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Related question: What was the basis for Lord Renly's claim to the throne?

I get that he considers himself a better king than Stannis, but why isn't he loyal to Joffrey who is supposedly the rightful heir? Did Renly know about Joffrey being illegitimate? I always thought he didn't and was distrustful that Cersei would accept Ned as Regent.

I think in both the books and the series, Renly finds out Joffrey is illegitimate from Stannis' letters, but rewatching that clips makes me think Renly was with Ned, Varys and LF in the plan to arrest Joffrey and Cersei.

[looks up something]

Oh also Ned was expecting Renly at the arrest. So Renly did know?

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Renly knew, more than most people, what was going on with Robert and Ned when Robert died, partly because he was there, and partly because Ned counted on him to back him up.

Renly was one of the people who witnessed Robert sealing the letter he gave to Ned, naming Ned "Protector of the Realm" until Joffrey came of age. So, he already knew something odd was up with the succession. But more importantly, Renly appears to be one of the people Ned chose to confide in when planning to remove Joffrey and Cersei from the throne.

When Ned is talking to Littlefinger, planning the coup, Renly is the first name he throws out (Game of Thrones, Eddard ~pp513 in my copy):

[Littelfinger speaking] "There is small love lost between Lord Renly and the Lannisters. Bronze Yohn Royce, Ser Balon Swann, Ser Loras, Lady Tanda, the Redwyne twins... each of them has a retinue of knights and sworn swords here in court."

[Ned speaking] "Renly has thirty men in his personal guard, the rest even fewer. It's not enough, even if I could be certain that all of them would choose to give me their allegiance."

It's clear that Ned's already considered who his allies are in court, and Renly is on that list. While he says that Renly's help isn't enough, he never says he won't ask. In fact, for what he's planning, he almost certainly would have approached Renly, since he was Robert's brother. He would expect Renly to be present at the arrest of Cersei and Joffrey because of how important to Renly's family the whole issue was. As you point out, when he calls the small council together to reveal Robert's letter, he's surprised that Renly and "his hundred swords" have left town.

Ned would assume that Renly would support Stannis' claim over Joffery in a heartbeat, which is certainly true. What Ned didn't count on is the fact that Renly would support his own claim over Stannis' because of how much the two dislike each other.

Renly managed very quickly to pull together some alliances, particularly a marriage pact with the Tyrells, and an army to fight in the War of the Five Kings. It's pretty clear that Renly knew what was coming, and was much smarter about it than Ned. As soon as he learned what Ned planned to do, he left King's Landing immediately to start preparing, hoping that he could rally the armies of Storm's End, plus the Tyrells, and defeat his brother handily. (Or, alternatively, wait it out while Stannis and Joffrey beat each other up and swoop in and finish off what was left.)

  • Ummmmm.....thanks Mike Edenfield, but how exactly do we know that Renly knew about Joffrey's illegitimacy before the letters? – BCLC Dec 16 '15 at 11:30
  • We don't, and I never said he did. I merely said he knew "something" was up because of what went down on Robert's death bed. The latter conversations strongly imply that Ned would have told Renly in advance of his announcement to gain the support of him and his men. Though TBH, I suspect a lot of people knew or suspected and just kept quiet about it for political reasons... – KutuluMike Dec 16 '15 at 12:21
  • What kind of something? Renly wasn't present at the sealing in the series. Was it a mistake in adaptation then? Actually, even if he was present, so what? Did he see that Ned changed 'Joffrey' to 'rightful heir'? If so, did he ask Ned about it? – BCLC Dec 16 '15 at 19:03
  • In the novel, Renly and Pycelle both witnessed Robert sealing the letter. Though I don't think they knew what it said, the fact that it even existed and was kept secret would already have made Renly suspicious that something unusual was going on. – KutuluMike Dec 16 '15 at 19:54
  • Appointing a regent does not mean something odd is going on. If the King is below 16, there is always a regency council and a regent who governs on his behalf. Renly most certainly did not know Joff was a bastard until Stanny's letter. – Aegon Aug 15 '16 at 10:56
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Renly did not want to remove Joffrey initially

Renly wanted to consolidate his influence in court by allying himself with Eddard Stark and taking role in controlling Joffrey like a puppet much like how Aegon III was controlled by his regency council (Fun fact: His Grace, Aegon III fired his entire regency council on the very day he turned 16).

From AGOT, we see Renly's proposals for Eddard Stark:

“My lord, I have thirty men in my personal guard, and other friends beside, knights and lords. Give me an hour, and I can put a hundred swords in your hand.”

“And what should I do with a hundred swords, my lord?”

“Strike! Now, while the castle sleeps.” Renly looked back at Ser Boros again and dropped his voice to an urgent whisper. “We must get Joffrey away from his mother and take him in hand. Protector or no, the man who holds the king holds the kingdom. We should seize Myrcella and Tommen as well. Once we have her children, Cersei will not dare oppose us. The council will confirm you as Lord Protector and make Joffrey your ward.”

Ned regarded him coldly. “Robert is not dead yet. The gods may spare him. If not, I shall convene the council to hear his final words and consider the matter of the succession, but I will not dishonor his last hours on earth by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds.”

Lord Renly took a step back, taut as a bowstring. “Every moment you delay gives Cersei another moment to prepare. By the time Robert dies, it may be too late... for both of us.

As evident from this conversation, Renly appeared to believe that Joffrey was in fact the true King and Robert's heir. He did not share any doubts about him, his only concern being what Cersei would do in wake of Robert's death. He appears to be genuinely concerned about his position and possibly life.

So he did not want to remove Joffrey, he wanted to remove Cersei from possible position of Power by taking hold of her children.


Renly's ignorance about Joffrey's parentage

Stannis and Jon Arryn did not trust Renly with their investigations. Unlike Varys and Petyr Baelish, Renly was not very smart when it came to court intrigue so it is unlikely that he knew.

But he was smarter than Eddard Stark and he knew that Cersei would immediately move to fill the court with her supporters and remove everyone who could be a threat to her influence, chief among them would be Robert's family and friends.

He confirmed that he did not know when he offered Eddard to take hold of Joffrey. He later confirmed it in front of Catelyn as well when he said he would not have called his banners if Eddard was regent instead of Cersei.

Then again, when he met Stannis, he again showed that he did not know about the Incest and he did not believe Stannis:

Renly laughed. “You must forgive Lady Catelyn, Stannis. She’s come all the way down from Riverrun, a long way ahorse. I fear she never saw your little letter.”

“Joffrey is not my brother’s seed,” Stannis said bluntly. “Nor is Tommen. They are bastards. The girl as well. All three of them abominations born of incest.” Would even Cersei be so mad? Catelyn was speechless.

“Isn’t that a sweet story, my lady?” Renly asked. “I was camped at Horn Hill when Lord Tarly received his letter, and I must say, it took my breath away.” He smiled at his brother. “I had never suspected you were so clever, Stannis. Were it only true, you would indeed be Robert’s heir.”

“Were it true? Do you name me a liar?”

Can you prove any word of this fable?

However, meeting Stannis got him reconsidering his views about Joffrey even though he did not admit it in front of Stannis:

“Do I?” Renly shrugged. “So be it. Stannis was never the most cherished of brothers, I confess. Do you suppose this tale of his is true? If Joffrey is the Kingslayer’s get-”

“-your brother is the lawful heir.”

“While he lives,” Renly admitted.


So why proclaim himself King later?

In ACOK, he told Catelyn that the sole reason he proclaimed himself King was Lannister hold on Joffrey:

“On the night of Robert’s death, I offered your husband a hundred swords and urged him to take Joffrey into his power. Had he listened, he would be regent today, and there would have been no need for me to claim the throne.

“Ned refused you.” She did not have to be told.

“He had sworn to protect Robert’s children,” Renly said. “I lacked the strength to act alone, so when Lord Eddard turned me away, I had no choice but to flee. Had I stayed, I knew the queen would see to it that I did not long outlive my brother.”

Renly had no delusions about his sister-in-law but out of fear for his life and his own ambition, he refused to bow to Stannis or Joffrey and proclaim himself King after forging an alliance with High Garden.

From ACOK:

“It would seem that you are the one who has forgotten Stannis,” Catelyn said, more sharply than she’d intended.

“His claim, you mean?” Renly laughed. “Let us be blunt, my lady. Stannis would make an appalling king. Nor is he like to become one. Men respect Stannis, even fear him, but precious few have ever loved him.”

“He is still your elder brother. If either of you can be said to have a right to the Iron Throne, it must be Lord Stannis.”

Renly shrugged. “Tell me, what right did my brother Robert ever have to the Iron Throne?” He did not wait for an answer. “Oh, there was talk of the blood ties between Baratheon and Targaryen, of weddings a hundred years past, of second sons and elder daughters. No one but the maesters care about any of it. Robert won the throne with his warhammer.” He swept a hand across the campfires that burned from horizon to horizon. “Well, there is my claim, as good as Robert’s ever was.”

Renly believed that now that he had the power, he had no need to bow to Joffrey or Stannis. He could be a King in his own right. That was basis of his eventual claim even though he pretends that it was the Lannisters who forced him to do so.


Renly's High opinion of himself

Renly was always the most non-serious of the Stags. According to their Maester Cressen:

Even as a boy, Renly had loved bright colors and rich fabrics, and he had loved his games as well. “Look at me!” he would shout as he ran laughing through the halls of Storm’s End. “Look at me, I’m a dragon,” or “Look at me, I’m a wizard,” or “Look at me, look at me, I’m the rain god.”

The bold little boy with wild black hair and laughing eyes was a man grown now, one-and- twenty, and still he played his games. Look at me, I’m a king, Cressen thought sadly.

He used to believe that he had what it took to be a better King than both Stannis and Robert and he was determined to prove it:

“Though it’s a fool’s law, wouldn’t you agree? Why the oldest son, and not the best-fitted? The crown will suit me, as it never suited Robert and would not suit Stannis. I have it in me to be a great king, strong yet generous, clever, just, diligent, loyal to my friends and terrible to my enemies, yet capable of forgiveness, patient-”

“-humble?” Catelyn supplied.

Renly laughed. “You must allow a king some flaws, my lady.”


Why was Ned expecting Renly to help him?

Ned was not initially sure about what to make of the Youngest Baratheon brother. He knew for a certainty that Jon Arryn and Stannis did not trust Renly with whatever they were investigating in brothels of King's Landing.

From AGOT:

Jory went to the wardrobe. “Lord Renly is brother to Lord Stannis as well as the king.”

“Yet it seems that he was not invited on these rides.” Ned was not sure what to make of Renly, with all his friendly ways and easy smiles.

Yet Renly was one of the two witnesses Robert chose while signing the decree for appointment of Eddard Stark as Lord Regent and Protector:

King Robert did not seem to miss her. He bid his brother Renly and Grand Maester Pycelle to stand in witness as he pressed his seal into the hot yellow wax that Ned had dripped upon his letter. “Now give me something for the pain and let me die.”

Eddard never thought that Renly would flee at the hour of need, when fate of Baratheon dynasty would be at stake. He also counted on him to honor his obligation as witness to his brother's last decree.

“When Lord Renly arrives,” Ned said.

Varys gave him a sorrowful look. “I fear Lord Renly has left the city.”

“Left the city?” Ned had counted on Renly’s support.

“He took his leave through a postern gate an hour before dawn, accompanied by Ser Loras Tyrell and some fifty retainers,” Varys told them. “When last seen, they were galloping south in some haste, no doubt bound for Storm’s End or Highgarden.”

So much for Renly and his hundred swords. Ned did not like the smell of that, but there was nothing to be done for it.

Afterwards, when Eddard was arrested, he thought Renly shared the blame:

He damned them all: Littlefinger, Janos Slynt and his gold cloaks, the queen, the Kingslayer, Pycelle and Varys and Ser Barristan, even Lord Renly, Robert’s own blood, who had run when he was needed most.

So the reason why Eddard counted on Renly was because he was Robert's own brother and would be expected stand to protect throne of his dynasty, even if the person to climb it would be his elder brother.

However, Renly left King's Landing before learning the truth and he never intended to bow to Stannis in any case, despite the miscalculation on behalf of Eddard.

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I believe, though I do not have my books with me, that Renly was told by Ned Stark that Joffrey and the others were not Baratheon children, but instead were pure-blooded Lannisters.

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    Renly was also always a bit more indifferent to the strength of his claim; certainly in the show, and from what I remember in the books- He basically tells Stannis "Maybe your claim is stronger, but look at ALLLLL these knights and then tell me what you're going to do about it...hey, who is that woman in red?" – VapedCrusader Dec 15 '15 at 20:02
  • @VapedCrusader He is 'indifferent to the strength of his claim' relative to Stannis, who inspires no love or loyalty. What is Renly's beef with Joffrey though? – BCLC Dec 15 '15 at 20:14
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    @BCLC True, I don't have my copy of the books- but I believe he plots with the Tyrells and against the Lannisters (especially Cersei) before Roberts death, and he openly laughs at Joff in court; I think he strikes, basically, because he is sure he can win(ahh, these knights of summer). Anything else is merely justification/pretext...but yeah, I don't have the specific info to give you a real answer – VapedCrusader Dec 15 '15 at 20:46
  • @VapedCrusader Good answer if true :O I seem to recall something similar happened in the show – BCLC Dec 15 '15 at 21:24
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    AFAIK the books never explicitly state that this happened, but it's strongly implied. – KutuluMike Dec 17 '15 at 23:08

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