Who Will Sit on the Iron Throne?
A Queen for the Known World to Love
The fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire has manifested itself into a war between fear and love, where the only option is to win or die. The important theme of clashing demands between love and honour will be utilized in this essay to analyze characters that may rule the “known world.” The “known world” consists of three continents Westoros, Essos, and Sothoryos. For the purpose of this essay, there will be a specific focus on the political conflict in Westeros over who will sit on the Iron Throne. Machiavellian principles will be presented in this essay to analyze potential rulers for the Iron Throne. This essay will be combining topics number one and two, and will apply political strategy to answer the both questions. Political strategy, which is the art and science of utilizing political, psychological and power forces, will be a helpful tool to analyze the tactical movements of different players in the “game of thrones.” This essay will ultimately argue that Sansa will sit on the Iron Throne and become the ruler of Westeros because in the long term it is better for a ruler to be loved rather than feared.
The current Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister, is a member of the most powerful family in A Clash of Kings. As the rulers of Westoros, the Lannisters often center their political strategies around Machiavellian principles. Machiavelli’s principles originate from his book The Prince, which states that “it is much safer to be feared than loved, when of the two, either must be dispensed with” (The Prince, Chapter 17). Cersei reflects these principles in her ruling strategies. The route of fear has permitted Cersei to gain power. However, this route has simultaneously had negative repercussions for her and her beloved family.
The queen’s ruling technique reflect Machiavellian principles. Although these techniques have benefited Cersei, they have also backfired. Cersei has faced negative repercussions, like when she coerces Eddard Stark to lie in his public confession. Eddard falsely confesses to treason hoping that it would help protect his daughter, Sansa. The theme of the clashing demands between love and duty surfaces in this situations and permits readers to understand that Eddard Stark highly values honour, yet the family is more important to him. Cersei forces Eddard to lie, which is a political strategy rooted in fear. She becomes fearful once Eddard informs her that he is aware that her children are bastards. The reader is encouraged to believe that Cersei is afraid others will learn the truth. Therefore, encouraging Eddard to lie may be considered a precautionary measure, and a reflection of ruling techniques that are derivative of fear. Publicly labeling Eddard as a traitor will devalue any further information that he provides. Strategically, Eddard lying may have been beneficial for the Lannisters. However, Cersei’s constant fear of losing her children and power was heightened by Eddard Stark. This may have theoretically impacted Joffrey’s temperament and his desire to end Eddard’s life.
Cersei is a paranoid mother. When she was a young girl, Cersei received a prophecy that her children’s shrouds will be golden, causing her to internally fear her children’s death (FC 540). Additionally, as a young child, Cersei learns that she will be Queen until she is overthrown by someone more beautiful and young. Cersei’s paranoia caused by the prophecy and the desire to remain in power may have impacted her eldest son’s emotional development. Psychologist John Bowlby’s attachment theory indicates that a child’s temperament is strongly connected to a caregiver’s ability to provide security and foundation (Attachment and Loss, 2006). Mothering centered on fear can result in instability. Therefore, it is possible that Joffrey’s irrationality may be a result of the anxiety that resides in the relationship he had with his mother. Joffrey’s unpredictable command to execute Ned Stark takes his mother by surprise, yet her inability to control her son’s commands results in Eddard dying.
Readers are encouraged to believe that Eddard’s confession offended and terrified Joffrey, causing him to behave irrationally. Joffrey’s irrational commands are a manifestation of Machiavellian principles. His actions are likely to have originated from fear, rather than love. Yet, adopting these principles is likely to cause citizens of the seven kingdoms to hate Joffrey. Additionally, his actions destruct the Lannister’s original plans to make peace with House Stark and House Tully. The execution changes the dynamic of the situation, and permits for fear to override love. This incident leaves readers, and citizens of the Seven Kingdom’s despising Joffrey. Eddard is a respected man, and citizens of the North are outraged by his execution. Therefore, by ruling through hate the Lannister’s produced tensions within the kingdom, it will eventually manifest themselves into a civil war.
Prior to Eddard’s confession, Cersei guaranteed the High Septon that Eddard would not be executed after his confession of treason. However, Joffrey’s command to execute Eddard causes Cersei to appear untrustworthy in the eyes of the High Septon. Members of the Faith reprimand Cersei for allowing Joffrey to kill Eddard. Within A Song of Ice and Fire, the Faith of the Seven and the High Septon are influential religious entities. Therefore, utilizing fear in ruling tactics and in their political strategy has negatively impacted the relationship the Lannister’s have with the Faith of the Seven. In contrast to the Lannisters, readers are encouraged to believe that Eddard was an honourable man, who would sacrifice anything for his family. The Starks highly value honour. The appreciation of honour is a lesson that has been inherited by Eddard’s children. Sansa, Eddard’s eldest daughter, highly values honour. When comparing Cersei’s embodiment of honour and Sansa’s embodiment of honour, there is a drastic difference.
Cersei is considered a liar and untrustworthy by one of the most central authority figures in the Seven Kingdoms, the Faith of the Seven. The tension between the crown and the Faith causes readers to believe that the Cersei is power hungry, and irrational because her political strategy is centered on the immediate personal gain, rather than the collective good of the realm. However, readers later learn that Cersei’s paranoia and irrationality have been drastically shaped by the childhood experience of hearing prophecies from Maggy the Frog. Prophecies are an important motif in A Song of Ice and Fire because in the known world prophecies hold a sense of legitimacy. At the Purple Wedding, a fan-given name for the wedding between Margery Tyrell and King Joffrey, the prophecies are relevant. Cersei feared that her children would die because of what was predicted in the prophecies, and this fear becomes a reality when Joffrey dies at the Purple Wedding. Readers have the opportunity to understand Cersei’s fears deriving from the prophecies. She also worries that Margery is the young and beautiful individual depicted in the prophecies. Although Margery does not completely overcast Cersei’s power, Cersei’s sons become infatuated with Margery, resulting in Cersei metaphorically losing her children to Margery.
The negative connotation of the prophecies has caused Cersei to fear their actualization. Readers are encouraged to believe the prophecies will be fulfilled and that a younger and more beautiful individual will cast Cersei down from the Iron Throne. However, it is predicted that the younger and more beautiful character is not Margery Tyrell but it is Sansa Stark. George R.R. Martin has indicated that the television series and the novels will have similar endings (Cinemablend). Therefore, this encourages readers to doubt that Margery will sit on the throne because she has died in the HBO version.
Furthermore, there are predictions that Sansa will sit on the throne because Sansa adopts the political strategy that it is better to be loved rather than feared. The eldest Stark daughter is highly concerned with honour, and comes from a powerful house. In Sansa II, in A Clash of Kings, she finds a folded note under her pillow. She questioned:
“What could it mean? Should she take it to the queen to prove that she was being good? Nervously, she rubbed her stomach. The angry purple bruise Ser Meryn had given her had faded to an ugly yellow, but still hurt. His fist had been mailed the he hit her. It was her own fault. She must learn to hide her feelings better, so as not to anger Joffrey (CK 211).”
Sansa desperately wants others to approve of her. She is willing to sacrifice her opportunity to find safety to honour the Lannisters, most specifically Cersei. Additionally, this quotation demonstrates that she is a quick learner. She desperately wants to make Joffrey happy and quickly learns that she must ignore her feelings to please Joffrey. However, Sansa’s actions are a reflection of love and honour. She is devoted to Joffrey, and loves him very much. Sansa’s contrast to Cersei and the Lannister’s encourages readers to demonize the Queen Regent and royal family.
The demonization of the Lannisters and Cersei may result in negative consequences.
Machiavellian principles indicate that it is dangerous for citizens’ feeling about their rulers to switch from fear to hatred. Hatred and misunderstanding is likely to generate a rebellion. The dishonesty and dishonor generated by the Lannister’s may encourage citizens to overthrow the government, and demand a new leader. Therefore, it is believed that governing systems based on fear is likely to have damaging consequences. Governing based on fear may have questionable values and honour, especially if this fear manifests itself in shameful actions such as homicide and incest. Cerise lacks honour because she is implicated in the death of Robert Baratheon and has three children with her brother, Jaime.
Honour is highly connected to the values of moral theory within King’s Landing. The Faith of the Seven utilizes honor to determine what is good or evil. It is crucial to understand within Westoros the interconnected relationship of the crown and the faith is highly respected. Both of these pillars of power hold similar values. The values of the realm are centered on honour and faith. Members of the crown that dishonor these values may face serious ramifications. Therefore, it is predicted that Cersei will be charged with treason and may possibly be dethroned.
If Cersei is dethroned because of her dishonor, it would be crucial for her replacement to be an honorable individual, who respects the values of the faith. Maggy the Frog’s prophecies indicate that this individual will be young and beautiful. The term beautiful is described as possessing visual, emotional, and psychological satisfaction. Thus, the individual that replaces Cersei will likely hold similar values to those of the faith. For this reason, it is predicted that Sansa Stark will replace Cersei, rather than someone like Daenerys Targaryen.
Daenerys has similar characteristics to Cersei. She is power hungry, and determined to sit on the Iron Throne. Dany also has similar characteristics to her father, the Mad King. Daenerys’ morals have been questioned by readers, indicating that she is portrayed as a character that is likely to abuse her power, and value fear over love. She is represented as a hypocrite when she is depicted as hoping to abolish slavery, yet utilizes slaves in her army, to gain personal power. Her actions are reflected as being egotistical. Daenerys is arguably exploiting the unsullied for her benefits.
In addition to Daenerys questionable morals, it is unlikely that she will overthrow Cersei because she has another destiny allied for herself. Dany’s destiny is predicted when Melisandre tells Stannis in A Storm of Swords the prophecy that “when the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone” (SS 285). Prophecies hold some legitimacy in the known world, therefore it is likely that Melisandre’s prophecy holds value. Daenerys is likely to be the “Azor Ahai,” the promised one, because she was able to wake dragons out of stone, and she is now accompanied by three dragons in her fight for the Iron Throne. Therefore, Dany is likely to be destined for something more important that the Iron Throne. It is predicted that she is the “promised” one, and not the future queen.
Cersei and Daenarys represent Machiavellian principles in their ruling tactics and questionable morals. Both of them utilize a ruling technique based on fear. They present egotistical values. Sitting on the Iron Throne can be a selfish desire, which may result in dishonorable actions. Their egotistical values hinder their ability to rule because they permit for fear to influence their moral values, thus hindering their legitimacy and power.
In contrast to Cersei and Dany, Sansa is a caring and honorable person. Sansa is beautiful inside and out. Her values highly align with those of the faith. Thus, it is predicted that if Cersei is removed from the throne, or killed, she will be replaced by someone who is “more beautiful.” It is believed Sansa’s political strategy, to rule with love, makes her more beautiful than the current queen. Sansa believes that “love was a surer route to the people’s loyalty than fear. If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me” (CK, 639). Additionally, her marriage with Tyrion encourages readers to predict that there is a possibility that both of them will take the Iron Throne. If this prediction is true, it is likely that Sansa will be the younger and more beautiful individual who will replace Cersei.
In conclusion, it is evident by Ned’s execution that ruling and political strategy based on fear can have negative consequences. Within the known world power resides in “sharp steel and strong arms,” yet it is crucial to use power wisely. Having the power of the masses is crucial, but it is important to honour this power. It is important to not hinder the support of the masses by ruling in fear. Fear may equate to hatred. Therefore, it is easier to gain support, power and legitimacy by being loved, rather than by being feared or hated. For this reason, it is predicted that Sansa will be a queen for the known world to love, and honour.