The Purple Wedding is an event in the War of the Five Kings that leads to the death of King Joffrey Baratheon at the wedding feast to his new queen, Margaery Tyrell. Mere hours after their wedding ceremony in the Great Sept of Baelor, King Joffrey is poisoned during the wedding feast. Joffrey's uncle, Tyrion Lannister, is arrested for the murder, though the actual orchestrators are Lord Petyr Baelish and Lady Olenna Tyrell.
- "War is war, but killing a man at a wedding? Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing?"
- ―Olenna Tyrell to Sansa Stark
With House Lannister standing triumphant over its enemies after the Battle of the Blackwater and the Red Wedding, Joffrey is to cement his family's victory by marrying Margaery Tyrell, securing the support of the powerful House Tyrell. The marriage ceremony is conducted by the High Septon at the Great Sept of Baelor, as befits a royal wedding.During the feast, Margaery attempts to make a charitable gesture by ordering that the leftovers of the feast be given the poor, with Joffrey's approval. However Cersei, desperate to prove that Margaery has not cast aside her authority as Queen, privately orders Grand Maester Pycelle to have the scraps given to the dogs.
The feast continues, Olenna Tyrell approaches Sansa Stark, expressing her condolences for the fate of her family. She straightens Sansa's hair and necklace (a gift from Dontos Hollard), while discreetly removing one of the stones from her necklace without Sansa noticing. What Olenna was truly doing was retrieving a crystalized form of a deadly poison called "the strangler" that was built into the design of the necklace. Tyrion arrives, and Olenna suggests her husband take her to Highgarden one day, saying she would enjoy her stay there.
Joffrey makes a small speech about the importance of the Royal Wedding and the end of the War of the Five Kings, only to introduce a mock play of "his" victory over the rival claimants to the Iron Throne and the pretenders seeking to secede from the realm. All the players are dwarfs, so Joffrey mockingly tries to coerce Tyrion into joining them. Tyrion carefully evades this demand, but at the same time insults Joffrey by suggesting he fight the champion dwarf instead and calling to mind Joffrey's "bravery" at the Battle of Blackwater, which he proclaims to have seen firsthand. Tyrion finishes by cautioning his nephew to be careful as the champion dwarf is clearly mad with lust and it would be a tragedy for the king to lose his virtue hours before his wedding night, which draws a few stifled yet audible chuckles from the crowd. Enraged and humiliated that Tyrion outwitted him, Joffrey stalks over and empties his wine goblet onto his uncle's head, oblivious that his actions are observed with increasing and obvious disgust by his bride, the guests, and even his mother and grandfather.
Joffrey then declares he is thirsty and wants Tyrion to be his new cupbearer. He offers him the cup to fill, then drops it and kicks it under the table, but Sansa picks it up for Tyrion. Tyrion fills it but silently refuses to kneel to Joffrey, prompting Joffrey to repeat the demand in increasing, petulant rage. Margaery distracts him by indicating the arrival of the traditional pigeon pie, and Joffrey takes a gulp of the wine from the goblet before handing it to his wife to set it on the table, close to Lady Olenna. As Joffrey cuts the pie with his Valyrian steel sword and shares some with Margaery, Tyrion and Sansa attempt to leave, but Joffrey calls them back and demands Tyrion bring him the cup again, as the dry pie is making him thirsty.
- "You don't think I'd let you marry that beast, do you?"
- ―Olenna Tyrell to Margaery Tyrell
Tommen Baratheon, Joffrey's younger brother, subsequently becomes the heir apparent; since Tommen is a submissive, quiet-natured boy quite willing to defer to the advice of his grandfather and Hand, this makes Tywin Lannister the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms in all but name.
Margaery Tyrell and her family, despite her second widowhood - which causes Margaery to wonder if she is cursed - remain very much in favor, as the Tyrell support is still vital to the Lannisters.
In the confusion of Joffrey's death, Dontos Hollard appears and calmly tells Sansa to go with him if she wants to live, and she relents. Together, they are able to slip away and flee the city, where she had been held as a prisoner since Joffrey publicly executed her father, Eddard Stark, two years before. This was a rather large blow to Lannister security, given that Sansa was the last Stark heir publicly confirmed to still be alive.
Sansa and Dontos use a rowboat to reach a waiting ship owned by none other than Petyr Baelish. After Sansa climbs aboard, Baelish promptly orders a crewmember to shoot Dontos dead with a crossbow - giving Sansa the explanation that Dontos only saved Sansa because he promised him gold, but he might later reveal the secret of her location, while a dead man will remain silent. Sansa objects until Baelish reveals the truth behind the necklace.
While later reminiscing with Margaery about Tyrion's upcoming trial, Olenna asserts her opinion that Tyrion is innocent, and implies that it was she who poisoned Joffrey in order to protect Margaery from the mental and physical abuse that Joffrey had quite clearly inflicted on Sansa whilst she was his betrothed. Olenna's decision to kill Joffrey stemmed from her previous conversation with Sansa, in which she described Joffrey as a "monster". Baelish later revealed to Sansa that he had bigger plans for the Seven Kingdoms, but betrayed the Lannisters and sided with the Tyrells since he did not trust Joffrey, and also claimed that his role in betraying the Lannisters partially stemmed from their role in the Red Wedding, where Baelish's life-long love, Catelyn Stark, was murdered.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the assassination of King Joffrey at his wedding receives no name, unlike the Red Wedding, and is simply referred to as "Joffrey's wedding". The term "Purple Wedding" is a fan-term referring to the wine used to assassinate Joffrey and the fact that purple is a color associated with royalty; and, of course, to draw a parallel with the infamous Red Wedding. The nickname became so popular that even George R.R. Martin and the HBO production team have been known to use it. As Martin explained in an interview with TV Guide, "It's what the fans call the Purple Wedding, based on the color of the wine, which plays a big part."
His death is slightly different in the books. Instead of taking place outside the Red Keep, the wedding feast takes place inside the Red Keep itself, with Joffrey, Margaery and their families seated near the Iron Throne. In addition, Jaime doesn't return to King's Landing until shortly after the events. As Joffrey chokes to death, he claws repeatably at his throat in a desperate bid to get air, leaving bloody gashes.
One of the differences between the show and the books is that Sansa is given a hair net, not a necklace. After getting away from the wedding hall, she examines the hair net, and is shocked to see that one gem is missing. She immediately understands the significance, and why Dontos instructed her to wear the hair net.
Another difference is that during the commotion, Tyrion examines the chalice, which still contains a bit of the wine. For unknown reason, Tyrion spills its contents, as if attempting to dispose of incriminating evidence. Some of the witnesses in his trial mention that. As things turn to be, the act of spilling the wine does not worsen Tyrion's position, because the trial is just a farce.
When Littlefinger and Sansa dine at his ancestral home, he reminds her how someone told her that her hair net was crooked and straightened it; only then Sansa realizes how the poisoning was performed. Littlefinger reveals a part of the scheme: it has started when he came to Highgarden in order to form an alliance between the Tyrells and Lannisters. He realized the Tyrells wished to marry Margaery to a king - not necessarily Joffrey. Olenna questioned Littlefinger about Joffrey's nature; he was too subtle to tell the truth, so he praised him to the skies, whilst his men spread disturbing tales amongst the Tyrells' servants. Olenna, of course, wouldn't have let Joffrey harm her precious granddaughter. Littlefinger predicts that soon Tommen will marry Margaery, and the great western alliance will be preserved (for a time, at least).
Large part of the scheme, however, remains unrevealed by the point the books reached. It is unclear, for instance, how far Margaery was involved; whether Olenna put the poison in the goblet herself, or handed it to another accomplice; who else was involved; etc. There are various fan speculations about the scheme, among them that Garlan Tyrell was the one who put the poison in the wine: he was sitting near it, and he is the only other Tyrell who could be trusted (Mace is not bright enough, and Loras is hot-headed).
Another question left unclear is what Littlefinger's motive was. Apparently, there is nothing he could gain from Joffrey's death: there was no enmity between them, and it is doubtful he went that far just to save Sansa. Sansa asks him that question, and he says enigmatically: "Why should I wish him [Joffrey] dead? I had no motive. Besides, I am a thousand leagues away in the Vale. Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you".
Littlefinger has managed to distance himself from the murder perfectly. Olenna and Sansa are the only ones who know about his part; neither Cersei nor anyone else suspect him even slightly.
Some time later, Jaime questions the other Kingsguard members about the murder. Boros Blount and Meryn Trant are certain it was Tyrion, because he refilled the chalice twice and later spilled its contents. Balon Swann disagrees, pointing out that many of the guests and servants were moving about; when Joffrey and Margaery cut the wedding pie, every eye was on them, and no one watched the wine chalice; anyone who was on the dais (among them the king's family, the bride's family, Pycelle and the High Septon) could have slipped the poison. Loras thinks it was Sansa, claiming that she was only person in the hall who had reason to want Margaery and Joffrey dead; why did she run afterward, unless she was guilty? Jaime figures Tyrion may be innocent after all, but has no way to find out the truth since Sansa escaped. He decides to leave the murder mystery unsolved, and make sure no harm happens to Tommen too.
On the fourth novel, Cersei becomes annoyed as a result of Margaery's growing influence over Tommen. Suddenly she realizes the Tyrells had a strong motive to kill Joffrey: he was too stubborn to be influenced, in sharp contrast to his sweet gentle brother, so the Tyrells disposed of him in order to make Tommen a puppet king, whom Margaery could easily control. While that conclusion is partly-correct, Cersei concludes wrongly that Tyrion was the co-conspirator; that the Tyrells helped him escape from prison by bribing the gaolers (that explains, in Cersei's mind, the Tyrell coin which Qyburn found in one of the gaolers' cell); and maybe they conspired to murder Tywin too.
Joffrey's death had been prophesied by an old woods witch and collaborator of the Brotherhood Without Banners known as the Ghost of High Heart: "I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs".
When Stannis Baratheon is informed about Joffrey's death, he comments "Weddings have become more perilous than battles, it would seem".
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Purple Wedding · Tyrion Lannister (I) · Tyrion Lannister (II) · Tower of the Hand