The Crooked Kings of Westeros

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” -John Acton


-Image from HBO’s Game of Thrones


In many tales of fantasy and medieval times we see a story of a corrupt king. These kings are greedy and only do things to ensure their spot on the throne. They end up committing horrible selfish acts because they’ve been driven mad with the power that they hold. Not all kings are good leaders. By examining and analyzing the decisions that the characters make in the show, Game of Thrones, one can see that the amount of power that a character obtains is correlated to how corrupt that character may become; this is important because it suggests that power may not be as great as everyone believes it to be.

“We strive for power, influence, and wealth regardless of who we might hurt, and we rationalize our actions with phrases like, “it’s for the good of our family.” -Jamie Adair

Those who become corrupt are so blind with the power that they hold that they do not realize the harm that they cause. They just keep driving themselves to gain more power, no mater the cost. Using excuses like their family to justify their nefarious acts.  We see this as corruption takes a hold of Theon Greyjoy when he takes over the northern city of Winterfell.

TheonGreyjoy's downfall.gif

Theon slaughters two children to cover up a mistake that he made, and when Theon and his men were about to become attacked he shouts a battle cry. His own men then betray him! Theon was completely blind to the fact that he had become corrupt with the power that he had suddenly acquired. He was so corrupt that his own men, his allies, decide to knock him out and hand him over to the enemy.

Early on in the show it became apparent to most that King Joffrey was not necessarily a good leader. He would order his guards to kill civilians, kept one of the Stark daughters as a prisoner in the kingdom, and he also was known to enjoy inflecting pain on people. As Joffrey gained more and more power, we see him committing worse and worse acts throughout the show. He kept putting his kingdom in danger, but also himself as he commits these risky acts. Meanwhile, his father, Tywin Lannister is fighting the War of the Five Kings, taking advantage of Joffrey’s position and power to make sure that the spoiled sadist, Joffrey, but more importantly the corrupt Lannisters as a whole, will stay in power.


Joffrey gifThis is the scene in which Joffrey orders the execution of the “treasonous” Ned Stark. Joffrey had Ned Stark beheaded in order to keep the secret of his origins. Joffrey was the result of an incestuous relationship between Queen reagent Cersei Lannister and Ser Jamie Lannister, her brother.

One reason that Joffrey has become so corrupt is that he has been spoiled all his life, this makes him feel like he is above most people. User Blazfemur, from a form website brings up this point in his comparison between King Joffrey, and Ramsay Snow.

Because of Cersei, and Tywin, and their vanity as well as dignity in appearance, Joffrey has inadvertently inherited pride, a taste for lavish indulgences. Because of this, Joffrey would never dirty his hands directly when dealing with those beneath him, instead having others, whether they want to or not, do the dirtywork for him (i.e. beating Sansa, decapitating Ned, etc). It would be beneath the king to soil his expensive clothing, have an underling do it.


Because of the setting that Game of Thrones takes place in, Westeros, the amount of corruption that some people acquire is because of the fact that having power made people predominate when it came to ruling over lands, and other people. Out of the many cases of misuse of power, one tends to stand out, that case being Ramsay Snow, the bastard son of Lord Roose Bolton.

Ramsay Snow has a very specific set of skills. He also enjoys practicing the traditions of House Bolton. Ramsay is extremely powerful, as he has the resources available from his father. Ramsay, the man leading the assault on the City of Winterfell,  was the one who wanted Theon Greyjoy. In return for Theon, Ramsay offered Winterfell safety. Ramsay took Theon back to the Seat of House Bolton, the Dreadfort.

Ramsay Snow gif

Ramsay Snow, looking happy as ever as he tortures Theon Greyjoy.


House Bolton has a gruesome tradition where they would flay their prisoners, as well as any enemies that they managed to capture… alive. The act of flaying meant to take a blade and skin the top layers of skin off of someone, revealing muscle and raw flesh. House Bolton would do this regularly, as they teach their children, “A naked man has few secrets… a flayed man, none.”

Ramsay happily tortured Theon Greyjoy in one of the Castle’s dungeons. He inflicted immense amounts of pain, cut off body parts, and drove Theon as we knew him to fall apart. Ramsay broke Theon, both mentally and physically. He renamed Theon, “Reek.” Ramsay would use his power to inflict pain and suffering. It was one of his favorite hobbies. If that is not a corrupt use of power, than I’m not quite sure what is.


Map of Westeros – A great website that I used to gather more and more information about the lands of Westeros, using an interactive map. home to some of the more corrupt lords and kings, Westeros has many territories, with a vast diversity of rulers and kings, all trying to gain as much power as they can.

In order to decide which characters that I wanted to discuss and analyze, I used this website, where the author did a wonderful job analyzing almost every character that you see throughout the show, and book.

Relating the corruption of the characters in game of thrones to the amount of power that they hold, I also wanted to know about the political themes that we see in the snow, This website was very useful in doing so.

As dark and nefarious as some of the characters in the show are, I always find it extremely entertaining to see the paths that each of the characters take throughout the Game of Thrones.






Websites mentioned – Comparing Game of thrones to History – Analysis between Ramsay and Joffrey – Interactive map of Westeros (Other mode of media) – character analysis – Relating Game of Thrones to modern day Politics




Attewell, S. (2013, April 5). CBC Analysis: Game of Thrones. Retrieved November 5, 2015.

Puschak, E. (2013, October 2). What Game of Thrones teaches us about politics? Retrieved

Adair, J. (2013, December 19). Dragonlords, Dark Ages, and Deeper Meanings in Game of Thrones.