The Kingsguard- seven knights who forswear all lands, take no wife, leave noble families behind. They serve the king alone and protect him with their life. The Kingsguard are a storied brotherhood, the best of the best. Or were. Alas, in the time of A Song of Ice and Fire, the once proud Kingsguard have fallen from grace. No longer the best, no longer a shining example of virtue and righteousness. Lesser men have filled the places once occupied by the greatest knights of their generation. Does anyone in the current Kingsguard deserve the honor? Hoe about Jaime Lannister- the current Lord Commander?
This post was inspired by a discussion over at Chuckles Book Cave. I got to thinking about the knights via a vis Jaime and his honor- or lack thereof. Jaime is of course known as the Kingslayer, for his act of treachery in killing the Mad King Aerys. He is despised and scorned but as we get to see his story in the books we realize that there is more to it than treachery. For this discussion I focus on this storied brotherhood and what we learn about them through Jaime's eyes. This post will have extensive spoilers for the book series.
Jaime (along with Barristan Selmy) is probably the only one alive who knew the big names- Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower, Prince Lewyn Martell- from the perspective of serving with them. Imagine a young knight of promising ability joining a brotherhood of the greatest knights in the land. And he clearly admired them.
That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead.
What should we think about Arthur Dayne? Here's what Ned Stark told his son Bran.
The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.
Jaime becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard in A Storm of Swords and quickly realizes that the White Swords are not who they used to be.
He wondered what Ser Arthur Dayne would have to say of this lot. "How is it that the Kingsguard have fallen so low," most like. "It was my doing," I would have to answer. "I opened the door, and did nothing when the vermin began to crawl inside."
Jaime takes the measure of his fellow White Swords and is not pleased with what he discovers.
"I learned from Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain all five of you with his left hand while he was taking a piss with the right."
And Jaime himself? Does he deserve to be considered one of the greats of the Kingsguard? Here's what Brienne of Tarth had to say after fighting him in a weakened condition (and she's no slouch).
He was weak from imprisonment, and chained at the wrists. No knight in the Seven Kingdoms could have stood against him at his full strength, with no chains to hamper him. Jaime had done many wicked things, but the man could fight! His maiming had been monstrously cruel. It was one thing to slay a lion, another to hack his paw off and leave him broken and bewildered.
But of course fighting ability is not the measure of greatness. What kind of a man is Jaime? Well a complex one to be sure, arrogant and confident but also a man who wanted to live up to the ideal of a Ser Arthur Dayne. At the same time a man who let a boy fall to his apparent death and killed others without compunction. Jaime's a work in progress, but in one of my favorite quotes from the series we get a look at what Jaime is thinking... now.
Ser Gerold Hightower had begun his history, and Ser Barristan Selmy had continued it, but the rest Jaime Lannister would need to write for himself. He could write whatever he chose, henceforth. Whatever he chose...