Following Robert's Rebellion, King Robert Baratheon appointed Lord Jon Arryn as Hand of the King. Seventeen years later, the elderly Lord Jon dies in King's Landing. King Robert travels north to Winterfell to ask Lord Eddard Stark to replace him. Eddard is reluctant until he receives intelligence from Jon's wife (and his own sister-in-law), Lysa Arryn, that the Lannister family murdered Jon as part of a wider conspiracy. Eddard then accepts Robert's proposal, hoping to learn the truth about Jon's death.
On the Kingsroad, Eddard is told that Daenerys Targaryen has married a Dothraki warlord, whose army may pose a potential threat to the realm. King Robert suggests assassinating her, but Eddard dissuades him by pointing out that the Dothraki do not have any ships.
Upon arriving in King's Landing, Eddard takes up his role as King's Hand by chairing meetings of the small council. He learns that, despite Jon Arryn's prudence, Robert has put the realm more than six million gold crowns in debt. Eddard also hears reports that the City Watch is struggling to control the influx of visitors to witness the king's tournament in honor of Eddard's appointment. When King Robert announces that Daenerys is pregnant and must now die, Eddard argues against the decision. When Robert orders it done anyway, Eddard resigns the Handship.
After being injured in an altercation with Ser Jaime Lannister, Eddard is reinstated by Robert on the condition he makes peace with the Lannisters. He agrees, but then learns that the Lannister bannerman Gregor Clegane has been burning farms in the Riverlands. He sends Ser Beric Dondarrion and a hundred men to arrest Ser Gregor and orders that Lord Tywin Lannister present himself in King's Landing to answer for the actions of his bannerman. The other members of the small council consider this act rash. As well as Hand of the King, Lord Eddard is appointed Regent and Protector of the Realm by the dying King Robert after the latter's wounding by a boar. However, Eddard is stripped of this position by order of Queen Cersei Lannister and the newly-raised King Joffrey Baratheon when he tries to expose the truth of Joffrey's birth.
King Joffrey then names Lord Tywin Lannister, his grandfather and former Hand of the King to the Mad King twenty years earlier, as his new Hand. However, Tywin is too busy fighting the Stark army under Robb Stark in the Riverlands, so sends his son Tyrion to act in his stead. Furious at Cersei' incompetence in allowing Joffrey to execute Eddard Stark, Tywin orders Tyrion to take the situation in the capital in hand and if necessary to mount heads on spikes.
Upon Tyrion's arrival at King's Landing, his sister disputes his appointement as Acting Hand, but is forced to accept it. Tyrion sets about putting affairs in order. He strips Lord Janos Slynt of his lands and titles and exiles him to the Wall, replacing him as Commander of the City Watch with Bronn. He also rejects a peace offer from Robb Stark. Tyrion then exposes Grand Maester Pycelle as being in Cersei's pocket and strips him of his position on the small council. He also forges an alliance with House Martell of Dorne by pledging Princess Myrcella Baratheon to their youngest son in marriage, to Cersei's fury. Tyrion also sends Lord Petyr Baelish to the Stormlands to treat with Renly Baratheon and make a secret offer to Catelyn Stark, that Tyrion will release Sansa and Arya (whom he does not hold) to her in return for Jaime Lannister's release.
Tyrion also attempts to restrain Joffrey's cruelty by being kind to Sansa and attempting to distract Joffrey with two prostitutes. The plan backfires when Joffrey abuses the girls to send a message to Tyrion. However, Tyrion succeeds in blackmailing his cousin Lancel into betraying Cersei and feeding him intelligence about her actions.
Tyrion attempts to mend fences with Cersei and work with her in preparing the city for Stannis Baratheon's attack. However, Cersei refuses to talk to Tyrion, even for the city's defense, insisting that Joffrey will handle it personally. Tyrion learns from Lancel that Joffrey's plan is to use wildfire to defend the city. Tyrion heads off the plan - which could burn down the city by accident - by recruiting Wisdom Hallyne of the Alchemists' Guild to his cause. Tyrion believes that he is doing a good job as Hand, but is shocked when he sees a street protest where he is named a 'demon monkey' and blamed for Joffrey's excesses.
The Dornish accept Tyrion's offer of an alliance and Myrcella leaves the city. However, after waving her off the royal party is attacked on the streets of King's Landing by the smallfolk of the city, who are starting to starve as food supplies to the city are interrupted by the war. Joffrey fans the flames of the riot by ordering his soldiers to kill the rioters. Tyrion, furious, slaps Joffrey and attempts to restore order.
In the books
In the Song of Ice and Fire novels, the events of the story are set in motion by the death of the Hand of the King, Lord Jon Arryn, apparently from natural causes. King Robert Baratheon travels to Winterfell and asks Lord Eddard Stark to replace Jon. Eddard is doubtful, not wishing to travel far from his homeland and his family, but eventually agrees when an anonymous message claims that Jon Arryn was murdered. Eddard decides to agree to the King's offer so he can investigate and determine the truth of what has happened and if it poses a danger to Robert or the realm.
Hands, past and present
Under Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King:
- Lord Tywin Lannister, the King's Hand for twenty years, resigned after King Aerys snubbed the idea of a marriage between his son Rhaegar and Tywin's daughter Cersei. Tywin's resignation caused Aerys to spiral even further into the heights of paranoia and insanity. Following Tywin's resignation, Aerys appointed four new Hands in rapid succession, the last three within the space of a year during Robert's Rebellion.
- Lord Owen Merryweather, served as Hand for the brief few years between when Tywin resigned and Robert's Rebellion began. An amiable sycophant, he failed to take any action during the early days of the rebellion, which allowed Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon to successfully flee to their holdings and raise their armies in open warfare. For this blunder, Aerys had him exiled and his lands seized.
- Lord Jon Connington, for King Aerys II, exiled after being defeated at the Battle of the Bells during Robert's Rebellion.
- Lord Qarlton Chelsted, executed for treason.
- Lord Rossart, a Wisdom of the Alchemists' Guild, killed during the Sack of King's Landing.
Under Robert Baratheon
- Lord Jon Arryn, for King Robert Baratheon. Served as Hand for most of the seventeen years of Robert's reign. Lord Arryn was said to be essentially the one man really holding the realm together while Robert drank, ate, and whored.
- Lord Eddard Stark, for King Robert Baratheon. Served briefly during the final months of Robert's reign.
Under Joffrey Baratheon
- Lord Tyrion Lannister, serving as Acting Hand of the King in place of his father Tywin Lannister.
- Lord Tywin Lannister, relieved Tyrion Lannister from his post as Acting Hand of the King after the Battle of the Blackwater.
- ↑ "Winter is Coming"
- ↑ "The Kingsroad"
- ↑ "Lord Snow"
- ↑ "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ "The Wolf and the Lion"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ "The Pointy End"
- ↑ "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ "The North Remembers"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ "What is Dead May Never Die"
- ↑ "Garden of Bones"
- ↑ "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- ↑ "The Old Gods and the New"