Barristan Selmy

Barristan Selmy was one of the strongest soldiers in Westeros. He was deemed by many to be the greatest knight alive.

The Definitive Glossary for Game of Thrones

Ser Barristan Selmy, also known as Barristan the Bold, was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for King Robert Baratheon. He is a knight from House Selmy who became a member of the Kingsguard during the reign of King Jaehaerys II Targaryen. After becoming one of the most esteemed knights in the Seven Kingdoms, he accomplished many challenging feats; this earned him a special place in the hearts of the common folk. When King Aerys II Targaryen ordered Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon heads, a rebellion against the Iron Throne began. Though Baristan fought bravely, he lost and eventually got pardoned by Robert.

Barristan Selmy Personal Details

  • Name: Barristan Selmy.
  • Year of Birth: 236 or 237 AC at Harvest Hall.
  • Allegiances: House Selmy, House Baratheon, Kingsguard, House Targaryen, Queensguard.
  • Aliases: Old Ser, Barristan the Bold, Arstan Whitebeard, Barristan the Old, Ser Grandfather.
  • Titles: Ser, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Hand of the Queen, Lord Commander of the Queensguard.
  • Culture: Marcher.
  • Father: Ser Lyonel Selmy.
  • Eye Color: Blue.

Appearance and Personality

Barristan is a tall slim-framed man with sad, pale blue eyes. While younger, he had blond hair that became white with old age. Though his face looks solemn, Barristan talks with a clear and fierce voice showing his pride and agility. The old knight is considered by many to be the strongest knight in existence, and at his prime, he got compared to be just as capable as Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

As a dutiful man, Barristan dislikes tricks and scheming; this makes him less cunning and more hands and brawl. However, though not a conniving and plotting person, he is intelligent and can speak some High Valyrian of the Free Cities of Essos and the mongrel Ghiscari Tongue of the cities of Slaver’s Bay. For his attire, Barristan wears the official armor of the Kingsguards. Everything, from his cloak to shield and armor, is sparkling white. For his weapons, he wields a longsword and dagger.

Barristan Selmy Biography

Early Life

Barristan was born around 236 and 237 AC as the first son of Ser Lyonel Selmy, the Knight of Harvest Hall. As a young boy, he was a squire for Lord Manfred Swann. When he was 10, Barristan snuck into the tourney at Blackhaven dressed as a mystery knight. Everyone laughed at him, and no one agreed to joust with him.

Prince Duncan Targaryen, out of pity, jousted with him and gave him an epithet. Later, Barristan unhorsed Ser Duncan the Tall and Prince Duncan at a winter tourney in King’s Landing; this earned him a knighthood from King Aegon V Targaryen.

Barristan continued winning many tourneys as a knight. However, his fame came from his deeds on the war field. During the War of the Ninepenny Kings, he killed Maelys I Blackfyre in single combat ending the Blackfyre Pretenders’ male line.

Though killing Maelys was an incredible feat, Barristan achieved it remarkably as he paved a path to reach Maelys by killing many soldiers of the Golden Company. After the pretender’s death, he became popular throughout the Seven Kingdoms. At age twenty-three, Barristan became a knight of the Kingsguards. He took his vows before Ser Gerold High Tower, and King Jaehaerys II bestowed his white cloak.

The Defiance of Duskendale

Barristan remained a member of the Kingsguard even after King Jaehaerys II’s death and the ascension of King Aerys II. In 277 AC, Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale refused to pay his taxes to the Iron Throne to show his anger at the declining growth of his city due to King’s Landing proximity. He invited King Aerys II to come to hear his petition, and against the advice of the Hand of the King, Lord Tywin Lannister, Aerys agreed to travel to Duskendale.

On getting to the city, the King got imprisoned by Lord Denys. Lord Tywin began scheming to attack Duskendale and free the King. However, Ser Barristan offered to retrieve him. Dressed as a hooded beggar, he scaled the walls of Duskendale, killed two guards, and freed the King; this led to him becoming a legend among the small folk.

Kingswood Brotherhood

When the Kingswood Brotherhood, a band of outlaws, began causing problems in Kingswood, Aerys sent Barristan to curb the problem. The knight successfully rescued Lady Jeyne Swann and her septa and killed Ser Simon Toyne, the band’s leader, in single combat.

Tourney at Harrenhal

As King Aerys II grew madder, Barristan began finding it hard to keep his vows. He attended the tourney at Harrenhal, where he met Lady Ashara Dayne and fell in love with her. Though he knew nothing would result from his infatuation, he planned on naming her the Queen of Love and Beauty. However, he got unhorsed by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, King Aerys’s heir. On winning, Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark the Queen of Love and Beauty over his wife, Elia Martell. One year later, he allegedly kidnapped Lyanna.

Robert’s Rebellion

After Lyanna got kidnapped, her brother and father, Brandon and Lord Rickard Stark, traveled to Kin’s Landing demanding justice. Instead, King Aerys brutally killed them and ordered Lord Jon Arryn to deliver the heads of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon; this incited a rebellion against the Iron Throne.

After Lord Jon Connington’s defeat at the Battle of the Bells, Barristan and Ser Jonothor Darry rallied the remaining Targaryen loyalists and fought on King Aerys’s side during the War of the Usurper. Rhaegar returned, and the Battle of the Trident began.

Robert killed Rhaegar in the Ruby Ford, and Barristan was severely wounded after killing a dozen of Robert’s friends. After the battle, against the advice of Lord Roose Bolton, Robert told his maester to attend to Barristan. Eventually, King’s Landing got sacked by Lord Tywin Lannister.


After the death of King Aerys, Elia Martell and her children, and Rhaegar Targaryen, Barristan considered seeking out Prince Viserys Targaryen. However, Robert pardoned him, and he became the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

The seasoned knight did not hide his disdain for Ser Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, and asked his white cloak get changed to black. During Greyjoy Rebellion, Barristan led an attack on Old Wyk. He remained a formidable fighter and even unhorsed Sandor Clegane on Joffrey’s name day.

Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire Series

A Game of Thrones

When Lord Jon Arryn dies, Ser Barristan travels with Lord Renly Baratheon and Ser Ilyn Payne to the Inn at the Crossroads to serve as an honor guard for Robert and Lord Eddard Stark, the new Hand of the King. When Robert calls his small council to a meeting and orders the assassination of Daenerys, Ser Barristan and Ned Stark speak against the plan.

When Robert goes on a hunting mission and gets mortally wounded, he dies. Taking advice from Lord Varys, Queen Cersei Lannister dismisses Barristan from the Kingsguard and makes her captured brother, Jaime, the new Lord Commander of the Kingsgaurd. Angered by his dismissal, the knight throws away his sword and leaves the throne room, making King Joffrey Baratheon orders his arrest.

After his dismissal, Barristan enters the White Sword Tower to edit the White Book entry. Janos Slytn and three guards try to arrest him, but he kills two guards and flees. He sells his horse and disguises himself as a commoner. He witnesses the death of Ned Stark. On Ned’s death, he swears to find the true King and die in his service. On learning of Barristan’s dismissal, Lord Tywin sends his son, Tyrion Lannister, to King’s Landing to serve as the acting Hand of the King.

A Clash of Kings

On becoming the acting Hand of the King, Tyrion tells Cersei that Robb Stark or Renly will benefit if Barristan supports them. Renly keeps a spot open for the old knight on his rainbow guard. However, he gives the position to Brienne of Tarth.

Meanwhile, Barristan sails across the Narrow Sea and arrives in Pentos, where he meets Magister Illyrio Mopatis. He learns from the magister that Prince Viserys Targaryen got killed by Khal Drogo at Vaes Dothrak. Illyrio then sends the knight with Belwas to Qarth to bring Daenerys back to Pentos. 

On reaching Qarth and meeting Dany, Ser Jorah Mormont gets suspicious of Barristan, who introduces himself as Arstan Whitebeard. The disguised knight saves Danaerys from a manticore.

A Storm of Swords

On advice from Jorah, Daenerys sails to Astapor, where she gets the Unsullied. After freeing them and placing Grey Worm in charge, Dany orders Astapor to get sacked. She later decides to sack Yunkai but negotiates with its leaders as they agree to end slavery.

Barristan tells Dany about her brother, Rhaegar, and tells her more history of the Targaryens. During the siege of Meereen, Oznak zo Pahl challenges Daenerys’s troops to bring forth a champion. Dany agrees and sends Belwas. Later, Barristan saves her from getting killed by Mero, the former commander of the Second Sons.

Daenerys learns of Barristan’s real identity. After successfully taking Meereen, Jorah gets exiled after Dany learns he spied on her for Lord Varys in hopes of a royal pardon. She then decides to rule as the Queen of Meereen.

A Dance with Dragons

On swearing his loyalty to her, Barristan becomes the Lord Commander of the Queensguard. He becomes her close adviser and trains freed slaves to fight. With the problem of the Sons of the Harpy, Dany agrees to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq if he successfully ends the killings in the city. After Hizdahr successfully stops the attacks, Barristan begins suspecting him.

Dany marries Hizdahr and agrees to reopen the fighting pits. However, the noise attracts Drogon, and to prevent any carnage, she flies him out of the city. With Dany gone, Hizdahr changes the advisers; this makes Barristan suspect him. The knight eventually arrests Hizdahr and kills his protector, Khrazz. Meanwhile, Daenerys’s restrained dragons, Viserion and Rhaegal, break free and begin causing havoc on Meereen.

Appearance in Adaptation

In the HBO series Game of Thrones, actor Ian McElhinney portrayed Barristan Selmy. He appeared in seasons 1, 3, 4, and 5 and starred in 25 episodes. Barristan was an honorable knight who joined Daenerys after leaving King’s Landing. He advised her on how to rule Meereen but later got killed fighting the Sons of the Harpy.

Barristan Selmy: The Incredible Knight

In A Song of Ice and Fire, no knight is as accomplished as Ser Barristan Selmy. He was the perfect weapon, a man who could sneak behind enemy lines and cause havoc, and a fighting genius almost unstoppable on the battlefield. Though he got discarded by mightier powers, Barristan never gave up and went as far as becoming the Hand of the Queen for the true heir to the Iron Throne. His bravery, skill, and loyalty made him stand out in a world of decadence.


Was Ser Barristan Selmy the strongest knight in the Seven Kingdoms?

Yes. Among the living, Barristan was by far the strongest. According to many skilled fighters like Jaime Lannister, the old Lord Commander of the Kingsguard was just as incredible as Ser Arthur Dayne.

Why did Ser Barristan not stop King Aerys from his crazy deeds?

After getting considered for knighthood, a person vows to defend the weak and innocent. However, Barristan and the knights of the Kingsguards never said anything to Aerys because they were cowards who did not live up to their vows of knighthood. They put their position as the Kingsguards over their core principles.

Would Ser Barristan defeat Ser Gregor Clegane in a fight?

In a fight between The Mountain and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguards, Ser Barristan would emerge as the champion because of his incredible swordsmanship and combat prowess. Prince Oberyn Martell almost defeated Gregor so Barristan would win The Mountain.

Why did Barristan join King Robert even after him supporting Princess Elia Martell and her children’s death?

When Barristan fought in the Battle of the Trident, he got wounded during the battle and did not participate in the Sack of King’s Landing. Barristan stated that he would have killed Robert if he had known he smiled when shown Elia and her children’s bodies.

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