Was Tywin Lannister That Great of a Leader?
Twyin Lannister has been dead for the last three full seasons of Game of Thrones, but his legendary abilities with statecraft are still regularly referred to by Cersei and Jaime, and even Tyrion. He is the standard they are all trying to live up to in their efforts to gain power and wield it in their own names. But what if, hear me out, Tywin was actually pretty terrible at all those things and just CONVINCED his progeny that he was the best ever through sheer will and and the force of his disapproval? It was a heady sort of disapproval for sure, and he certainly had a lot of will. However, I’m less and less sure he was ever the great leader they think he was.
Let’s look at some of his previous alliances; he served as Aerys’s hand and seems to have neglected developing any other relationships with great houses to lean on. Even as Jon Arryn was building a network that included the heir to the Stormlands and the second son of Warden of the North, Tywin was putting all his eggs in the basket of “Aerys will obviously marry Rhaegar to Cersei and then they’ll all see!” It seems like Tywin didn’t even take the step of developing a relationship with Rhaegar separate from his father when the true depths of Aerys’s madness became apparent.
Once he decided to turn on Aerys, he allowed his army to sack King’s Landing and set The Mountain loose on the Princess Elia and her children. This is not an ideal move to make if you want to be greeted warmly by your newly “liberated” population. Sure, it’s not setting the entire city alight with Wildfire, but it’s not going to win hearts and minds either. He managed to finagle a high position from Robert Baratheon on the basis of his holding King’s Landing at the end of the war, but Robert Baratheon was a man with no head for politics, who seemed overall disinterested in the actual ruling of a kingdom. Furthermore, the alliances he built during the War of Five Kings were also short-sighted and flimsy at best. Roose Bolton would have a choice between staying south to be of assistance to the Lannisters, or retreating to the North to hold his new territory. He immediately retreated north making that alliance practically useless. The Freys have a lot of people, but Walder Frey is no military leader and let the Riverlands fall into chaos almost immediately, which Tywin probably should have cared about, since “through the Riverlands” is the only way his army has to get back and forth to Casterly Rock. Even Randyll Tarly got in a dig at him about how real soldiers don’t kill their enemies at weddings and he’s totally right.
I was going to say “at least he was a good general” and realized I can’t even say that definitively. Let’s take a hard look at some of those victories; he “took” King’s Landing because they opened the doors for him under the assumption that he was still allied with Aerys. It’s really easy to “take” a city when they open the door wide for your army. Robb Stark defeated him in the Whispering Wood, and then outflanked him in the Riverlands. Robb Stark was, at the time, 15 years old and in his very first war. A last minute alliance with the Tyrells and Tyrion’s use of Wildfire helped him win the battle of Blackwater Bay, but I’m not willing to say he’s the primary engineer of that victory.
We also hear a lot about how he destroyed the Reynes of Castamere but reading up on that rebellion it doesn’t seem like the Reynes were exactly military geniuses either. More grifters who aimed above their station and got lucky for a while. I like Charles Dance as much as the next person, and I think Tywin’s skills as a political advisor were pretty solid, aside from the fact that he couldn’t control Joffrey at all and let his grandson deepen the rift in Westeros by beheading Ned Stark. Right. Forget I said anything. Frankly, the takeaway doesn’t seem to be that Tywin is a great military strategist so much as that Tywin will burn your shit to the ground if you step a toe out of line and damn the consequences to his reputation or the overall political stability to a region. In that way, I suppose Cersei really is taking after her father.
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