As far as I'm aware it is the King or Queen (or the Regent on behalf of the King/Queen) who decides the people assigned to the Kingsguard, who are supposed to be a selection of the greatest swordsmen in Westeros. However, it's highly improbable that the monarch would be able to see a significant number of swordsmen in action in order to be able to make an informed decision as to who is suitable for the role.

It's possible that trusted advisers, such as those on the small council or others within the Kingsguard, could offer advice and nominate those who may be worthy of the position when an opening becomes available. But again, I can't imagine they manage to travel enough to meet potential candidates.

There is always word of mouth as to the ability of swordsmen, but that can sometimes be unreliable. And there are tourneys in which knights can show off their abilities, but again it doesn't seem like that would make a consistent selection method, as a holding a new tourney every time a member of the Kingsguard dies would be expensive.

So is the pool of candidates smaller than the reputed "greatest swordsmen in the land"? Is it instead just people close to the King/Queen who manage to work their way up politically in order to garner favor with the royal family, ensuring their selection when an opportunity presents itself?

Or is there some sort of trial that candidates go through to prove they are worthy? Would those wanting the position have to approach the King/Queen personally and prove themselves fit for the job?

Prior to the events of the books, I feel there really isn't very much depth as to how previous members of the Kingsguard who were famously skilled with a sword (Barristan Selmy, Arthur Dayne etc.) were selected in the first place.

Since then, the majority of the selections have been done by Cersei, who has filled the ranks of the Kingsguard mainly with people she trusts and who she knows will not betray the king in this particularly volatile political climate, and who will do as she commands, as opposed to people who are actually particularly skilled swordsmen.

So is/was there any kind of standardized selection process, or would the King simply select new members at whim for any reason whatsoever?

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    As with real estate; location, location, location. A knight would have to be known to the King, current Guards, or the Small Council. This would be done by being having your exploits in combat being heard by them, or by already being in service to them and showing skill. Cersei may be picking those who she feels will be most loyal, but I am sure from that sample she is also picking the ones with the most proven combat record.
    – Skooba
    Mar 7, 2016 at 16:59
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    I'd imagine it's like any such organisation. Knights of the Kingsguard may have the reputation of being the best swordsmen, but swordsmanship almost certainly pays second fiddle to political concerns. Mar 7, 2016 at 19:20

1 Answer 1


It does seem to be solely on the whim of the monarch or regent. As for on what basis, here are a few observations from appointments other than Cersei's in A Feast For Crows:

  • Under normal/ideal circumstances, when places become available, it seems to go as a reward or honour to people who have recently displayed heroism. This seems to be what happened with our Barristan, who was a war hero in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, then later was offered a place in the kingsguard. This seems to be the classic "fairytale" appointment that naive youngsters like Dunk in the Knight of The Seven Kingdoms stories daydream about and motivates people to go above and beyond - the idea that, if you do something great, it could earn you the greatest personal honour going, along with fame, luxury and status for life and a place in the history books. When there's no war or other such opportunity for proper heroism, it seems like an impressive run at tournaments plus general good reputation and popularity can be enough.
    • Knights (and others) who prove themselves can request the honour. For example, Brienne asked Renly for the spare place Renly was holding open in case Barristan wanted to defect, after proving herself in a tournament, and Jaime "made it known" via Cersei and others that he'd be interested, in order to avoid having to marry Lysa Arryn (smart move) and to be closer to Cersei (not such a smart move), after earning a reputation through tournaments and fighting the Kingswood Brotherhood. This of course depends on there being a spot available, and the decision is entirely up to the monarch in question.
    • Monarchs can promise places to individuals, once places become available. Early in The Mystery Knight (no plot spoilers here, don't worry), we hear an old story about a famous, acclaimed and at the time of that story long-dead knight Ser Quentyn Ball, who was promised a place one day by the infamous Aegon "The Unworthy" IV, and who even went as far as encouraging his wife to become a nun Silent Sister so he'd be unmarried when the day came - but then the king died and the new king chose someone else.
  • Personal factors and whims influence heavily. With Aegon and Ball again, it's strongly implied that the whoring and violent Ball and the notorious Aegon had plenty in common in terms of attitude, personality and recreational interests; whereas Aegon's mild-mannered successor "Daeron the Good" chose not to honour Aegon's promise and went with someone more moderate and more to his tastes. Another example of personal factors would be "Mad" Aerys being persuaded to choose Jaime, which appealed to him as a way to spite Tywin.
  • It's often contrived to facilitate a... special relationship between a Kingsguard member and a king, or someone else high up in court, whereby the knight vowing to be unmarried and keeping close by is... convenient to both parties. Renly and Loras is an obvious example, and Jaime and Cersei is an example showing it's not just kings who might contrive to help a budding Kingsguard keep his sword sharp. Here's a third example which does include a pretty big unavoidable A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms spoiler:

    It's strongly implied that there's something going on between wannabe-King Daemon II Blackfyre, and the euphemistically-named Lord Alyn Cockshaw - the latter becoming murderously jealous when Daemon takes a keen interest in a certain tall, strapping knight and starts talking about making him a key part of his kingsguard.

And then of course there's all the factional politics we see plenty of in A Feast For Crows.

  • Being fair here, even with the favoritism, the history seems to be that up until Cersei, Kings/queens were smart enough to get really excellent fighters in the Kingsguard. Loris, for example, while certainly in his position for other reasons, remains a top-notch fighter. Cersei's mistake lay in her not taking the oaths seriously and appointing people she trusted rather than appointing people who were both doughty fighters and took their oaths very seriously.
    – Broklynite
    Mar 8, 2016 at 18:15
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    @Broklynite that's debatable. There are examples of rubbish fighters in previous Kingsguards. Boros Blount for instance is in Robert Baratheon's Kingsguard, and continues in the role after Robert's death. Mar 8, 2016 at 18:19
  • Excellent point.
    – Broklynite
    Mar 8, 2016 at 18:20
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    It doesn't say much about Robert's kingsguard, but they're clearly not the best. Makes sense given that he needed to find 6 trustworthy options all at once (plus Selmy) at a time when the most successful of his lords and knights were expecting to be rewarded with land. Mar 8, 2016 at 18:56
  • I wouldn't necessarily call RB's KG rubbish - Boros Blount was a good swordsman in his youth (and before he let himself go), Jamie is Jamie, and Barristan could hold his own; they were however not amazing which is why a lot of people slag them off.
    – Möoz
    May 20, 2016 at 3:42

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