Why IMO Renly is the King Westeros Deserves..
Okay, so I’m re-watching Game of Thrones with my housemate before Season 4 starts. We’ve just finished 2x05, and the scene right before Renly’s death has really stuck with me. I can’t remember if the same thing happens in the book, but the gist of it was Renly proposing that if Robb swears an oath of fealty to him, he could have control over the North, and Renly and Robb would join forces to defeat the Lannister army. I’ve been thinking about it, and I really do think that if this could have happened, it would have been just what Westeros needed. Here’s why:
So, there are 5 possible contenders for the Iron Thrones as per A Clash of Kings (Season 2): Joffrey Baratheon (Lannister?), Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. Balon can be crossed out for starters. He has the least claim of the 5, no-one except the Ironborn would actually want him on the Throne, and I don’t at any point think he was an actual serious contender. Joffrey, clearly, should not be allowed to have rule over anything, and I don’t feel like I really need to go into why.
Then there’s Stannis, who has the rightful claim, and in a world where Ned had been a little bit smarter and chosen not to tell Cersei that he’d discovered the incest, he would be on the Throne. And he’s definitely a better option than Joffrey or Balon. He has military experience and knows how to lead an army, and he’s probably the most just character of the entire series. And I KNOW a lot of people LOVE Stannis, and really want to see him on the Iron Throne, but I really don’t agree. I don’t think he would make a good King. I think he’d make an excellent Hand, but in terms of ruling on a large scale he’s not the right man for the job. My issue with Stannis is that he’s so unwilling to compromise (it sounds ridiculous to say that he’s too just, but that’s pretty much what it is). He judges a man on his actions, and will reward or punish him accordingly (see: Davos), and this in theory is a really good quality to have, but the flip side of this is that he’s completely loath to forgive or pardon. Being unwilling to forgive isn’t a good quality in a King, especially after the desolation that’ll be left behind after The War of the Five Kings. Stannis would execute all of the families that rose up against him – that’s the Lannisters, the Starks, the Tullys, the Greyjoys and the Tyrells for starters, and that’s only the noble families. In Stannis’ eyes, they deserve to be punished, and I can definitely appreciate why, but it would be completely impractical and illogical. Willingness to compromise is such a vital part of ruling and Stannis just doesn’t have that. There’s no way he’d let Robb keep the North, for example. And besides that, the general consensus in Westeros seems to be that he’s a pretty unlikeable guy, and I just don’t think you can be a good King if you don’t have the support of the smallfolk.
Moving onto Robb. Robb has the support of the North, and the Northmen love him. He’s young and inexperienced, but has shown himself to be smart when it comes to strategy and warfare. He’s fair, and likeable, and willing to compromise, yet he’s still strong willed. Robb would make an excellent ruler. Only issue: Robb doesn’t want to rule. All Robb wants is to avenge his Father’s death, rescue his sisters, and return to Winterfell to be left alone. And here’s where Renly comes in.
Renly has no claim to the Throne, that much cannot be disputed, and going against his older brother was a dishonourable thing to do. But Robert had no right to the Throne when he usurped Aerys Targaryen – yet he still did it, because he recognised that Aerys’ rule had descended into madness, and thought that he could do a better job (whether he actually did so is another matter altogether, of course). The same applies to Renly; he looked at Joffrey and Stannis, and thought that he could do better. And I genuinely think he could have! Renly has all the same qualities Robb has that would make a good ruler. He’s willing to compromise and let Robb have rule over the North, because he recognises that the Starks are good people and that there’s no need to go to war against them. The smallfolk love him. The Stormlands and the Reach support his claim, and he was popular in King’s Landing too, because he’s kind. Although we don’t get to see inside his head, I do truly think that he likes to help the smallfolk, and would really work to keep in good favour with them. And he has the ambition and desire to rule that Robb lacks.
There are counterarguments that Renly is all talk and no show. And he is cocky, true, but you need self-confidence if you want to succeed, and just because we never got to see him in action doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have performed if he had the chance. Renly’s army had the numbers, more so than Stannis, and he had the Tyrells and the Tarlys on his side, as well as the knights of the Stormlands. The Tarlys are known for producing good warriors, and the Tyrells are cunning, and have the numbers to match their ambition. Plus, working with Robb would surely tone down Renly’s arrogance and indulgence. Basically, Renly is still young, but could develop into a truly great ruler.
He does have a lot going for him now, though. He’s charismatic, which is one thing Stannis lacks. People listen to him, and want to be around him. He would be a fair ruler. He knows his own mind, and wouldn’t let anyone walk over him, but he’d still be willing to listen to his advisors, and with the Starks and the Tyrells he’d be able to hear completely different perspectives on things, and be able to come to an informed decision. He’s also progressive, which is something Westeros really needs. He lets Brienne into his Kingsguard because she’s the best for the job, regardless of her gender. He’s open minded, and tolerant, and these are all important qualities for a good King to have. He’s smart, and witty, and all of these traits would just improve with age.
And think of Renly’s and Robb’s armies together! They would have flattened the Lannister army! And then Robb could have avenged Ned, gone back to the North, and lived. And Renly could have ruled.
If only, if only..