- "People love you. They love you because you're kind to them. They want to be near you."
- ―Loras Tyrell to Renly Baratheon.
Renly Baratheon is the youngest brother of King Robert Baratheon and serves on his brother's Small Council as Master of Laws. Loras Tyrell is also one of the more prominent noblemen of the realm, as his father Mace Tyrell, who is the ruler of the Reach, the most populous administrative region of the Seven Kingdoms.
The relationship is first introduced at the Tournament of the Hand, where Loras is competing. After handing a rose to Sansa Stark, Loras’ gaze moves to meet that of Renly’s, who looks back at him with intensity. Renly is wearing a cloak of green and gold, the colors of House Tyrell, an implicit symbol of support for Loras. During the joust, Littlefinger asks Renly when he will be “having” his friend, and Renly looks around him to see if anyone has heard. When the Mountain attacks Loras, Renly springs to his feet in alarm; he then enthusiastically applauds Sandor Clegane after the latter intervenes to save Loras’ life.
Later on, we see them alone together in Renly’s bedroom, and Loras tells Renly he would be much better suited to being king than Robert. Loras also tells Renly, with tenderness in his voice, that people love him: they love him because he is kind to them and they want to be near him. He undresses Renly and tells him he would be a wonderful king, then begins to make love to him.
After Robert's demise, orchestrated by Cersei Lannister, Renly and Loras are reported as having left King's Landing together. Later, it is stated that Renly has declared himself king, as Loras had previously encouraged him to do.
Renly and Loras’ relationship is shown again during Catelyn Stark’s visit to Renly at Storm’s End, with Renly now married to Loras’ sister Margaery Tyrell for political reasons, and holding a tournament in which Loras competes against other challengers. When Brienne of Tarth defeats Loras in the competition and requests to join Renly’s Kingsguard, Loras and Renly share a look and Loras tries to ask Renly not to grant the request, but he does so anyway. Later the two of them are shown kissing and undressing each other in Renly’s tent, passionately at first, but Loras begins to hold back when he is reminded about Brienne’s victory over him at the tournament. Renly realizes that Loras is jealous, and promises to make it up to him, but Loras insists that he go and consummate the marriage to Margaery instead as people are starting to question the relationship. Renly is not happy about the prospect of doing this; however, when he sees Margaery, she tells him that she knows that he and Loras are lovers, and she is entirely relaxed and accepting about the situation. She also offers to bring Loras into their bedroom if Renly needs him there in order to be able to seal the marriage to Margaery.
Renly and Loras’ romance becomes a subject of comment as the War of the Five Kings progresses. The length of their relationship is indicated by an exchange between some Lannister soldiers, who comment that Loras has been "stabbing Renly Baratheon for years", showing it is known to be a long term love affair. When Littlefinger visits Renly’s camp, he makes further comment after observing Loras entering Renly’s tent late at night and looking happy. Littlefinger mentions this to Margaery, who replies that the place of a Kingsguard is by the king’s side. Littlefinger responds by asking Margaery who was by the king’s side on the night of their wedding, and Margaery avoids answering the question, implying that Littlefinger’s assumption that Renly spent his wedding night with Loras instead is correct.
However, Renly is murdered by a shadow on the day he and Stannis Baratheon are due to go to battle, and Loras is griefstricken. He stays by Renly’s body, holding onto his hand despite the impending danger of Stannis’ advancing forces and Margaery urging him to leave. For his deathbed, Renly has also been dressed in the same outfit he wore to support Loras during the Tournament of the Hand. When Littlefinger arrives in the tent, Loras tells him to get out, and threatens him with his sword. He returns to Renly’s bedside and holds his hand again, saying he would have been a great king. Only after much persuasion and pleading from Margaery and Littlefinger does Loras eventually leave, as he will be unable to get revenge on Stannis if he is killed.
In a deleted scene, Loras is shown in mourning and caressing Renly’s suit of armor, expressing regret for encouraging him to be king. It is also made clear he buried Renly himself, but not in his armor, as Loras wants to hold on to it forever. Margaery is sympathetic but says he has to regain his strength because the family needs him. Loras tells Margaery that he loved Renly and breaks down crying in her arms.
Loras later wears Renly’s armor when he fights at the Battle of Blackwater, also riding upon a white horse similar to the one Renly rode, and proves himself a warrior by helping to win the battle and save King’s Landing. After the battle is won, Loras has a look of satisfaction as Stannis is dragged away screaming in defeat. In the days following the victory, Loras reluctantly participates in the public display of asking the Lannisters to join the Tyrells through a proposed marriage between Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery. He says that Margaery is able to marry again as “her husband was taken from us before”, whereupon his voices breaks; his head bows and he is clearly moved by making this reference to Renly. He also says that Margaery remains "innocent", confirming that the marriage between her and Renly was never consummated.
Loras and Margaery move in to King’s Landing in preparation for Margaery’s wedding to Joffrey. While Margaery thrives on life at court, Loras seems much less happy. His family arranges for him to be betrothed to Sansa Stark, and during a conversation she mentions how keen she is to see Highgarden, as it will also have the benefit of being able to leave King’s Landing. Loras looks sadly into the distance and responds in a melancholy tone that it is the most terrible place there is, implying that he regrets his choice to encourage Renly to take up the throne here. However, when the Lannisters discover the betrothal, Sansa is forced to marry to Tyrion Lannister, and Loras and Cersei are forced into an engagement instead, leaving Loras unhappy once more.
Elsewhere, Jaime Lannister and Brienne talk about Renly’s love life and Jaime mentions the relationship between Renly and Loras, saying that he doesn’t blame Renly for loving Loras as you don’t get to choose who you love.
During Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery, a play takes place in which the War of the Five Kings is enacted by dwarfs, one of whom is styled to resemble Renly, and who rides a horse styled to resemble Loras as well. Loras looks on visibly unhappy at the sight of this, as well as hearing comments in the play that Renly is no king, and Renly being called a degenerate by other characters. Directly following a sequence in which the Renly dwarf is repeatedly stabbed from behind by the Stannis dwarf, echoing the events of the real murder, Loras is so upset that he pushes over his chair and storms away from the table, and does not return.
Cersei’s desire to cause trouble for the Tyrells leads her to hand over power in King’s Landing to the Faith Militant, and also to inform the High Sparrow of Loras’ sexuality. He is arrested by the Faith and taken to prison. Loras is later given a preliminary trial in which the High Sparrow questions him about his relationship with Renly. When the High Sparrow asks if he ever lay with Renly, Loras says he never did, but cannot look the High Sparrow in the eye, although he is able to look at him directly when denying he lay with other men either, implying that his relationship with Renly was the most important as it is the only one he struggles to deny, while others he does not mind lying about. However, a subsequent testimony from a man Loras had a fling with after Renly’s murder leads the High Sparrow to declare there is enough evidence for a full trial, and Loras is taken back to prison.
Loras is tortured in prison to breaking point, and Margaery tells Olenna Tyrell that his only hope of being released from this situation is to make a public confession at his trial and give up his titles and inheritance. On the morning of his trial, Loras is shown in his cell repeating lines under his breath, suggesting he has been told what to say in advance and is trying to memorise it. As he walks into his trial, he looks with resentment in Margaery’s direction, not knowing she is only faking her own conversion as a way to negotiate the terms of his release. When the High Sparrow asks him if he will stand trial, he says there will be no need as he is going to confess. He admits that he lay with other men, including Renly, and his voice breaks with emotion as he says Renly’s name. Following this, the High Sparrow shoots a piercing glance at Margaery, clearly skeptical that Loras has actually repented at this point due the emotion he shows at mentioning this. Loras’ voice breaking at saying Renly’s name suggests that he has not been brainwashed into believing their relationship was wrong, but rather that the confession is only a performance to try to convince the High Sparrow to let him go. However, shortly afterwards, Loras and all witnesses to the confession are killed during the explosion of the Sept of Baelor.
- Tourney of the Hand in "The Wolf and the Lion"
- Tournament near Storm's End, and bedroom, in "What Is Dead May Never Die"
In the books
Loras became Renly's squire some years ago and they have apparently been having an ongoing romantic relationship for some time. Renly and Loras are actually one of the most stable romantic relationships in the entire novel series, based on mutual love and affection, and with no other major complications. Most nobles are in arranged marriages not based on love, though they can find love in them over time - such as Eddard and Catelyn, but their relationship had the complication of Eddard's bastard son Jon Snow. A few nobles sometimes marry for love, but Tywin's wife Joanna died years ago, while Prince Doran Martell and his wife Mellario later fell out of love and separated, after which she moved back to the Free Cities. Jon Snow and Ygritte are romantically involved but they are star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of a war. The only other truly "romantic" relationship in the narrative of reasonable stability is that between Samwell Tarly and Gilly - as much as a relationship between a soldiers sworn to a vow of celibacy and a girl pregnant by her own father can be said to be stable (they care about each other, but Samwell is too ashamed about breaking his vows of celibacy to seriously push for a long-term relationship).
The books implied that Loras and Renly were in a homosexual relationship, but didn't outright state it - simply due to the plot mechanics that they aren't POV narrators in the novels. Many of their scenes in the second novel are told from Catelyn's POV narration interacting with them, for example, and logically Catelyn wouldn't be present for scenes set in their private chambers. There are many hints in the characters' conversations and thoughts about their relationship, for example:
- Renly tells Stannis "You'll be pleased to know she (Margaery) came to me a maid". Stannis replies "In your bed she's like to die that way".
- While Loras escorts Sansa, she tells him "How terrible for your poor sister", referring to Renly's death. He reacts angrily, since Renly's death saddened him much more.
- Olenna tells Sansa "The Baratheons have always had some queer notions".
- Garlan tells Sansa "Loras is valiant and handsome, and we all love him dearly... but your Imp will make a better husband".
- When Loras threatens Brienne, Jaime intervenes and tells him firmly "Now sheathe your bloody sword, or I'll take it from you and shove it up some place even Renly never found". This is perhaps the most blunt of the hints in the books about their relationship.
- Littlefinger tells Sansa that adding Loras to the Kingsguard "relieved him [Mace] of the difficult task of trying to find lands and a bride for a third son, never easy, and doubly difficult in Ser Loras's case".
- Cersei wonders if Maragery is a virgin. She figures that Margaery might have had sex with Renly (despite his sexual preference) because "A man may prefer the taste of hippocras, yet if you set a tankard of ale before him, he will quaff it quick enough".
The TV series had more freedom for the camera to show events beyond the confines of POV characters from the novels, including what both Loras and his sister Margaery were doing "off screen". Thus many of the scenes between Renly, Loras, and/or Margaery didn't directly appear in the novels, though they probably "occurred" in some form, just "off-screen". Author George R.R. Martin did outright confirm when the TV series created romantic scenes for Renly and Loras in private for Season 1 that he fully intended them to be a romantic couple in the novels.
After Renly was killed, Loras took his body away and buried him in secret somewhere in the gardens of Storm's End so no one would ever disturb it (i.e. he was worried that Joffrey might order Renly's corpse desecrated as he tried to usurp the Iron Throne from him).
Following Renly's death, Loras becomes despondent. Eventually he joins the Kingsguard, in part to guard Margaery from Joffrey. When reminded that the Kingsguard swear never to marry or even love another but remain totally dedicated to service, Loras responds (without directly mentioning his love of Renly in public) that he is unconcerned, because once the sun of one's life has gone out, no candle can replace it (he knows he will never love again).
The TV series showed Loras having sex with the male prostitute Olyvar in Seasons 3 to 5 after Renly died, creating some consternation - writer Bryan Cogman later explained that the intent was just to show that Loras is "drowning his sorrows" with casual sex, as it were, and he is still deeply mourning his loss of Renly. To Cogman's deep regret, however, these scripted lines of dialogue were cut for time - they never intended to convey that Loras is "loving" again following his loss of Renly. While all of this wasn't directly stated on-screen due to time restraints they hoped it was at least still implied.