“I don’t want to be a Queen. I want to be THE Queen.”
This is the second of these little blog reviews that I start with a quote from Margaery Tyrell. Sorry about that, but there’s something about how she professes her position that makes her statements an easy starting point.
Most feudal societies looked down upon women. They were considered property of their families until they were married – upon which time, they became property of their husbands. Their role was to give birth to children – sons were preferred to daughters – and to care for hearth and home. At best, some societies would give their women property rights if their father or husband died, but these were temporary for until the male heir reached age or until she married some other man. Think back to Queen Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus/Ulysses, who suffered the demands of hundreds of suitors to re-marry when her husband didn’t return from Troy. It was expected that she marry again because she needed a husband to protect the realm – and her.
This gives you a sense of the mindset in which Cersei Lannister carries herself. She is Queen Regent, holding a position of authority until Joffrey becomes an adult – in spite of the fact that he is styling himself King and handing out punishment like a King. When she blocks Tyrion’s questions by stating that “The King’s taken personal charge of siege preparations” and “It’s the King’s royal prerogative to withhold sensitive information from his counselors”, she’s clearly stating that she’s in charge. But she can’t say that. She’s borrowing her power from her son’s claim, knowing well that she’s protected from Tyrion by the enmity that Joffrey has for his uncle. She’s not stopping Tyrion. The King is.
Cersei’s position is where Margaery Tyrell is interested in being. She knows that, as Queen, she can’t rule the Kingdoms in an open manner. But she wants to be the power behind the Iron Throne. Like most other highborn ladies, she’s comfortable in accepting that she will wield power behind the scenes, in the shadows, where the Kingdoms can be comfortable in the charade of her marriage to a man of power. And she would have been Renly’s Queen, but for the fact that Melisandre’s shadow assassin ended their brief marriage. Now she’s left a widow with no chance to climb higher in the power ladder, but perhaps Littlefinger can find her new and suitable means to rise to the position she craves. The man sells whores. He can sell a Queen.
Contrast the scheming of Cersei or Margaery with the quiet dignity of Catelyn Stark, who was trying to bridge an alliance with Renly right before his murder. Just like Cersei, she is mother to a King. However, she does not style herself a Queen or a Queen Regent. She’s content in remaining who she has been – Lady of Winterfell. As she tells Brienne, there is honor in accepting who you are and embracing the myriad of roles that she must play: lady, counselor, ambassador, mother. She would be who she is regardless of what position or title her son had.
It is this comfort in oneself that we see in Cat’s daughter Arya, in the Greyjoy heir, Yara and, most of all, in the rebel Queen, Danaerys Stormborn. Each one of them is who she is because she has accepted her situation and sought to make the best of it. They are not waiting for a man to elevate them to a higher position. They take their positions.
Arya is the cupbearer of Lord Tywin Lannister. She knows that she would be imprisoned or killed if the truth of her identity as the missing Stark daughter was revealed. So she plays a role which puts her in constant danger of being found out and keeps her mouth shut. However, when presented with the opportunity to end the lives of three men by Jaqen H’quar, she doesn’t pick three men standing in her way out of Harrenhal. She opts to end the life of one of Lord Tywin’s monsters, the torturer known as The Tickler. Arya continues to reject the expectations of a woman in her world. She is not a lady, as she said last season.
Far away in the East, however, stands the one person who shines brightest against the old ways for women in Westeros. Ser Jorah Mormont is right: Dany would be the perfect person to sit the Iron Throne. She has known poverty. She has known hunger. She knows what being weak is and, therefore, brings a sense of what power is and what it should be used for. She was sold like a slave by her brother and would not suffer slavery on her Kingdoms.
This is why so many are drawn to her, in spite of her apparent lack of power. Wealthy men covet her. Warlocks and learned men seek her out. She is a paradigm shift. She is someone who would not sit meekly behind a husband-King and rule from the shadows. She would rule by his side – as she was doing with Khal Drogo. This is why Ser Jorah should not fear the wedding proposals of Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Dany may need his ships and his wealth to gain an army, but she would not take him into her bed to elevate him over herself. Just as she would not allow someone like Littlefinger to sell her to gain a position of power. Danaerys would be THE Queen who needs no King to protect her or her realm.
That’s what makes her such a great threat to Westeros. She would make Brienne of Tarth Commander of her Queensguard and Yara Greyjoy her Admiral. She would allow Arya Stark to be whatever she wanted. The game of thrones would be forever upended and the machination of Cersei Lannister and Margaery Tyrell would be for little.
Many will stand in her way to prevent such a change.