Now that we’ve had a little time to process Sunday’s season finale, it is time to start pining for the final season! There are a lot of questions to answer in just six episodes. If you’re invested in the politics of Game of Thrones, and if you really believe Dany when she says she is going to break the wheel, then one of the most important questions is who Dany marries. I’m not talking about romance. I’m talking about the kind of political marriage Dany admitted was necessary when she left Daario in Meereen.
I am less concerned with what makes the most sense for the show’s narrative, or what I want to happen, although I will make mention of those. My main concern is what makes the most sense politically within the world of the show. The model I’m thinking of is Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth of York, reuniting the Lancaster and York houses to (mostly) end the Wars of the Roses.
I am going to focus on who I see as the three leading candidates (sorry, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin).
Spoilers for the show to follow. And for the books. And for the Wars of the Roses.
The King in the North! It is, at least, a ready-made alliance with another sovereign, and one who has already bent the knee. But that doesn’t mean Jon is a terribly important ally. The North is as big as the other six kingdoms combined, but has a small population. Even with the Vale and Riverlands factored in (questionable perhaps), he can marshal only a small portion of the strength of Westeros. He isn’t known outside of the North, and his background as a bastard and a deserter from the Night’s Watch (in the eyes of many) will hurt his standing. What’s more, he is already allied to Dany. Marriage would be buying the cow when she is already getting the milk for free (ahem).
But wait, you’re saying, assuming you’ve seen the finale. (If you haven’t, stop reading now!) Jon is actually the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen, not a northern bastard. This actually makes him less attractive as a marriage prospect. Sure, he is the rightful king, but how far has being a Targaryen gotten Dany? Marrying another Targaryen leeches away much of the advantage of a political marriage (although, assuming Bran steps aside, I believe Jon actually has a better claim to the North now). Jon is deeply, deeply concerned with honor. Even more so than Ned. What could be more honorable than to give up a chance at the crown to serve the North? And if Jon is indeed the Prince That Was Promised, then what better way to finish his storyline than with a heroic sacrifice to kill the Night King and win the war? Being alive at the end of the story is an important marital consideration.
And while we’re looking to break the wheel, maybe we break the incest wheel? Madness is already a problem. Dany and Jon are exceptionally good looking, sure, but the Habsburg jaw can strike at any time.
Believe it or not, Jon is the least attractive of my three candidates. But still more attractive than Robin (sorry, brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin).
Gendry, you say? Yes, Gendry! Remember what I said about Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth of York? A lot of people assume based on the names that the Lannisters and the Starks are analogous to the Lancasters and the Yorks, respectively, but that isn’t right. The Lancasters were the ruling family of England until overthrown by the Yorks. I.e., the Lancasters are analogous to the Targaryens and the Yorks are analogous to the Baratheons. A marriage between Targaryen and Baratheon would symbolically reunite the crown just as Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth of York did.
Gendry is a bastard, sure. But he is the only known male descendant of the Baratheon line left. Renly didn’t have children and Stannis only had a daughter. Robert’s three supposed children are all dead and Gendry is his only surviving bastard that we know of (there were more in the books). Being a bastard isn’t a firm impediment to rising to power in Westeros. Ramsay was legitimized, and Jon has risen to become King in the North. This has another nice symmetry with the history behind Game of Thrones. The Tudor connection to the Lancasters was very iffy. Henry V’s (French) widow married a Welshman named Tudor. Henry VII’s only blood tie to the Lancasters was from his mother’s side. So going from bastard to royal consort is not so far-fetched.
But there is actually someone who fits even better with the history.
I will start by bringing up the elephant in the room. Dany thinks she can’t have children after she miscarried Khal Drogo’s baby in an example of bloody sorcery gone bad. If it is true, it really complicates succession. And whatever Dany thinks, succession is a big deal. If Dany takes Jaime as royal consort, then she can name Jaime and Cersei’s child as her heir (we’re back to incest here, I know, but at least its fresh incest). Of course Cersei is probably going to need to die for this to work, but I see that as a win-win(-win).
I talked about the Baratheons being analogous to the Lancasters, but it is the Lannisters whose name really rings out in Westeros, especially now that the three Baratheon brothers are dead. A marriage with a Lannister would do much more to symbolically reunite the realm than a marriage to a Baratheon bastard.
Instead of the remote North, this brings Dany the significant and central Westerlands. More importantly, Jaime has been in King’s Landing and deeply involved in Westeros politics for the past two decades. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. He is widely hated, sure, but he is also widely feared and respected. This would also cap a narrative arc that started when he killed a bad Targaryen king. He can atone by helping Dany become a good Targaryen queen.