- "Stannis is a commander. He's led men into war twice. He destroyed the Greyjoy fleet."
- ―Eddard Stark
The Battle of Fair Isle was a pivotal naval battle in the Greyjoy Rebellion, taking place approximately nine years before the beginning of the Game of Thrones series. After the defeat of the ironborn in the Battle of Seagard, Lord Stannis Baratheon, Master of Ships to King Robert I, smashed the Iron Fleet, paving the way for the Iron Throne to invade the Iron Islands themselves and ultimately crush the rebellion.
When King Robert Baratheon is mortally wounded in a hunt, his youngest brother Renly Baratheon argues with Eddard Stark that he should succeed ahead of middle brother Stannis Baratheon, citing that Stannis is not fit to be a king because he is a stern man who inspires no love or loyalty. Eddard counters that Stannis is a proven battlefield commander, in both Robert's Rebellion and the Greyjoy Rebellion in which he "destroyed the Greyjoy fleet" (though he doesn't mention the "Battle of Fair Isle" by name). Renly responds by pointing out that no one denies Stannis' accomplishments as a soldier, and Robert was a good soldier too, but asks if Eddard still honestly thinks that good soldiers make good kings. Having seen how ill-fitted Robert was to ruling, Eddard cannot deny the truth of what Renly says, but leaves saying that he will not declare for Renly, because he will not dishonor Robert's final hours by shedding blood in his halls.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Lords Stannis Baratheon and Paxter Redwyne are sent to deal with the Iron Fleet following the attack on Lannisport. Stannis devised a trap for Victarion Greyjoy and destroys the Iron Fleet off the coast of Fair Isle, in the Sunset Sea.
The Battle of Fair Isle was one of the largest naval battles fought in several decades, and one of the largest fought entirely at sea. No major naval battles were fought in Robert's Rebellion, which was conducted almost entirely on land. It is unknown if any of the five Blackfyre Rebellions fought during the past century involved extensive ship-to-ship naval warfare - the final War of the Ninepenny Kings against the last Blackfyre Pretender at least needed ships to transport soldiers to the Stepstones where the rebels were based, but it hasn't been stated if the rebels had their own fleet which tried to repulse the Royal Fleet.
Only the subsequent Battle of the Blackwater neared the Battle of Fair Isle in size, but that was not primarily a naval battle between ships but an amphibious landing. Even so, there wasn't much ship-to-ship fighting in the Battle of the Blackwater, as most of Stannis' fleet was destroyed in the wildfire trap set by Tyrion Lannister - and the Lannisters also used up many of their remaining ships by converting them into fire-ships to carry the volatile wildfire.
Before the Blackfyre Rebellions, King Daeron I used ships during his Conquest of Dorne, but he achieved this by luring most of the Dornish armies into the west by feinting an attack through the Red Mountains, after which he landed his main army near the mouth of the Greenblood to quickly march on Sunspear. He may not have faced significant opposition at sea.
There was one major naval battle during the War of Conquest, the Battle of Gulltown, when the fleets of House Arryn and House Targaryen fought each other to the point of mutual annihilation. The Valemen fleet managed to destroy the Targaryen fleet at great cost, and ultimately Visenya Targaryen salvaged the situation as best she could by burning the surviving Vale ships using her dragon Vhagar, but on the whole it was a strategic defeat.