Warning: Post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 and A Song of Ice and Fire.
"You will make kings rise and fall."
— Melisandre to Gendry, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss have taken some liberties in adapting George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series for the screen. Mance Rayder’s death, Sansa’s story in season 5, and pretty much everything having to do with Dorne are markedly different from the source material, and it’s not a stretch to imagine the show has made some alterations we’re not yet aware of.
Gendry, Arya Stark’s best friend and an all-round fan favorite, also underwent changes in the transition from page to screen. In the books, his character remains with the Brotherhood without Banners after Arya is kidnapped by the Hound, and even saves Brienne of Tarth during a fight in A Feast for Crows. In the show, Gendry’s storyline was combined with that of Edric Storm, another of King Robert Baratheon’s bastards. When we last saw him, he was rowing away from Dragonstone after Davos sprung him from prison in the season 3 finale. Should he row back onto our screens this summer, we may learn more surprises about him.
We have one surprise in particular in mind. Today, we explore the theory that Gendry is actually the true-born son of Cersei Lannister.
Her black-haired beauty
In season 1’s “The Kingsroad,” Cersei visits Catelyn Stark during Catelyn’s vigil at the bedside of her son, Brandon, whom Jaime had attempted to murder. She offers her sympathies to Catelyn and speaks of her first born son, a “black-haired beauty” who died shortly after his birth.
This scene marks a rare moment of tenderness for Cersei. She displays all the appearances of grief and gives us no reason to doubt that she had a son with King Robert, and that he died.
In the books, Cersei never mentions any child besides the three she had with Jaime, so we’re restricting ourselves to the show here. Could this child have been Gendry?
To start, Cersei mentions that the baby looked like Robert. The teenaged Gendry we meet also looks like Robert — when Ned Stark meet him in “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things,” he immediately deduces that Gendry is Robert’s son. (The same thing happens when Stannis meets him in “Second Sons.”) Of course, children look like their parents, so that doesn’t prove anything.
Cersei also recalls that she never visited her lost child in his crypt, which seems odd given what a passionate mother she is. Also, Cersei never mentions the child’s name. Could this have been a deliberate move on the part of the writers to keep his identity a secret?
None of this even resembles anything conclusive, but let’s go with it. Supposing Gendry is Cersei’s, why would she send him away, and how did she manage it?
Cersei had a complicated relationship with Robert Baratheon, her king and husband. In “The Wolf and the Lion,” she admits to him that she “felt something for you once, even after we lost our first boy. For quite a while, actually.” Before long, that something was gone, and Cersei renewed her romance with her twin brother Jaime, if she’d ever stopped it.
From then on, the very idea of raising a child that wasn’t Jaime’s is repellant to Cersei. Jaime hints at how far she might go when he speaks to Loras Tyrell at Joffrey’s wedding in “The Lion and the Rose”: “If you were to marry Cersei, she’d murder you in your sleep. If you somehow managed to put a child in her first, she’d murder him, too.”
But Jaime isn’t Cersei, and we have a hard time believing that she, someone who’s proved time and again to be a passionate mother despite her cruel streak, would kill one of her own, at least not after she’s held it in her arms. Cersei herself explains it best when talking to Sansa in “A Man Without Honor.”
"Love no one but your children. On that front a mother has no choice."
But while she may have been willing to carry Robert’s baby to term, that doesn’t mean she wanted to raise it, particularly with her jealous brother and lover around. She would have been faced with two choices: keep the baby and raise him as Robert’s heir, or send the child away and await the birth of his replacement.
Assuming that Cersei wanted to hide Robert’s child from him, how would she do it? During her conversation with Catelyn Stark in “The Kingsroad,” she mentions that Robert Baratheon was present when their son’s body was taken away. “They came to take his body away, and Robert held me…A little bundle.” So how could Cersei have sent her living child away without Robert finding out? Again, we look to Cersei’s conversation with Sansa for insight:
"Whenever my time was near, my royal husband would flee to the trees with his huntsmen and his hounds. And when he returned, he would present me with some pelts or a stag’s head, and I would present him with a baby."
With Robert away hunting and the simpering Maester Pycelle — once her loyal servant — at her disposal, it would have been easy for Cersei to exchange her healthy, living son for a dying one. (Recall that, in A Dance with Dragons, Varys claims to have switched Aegon V Targaryen, Rhaegar’s son, with another baby shortly before the Mountain killed Rhaegar’s family, so infant swaps have happened in this story.) She could present this child to Robert when he returned from the hunt. In the meantime, Cersei’s son would grow up close to the Red Keep where — although Cersei would not be in his life — she could keep an eye on him.
The blacksmith’s apprentice
Gendry grew up as a Fleabottom peasant, yet he managed to land a job with the most prestigious armorer in King’s Landing. How did he come to be noticed by Master Mott?
In A Game of Thrones, we learn that Mott took Gendry on as an apprentice after a mysterious man paid him double the customary apprentice fee. The man concealed his identity, which sounds like something Varys would do. In any case, it’s clear that someone high up was helping Gendry. The question is who.
The most obvious choice is Robert himself.* But Robert never showed much concern for his bastards, at least on the show. In the books, he openly acknowledges Edric Storm, but that’s only because he was born to a noblewoman. He also expresses interest in bringing Mya Stone, who lives in the Vale, to court, but Cersei talks him out of it. Cersei would have had even more power over Robert’s decision-making with regards to his bastards when, like Gendry, they lived in the city. When Ned Stark visits Robert’s bastard daughter, Barra, in Petyr Baelish’s brothel (“The Wolf and the Lion”), it’s made clear that Robert has no interest in her. This also explains why — if Gendry is a true bastard — he was never made aware of father’s identity.
If, however, Gendry is Robert and Cersei’s legitimate son, his mother could have secured his placement. Through Varys or another proxy, she had the power to seek the assistance of Master Mott without having to disclose that Gendry was her son. As for Robert, he either wouldn’t have known of Gendry’s existence or been so overrun with bastard children that Gendry blended in with the rest.
The departure from King’s Landing
Prior to his arrest, Ned Stark visits with Cersei and confirms that he knows the truth of her children’s parentage. (“You Win or You Die.”) After Ned’s death, Stannis spreads that information around the Seven Kingdoms, and Joffrey sends the Gold Cloaks to murder all of his father’s bastards. (“The North Remembers”) Cersei confirms this during a conversation with Tyrion (“The Night Lands”). In between these events, Gendry is sent to join the Night’s Watch for no apparent reason. In “Fire and Blood,” Gendry tells Arya that his master got sick of him and sent him away, which is strange. We know that he is a talented blacksmith, so why would his master send him away? It was wartime, and good steel was needed.
It’s possible that a third party, sensing a purge of Robert’s bastards might be coming, arranged for Gendry’s departure, but who? Ned, Robert and Jon Arryn were all dead. But Cersei, more than anyone, knew what Joffrey was capable of. If she is Gendry’s mother, she could have tried to protect him by instructing Master Mott to send him away. We know that she doesn’t consider the Wall to be a dangerous place and that her attitude towards the Night’s Watch is dismissive (“The Night Lands”). It may well have seemed like a safe destination for her secret son. (In the books, it’s suggested that Cersei herself, rather than Joffrey, ordered the murder of Robert’s bastards. Although Cersei never mentions a black-haired son in the books, that makes Gendry’s conveniently-time exodus from King’s Landing even more mysterious.)
In recent months, spoilers have suggested that Gendry will be back in season 7. Davos freed Gendry from Stannis Baratheon’s dungeons on Dragonstone shortly before Joffrey’s death. Before Gendry rowed away, Davos instructed him to return to King’s Landing (“Valar Morghulis”). We don’t know when or if Gendry got back, but if he returned and Cersei learned of it, she didn’t say anything, distracted as she was with Joffrey’s death. And in any case, it would suit her just fine to know that her secret child was alive and well, but harboring no intentions to claim his right to the throne.
One counterargument to the theory that Cersei is Gendry’s mother involves the prophecy made by Maggy the Frog in “The Wars to Come.” Maggy tells Cersei that the king will have twenty children, and she will have three, which she does: Joffrey, Mrycella, and Tommen. Of course, a cornerstone of prophecies is that they are mutable, depending on the actions of the people they concern. Cersei’s three children may simply refer to the three children that she acknowledged. Whether Gendry is her son or not, he is not her child in name, nor has she made any overtures of acceptance towards him. Her decisions may have fulfilled the terms of the prophecy.
In any case, if Melisandre’s words are true, and Gendry makes kings rise and fall, it is not likely he’ll do so as a lowly bastard. Legitimacy, by birth or by decree, could well lie in his future.
Do you think it’s possible that Gendry could be Cersei’s son? Tell us what you think in the comments.
*Another choice is Jon Arryn, but that doesn’t really help our argument, does it?