|The title of this article is conjecture based on information revealed in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels or related material and may be subject to change.
The Assassination of Renly Baratheon was an event during the War of the Five Kings. It was the direct result of the failed meeting between claimants to the Iron Throne, Stannis Baratheon and Renly Baratheon, the brothers of Robert Baratheon.
Following the death of Robert Baratheon, his two brothers, Stannis and Renly, claimed the Iron Throne for themselves. They both knew Robert's official heir, Joffrey Baratheon, was not actually Robert's son, but a bastard born of incest between Queen Cersei and her twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister.
Stannis Baratheon, from his seat on the island of Dragonstone, claimed the throne as Robert's legitimate heir by right of birth, with the sole support of the lords of the Narrow Sea, houses sworn to Dragonstone. Renly Baratheon, from the ancestral seat of House Baratheon, Storm's End, also declared himself King of the Seven Kingdoms with the support of House Tyrell as well as the Stormlords, vassals to House Baratheon.
Knowing his numbers were vastly inferior, Stannis set sail to Storm's End to demand the allegiance of his younger brother and the Stormlords. Renly, however, refused to bend the knee, citing the vastly superior numbers of his army and the fact that no lord wanted Stannis as King.
Catelyn Stark, who had been sent by King Robb Stark to discuss an alliance between Houses Stark and Baratheon against Lannister and King Joffrey, attempted to make peace between the brothers and remind them of their common foe but was unheeded by both would-be kings. Stannis coldly reminded Catelyn that her husband had supported his claim to the throne, even at the cost of his own life.
Stannis offered to make Renly his heir and reinstate him as Master of Laws in the small council. Stannis gave him until the night to consider his decision, adding that if Renly had not come to him by sunrise, he would be destroyed.
Smuggling the Red Woman
Stannis ordered Ser Davos Seaworth to smuggle Melisandre to a seaside cove nearby Renly's camp, and to never mention it ever again. Despite his misgivings, Ser Davos did as ordered and smuggled Melisandre aboard a small rowboat.
The pair found the cove to be barred by a metal gate. However, Melisandre was not cowed by the obstacle and merely removed her robe to reveal her pregnant belly to a horrified Davos. She quickly gave birth to a shadowy, human-like immaterial creature with an appearance similar to that of Stannis that vanished soon after leaving Melisandre's womb.
Death of Renly I
That same night, as Renly's men prepared for the inevitable battle, King Renly held another meeting with Lady Catelyn to discuss the terms of his alliance with Robb inside his tent. Renly offered to accept Robb styling himself King in the North, ruling over all lands north of the Neck, as long as he swore loyalty to him. Catelyn tried another time to convince Renly of making peace with Stannis, only for Renly to retort that treating with Stannis would be like treating with the wind.
After Renly removed his crown and breastplate before a mirror and gave them to Brienne, the shadow born from Melisandre materialized behind Renly, quickly stabbing him through the back with one of its talons. Renly fell, dead, and the shadow vanished before the eyes of the horrified Brienne and Catelyn.
Hearing Brienne's scream, two of Renly's Kingsguard, Emmon Cuy and Robar Royce, entered the tent. Believing Brienne to be the culprit they attacked her, though the warrior-woman defended herself and slew her two sworn brothers.
The Stormlords largely swore fealty to Stannis when he arrived the following day. House Tyrell, however, led the forces of the Reach back to Highgarden, and later formed an alliance with House Lannister. A few noble houses of the Reach, such as the Florents and Fossoways, however, bent the knee to Stannis. Brienne was blamed for the murder by many and fled the camp with Lady Catelyn, who accepted Brienne's oath of service.
Although Renly's murder initially benefits Stannis, who obtained the strength of the Stormlords and a handful of the Reach lords, it backfired on him during the Battle of the Blackwater, as the forces commanded by Tywin Lannister were bolstered by the Tyrells, led by "Renly's ghost", and turned the tide against the King in the Narrow Sea.
After his defeat, Stannis expressed some regret for the death of his younger brother, as he was now a kinslayer with nothing to show for it.
Renly's murder also ultimately resulted in Stannis's doom, as Brienne of Tarth would eventually avenge Renly by tracking Stannis down after his failed attack on Winterfell. Once she found Stannis in the forest, wounded and exhausted from the battle, she confronted him with Renly's murder, which Stannis admitted to. Thus, she sentenced Stannis to death in Renly's name, and even by addressing Renly as Renly of the House Baratheon, First of His Name, Rightful King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, there are two assassinations and two 'shadows' carrying them out.
The first one is born in an unknown location. Davos does not witness its creation. It reaches Renly's tent in a similar way, though it slits Renly's throat - while he wears him armor - beneath his metal gorget instead of stabbing him. Also, Brienne apparently kills one of the two guards who enter the tent with Robar Royce and Emmon Cuy, but doesn't kill any of Renly's Rainbow Guard, since Catelyn convinces Ser Robar Royce of Brienne's innocence, and then uses iron brazier to knock Emmon Cuy unconscious. Nevertheless, both Ser Emmon Cuy and Ser Robar Royce are killed by Ser Loras in a fit of rage, with Loras also believing Brienne to be the culprit. Neither Margaery nor Petyr Baelish are present at Renly's camp during the events; Margaery is at Bitterbridge with the full strength of House Tyrell while Littlefinger is still at King's Landing.
Another notable change is that in the books Stannis never admitted he had anything to do with Renly's death, though it is doubtful Melisandre would have sent the shadow to kill Renly without direct order from Stannis.
When Davos asks Stannis about Renly's death, Stannis answers ambiguously: "I dream of it sometimes. Of Renly’s dying. A green tent, candles, a woman screaming. And blood. I was still abed when he died. Your Devan will tell you. He tried to wake me... Devan says I thrashed and cried out, but what does it matter? It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean". Stannis's words can be interpreted as a statement that a guilty person may say in attempt to convince himself that his hands are clean, but it is uncertain.
In the third novel, after Davos is released from jail, he tells Stannis that he sought to kill Melisandre because she murdered Cressen, Ser Cortnay Penrose (the castellan of Storm's End) and Renly. Stannis answers "She saw Renly's end in the flames, yes, but she had no more part in it than I did". Again, those words can be interpreted either way.
Following Renly's death, Varys reported to the Small council that there were many rumors about the identity of the murderer: a groom said that Renly was slain by a knight of his own Rainbow Guard; a washerwoman claimed Stannis stole through the heart of his brother's army with his magic sword; several men-at-arms believed a woman did the fell deed, but could not agree on which woman: either a maid that Renly had spurned or a camp follower or Lady Catelyn Stark. Although Varys did not specifically mention Brienne's name, she was commonly rumored to be the murderer.
When Jaime and Brienne enter King's Landing, Loras confronts Brienne, accusing her of Renly's death and challenging her. Brienne tries to explain what really happened, but Loras does not believe. Jaime intervenes, commands Loras to sheathe his sword, and claims that Brienne is not a liar. Later, Jaime makes Loras understand that Brienne is innocent, based on two facts: Renly's armor was made of the finest steel, and no human being - not even someone as strong as the Mountain - could have sliced through it cleanly; morever, if Brienne intended to kill Renly, why armor him first? Loras admits that perhaps Brienne speaks the truth after all.
Throughout the fourth novel, Brienne encounters people, among them Ser Hyle Hunt and Randyll Tarly, who accuse her of Renly's death. Brienne keeps denying that, but no one really cares about Renly's death. Randyll, who has always treated Brienne hostilely, seems to take her word that she did not kill Renly, but comments offensively "you only let him die".
The second assassination is carried out by a second shadow born after Davos smuggles Melisandre beneath the walls of Storm's End, is sent after Ser Cortnay Penrose, who refused to yield Storm's End to Stannis even after Renly's death. The circumstances of this assassination were transferred to Renly's death in the TV series adaptation. The second assassination takes place off-screen, and is revealed when Varys reports Tyrion that it was said Ser Penrose threw himself from a tower. Neither Varys nor Tyrion believed that, figuring Stannis was responsible. Varys pointed out the strange connection between the two murders of Renly and Ser Penrose, and speculated (correctly) it was witchcraft. Tyrion was skeptical, believing (incorrectly) that Stannis has hired a skilled assassin from the Free Cities.
Similarly to Renly's death, Ser Cortnay's death initially seemed to benefit Stannis, but backfired at him at the battle: the delay at Storm's End for one day, against Davos' advice, who urged Stannis to leave for King's Landing immediately, enabled Tywin and the Tyrells' reinforcements arrive at the critical moment, just when Stannis' troops started invading the city.
Renly's death had been prophesied by an old Woods witch known as the Ghost of High Heart: "I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag".
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Purple Wedding · Tyrion Lannister (I) · Tyrion Lannister (II) · Tower of the Hand