«Game of Thrones»: Of mad Kings and Queens – Cersei Lannister
Background information

«Game of Thrones»: Of mad Kings and Queens – Cersei Lannister

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 20.05.2019
Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn't seen season 7 yet. On «Game of Thrones», Cersei Lannister’s turn to madness harkens back to Aerys Targaryen – the Mad King. His regency began promisingly as well. Before the world was burning.

Cersei Lannister gazes across King’s Landing. She’s holding a filled cup of wine. The view from her balcony is breath-taking: even the Great Sept of Baelor is visible from here, the home of Westerosi religion, the largest defining structure in the capitol for over 100 years.

Cersei ponders on how the history books will remember her. Probably as an insane fraud who slept with her brother and put children who had no right to rule on the throne, as they were products of illegitimate incest. No. She would never allow this. Anyone who dare speak such vile rumours should be burned. Even if they’re true. But she doesn’t care. Cersei knows: history is written by the victor. Always. In the Game of Thrones you either win or you die.

Suddenly, a tremor. Then an explosion. A green cloud rises. It’s made up of fire so hot it can turn even flesh and stone to ash. Which is why it’s called wildfire – a type of dragon fire. Where the Sept once stood there is only rubble and ash.

The Queen silently sips at her wine. A faint smile crosses her lips. Her enemies were crowding the Sept. They wanted to put her on trial. The church, the Tyrell family, her uncle, the people – everyone. But now those fools are dead. As are their false tales.

Cersei will not lose the Game of Thrones.

A childhood without parents

Cersei was born as the daughter of Tywin Lannister and Jaime’s older twin. Shortly thereafter, Tyrion followed. Her mother didn’t survive his birth. From that day forth she hated Tyrion. She was only four years old.

As her father was serving as Aerys Targaryen’s hand in King’s Landing at the time – seen by many as the best there ever was –, Cersei and her siblings grew up mostly parentless and alone in Casterly Rock, the Lannister ancestral home. Even though Cersei and her twin Jaime resemble each other to a tee, they were raised according to their gender: Cersei as a Lady and Jaime as a knight and the heir of Casterly Rock. Something Cersei would never understand. She sees her brother as an equal.

Cersei Lannister wears only black since her children died.
Cersei Lannister wears only black since her children died.
David Benzal

In her youth, an incestuous relationship between her and Jaime blossomed. A crime in the world of «Game of Thrones» which must stay hidden. The young Lannister girl would never understand why.

“ The Targaryens wed brothers and sisters for 300 years to keep bloodlines pure. Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We shared a womb. We came into this world together. We belong together. ”
Cersei Lannister to Eddard Stark, Season 1

At age 15, she met Maggy the Frog. A mysterious woman, simply referred to as a witch by the residents of Casterly Rock. Due to her scruffy appearance. And due to her questionable skill as a fortune teller.

«Everyone wants to know their future... until they know their future,» the witch remarks. Cersei still wanted to know, and discovered things that would forever affect her life.

A witch’s tale

15-year old Cersei may only ask three questions. She asks if she will marry a prince. Maggy answers that it won’t be a prince, but a King she will marry. Logically, Cersei then asks if she shall be Queen. Maggy says yes, but only until a younger, more beautiful woman would replace her. Finally, Cersei asks if she and the King would have children. The witch says no. At least not with each other, as the King shall father twenty and she three. Their hair would be gold, as would be their shrouds.

This fortune and Cersei’s attempts to change it are what would define so many of her deeds. Her consolidation of court power, her hatred towards Robert Baratheon, her future husband and ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and her motherly protection of her three children: Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen.

But Maggy the Frog’s predictions can’t be stopped. Joffrey is poisoned at his own wedding. Myrcella is killed by Ellaria Sand in revenge for the death of her beloved Oberyn Martell. And Tommen commits suicide after his wife Margaery Tyrell dies in the explosion at the Great Sept of Baelor.

Cersei is already close to insanity before this happens. But if she ever had a shred of humanity, it surely disappeared with her children. And she can only fill the whole they left with one thing, something she knows best:


The never-ending circle

Cersei Lannister’s road to insanity reminds many of Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King. He was the last in the Targaryen dynasty, a family that ruled Westeros for over 250 years.

The Mad King also used to burn people alive. Some say that if you listen closely, you can still hear his mad laughter echoing through the halls of the Red Keep. This laugh only sounded when the flesh of his victims gave way to bone and their eyeballs melted from their sockets.

Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King.
Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King.

Aerys was a prisoner once himself. During a conflict known as the «Defiance of Duskendale». He was imprisoned, manhandled, beat up and humiliated by the Lord of Duskendale. In a daring rescue mission, Barristan Selmy managed to save the not yet mad King. But this betrayal left its mark: paranoia and a deep-seated hatred for the world. A hatred that Cersei knows only too well.

Her hatred towards her brother Tyrion, who took her mother away and who she believed poisoned Tyrion. Her hatred towards her father who always preferred Jaime even though she thought herself a more suitable heir. Her hatred towards the whoring Robert Baratheon who would’ve rather married another if she hadn’t been taken from him. Her hatred towards those who spat and threw faeces at here during her Walk of Atonement, where she was forced to walk naked through the streets of Westeros.

This hatred is what drives her to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor. The place her foes were waiting to try her for her incestuous relationship with her brother. It is why she chose to use wildfire. This is the same chemical the Mad King once threatened to blow up the entire capitol with, if it were sieged by his enemies.

Burning people and cities. Another parallel between her and the Mad King.

Witness say that Aerys was often sexually aroused when burning his victims. The same applies to Cersei, who went to her brother’s chambers shortly after blowing up the Sept. Both Cersei and Aerys shared a passion for incest. Or cruel punishments: As revenge for Myrcella’s murder, Cersei poisons Ellaria’s daughter with the same poisoned used to kill Myrcella – all while Ellaria watches.

This calls back to a similar punishment inflicted upon Eddard Stark’s father and brother. Aerys burned the elder alive while his son had to watch in chains.

«Game of Thrones»: A *Dance of Dragons**
Background information

«Game of Thrones»: A Dance of Dragons

Cersei’s madness is truly revealed in the quiet moments at the end of season 7. She promises Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen her support in battling the Night King and the White Walkers. In truth, she reveals to Jaime that she doesn’t plan on helping them at all. Instead, she would wait for their ranks to thin in the battles against the Undead. To preserve her dominion over Westeros.

She doesn’t care that all she would rule over then would be corpses – herself included. The Mad King wouldn’t have cared either. And if the Northern alliance were to fall, it would be doubtful King’s Landing would stand any chance in defeating the Night King on its own.

Jaime knows this. His role in this story could be the most dramatic.

The prophecy only seen in the books

30 years, the Mad King had fallen to insanity and thereby sealed his own fate. With Robert Baratheon’s armies at the gates of King’s Landing, he ordered young Jaime Lannister, member of the Kingsguard, to burn everything, people and the city, to the ground with wildfire. Jaime refused and murdered the King – a deed which saved thousands of lives.

Cersei could be facing a similar fate. A fate which seems already predetermined in the series of novels «Game of Thrones» is based on. What is not shown in the series is the last part of the witch’s warning.

“ Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you. ”
Maggy the Frog, Book 4, «A Feast for Crows»

Valonqar is High Valyrian for «younger brother». No wonder Cersei hates Tyrion so much – she fears him. What Cersei doesn’t realise in her paranoid hatred: Jaime, born moments after her, could also be this Valonqar.

Cersei’s growing insanity does in fact create an ever-growing rift between her and Jaime. He realises that she as well is slowly mutating into the emotionless monster he once had to slay to save a whole city. Sacrificing his honour. As a member of the Kingsguard, he had sworn an oath to protect his King. Since that faithful day, many know him only as the «Kingslayer».

Cersei is most terrifying in her quietest moments.
Cersei is most terrifying in her quietest moments.

Now that his sister has taken the mantle of insanity – as Mad Queen –, the circle seems to be closing. He, Jaime, shall seal both of their fates.

The story repeats itself.

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Luca Fontana
Luca Fontana
Editor, Zurich
I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.»

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