Pycelle was the Grand Maester for multiple kings and a member of the small council, but his true loyalties lay with House Lannister. He died moments before the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor as a result of a plot orchestrated by Qyburn, a former maester himself, who had his little birds stab Pycelle to death.
Pycelle has been Grand Maester of the Seven Kingdoms for decades and has served under four kings when the series begins. The Grand Maester is the king’s personal maester, a learned man wise in history, science, and medicine who also provides counsel. The Grand Maester sits on the king’s small council, which runs the realm in the name of the king. He served King Aerys II Targaryenprior to Robert’s Rebellion. He remembers Aerys as a great man before his descent into madness.
When Tywin Lannister marched to the gates of King’s Landing following the rebel victory at the Battle of the Trident and all of the king’s advisors told Aerys not to trust the Lord of Casterly Rock, Pycelle gave the opposite counsel and the city gates were opened, allowing the Lannister forces to sack the capital. Following the rebellion he remained Grand Maester to King Robert Baratheon. He is joined on the small council by the Master of Coin Petyr Baelish, also called Little finger, the Master of Whisperers Varys, the Master of Ships Stannis Baratheon and the Master of Laws Renly Baratheon. He plays up his age to appear harmless but is actually mentally sharp and dangerous.
He is loyal to Queen Cersei Lannister (although she finds him annoying and his loyalty troubling) and was involved in the birth of all of her children, assisted by midwives. Pycelle also privately flouts the vow of celibacy taken by maester’s, as he enjoys the company of prostitutes.
Pycelle calls a small council meeting to greet Lord Eddard Stark upon his arrival from Winterfell to take up the role of King’s Hand. Eddard greets him cordially, but cannot help mentioning that Pycelle served under the Mad King. He then gives Eddard his the badge of the Hand of the King, before asking if they should start the meeting. The council discuss financial matters, which has been made far worse by Robert’s command to host a tournament, as well as their extensive debt to Tywin. Eddard questions the council’s effectiveness, he and Pycelle both defending his predecessor, Jon Arryn.
Eddard meets with Pycelle to discuss the death of Jon Arryn and suggests that he might have been killed by poison. Pycelle says he thinks it unlikely having treated Jon for a feverish illness. He still cautions Eddard to remember that poison is the weapon of a woman or a eunuch; making sure that Eddard understands that he is implicating Varys. Pycelle also lends Eddard a book about the lineages of the Great Houses that Jon borrowed just before his death.
Pycelle supports the motion to assassinate Daenerys Targaryen before she can provide Khal Drogo with an heir. Pycelle elucidates that he bears her no ill will personally, but fears that a Dothraki invasion of Westeros would be devastating. He argues that though unpleasant, it is preferable to have her killed now rather than have thousands die later. His argument does not convince Eddard.
Pycelle is in court when Eddard dispatches Lord Beric Dondarrion to bring Ser Gregor Clegane to justice for his looting in the River lands. Stark also sends word to Casterly Rock, demanding that Lord Tywin Lannister explain his bannerman’s actions. Little finger and Pycelle object, but Eddard insists on seeking justice.
Pycelle tends to King Robert Baratheon after he is gored by a boar while hunting. He predicts the King’s imminent death and manages his pain using milk of the poppy. Following Robert’s death Eddard claims that Joffrey is not his son and is arrested for treason. Cersei and Pycelle convince Sansa Stark to write to her brother Robb, imploring him to swear fealty to Joffrey.
Pycelle is present for the trial of Eddard on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. He counsels mercy after Eddard’s confession but Joffrey has Eddard executed. After sleeping with Ros, Pycelle absentmindedly mutters about how King Aerys had begun his reign as a great man before slipping into insanity. He muses about Joffrey’s potential for greatness, but his remarks peter out into mumbled nothings. Ros leaves and Pycelle does a series of exercises and stretches, then dresses and walks confidently to his door, before adopting the meek, fragile appearance he usually wears to court. He is much stronger in body and mind than he appears, but hides this from everyone.
Grand Maester Pycelle reports to the small council that the Conclave in Old town has announced the end of the longest summer in living memory and shows the white raven sent for this purpose. Varys adds that the small folk say that a long summer will be followed by an even longer winter, which Pycelle dismisses as a peasant superstition. Tyrion appears at a small council meeting to inform them that he has been made acting Hand of the King by his father. Queen Cersei angrily orders councillors to leave, Pycelle, along with Lord Baelish, Varys, and Lord Slynt, abandon the room.
In a later small council meeting, Cersei reads Robb Stark’s peace terms aloud to the small council before tearing them up. Cersei asks Alton Lannister to deliver their reply and he accepts. Cersei also asks him to tell Jaime that he has not been forgotten, to the consternation of the other council members. Pycelle reports a raven from Castle Black and gives its message to Tyrion. Varys interjects that the wildling’s are organising behind the King-Beyond-the-Wall Mance Rayder. Tyrion says that the message is from Lord Commander Jeor Mormont and that he is asking for more men. Cersei says that they cannot spare any because they are fighting their own war. Tyrion reads a troublesome passage: “the cold winds are rising, and the dead rise with them.” Pycelle dismisses it as Northern superstition.
Tyrion meets with Pycelle in his dining room. He has complained of constipation and Pycelle gives him a vial of laxatives. Tyrion compliments that Maester’s knowledge and then asks him to keep a confidence. He tells him that he is hoping to make a marriage alliance with House Martell in Dorne by offering Myrcella Baratheon’s hand to their heir Prince Trystane. Tyrion specifies that Pycelle should not speak to the Queen. Pycelle does so anyway and she later confronts Tyrion about the plans.
Tyrion, Bronn, and Timett burst into Pycelle’s chamber while he is in bed with the prostitute Daisy. Pycelle denies telling Cersei but Tyrion explains that he has implicated himself because he was the only one aware of the plan to approach the Dornish. Tyrion asks how long Pycelle has been spying for Cersei and Pycelle claims that he has been loyal to House Lannister since the days of the Mad King. Tyrion then tells Bronn to cut of Pycelle’s beard because he doesn’t like it. Tyrion brings up his betrayals of past Hands of the King and suggests that he poisoned Jon Arryn. Pycelle denies poisoning Arryn, but admits that he was aware that Arryn knew of Cersei’s incest. Tyrion accuses him of letting Arryn die as a threat to the Lannisters and Pycelle does not deny this. Tyrion then orders Pycelle confined to the black cells and gives Daisy a coin for her services. He then gives Daisy an additional coin after seeing how much of a struggle the supposedly frail Pycelle puts up. Cersei demands that Pycelle is released and reinstated via the newly knighted Lancel Lannister. Tyrion agrees to release Pycelle but refuses to let him return to the small council.
Prior to the Battle of the Blackwater Cersei requests a supply of the anxiolytic and poison Essence of Nightshade but will not say why she wants it. She almost uses it to poison her son Tommen when she believes the battle is lost. She is stopped just in time by the arrival of her father Lord Tywin Lannister, who announces that they have won.
Pycelle visits the recovering Tyrion and gloats that he is no longer Acting Hand of the King since his father, Tywin, has returned to the city. Later, during a court session to honour Lord Tywin and Petyr Baelish, Pycelle and Cersei make a show of convincing King Joffrey – who announces his desire to marry Margaery Tyrell – to set aside his betrothal to Sansa Stark. Pycelle informs him that he spoke to the new High Septon and that the latter approves of breaking Joffrey’s betrothal to Sansa.
The reinstated Pycelle attends a meeting of the small council, now held at the Tower of the Hand. Lord Tywin tasks Petyr Baelish – recently made Lord of Harrenhal – with offering a marriage proposal to the widow Lysa Arryn. Pycelle adds that such a marriage would make Petyr acting lord of the Vale. After Tyrion notes that Petyr’s departure would leave the crown without its Master of Coin just when a royal wedding is at hand, Tywin informs his son he will become the new Master of Coin – a “demotion” considering Tyrion’s previous post as Acting Hand of the King. Pycelle heartily and mockingly supports the Hand of the King’s decision.
Pycelle is present at the wedding between Tyrion and Sansa Stark held at the Great Sept of Baelor, standing along with the “Lannister side” of the attendants. He attempts to refrain himself from laughing when Tyrion is unable to cloak Sansa without her sinking to his height. Pycelle later attends the wedding feast, where he flirts with multiple handmaidens of the court, and becomes agitated when Tyrion offends Joffrey’s manhood before he and Sansa leave the feast.
The Grand Maester receives a message from Lord Walder Frey informing of the death of Robb Stark and his family and the imprisonment of Edmure Tully. At a small council meeting, a gleeful King Joffrey orders Pycelle to send a letter thanking Lord Walder for his service and demanding the head of Robb so he can give it to Sansa at his wedding. After Tyrion, whom Joffrey calls a “little monster”, notes that monsters are dangerous and Kings are “dropping like flies”, Pycelle angrily states that Tyrion should apologise immediately as his comment is “disrespectful, unacceptable and in bad taste”. Tywin dismisses the still angry Joffrey and commands Pycelle to give him some Essence of Nightshade to “help” the king sleep. He is quick to carry out the Hand’s orders.
Pycelle is present during the breakfast before Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding, and stands with the Lannisters in the Great Sept of Baelor during the ceremony. At the feast, following Margaery’s announcement that all leftovers will be given to the poor of the city, he harasses a young woman but is cut short by Cersei, who commands him to go to the kitchens and make sure all the remaining food is instead given to the dogs in the royal kennels.
When Pycelle protests that this is against Queen Margaery’s command, Cersei angrily tells Pycelle she will have him fed to the dogs if he does not. He is back in his seat next to Varys when the dwarf mummers do a reenactment of the War of the Five Kings, much to his amusement. Minutes later, he witnesses Joffrey’s death by poisoning. Pycelle is present at the coronation ceremony of his new king, Tommen Baratheon. He is one of the first to bow before his new king.
During Tyrion Lannister’s trial for regicide, Pycelle is called as a witness for the Iron Throne. Pycelle reads a lengthy list of poisons that is kept in the Red Keep and states that they were stolen from him by Tyrion, after he had him imprisoned in the Black Cells. He also concludes that the poison used to assassinate King Joffrey was a rare poison called ‘the strangler’. Pycelle reveals his evidence; the necklace that Sansa Stark wore to the wedding, which shows residue of the poison. He concludes that Tyrion conspired with his wife to “strike down the most noble child the Gods ever put on this good earth”.
Pycelle is present during Tyrion’s trial by combat, and begins delivering an opening speech until Tywin demonstrates his annoyance at Pycelle’s verbosity by cuing the horn player to sound out a blast signalling the beginning of the showdown and prematurely cutting Pycelle off, humiliating him and forcing him to shuffle off in silence.
Later, Pycelle and expelled maester Qyburn are in his laboratory tending to Ser Gregor Clegane’s body when Cersei comes to visit them. Pycelle informs Cersei that Prince Oberyn had coated his spear with manticore venom, which has poisoned Gregor. The effects are horrific and Ser Gregor’s wounds are putrefying and creating a terrible stench. Pycelle says that he is beyond any hope of recovery, but Qyburn insists to Cersei that he can save him using less orthodox methods. Pycelle chafes at his suggestion, stating that arrogance like that is what led to Qyburn’s expulsion from the Citadel, for experiments that were both dangerous and “unnatural”. Cersei, who wants to save the Mountain from death, orders Qyburn to do whatever is necessary and tells Pycelle that it’s no longer his laboratory. Pycelle leaves angered.
Tywin is murdered by Tyrion following his escape (assisted by Jaime), who flees Westeros (assisted by Varys). At Tywin’s wake, Pycelle offers his condolences to Cersei, stating that he never trusted Varys. However, she completely ignores him due to the shock of seeing Lancel Lannister as a Sparrow. He later attends a meeting of the small council, Pycelle offers to fill the vacant position of the Hand of the King, but Cersei rejects his offer. He is also outraged when Cersei announces that Qyburn has been named the new Master of Whisperers.
Pycelle is present during the wedding ceremony of Tommen Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. Later, Pycelle and the rest of the small council listen to the High Septon demand the arrest of all members of the Sparrows and execution of the High Sparrow. When it is brought forward that the Septon’s demands come from being assaulted in a brothel, Pycelle (due to his own philandering ways) defends the Septon and insists “a man’s private affairs ought to remain private.”
Pycelle is at the meeting of the small council when Mace Tyrell departs to negotiate the crown’s debt with the Iron Bank of Braavos. He bitterly remarks that the small council is growing smaller everyday, to which Cersei states that it is not yet small enough, highlighting the tension between the two. Following Cersei’s arrest by the High Sparrow, Grand Maester Pycelle sends a raven to Casterly Rock to summon Kevan Lannister back to King’s Landing to serve as Hand of the King.
After Cersei’s walk of penance for adultery with Lancel, her hair cut and stripped naked, from the Sept of Baelor to the Red Keep, Pycelle – like her uncle, Kevan – glares sternly at her, in contrast to Qyburn’s fawning. His expression of disgust deepens as Qyburn shows unnecessary familiarity in comforting the Queen. He is also shocked at the introduction of Gregor Clegane as a knight of the Kings guard, who remains hidden behind the helmet, but with a monstrous structure clearly visible.
The new Hand of the King Kevan Lannister was conducting a meeting of the small council along with Lady Olenna, when Pycelle starts rambling about Qyburn’s work on restoring the Mountain as an abomination (referring to him as “the beast”) when Cersei and Jaime walk into the room opting to join the proceedings, followed by Ser Gregor himself.
After Kevan states his objection to the two of them being there, Jaime counters by saying he has a seat on the council as the Lord Commander of the Kings guard. Cersei then orders the Grand Maester to vouch for her brother’s presence which he reluctantly does so; stating a precedent existed due to Ser Gerold Hightower being on the council in the same position under the Mad King. When Pycelle began to object to Jaime’s presence afterwards, the Lord Commander interrupted him by bringing a chair to his side of the table and slammed it down. Kevan, Mace and Olenna quickly leave the hall, whereas Pycelle cowers past Ser Gregor who ominously looks back at the Grand Maester.
Pycelle later counsels Tommen concerning the Sparrows and Margaery’s imprisonment, but is stopped by Cersei. Despite the Grand Maester’s protests, Cersei coldly orders him to leave. He defiantly questions her authority against that of Tommen’s. Tommen then thanks him in an official but innocently frustrated manner, signalling his departure. Pycelle then respectfully bids adieu to Tommen and coldly brushes past Cersei, clearly outlining the antagonism between the two.
When Tommen outlaws trial by combat, Pycelle is seen advising the king before the announcement, remaining close by during Tommen’s speech. Tommen reveals that Cersei’s trial will not be dependent on a trial by combat, dashing her hopes of escaping justice. He exits the throne room quickly afterwards, avoiding Cersei, now clearly allied with Kevan, retaining his support for House Lannister despite the downfall of Cersei. However, Cersei is later told by Qyburn that they could triumph due to new information from his little birds.
Before Cersei’s trial, one of the little birds is sent to Pycelle, asking him to come to advise the king. When Pycelle comes, there is only Qyburn waiting for him as the king is being kept in his room. Grand Maester realises that something is wrong and wants to leave, but Qyburn calls in his little birds. Breaking his act he shows unexpected speed for a man his age knocking the first little bird to reach him aside easily before being overwhelmed by their numbers. They knock him on the ground while stabbing him multiple times and kill him.
Pycelle is regarded as a cowardly, subservient and extremely sycophantic man by most people, and it is proven that he is so. He is potentially joint in responsibility for the Sacking of King’s Landing, as he persuaded the Mad King to open the gates to the capital and allow the Lannister forces to enter and rampage through the city. Pycelle remembers several other rulers, and even remarks to have known Aerys Targaryen before the latter became a psychopathic pyromaniac. Pycelle is viewed by Jaime Lannister as “a grey sunken cunt” meaning that he is unpopular amongst most people. This is ironic, because he secretly serves the Lannister House throughout most of the series – specifically, Tywin and Cersei Lannister.
He does not appear to have a strong relationship with the other Lannisters, as he is joined in hating and discriminating against Tyrion for his disfigurement and short stature. Despite claiming to be a man of virtue, Pycelle intentionally flouts the vow of celibacy by employing prostitutes. Pycelle, despite his extremely frail and absent-minded outlook, is (in his own way) dangerous and surprisingly intelligent and agile, possessing a certain low cunning that other people overlook. He is also firmly opinionated, (rightly) believing that Qyburn’s methods are highly unethical, and refers to the latter in diabolical terms. Pycelle is capable of arrogance and cowardice, shown by him desperately blaming Varys when Tyrion accuses him of betraying him to Cersei.
In public, he appears to be clumsy, senile and possessing a constant stammer. When in private, or in the presence of the likes of Tywin Lannister, Pycelle shows that he is actually feigning the stammer in an attempt of being unpredictable. He admits to Tywin that he is ambitious and simply wants to outlast his opponents. However, he is not above being a hypocritical coward, claiming that he serves the Lannisters when he did not hesitate in prosecuting Tyrion. He took the latter incident on an unnecessarily personal level, voicing his belief that his previous arrest by the Imp was unjustified – when, in actuality, it wasn’t.