Game of Thrones Lore: Robert's Rebellion to the Present
Despite differences between the novels in A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO's adaptation to Game of Thrones, I'm a huge fan of both. The show includes references to book material, which gives me opportunities to babble endlessly to friends and family. Itemizing every detail from the source material is best left to Wikis (yes, plural; there's one for the books and another for the show), but there is good and potentially useful information from events offscreen.
With that in mind, let's embark on a (relatively) brief journey through the history of Westeros and Essos. We've already covered the early history and Aegon's Conquest and the Reign of the Targaryens. Now we'll review Robert's Rebellion to get us caught up to Season 1. Everyone ready? Greensight powers, activate!
We left off with the Mad King's cruel execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark. When Lord Jon Arryn refused the King's request to execute his wards, Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon, their three houses called their banners. Robert's Rebellion had begun.
Not all of Westeros was ready to wage war against the now-three-centuries-ensconced monarchy. Many lords and houses of note remained loyal to the Targaryens throughout, or abstained from the fighting as much as possible, and both Robert and Ned needed to return to their castles to rally and organize their armies. During these early stages of the war, Robert proved himself as both a warrior and a battle commander. He started by going east from the Eyrie to Gulltown, where he led his men over the city walls. He killed the leader of the defense, Lord Marq Grafton, and when the port city was secured, sailed south towards the Stormlands. With fresh men in tow, he won three battles in one day at Summerhall, the site of Aegon the Unlikely's demise. With each victory, the Baratheon army grew.
Robert suffered his first defeat at the Battle of Ashford, a disorganized affair in which Baratheon forces were set upon by Lord Randyll Tarly and a segment of the Tyrell army. Though casualties were minimal, Ashford's strategic location allowed Mace Tyrell to lay siege to Robert's brother Stannis at Storm's End, the ancestral home of the Baratheons. The siege would not be lifted until the end of the war, but a smuggler named Davos Seaworth brought badly needed supplies through the Tyrell barricade to sustain Lord Stannis's people.
Wounded and reeling, Robert took some time to recover in the town of Stoney Sept. It was soon occupied, however, by Lord Jon Connington of Griffin's Roost, Hand of the King at the time, and he wasted no time searching for the rebel lord. The citizens helped Robert remain hidden, moving him from house to house, until Ned Stark and Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun arrived with their armies to attack Connington's forces. The septons began ringing their bells to warn the commonfolk to stay indoors, and giving the encounter its name: the Battle of the Bells. With the tide turning and his allies close, Robert emerged from hiding and fought valiantly. He would later give credit for the victory to Ned Stark.
The alliance between the rebel forces and the Riverlands was cemented after the Battle of the Bells, when Lord Hoster Tully of Riverrun wed his daughters Lysa and Catelyn to Jon Arryn and Eddard Stark, respectively.
With four of the seven kingdoms behind him and a fifth (the Lannisters in the Westerlands) absent, Robert's forces began advancing towards King's Landing.
Meanwhile, Dorne sent their forces to aid the Targaryens as Rhaegar's wife, Elia Martell, was their Princess. They joined the Prince's forces in the south (where we now know Rhaegar was spending his days with Lyanna Stark at the Tower of Joy) and together marched north to defend King's Landing.
The decisive battle in Robert's Rebellion then took place north of the crown city at the intersection of rivers known as the Trident. Baratheon, Stark, and Arryn troops met a largely Targaryen-and-Dornish host led by Prince Rhaegar. As the battle ebbed and flowed, Robert Baratheon and Rhaegar Targaryen found themselves facing off in the middle of the chaos. An impressive duel ensued, but Robert ultimately prevailed, crushing the Prince's chest with his warhammer. As the decorative rubies on Rhaegar's breastplate scattered into the water (giving the ruby ford its name), the loyalist troops began to break and flee. The path to the capital city was now open.
The wounds Robert suffered in the Battle of the Trident required time to heal, so he left Ned in charge of the advance towards King's Landing. Lord Stark wasn't the first to arrive, though; that was Tywin Lannister, who had now entered the war after a long stretch of inactivity. When he arrived at King's Landing he offered the military and economic power of Casterly Rock to his estranged friend, Aerys. Unfortunately for the Mad King, Tywin had no interest in joining the losing side and harbored no love for the Targaryens after enduring Aerys's sleights for years. The Lannister army sacked King's Landing, and Tywin's bannerman, Ser Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane, raped and murdered Princess Elia and her children, Aegon and Rhaenys. The Mad King lived up to his nickname in his last moments, ordering his new hand, Rossart the pyromancer, to ignite caches of wildfire they had strewn throughout the city. Jaime Lannister broke his Kingsguard vows and killed King Aerys and Rossart before the disastrous orders could be carried out.
Prior to the Sack of King's Landing, Aerys's pregnant sister-wife, Queen Rhaella, fled to Dragonstone with her son, Viserys. Months later, she died giving birth to Daenerys Targaryen during a great storm that destroyed much of the remaining Targaryen fleet. Robert wanted to end the Targaryen line once and for all, but Viserys and Daenerys were spirited away by a group of loyalists led by Ser Willem Darry. The last remaining Targaryens would spend time in Braavos before being forced to move through the Free Cities of Essos to keep ahead of hired knives and others eager to please the new royal house of Westeros.
Shortly after, Ned Stark and the army of the North arrived in King's Landing. Disgusted with what he saw (infanticide and the unnerving sight of Jaime on the Iron Throne with the Mad King's blood still warm), Ned left the city and continued south to find his sister, Lyanna. He and a close group of friends found at the Tower of Joy in Dorne, protected by members of the Kingsguard. Among them were the Lord Commander, Ser Gerold Hightower, and Ser Arthur Dayne, Sword of the Morning and one of the most revered fighters in Westerosi history. Only Ned and his bannerman Howland Reed survived the encounter, and in the tower Ned found his sister dying, having just given birth to a baby boy. She gave the child to Ned and demanded his promise of protection. True to his word, Ned took the boy with him to Winterfell, claiming him as his own bastard son. In the world of Westeros, no one blinked an eye...
After the Rebellion
The newly crowned King Robert Baratheon married Lord Tywin's daughter, Cersei Lannister, and named Lord Jon Arryn his Hand. Ned returned to the North and his recent bride, Catelyn Stark, with "his" bastard son in tow.
Six years later, Lord Balon Greyjoy of Pyke declared himself King of the Iron Islands. Ned and Robert once again joined forces against the rebel lord and advanced by land while Stannis smashed the Iron Fleet of the Greyjoys and attacked by sea. Soundly defeated, Lord Balon's last remaining son, Theon, was taken back to Winterfell as a hostage.
Relative calm followed until the sudden death of Jon Arryn. Almost 10 years later, Robert would lead a large party north to ask his oldest friend, Eddard Stark, for help running the Seven Kingdoms. Unsightly rumblings about the late Hand's death would prompt Ned to accept and lead him down a treacherous path...and I think you know where to pick up from there.
Show Notes: The Three-Eyed Raven
Thanks for checking out our expanded Game of Thrones content! We'll be recapping episodes weekly during the season and tracking the results of our drinking game as we go. If you have specific questions or would like more information about particular topics, please comment below or reach out to us on our facebook, twitter, and subreddit!