8 Things Only Book Fans Know About The Small Council

ytsfreeSeptember 15, 2022

The Small Council is playing a prominent role in House of the Dragon. Viserys II is one of Westeros’ most affable rulers, and the show proves how interested he was in his kingdom. This behavior is a stark difference from the rulers in Game of Thrones, who were either uninterested or incapable of making appearances in the meetings.

In their role as advisers to the king, the Small Council members instantly become some of the most powerful men in the realm. The Council is vital for the Seven Kingdoms’ proper functioning, embodying the political intrigue that fans of the series love so much.


The Small Council Became Official Under Jaehaerys I

Aegon the Conqueror had a trusted group of advisors who served the same purpose as the Small Council. His two successors, Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel, also had key advisors offering support in matters of politics, warfare, and economics.

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Still, the Small Council became an official institution during the reign of Jaehaerys I, known as Jaehaerys, the Wise, and widely considered one of the best Targaryen rulers to sit on the Iron Throne. Jaehaerys was the longest-reigning monarch in Targaryen history, sitting on the Iron Throne for 55 years.

The Small Council Includes Seven Permanent Posts

The number seven plays a prominent role in Westerosi culture. It is the number of deities in the Faith of the Seven, a religion that greatly influences the continent’s lifestyle and customs. As such, the Small Council has seven permanent posts: the Hand of the King, the Grand Maester, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and four Masters of Coin, Laws, Ships, and Whispers.

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These seven figures have the burden of maintaining the day-to-day minutiae of the Seven Kingdoms, ruling over the nobility and smallfolk alike. Some Small Councils include additional Masters; Cersei attempts to name her uncle, Kevan Lannister, Master of War, but he rejects the position.

The Small Council Can Include Other Advisors

Outside of the crucial seven roles, the Small Council can also include advisory positions for prominent people. These spots often bridge strained relationships; for example, Tywin Lannister offers Oberyn Martell, one of the best side characters in Game of Thrones, a place in the Small Council to keep him close and strengthen the Crown’s relationship with Dorne.

Cersei follows suit by including another Dornish in an advisory role, Nymeria Sand, Oberyn’s bastard daughter. The High Sparrow also assumes a quasi-advisory position in Tommen’s Small Council in the show, although this development doesn’t happen in the books.

The Ruler Should Preside Over Ever Each Meeting

Multiple kings sat on the Iron Throne, but only a few did a good job ruling. The ruler of the Seven Kingdoms should be as involved in the day-to-day of their realm as possible, presiding over each Small Council meeting and staying up-to-date in the continent’s business.

House of the Dragon shows Viserys present in every Small Council meeting, making sure he has the final word. However, Game of Thrones showed the opposite side of the coin, as none of the Baratheon rulers were ever present at the meetings; Robert had no interest in being King, Joffrey was too stupid, and Tommen was too inexperienced. A good ruler should always stay informed on their realm’s difficulties; after all, that is the purpose of the Small Council meetings.

The Ruler Appoints And Dismisses Councilors

Even the most villainous Targaryens were clever enough to understand the importance of having capable people in the Small Council. There are exceptions, like Aegon the Unworthy, who filled his Small Council with sycophants, and Aerys II, who included pyromancers. Still, most Targaryen rulers knew better.

The ruler can appoint and dismiss members of the Small Council as they see fit. The councilors can also quit at their will, although there’s a certain degree of danger, especially if the ruler takes it as a personal slight. It’s not uncommon for rulers to include and dismiss members on a whim; on the contrary, some members serve for years and only abandon their roles upon death.

Councilors Receive The Title Of “Lord” Upon Joining The Small Council

Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon show multiple prominent houses vital to Westerosi politics. Their members receive the title “Lord,” symbolizing their importance and standing in the continent.

Still, some commoners can also achieve the title by belonging to the Small Council. Every character refers to Varys as “Lord” despite his humble origins as a slave from Essos. Although the king does not grant lordship to his Small Council members — mainly because most of them are already Lords — most members of the nobility and the smallfolk still use the title to refer to these powerful men as a sign of respect.

Non-Westerosi Men Can Serve On The Small Council

Although the Small Council is the most powerful institution in Westeros, being of Westerosi descent isn’t actually a requirement for members. Many members come from Essos, adding a layer of intrigue to the already fascinating group.

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Tyanna of the Tower was a courtesan from Pentos who shortly served as Maegor the Cruel’s Mistress of Whispers. Most recently, Varys the Spider, served as Master of Whispers to kings Aegon II, Robert I, Joffrey I, and Tommen I. Bastards can also have positions in the Small Council, with Brynden Rivers, aka Bloodraven, being the most notable example.

Women Can Serve In The Small Council

Westerosi society is sexist and patriarchal. Women don’t have many rights, often relegated to the role of demure wives and devoted mothers. Still, some women rise above their stations, with a select few achieving as much power as the realm’s males.

The scheming Tyanna of the Tower served as Mistress of Whisperers in her lover Maegor the Cruel’s Small Council. She is the only woman officially mentioned as part of the Council, although some queens served as regents while their children came of age, including Alyssa Velaryon and, most recently, Cersei Lannister. Alicent Hightower was an influential figure in her son Aegon II’s Small Council, although she was never an official member.

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