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"Highgarden" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season. It is narrated by James Faulkner as Lord Randyll Tarly.

Synopsis

Randyll Tarly describes the battles, marriages, and alliances surrounding Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell.

Narration

Randyll Tarly: The Tyrells claim Highgarden but they didn't build it. They claim descent from the first King of the Reach, but only through the female line. The truth is that House Gardener built Highgarden when they ruled the Reach as kings, not lords, and as their name attests they were the true heirs of Garth the Gardener, who founded the house and their kingdom and brought law and order to the Reach.

He built Highgarden as a fortress, not a pleasure palace. In those dark days, the ironborn raided up and down the Mander at will and the Dornish were even more trouble than they are now. To our enduring shame, a Dornish army once sacked Highgarden and destroyed the Oakenseat, the living throne of the Gardener kings planted by Garth Greenhand himself. The Gardeners responded wisely, sending armies of their own to pacify and defend the countryside. My ancestors at Horn Hill joined them, as did the other great families of the Reach. Even House Hightower yielded without a fight, choosing marriage into House Gardener over a war that would weaken us against outsiders.

But the outsiders still came. The Andals swept across Westeros, destroying many ancient families and kingdoms. When the invaders arrived at the Reach led by Ser Alester Tyrell, House Gardener chose accommodation over battle, hoping honors and marriages would sate foreigners' ambition. The Tyrells were welcomed into service as hereditary stewards of Highgarden. Thousands of years later, they repaid the Gardeners for their acceptance.

When Aegon Targaryen declared that Westeros was now his. King Mern IX allied with King Loren Lannister of the Westerlands. Together, they fought to save Westeros from another foreign barbarian whose family practices put decent men to shame. But the dragons won. The Field of Fire claimed Mern and all his sons, grandsons and brothers. Instead of using the castle for what it was built to do, Harlen Tyrell surrendered it to Aegon without a fight. In exchange, Harlen was given the castle his family had served for thousands of years with all its attendant lands and lords, including my family. Perhaps the Tyrells were great once, but Harlen gave away their honor when he opened gates that weren't his to open, and to a foreign invader.

Ever since, there hasn't been a Lord Tyrell who wasn't a mockery of the title. Women rule that house, everybody knows it, and look what it's brought. Their proper lord, heir and queen dead, leaving only a shrunken old woman who forgets her loyalties to the realm, either in grief or dotage. But her thorns won't protect her more than any other rose when the Hand comes to rip them out!

Notes

  • The video's narration says that House Gardener peacefully absorbed Oldtown by simply intermarrying with its rulers, House Hightower - then shows artwork of a man wearing a Hightower sigil marrying a woman wearing a Gardener sigil. The prior Histories & Lore video on "Oldtown (Histories & Lore)" explained that the Gardeners acquired Oldtown when King Lymond Hightower of Oldtown married the daughter of the king of House Gardener - which is similarly depicted here, with a man (Lymond) wearing a Hightower sigil on his coat marrying a woman displaying a Gardener sigil. It was actually a double-marriage alliance: Lymond married one of King Garland II Gardener's daughters, while Garland II himself set aside his own wives and married Lymond Hightower's daughter.
  • The Reach used to be divided up into four smaller kingdoms (and a dozen before that, when each local lord called himself a "king"). These were the Gardener kingdom along the Mander River in the north ruled from Highgarden, the Hightower kingdom centered around Oldtown in the south, the kings of House Redwyne on the Arbor (the large island that dominates the wine-producing industry - Olenna Tyrell's birth family), and the kings of House Tarly itself, powerful warriors ruling from the mountainous eastern borderlands with Dorne. Back then, only the Gardener kingdom along the Mander was called "the Reach" proper. This double-marriage alliance in which Garland II Gardener peacefully absorbed rule over House Hightower was the final act uniting all of the "Kingdom of the Reach" as it was later known. As for the other two petty kingdoms, Garland II's marriage-alliance was "not long after" the heir to the last king of House Redwyne was lost at sea, allowing his cousin Meryn III Gardener to peacefully absorb the Arbor into his domains as well (again, ultimately the result of the marriage-alliance that produced Meryn III). It's unclear exactly how the Tarly kingdom came to be absorbed by one of its neighbors, though apparently it was the first of the four to do so (before the Redwynes) - that is, it's unclear if the Gardeners absorbed the Tarlys first, or if the Hightowers absorbed the Tarly kingdom (and thus when the Gardners absorbed the Hightower kingdom it gained the territory of both former petty kingdoms). This final unification happened at some point before the Andal Invasion.
  • Like Jaime Lannister in the preceding video Casterly Rock (Histories & Lore), Randyll accurately recounts how the Andal Invasion was much more peaceful in the Reach. The heaviest fighting in the invasions were along the eastern coast, in the Vale, the Riverlands, and the Stormlands. Generations later, by the time the Andals got to the western parts of the continent, local lords of the First Men realized that their tide of invasion was inevitable, so it was easier to invite in Andal lords and intermarry with them, to help fend off the other Andals. Thus the Andals were peaceably absorbed in the Westerlands and the Reach, leading to a fairly high number of surviving First Men families (in contrast, the First Men were nearly exterminated in the Vale). The Gardeners, Tyrells, Tarlys, Hightowers, and others are considered "Andal" families in the present day from intermarriage, but they've got a fairly high amount of First Men blood in them, compared to others like the Arryns of the Vale.
  • The exact date when the Dornishmen sacked Highgarden and burned the Oakenseat is unclear, though it was some time after the Andal Invasion. It seems to have happened around 1,000 years or so prior to the Targaryen Conquest, given that it happened after the reign of Gyles III Greenhand (who ruled a thousand years ago) but apparently before the Rhoynar migrated to Dorne, slightly after a thousand years ago (mention is made of war with a Dornish "king", not a "prince" in Rhoynar style). It had to have happened over a thousand years ago, because House Manderly had not yet been exiled from the Reach. This was long after the golden age of Gardener power ended (when they nearly conquered the Stormlands), and the sack of Highgarden marked its nadir. It came at the end of King Garth X Greenhand, known as Garth Greybeard, as he was the longest-ruling king in the history of the Reach: he came to rule at the age of seven, and died at 96 years old. Garth X was a vain and frivolous man, who surrounded himself at court with fools and flatters, allowing two rival political factions to become the real power in the Reach, one led by House Manderly and one by House Peake. Garth X was never a wise man, and in his old age he lost his wits entirely, but remained alive and useless. Moreover, Garth X never produced any sons, but several daughters: the Manderlys married one daughter, and the Peakes another one, and their rival claims soon spilled out into open civil war within the Reach. With the Reach so weakened from within, all of its enemies attacked from without: the Lannister kings and Storm Kings seized large swath of territories along their borders, but the most devastating were the invasions that came out of Dorne, penetrating deeply into their core territories. One Dornish king besieged Oldtown, whose walls were too strong to take, but he burned out all of the surrounding countryside. Another crossed the Mander and sacked Highgarden. There they found the senile old Garth X totally senseless, tied to his bed and covered in his own filth - those who found him slit his throat, as they said, out of mercy. After carrying off all the wealth of Highgarden, they put the entire castle to the torch, and destroyed the Oakenseat - a living throne made from a tree which was, according to legend, planted by Garth Greenhand. The Manderlys and Peakes continued to fight each other throughout all of this, and after Garth X's death, a ten year old period of anarchy continued. The chaos only ended when the Tyrells finally rallied all the other vassals to defeat both the Manderlys and the Peakes, retook the ruins of Highgarden, and then put a second cousin of Garth X on the throne, who ruled as King Mern VI Gardener. The Gardeners gradually rebuilt their power in the centuries that followed, relying on the wise counsel of their hereditary stewards from House Tyrell, who became even more influential at court - up until the time the Targaryens came.

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