When it comes to the big questions on Game of Thrones, the maesters of the Citadel have grossly misused its vast resources. First, Sam Tarly was able to solve the centuries-old mystery of greyscale with a quick dive into the card catalog. Then, he discovered a convenient cache of the one weapon that Jon Snow needs to defeat the White Walkers after working his magic on a Citadel index. And now, a wildling woman who just learned how to read has found a crucial bit of marital history that could remake the course of Westerosi history. As LeVar Burton might say to the maesters, “Take a look, it’s in a book!”
In Sunday’s episode, “Eastwatch,” Gilly joined the ranks of women all around the world when she was interrupted and ignored after making a big discovery. Paging through a book Sam had pilfered from the Citadel library, she found a remarkably detailed set of records written by a former High Septon. “This High Septon Maynard, he recorded everything. He even recorded his own bowel movements,” she said before stopping on a particular passage. “Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for a Prince ‘Ragger’ and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne. Is that a common thing in the South or …”
Cue Sam’s very ill-timed rant about maesters and shits and the sad state of being a rich white guy at an elite university. If he just listened to her, they’d be on the verge of a world-changing revelation! You see, tucked away in Gilly’s find is a piece of crucial information that could shape Westeros for years to come.
To understand why, we’ve got to dig into Westeros’s complex rules of inheritance and succession. You’ve probably heard of R+L=J, but if not, here’s the gist: In season six, GOT essentially confirmed that Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This means that Daenerys is Jon’s aunt, but as the direct descendant of King Aerys Targaryen’s male heir, Jon would technically be first in line for the Iron Throne. If Jon is Rhaegar and Lyanna’s bastard, though, Dany may have greater claim to the crown since trueborn children take precedence.
Only two people in Westeros definitely know the truth about Jon’s parentage: Bran, who witnesses visions of his father’s famed battle at the Tower of Joy (where Lyanna died in childbirth); and Howland Reed, who fought alongside Ned in that battle. It’s unclear if anyone else knows, although Meera Reed, Bran’s former companion and Howland’s daughter, might have been made aware of the story after Bran witnessed it in one of his visions.
One thing is for sure, though: This report of an annulment is completely new. It seems that nobody in Westeros knew about it before Gilly’s discovery, even though it could play a vital role in determining whether Jon or Daenerys has true claim to the Iron Throne.
It’s certainly possible that while Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell, he kidnapped Lyanna, imprisoned her in the Tower of Joy, and there raped her, with the rape resulting in Jon Snow’s birth. But Gilly’s discovery suggests that Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia and then married Lyanna. Recall that when Ned and Howland attempted to rescue Lyanna, she used her dying breath to whisper something in Ned’s ear — something we never heard — and then said, “You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.” It’s pretty clear that she told him about Jon’s parentage, but did she also admit the truth about her relationship with Rhaegar? Did she reveal they actually married before Jon was born?
If so, that would mean Jon is a bona fide, trueborn Targaryen. Which means that he isn’t just the rightful king of Westeros, but also that the receipts exist to prove it … if Bran ever spills the beans about the Tower of Joy and Sam starts listening to Gilly, that is.