But really, having the Iron Throne survive the series just wouldn’t feel right. The game of thrones isn’t the bigger picture, the song of ice and fire is. It’s not about the political web of betrayal and intrigue; that’s only a distraction. There is a war worth fighting, but it’s against the Others, not for the throne.
Not only will the Iron Throne not exist, I don’t think Daenerys would even want it. She’s spent most of her time convincing herself that she needs to be a queen, and (before she inadvertently blows up King’s Landing) she’ll spend a good amount of time convincing herself she needs to be a conqueror.
But she’s neither of those things. Tyrion, someone who hasn’t even met Dany yet, said it best.
“(…) This Mother of Dragons, this Breaker of Chains, is above all a rescuer.” (Tyrion VI, ADWD)
There’s a pattern with the way our three heads of the dragon approach ruling. Jon thinks “it shouldn’t be me”, Dany thinks “it has to be me”, and Tyrion thinks “of fucking course it’s me” (though whether he thinks it confidently or sarcastically sort of depends). And, ultimately, it’s because they don’t want to rule people; they want to save them.
And I know the fandom thinks that being a king or queen by the end of the series would be a huge success for a character, but honestly …
“Gods be good, why would any man ever want to be king?” - Robb Stark. You know, before they murdered him. (Catelyn III, ASOS)
Daenerys doesn’t need a throne or a crown, and by the end of the series, I highly doubt she’ll want any of that. If she doesn’t die in the Battle for the Dawn (which she very well might), I imagine she’ll head north and leave the kingdoms to rule themselves.
I enjoyed reading your "Big Walder" post and musing about the aftermath of the Battle for the Dawn. This touches up against something that I've been wondering about Westeros, namely, why should the continent will remain a united kingdom? For thousands of years before the Targaryens, the land was broken into regional kingdoms. Dragons provide the might/mobility to unify, but they will (probably) be gone. The North, Vale, Dorne are basically impossible to conquer, so why not a fragmentation?
Thanks anon! Yeah, that’s a big question for the endgame. I definitely think the Iron Throne, the Red Keep, and possibly all of King’s Landing will have been destroyed by the end of the series, and so too the continent-wide polity that they represent. As for the aftermath…
Westeros is facing down several simultaneous sources of mass death: war, famine, cold, dragonfire, wildfire, greyscale, and the Others. After all these have run their course, we’ll be looking at a dramatically depopulated continent. This will cause massive social destabilization, unless the surviving elites move to oversee and seize credit for the reconstruction.
So which nobles and powerful institutions will be left? For all that the North will suffer as Winter’s legions move south, I think they’ll actually stay the closest to the status quo. The centrality of Winterfell will only be reinforced when it alone withstands the Others’ march, and the return of the Starks (as we see in A Dance with Dragons) is a very powerful cultural rallying point. All hail Queen Sansa, is what I’m saying.
Dorne (what’s left of it after Dany and Drogon are through) will also likely revert to its historical independence…but who knows if there will be any Martells left to reign supreme. Always possible that House Yronwood reasserts its Bloodroyal status instead.
As for the Riverlands, while I do think Edmure is very likely to survive (along with his wife and child), I somewhat doubt he’ll hold his father’s domains together as an independent kingdom. The Riverlands have been an addendum to other empires for centuries, and before that were composed of dozens of squabbling petty realms. Their alliance with Robb may have marked the end of the former tradition, and the return to the latter. (Thus, Big Walder Frey, King of the Twins; I fully expect him to annex Seagard for a port and strike a trade-and-toll deal with the crannogmen.) The Brackens and Blackwoods can resume killing each other to their hearts’ content.
Of course, such fragmentation will expose the Riverlords to the Tyrells, the big winners in the south. I think the Reach lords will also snap up most of the Westerlands, Crownlands, and Stormlands, though one can certainly hope Edric Storm returns one day from across the Narrow Sea to reclaim his family castle.
The really interesting one for me is the Vale, where I think the largest political/cultural shift will take place: as soon as the knights and lords inevitably sail north to return Sansa to her ancestral home and/or fight the Others, the clansmen will come down from the mountains and reclaim their ancestral territory.
The other major contribution to Westerosi re-regionalization (so to speak) will be the breakdown of continent-wide institutions like the Citadel and the Faith, especially after Oldtown gets burned down and/or Cthulu’d. (Aeron’s chapters in The Winds of Winter are going to be fun.)