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Sparrows

Members of the Faith Militant harassing a street vendor selling idols from other religions.

"An army that defends the bodies and souls of the common people."
―The High Sparrow[src]

The Faith Militant was the military order of the Faith of the Seven, the dominant religion in the Seven Kingdoms. They served the will of the High Septon and enforced the word of the Seven-Pointed Star by force of arms. They were disbanded centuries ago during the reign of King Maegor Targaryen, known as Maegor the Cruel, after a bloody civil war between them and the crown.

Nonetheless, they were revived during later stages of the War of the Five Kings when a fanatical faction of the Faith of the Seven, commonly known as "Sparrows" and their leader the "High Sparrow", became aligned with Queen Dowager Cersei Lannister. Cersei manipulated her son, King Tommen Baratheon, to name the High Sparrow as the High Septon and to reinstate the Faith Militant in return for using them as allies against the Tyrells.

After being reinstated, the Faith Militant began enforcing their strict religious values on the nobility and smallfolk alike. They harassed inhabitants of King's Landing who engaged in acts they deemed as sinful, such as street vendors selling idols from other religions or nobles visiting local brothels. They later grew bolder and arrested Ser Loras Tyrell and Queen Margaery Tyrell. On the High Sparrow's orders, they eventually even turned on Cersei herself by arresting her for several crimes including regicide, incest, and adultery. Cersei eventually admitted to adultery with her cousin Lancel Lannister, who had joined the Faith Militant, which resulted in her making a walk of atonement.

Eventually, Cersei was put on the trial for the crimes she continued to deny but instead of going to the Great Sept of Baelor to face them, she eliminated the Sparrows, their leader and the recently created Faith Militant when she destroyed the Great Sept of Baelor using wildfire on the day of her trial.[1]

After the Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, it is yet to be seen if whatever remains of the Faith of the Seven will try to recreate the Faith Militant or if they will submit to the will of Cersei, now Queen on the Iron Throne.

Members of the Faith Militant typically garbed themselves in rough-spun robes of dyed black wool, which they fasten around their waists with chains. They arm themselves with clubs and cudgels. To show their absolute devotion, they carved their foreheads with the Seven-Pointed Star, the symbol of the Faith of the Seven.[2]

Prominent members

  • Brother {Lancel}, formerly Ser Lancel Lannister
  • Brother {Loras}, last to be accepted in the Faith Militant
  • Brother {Boake}

Historical members

History

Background

The Faith Militant were first established during the reign of Aenys Targaryen, with the Faith Militant was created opposing the tradition of Targaryen Inbreeding. When Aenys wed his daughter Princess Rhaena to his son Prince Aegon, the Faith of the Seven's followers were outraged and this sparked the Faith Militant uprising in which the High Septon denounced the Targaryen Dynasty and many noble lords followed their lead, attacking the Targaryens and their followers.[3]

Season 5

The Faith Militant is reestablished during the rule of King Tommen I Baratheon by the order of the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister, who seeks the support of the High Sparrow and the Faith of the Seven in her power struggle against House Tyrell. Their purpose is ostensibly to protect the faithful and the clergy from attacks and abuses, but they swiftly start imposing their puritanical views upon King's Landing. Formed from the ranks of the most devoted among the Sparrows, the Faith Militant carry out attacks on merchants selling idols of other religions, liquor vendors, taverns, and brothels, including those owned by Lord Petyr Baelish, and they restrict access to the Great Sept of Baelor, preventing even King Tommen from entering. The Faith Militant also carry out attacks against known homosexuals, harassing a noble found in bed with a male prostitute and arresting Ser Loras Tyrell, Queen Margaery Tyrell's brother, at Queen Cersei's suggestion.[2] During the inquest into the charges of sodomy, buggery and blasphemy against the knight, Margaery Tyrell offers false testimony, which is debunked by a witness secretly arranged by Queen Cersei and Lord Baelish: Olyvar, who had a relationship with Ser Loras. Olyvar's testimony convinces the High Septon to bring Loras to a full trial, and also to arrest Margaery for perjury and blasphemy.[4]

Ironically, Cersei herself is then arrested by the Faith: secretly pushed by Lady Olenna Tyrell and Lord Baelish, Lancel, Cersei's cousin and former lover and now a member of the Faith Militant, confesses their adulterous affair to the High Sparrow, as well the queen's relationship with her brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, and Lancel's own involvement in Cersei's murder of King Robert.[5] After being held for several days, Cersei eventually confesses the adultery with Lancel in order to get back to her son King Tommen, though she still denies the incest with Jaime and the murder of King Robert. The High Sparrow agrees to let her go until the trial that will ascertain the truth of the regicide and incest, but first she must perform a walk of atonement. As Cersei performs her walk, naked and shamed through the streets of King's Landing, she is escorted by six members of the Faith Militant to protect her from the hostile crowds.[6]

Season 6

The moment Queen Margaery Tyrell's walk of atonement is about to commence, House Tyrell troops led by Mace Tyrell intervene to prevent the public humiliation. The force is spearheaded by Jaime Lannister, who rides up the stairway of the Great Sept to confront the High Sparrow personally. He demands that Margaery and Loras be released, threatening to destroy the Faith Militant if they fail to comply. The High Sparrow then outmaneuvers Jaime and the Tyrells by announcing the cancellation of the walk of atonement, and reveals a formation of a new alliance between the faith and the crown. To everyone's shock, King Tommen emerges from the Great Sept accompanied by his own guards and takes his wife's hand. Olenna Tyrell bitterly notes that the High Sparrow has beaten them.[7]

Some time later, members of the Faith Militant led by Brother Lancel, go to the Red Keep to demand Cersei to go with them as the High Sparrow requests her presence at the Sept of Baelor. Cersei refuses their petition as she recalls the High Sparrow promised to let her stay in the Red Keep until the day of her trial. But Lancel rebuffs this and orders the members of the Faith Militant to take her by force. However, the queen's guard, Ser Gregor Clegane, prevents this, ripping off the head of one of the Faith Militant's Brothers, forcing Brother Lancel to back down and leave.

Later, King Tommen decrees that after an agreement with the High Sparrow, trial by combat is now forbidden in the Seven Kingdoms and his mother Cersei and Ser Loras Tyrell will face trial in the Sept of Baelor on the first day of the festival of The Mother.[8]

During the day of the trial at the Sept, Ser Loras confesses his crimes to the seven septons appointed as judges (including the High Sparrow), and in exchange for mercy he agrees to relinquish his lordship and name and devote his life to serving the Faith. After accepting his confession, the High Sparrow then instructs some of the Faith Militant to carve the seven pointed star into Loras' forehead, as they begin preparing to start Queen Cersei's trial.

After noticing that Cersei is not present at the Sept, Brother Lancel informs the High Sparrow about it, and he is ordered to go and retrieve her. As he leaves the Sept to go to the Red Keep, Lancel notices Arthur, a little boy working for Qyburn, and follows him below the Sept in an attempt to catch him. He is stabbed in the spine, and left to discover a cache of wildfire about to be set off with lit candles.

Inside the Sept, Queen Margaery attempts to convince the High Sparrow that Cersei is planning something: she knows fully well the consequences of not being present at her own trial, and yet she has chosen to fail to appear anyway. The High Sparrow arrogantly rejects Margaery's claim, clearly believing not even Cersei would dare defy the orders of the Faith Militant after the walk of shame she was forced to endure.He therefore refuses to let anyone leave, even at the request or (later) demands of the queen.

Beneath the Sept, Brother Lancel struggles to stop the wildfire—which is about to ignite—but he fails to reach the candles to douse them in time. The normal flame reaching the green alchemical liquid results in a massive explosion, which utterly destroys the Great Sept of Baelor and kills everyone inside, as well as some innocent bystanders outside.[1]

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Faith Militant is the collective name of two military orders: the Warrior's Sons and the Poor Fellows. They were also known as the "Swords and Stars" for their symbols: the sword for the Warrior's Sons and the star for the Poor Fellows. The TV series apparently simply condensed them into one order, "the Faith Militant".

The Warrior's Sons were the higher order, composed of knights and younger sons of high lords. Similar to the Night's Watch or Kingsguard, noblemen who join the Warrior's Sons swore to give up all inheritance, marry no wives, and father no children. Their swords were sworn directly to the service of the High Septon. They were named specifically for the Warrior, one of the aspects of the seven-in-one godhead, who represents martial prowess (i.e. if this were Greek mythology, they would be called "Ares's Sons"). The Warrior's Sons tended to be well-trained and well-equipped knights, and had a reputation for fanaticism and brutality against enemies of the Faith.

The Poor Fellows were the lower order, whose members are commoners. Women could not join the Warrior's Sons, but they could join the Poor Fellows (few if any women would have the professional martial training and expensive military equipment to join the Warrior's Sons). The Poor Fellows were vastly more numerous than the Warrior's Sons, though this was their only advantage. Its members tended to be poor penitents with nothing to lose by joining the order, armed with only axes and clubs. The sheer numbers of the Poor Fellows could be overwhelming, however, and they could quickly replenish their forces - given that potentially anyone who followed the Faith of the Seven and who could swing a club could become a Poor Fellow.

The banner of the Warrior's Sons was a rainbow-colored sword shining in the darkness - rainbows are more commonly used in the novels as a symbol of the Faith, because they are one beam of light refracted into seven colors, and thus a metaphor for the Seven-in-One God. The TV series consistently avoided showing such symbols, apparently because they might be seen as silly by casual viewers. The Poor Fellows, meanwhile, used banners or simple badges consisting of a red Seven-Pointed Star - just like the normal Seven-Pointed Star symbols found throughout most of Westeros, which were thus easy to acquire, though they made sure to color them in red (apparently to signify battle). The TV series simplified both orders into just "the Faith Militant", and doesn't specifically give them a new banner so much as they just use the Seven-Pointed Star very prominently - though the TV series has usually used a red Seven-Pointed star for them, which does mirror the banner of the Poor Fellows from the novels.

Unlike in the show, members of the Faith Militant are not required to carve the Seven-Pointed Star symbol onto their foreheads. Most of them paint the star on their brows or sew a badge of it to their clothes. Only the zealous among them carve the star into their chests, not their foreheads.

After the Targaryen Conquest, the Faith of the Seven had tense relations with the new Targaryen kings, due to the incestuous marriages of brother to sister practiced by House Targaryen to "keep the bloodline pure". Even Aegon the Conqueror tread lightly around the Faith, and was able to placate them during his reign. The Faith's leaders never approved of Aegon I's incestuous marriages and bloodline, but they did not openly speak out against it either, in a grudging and unspoken truce. After Aegon I died, however, the Faith did rise up against his two sons, Aenys and Maegor. While they had no sisters to marry, Aenys eventually grew foolhardy enough that four years into his reign he announced the marriage of his son and daughter, at which point the Faith exploded into open rebellion. The Faith Militant uprising spread across southern Westeros, and lasted throughout the rest of Aenys's reign - which lasted less than a year - and subsequently throughout Maegor's six year reign. Maegor would brutally crush the Faith Militant's armies but they inflicted grievous casualties on his forces, and new popular revolts under the banner of the Poor Fellows popped up faster than he could destroy them. Maegor enacted laws forbidding any holy man to carry weapons - later known as Maegor's Laws -, while putting a bounty on the lives of members of the Faith Militant: a Gold Dragon for the scalp of a Warrior's Son, a Silver Stag for one of a Poor Fellow.

The uprisings only ended after Maegor died and his nephew, Aenys's son Jaehaerys I took the throne. Jaehaerys was a very skilled diplomat, and negotiated a peace with the Faith of the Seven, for which he is remembered as Jaehaerys the Conciliator. The compromise he reached was that the Iron Throne would always defend the Faith, whereas the Faith did not have to approve of the Targaryens' incestuous bloodline and marriages, they simply had to acknowledge them. The Targaryens would be able to get away with breaking this social rule due to their special royal status. The Faith would also have to accept the laws which forbid holy men to carry weapons, and disband the Faith Militant, but otherwise would be left unmolested by the crown. The Faith's leaders accepted, and peace was restored. As a result, the Faith Militant has not existed for about 250 years by the time of the War of the Five Kings.

A slight difference with the Faith Militant's revival is that in the TV series, Cersei suggests it to the High Sparrow (and even made the High Sparrow the new High Septon) as a political bribe, thinking the new Faith Militant would therefore be loyal to her. In the novels, the Sparrows stormed the election held by the Most Devout and forced them to elect the High Sparrow as the new High Septon. Further, while the crown owed House Lannister about three million Gold Dragons and about two million Gold Dragons to the Iron Bank of Braavos, House Tyrell and several Tyroshi trading cartels (together) - it owed nearly one million Gold Dragons to the Faith of the Seven, which it has also heavily borrowed from. The High Sparrow refuses to acknowledge Tommen and denies Cersei's request that the Faith simply forgive the massive debts the crown owes them - but says that he will give in to her requests on the condition that the crown grant him the right to reform the Faith Militant. Thus in the TV series reforming the Faith Militant was Cersei's idea (knowing the High Sparrow would be tempted by the offer), while in the novels it was the High Sparrow's idea. Either way, even in the novels, Cersei's decision to accept such an outlandish request is seen as absurd. She thinks she can handle the Faith Militant and doesn't understand that having the debts to the Faith forgiven in exchange for letting them have their own army is just trading one problem for another. Accepting the request to rearm the Faith Militant is also the specific point at which even Pycelle realized that Cersei was too unstable and unintelligent to be allowed to remain in power, leading to him eventually siding against Cersei with her uncle Kevan.

As soon as the two original orders of the Faith Militant are reformed, the Sparrows join the Poor Fellows. 

The Blu-ray commentaries explained that this change - Cersei herself coming up with the idea to re-arm the Faith Militant - was made to make her complicity in her own downfall all the more apparent. It was a bit too convoluted to quickly convey on-screen that accepting a request to re-arm the Faith Militant was absurd, and several other terrible decisions Cersei made at this point in the novels were also cut (outright insulting the representative of the Iron Bank and refusing to pay off the loans, using the loan she took from the Faith to re-build the Royal Fleet at kingdom-beggaring cost, etc.). Thus the writers wanted to make the main thematic point clear that no single outside group managed to bring Cersei down: more than anything else, her downfall was due to her own staggering inability to rule effectively.[9]

See also

References