This post contains spoilers for the “Game of Thrones” season finale.
It took years, tragedy, careful plotting, and a whole bunch of blood and wildfire, but Cersei Lannister is sitting on the Iron Throne. But, does the queen actually have a legitimate claim to the throne? What, exactly, is the line of succession here?
The real answer is that it doesn’t matter any more, and that’s kind of the point. But, heck, lets get technical with it.
Here’s who should have inherited the Iron Throne after King Robert Baratheon’s death.
Superfans and Westerosi genealogy experts have had to follow the royal family tree down some weird paths to get to the bottom of this. Robert Baratheon was king when the season started, and upon his death, his children, Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella would inherit the throne in that order. Of course, they’re all technically inbred bastards who shouldn’t have had a legitimate claim, but that’s in the past. After them comes Robert’s brother Stannis and his daughter Shireen, followed by Robert’s youngest brother, Renly.
This being “Game of Thrones, they’re all dead. So now what? We have to do some deep, deep dives to figure it out.
Robert’s grandmother was actually a Targaryen. Rhaelle Targaryen was also the aunt of the Mad King Aerys, meaning that, ironically, Viserys (dead) and Daenerys would be next up in line. However, Robert’s overthrow of the Targaryens and his effective exile of the surviving children would invalidate this claim most likely.
So who is actually left to inherit the throne?
Corwen Baratheon wed a woman named Leyne about 200 years before the show began. They had six children, including Arion, who was Robert’s great-great-great grandfather. That bloodline has been snuffed out, but another one of Corwen’s children, Elyanna, married Lord Mathin Lannister.
Can you see where this is going?
Mathin Lannister was Tywin Lannister’s great-great-grandfather. Which means that when Tywin died, the true inheritor of the Iron Throne was… Jaime Lannister.
That means that Jaime Lannister should be the rightful King of Westeros.
Jaime is Tywin’s firstborn son. However, he was a member of the Kingsguard, and members of that elite force are forbidden from taking lands, marrying, or fathering children. Remember, Tywin was furious that Jamie couldn’t legally inherit Casterly Rock due to his vows, which were for life.
But when Tommen released Jaime from his vows as a Kingsguard, it freed him up to be the king. Sorry Cersei.
All of this is very complicated, but it hides what’s really the largest point about this whole season, and possibly the show as a whole.
None of this succession stuff matters.
Why are we talking about who succeeds Robert Baratheon to take the Iron Throne? Because he took it from the Mad King Aerys. From the outset of the series we’ve established that, to a certain extent, laws about who should become king are worth nothing if a person can simply… become king.
Cersei took the throne. It’s hers — screw the rules.
Meanwhile you’ve got a bastard — a secret Targaryen bastard, no less — proclaimed as the King in the North. Jon Snow’s an interesting case, as even though he’s the son of a Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, who was himself the heir to the Mad King before Robert’s rebellion. Jon, however, is still a bastard, and thus not eligible for the Iron Throne. Doesn’t seem to be stopping the Northerners from coronating him, much to Sansa’s chagrin. Bran is still alive too, but it seems doubtful that he’ll rule Winterfell as is his right.
Yara Greyjoy lost the Kingsmoot election to her uncle Euron, but she’s still planning on ruling the Iron Islands. Theon, the last surviving son of their father and previous king Balon Greyjoy, isn’t taking the Throne. Ellaria Sand just straight-up murdered the Martells of Dorne, and now she’s in charge of the whole country and nobody seems to mind much?
And, of course, Daenerys is sailing to Westeros with a massive army to take the whole thing back under Targaryen rule.
Having the right family name isn’t automatically a winning hand in the Game of Thrones anymore. Since the show began, we’ve seen major houses become almost totally extinguished and a wide range of claimants take their places on the throne.
Plus, the only king who really, really matters now that winter has come is the Night King, and he certainly doesn’t care what your family tree looks like.
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