Tuesday, July 5, 2016

What If Stannis Won the Iron Throne?

In a news series of posts, I'd like to take a look at 'What if?' scenarios related to GRR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. 


For the first of many entries, I though I'd look back on Stannis Baratheon's failed campaign for the Iron Throne in book two. The questions I want to answer are: How could Stannis have succeeded in capturing the Iron Throne? How would the War of the Five Kings have played out if he had? And finally, would his reign have lasted? 

How Could Stannis Win The Throne? 


First, we need to look at the factor that contributed the most to Stannis' failure: his relationship with his brother Renly. In A Clash of Kings, Stannis' claim is weakened when his younger, and more popular brother, Renly also declares himself king. Bannermen in the Stormlands who would have joined Stannis' cause are taken away from him. This prompts his use of Melisandre's black magic to assassinate Renly and steal his bannermen. 


Renly's support was essential to secure the throne for Stannis.

Renly's death however eventually comes back to bite Stannis in the ass. The Tyrells, Renly's wealthy and powerful allies through his marriage to Margaery, don't join Stannis' cause. Instead they make a new alliance with the Lannisters. Their military forces, combined with Tywin Lannister's army, arrive at the last minute during the battle of Blackwater Bay. King's Landing is saved from Stannis' and the last remaining Baratheon brother loses his bid for power.

In this alternate timeline, however, Renly does not declare his kingship and instead throws his weight behind Stannis. Stannis, who knows that his brother still desires power, agrees to make Renly his hand and appoints him as his heir. The diminished likelihood of Stannis producing his own son (thanks to his wife's frequent miscarriages) is enough to assure Renly that he has a strong chance of succeeding.

With Renly's support, Stannis gains the allegiance of all the houses of the Stormlands and more importantly the fealty of House Tyrell. In this scenario, Renly would still have married Margaery to secure the Baratheon-Tyrell alliance and the combined forces of the Stormlands and the Reach march on King's Landing. 

With Tyrell backing, Stannis wins the battle for King's Landing.

Assuming that other factors remain unchanged from the book, Stannis still loses a number of men trying to take the city. Tyrion's battle plan kills many Tyrell and Baratheon soldiers and Tywin does arrive to try and save the day.

This time, however, the powerful Tyrell army is on the other side meaning that Stannis has a numerical superiority that isn't diminished. Though his casualties are still high his men enter the Red Keep and secure it.

Stannis is crowned king the next day.

How Would The War Of The Five Kings Play Out?  


So Stannis takes King's Landing. The Lannister faction is diminished and the King of Dragonstone is further legitimized. How does this affect the other Great Houses in the Seven Kingdoms. In particular, what becomes of those who were in rebellion against King Joffrey and the Lannisters who backed him?

First, the Arryns and the Martells would likely pledge allegiance to Stannis easily. The Martells would either keep Myrcella as a hostage as part of their Master Plan or if pushed would have her executed to endear them to Stannis.

Assuming that Joffrey and Cersei were captured alive during the sack or failed to escape the city, it would probably be in Stannis' best interest to keep them as hostages to secure Tywin Lannister's allegiance.

However, in my view that would be unlikely. In the books, Stannis is shown to be hard-nosed and legalistic especially in the way he deals with his enemies or rivals. He's not a flexible or forgiving ruler and invariably treats those who violate his code of ethics harshly.

Because of this Stannis would probably execute both Cersei and Joffrey if they were captured, along with anyone else in the city's leadership who supported the Lannister faction's claim.

This would destroy any hope of reconciling the Lannisters and drag the war with the Westerlands out further. Stuck between the forces of the Starks and Tullys on one side and the Stormlands and the Reach on the other, the isolated Lannister army would be in a difficult spot. Without any allies, and already weakened by a number of defeats at the hands of Robb Stark, the Westerlands would inevitably be conquered by one of the many armies pitted against it. House Lannister would either be extinguished or become a puppet of whichever Great House happened to conquer Casterly Rock first. 


House Lannister continues to fight but is isolated.

What of the other rebelling houses? The Starks, the Tullys and the Greyjoys? Reconciliation between Stannis and the first two houses would be more possible given the Starks' close relationship with the Baratheons. However even if Stannis was forgiving enough to accept a request for peace, any reconciliation would be dependent on Robb Stark giving up his title as King in the North and the Trident.

While Robb himself might be open to this, its unclear if his Northern and Riverland bannermen would accept the arrangement given recent grievances and Stannis' faith in the Red God. In all likelihood, Robb would continue to fight the Lannisters while trying to hash out a lasting agreement with King's Landing, all while resisting any forays Stannis might send into the Riverlands. 

The Greyjoys would be the most unaffected by the change of leadership in King's Landing. The Ironborn would continue their campaign to capture land in the North and resist any attempt to bring them back into the fold.

In sum, the war would likely continue after Stannis' coronation with the Lannisters likely being defeated completely. Periods of negotiation and conflict between the Iron Throne and Robb Stark would be the norm while the Ironborn would continue to reave. 


Would His Reign Last?  

Of all the pitfalls Stannis would face while sitting on the Iron Throne, his belief in the Red God and his relationship with Melisandre would be the biggest.


Melisandre- Stannis' Achilles Heel

The greatest danger to his rule would come not from other Great Houses but from religious strife with the Faith of the Seven, who would be uneasy about his worship of the Red God and would fail to endorse his kingship.

If Stannis took the Iron Throne, Melisandre would continue to exert influence over her King and would push for policies that promoted the Red Faith.

Stannis' faith in R'hllor would slowly become more fanatical. Pressure would grow on the nobility and the smallfolk in lands under his domain to convert to the Red Faith. Followers of R'hllor in King's Landing would feel emboldened while devout believers of the Seven would feel vulnerable. This is a recipe for disorder. It seems likely that the Faith Militant would reform as Septons begin to preach against Stannis and his Red Priestess. Religiously motivated violence and rioting would grow, ultimately culminating in smallfolk rebellions led by the Faith Militant and encouraged by the Septons.

Even if Stannis' armies could put down these initial rebellions, they would continue as long as he remained committed to promoting the faith of R'hllor. Melisandre would be a figure of hatred for the smallfolk and the devout.

Her influence would be seen by many at Stannis' court as a liability, with Davos and Renly vying with her for influence over the King. The presence of the Red Woman and the constant religious strife would endanger the fealty of Stannis' supporters especially the Tyrells. 


A new Faith Militant with a High Sparrow like figure would rise

In order to remain in power, Stannis would be encouraged by other advisors to renounce the Red God and send Melisandre away.

However, since he appears staunchly devoted to both R'hllor and his Red Priestess in the books this doesn't seem likely. Melisandre's magic would continue to give her great influence.

Inevitably, one of three scenarios would play out.

One, Melisandre is successfully killed by a rival member of Stannis' small council. There wouldn't a strong chance of this happening, since Melisandre can use her abilities to see into the future and stop threats against her.

Two, Stannis is deposed by his brother Renly (either through open rebellion or secret plotting) and his brother restores the Faith of the Seven to its previous status.

Three, Stannis kills or imprisons Renly at Melisandre's behest and is promptly abandoned by the Tyrells, who use their considerable weight to take the throne from him. The Tyrells secure the throne (through Margaery) and restore the Faith of the Seven.

Sadly (for Stannis fans) there's really no scenario in which he could have remained in power even if he had succeeded in taking the throne. His association with Melisandre and the Red God would have made him too unpopular among the people of the Seven Kingdoms and would inevitably caused religious strife that would have been his undoing.

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America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/america.html
America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin143183.html?src=t_america

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