Tower of the Hand

Hollow Crowns and Deadly Thrones Part I

1/30/2013 7:41:03 PM ET
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Race for the Iron Throne's Steven Attewell will be sharing some of his work on Tower of the Hand, offering his historical and political insights on A Song of Ice and Fire. Steve began with a five-piece analysis of the Hands of the King. Now he turns his attention to the Iron Throne. In this part, Steve examines the constitution of Westeros and tries to determine what kind of monarchy we're dealing with.

ironthrone.jpgWhat exactly does it mean to hold the Iron Throne?

This post discusses the most recent book of the series, A Dance with Dragons. If you've completed the book, set your scope above to ADWD. Otherwise, we advise you to avoid reading this post as it may contain spoilers.

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Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.
  • 1 - This idea, that Kings who step beyond the boundaries of law and custom and threaten the property and persons of their subjects lose their right to sovereignty and can thus be lawfully overthrown by their subjects, in our world has deep roots in English and also American history - the overthrow of Charles I and James II were justified by the threat that these kings posed to an unwritten (and largely invented) English Constitution and to the rights and persons of their subjects. Both Locke and Hobbes would build on these arguments to construct the idea of the social contract and natural rights, even if they disagreed as to how far a ruler could go in abridging the former and what the latter consisted of, exactly. The American Declaration of Independence essentially follows in this vein by declaring independence as having been caused by King George III's abridgement of the natural and "inalienable rights" of his American subjects.
  • 2 - This especially is really rare for this period-equivalent in history; we don't really get well-developed intelligence systems (as opposed to the use of individual spies) until well into the 16th century, and few formal intelligence agencies until the 19th century.
  • 3 - The actual powers of the Lords Paramount aren't really spelled out in the books, but there are certain things we can assume. Firstly, as direct vassals of the King, the Lords Paramount are the legitimate overlords of all the lesser Houses of their region, which gives them bannermen far in excess of what their own lands could support, and are answerable only to the king. Secondly, as the lord is the judicial officer of their fief, and an overlord a judicial officer in settling disputes between knights or lesser lords, the Lords Paramount act as a court of appeals for their region, and can only be overruled by the King. Thirdly, the Lords Paramount are likely responsible for enforcing royal decrees and collecting feudal taxes in their regions.


Warning: Discussions are not subject to scope. That is, commenters can and often do discuss events from the most recent book. We recommend avoiding these discussions until you're caught up.

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