Known as the executor of the king’s command, the Hand of the King is the second-most powerful man in the seven kingdoms and is the only one who can sit on the Iron Throne beside the king. The position is feared yet coveted by the great houses of Westeros, who want control over the Iron Throne. The Hand of the King controls the small council, an organization of ministers or masters who control primary aspects of Westeros’s government, from trade to war.
Key Details about the Hand of the King
- Offices Held: Regent, Chief Advisor, Leader of the small council.
- Creator: Aegon I Targaryen.
- Date of Role’s Creation: 2 BC.
- Region of Power: Westeros.
- Current Holder: Mace Tyrell.
- First Holder: Orys Baratheon.
- Prominent Holders: Lord Eddard Stark, Lord Tywin Lannister, Tyrion Lannister, Ser Barristan Selmy.
- Popular Saying about the Hand of the King: “What the King dreams, the Hand builds.”
- Place of Residence: Red Keep.
- Duties: Control the king’s armies, draft laws, and deliver justice.
The role of the Hand of the King first began during Aegon Targaryen’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms. During House Targaryen’s conquest, Aegon named his half-brother, Orys Baratheon, his shield, his stalwart, and his strong right arm. From then, the title of the Hand of the King got formed. Though Orys was an avid supporter of Aegon, he eventually resigned after he lost his right arm in the First Dornish War.
After Orys’s resignation, Lord Osmund Strong took over as Hand of the King and foresaw the construction of the walls of the King’s Landing. When Jaehaerys I Targaryen became King of the Seven Kingdoms, Lord Rogar Baratheon served as his second in command and commanded so much power during the minority reign of Jaehaerys. After Rogar, Septon Barth took over the position. He is the wisest man to take the title, as he created the Book of Law in 55 AC.
After Barth, Ser Otto Hightower assumed the position of Hand of the King and served Jaehaerys before he died. When Viserys I took over, Otto remained in service. He got removed after he suggested that King Viserys favor his son, whom he had by his second wife, Alicent Hightower, over his heir, Rhaenyra Targaryen. After Otto, Lyonel became the Hand of the King but died at Harrenhal. After Lyonel’s death, Otto got reinstated and served his grandson, Aegon II Targaryen. Ser Criston Cole also served. Then, the Civil War, known as the Dance of the Dragons, took place.
During the Dance of the Dragons, Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Seasnake, was named the Hand of the Queen for Rhaenyra Targaryen. After the war, many men served as Hands of the King. Years after the civil war of the Targaryens, Lord Tywin Lannister became the Hand of the King. His strength in the governance of King’s Landing made him one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, to have ever assumed office.
Tywin Lannister resigned after his son, Jaime, joined the king’s guard. Lord Owen Merryweather took over for a brief moment before Robert’s Rebellion began. When Robert Baratheon started a rebellion against King Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King removed Lord Jon Connington and exiled him. Aerys later killed Lord Qarlton Chelsted for not agreeing to partake in his plan to use wildfire on King’s Landing. The Mad King got killed by Jaime Lannister, and Robert Baratheon became the king. He appointed Lord Jon Arryn as Hand.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
A Game of Thrones
When Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, dies, Robert Baratheon travels to Winterfell and asks his childhood friend and supporter, Eddard Stark, to become the new Hand of the King. Though Eddard tries to deny the request, he eventually agrees. As a sign of their new relationship, Robert and Eddard agree to betroth Sansa Stark to Joffrey Baratheon.
Upon getting to King’s Landing, Ned Stark starts investigating the sudden death of Jon. He holds a meeting with the small council and realizes that Westeros is in massive debt from Robert’s reckless tourney spending. He learns that King’s Landing owes Tywin Lannister and the Iron Bank of Braavos large sums of money.
Eddard tries to fix the problems with King’s Landing. As he continues his investigation into Eddard’s death, he discovers that Cersei was keeping a secret about the paternity o her children. He confronts her about it, and she plans for Robert to get killed.
When Robert dies, Cersei orders Eddard’s arrest. He gets charged with treason and gets beheaded. After Eddard’s death, the seven kingdoms plunge into chaos. Joffrey Baratheon assumes the throne, and Robb Stark garners the support of the North. Three other people, Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy, lay claim to the throne; this begins the War of the Five Kings.
With the war going on, Tywin sends his son, Tyrion Lannister, to King’s Landing as the acting Hand of the King.
A Clash of Kings
After becoming the Hand of the King, Tyrion tries to make changes to the governance of King’s Landing. He replaces the corrupt maester Pycelle and removes Janos from his position on the small council. However, Tyrion’s work gets overlooked as the people hate him.
Renly Baratheon dies at Storm’s End, and his brother Stannis marches on King’s Landing. To seek more military support, Tyrion gives off his niece, Myrcella, to Dorne and tries to ally with House Tyrell, who previously supported Renly before his death.
Stannis attacks King’s Landing and almost wins, but with help from Tywin and the Tyrells, his troops get defeated, and he returns to Dragonstone. Tywin Lannister assumes his rightful position from Tyrion and becomes the second in command of his grandson.
A Storm of Swords
After Tywin assumes his position, Tyrion gets pushed to the sidelines. All his work gets shattered by his father, and he gets angry. He gets humiliated and betrayed, and after getting accused of Joffrey’s death, he gets freed by his brother, Jaime, and kills his father.
In Dragonstone, Lord Alester Florent, the Hand of the King to Stannis, gets arrested for trying to make Stannis bend the knee to the Iron Throne. He gets replaced by Ser Davos Seaworth, a former smuggler.
A Feast for Crows
After Joffrey and Tywin’s death, Cersei Lannister orders the burning of the Tower of the Hand. She asks her brother to serve as the Hand for Tommen Baratheon, but he refuses. Kevan also refuses to be the Hand of the King and tells Cersei to appoint one of Mace Tyrell’s men to foster peace and strengthen the alliance between the Tyrells and Lannisters. She refuses his suggestion and chooses Ser Harys Swyft. She later appoints Lord Orton Merryweather. After Cersei gets arrested by the High Sparrow, Orton resigns and flees the city.
A Dance with Dragons
After Cersei gets arrested, her uncle, Kevan Lannister, assumes the position of Lord Regent and appoints Mace Tyrell as the Hand of the King. In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen flies away on Drogon, and Ser Barristan Selmy overthrows Hizdahr zo Loraq to become the Hand of the Queen.
In King’s Landing, Kevan’s appointment of Mace as Hand begins to foster unity in the seven kingdoms. However, Lord Varys, the former master of whispers, kills him and grand maester Pycelle.
The Hand of the King: A Feared Position
Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, the Hand of the King is one word that reoccurs in any politically related event in Westeros. The title’s immense power over the politics of each great house in the seven kingdoms made it a coveted position. However, a curse hung around the title, one that led to the death of most of its bearers. The fragility of being the second-in-command made the title of Hand of the King a feared position.
Who killed Jon Arryn?
Jon Arryn got killed by his wife, Lysa Tully. Because of her love for Petyr, Lysa poisoned her husband and framed the Lannisters.
Why did most of the Hand of the King die in A Song of Ice and Fire?
Many Hands of the King died in A Song of Ice and Fire because the position was dangerous. There was intense politics around the role of the Hand of the King.
Who was the best Hand of the King in A Song of Ice and Fire?
The best Hand of the King by far is Septon Barth. He was the Hand of the King during Jaehaerys’s reign, and his intense skills led to one of the best eras that King’s Landing ever saw. He created a law system and built many road networks linking many castles. He also reconciled the Faith of the Seven with the crown.
Was Eddard Stark a good Hand of the King?
Though Eddard had the potential to be one of the best Hands of the King, his inability to play the dirty game of politics when it was necessary cost him his life and the destruction of Westeros.