King Renly Baratheon was the youngest of three brothers and thus fourth in line to inherit the throne after Joffrey, Tommen, and Stannis. He was granted the title of Lord Paramount of the Storm lands by his brother Robert, whose small council he also served on as Master of Laws, but abandoned the latter position when laying claim to the Iron Throne, styling himself as Renly of the House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm. Margaery Tyrell became Renly’s queen when she married him in an alliance; however, it was her brother Loras whom he truly loved. During talks of an alliance with the Starks, his reign abruptly ended when a Shadow with the face of Stannis Baratheon killed Renly inside his tent. This led most of his banner men from the Storm lands and some of the Reach to submit to his older brother Stannis as their new king.
Renly is the third and youngest son of Steffon and Cassana Baratheon. Steffon was the head of House Baratheon and Lord Paramount of the Storm lands. The Storm lands are one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Baratheon is one of the Great Houses of the realm. Renly has two older brothers Robert and Stannis. Their parents died when the boys were young and Robert inherited his father’s titles. Robert led a rebellion against King Aerys II Targaryen, deposing and replacing him as the King on the Iron Throne. He made Renly the Lord of Storm’s End following his victory. Renly was only a child during the civil war, so he did not fight.
At some point, Selwyn Tarth held a ball on Tarth in hopes of arranging a match for his daughter, Brienne. However, many of the suitors feigned attraction to Brienne. She was alerted of this when she spotted some of them laughing. In hopes of saving her reputation, Renly took Brienne in his arms and danced with her, leaving the suitors speechless, due to Renly’s high status. From this point on, Brienne would be forever loyal to Renly.
Renly serves Robert as Master of Laws on the King’s small council in King’s Landing. He is fourth in line to the throne, behind his nephews Joffrey and Tommen and his older brother Stannis. Renly is popular at court because of his friendly manner and keen fashion sense.
Renly has been involved in a homosexual romance with Ser Loras Tyrell for many years. They must keep their love a secret because the dominant religion of the realm, the Faith of the Seven, considers homosexuality to be a sin, although many people are nonetheless aware of their relationship as something of an open secret.
Renly greets Eddard Stark, whom he knew when younger, upon his arrival at King’s Landing. Renly is the only member of the small council whom Eddard greets warmly. Renly agrees with Eddard’s assessment that his brother Robert’s profligate spending is damaging the realm. Renly irritates Commander Janos Slynt by questioning his competence to command the City Watch if he cannot keep the peace. Nonetheless, Ned gives Slynt the resources he requires.
Renly bets on his (notoriously known) secret lover, Ser Loras Tyrell, to win a joust against Ser Gregor Clegane. He wins a significant sum of money from Little finger, then they mock each other. Renly asks Little finger if he has a friend; Little finger retorts by asking when Renly will be having his friend, pointing at Loras. Later, in the small council, Renly supports Robert’s proposed assassination of Daenerys Targaryen following news of her pregnancy by Khal Drogo.
Loras suggests that Renly claim the Iron Throne for himself and offers the support of the rich and powerful House Tyrell. Renly points out that he is fourth in line to the throne, behind his two nephews and his older brother, Stannis. Loras counters that Robert claimed the throne through strength of arms alone and asserts that the realm will not follow Joffrey because he is a monster, Tommen because he is too young, or Stannis who “has the personality of a lobster”.
Renly goes hunting with Robert and his retinue. He quarrels with Robert over his glorification of warfare and Robert’s needling him about how many girls he has slept with; in Robert’s words “simpler times” which were in fact more bloody than he is willing to admit. Renly calls him a fool and remarks that the past had its share of violence that Robert is conveniently ignoring. Renly storms off, leaving Ser Barristan to look on concerned, as Lancel keeps up King Robert’s wine supply on Cersei’s orders. This causes Robert to reel from his excessive consumption of wine, and subsequently, he is later fatally gored by a wild boar.
As Robert lays dying Renly suggests to Eddard that they take Joffrey prisoner and hold him hostage to neutralise House Lannister and allow Renly to seize the throne. Eddard believes this to be treason, he instead supports Stannis’ claim to the throne. Eddard says he will not dishonour Robert’s final hours by taking children prisoner and shedding blood in the castle. Later, Eddard hears from Varys that Renly and Loras have fled the city with some fifty retainers. At the Lannister camp, Kevan reports that both Renly and Stannis have laid claim to the throne. Elsewhere, Robb Stark rejects Jonos Bracken’s suggestion they side with Renly and is instead declared King in the North by his banner men.
Before the Battle of Oxcross, two Lannister sentries argue who is the greatest swordsman in Westeros. Rennick jokes that Ser Loras Tyrell can’t be a great swordsman as he has been “stabbing” Renly Baratheon for years and Renly’s not dead.
Renly is crowned King with the support of the powerful House Tyrell of High garden. He gathers an army of 100,000 men from across the Reach and the Storm lands. He solidifies his alliance with House Tyrell by marrying Margaery Tyrell, the sister of his lover Loras Tyrell.
For his personal sigil, Renly altered the original colours of the sigil of House Baratheon. Instead of the black crowned stag on a yellow field, Renly’s banner displays a golden crowned stag on a field of green, a nod to the colour scheme of his new wife’s powerful family, House Tyrell. He is known as “The King in High garden” because of the alliance.
While Renly intended to eventually march on King’s Landing, he was in no great hurry, content to let Robb Stark continue bleeding the Lannisters in the River lands. Time was largely on Renly’s side, and he could afford to wait longer to assemble as large an army as possible before engaging in the war. Indirectly, however, Renly’s faction was adversely affecting the Lannister position simply by closing off the shipment of foodstuffs from the fertile Tyrell-held lands of the Reach to King’s Landing. Already overburdened with war refugees, this eventually produced starvation-level conditions among the poor of the capital city, leading to the Riot of King’s Landing. Further, the simple existence of Renly’s army in the south damaged the Lannister strategic position in the war: Tywin Lannister could not commit all of his forces to marching against Robb Stark at Riverrun or in the Wester lands, without leaving King’s Landing undefended from attack by Renly. Instead, Tywin was forced to leave the bulk of his forces at Harrenhal, mid-way between Robb in the north and Renly in the south, to react against whichever of them moved on King’s Landing first.
Renly camps his growing army near Storm’s End in the Storm lands, and throws a tournament for his men. Renly and his new Queen watch from a wooden dais. Margaery stands and cheers on her brother Loras as he disarms his opponent. His rival manages to step under a swing of his great axe and knock him off his feet. Loras yields when his opponent lifts his visor and holds a knife close to his face.
Margaery sinks back into her seat. Renly congratulates the combatants as they stand and calls the winner forward. He commands them to stand and remove their helm. The crowd are shocked when the fighter is revealed to be a woman; Brienne of Tarth. Renly tells her that she is everything that her father promised. Margaery says that Loras fought valiantly and Renly agrees with her. He names Brienne champion and offers to grant anything that she requests. Brienne asks to join his Kings guard and he accepts.
A Baratheon Guard announces the arrival Catelyn Stark. Catelyn modifies his mention of Robb, asserting his position as King in the North. Renly introduces Margaery, who offers her condolences on the death of Eddard. Catelyn says that she is kind and Renly promises to avenge the death, drawing cheers from his men. Catelyn accepts the pledge and calls Renly “My Lord”. Brienne corrects her, saying that she should call Renly “Your Grace” and kneel when speaking to him.
Renly waives the formality and calls Catelyn an honoured guest. Loras interrupts to ask if Robb has marched against Tywin Lannister yet. Catelyn denies knowing Robb’s strategy and says that she would not divulge it to them if she did. Loras says that Robb should have attended rather than sending his mother. Catelyn retorts that Robb is fighting a war rather than playing at one. Renly laughs off the barb and invites Catelyn to walk with him.
Renly takes Catelyn on a tour of his camp. He stops to greet Gerald, who is recovering from being injured by a horse. He is careful to mention the vast size of his force, over 100,000 men. Catelyn warns him to take the war more seriously, saying that his men are the knights of summer and winter is coming. He ends the tour by asking Brienne to show Catelyn to a tent that he has assigned her, before dismissing her. He says that he is going to pray, alone.
Renly and Loras kiss passionately inside Renly’s tent. Renly undresses his lover and notes his badly bruised chest before kissing the marks. Loras stops him and complains about Brienne’s appointment to the Kings guard being a further humiliation after she bested him in the tournament. Renly cites Brienne’s devotion and then realises that Loras is jealous. Loras denies jealousy, mocking her as “Brienne the beauty”, a nickname Brienne has been condescended with since adolescence.
Renly begins to undo Loras’ britches, saying that he will make it up to him. Loras stops him and says that he must devote his attentions to another Tyrell that night. He reminds Renly of his responsibilities to their alliance and warns him that his vassals are gossiping about his bride still being a virgin two weeks after their marriage. Renly is disbelieving of Margaery’s virginity and Loras says that she is still officially a virgin before going to fetch her.
Renly pours himself wine as he waits. When Margaery enters he warns her that he may have drunk too much. She says it is his right as a king and he compliments her gown. She says she is unsure how she likes it as a pretext to take it off. Renly says that she does not need the gown and she leans in to kiss him. He says that beauty concealed can be more desired but she silences him and persists despite his reluctance. She reaches for his crotch and he blames the wine for his lack of arousal. She offers to take care of it and unlaces his britches. He breaks off their kiss and apologises.
She offers to ask Loras to come in and help. He is stunned at her forwardness. She says that she could turn over so that Renly can pretend that she is Loras if he would prefer. He claims to not understand what she means. She smiles and says that he can be open with her and should save his lies for court because he will need a lot of them. She sits next to him on their bed and says that their enemies will be thwarted if he gets her pregnant. She offers him the choice of how he would like to do it; either with her alone or with her and Loras. She says that he can choose because he is a king and kisses him on the cheek.
Petyr Baelish arrives at Renly’s camp in the Storm lands. Renly greets him as his “favourite whoremonger” and sarcastically hopes that he has not been waiting long. Petyr follows Renly into his tent and Renly criticises his lack of loyalty. Petyr says that he is a practical man and Renly says that he dislikes Petyr and demands to know why he is there. Petyr looks to Brienne and Renly says that her loyalty comes without charge and she can be trusted. Petyr says that Renly still has friends at court who think Eddard Stark was mistaken in not supporting Renly’s claim. Renly says that Petyr is trying to protect himself in the face of his inevitable victory. Petyr offers to open the gates of King’s Landing to Renly.
Stannis meets Renly on the coast of the Storm lands to parley. Stannis is accompanied by Melisandre, an Asshai’i priestess, Ser Davos Seaworth and several guards. Renly brings Catelyn, Brienne and Loras along with his own guards. Stannis remarks on Catelyn’s presence and she says that she had not expected to be there. Renly wonders if it is really Stannis and feigns confusion over his banner. Renly jokes that the battle would be confusing if they both used the same one. Renly wonders why Stannis’s version of the stag is aflame.
Melisandre explains that Stannis has taken the fiery heart of the Lord of Light for his sigil. Renly says that she must be the fire priestess he has heard so much about and jokes that he now knows why Stannis found religion late in life. Stannis warns his brother to watch his tongue. Renly says that he is relieved that Stannis is not really a fanatic and calls him charmless, rigid and a bore but not godly. Melisandre admonishes Renly to kneel before the Lord’s chosen and says that Stannis was born amidst salt and smoke. Renly jokes that she makes Stannis sound like a ham.
Stannis again warns his brother. Catelyn admonishes them to stop bickering and remember that they are brothers. Stannis counters that he would expect her to support his claim as Eddard did. He says that Eddard died for his integrity yet she sits beside a pretender. She says that they share a common enemy and Stannis retorts that the Iron Throne is his by right and that all who deny it are his enemies, to which Renly quips that every living Westeros, from the Wall to Dorne denies his kingship.
Renly says that no-one wants Stannis for their king. Renly says that Stannis never wanted friends but that a man without friends is a man without power. Stannis says that he will give Renly the night to reconsider for the sake of their mother. He offers to restore Renly to his seat on the council and to name him as his heir until he has a son if he strikes his banners; otherwise he will destroy Renly. Renly reminds Stannis of his numerous supporters and says that they will make him king. Stannis rides away as Melisandre warns Renly to look to his sins because “the night is dark and full of terrors.” Renly asks if his companions can believe that he loved Stannis once as he leads them away.
Catelyn meets with Renly in his command tent. Two of his kings guard are outside while Brienne stands watch inside the tent. Renly has Catelyn swear that her son Robb has no interest in challenging him for the Iron Throne. Renly drinks from a goblet thoughtfully and announces that he sees no reason for hostility between them. He offers his terms; Robb can retain the title of King in the North, and control of all lands north of Moat Cailin, but must swear fealty to Renly as Eddard did to Robert eighteen years earlier.
Catelyn is hesitant and Renly reminds her that Robert and Eddard’s friendship held the Seven Kingdoms together. Catelyn asks what he offers in return for Robb’s loyalty. Renly says that he will destroy Stannis’s army and then Baratheon and Stark will fight their common enemy together as they have done many times in the past. Renly stands before a mirror and Brienne helps him out of his cloak. Catelyn beseeches him to reconsider negotiating with Stannis. Renly reminds Catelyn of his brother’s rigidity, refusing to attempt further debate with him. He asks her to take his terms to Robb and says that he sees them as natural allies and hopes that Robb feels the same. He suggests that acting together they could end the war in a fortnight.
An unnatural gust parts the tents opening and black smoke rushes inside. Catelyn and Brienne are stunned while Renly watches transfixed in his mirror. The smoke coalesces into a human shape and stabs Renly through the chest. In the mirror its face resembles Stannis. The smoke dissipates and Renly collapses forward. Brienne wails and catches him as he slides to the ground dead. Brienne is initially blamed for Renly’s death by Ser Robar Royce and Emmon Cuy of his Kings guard. Brienne kills both men while defending herself against their accusations.
Brienne is still blamed by many for Renly’s murder, so she flees the camp with Catelyn. Renly’s body is laid on a slab while Loras grieves and vows to kill Stannis for this, as he doesn’t believe Brienne is responsible. Little finger and Margaery persuade him to leave for High garden, as he cannot take revenge if he is dead. Renly’s forces largely swear fealty to Stannis when he arrives the next day. House Tyrell lead their troops back to High garden.
As Brienne escorts Jaime Lannister back to King’s Landing at the behest of Catelyn Stark in an attempt to exchange him for her daughters, he inquires as to how she came to be in Lady Catelyn’s service. With minimal probing, he quickly realises she had originally pledged for Renly. Jaime then proceeds to make cruel japes at Brienne for loving Renly whose “proclivities were the worst kept secret at court.” This prompts Brienne to nearly erupt with fury but Jaime defuses the situation by saying he doesn’t blame Renly for his preferences nor Brienne for loving him, saying, “We don’t get to choose who we love.”
Later, when the two of them are sharing a communal bath (against Brienne’s wishes), Jaime, who has since lost his sword hand, reminds her of the vow she made to deliver him to King’s Landing in one piece. He agitates her for failing to protect Renly but quickly apologises upon gauging her reaction. Jaime then regales Brienne with what really happened when he slew the Mad King, and asks her if she would have kept her oath if Renly had commanded her to do the same things as Aerys did, but Brienne is too stunned by Jaime’s story to answer.
Meanwhile, over in Dragon stone, Stannis makes preparations to have Robert’s bastard son Gendry sacrificed as part of his plan to win the Iron Throne. His Hand Davos Seaworth tries to dissuade him from doing so by reminding him that Gendry shares his blood, to which Stannis replies, “So did Renly.” Although Davos doesn’t justify his king’s fratricide, he shows his loyalty to Stannis stating that Renly wronged him when he declared himself king ahead of Stannis.
Several weeks after their arrival in King’s Landing, Brienne visits Margaery Tyrell. Brienne explains what she saw and how the shadow had Stannis’ face, and assures Margaery that she will find a way to avenge their king. Later, at the wedding feast of Margaery and Joffrey, the latter mistakes Brienne for the one who assassinated Renly Baratheon, which Margaery quickly corrects.
During the wedding feast, a play also takes place in which the War of the Five Kings is acted out by dwarves, including a dwarf playing the role of Renly. Loras witnesses the play and is visibly upset by the way Renly is represented in it. Following a sequence in which the Renly dwarf is repeatedly stabbed by the Stannis dwarf, echoing the events of the real murder, Loras is so angry and distraught that he storms away from the event, knocking his chair over as he goes.
While traveling north to rescue Sansa Stark, Brienne tells Podrick Payne about her past with Renly. She reveals that as a young girl, her father held a ball and invited dozens of young lords in order to find a good match for her. Brienne was captivated by all the attention she was getting, but her happiness turned to embarrassment when Brienne realised they were all just toying with her. Before she could run away, Renly took Brienne into his arms and told her that those “nasty little shits aren’t worth crying over” and danced with her. As Podrick starts to bring up Renly’s homosexuality, Brienne somewhat irritably acknowledges that she knew Renly was only interested in men and that he was only being kind to her, but that still didn’t stop her from loving him. She says that there is nothing more hateful than failing to protect the ones you love, and intends to avenge Renly by killing Stannis, whom she correctly believes played a role in Renly’s murder after witnessing his death by a Shadow resembling Stannis.
Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, Renly’s lover Loras is arrested by the Faith Militant on charges of buggery after being informed upon by Cersei. During his holy inquest by the Faith, the High Sparrow grills him about his relationship with Renly. Loras of course denies that he was ever Renly’s lover, that they were merely friends and he was wrong to support his claim to the Iron Throne, adding that he fought for Joffrey at the Battle of the Blackwater. The High Sparrow points out that Loras was wearing Renly’s armour at that battle, making his testimony sound less believable but Loras stands his ground, saying he never lay with Renly or any other men. His sister Margaery, who of course was also Renly’s widow for a time, defends her brother when she is called upon to testify but this leads to her own arrest for perjury when the Faith bring forth the prostitute Olyvar, who truthfully tells them that about his own relationship with Loras.
Renly is finally avenged by Brienne following the Battle of Winterfell where Stannis’s army is smashed by the forces of Roose Bolton. Brienne finds a wounded Stannis, sentences him to die and personally kills him after he acknowledges his role in Renly’s murder.
After Brienne and Sansa Stark reach Winterfell, Brienne later confronts Davos Seaworth and Melisandre, and tells them that she was the one who killed Stannis after his confession about Renly’s death, leaving the two of Stannis’s former allies stunned.
During his trial held on the first day of the Festival of the Mother, Loras Tyrell confesses his sins to the High Sparrow and the other six judging septons, including sleeping with Renly, shocking the gathered crowd in the Great Sept of Baelor. This takes place just before the Sept of Baelor is destroyed with wildfire in a plot orchestrated by Cersei Lannister and Qyburn, killing all of those inside and nearby the Great Sept, including Renly’s lover himself, Loras. The aftermath of this plot sees the death of King Tommen, thus rendering House Baratheon extinct as Renly, nor Stannis, left no heirs.
During a drinking game, Jaime correctly guesses that Brienne danced with Renly.
Renly was established to have an extremely strained relationship with his two brothers, Robert and Stannis. The long-ridiculed youngest brother, originally Renly saw no hope of ever becoming king as there were too many heirs with claims better than his for the Iron Throne. With inspiration from his lover Loras Tyrell, however, Renly arrogantly flouted the line of succession and declared himself king ahead of Stannis after Robert died. However, his strained relationship with his brothers didn’t prevent him from complimenting Robert behind his back that he used to be good at killing and showing concern when he was mortally wounded by the boar. Renly also claimed to have once loved Stannis after their final encounter, making him the only brother to say as much about one of the others whereas Robert openly stated he never loved either of them. Stannis pretty much says the same about Robert but claims to grieve for Renly in a way after he murders him. However, Stannis does not show genuine remorse for the act until after he is defeated at the Battle of the Blackwater.
Unlike his other brothers, who undoubtedly would make bad kings but were skilled in battle; Robert, a fierce warrior but incompetent king, and Stannis a proven battle commander but unmerciful lord, Renly never raised a sword in combat. Adding to this, he used to become uneasy around violence and blood, throwing up when a knight was maimed after jousting and even after Loras cut him to prove a point, Renly was still squeamish and treated it as if it was a mortal wound. According to him, all he heard about from Robert was how he was never “tough” enough, and came to resent the idea that good soldiers automatically make good kings, which was seen when Ned Stark attempted to reinforce Stannis as the rightful heir. He disregarded the fact that a king, while having to be charismatic and peaceful, also had to be legitimately strong, which his brothers were on account of being respectively skilled warriors and commanders.
Despite his lacklustre on the battlefield, Renly was skilled in politics. He became a member of Robert’s small council while he was alive and forged a marriage alliance with House Tyrell to support his claim for the Throne, gaining more banner men and strengthening his army by marrying Margaery Tyrell. At the same time however, the prospect of a marriage alliance was to create a line of children, which he was was unable to do on account of his homosexuality until Margaery reformed that their marriage was only on paper. Renly was patient; for all of his zeal to obtain the title of king he was capable of waiting until Robb Stark had weakened the forces in King’s Landing and take control later on. He also had some understanding of warfare tactics and planned to take Joffrey hostage after learning of his true parentage to weaken House Lannister so there would be no opposition for his titles. He was also very receptive to an alliance with the Starks and the Tullys (as he sympathised with them over the execution of Ned Stark) although he made such an alliance conditional to them swearing fealty to him as King; unlike Stannis, however, he wisely did not threaten them with retribution for not submitting, recognising that it was Joffrey’s threats and killing of Ned that had made them rebel in the first place.
For all of his ambitions, Renly only attempted to assist his own claim and never neutralised those against him. He relied on Joffrey’s illegitimacy, made aware by Stannis who also fought for the Iron Throne to support his right and never attempted to demoralise Stannis to his army even though, in the eyes of the Seven Kingdoms, Stannis possessed the most solid claim in comparison to Renly. He relied on his charisma and popularity for the support of his troops rather than propaganda, and disregarded the royal line of succession in favour of the rightful ruler being the best suited, which was automatically him in his opinion. Renly was also a tolerant man, as he allowed Brienne of Tarth to join his Kings guard, whereas many scorned her for her gender and lack of virtue. In addition, Renly was legitimately kind to Brienne, saving her from scorn when they first met and comforting her, and voicing to Loras that he appreciated her devotion to him.
- See: Renly Baratheon and Loras Tyrell.