Robert’s Rebellion, also known as the War of the Usurper (SSC), was sparked by the apparent abduction of Lyanna Stark by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (I: 36, II: 582). However, the roots of the rebellion were first planted at the tournament at Harrenhal in the year of the false spring when Eddard Stark was 18 years of age. Having won the tournament, Prince Rhaegar laid the winter rose crown of the queen of beauty in Lyanna’s lap rather than that of his wife, the Dornish Princess Elia (I: 526). The only Starks present at Harrenhal were Brandon, Eddard, Lyanna, and Benjen (III: 281). This action, which caused some scandal, was taken poorly by those who might be concerned about Rhaegar’s intentions towards Lyanna Stark. According to GRRM, he believed it took place a year or two prior to the beginning of the war (SSC), although he was clear about not being certain. Two years seem impossible, as the war itself lasted a year, meaning a span of three years would have passed; but Jaime Lannister was 15 at Harrenhal and either 17 or very nearly so at the time of the Sack. One year is not impossible, however, especially given the uncertainty as to when the beginning of the war is dated. Another notable event which would impact the war was the entry of Ser Jaime Lannister into the Kingsguard at Aerys’s command (to replace Ser Harlan Grandison, who died in his sleep [III: 128]), which had led Lord Tywin Lannister—his Hand for many years—to resign his office (III: 129).
At some point after the tournament (SSR), Brandon Stark’s impending marriage to Catelyn Tully is announced. Littlefinger challenges him for her hand, despite being "scarcely" 15 to Brandon’s 20 (I: 141). Catelyn herself would be late 17 or early 18, while her sister would be approximately 15 or 16 years of age (I: 314, 661). Brandon defeated Littlefinger, leaving him sorely wounded; Lysa Tully helped to tend to him until Lord Hoster could send him away (I: 141, 367). At some point, possibly immediately after the duel, Brandon swore he would return to Catelyn soon from some errand that would not keep him long (I: 581).
There is some gap following this point, possibly several months long, during which it’s probable that Rhaegar’s son Aegon was born some time prior to this, as he would be roughly a year old at his death (KLQ). The next we hear of Brandon is that he was on his way to Riverrun (possibly after having gone back to Winterfell, as it is mentioned that Rickard and two hundred of Winterfell’s swords had come south with him never to return [I: 401]) to wed Catelyn when he learned of Lyanna (II: 582). Having heard the news of Lyanna’s apparent abduction, Brandon rode south to King’s Landing with several companions: his squire Ethan Glover, Jon Arryn’s nephew and heir Elbert Arryn, Kyle Royce, and Jeffory Mallister (II: 582). Brandon and his companions shouted for Rhaegar to show himself and die not knowing that Rhaegar was not there. This lead the king to arrest them on the charge of plotting to murder Rhaegar (II: 582).
The fathers of those who stood accused were summoned and were killed with their sons, with only Ethan Glover surviving (II: 582). Rickard and Brandon were executed at the same time, Rickard being roasted in his armor by pyromancers (including the pyromancer Rossart [III: 418]) while Brandon strangled himself to death attempting to save his father while at least some of the Kingsguard (Ser Jaime Lannister and the Lord Commander, Ser Gerold Hightower) looked on (II: 582, 583). Brandon was only 20 years old at his death, placing it at less than a year after his duel with Littlefinger. He was to have married Catelyn only a few short days afterwards (I: 20).
King Aerys followed his murders by demanding that Lord Arryn give him the heads of Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark (I: 21), suggesting that they were present (or at least believed to be present) in the Vale at this time. Jon Arryn refused and raised the banners of rebellion, which touched off fighting in the Vale and other regions (SSC), which may be considered the official beginning of the war. It can be assumed that once able, both Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon departed the Vale for their lands to raise their own banners. The young Lord Eddard disappears for a time, and the next we hear of Lord Robert is his three battles in a day at Summerhall (III: 408, 606, 607), where he defeated the royalist stormlords Fell, Cafferen, and and Grandison in succession as they each came to Summerhall to join their separate forces. Robert slew Lord Fell in single combat and defeated his famous son, Silveraxe. Silveraxe and the surviving Lords Cafferen and Grandison soon became fast friends with Robert. It is probable that these battles took place little more than a month or two after his departure from the Vale.
It is likely that the efforts of these three minor lords were spurred on by Aerys’s Hand, the elderly Lord Merryweather, who had been chosen for that office after Lord Tywin Lannister renounced it. Lord Merryweather treated the rebellion as a minor matter and never stirred out of King’s Landing, only to see it boil over into a greater conflagration (III: 418. SSC). Believing Lord Merryweather so ineffectual as to possibly be doing it to aid the rebellion, he was stripped of his lands and titles and exiled (II: 41), where he was to die in penury. Lord Jon Connington, a companion of Rhaegar’s, was Aerys’s next Hand and would prove to be more active and a much greater threat to Robert’s rebellion (SSC). However, before Lord Connington’s forces appear on the scene, Lord Robert is next said to battle the Tyrells at Ashford (III: 211). He was defeated there for the first time, largely due to Lord Randyll Tarly and the van he led as the main host was slow arrive. The victory was indecisive, however, as Robert escaped the battlefield (although others, such as Lord Cafferen who was cut down by Randyll Tarly and Ser Quentin Tyrell on Mace’s side, did not [III: 408, 884, 963]).
It is an open source of speculation why Robert might have been so far afield from the stormlands. One possibility is that he was fighting to secure a firm border (in this case, the Cockleswent, whose fording Ashford commanded) against the Reach, suggesting that he intended to hold to his lands as his base of operations. If this is the case, there must have been a number of other battles between Robert and royalists forces in the stormlands. There is reason to doubt this, however, as the pace of events seems to suggest that there was no time for Robert to linger in the stormlands before he appears next at the Battle of the Bells.
Another possibility, which can be reconciled with the speculated timeline handily, was that he was seeking to delay coming to grips with the Tyrells forces by seizing Ashford and forcing them to march around the Cockleswent to engage him. This would allow him to continue westwards towards a crossing of the Mander with the intent of continuing northwards to join his forces with those of Lords Stark and Arryn, something which (by the Battle of the Bells) was clearly his objective (III: 327). This may have been motivated in part by the news that Lord Connington was gathering royal forces at King’s Landing and would seek to act in concert with the Tyrells to bottle Robert up in the stormlands. It’s unclear whether Robert actually held Ashford at the time of the battle, but he may have been besieging it when Lord Tarly’s van came upon him faster than he (and Lord Tyrell, it seems) expected.
It is unclear as to what the proximity of events are, but it seems probable that after this victory the Tyrell host advanced directly on Storm’s End, as we know that the siege of Storm’s End lasted roughly a year (I: 233); if there had been months more of battle in the stormlands before this this could not, in fact, be the case. Stannis Baratheon, Robert’s brother, was left to hold the castle against this besieging force led by Lord Mace Tyrell and his good-brother Lord Paxter Redwyne, whose fleet cordoned off Storm’s End from the sea (II: 8-9). Young Renly Baratheon was also present at Storm’s End during the siege (II: 365). That the Tyrell host went on to a siege suggests that Robert’s escape was one that they could not pursue, either because they were directed otherwise or because Robert’s force was merely too fast. Whatever the case may have been, it seems probable that Lord Connington and his host took up the chase. It’s possible that a sort of running battle was fought between the two hosts, which would explain Robert’s injuries by the time his forces reached Stoney Sept with Lord Connington nipping at his heels (III: 327).
With Robert being tended by friends in the town, Lord Connington’s large host stormed the walls and began to search house by house for him. However, before he could find Lord Robert, Lord Stark and Lord Tully led their forces and besieged the besiegers. The precise reason for Lord Hoster’s entry into the conflict is unclear, given that Lady Catelyn suggests that the betrothal of Lord Arryn and Lysa Tully was not arranged until after the death of his cousin (III: 32). It may be that Lord Arryn at least entered negotiations along these lines to recieve Lord Hoster’s temporary support, with Lord Hoster assuming that he could always turn royalist and recieve a pardon. Given Robert’s certainty that Lord Eddard won the battle for him, however, it may be that Eddard Stark played a more pivotal role—perhaps by asking for help on the basis of his intention to wed Catelyn Tully.
Lord Connington fought back fiercely, leading the septons of the town to ring their bells, from which the name the Battle of the Bells come from. Robert came out of hiding and killed half a dozen men that day, including Ser Myles Mooton, a famous champion and friend and former squire of Prince Rhaegar. Lord Connington gravely wounded Lord Hoster and slew Ser Denys Arryn, Lord Arryn’s cousin and and "the darling of the Vale" (III: 32, 327). Connington escaped without ever having come to grips with Robert himself, but was promptly stripped of his lands and titles and sent into exile as Lord Merryweather had been. In the aftermath, Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jonothor Darry of the Kingsguard were dispatched from King’s Landing to gather what they could of Lord Connington’s scattered forces while Prince Rhaegar returned from the south to take up command of the royalist forces (III: 418). Prince Lewyn of Dorne was ordered to take command of the 10,000 Dornishmen coming up the kingsroad who had been sent grudgingly by Prince Doran, as the Dornish did not appreciate how Elia had been treated by Rhaegar (SSC). King Aerys used Lewyn’s niece, Princess Elia, as a hostage to insure his loyalty. Rhaegar convinced King Aerys to swallow his pride and summon Lord Tywin Lannister to his aid (III: 418. ).
All of these events likely took place not much more than within four or five months after the deaths of Rickard and Brandon Stark. Retiring to Riverrun, it seems clear that Lord Arryn negotiated with Lord Hoster to win his full-fledged support in the rebellion, with the price being his marriage to the young Lysa Tully whose fertility has been proven when she claimed to be carrying Petyr Baelish’s child (III: 913) which Lord Hoster promptly made her abort (III: 32). With Lord Eddard fulfilling his brother’s obligation to Catelyn Tully, Lords Stark and Arryn became brothers through their marriages to Lord Hoster’s two daughters (I: 21). Lord Eddard stayed with his new bride long enough to see her conceive and then returned to the war (I: 54-55).
Following this there seems to be a great, lengthy undocumented period before the Battle of the Trident. This period may have lasted as much as seven months. Presumably, royalist forces—including riverlords who refused to follow Lord Tully in supporting Robert’s rebellion, such as Ryger, Darry (who would lose three sons of its lord in the war [I: 129]), Mooton, and Goodbrook (I: 241. III: 497)—continued to fight throughout the Seven Kingdoms (except Dorne, where the only fighting may have been minor border skirmishes [SSC], and presumably the Iron Islands which are never spoken of as having been involved to any degree) against those who supported the rebels). It may have been decided by the rebel leaders to await the coming of Rhaegar’s reconstituted force in one final, great battle. Some point during this time, King Aerys began plotting with the pyromancers to lay stocks of wildfire throughout the city so as to destroy it if all seemed lost, a brutal and petulant act that would kill hundreds of thousands for no better reason than to spite Robert; though the possibility is raised that Aerys, the Mad King, believed the wildfire would turn him into a dragon (II: 511. III: 418-419). When his latest Hand, Lord Chelsted, learned of these plans and objected so forcefully that he threw down his chain of office, Aerys had him seized and burned alive in wildfire. Rossart, one of Aerys’s pyromancers and complicit in the plot, was eventually made Hand and took the style of lord (III: 418) but only held that office for a fortnight.
Whatever the case may be, we know that near the end of the war Ser Gawen Wylde and three other men attempted to exit Storm’s End through the postern gate (II: 365-366). They were caught and, rather than being flung off the walls with catapults, they were held captive on the possibility that the garrison (already desperate for food after exhausting its supply of food, including horses, cats, and dogs [I: 8]) would be reduced to eating human flesh to survive. Fortunately, Davos Seaworth, a notorious smuggler, slipped through the Redwyne fleet’s lines and entered Storm’s End with a ship loaded with onions and salt fish. For his crimes, Lord Stannis removed a joint from each of the fingers of one of his hands, but for his great deed Stannis raised him to knighthood after the siege was ended and gave him lands and a small keep on the Cape of Wrath (II: 9). These events likely preceded the Battle of the Trident, or at least the Sack of King’s Landing.
The next major event was the Battle of the Trident, fought at what would come to be called the ruby ford. The rebel host was smaller than the royal host, which included contingents from the Reach and Dorne and was said to have numbered 40,000 strong with a tenth of them being knights and the rest archers, freeriders, and foot (I: 326), but the rebels were more "battle-tested" (SSC). There Robert and Rhaegar fought one another in single combat while battle raged around them. When Robert drove his warhammer through Rhaegar’s ruby-encrusted breastplate, members of both armies rushed to collect fallen rubies from the river while the rest of Rhaegar’s forces routed (I: 25, 36, 96).
Among the dead on the royalist side were two of the three Kingsguard present (Ser Jonothor Darry [SSC] and Prince Lewyn Martell [SSC]) and numerous bannermen (including three cut down by Lord Jason Mallister [I: 247]). Ser Barristan Selmy was so grievously wounded that he might have died of his wounds had Robert not sent his own maester to treat him, even though he had cut down a dozen lords and knights at the battle and men like Lord Bolton argued that his throat should be cut (I: 295). Lord Grandison, who had once fought against Robert, was wounded at the Trident while fighting for his cause and died of that wound a year later (III: 884). Having been wounded by Rhaegar, Robert gave command of the pursuit of the routing forces to Lord Eddard, with the goal of his beginning the siege of King’s Landing which was believed to be held by several thousand men (I: 96). Lord Walder Frey’s host joined the rebels well after the battle was won, after having spent the previous year aloof from the war (I: 241).
When news of Rhaegar’s death and the defeat of the royalists reached King’s Landing, the newly-pregnant Queen Rhaella and her son Prince Viserys were sent to Dragonstone (I: 25). Princess Elia and Rhaegar’s children, including his heir Prince Aegon, were kept at King’s Landing by King Aerys, however, due to his paranoid belief that Prince Lewyn must have betrayed Rhaegar on the Trident and that if he let them go out of his grasp Dorne would do the same to him (III: 419).
Before Lord Stark’s host could arrive outside of the city, a host 12,000 strong led by Tywin Lannister appeared outside of the city. Lord Tywin claimed to have finally answered Aerys’s summons after ignoring it for a year (I: 96). Grand Maester Pycelle convinced the paranoid King Aerys to throw open his gates, even though Lord Varys argued against it (II: 301. III: 419). What followed was the brutal Sack of King’s Landing, as the Lannister troops slaughtered, looted, and burned their way through the city while Lord Tywin rode for the Red Keep with the intent of taking hold of it (II: 96). The king ordered the pyromancers to destroy the city and commanded Ser Jaime to bring him his own father’s head, but he decided to refuse the order (III: 130). Instead, Ser Jaime sought out and killed Rossart as he tried to slip out of the Red Keep to carry out the king’s orders, and then he came upon the king in the throne room and murdered him. The final moments of this deed were witnessed by several Lannister bannermen who had burst into the room, as the Lannisters had somehow (perhaps through treachery) gotten into the Red Keep with little delay (III: 130, 418-419).
Ser Jaime seated himself on the Iron Throne to await who might come to the throne room (III: 130). He was unaware of the fact that Princess Elia and her children, whom he had sworn to keep safe before Rhaegar departed the city, were in mortal danger. Ser Amory Lorch and Ser Gregor Clegane were scaling the walls of Maegor’s Holdfast, following Lord Tywin’s command to find Rhaegar’s children and murder them (III: 130, 594-595). Princess Rhaenys was found hiding under a bed by Lorch. When he dragged her out, she kicked him and would not stop screaming, which led to his stabbing her half a hundred times (I: 531. III: 130, 594-595). Ser Gregor was even worse, when he found Princess Elia with Aegon. He pulled the child away and dashed his skull against a wall before raping, and then murdering, the Dornish princess (I: 263). Lord Tywin later claimed that he not thought to give any orders regarding Elia, and had not intended for her to die (III: 594). It appears that even as this was taking place, Lord Stark’s host had arrived and he himself appears to have entered the Red Keep only a short time after Aerys’s murder (III: 131). Riding through the city and even into the throne room, Lord Eddard confronted Ser Jaime, who laughed about his being seated on the Iron Throne and removed himself from it (I: 97). In the following days, Ser Jaime later hunted down and killed the other two pyromancers, Belis and Garigus, who were principals in the wildfire plot (III: 419). To those knights who had defended the city, Lord Tywin offered the choice of death or joining the Wall—many men, such as Ser Jaremy Rykker and Ser Alliser Thorne, took the latter option (I: 172).
When Robert arrived in the city, he formally seized it and preparations began for his coronation. At his coronation, which preceeded Dragonstone by many months, Robert had Grand Maester Pycelle, Lord Varys, and Ser Jaime kneel before him and asked Robert’s forgiveness before they could enter his service (II: 583). Lord Eddard had argued that Ser Jaime be made to take the black for his crimes but Lord Arryn prevailed on Robert to retain him (III: 411). Ser Barristan Selmy was made the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard (III: 752). Then, Lord Tywin submitted himself to him. As a token of his fealty, he displayed the bodies of Elia and the dead Targaryen children (I: 93, 403-404). Robert was glad of their deaths, causing a quarrel with Lord Eddard which briefly left the friends estranged from one another. Ultimately, Lord Eddard departed the city in a cold rage, to lift the siege of Storm’s End and fight the last battles of the war (I: 93-94).
The reachlords bent the knee when Eddard arrived (I: 355), and it seems likely that not long after this Lord Stannis joined his brother, as he was to be given command of raising a new royal fleet and using it to take Dragonstone, the last Targaryen stronghold (I: 25. II: 10-11). From here, it seems Lord Eddard went to the place that Rhaegar called "the tower of joy" near the Red Mountains of Dorne where Lord Commander Gerold Hightower, Ser Arthur Dayne, and Ser Oswell Whent were waiting. Lord Eddard had brought only his close companions—Ser Mark Ryswell, Lord Dustin, Theo Wull, Howland Reed, Martyn Cassel, and Brandon’s former squire Ethan Glover (I: 354-355). Only Lord Eddard and Howland Reed survived the fight that ensued (I: 356). Entering the tower, Lord Eddard found Lyanna Stark in her "bed of blood", dying (I: 354). She begged him to make her a promise, which he did (I: 35, 355), although what that promise was is still open for speculation; many believe it related to a child that Lyanna may have had. Lyanna’s death reconciled Eddard and Robert in their shared grief (I: 94).
Pulling the tower down so that the stones could be used for cairns for the fallen (I: 356), Lord Eddard rode to Starfall, the seat of the Daynes, to return the legendary greatsword Dawn to Ser Arthur’s sister, Lady Ashara, whom it was rumored Lord Eddard had fallen in love with at the Harrenhal tournament (I: 55. III: 495-496). Lady Ashara is said to have leapt to her death from the Palestone Sword, a tower of Starfall, after this but her body was never recovered (III: 495. SSC). All that remained to close the war was to take Dragonstone, which harbored Aerys’s queen and her son. However, Queen Rhaella died giving birth to Daenerys during a terrible storm almost precisely nine months after the death of Rhaegar and the Sack of King’s Landing. With the remnants of the Targaryen fleet destroyed outside of Dragonstone by the same storm that heralded Princess Daenerys’s birth and Lord Stannis approaching with his fleet, guardsmen of the citadel were ready to sell the Targaryen children to Lord Stannis (I: 25). However, Ser Willem Darry (master-at-arms of the Red Keep and the brother of the late Ser Jonothor Darry [III: 91. SSC]) and four loyal men fled with them to Braavos and its safety (I: 25). Afterwards, Stannisb was rewardedy Robert with Dragonstone for his own seat, perhaps because it needed a strong hand to rule it, and clearly with the intention of indicating that Stannis was Robert’s heir until he had a son. However, Stannis took this as a slight instead, denying him the far grander and richer Storm’s End that he believed ought to have been his (II: 11, 294).
Lord Eddard would eventually return to the North after his reconciliation with Robert, a few months after they last saw one another, now that they were united in their shared grief at Lyanna’s death (I: 94). Startlingly, he would bring with him a child, Jon Snow, whom he claimed as his son. The child was born eight or nine months prior to Daenerys Targaryen (SSC), and Lord Stark seems to guard the identity of his mother (I: 55). However, to Robert he has apparently claimed that Jon Snow’s mother is named Wylla, who appears to be a serving woman and nursemaid for the Daynes (I: 92. III: 494). Jon Snow and his wet nurse were already installed in Winterfell by the time Lady Catelyn came there with her firstborn, Robb Stark (I: 55). Benjen Stark, Lord Eddard’s only surviving sibling who had stayed in Winterfell throughout the war (based on Eddard’s maxim that "there must always be a Stark in Winterfell"[I: 53]), joined the Watch shortly afterwards (SSC and SSC).
Lord Jon Arryn had become Robert’s Hand (I: 37)—possibly immediately upon Robert’s coronation—and at some point convinced him to wed the beautiful Cersei Lannister to bind that powerful house to him (I: 260). Robert’s youngest brother Renly, who was still a child, was given the ancestral lands and rule of Storm’s End (II: 11). In Dorne, Prince Oberyn Martell plotted to raise a revolt to avenge the murders of Elia and her children, but a visit from Lord Arryn to the Red Viper’s elder brother Prince Doran put an end to that (III: 593). Some loyalist houses such as Darry, Connington, and Merryweather found themselves greatly reduced in wealth, lands, and influence—the Darrys were stripped of more than half their lands and most of their wealth (III: 918), the Conningtons were given back their castle but little more (SSC), and the Merryweathers were restored their lands and titles but not their sizable treasury (SSC). Lord Goodbrook’s son, who had ascended to the rule of his ancestral lands, reconciled himself with Lord Hoster (III: 497).