I was searching for the Kingsguards vow and the only thing I could find was a collection of quotes here: westeros.org. There they get to the point where it is not clear if the vow transfers automatically to the heir if the previous king dies:

"I swore an oath!"

"To Joffrey, not to Tommen."


taken from the linked site

So we can assume that IF they don't have to serve the new king automatically, they can decide to leave the Kingsguard once the king they vowed to dies. So that could potentially be one point to get rid of the white cloak. I have not read the books yet, but in the tv series:

When Tyrion is in trial for killing Joffrey, Jaime offers his father to leave the Kingsguard so he can take his rightful place as the ruler of Casterly Rock if he spares Tyrions life.

So: are Kingsguards allowed to leave their position at any time or can they only get out by getting dumped? Is this an exception for the Lord Commander? Or (if the assumption mentioned above is right) do they have to wait for their king to die?

I am asking, because there is so much said about the vow of the Night's Watch in the tv series, but they never say anything about the Kingsguards, at least I do not remember.

  • 1
    I'm fairly sure it's a vow for life, very similar to the one taken by the Black Watch. Remember Ser Barristan's reaction when he was retired! I don't have any sources to hand though.
    – Liath
    Aug 8, 2014 at 8:37
  • 8
    Had to be said: One does not simply walk out of Kingsguard. Aug 8, 2014 at 13:55

4 Answers 4


No, their vows are vows for life. They cannot leave/retire.

they are sworn to protect their king and the royal family with their own lives, to obey his commands, and to keep his secrets. They are sworn for life and are forbidden from owning land, taking a wife, or fathering children.

-- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn.

The king (pretty much does whatever he wants, so he) can dismiss someone off the guard, like Joffrey did with Selmy; or like Tywin wanted to do with Jaime, when the former was king Regent.

But a person cannot leave on his own. That is why they were after Sandor after he left the Kingsguard.

  • 6
    The dismissing of Selmy was unprecedented (at least in the books). In aSoS2, Tywin says to Jaime that Cersei was a fool to let Selmy go, but now that door has been opened, Kingsguard can be dismissed again. So it sounds like Joffrey is more of an 'I do whatever I want' sort of king than any of his predecessors ... not surprising really.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 8, 2014 at 10:23
  • 1
    Also, Cersei removed Ser Boros Blount, and Tywin put him back.
    – TLP
    Aug 8, 2014 at 11:17

When the Kingsguard was founded by the Targaryan dynasty, the vows they took were very much like those of the Night's Watch:

  • They served until death - technically even a sick or permanently disabled member was still a Kingsguard as long as he was alive.
  • They could not hold lands, though they could apparently hold certain titles (Jaime was named Warden of the East after Jon Arryn died and I believe several Kingsguard were also Hand of the King)
  • They could neither marry not father children.

When Robert took the throne from Aerys, in theory all (two - Jaime and Barristan Selmy) of the surviving Kingsguard would have been considered traitors to the current crown and punished, but Robert pardoned them both and they kept their positions. Thus, the Baratheon Kingsguard appears to be the same order as the previous one, so they would follow the same vows.

However, the King can dismiss a Kingsguard at any time, since they serve the king at his pleasure. Had Jaime's deal with his father gone as planned, it would have been easy enough to have Tommen dismiss him at the next possible opportunity.

  • 1
    'considered traitors to the current crown and punished' - that only goes for Selmy. Jaime (Kingslayer) was a traitor to the previous crown, which is just fine!
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 8, 2014 at 10:26
  • 1
    he was still officially pardoned by Robert before being allowed back into the Kingsguard, since he WAS a murderer...
    – KutuluMike
    Aug 8, 2014 at 12:18
  • 1
    @randal'thor: I don't think the fact that Jaime betrayed Aerys necessarily would mean he hadn't already "betrayed" Robert in the same way Barristan did, that is to say opposing his rebellion. Basically, it was victor's justice for Robert, he could declare pretty much anything as long as he maintained a workable coalition of everyone left alive. So Robert got to pick both who he pardoned, and the details of what he pardoned them for :-) Aug 8, 2014 at 12:36

It appears as though one cannot simply leave the Kingsguard, we get some insight into this when Joffery Baratheon dismisses Barristan Selmy.

"You have served the realm long and faithfully, good ser, and every man and woman in the Seven Kingdoms owes you thanks. Yet now I fear your service is at an end. It is the wish of king and council that you lay down your heavy burden."
"My … burden? I fear I … I do not …"
The new-made lord, Janos Slynt, spoke up, his voice heavy and blunt. "Her Grace is trying to tell you that you are relieved as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard."
The tall, white-haired knight seemed to shrink as he stood there, scarcely breathing. "Your Grace," he said at last. "The Kingsguard is a Sworn Brotherhood. Our vows are taken for life. Only death may relieve the Lord Commander of his sacred trust."
"Whose death, Ser Barristan?" The queen's voice was soft as silk, but her words carried the whole length of the hall. "Yours, or your king's?"
"You let my father die," Joffrey said accusingly from atop the Iron Throne. "You're too old to protect anybody."
Sansa watched as the knight peered up at his new king. She had never seen him look his years before, yet now he did. "Your Grace," he said. "I was chosen for the White Swords in my twenty-third year. It was all I had ever dreamed, from the moment I first took sword in hand. I gave up all claim to my ancestral keep. The girl I was to wed married my cousin in my place, I had no need of land or sons, my life would be lived for the realm. Ser Gerold Hightower himself heard my vows … to ward the king with all my strength … to give my blood for his … I fought beside the White Bull and Prince Lewyn of Dorne … beside Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Before I served your father, I helped shield King Aerys, and his father Jaehaerys before him … three kings …"
A Game of Thrones, Sansa V

From this we can assume the following:

  • The King and/or small council can relieve a member of the Kingsguard
  • Vows are taken for life so only death may relieve them of the duty
  • The vows may apply to the King or Kingsguard...
  • The vows are similar to the Nights Watch vows: Lose all claims, no land/wives/sons, serve/protect the realm, ends on death etc.

So technically one could leave the kingsguard but they'd either have to manipulate the King or fall on their own sword.


Legally? No.

Physically? Sure.

While the Hound wasn't kingsquard he is Joffery's personal guard and snaps and leaves. And is pretty good at it until meeting Brienne. And one could use the same loophole Jon Snow used to get out. I'm sure the large army backing him up helped to. But the facts remains. No matter what the laws say if you are powerful enough that no one can challenge you you can to whatever you wan.

  • 1
    This is invalid, because of the first clause of the spoilers text. Next time, try to have some more solid evidence explaining your answer.
    – CHEESE
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:38
  • How does that make it invalid. Sure he was not a member of the kings guard. But if say Merryn Trant decided to stay in Braavos and abandon his position in the kings guard the only way to make him stay would be to force the issue physically. The 7 kingdoms are in no position to do that now. And I doubt there are extradition treaties in place and even if they are they would likely make repayment of the money owed to the Iron bank a condition. While not exactly the same since Ser Barristan was kicked out first if he chose to leave a few min 5 before and managed to escape he would be out.
    – Mr. C
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:30
  • And I have one more but since it's a spoiler I'll add it to the main comment.
    – Mr. C
    Feb 2, 2017 at 23:30

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