Game of Thrones: The Real Mad Queen of Westeros

By  · Published on June 30th, 2016

How a Lannister became the most Targaryen ruler since The Mad King.

One of the most fascinating dynamics in Game of Thrones is the specter of memory that lingers over anything. The series begins shortly before the assassination of King Robert Baratheon. Baratheon is known as First of His Name because he executed a successful coup d’état against the reigning king and the Targaryen family who have ruled Westeros for generations.

We get bits and pieces of information throughout the series about Aerys Targaryen and the provocations leading up to the coup, but we never actually see it – save, of course, for Bran’s visions. As the daughter of the Mad King, Daenerys has been warned to avoid following in her father’s footsteps her entire life, but the tension, political instability, and impending Winter implies that Westeros may be ready for a Mad Queen. We have always assumed that the Mad Queen would be Daenerys, the only Queen we knew for six seasons.

The newly crowned Queen Cersei may be more suited to be the inheritor of the Mad King’s legacy.

The Mad King Aerys Targaryen was ruthless. He was violent and angry. He was a known rapist. The final straws on his reign were the kidnapping of Lyanna Stark by his son and the discovery that the catacombs beneath King’s Landing had been rigged with Wildfire which would have destroyed the entire city.

When Robert had taken his place on the Iron Throne, he had wanted to execute all remaining members of the Targaryen family to protect his line of succession and to take vengeance for what they had done to Lyanna, his betrothed. He obviously did not kill Daenerys or her brother.

Daenerys was raised in Essos, fully aware of her family’s rightful place on the Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. She destroyed her brother for his arrogance and callousness; this seemed almost as if she was attempting to root out those traits that cost her father his throne in the first place. Ser Jorah Mormont, upon joining her, also led a guiding hand in dissuading any brutish lack of compassion. She is a natural born leader. She rallies the Dothraki. She outsmarts the masters in Slavers’ Bay. She rules her conquered cities with a stern and compassionate hand. She outlaws slavery. She brutalizes the masters the way the slaves had been brutalized. She conquers by force, but she holds her new kingdom by uplifting those over whom she rules. Overall, she is a good queen: fair, just, and amicable. When she is faced with an enemy or trying political decision, however, she has a tendency to be very cold and calculating. When she threatened to destroy one of the cities retaken by the masters in Slavers’ Bay, Jorah pointed out that it was what her father would have done and she backed down. When she told Daario Naharis that he and the Second Sons would be left behind in Mereen to keep the peace, she confessed to Tyrion that she felt nothing. Her confession implies that she is aware of her lack of empathy and that it frightens her.

Cersei, on the other hand, has always been ruthless; she has embodied many more of the Targaryen traits than even Daenerys herself. It was Cersei who murdered King Robert, her husband, because she sought more power for herself. She mothered children by her twin brother, something the Targaryens are often mocked for throughout Westeros. Cersei does not have the cold, calculating political and tactical mind that is renowned as a Lannister trait. Her violence is ever-present and emotional. She crosses anyone who stands in her way, despite the ramifications on herself – shown most clearly in her interactions with the High Sparrow. She destroys the majority of the Tyrell family, the Septons, the High Sparrow, and his soldiers by blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor with Wildfire in the catacombs beneath it, the way Aerys had threatened. Her madness has historically been muted out of the love and need to protect her children. It has prevented her from making too many too rash decisions based on her feelings. By the end of season six, all of her children are dead. There is no one left to mute her rage, not even Jaime.

When Jaime returns to King’s Landing, just in time for the coronation of his sister, he is visibly upset. I believe his discomfort may foreshadow his having to add “Queenslayer” to his titles. Cersei is the woman to watch, and I for one hope that the parallels to Aerys’ reign become more prevalent. Daenerys has an awareness of the path that she must avoid. Cersei does not, and it may finally be her downfall.

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