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Kings Landing is rendered as a veritable pit of Vipers, with each component constantly forwarding their own ambitions through murder and subterfuge. This is especially true of people of power: Advisors, Dignitaries, Challengers from other Royal Households.

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Whilst I'm aware that the death of Robert Baratheon served as a catalyst for the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, was Kings Landing a considerably more hospitable place in support of a King's longevity before Baratheon's death, or was there some capability/factor that Robert possessed that meant he was able to reign unopposed for so long, and managed what seems to be an impossible feat: a sovereignty that didn't result in him being deposed/murdered?

The entire series is an exploration of Statecraft, with different elements pursuing different strategies in order to consolidate power within their own reach. Is this a behavior that truly only emerged at the death of Robert, or did Baratheon suffer the same incessant duplicity and scheming from his subjects?

What advantage did Robert have, that he was able to propser for so long?

A conversation between Tywin and Tommen in Breaker of Chains would suggest that Robert's legacy lay in his 'Strength', which ultimately proved to be his downfall.

It's unlikely this is a reference to his physical constitution, so is there some further diplomatic factor attributed to Robert's longevity? If so, what is it?

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I'm asking why Robert was able to stay on the throne so long without meeting a grisly end, if everyone in the political arena of Westeros behaves with such ambitious Machiavellianism. –  John Smith Optional Apr 21 at 20:24
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@AndresF. it's more than implied, it's about as close as you get in GoT to being admitted openly that Cersei bribed Lancel with sex to make sure Robert got black-out-drunk before the hunt. –  Michael Edenfield Apr 22 at 3:57
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Robert Baratheon may have been an inept leader and an idiot, besides. But he was a useful idiot, by golly. –  Dacio Apr 22 at 13:52
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@JohnSmithOptional It has been verified by both Lancel and Cersei in the books that they exchanged his strongwine with wine 3 times as strong. They knew it would put him in mortal danger, so it is murder, and it is premeditated. –  TLP Apr 22 at 17:41
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@JohnSmithOptional If you take an action that you know will put a person in lethal danger, and your intent is that they die, then you are a murderer. And it is pretty clear in the books that it was Cersei's intent that he die. –  TLP Apr 22 at 19:41
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4 Answers 4

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You have to start a little earlier. The catalyst for the events of A Song of Ice and Fire was not the death of Robert, but the death of Jon Arryn. Jon Arryn fostered both Robert and Ned Stark and was very much like a father to both of them. After Robert became king, Jon Arryn became the Hand of the King and a de facto ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

Robert was a good fighter, and he also had personal charisma, which allowed him to turn many of his enemies into friends. However, he was completely inept as a peace-time ruler, and it was Jon Arryn who kept the kingdom together. This is why immediately after Jon Arryn's death, Robert set out for Winterfell to tell Ned to be his new Hand. Robert wanted nothing to do with the day-to-day business of running a kingdom, and he desperately needed a replacement for Jon Arryn. Unfortunately, it turned out that Ned Stark was far less qualified than his mentor, which is one of the causes of the War of Five Kings.

So, the answer to your main question about what made Robert so unique is Jon Arryn, who was a very shrewd politician. He was able to deal with the snake pit that is Kings Landing, and keep all the great houses in line for 15 years. All Robert could do by himself was bankrupt his realm.

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While this is all true, it doesn't actually answer the question of how Robert Baratheon maintaned his life/rule over Westeros without opposition. –  Monty129 Apr 21 at 21:25
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@Monty129: Ok, now I am done. :) –  Dima Apr 21 at 21:35
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@JohnSmithOptional that's not far from the truth: Robert almost immediately made allies of the Lannisters, who held most of the money (and thus power) in Westeros, and he was allied with Jon Arryn and Ned Stark, the respective military powers in the North and East. –  Michael Edenfield Apr 22 at 3:55
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@MichaelBorgwardt: A skilled administrator has the ability to delegate. In this instance, the Crown's finances were being managed by Littlefinger, who would have assured Jon that all was well. It would have been unwise of Jon to trust Littlefinger, but he wouldn't be the first or last person to make that mistake. Also, we see that Robert was prone to impulsive spending on things like the Hand's Tournament; probably Jon was no better than Ned at reining in Robert's extravagance. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 22 at 8:24
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@MichaelEdenfield: Small detail: it was John Arryn who arranged Robert's marriage to Cercei, securing an alliance with the richest of the great houses. Arryn himself married Lysa Tulley to ensure the loyalty of the Riverlands. The only political decisions Robert has made himself as king was to appoint Ned as the new hand and to order the death of Deanerys. –  Dima Apr 22 at 14:15
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Without wishing to state the obvious, Robert Baratheon was largely immune from the sorts of external threats that led to the "War of the Five Kings" because the main protagonists (e.g. those that were sufficiently powerful to oppose him) were either cowed by him or directly owed their position to his patronage;

Joffrey Baratheon is his son (ahem), Stannis and Renly are his brothers (both with their own lands and titles), Robb Stark's father was his oldest friend and bondsman (again with lands and titles) and Balon Greyjoy was loyal to Robert on pain of having his son and heir killed.

With regards to smaller threats (assassination, etc) it's pretty clear that the small council were well equipped to identify and deal with likely threats against the king. On top of which Robert was well-regarded by his people due to the stability he provided after the various rebellions of the past decades. He also had a cadre of ultra-loyal guards to protect his life.

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Again it's pretty obvious, but the Lannisters were bound to Robert by his marriage to Cersei; they had one of their own as Queen and the next King would be (ahem) half Lannister. Jon Arryn, Lord of the Vale, was a friend and mentor of Robert. The Martells despised Robert, but were willing to wait patiently for their revenge. Finally, Robert's "strength" was in war. When Balon Greyjoy rebelled, Robert ruthlessly defeated him in battle, killed his two elder sons and took Theon hostage. There was plenty of intrigue between different factions, but no military rebellion until after Robert's death. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 21 at 21:58
    
@RoyalCanadianBandit - You've hit the nail on the head. Lots of intrigue but all the interested parties were better off with him alive. The whole war would probably never have happened if Ned had been smart enough to keep his mouth shut or had Joffrey been smart enough just to send him packing. –  Richard Apr 21 at 22:10
    
Thanks for answering. So you're saying King Robert didn't neccesarily possess any virtues that made him a 'good king', but was fortunate enough to rule at a time when he had no natural enemies (save for the Targaryen Children): and as such had no need for guile? –  John Smith Optional Apr 21 at 22:46
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@JohnSmithOptional - I don't think it's fair to characterise him as a man with "no virtues". He was loyal and brave, generous to his friends, blessed with an excellent choice in aides and ruthless to his enemies. He might have personally lacked guile but he certainly employed people with plenty of it. –  Richard Apr 21 at 22:50
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A lot of very good answers here, and I don't disagree with them but I'm going to add a different viewpoint: I challenge the question's very premise.

Robert I Baratheon's reign was not that long and was not that peaceful. Robert ruled only for 15 years and his reign was punctuated by three violent episodes: the war to win the throne, the Greyjoy uprising, and the skirmishes between the Lannisters and the Tullys that eventually turned into the War of the Five Kings.

Let's look at longevity. Here are the previous owners of the Iron Throne along with the length of their reign:

Aegon I "The Conqueror"     36 years  
    Founder of the Targaryen royal dynasty. Unified six of the seven kingdoms.

Aenys I                     5 years  
    Weak king. The Faith of the Seven rebelled against his rule.

Maegor I "The Cruel"        6 years  
    Brutally fought against the Faith of the Seven uprising. Killed in unknown 
    circumstances.

Jaehaerys I "The Wise"      55 years  
    Negotiated peace with the Faith in return of them disbanding their militant 
    arm. His reign is regarded as the longest and most peaceful. 

Viserys I                   27 years
    Continued the peaceful reign of his grandfather, and groomed his eldest daughter 
    Rhaenyra to be the first female Targaryen ruler.

Aegon II "The Usurper"      2 years
    Rebelled against his older half sister Rhaenyra in a ruinous civil war known as
    the Dance of the Dragons and took the throne for himself. History of that conflict
    is told in the novella "The Princess and the Queen". Died with no male issue of 
    wounds inflicted during the conflict.

Aegon III "The Dragonbane"  26 years
    Rhaenyra's son. Hated dragons due to the events in the Dance of Dragons. The last
    of the Targaryen dragons died during his reign.

Daeron I "The Young Dragon" 4 years
    At 16 he was the youngest Targaryen king to assume the Iron Throne. Conquered Dorne, 
    but eventually lost it again and died trying to hold it.

Baelor I "The Blessed"      10 years
    Highly religious king who shunned worldly pleasures and Targaryen incest. Negotiated 
    peace with Dorne by arranging a marriage between the Targaryens and the Martells.
    Starved himself to death in an attempt to cleanse himself from lust.

Viserys II                  1 year
    Was Hand of the King to his nephews Daeron I and Baelor I, and ruled while the former 
    warred and the latter prayed. Assumed the throne for a short while before dying, 
    possibly of old age.

Aegon IV "The Unworthy"     12 years
    Considered by many as the worst Targaryen king. Sired countless bastards all
    across the realm. Just before he died he legitimized several of the nobly born
    ones (known the as the Great Bastards), eventually causing the Blackfyre Rebellion
    that plunged the realm into civil war again.

Daeron II "The Good"        25 years
    Defeated his bastard-born half-brother Daemon Blackfyre and secured the throne.
    Negotiated the assimilation of Dorne into the kingdom. Died during the Great
    Spring Sickness.

Aerys I                     12 years
    Regarded as a weak and bookish king, who left the ruling to his uncle and Hand 
    Brynden Rivers, who was one of the Great Bastards who sided with the Targaryens.
    His reign was plagued by a great drought and conflicts with the Iron Islands.

Maekar I                    12 years
    When he took the throne he relieved Brynden Rivers of his duties and imprisoned
    him. Died fighting a rebel lord, probably a remnant of the Blackfyre Rebellion.

Aegon V "The Unlikely"      26 years
    Named the unlikely because he was the fourth son of a fourth son (of a king).
    In his youth he roamed the Seven Kingdoms as a Hedge Knight's squire (as told in 
    the Dunk and Egg novellas). Sent Brynden Rivers to the Wall. Obsessed with returning
    dragons to Westeros. Died in the mysterious event known as the Tragedy of Summerhall. 
    He is the brother of Maester Aemon of the Night's Watch.

Jaehaerys II                3 years
    Sickly king who died young, but ruled well according to Ser Barristan Selmy.

Aerys II "The Mad King"     21 years
    The last of the Targaryen kings. Succumbed to the famed Targaryen madness. His
    handling of the Rhaegar Targaryen/Lyanna Stark affair escalated into Robert's
    Rebellion. Killed by his Kingsguard: Ser Jaime Lannister. Father of Daenerys.

What we find is that Robert's reign is below the average of 22.5 set by his Targaryen predecessors (though he is a bit above the median of 12).

Robert, however, benefits from the fact that his direct predecessor was Aerys II (AKA The Mad King). A king who, in his later years at least, was feared and loathed by the nobles and the commons alike. While Robert might have had many flaws, he never roasted his enemies alive in their armor. This results in Robert being remembered more favorably.

Further, his reign was not devoid of underhanded political machinations. He simply avoided liquidation because he was not really an obstacle in front of anyone. Robert was truly king in name only, with the real power floating somewhere around his Hand (Jon Arryn) and the members of the Small Council. It wasn't until a feud erupted between the Lannisters and Starks/Tullys did Robert become a target since now he had to choose one side over the other.

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This answer seems to support Dima's answer. I'm not sure 15 years worth of relatively stable rule is something to be sniffed at though! –  John Smith Optional Apr 21 at 22:51
    
Robert never did definitively choose sides in the Stark/Lannister feud. (The Mountain was outlawed and Beric Dondarrion's men were sent by Ned in his capacity as Hand.) Cersei despised Robert and feared the truth about her children's parentage would come out, so she was already looking for an opportunity to murder Robert and put Joffrey on the throne. –  Royal Canadian Bandit Apr 22 at 8:52
    
Just out of interest, could you adjust your answer to reflect what the final fate was of those listed? how many suffered a downfall/deposition, and how many reigned in relative peace? –  John Smith Optional Apr 22 at 12:46
    
@RoyalCanadianBandit - Yeah but before Ned arrived she could always wait until Robert eventually died from liver disease and/or an STD. Now that Ned was getting too close for comfort, Robert getting off his fat royal ass and siding with the Starks was a real possibility. –  System Down Apr 22 at 16:43
    
@JohnSmithOptional - Tall order! But I'll see what I can do. –  System Down Apr 22 at 16:43
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You have to understand that the death of a king won't necessarily benefit you. The job, then, is to make your continued reign as advantageous to as many people as possible, and your death as disadvantageous to as many people as possible.

Baratheon did suffer the same attempts on his life that other kings did. It was largely his hand, Jon Arryn, who forestalled most of those attempts, though some were doubtless stopped by others. Most were stopped by forming alliances with other houses, particularly strong, scheming, or otherwise powerful houses that may have been looked over in previous reigns.

Marrying Robert to House Lannister was a good start. Marrying the hand to the House Tully helped cement things in another quarter. Further, the reign and line were new - there were not as many people in the list of royal succession based on Robert's gain of the throne. As a new line, he had very few people other than direct descendants who could legitimately take the throne in the event of his demise.

Once the Hand died, though, it was essential not only to replace him with someone the King could trust that would protect him from subterfuge, it was necessary to bring the House Tully back into the fold. Ned was the obvious choice, not only because he was a strong friend of Robert, but because his wife is of the House Tully.

Once the King had heirs that survived past boyhood, then the line could essentially be cemented, and the death of the king shouldn't matter as much because killing the king won't necessarily change the power structure appreciably. Only killing the king prior to heirs, or killing them and all their heirs will change the power structure significantly.

If one had to choose a single thing that prolonged his reign, it would be Jon Arryn, making sure the alliances were properly cemented, and discouraging attacks.

What Jon didn't see, for well over a decade, was that Robert had no natural born heirs. It was his realization of this that led to his death. Once he understood that Robert had no sons of his own through Cersei, he started looking at all Robert's Bastards to see if any could be legitimized. Bringing the information forth prior to establishing his legacy would have put him in more danger, he believed, than he was already in with the Lannisters being largely in power.

It took significant effort for various machinations to work in a way that Jon would die at the hands of someone he didn't suspect. Once that was accomplished, though, it was easier to kill Robert.

It is unlikely that Robert could have been disposed of while Jon Arryn still lived and acted in his capacity as the King's Hand. It is unlikely that Robert would have ever dismissed Jon as King's Hand while he still lived.

Therefore Jon Arryn was responsible for Robert's relatively lengthy reign.

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