Pycelle is a recurring character in the first, second and third seasons. He is played by guest star Julian Glover and debuts in "Lord Snow." Pycelle was the King's Grand Maester and a member of the small council. He was ousted from the council by Tyrion Lannister for acting as a spy for Queen Regent Cersei Lannister but was later reinstated.
Pycelle has been Grand Maester of the Seven Kingdoms for decades and has served under three kings when the series begins. The Grand Maester is the King's personal maester, a learned man wise in history, science and medicine who also provides counsel. The Grand Maester sits on the King's small council, which runs the realm in the name of the King. He served King Aerys II Targaryen prior to Robert's Rebellion. He remembers Aerys as a great man before his descent into madness. When Tywin Lannister marched to the gates of King's Landing following the rebel victory at the Battle of the Trident and all of the King's advisors told Aerys not to trust the Lord of Casterly Rock, Pycelle gave the opposite counsel and the city gates were opened, allowing the Lannister forces to sack the capital.
Following the rebellion he remained Grand Maester to King Robert Baratheon. He is joined on the small council by the Master of Coin Petyr Baelish, called Littefinger, the Master of Whisperers Varys, the Master of Ships Stannis Baratheon and the Master of Laws Renly Baratheon. He plays up his age to appear harmless but is actually mentally sharp and dangerous. He is loyal to Queen Cersei Lannister and was involved in the birth of all of her children, assisted by midwives. Pycelle also privately flouts the vow of celibacy taken by maesters, as he enjoys the company of prostitutes such as Ros.
Pycelle calls a small council meeting to greet Lord Eddard Stark upon his arrival from Winterfell to take up the role of King's Hand. Eddard greets him cordially, but cannot help mentioning that Pycelle served under the Mad King. Eddard meets with Pycelle to discuss the death of his predecessor Lord Jon Arryn and suggests that he might have been killed by poison. Pycelle says he thinks it unlikely having treated Jon for a feverish illness. He still cautions Eddard to remember that poison is the weapon of a woman or a eunuch; making sure that Eddard understands that he is implicating Varys. Pycelle also lends to Eddard a book about the lineages of the Great Houses that Jon borrowed just before his death.
Pycelle supports the motion to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen before she can provide Khal Drogo with an heir. Pycelle elucidates that he bears her no ill will personally, but fears that a Dothraki invasion of Westeros would be devastating. He argues that though unpleasant, it is preferable to have her killed now rather than have thousands die later. His argument does not convince Eddard.
Pycelle is in court when Eddard dispatches Lord Beric Dondarrion to bring Ser Gregor Clegane to justice for his looting in the Riverlands. Stark also sends word to Casterly Rock, demanding that Lord Tywin Lannister explain his bannerman's actions. Littlefinger and Pycelle object, but Eddard insists on seeking justice.
Pycelle tends to King Robert Baratheon after he is gored by a boar while hunting. He predicts the king's imminent death and manages his pain using milk of the poppy. Following Robert's death Eddard claims that Joffrey is not his son and is arrested for treason. Cersei and Pycelle convince Sansa Stark to write to her brother Robb, imploring him to swear fealty to Joffrey.
Pycelle is present for the trial of Eddard on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. He counsels mercy after Eddard's confession but Joffrey has Eddard executed. After sleeping with Ros, Pycelle absentmindedly mutters about how King Aerys had begun his reign as a great man before slipping into insanity. He muses about Joffrey's potential for greatness, but his remarks peter out into mumbled nothings. Ros leaves and Pycelle does a series of exercises and stretches, then dresses and walks confidently to his door, before adopting the meek, fragile appearance he usually wears to court. He is much stronger in body and mind than he appears, but hides this from everyone.
Grand Maester Pycelle reports to the small council that the Conclave in Oldtown has announced the end of the summer. He has the white raven they sent for this purpose shown to the group and notes that the summer is the longest in living memory. Lord Varys adds that the smallfolk say that a long summer will be followed by an even longer winter and Pycelle dismisses this as a peasant superstition. Petyr reports that they have stockpiled wheat to last through a five year winter. Lord Janos Slynt complains that the city is filled with refugees fleeing from the War in the Riverlands. Queen Regent Cersei Lannister questions his role and position and he states his gratitude for his elevation. Cersei orders him to do his job and bar the gates to peasants.
Tyrion whistles as he walks into the small council chamber alone. He kisses his sister and calls her ravishing. He asks the group to carry on and takes a seat at the table. Cersei asks what he is doing there and he relates his recent travels including his visit to the Wall and his imprisonment in the Sky Cells of the Eyrie. He looks pointedly at Petyr as he says that he has much to be thankful for. Cersei angrily clarifies that she wanted an explanation for his presence at the small council meeting. Tyrion counters that the Hand of the King is to be welcomed at their meetings. Cersei asserts that their father Tywin Lannister is Hand of the King. Tyrion elucidates that he has been appointed to act in Tywin’s absence and hands a scroll to Varys. Varys begins to read Tywin's orders but Cersei angrily cuts him off and orders the room cleared.
Stannis Baratheon sends copies of a letter detailing Cersei's incestuous relationship with Jaime and the illegitimacy of her children to high lords throughout the seven kingdoms. Later, several of King Robert's bastards are brutally murdered by the City Watch. Tyrion has Janos exiled for his part in the massacre and replaces him with the sellsword Bronn.
Cersei reads Robb Stark's peace terms aloud to the small council before tearing them up. Tyrion tells her that she has perfected the art of tearing up papers and suggests that they at least return Eddard's remains as a gesture of good faith. Cersei asks Alton Lannister to deliver their reply and he accepts. Cersei also asks him to tell Jaime that he has not been forgotten, to the consternation of the other council members. Tyrion wishes Alton a safe journey.
Pycelle reports a raven from Castle Black and gives its message to Tyrion. Varys interjects that the wildlings are becoming increasingly troublesome. Petyr is sarcastically dismissive. Varys goes on to say that the wildlings are organizing behind the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder. Cersei jokes that she has lost track of the number of kings. Tyrion says that the message is from Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and that he is asking for more men. Cersei says that they cannot spare any because they are fighting their own war. Tyrion reads a troublesome passage: "the cold winds are rising, and the dead rise with them." Pycelle dismisses it as northern superstition and Cersei makes to leave. Tyrion relays Jeor's encounter with a wight and asserts his reliability. Varys wonders how you kill a dead man and Tyrion reports that Jeor burned the wights. Cersei mocks Tyrion as having become gullible, believing in "grumkins and snarks" after one trip to the Wall. He says that he is not sure what he believes but reminds Cersei that the Night's Watch is the only thing that separates them from what lies beyond the Wall. Cersei sarcastically claims that she has every confidence in the brave men of the Night's Watch.
Tyrion meets with Pycelle in his dining room. He has complained of constipation and Pycelle gives him a vial of laxatives. Tyrion compliments that Maester's knowledge and then asks him to keep a confidence. He tells him that he is hoping to make a marriage alliance with House Martell in Dorne by offering Myrcella Baratheon's hand to their heir Prince Trystane. Tyrion specifies that Pycelle should not speak to the Queen. Pycelle does so anyway and she later confronts Tyrion about the plans.
Tyrion, Bronn and Timett burst into Pycelle's chamber while he is in bed with the prostitute Daisy. Pycelle denies telling Cersei but Tyrion explains that he has implicated himself because he was the only one aware of the plan to approach the Dornish. Tyrion asks how long Pycelle has been spying for Cersei and Pycelle claims that he has been loyal to House Lannister since the days of the Mad King. Tyrion then tells Bronn to cut of Pycelle's beard because he doesn't like it. Tyrion brings up his betrayals of past Hands of the King and suggests that he poisoned Jon Arryn. Pycelle denies poisoning Arryn, but admits that he was aware that Arryn knew of Cersei's incest. Tyrion accuses him to letting Arryn die as a threat to Lannister and Pycelle does not deny this. Tyrion orders Pycelle confined to the black cells.
Cersei demands that Pycelle is released and reinstated via the newly knighted Lancel Lannister. Tyrion agrees to release Pycelle but refuses to let him take his seat at the small council. Prior to the Battle of the Blackwater Cersei requests a supply of the anxiolytic and poison Essence of Nightshade but will not say why she wants it. She almost uses it to poison her son Tommen when she believes the battle is lost. She is stopped just in time by the arrival of her father Lord Tywin Lannister, who announces that they have won.
Pycelle is reinstated to his position by Lord Tywin. He visits the recovering Tyrion Lannister after the Battle of the Blackwater and gloats that he is no longer Acting Hand of the King since his father, Tywin, has returned to the city. Pycelle and Cersei then make a show of convincing King Joffrey to set aside his betrothal to Sansa Stark.
During a court session in which King Joffrey announces his desire to marry Margaery Tyrell, Pycelle informs him that he spoke to the new High Septon and that the latter approves of breaking Joffrey's betrothal to Sansa.
|Season One appearances|
|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||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Season Two appearances|
|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||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|
|Season Three appearances|
|Valar Dohaeris||Dark Wings, Dark Words||Walk of Punishment||And Now His Watch is Ended||Kissed by Fire|
|The Climb||The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Second Sons||The Rains of Castamere||Mhysa|
- "Now I serve his son, King Joffrey, may the gods bless his reign. He's a capable young man."
- ―Grand Maester Pycelle
Behind the scenes
It was originally announced that Pycelle would be played by Roy Dotrice. Dotrice had to withdraw due to health reasons just before production commenced and the role was recast with Julian Glover taking over. Dotrice recovered and was cast as the pyromancer Hallyne in the second season. Glover has played a villain in numerous genre movies, including General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back, Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Aris Kristatos in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only, and Scaroth of the Jagaroth in the famed Doctor Who episode City of Death (fans may not immediately recognize him due to Pycelle's large beard, which is actually a fake beard applied by the makeup department).
Pycelle was originally supposed to be a frail old man, but after several episodes Julian Glover - who is very active for his age - suggested to the writers that they use his agility in the role. This led the writers to include the scenes showing Pycelle as "putting on" his infirmity for effect.
According to Glover, the ceremonial chains of office for the Grand Maester which he wears are made of real metal links, and thus the prop is very heavy. Therefore, straps are concealed under his costume which connect behind his back (which he compares to a bra), so the weight is distributed across his shoulders, instead of having to support a heavy metal chain with nothing but the back of his neck. Glover also said that his heavy roughspun maester's robes can be very uncomfortable at times, particularly considering that many of the exterior scenes in King's Landing are filmed in warm Mediterranean climates such as Malta or Croatia.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels Pycelle is in his eighties and has been Grand Maester for forty years, beginning his service in the closing months of King Aegon V Targaryen's reign and maintaining the post for the entirety of the reigns of King Jaehaerys II, King Aerys II and then King Robert.
The position of Grand Maester is usually held by the preeminent member of the entire order of maesters, often a senior member with many decades' worth of accomplishments to his name. As a result, they are often older men and thus don't tend to spend a very long time in office before they reach the end of their lives. It is therefore unusual that Pycelle was selected as Grand Maester at only 42 years old, and has thus had the uncommonly long tenure in office of over forty years (though in the centuries-long history of the maesters, such things are not entirely unheard of). The reason Pycelle was selected at such a young age is because the last three Grand Maesters before him were old men who died in rapid succession: the first two each died under a year after taking the office, and the third died of a chill before he even reached King's Landing. In frustration, it was decided to select a young and healthy man as the new Grand Maester.
Though Pycelle has no hair left on top of his freckled scalp with just a wispy ring of hair around the sides, he has a long white beard which he has been growing for decades and is very proud of. He strokes it when giving the impression that he is thinking or considering a weighty issue. When Tyrion had him arrested and had the beard shaved off Pycelle tried to regrow it. Unfortunately, only wispy strands grew back, which do nothing to hide his turkey neck.
He was a colleague and supporter of Tywin Lannister during his tenure as Hand of the King. When Lord Tywin marched in full force to King's Landing following the Battle of the Trident, it was Pycelle who advised King Aerys to open the city gates, hoping that Tywin would seize the throne for himself.
The speech he gives in the TV series at the Sept of Baelor about showing mercy was given in the book by the High Septon.
When Tyrion asks him if loyalty to the Lannisters ran to the point of helping in the deaths of King Robert and Jon Arryn, Pycelle insists that Robert was mortally wounded and nothing could have saved him, but admitted that he would have finished Robert off himself if the wounds from the boar had not been so fatal.
Jon Arryn was being treated by another maester who was going to give him purges to get the poison out, but because Pycelle knew that Arryn knew the secret of Cersei's incest, he sent the man away and just gave Lord Arryn painkillers to ease his passing. In the TV series the emphasis is slightly different: Pycelle presents it as that he simply didn't intervene when he realized Lord Arryn was poisoned, though Tyrion points out that even his inaction when he could have saved Lord Arryn makes him an aid to the murder. In the TV series, Tyrion just vaguely asserts that Pycelle must have "made sure he succumbed", but in the book version he goes slightly beyond inaction, actively dismissing a maester who would have cured him. Even in the books, Pycelle didn't know who actually poisoned Jon Arryn, but it was convenient that someone else poisoned him before Pycelle had to deal with it.
Pycelle does not give Cersei Essence of Nightshade, nor does she try to give it to Tommen. Tommen is not even in King's Landing during the Battle of the Blackwater, but was instead sent to Rosby for protection.
After Pycelle was released from prison, he resembles a shambling skeleton, leaning heavily on a twisted cane and shaking as he walks, a few white hairs sprouting from his long neck in place of his once-luxuriant white beard.
- Grand Maester Pycelle at A Wiki of Ice and Fire (MAJOR spoilers from the books)
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of King's Landing - Grand Maester Pycelle entry
- ↑ "A Man Without Honor"
- ↑ "Lord Snow"
- ↑ "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ "The Wolf and the Lion"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ "The Pointy End"
- ↑ "Baelor"
- ↑ "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 "The North Remembers"
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 "The Night Lands"
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 "What is Dead May Never Die"
- ↑ "Garden of Bones"
- ↑ "Blackwater"
- ↑ "Blackwater"
- ↑ George R.R. Martin's blog explaining Pycelle's recasting
- ↑ George R.R. Martin's blog announcing Dotrice's new role
- ↑ YouTube interview with Julian Glover
- ↑ Julian Glover interview, January 2013
|Hand of the King:||Current: Lord Tywin Lannister|
|Former: Lord Jon Arryn · Lord Eddard Stark · Tyrion Lannister|
|Grand Maester:||Current: Pycelle|
|Master of Coin:||Current: Tyrion Lannister|
|Former: Lord Petyr Baelish|
|Master of Whisperers:||Current: Varys|
|Master of Laws:||Current: Vacant|
|Former: Lord Renly Baratheon|
|Master of Ships:||Current: Vacant|
|Former: Lord Stannis Baratheon|
|Lord:||King Joffrey I||Heir:||Prince Tommen Baratheon|
|Seat:||King's Landing||Lands:||The Crownlands|
|Title(s):||King of the Andals and the First Men · Lord of the Seven Kingdoms · Protector of the Realm|
|Current members:||Queen Regent Cersei Lannister · Princess Myrcella Baratheon|
|Deceased members:||Robert Baratheon|
|Household:||Lord Tywin Lannister · Margaery Tyrell · Ser Loras Tyrell · Tyrion Lannister · Grand Maester Pycelle · Lord Varys · Ser Meryn Trant · Ser Preston Greenfield · Ser Arys Oakheart · Ser Boros Blount · Ser Balon Swann · Ser Ilyn Payne · Lord Gyles Rosby · Ser Lancel Lannister · Ser Aron Santagar · Septa Eglantine · Dontos Hollard|