Kidnapping a King’s Son, “Kidnapping” Tyrion: The Armagnac-Burgundian War continued


On the left, the French dauphin, who has a curiously “imp “or gnome-like appearance.  On the right, Ser Rodrik Cassel, Tyrion (in the background), and Catelyn Stark – after Catelyn “kidnaps” or detains Tyrion. © HBO.

One key episode that led to war between the Armagnac/Orleans and Burgundian parties was the kidnapping of the king’s heir, which caused Burgundy and Orleans’ relationship to disintegrate.  Curiously, one of the key episodes that derailed the Stark-Lannister relationship was Catelyn Stark’s “arrest” or “kidnapping” of Tyrion for allegedly attempting to kill Bran. [This article is continued from here.]

In August 1405, John of Burgundy – unhappy with his fading power and diminishing payments — marched for Paris with an 800-man army. John’s plan was to reignite the conflict and, as a result, strong-arm the feeble king into restoring his power and fortunes. His plan took the city of Paris to the brink of war.


Charles VI as a young king

John’s attempts to pressure the king failed miserably. On August 16 or 17, Charles the Mad slipped back into insanity — before John had even arrived in Paris and made his demands known.

With few cards left to play, John audaciously rolled the dice. He decided to seize the eight-year old dauphin (heir to the throne), Louis of Guyenne. Isabeau, however, feared for her children’s safety in the face of John’s approaching army and sent for the boy and his bride. As soon as John heard this news, he immediately turned his army away from Paris and marched to intercept them. Once John caught up with the dauphin’s party in the town of Juvisy, he captured the boy and his bride and took them to Paris.

As soon as John arrived in Paris, the Royal Council made him hand over the dauphin to John Duke of Berry.


John, Duke of Berry loved art so much he died deeply in debt.

John was quite aware that kidnapping the dauphin was a very serious crime – not so much because it was kidnapping but because it violated a royal ordinance that officially granted the children to Isabeau.

Consequently, the day John took the dauphin, he wrote a letter justifying his actions and sent it out to the cities of France. In the letter, he feigned ignorance about the king falling ill and tried to make it sound like Isabeau did not summon her children because she feared him. The Royal Council met the night John wrote the letter and forbade anyone from joining either his side or that of Louis.

John also called for reform, a move the city of Paris appreciated. John’s list of grievances went to Parlement, who merely went through the motions of reading them but did little else.


Louis of Orleans

On August 25th fortune’s wheel spun once again: the King regained his sanity (and would remain sentient for roughly a month). This ratcheted up the political tension: the Council and Orleans now fretted John would be able to convince the king — living alone in Paris without his wife and brother Louis — of his point of view1 .

By now, John and Louis’ feud was more than just a political crisis between two powerful lords. The Council was gravely concerned about Parisian lives and safety. Both men had armies outside the city walls. If armed conflict started between Burgundian and Orléanist troops, it could cause untold casualties of civilian bystanders – especially if they did so inside the city walls. The Council named John Duke of Berry captain general of Paris. He ordered the locks on the city gates changed and the gates closed. Berry made sure the king’s army was waiting on stand-by, ready to defend the city.

When September arrived, people’s fears of war only grew as tension between Orleans and Burgundy mounted. More troops – from both sides — began pouring into the area outside the city. By September 2nd, Louis of Orleans sent a furious letter to Parlement denouncing John as a lawless thug and accusing him of trying to gain control over the king.


Paris in 1409. Detail of Pierre Salmon authoring his book to Charles VI.  Image: BnF ms fr 23279, fol.53.

Not unlike a medieval arms’ race, each man’s preparations for war fed into the other’s fears. By mid-September, John raised more troops. Once Louis heard, he readied his men for an attack. When John learned of this on September 19, he prepared his own men for a strike. Shortly afterward, John called upon the people of Paris to join his side and take up arms against Orleans2 . This too fell flat.

On September 24, city leaders announced they would not join Burgundy’s side. They also pointedly reminded Burgundy they only answered to the king or dauphin.3 The Parisian bourgeoisie had the same reaction that they would guard their city and that was all. In other words, the people supported John’s grievances (“reforms”), but they were not willing to die for him.

As September drew to a close, so too did Burgundy’s chances at success. The horrific expense of keeping an army for nearly two months was wreaking havoc on Burgundy’s finances. Negotiations for disarmament began.


Christine de Pisan presents Queen Isabeau with a book. Christine wrote a passionate letter to Isabeau urging peace.

Around this time, the author Christine de Pisan wrote a letter to Queen Isabeau warning her about the dangerous distraction of the conflict between the “Valois Princes of the Blood” (Orleans and Burgundy). Christine urged Isabeau to “heal the sickness and division in the kingdom” by acting as a mediator. She warned, “the kingdom will be destroyed if it is divided amongst itself… with the heirs and children of the noble blood of France pillaging the kingdom.4

Spurred on by Christine’s letter and authorized by the Royal Council, Isabeau began to mediate the dispute between Burgundy and Orleans in October 1405. War was averted but only temporarily.

Similarities to Catelyn’s Kidnapping of Tyrion

Although Catelyn’s seizure of Tyrion does not mirror the dauphin’s kidnapping exactly, there are enough similarities that it seems possible the dauphin’s kidnapping inspired George RR Martin.

After Bran survives his fall from the tower, an assassin slips into his room intending to stab him with a dagger. Catelyn Stark — and Bran’s direwolf Summer — stop the killer. Catelyn sets out for King’s Landing where, in Little Finger’s brothel, she learns Tyrion once owned the dagger. Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel decide to return to Winterfell. They stop at the Inn at the Crossroads where they intercept Tyrion, who is en route to King’s Landing.

summer-blood-got Catspaw dagger tyrion-inn
Images: © HBO

In the tavern at the Inn at the Crossroads — an apt metaphor since each family is at the crossroads of their relationship — Catelyn reminds her father’s bannermen of their oaths of allegiance and then addresses them:

“This man, came into my house as a guest, and there conspired to murder my son, a boy of ten. In the name of King Robert and the good lords you serve,  I call upon you to seize him and help me return him to Winterfell to await the king’s justice”

The men simultaneously draw their swords on Tyrion and help Catelyn detain him.

Is this a legal arrest? Could a noble just seize another noble in Westeros? I’m  not sure, but from the Lannister’s perspective it  is tantamount to kidnapping. Although Tyrion is not the king’s heir (like the French dauphin), Tyrion is the heir to the man who is effectively the king: Tywin Lannister. (Jaime stopped being the Lannister heir when he joined the Kingsguard)

Seizing Tyrion launches a cascading series of events with terrible consequences. While Tyrion is in custody, the Lannisters retaliate by attacking Ned Stark, which escalates the tension between the two families.



  1. Tracy Adams p.173 []
  2. Adams p. 174 []
  3. Pintoin 3:340 in Adams p. 174 []
  4. Christine de Pisan as quoted in Anne Curry The Hundred Years’ War: 1337-1453 p. 82 []

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

1 Comment

  • Reply April 4, 2014


    Legality seems pretty definitely to be more malleable and more reliant on power in the series, but it might technically be legal. He is accused of attempted murder, a clear crime, and Catelyn is invoking a legal right to demand that those soldiers assist her in arresting him so that he can be made to stand trial.

    Where it starts to lose legal strength and become just a blood vendetta is that her evidence of this is extremely weak, based purely on a dagger, and that she wants him taken to Winterfell. Perhaps she could make an argument that justice couldn’t be gotten at Kingslanding with Lannister dominance, but it wouldn’t be at all practical to have real legal justice carried out at Winterfell, one of the locations furthest away from the Iron Throne and other institutions of criminal punishment.

    And just as Catelyn basically used the power of her family connections to seize him, we’ll see that the ability of the Iron Throne to compel restraint and law-abiding behavior is slim at best with Tywin Lannister openly sending his forces to rip their way through the Riverlands in retaliation, the ease of which they do this something that probably would have started a civil war soon anyway even if Robert had lived longer and Joffrey was his legitimate heir.

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