Maester Pycelle

Though one of the wisest maesters in the seven kingdoms, Grand Maester Pycelle, destroyed himself by playing the game of thrones.

The Definitive Glossary for Game of Thrones

Pycelle was a Grand Maester of the Citadel and served on the king’s small council for more than 40 years. Forging his maester’s chain during the reign of King Maekar I Targaryen, he grew in ranks to become a Grand Maester. After becoming one, he became an advisor for Aegon V Targaryen. From Aegon V, he served numerous kings and remained in King’s Landing until he got killed by Lord Varys.

Personal Details

  • Name: Pycelle.
  • Title: Grand Maester.
  • Year of Birth: 216 AC.
  • Year of Death: 300 AC at the Red Keep.
  • Culture: Andal.
  • Religion: Faith of the Seven.
  • Allegiance: The Citadel, House Lannister.
  • Skills: Knowledge of Science and History, Medicine.

Appearance and Personality

Grand Maester Pycelle is old and has a bald head. He has a long snow-white beard that runs to his stomach. Usually seen stroking his beard, he uses it to cover an aged face with missing teeth, warts, and wrinkles. 

As a maester, Pycelle breaks the laws of the Citadel. Though forbidden to dabble in politics, women, and dark arts, he practices the art of poisons and loves to sleep with women.

Pycelle wears a heavy chain made of 24 different links. The links have many elements, including gold, silver, steel, copper, bronze, brass, iron, platinum, lead, and tin. Besides having links, his chain has many precious stones like black pearls, emeralds, rubies, garnets, and amethysts.


Pycelle forged his maester’s chain during the reign of King Maekar I Targaryen. During Aegon V’s reign, Grand Maester Merion died from old age, and with the brutal violent history of the maesters, the king ordered the conclave to elect a younger man for the role of the Grand Maester, and Pycelle got chosen. He served six kings, including Aegon V Targaryen, Jaehaerys II Targaryen, Aerys II, Targaryen Robert I Baratheon, Joffrey I Baratheon, and Tommen I Baratheon. 

During Aerys II Targaryen’s reign, Pycelle grew to like Lord Tywin Lannister and admired his great skill as the Hand of the King. However, King Aerys II grew increasingly jealous of Tywin, and though Pycelle supported his decisions, Tywin resigned from office in 281 AC. When Tywin resigned, the relationship between Rhaegar and his father soured as the king got wary of his son, who detested the way he governed with cruelty. With the tension growing between father and son, Pycelle and Lord Owen Merryweather tried keeping the peace to prevent a civil war. Pycelle eventually convinced the king to attend the Tourney at Harrenhal, stating Lord Walter Whent may have used the event to prepare Rhaegar for a rebellion.

After the Tourney at Harrenhal, Rhaegar kidnaped Lyanna and fled from King’s Landing; this led to Robert’s Rebellion. Realizing that the rebels were a threat, Aerys exiled Lord Owen and placed Jon Connington, who he also eventually exiled. After Rhaegar’s return and defeat at the Battle of the Trident, Maetser Pycelle convinced Aerys to open the gates for Tywin Lannister, claiming he was a friend. However, upon opening the gates, Tywin’s army sacked the city, Jaime killed Aerys, Elia, Rhaegar’s wife, and her children got killed, and Robert won the conflict, becoming the king.

Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Game of Thrones

After the death of Lord Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King, King Robert Baratheon travels to Winterfell and asks Eddard Stark to become the new Hand. Upon agreeing, Pycelle convenes a meeting, gathering all the small council members, including the new Hand of the King. When Ned Stark asks about Jon’s death, he narrates how he was unable to save the Hand of the King and how Jon suddenly died even when he seemed healthy. Later, Pycelle gets confronted with information from Lysa stating her husband got poisoned. He denies having anything to do with it, pointing to Varys as the likely suspect.

Pycelle gives Eddard ‘The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms, with Descriptions of many High Lord and Noble Ladies and their Children,’ a book Jon had been reading before his passing. When word reaches Robert that Daenerys Targaryen is pregnant with Khal Drogo’s child, the Grand Maester supports the idea that she gets assassinated.

When Tyrion Lannister got arrested by Catelyn, Tywin began raiding villages in the Riverlands. Eddard gets arranged by Jaime and gets injured. Pycelle tends to the Hand’s wounds and nurses him back to health. When Ned realizes that the Grand Maester tried to delay action against Tywin, he learns the maester works for the Queen, Cersei.

After Robert gets injured by a wild boar, Pycelle tends to his wounds, but he dies. After his death, Ned reads the king’s will but gets arrested by Cersei. King Joffrey Baratheon assumes the throne after Robert’s death and kills Eddard. After Ned’s death, Cersei orders Pycelle to tend to Sansa Stark, and he gives her a potion to tranquilize her.

A Clash of Kings

After Joffrey becomes the new king, his mother, Cersei, becomes the queen regent. The War of the Five Kings begins, and Tywin sends his son, Tyrion, to return to King’s Landing and take up the role of Hand of the King. After assuming the position, Tyrion makes an elaborate plan by giving a letter to Petyr Baelish, Lord Varys, and Pycelle. The Grand Maester reads the letters and tells Cersei, who confronts him. 

Upon realizing Pycelle is the culprit, Tyrion takes Shagga and Timett to the maester’s chambers and asks Shagga to shave off his beard. After telling him his plan to catch the mole, Pycelle reveals what happened to Jon Arryn. He explains that he got ordered to let the former Hand of the King die as he was close to learning the truth about Cersei’s incest. He also reveals that Robert had to die because Renly was planning to kill Cersei and wed Margaery Tyrell to his brother. For his crimes, Pycelle gets locked up in one of the black cells and stripped of his title as Grand Maester.

A Storm of Swords

When Tywin Lannister returns to King’s Landing, he reinstates Pycelle as Grand Maester. Weakened from his time spent in the black cells, he becomes a broken man and fails to prevent Joffrey from dying during his wedding. When Tyrion stands trial for his nephew’s death, Pycelle testifies against him, describing the effects of poisons on the body. When Tommen becomes king, he gets ordered to heal Ser Gregor Clegane, who got injured fighting Prince Oberyn Martell in a trial by combat for Tyrion. When he fails to save Gregor, he suggests that Tywin hold the Dornishmen and request information on the poison used. However, Tywin rejects the idea. Later, Tyrion gets freed by his brother and kills Tywin.

A Feast for Crows

Pycelle’s position on the small council becomes shaky as Tywin Lannister dies. Cersei berates him for improperly handling her father’s body, and he speaks against her, naming Qybur the master of whisperers. He begins to advise her against deferring the debts of the Iron Bank of Braavos and reinstating the Faith Militant. However, Cersei rejects his advice and forces him to admit to giving Margaery moon tea. Margaery gets arrested by the Faith Militant, and believing she won, Cersei travels to the Sept, where she meets the High Septon, who has her arrested for fornication.

With Cersei’s arrest, most of the small council flee from King’s Landing. With almost no one present, Pycelle seizes control and sends a message to Kevan Lannister, requesting that he becomes the Lord Regent for Tommen.

A Dance with Dragons

After Cersei’s arrest, Pycelle continues his position on the small council. Lord Mace Tyrell becomes the Hand of the King. Fearing for his safety, he asks Kevan Lannister for guards but gets killed by Lord Varys.

Appearance in Adaptations

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, Pycelle’s character got portrayed by Julian Glover, who voiced Aragog in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. As the Grand Maester of the seven kingdoms, he appeared in seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the tv series and got killed by Qyburn’s little birds. After his demise, he got succeeded by Samwell Tarly.

Pycelle: The Wise Fool

Though Pycelle was an influential character in A Song of Ice and Fire, his dabble in politics led to his ultimate downfall. His blind support for the Lannister led to his humiliation. Before becoming the lap dog of the Lannisters, he was a wise maester who had been the most successful Grand Maester in the history of the seven kingdoms. As he had served for more than 40 years, he had enough knowledge and skill to steer events in the right direction. However, he chose to use his wisdom to support fools who had no regard for intellect; this effectively made him a wise fool.


Why was maester Pycelle murdered?

Pycelle got murdered by Varys because of his competence. As the former master of whisperers had planned for Aegon’s arrival since he was a child, he had to remove people who had the knowledge of history and were politically skilled; this meant killing Kevan Lannister and the Grand Maester Pycelle.

Is maester Pycelle evil?

Though he conspired to kill and supported the Lannister blindly, Pycelle was not overly evil. He dabbled in poisons and politics but was still fundamentally a person who wished for what was best for the kingdom.

How many chain links did Grand Maester Pycelle have?

Pycelle had about 24 chain links with different elements and adornments. As he was the Grand Maester of Westeros, he had vast knowledge, which got reflected by the gigantic chain he wore.

How did Pycelle die?

Maester Pycelle died after getting stabbed multiple times by Varys’s little birds. He had requested protection from Kevan as he believed his life was in danger. However, he was not lucky as before he could get saved, Varys struck.

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