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Game of Thrones: Why Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon Rebelled

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What caused and what transpired during Robert's Rebellion in Game of Thrones? The main story of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire is a bloody fight for the Iron Throne between several of the most powerful figures in Westeros. Robert Baratheon is king when Game of Thrones begins, but he's soon disposed of and a power vacuum is created, triggering The War of the Five Kings. Robert's brothers and allies clash with his incestuous, scheming former allies, House Lannister, while those with a less legitimate claim to power operate in the shadows. From across the sea comes Daenerys Targaryen - a descendant of the very house Robert rebelled against on his path to becoming king.

It's generally accepted that the death of Jon Arryn is the spark that signals the beginning of the Game of Thrones. The murder of the Hand of the King brings Ned Stark to King's Landing as Robert's new right-hand man. Both men are soon killed themselves thanks to the machinations of the Lannisters, provoking war both against the North, and against the likes of Stannis Baratheon, Robert's brother and the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Truthfully, however, the Game of Thrones began long before Arryn's murder, and can be traced back to Robert's Rebellion - the war that saw House Baratheon and House Stark band together to usurp Targaryen rule.

In many ways, a change at the top was a long time coming. King Aerys Targaryen II was not called "The Mad King" for nothing, after all. Tensions were already high as Aerys committed violent acts against his own people and became increasingly paranoid, but the real motivation behind Robert's Rebellion was, typically, romantic in nature. At this point, Robert Baratheon was Lord of the Stormlands, and had been lined up to marry a woman from another noble house, Lyanna Stark. However, Lyanna was seemingly kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Aerys' eldest son) and whisked away to the faraway locale of Dorne, despite having a wife of his own in Elia Martell.


Angry that his wife-to-be had be stolen, Robert demanded justice, and he was joined in his uprising by House Stark. Lyanna was the daughter of then-Warden of the North, Rickard Stark, who also sought answers. Living up to his increasingly violent reputation, King Aerys brought Rickard and Lyanna's eldest brother, Brandon Stark, to King's Landing and instead of listening to their concerns, he ordered the pair executed for treason. With House Baratheon angered by Lyanna's abduction and House Stark now down three members, a powerful alliance was formed that sought to wrestle control of the Seven Kingdoms from the Targaryens.

Aided by other rebel houses, Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark led a war lasting approximately a year. The conflict culminated with the Battle of the Trident, at which both Robert and Rhaegar were present, and the Stag was able to slay the Dragon. This turned the tide of Robert's Rebellion in its namesake's favor, and sensing they needed to be on the winning side, House Lannister betrayed the Targaryens. King Aerys was controversially killed by Jaime Lannister, and Robert himself claimed the throne, since he was the man to rebel first and he had bested Rhaegar in battle.

Of course, there was an untold, yet vital, chapter in these events. Blinded by pride, misogyny or both, Robert failed to see that Lyanna and Rhaegar's disappearance was entirely consensual. The pair were in love and ran away to escape their respective political nuptials. They wed, bore a child (the famous Jon Snow) and the truth was only discovered when Ned and his close friend, Howland Reed, finally found Lyanna at the Tower of Joy. Though she actually died from childbirth, Ned covered for his sister and claimed the child was his own illegitimate offspring, otherwise Robert would've certainly had young Jon killed due to his Targaryen lineage.

Elements of Robert's Rebellion are alluded to or shown via flashback in Game of Thrones, but the intricacies of the war are largely glossed over. The conflict was even suggested as a possible spin-off, since this time period could easily comprise a series of its own. While future projects look set to focus elsewhere, Robert's Rebellion remains a fascinating area of George R.R. Martin's mythology.

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