady Tyrell had already ruled as a regent, together with Highgarden's castellan and steward, for her infant son Lyonel before the Dance of the Dragons began. With the loyalty of the lords of the Reach split between Rhaenyra and Aegon II at the start of the war, Lyonel's three regents withdrew their support for Aegon II and chose to keep House Tyrell neutral throughout the war.
- Lady Alys Rivers, the mysterious "witch queen" who came to rule over the area around Harrenhal by late 132 AC. The former lover of Prince Aemond Targaryen and seen to be pregnant in his presence, she later presented a young boy she claimed to be his posthumous son. As Harrenhal was at the heart of the devastated riverlands, Alys gathered to her a growing following of broken men until she established a small bandit-kingdom around the burnt-out castle. The Iron Throne was so distracted by other ongoing conflicts and then the Winter Fever of 133 AC that it could not mount an effort to remove her.
- Lady Sabitha Frey, born Sabitha Vypren, who served as regent for House Frey after the death of her husband Lord Forrest Frey in the Battle by the Lakeshore. Personally participated in both the Second Battle of Tumbleton and the Battle of the Kingsroad. It was rumored that while on campaign she was the lover of Lady Alysanne Blackwood. After the war ended she declined to take a position in the capital and instead returned to the Twins to try to reestablish some semblance of order in the northern riverlands. Sabitha went on to organize Widow Fairs for the hundreds of commoner women left widowed by the war, hoping to match them with the over a thousand men from the Stark army who had stayed in the south rather than overburden the North during the harsh winter. Her rule was stable enough by 134 AC that she was able to contribute six hundred soldiers to the royal host sent to end the succession war in the Vale of Arryn.
- Lady Jeyne Arryn, who ruled the Vale of Arryn in her own right since before the war began, and served as as member of the council of seven regents appointed for King Aegon III, from its inception in 131 AC until she died from an illness in 134 AC.
- Lady Elenda Baratheon, born Elenda Caron, the widow of Lord Borros Baratheon. She served as regent for her son Royce Baratheon, who was born one week after his father died. She remarried to Ser Steffon Connington in 132 AC, but became a widow for the second time in the second half of 133 AC, when Ser Steffon died in battle.
- Princess Aliandra Martell, who succeeded her father Prince Qoren at the age of seventeen as the ruler of Dorne in the years following the war. The alluring young Princess became embroiled in politics of both the Iron Throne and the Free Cities due to spillover from the Daughters' War in the Narrow Sea.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Hooded Hand.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Voyage of Alyn Oakenfist.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Blacks and the Greens.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Red Dragon and the Gold.
- Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - War and Peace and Cattle Shows.