Now that I’ve talked about the various “ancient” histories of Westeros and Essos, it’s time to get to the fun stuff, starting with Aegon’s Conquest of Westeros.
A Note on Spoilers: I won’t spoil things past Season 3 of HBO in terms of plot. Of course, the whole point of this series of posts will be to give some extra information to non-readers about the history of this wonderfully-constructed world, so most of what will be here is taken from the books, even if it contains no spoilers.
Before we talk about the actual Conquest, it’s necessary to take a good look at the way Westeros’ feudal system has developed the nine regions of Westeros. For those who want to keep everything straight in their minds, here are the nine regions I speak of:
|Region||Current Ruler/Castle in GoT||Pre-Conquest Ruler|
|North||The Starks of Winterfell||King Torrhen Stark ruled the North from Winterfell|
|Iron Islands||The Greyjoys of Pyke||King Harren “the Black” of House Hoare ruled from Pyke. His kingdom included…|
|Riverlands||The Tullys of Riverrun||a subjugated kingdom ruled by the Ironborn/King Harren|
|Westerlands||The Lannisters of Casterly Rock||King Loren Lannister ruled from Casterly Rock|
|The Vale of Arryn||The Arryns of the Eyrie||Queen Regent Sharra Arryn ruled for her son Ronnel from the Eyrie|
|Crownlands||Stannis Baratheon on Dragonstone||Not very united; Aegon and the Targaryens ruled solely Dragonstone. King’s Landing didn’t exist yet|
|Stormlands||The Baratheons of Storm’s End||King Argilac “the Arrogant” Durrendon ruled from Storm’s End|
|The Reach||The Tyrells of Highgarden||King Mern Gardener ruled from Highgarden|
|Dorne||The Martells of Sunspear||Princess Mariya Martell ruled from Sunspear|
Bran the Builder, founder of House Stark.
The Starks have been the rulers of the North from Winterfell since before the Conquest, as you can see. The Starks are descended from Bran the Builder, who I briefly mentioned a few weeks ago. He is called the Builder because he built the Wall, and probably Winterfell as well. “Brandon” is a repeating name throughout the Stark family tree.
At this point, the Starks call themselves Kings in the North. Sons that did not stand to inherit often went to serve the Night’s Watch for the honor of the family. The Starks were notoriously uncontested as Kings for their entire history, except by one house, House Bolton. The rivalry between the two houses was a fierce thing, and the Boltons rebelled multiple times.
Some hundreds of years before the Conquest, the Storm King attacked the Riverlands and conquered most of the various areas that lesser kings had once claimed. Just recently, however, the Ironborn attacked and pushed them out. King Harren the Black was celebrated in the Isles for his defeat of the Storm King.
Afterwards, Harren built himself a castle, meant to be the grandest of them all. It would have countless hearths and towers and halls. It covers at least three times as much area as any other castle. And what did Harren call his castle? Harrenhal (I believe we’re all familiar with it). We’ll talk about Harrenhal’s fate a little bit when we get to the actual conquest.
Lann the Clever tricking Casterly Rock from House Casterly.
The Lannisters, like the Starks, have been controlling their region since before the Conquest. House Lannister was started by a trickster named Lann the Clever, who tricked the head of House Casterly into giving up their seat, Casterly Rock. Eventually, after the Andal invasion, Lann’s descendents married the Andals, and House Lannister was formed.
The Vale of Arryn
Ser Artys Arryn vs. the last Mountain King.
The Arryns are another family that have been in power for a long time. If you’ll recall the Arryns: Jon Arryn was Robert’s first Hand, killed before the pilot. His wife is Catelyn’s sister, who breastfeeds their child who is long past weaning age. House Arryn was formed when the Andal Ser Artys Arryn slew the last Mountain King and pushed his people into the Mountains of the Moon. He became the King of the Mountains and Vale, which was later renamed the Vale of Arryn. At this point, a young king, Ronnel, has inherited the Throne, with his mother Sharra as his regent.
House Gardener were the Kings of the Reach. Not much is really known about them. Their castellan, the man who ran the castle in their absence, was Harlen Tyrell. As you could probably guess, this becomes important later.
The Stormlands, which are currently Baratheon lands, were sworn to the Storm King.
House Durrendon was the royal house of the Stormlands, and Storm’s End was raised by the founder of their line (much like Winterfell and the Starks). It’s sigil was a crowned black stag on a yellow field, and it’s words were “Ours is the Fury.” If that sounds familiar to you, it should. Those are the sigil and words of House Baratheon, though it was adopted much later by them. The current House Baratheon is descended through the female line of House Durrendon.
Dorne, which has been an ethnical mix of Rhoynish and Andal, is probably the most unique kingdom in the realm. As I probably mentioned before, Rhoynish tradition dictated that an older sister inherits before a brother. For instance, in regular law, the Stark line of succession goes Robb—Bran—Rickon—Sansa—Arya, while under Dornish law, it would go Robb—Sansa—Arya—Bran—Rickon, by age.
Princess Mariya Martell (they are called Prince and Princess instead of King and Queen) was an eighty year old woman at the time of the Conquest. She was fat, blind, and almost bald. While there isn’t much to say about the Dornish before the Conquest, they have probably the best response against the Targaryen invasion.
There are some other areas where there are “Kings” that just rule their own castle and nearby lands. Maidenpool had a king named Jon Mooton, but he ruled over such little land that he and the kings like him are considered insignificant.
At this point, Aegon I Targaryen is the head of the House. He has two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, both of whom would become his wives. Aegon’s dragon was named Balerion the Black Dread, and is considered to be one of the largest, strongest, most fearsome dragons in history. Rhaenys rode Meraxes and Visenya rode Vhagar. Not that it’s important, but Aegon considered Rhaenys his favorite sister-wife.
When the Targaryens were approached by the Valyrian remnants after the Doom, with some minor lords and families wanting to unite the fallen Freehold and reclaim their former glory, Aegon ignored their pleas for help. He and his dragons (and his warrior/princess sister-wives) had a bigger fish to fry, and it was to the West, not the East.
Cause of Conquest
Aegon and his sisters. Image by Amok.
The Conquest officially begins when Aegon and his sisters land at the mouth of the Blackwater Rush with their dragons and a host of ~1600 men. The spot where they landed would later become known as King’s Landing, and it would become one of the largest cities in the world, as well as the capital of Aegon’s kingdom. But we’ll get to that next time.
As Harren the Black neared completion of Harrenhal, the Storm King seemed to be nervous that the Ironborn would try and conquer his kingdom. Having grown afraid of the Ironborn, Argilac proposed an alliance with Aegon, hoping Aegon would be a buffer between him and Harren. To seal the deal, he offered the hand of his daughter, Argella, as well as a dowry of lands (though much of the lands belonged to Harren in truth).
Aegon refused to marry the girl, but instead offered the hand of his best friend and bastard brother Orys Baratheon. Of course, the Storm King took this as an insult and had the hands of the envoy cut off and sent back to Aegon with the message “These are the only hands you will receive.”
Aegon decided that there would be only one king in the realm, and sent ravens to every ruler in the Seven Kingdoms, and that those who bent the knee would keep their lands and titles.
In response, Queen Regent Sharra Arryn of the Vale offered to marry Aegon and seal an alliance, provided her son would be Aegon’s heir. Mariya Martell of Dorne replied that she would be his ally against the Storm King, but would not yield to him. Aegon rejected both offers, and it seemed none of the other rulers would submit.
For the war, Aegon has the Painted Table constructed in Dragonstone, a full scale table in the shape of Westeros with all of the castles and towns and cities mapped on it. He took his wives, and landed at King’s Landing.
When he landed, he began construction on a small keep to be his base. He sent envoys to nearby towns and castles. Jon Mooton of Maidenpool was the first to bend the knee. Rosby, Stokeworth, and Duskendale all also bent the knee to the new King. The region around King’s Landing, which includes most of these areas, is now known as the Crownlands.
The major parts of the Conquest will be covered next week. We’ll see him butt heads with the Arryns and the Starks and the Lannisters, among others. Some will bend the knee easily, and some must be destroyed. Alliances will be forged and smashed, and by the end of the Conquest, only one sole region will defy him.
As always, if you have questions/comments/corrections, just let me know in the comments.
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