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"The Seven Kingdoms are at war with one another... false kings destroying the country... the Usurper is dead. The Starks fight the Lannisters, the Baratheons fight each other."
Daenerys Targaryen to Ser Jorah Mormont.[src]

The War of the Five Kings is a major military conflict that erupts in the wake of the death of King Robert I.   In essence, the war is a three-way battle for the Iron Throne along with two independence movements.  The five kings in question are Robert's heir Joffrey Baratheon, Robert's two younger brothers Renly Baratheon and Stannis Baratheon, Robb Stark, and Balon Greyjoy

Upon Robert's death, his heir, Joffrey, takes the Iron Throne, but the revelation that he along with his brother and sister are bastards born of incest between Queen Cersei and her twin brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, leads both of Robert's younger brothers: Stannis and Renly Baratheon, to claim the throne for themselves.  Stannis sees himself as the rightful heir by right of blood, being Robert's heir with the removal of Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen due to their being bastards.  Renly claims the throne on the basis that he would be a better king, despite being second to Stannis in a lawful line of succession.

Meanwhile, Robb Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Lord Paramount of the North, is declared the King in the North by his lords bannermen in the wake of the execution of his father,  Eddard Stark, under false charges of treason.  Robb had been in command of a host marching south to free his then-imprisoned father and to relieve a Lannister attack on the Riverlands. As the King in the North, Robb declares that the North and the Riverlands (which ruled by his maternal grandfather) are now a sovereign kingdom no longer subject to the rule of the Iron Throne.[1]

With the attention of the North and the Iron Throne diverted, Balon Greyjoy, Lord Reaper of Pyke and ruler of the Iron Islands, seizes the opportunity to declare the Iron Islands independent once more.  He then styles himself King of the Iron Islands and launches raids in the North while most of its defenders are south of the Neck.

Previous

Greyjoy Rebellion

Concurrent

Conflict Beyond the Wall
Targaryen campaign in Slaver's Bay

War of the Five Kings
Beginning

298 AL

End

Ongoing

Place:

The Seven Kingdoms

Outcome:

Current decisive House Baratheon of King's Landing victory

Assassination of King Joffrey on his wedding feast

  • Elevation of Tommen Baratheon to the Iron Throne
Combatants

The King in the North

The King on the Iron Throne

The King in the Narrow Sea

The King in Highgarden

The King of the Iron Islands

Leaders

King Robb Stark

King Joffrey I† King Tommen I

King Stannis I

King Renly I

King Balon Greyjoy

Battles

Combatants

The current factions involved in the War of the Five Kings:

The King on the Iron Throne

Joffrey throne season 2

Joffrey I Baratheon, the "King on the Iron Throne"

King Joffrey Baratheon claims the Iron Throne by right of inheritance from his publicly-declared father, the late Robert Baratheon. He holds the capital city of King's Landing and his claim is supported militarily by the powerful and well-equipped armies of House Lannister, as well as the lords of the Crownlands. As the king in control of the capital he is referred to  as the King on the Iron Throne.[2]

The Lannister armies became bogged down in fighting the Stark forces in the Riverlands, leaving the capital potentially vulnerable to assault by sea or from the south, but when Robb Stark led his troops west to attack the Lannister homelands, their armies were free to march to relieve King's Landing from assault by Stannis' army. His supporters were also able to negotiate an alliance with House Tyrell after Renly Baratheon's death.

During his wedding to Margaery Tyrell, Joffrey was poisoned by an unknown party and died. His uncle, former Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister, was arrested for the murder. Joffrey's lawful successor is his younger brother, Tommen Baratheon.

The King in Highgarden

Renly promo

King Renly I Baratheon, "the King in Highgarden"

King Renly Baratheon, the youngest brother of King Robert, claimed the Iron Throne by right of strength and conquest. He is supported by his vassals, the Stormlords and the armies sworn to House Tyrell, who can field the largest armies in all of Westeros. He is known as "the King in Highgarden" because of the alliance.[3]

The presence of Renly's large army in the south forced Tywin Lannister to leave the bulk of his forces at Harrenhal, mid-way between Robb in the north and Renly in the south, to react against whichever of them moved on King's Landing first. Renly was in no great hurry, content to let Robb Stark continue bleeding the Lannisters in the Riverlands and holding tourneys and feasts with his lords bannermen and sworn knights. Time was largely on Renly's side, and he could afford to wait longer to assemble as large an army as possible before ultimately marching on King's Landing.

However, Renly was killed by a shadow creature under the control of Melisandre, a priestess in the employ of Stannis. The Stormlands lords, and a few Reach lords went over to Stannis, but the Tyrells refused to support him. They were eventually convinced to join Joffrey's supporters through negotiations.

The King in the Narrow Sea

StannisNorthRemember

Stannis Baratheon, the "King in the Narrow Sea"

King Stannis Baratheon, the younger brother of King Robert and the elder brother of Renly, claims the Iron Throne by right of inheritance from his brother. Stannis power is centered on the island fortress of Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea and he is therefore referred to as the King in the Narrow Sea.[4]

Based on intelligence received from Eddard Stark before his arrest and execution,[5] Stannis claims that Joffrey and his younger siblings are not Robert's children at all, but instead the product of incest between Queen Cersei Lannister and her twin brother, Jaime.[6] This makes Joffrey a usurper, pretender and bastard, and leaves Stannis as the rightful king. At the beginning of the war very few supported Stannis' claim to the throne even after sending a letter of Joffrey's true parentage to all the high lords of Westeros.[4][6] Stannis was also furious that most of the lords of the Stormlands had supported his younger brother Renly's claim to the Iron Throne.[6] A parley between Stannis and Renly failed, so Stannis authorised his priestess, Melisandre, to kill Renly through magic.[7] The storm lords went over to Stannis, but the Tyrells withdrew their armies.[8] Stannis was still left with a large enough army and fleet to attack King's Landing. Despite initial successes, the tide turned against him when the Tyrells allied with the Lannisters and attacked him. Stannis was forced to flee with only a small number of survivors.[9]

The King in the North

Robb 2x01

Robb Stark, the King in the North

King Robb Stark does not claim the Iron Throne at all. Instead, his initial goal is to secure the release of his father Ned Stark, who has been imprisoned on charges of treason against King Joffrey, as well as to rescue his sisters Arya and Sansa. Besides commanding the forces of the North, Robb is joined by the forces of the Riverlands, ruled by Robb's maternal grandfather Hoster Tully, although the Vale (currently ruled by Robb's aunt Lysa Arryn) remains neutral. Robb's goals further evolve when he is proclaimed the King in the North by his bannermen, his new aim being to secure the independence of the North and the Riverlands, as well as to possibly exact revenge following the execution of Ned Stark.

Despite Robb's youth and inexperience, he proves to be an enthusiastic and canny battle commander, his ferocity in battle earning him the nickname "The Young Wolf" (a reference to the sigil of House Stark).[10] In the first real test of his leadership, Robb uses disinformation against the Lannisters, not only making them believe his army is larger than it actually is but also tricks them into believing he is marching against Tywin Lannister's forces. Instead, Robb sends only a small diversionary force to face Tywin at the Battle of the Green Fork while sending the rest of his forces to face Jaime Lannister's army at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Robb scores a decisive victory, destroying Jaime's army and capturing Jaime himself. Robb goes onto to win every engagement he fights against the Lannisters, including the Battle of Oxcross.

Despite his success on the battlefield, Robb loses the momentum of the war. Robb reluctantly tries to seek an alliance with Balon Greyjoy, hoping to use ironborn ships to launch an attack on King's Landing and sends Theon Greyjoy as an envoy. Instead, the ironborn launch raids in the North, and Theon betrays Robb and personally leads the attack on Robb's capital of Winterfell. Robb loses the support of House Frey when he marries Talisa Maegyr, breaking his vow to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters. He also loses the support of House Karstark when he executes Lord Rickard Karstark for treason. While Robb's forces dwindle and face more enemies, the opposite is true for his main enemies, the Lannisters. They gain a formidable ally in House Tyrell and their vassals following the alliance arranged by Littlefinger on behalf of the crown. Also, with Stannis' forces having been decimated at the Battle of Blackwater, the Lannisters are able concentrate on the Stark army.

Determined to regain his momentum, Robb plans an attack on Casterly Rock, capital of the Westerlands and one of the biggest sources of gold for House Lannister. To acquire the needed men, he attempts to repair his alliance with House Frey by marrying his uncle, Edmure Tully, the new Lord of Riverrun, to Roslin Frey. Walder Frey gives the appearance of accepting, and the two are married. However, unbeknownst to Robb, Walder Frey and Robb's bannerman Lord Roose Bolton have secretly joined with Tywin Lannister. At the wedding, Robb, his wife, his mother, and almost the entire Northern army are betrayed and massacred, putting an end to his rebellion and to the North's dream of independence.

The King of the Iron Islands

King Balon Greyjoy, likewise, does not claim the Iron Throne, but has declared himself King of the Iron Islands again. He has rejected Robb Stark's proposal for an alliance against House Lannister, preferring to carve out a Kingdom of the Iron Islands alone. He's motivated by his hatred for the Starks for the death of his two older sons during the Greyjoy Rebellion and the ironborn tradition of 'paying the iron price' - which dictates that a man must take his riches by force, not negotiation or payment. To this end Balon has taken advantage of the North's under-defended state while most of its forces are fighting with Robb in the Riverlands: the ironborn raid the coasts, and capture the castle at Deepwood Motte. Out of his own initiative, his son Theon has also captured the main Stark stronghold at Winterfell, but has refused to relinquish it despite the difficulties in resupplying a location so far from the sea. The ironborn have now abandoned Winterfell, and Theon's location remains unknown, potentially causing problems for Balon.

Non-combatants

The following factions have either not declared an interest in the conflict, or have already declared their neutrality:

House Arryn/The Vale of Arryn

House Arryn and the knights of the Vale have declared themselves neutral in the conflict. Lady Lysa Arryn, acting as regent for her young son, Robin Arryn, has stated that the Vale will hold its strength and not take part in the war, despite entreaties from her sister, Catelyn Stark, to join the Stark cause. Lysa is skeptical of Robb's ability to defeat the seasoned, more experienced Tywin Lannister in battle.

In an attempt to bring the Vale back under the authority of the Iron Throne and House Arryn into the forces against Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister sends Petyr Baelish, newly-made Lord of Harrenhal and de jure Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, to propose matrimony to Lady Lysa as Littlefinger's new titles make him a suitable match for the Lady Regent of the Vale.

House Martell

House Martell of Dorne has pursued a course of isolationism since Robert's Rebellion, and declares no interest or faction in the current conflict at its outset. Tyrion Lannister attempts to win the Martells' support by offering their youngest son the hand of Princess Myrcella Baratheon in marriage. They have accepted the offer, and Myrcella is sent to Sunspear as a ward of Prince Doran Martell. However, House Martell still has not taken an official side in the war. After the Purple Wedding, with the threat of the ironborn and the Targaryen resurgence in the east, Hand of the King Tywin Lannister offers Prince Oberyn Martell a seat on the Small Council, as he will need the support of the only House that has never been subjegated by anyone before, not even Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons.

The Night's Watch

The Night's Watch plays no role in the internal political affairs of the Seven Kingdoms, having been sworn to defend the realm as a whole, no matter who is on the Iron Throne or competing for it. As a result, they are neutral in the current conflict. Several individual members of the Night's Watch do have ties to some of the combatants. For example, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont was once the Lord of Bear Island and thus a former bannerman to House Stark before abdicating; his sister Maege Mormont fights for Robb Stark. Jon Snow is the bastard son of Eddard Stark and thus Robb Stark's brother. Samwell Tarly is the son of Lord Randyll Tarly, who -- as a bannerman for House Tyrell -- fights for Renly Baratheon and later Joffrey Baratheon. All three choose to follow the Watch's policy of neutrality (though Jon Snow does heavily consider joining the fight before being persuaded not to).

The Brotherhood Without Banners

The outlaw group known as the Brotherhood Without Banners is active in the Riverlands and, so far, has acted against the Lannister occupation, though they haven't declared their loyalty to either House Stark or House Baratheon. The Lannister forces have responded to the Brotherhood's activities by further sacking villages and torturing and executing peasants with the hope of tracking down the Brotherhood's leaders and their collaborators among the smallfolk.

The Queen Across the Sea

Daenerys Targaryen is the last of House Targaryen, the house that ruled the Seven Kingdoms prior to being overthrown during Robert's Rebellion. Daenerys has thus staked a claim for the Iron Throne for herself and has begun building an army in Essos for this goal, hoping the use the in-fighting within the Seven Kingdoms to her advantage. However, Daenerys and her forces still remain in exile in Essos and thus have not entered the war. She has also not yet received any open support from any of the power players within the Seven Kingdoms, though Varys does apparently support the Targaryens privately.

Turncoats and Oathbreakers

Several houses and individuals change or abandon their allegiances during the course of the war, altering the course of events and the possibilities of victory for the different factions:

The Prince of Winterfell

Initially sent as an envoy to his father, Balon Greyjoy, Theon Greyjoy breaks the vow he made to Robb Stark during his proclamation as King in the North and sides with his father in his plans to conquer the North and restore the independence of the Iron Islands. Driven by his desire to gain the respect of his father and his people and resentful of his status as a glorified hostage of House Stark, Theon successfully seizes control of the Northern capital, Winterfell and installs himself as Prince of Winterfell. With this move, Theon seemingly gains the respect of his crew, but also deals, unwittingly, a major blow to the position of King Robb, as some of his vassals begin to doubt the Young Wolf's ability to lead the North to complete independence.

However, Theon's hold over Winterfell proves to be quite weak. With only a small crew and without the support of either his father or sister to support the Northern retaliation, Theon is betrayed by his own men and delivered to House Bolton, who make him a hostage for their own purposes.

The Stormlords

During the opening stages of the war, most, if not all, of the Stormlords declare for their liege lord, Renly Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. However, after Renly's mysterious assassination, noble houses such as the Estermonts, Tarths, Errols, Swanns, and Caron go over to the remaining Baratheon and new Lord of Storm's End, Stannis, ignoring that he orchestrated the death of his brother. This course of events gives Stannis the much needed land forces he requires for his planned assault on the capital of the realm.

However, after the Lannister victory in the Battle of the Blackwater, the Stormlords are divided between those who bend the knee to the Iron Throne and those who remain loyal to their liege lord.

House Tyrell

Following the death of Renly Baratheon, House Tyrell refuses to declare to Stannis, and instead turn its forces back to Highgarden to await the further development of war. Having learnt of Margaery Tyrell's ambitions to become Queen, however, Petyr Baelish suggests Tywin Lannister to arrange a marriage between King Joffrey and Margaery. With the might of Highgarden - 12,000 infantry, 1,800 mounted lances, and 2,000 in support as well as half a million bushels each of wheat, oats, and rye, 20,000 heads of cattle and 50,000 sheep - House Lannister both repels Stannis' siege against the capital and solves the famine affecting its population, and becomes the most powerful player in the war.

The Lords of the Reach

Like their liege lords of House Tyrell, the noble houses of the Reach such as House Tarly, House Florent, House Hightower, and House Florent, declare for Renly Baratheon at the opening of the war and join him in his slow march on King's Landing. After the death of Renly Baratheon, most of the Tyrell bannermen follow Margaery and Loras Tyrell back to Highgarden. However, a few of these noble houses, such as House Florent and House Fossoway defy their liege lords and go over to Stannis Baratheon.

Following the Battle of the Blackwater, most of the Reach houses that went over to Stannis, save for the Florents, bend the knee to King Joffrey and are welcomed back into the King's peace.

House Karstark

As bannermen to and distant relatives of the Starks, House Karstark forms a large part of Robb's army. Lord Rickard Karstark's two sons are killed, the first in battle and the second when Jaime Lannister attempts to escape. Enraged at the death of his sons, Lord Karstark demands Jaime's execution. Fearing that Jaime's murder would end any hope of ever getting her daughters Sansa and Arya back from the Lannisters, Lady Catelyn Stark frees Jaime. Lord Rickard grows increasingly frustrated after the discovery that both Northmen and Rivermen imprisoned at Harrenhal have been put to the sword. He murders two young Lannister hostages imprisoned at Riverrun: Martyn and Willem to exact revenge. As this action was against the express orders of Robb Stark, Robb declares Lord Karstark guilty of treason and personally executes him, according the ways of the First Men. Afterward, the Karstark forces withdraw their support, severely depleting Robb's forces and forcing him to seek a renewed alliance with House Frey.

House Bolton

A number of events pave the way for Lord Roose Bolton to decide that King Robb's cause is doomed to fail and ultimately betray his king the Red Wedding:

  • King Robb's refusal to engage in acts such as torture to gain information useful against Tywin Lannister.
  • The ironborn invasion of the North in general and loss of Winterfell in particular, which puts Robb's ability to hold the new Kingdom of the North into question. It remains unknown if the Sack of Winterfell carried out by Ramsay Snow is done under Lord Bolton's orders or if the Bastard of the Dreadfort acts on his own. In any event the destruction of the castle is blamed on the ironborn, while Theon's status as a prisoner is kept secret.
  • King Robb's marriage to Talisa Maegyr, which the Northern lords recognize as a terrible political move.
  • The Lannister victory at the Battle of the Blackwater and the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, which makes House Lannister the most powerful house in the realm.
  • Lord Bolton being left holding Harrenhal, which places him in the ideal position to communicate freely with Lord Tywin. Locke's capture of Jaime Lannister also gives him the chance to further cement his secret alliance with House Lannister.

As reward for his betrayal of King Robb, Roose Bolton is pardoned for taking arms against the Iron Throne and is made Warden of the North.

House Frey

Lord Walder Frey plots with Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister to betray Robb Stark and his liege lord, Edmure Tully, as revenge for the slight on his family's honor caused by the breaking of Stark-Frey marriage pact as well as the resentment for the derision House Frey suffers from other noble houses.[11]

For the "service" of slaughtering most of the Northern leadership as well as their forces, Lord Walder is awarded with Riverrun, the ancestral seat of the now-attainted House Tully.

Course of the conflict

Opening moves

"That bit of theater will haunt our family for a generation."
Tyrion Lannister to Cersei Lannister, speaking about the execution of Ned Stark by her son Joffrey.[src]

The stage was set for the war when Catelyn Stark seized Tyrion Lannister at the Crossroads Inn and accused him of the attempted murder of her son, Bran.[12] House Lannister summoned its armies and marched on the Riverlands with 60,000 men.[5] Ser Gregor Clegane led an auxiliary force and began striking at bannerhouses supporting Catelyn's father, Lord Hoster Tully, in reprisal.[5] King Robert attempted to defuse the situation, but failed, and soon after died.[5] Immediately upon hearing of his brother's death and having failed to win the support of the King's Hand, Eddard Stark, Renly Baratheon fled the city with Ser Loras Tyrell and rode hard for Highgarden.[5] There, the Tyrell banners were called and began gathering, whilst Renly was crowned King of the Seven Kingdoms.

Prince Joffrey also immediately claimed the throne upon Robert's death.[5] Lord Eddard had a proclamation written by King Robert which named him regent, but was ignored. When Eddard tried to take Joffrey into custody as an imposter, Joffrey, forewarned by Lord Petyr 'Littlefinger' Baelish, had Eddard arrested instead.[5] Unfortunately for Joffrey, he was unaware that Eddard had already sent a letter to Robert's brother Stannis, telling him that Joffrey was not legitimate and the crown belonged to Stannis by right.[5] On Dragonstone, Stannis likewise claimed the throne and began gathering his supporters.[13]

War in the Riverlands

"Ser Gregor will head out with five hundred riders and set the riverlands on fire from Gods' Eye to the Red Fork."
―Tywin Lannister[src]

The Lannister force separated into two armies of 30,000 men each.[5] Ser Jaime Lannister led one force with the aim of capturing Riverrun, the principal stronghold of House Tully. Jaime smashed the Riverlords at the Battle of the Golden Tooth.[14] Jaime followed his victory at Golden Tooth by laying siege to Riverrun.[14] Lord Tywin Lannister led the other force himself. Jaime's victories allowed Tywin to move north west through the Riverlands unimpeded.[14]

Green Fork

The aftermath of the Battle of the Green Fork.

Receiving news of his father's arrest, Robb Stark mobilized the armies of the North and assembled a host of 20,000 men (due to the urgency of the situation and the vastness of the North, he could not wait for more).[14] He marched to the relief of the Riverlands.[14] Lord Tywin moved to the east bank of the Green Fork of the Trident to intercept the Stark force.[14] Even winning the support of House Frey and its troops could not bring Robb's forces up to parity with the Lannisters.[15] Robb sent 2,000 men to pretend to attack Tywin's army.[15] As planned, this small force was defeated at the Battle of the Green Fork, but it delayed the Lannisters long enough for Robb's main army to slip past them and into the Whispering Wood near Riverrun.[15] There, Robb staged a feint to draw Jaime Lannister and a portion of his army into the woodlands. During the Battle of the Whispering Wood, Robb inflicted a significant defeat upon the Lannisters, destroying Jaime's host and capturing the Kingslayer himself.[15]

Receiving word of Jaime's defeat, Tywin realized that the Starks and Tullys were now free to unify against him, potentially bringing much greater numbers to bear against his smaller force. He retreated to Harrenhal, the formidable castle on the north banks of Gods Eye, intending to fortify it and use it as a base of operations to conduct operations in the Riverlands. By this time news of Renly and Stannis gathering armies had reached both the Stark and Lannister camps. After considering joining forces with one of the brothers, the Northmen and Riverland lords chose the path of independence, rejecting the authority of the Iron Throne all together and swearing fealty to Robb Stark as the King in the North.[13]

King Robb Stark followed up on his success at Whispering Wood with several minor skirmishes against Lannister forces intending to drive them from away from the Red Fork of the Trident, to free the lands and holdfasts of the Riverlords who had recently sworn allegiance to him. He met little serious resistance, as the Lannisters were already in the process of withdrawing their forces to Harrenhal in the eastern Riverlands to regroup.[6]

Robb Stark invades the Westerlands

"The Lannisters have been running from us since Oxcross."
―Robb Stark[src]
Battle of Oxcross

The aftermath of the Battle of Oxcross.

With Tywin encamped at Harrenhal, which was too strong to attack directly, Robb instead launched an invasion of the Westerlands, the Lannister homeland. He launched a surprise attack on the new Lannister army gathering at the village of Oxcross, where new conscripts were being trained to replace the Lannister army group destroyed at Whispering Wood. Robb totally destroyed the green Lannister army group in the resulting Battle of Oxcross, killing Ser Stafford Lannister in the process.[7] The victory leaves the Westerlands lightly defended. Robb goes on to win a minor victory at the Battle of the Yellow Fork[16] and force the surrender of the Crag.[17] With the Lannister homelands under attack, Tywin had a difficult choice to make: to ride out and meet Robb's forces in battle, abandoning their strong defensive position at Harrenhal, or to fall back on King's Landing and help defend the city from Stannis. Tywin eventually decided to ride west because of the threat Robb's forces posed to his own castle at Casterly Rock.[17] Tywin had already authorised secret negotiations with House Tyrell to begin following Renly's death, in the hope of winning an alliance with them and their powerful army.[18]

Baratheon conflict

Stannis Baratheon and his younger brother, Renly Baratheon, both claimed the Iron Throne of Westeros. Stannis had a small army at Dragonstone and was influenced by the red priestess Melissandre, while Renly amassed the strength of his bannermen, the Stormlords, and that of the Reach by marrying Margaery Tyrell, daughter of Mace Tyrell.

After a failed meeting, Stannis gives an ultimatum to Renly to pledge his loyalty before he attacks, but Renly ignores him. Melissandre gives birth to a shadow which later on enters Renly's tent and kills him. While the Tyrell army leaves for Highgarden, the Stormlords swear fealty to Stannis as the remaining head of House Baratheon, with his brother's armies at his command Stannis prepares his invasion to King's Landing.

Riot in King's Landing

"They're starving, you fool! All because of a war you started!"
Tyrion Lannister to King Joffrey Baratheon[src]

During the course of the war the streets of the capital city began to overflow with many starving refugees escaping the war. Both Tyrion Lannister and Janos Slynt warned Queen Cersei that if something was not done with the starving refugees there would be a mounting discontent with her son's rule however the Queen ignored their warnings. The King and the Royal Court had gathered in the docks to see Myrcella Baratheon being shipped to Dorne. On their way back to the Red Keep, the refugees and commoners of King's Landing hurled insults at King Joffrey, and ultimately, hurl cow excrement into Joffrey's face. Despite being accompanied by only a few dozen guards facing hundreds of peasants, Joffrey impetuously shouts orders for his soldiers to kill them all. A general riot then breaks out and spreads throughout the city, with the royal party barely making it back to the castle in one piece. With most of the regular Lannister army in the Riverlands fighting in the war under Lord Tywin Lannister, the scant two thousand City Watch guards had a difficult time containing the riot, and the chaos that reigned throughout the city. In the end the riot was put down but many peasants and City Watch guards were killed during the riot along with the High Septon who was torn limb by limb by an angry mob.

Rise of the Kraken

"The North is ripe for the taking."
―Balon Greyjoy[src]

While the Lannister and Stark forces were fighting in the Riverlands, Theon Greyjoy traveled to Pyke, the Iron Islands capital, and his family castle, to negotiate with his father, Balon Greyjoy, under Robb Stark´s orders. At Pyke, Balon Greyjoy told Theon that he would proclaim himself King on the Iron Islands once more, and attack the North. He then asks his son on which side he was: his or the Starks. After much soul-searching, Theon Greyjoy chose to declare loyalty to his father. Balon Greyjoy would attack the coasts of the North, with his navy. Asha Greyjoy would lead most of the fleet, while Theon was given only one ship, the Sea Bitch, and was supposed to attack small fishing villages. Theon Greyjoy then changed his plan and sieged Torrhen´s Square, and then attacked Winterfell. Bran Stark yielded before him, and Theon proclaimed himself Prince of Winterfell.

However, Bran and his younger brother, Rickon, soon escaped with two of their household servants and their direwolves, and were unable to be found by Theon. They managed to sneak back into the crypts of Winterfell, though Theon has convinced most of his men they are dead by hanging two children's burnt corpses atop the walls of Winterfell.

A relief force of five hundred men, led by Ramsay Snow of House Bolton and sent under the orders of King Robb Stark, laid siege to the castle for at least one night. Theon Greyjoy attempted to rally his men to defend the stronghold and die fighting with an inspiring speech; his First Mate, Dagmer Cleftjaw betrayed him, and Theon's small force presumably handed him over to Ramsay, who had been sent with an offer of mercy to the ironborn if they handed over Winterfell and Theon. Dagmer mortally wounded the castle's Maester, Luwin, as he had Theon dragged away from the courtyard.

Winterfell was sacked and put to the torch shortly afterwards, while the dying Luwin moved to the Godswood. The majority of the castle and outlying town still stands. It is unknown who is responsible for the sack of Winterfell. Bran and Rickon Stark managed to escape the castle, along with two servants and their two direwolves.

The Battle of the Blackwater

Stannis's army and fleet launched an assault on King's Landing. The initial attack was blunted when Tyrion Lannister sprung a trap, detonating a boat filled with wildfire in the midst of Stannis's fleet, destroying a significant part of it. The surviving ships were able to put ashore thousands of troops, led in person by Stannis. Sandor Clegane and Tyrion Lannister himself led several sorties that destroyed the Baratheon siege equipment, but were almost overwhelmed by superior enemy numbers. However, the armies of House Lannister (under Tywin, in contrast to his stated intention to attack the Starks) and House Tyrell (under Ser Loras) arrived and defeated Stannis's forces, sending them fleeing from the field. House Tyrell have now formally declared themselves for the King on the Iron Throne in return for a marriage pact, giving King Joffrey Baratheon a large numerical advantage over King Robb Stark.

The Red Wedding

Robb Stark subsequently withdraws his forces back to the Riverlands. He liberated Harrenhal, but the Lannisters had simply withdrawn and gave no battle. After the death of his maternal grandfather Robb marched his army back to Riverrun, but faced a bleak situation. The Lannisters meanwhile focused on consolidating the south with their new Tyrell allies, content that time and resources were now on their side.

Robb Stark's army was ultimately lured into a trap at the Twins where he was betrayed by House Frey and House Bolton, who switched sides to the Lannisters. The Freys and Boltons not only betrayed their liege-lords, but the Freys broke the solemn Guest right by attacking the Starks after formally accepting them into their castle as guests, and on top of that, during a wedding. Robb Stark and his mother Catelyn were killed in the massacre, which subsequently became known as the Red Wedding. The entire Northern army led to southern Westeros by Robb Stark to fight in the war was annihilated, with the few survivors captured as political hostages.

Aftermath of the Red Wedding

The destruction of the Northern army and the death of Robb Stark at the Red Wedding marked a major turning point in the war, with the allied houses of Lannister and Tyrell achieving a major victory over their largest and most numerically significant enemy.

However, the victory doesn't mark the end of the war, as Stannis Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy continue to claim their respective crowns in opposition to King Joffrey. While most of Stannis' forces were destroyed at the Blackwater, he himself remains at liberty with some loyal bannermen and adamant to fight till the bitter end. The ironborn, who have partially occupied the North, command great sea power and have refused to bend the knee to the Iron Throne. And some members of the northern leadership, such as Greatjon Umber, who were not present at the Red Wedding, remain as holdouts against Lannister rule.

At the same time, the Iron Throne has emerged from the conflict weakened. Its debts to foreign banks such as the Iron Bank of Braavos are still far from being repaid and, if the debts should default, the Bank would turn its support to other people who could guarantee the repayement of the loans, such as rebellious claimants like Stannis Baratheon. Also, tensions continue to exist in the alliance between the Lannisters and the Tyrells, a relationship which is beneficial to the latter but necessary for the former. The Tyrells' popularity has also been rising in parts of the Kingdoms such as King's Landing, where they have been guaranteeing the food supply.

​Reconquering the North

After the Red Wedding, Roose Bolton was appointed Warden of the North until such time a son was born to Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark, the rightful heir of Winterfell. However, the Ironborn held the majority of the once Stark-held lands and it was up to Lord Bolton to reconquer them. Despite the fact that he was officially supported by the Iron Throne, Bolton knew that Tywin Lannister would not do anything to help him against the Greyjoys. With the Ironborn in possession of the fortress of Moat Cailin, his army remain trapped south of the Neck. Knowing that his bastard son Ramsay had captured Theon Greyjoy, he planned to use him as ransom and exchange him for Moat Cailin. First however, he needed to return North.

Bolton and a small company of his men, including Locke and his new wife Walda Bolton, smuggled themselves into the North and made for the Bolton seat at the Dreadfort. There, Bolton discovered that his bastard had badly mutilated and broken Theon Greyjoy, using him as a plaything more than a hostage. Angered, he was neverthless interested to hear that Bran and Rickon Stark were still alive. Realizing that the continued existence of the Stark boys would harm his hold over the North, Bolton sent Locke to hunt them down and kill them. He also instructed Ramsay to head south and reclaim Moat Cailin.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the War of the Five Kings is one of the major storylines which the narrative revolves around.

While it is popularly known as the War of the "Five" Kings, in a later book a character points out that this is somewhat inaccurate, as Balon Greyjoy openly declared himself King of the Iron Islands only slightly after Renly died, so there were never five kings actively fighting each other at one time. Nonetheless the name has stuck, and it does still refer to the fact that five kings were involved. For the TV series, however, it might be somewhat accurate, depending on when Balon Greyjoy's secession of the Iron Islands "officially" began. Renly was killed at the beginning of the fifth episode of Season 2. Balon explains to Theon that he intends to make himself a king by force in the second episode of Season 2, but this isn't followed by a polite declaration: the ironborn make a surprise attack against the North at the beginning of the sixth episode of Season 2, taking Torrhen's Square and Winterfell. Thus Balon briefly claimed the title of King while Renly was still alive, but the first the other factions knew about this was when ironborn raiders were at their doorsteps, after Renly died.

It is generally a four-sided war, between the Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons, and Greyjoys. Renly's brief time as a claimant, controlling most of the armies of the Stormlands and the Reach, did affect the strategic position of the Lannisters, but he didn't set out to engage them on the battlefield. Instead the Tyrells had cut of the Roseroad, effectively blockading resources and foodstuff from reaching the capital, and Renly was content to sit back and let the Lannisters exhaust themselves against the Starks while he built up his own strength to overwhelming levels, at which point he intended to march directly on King's Landing. Also while there are four "sides", this does not include political machinations and large territories changing sides, i.e. the Vale of Arryn or Dorne, and particularly House Tyrell of the Reach, which considerably tipped the balance of the war when they switched their allegiance to the Lannisters. Due to simple geography, of course, any one faction isn't actively fighting three others all the time. Simply due to the fact that they are located on opposite coasts of the continent the Greyjoys (off the west coast) and Stannis Baratheon (off the east coast) aren't actively fighting each other while he's on Dragonstone. Stannis does nominally consider the North to be in rebellion against him, but in practice, doesn't actively fight the North, because he's more concerned with retaking the capital city from the Lannisters. As seen in the TV series, the Starks do send peace overtures to the Baratheons, but Stannis refuses to allow the North to secede and take away vast territories which he feels are rightfully his. While the Greyjoys aren't actively fighting Stannis, they are not on the side of the Starks or the Lannisters, and are truly looking out only for their own interests.

See also

References

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