- Barristan Selmy: "When your brother Rhaegar led his army into battle at the Trident, men died for him because they believed in him, because they loved him..."
- Jorah Mormont: "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died."
- — Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont to Daenerys Targaryen[src]
The Battle of the Trident was the climactic battle of the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion.
In his previous campaigns, Robert Baratheon had successfully led his main army from north from the Stormlands to join his main allies in the Vale and the North. He cut his way through royalist armies that attempted to stop him at Summerhall, Ashford, and Stoney Sept. At the last location, a royalist army attempted to corner him, but in the Battle of the Bells, the armies of the Vale and the North arrived and their combined forces drove them off. The combined rebel army then withdrew into friendly territory north of the Trident. The River lords remained divided but House Tully sided with the rebels.
While the rebels massed north of the river, Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen - who had started the entire war when he abducted Lyanna Stark finally reappeared in King's Landing, and similarly massed the bulk of the remaining royalist forces. He then led them north to face off against Robert's armies when they attempted to cross south of the Trident and advance on King's Landing.
Robert's rebel army at the Trident was composed of the forces from the the Stormlands, the North, the Vale, and rebel Houses from the Riverlands such as the Tullys. Robert's personal army from the Stormlands was somewhat diminished in size from all of the fighting it had seen, but was correspondingly more battle-hardened. Overall, the other rebel forces from the North, Vale, and Riverlands had also seen action at the Battle of the Bells, and though slightly outnumbered by Rhaegar's army had more combat experience.
Rhaegar's royalist army consisted primarily of the direct Targaryen vassals from the Crownlands, joined by 10,000 Dornishmen under the command of Ser Lewyn Martell of the Kingsguard. Rhaegar's own lawful wife was Elia Martell, and the Mad King kept her as a virtual hostage in the Red Keep to ensure House Martell's support. A few men from the Reach were also present, but the bulk of House Tyrell's army was tied down further south besieging Storm's End, held by Robert's younger brother Stannis. Rhaegar's forces were fresh and larger than the rebel army, but correspondingly they were unblooded and less experienced.
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was slain by Lord Robert Baratheon during the battle, resulting in a crucial and critical victory for the rebel forces. Rhaegar was killed at a ford in the river from a swing by Robert's warhammer. Smashing the rubies from Rhaegar's armor with his killing stroke led to the site becoming known as the Ruby Ford.
Dorne lost 10,000 troops including Prince Lewyn Martell, member of the Kingsguard. Robert was injured in the battle, but he sent his personal Maester to treat the injuries of Barristan Selmy, recognizing the knight's courage and loyalty despite being on the enemy side. Unable to ride, Robert sent his most trusted ally, Lord Eddard Stark, south to secure the capital. Lord Eddard, however, arrived to find the city already sacked by Lannister forces as a show of fealty to the rebellion.
The defeat marked the beginning of the end for the Targaryen dynasty. No army stood between the rebels and King's Landing, the only other royalist armies being Mace Tyrell's army besieging Storm's End and Tywin Lannister's marching from Casterly Rock towards the capital. Since Robert was wounded in the battle, it fell to Eddard to lead the rebel army south towards King's Landing, hoping to arrive before the Lannisters - who were presumably rushing to reinforce the capital city. What Eddard and Robert did not realize was that after the victory at the Trident and death of Rhaegar, Tywin had decided to betray the Mad King and join the winning side. The Lannister army indeed arrives first, but after being let inside the gates they promptly turned on its defenders, resulting in the Sack of King's Landing.
Ser Barristan was close to death when he was brought before Robert. Though he was counseled to kill him, Robert spared his life, and even sent his own maester to tend to his wounds.
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Battle of the Trident took place at a ford over the River Trident several hundred miles north of King's Landing. The battle was only possible due to some impressive maneuvering by Lord Robert's army from the Stormlands, which had to travel through hundreds of miles of enemy territory to link up with the Stark, Tully, and Arryn forces north of the river.
The battle itself was on a large scale, with Prince Rhaegar leading 40,000 royalist troops. The rebels had slightly less, but the rebels were more experienced due to almost a year of warfare beforehand. The battle was quite bloody with high casualties on both sides, but in the end it was the royalist force which broke and ran, after Prince Rhaegar's death at the hands of Robert Baratheon. After Prince Rhaegar was killed, men on both sides stole the rubies that bejeweled his armor and crown.
The rebel side included the the main armies from the North and the Vale. Robert's army from the Stormlands had to fight its way north and was much diminished, but the remaining soldiers were battle-hardened veterans. The River lords were split between the rebels and royalists, though the Tullys fought on the rebel side. House Darry, in contrast, were a major Riverlands House that fought on the Targaryen side.
The bulk of the royalist army was composed of the full strength of the Targaryen bannermen in the Crownlands, augmented by 10,000 Dornishmen. This was supported by several royalist Riverlands Houses, and surviving royalist armies from previous battles such as the Battle of the Bells. There were a few men present from the Reach and House Tyrell at the battle, but the bulk of the Tyrells' army was tied down at the Siege of Storm's End away to the south.
Other notable characters present at the battle included Lord Jon Arryn, Lord Hoster Tully, and Lord Roose Bolton. The latter, following the rebel victory, suggested that Ser Barristan Selmy be killed, but Robert was so impressed by the valor and loyalty that Barristan had shown in the battle that he spared his life, even sending his own maester to tend to Barristan's wounds instead of his own, which were less serious. After the war, Robert even made Barristan the Lord Commander of his own Kingsguard. Robert's own injuries however led him to give command of the rebel army to Eddard Stark, who pursued the defeated royalists south towards King's Landing, expecting to have to lay siege to the capital, only to find the armies of the Westerlands had already taken the city by treachery.
Wildfire plot · Sack of King's Landing · Siege of Storm's End