Cersei Lannister

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Cersei Lannister
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
First appearance Novel:
A Game of Thrones (1996)
"Winter Is Coming" (2011)
Video game:
"Iron From Ice" (2014)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Lena Headey
Nell Williams (young)
Game of Thrones
Aliases Light of the West
Title Queen of the Andals
Lady Paramount of the Westerlands
Lady of Casterly Rock
Family House Lannister
House Baratheon
Spouse(s) Robert Baratheon
Children Joffrey Baratheon
Myrcella Baratheon
Tommen Baratheon
(with Jaime)
Relatives Tywin Lannister (father)
Joanna Lannister (mother)
Jaime Lannister (twin brother/lover)
Tyrion Lannister (brother)
Kingdom The Westerlands
The Crownlands

Cersei Lannister is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by American author George R R Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. She becomes a prominent point of view character in the novels beginning with the 2005 fourth installment A Feast for Crows.

Cersei is portrayed by Lena Headey on the HBO series Game of Thrones. Headey received Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

In season 5, a young version of the character is portrayed by Nell Williams in flashbacks.

Character description[edit]

Introduced in 1996's A Game of Thrones, Cersei is the politically ambitious, manipulative and willful eldest child of Lord Tywin Lannister and Lady Joanna. She is the twin sister of Ser Jaime Lannister, with whom she shares an incestuous relationship. According to George R. R. Martin, Jaime is the only person she truly loves apart from her children. Fifteen years before the events of the series, Cersei married King Robert Baratheon to seal an alliance between House Lannister and the throne and so became Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but she neither loves nor respects Robert after years of abuse and violence. The contempt she feels towards her husband stems from the woman he was first betrothed to and was in love with, Lyanna Stark. She has three children, but all three are fathered by Jaime rather than Robert although all carry the surname Baratheon and are heirs to the throne. In her role, Cersei proves herself to be cunning in handling political turmoil. However, as the series progresses, her incompetencies become more conspicuous. Cersei grows increasingly paranoid and unstable, believing her younger dwarf brother, Tyrion, to be the center of all of her problems after being haunted by a prophecy in her childhood that described the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) who would end her life. Described as having classic Lannister looks, Cersei is seen as strikingly beautiful with her green eyes, golden blonde hair, slender figure and fair skin however, as of A Feast For Crows she has begun to gain weight as a result of alcohol abuse.


A coat of arms showing a golden lion on a red field
Coat of arms of House Lannister

A Game of Thrones[edit]

At the beginning of the novel, King Robert Baratheon, his queen Cersei and most of the court visit The North to appoint Ned Stark Hand of the King. During the royal visit to Winterfell, the young Bran Stark finds the queen committing incest with her brother Jaime Lannister. To prevent her adultery from being revealed, her brother attempts to kill Bran but is unsuccessful.

Cersei and Robert have a loveless marriage, their union being a marriage of state to bind two wealthy houses together. Both Cersei and Robert repeatedly cheat on each other, with Robert fathering sixteen bastard children, and Cersei pretending that her children are Robert's. In reality, all of Robert's presumed heirs with Cersei have been fathered by Jaime. Ned Stark eventually discovers the truth of Cersei's infidelity and confronts her, giving her the opportunity to flee into exile and thus spare her innocent children certain execution. However unbeknownst to Ned, Cersei had already arranged Robert's death in a hunting accident. With the help of Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark (unknowingly), Cersei foils Ned's attempted coup and becomes Regent, gaining complete control of the capital.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

Frustrated with Cersei's many political blunders as well as her failure to control her son, King Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei's father, Tywin Lannister appoints his son Tyrion Lannister Hand of the King with explicit instructions to control Cersei and Joffrey. Once at the capital, Tyrion enters into a bitter power struggle with Cersei, methodically removing her supporters from positions of power and isolating her on the Small Council of the king's advisers.

When Stannis Baratheon, Robert's younger brother, marches on King's Landing, Cersei and Joffrey hide in a fortified tower, leaving Tyrion to mastermind the defense of the city. Just as Stannis is about to breach the gates, Tywin arrives and drives Stannis from the city. There, Tywin formally assumes his position as Hand of the King, once again marginalizing Cersei and depriving her of her power to rule as Joffrey's regent.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

After formally assuming his position as Hand of the King, Tywin makes it clear to Cersei that she is no longer welcome on Small Council meetings, de facto stripping her of her political authority. Furthermore, as a condition of their alliance with House Tyrell, Joffrey is to marry Margaery Tyrell with Cersei being shipped off to the Tyrell seat of Highgarden to marry Willas Tyrell. Cersei is incensed by these developments, frustrated that not only has she lost her power in the capital, but also lost control over her own life by a succession of forced marriages.

This state of affairs is shaken when Joffrey is poisoned at his wedding feast. Maddened with grief at the loss of her eldest son, Cersei lashes out against Tyrion, accusing him of poisoning the king out of revenge. Cersei manipulates Tyrion's trial to ensure a guilty verdict, bribing and intimidating witnesses. When Tyrion demands a trial by combat, Cersei selects the imposing Gregor Clegane, "The Mountain," as the Crown's champion. The Mountain prevails, killing Tyrion's champion. Tywin then pronounces Tyrion guilty and sentences him to death, but Tyrion escapes prison with the help of his brother Jaime and kills Tywin. Cersei is once again in complete control of the kingdom.

A Feast for Crows[edit]

With the death of her father and her son Joffrey, Cersei de facto rules the kingdom. Her second child, Tommen Baratheon is crowned king but is widely considered weak, signing every decree that passes in front of him. However she is ruling a kingdom on the brink of ruin. The huge losses suffered by House Lannister in the war combined with the wartime disruptions to trade and harvest mean that the ruling House Lannister is dependent on resources from House Tyrell. The Tyrells leverage this position and begin to build power in the capital, much to Cersei's consternation.

Furthermore, Cersei makes a series of political and economic blunders, alienating allies such as Pycelle and Kevan Lannister. In an attempt to undermine the Tyrells as well as release her son from his marriage to Margaery, Cersei attempts to frame Margaery for adultery and treason. However this plot backfires as the investigation into Margaery reveals evidence of Cersei's own adultery and her complicity in Robert Baratheon's death, and she is arrested by the Faith. She sends a letter to Jaime, asking him for help, but he burns her note.

A Dance with Dragons[edit]

Cersei confesses the adultery to the High Septon (though not her relationship with Jaime) and as punishment, she is stripped naked and forced to walk through the capital in full view of the public, nearly breaking down in tears near the end. The more serious charges of regicide and incest are to be settled in a trial by combat. While awaiting her trial, the kingdom is now run by Pycelle and Kevan. However, at the nadir of her fortunes, Varys returns to the capital and murders both Pycelle and Kevan. The book ends with Cersei's fate unknown.

Family tree of House Lannister[edit]

TV adaptation[edit]

Lena Headey plays the role of Cersei Lannister in the television series.

Cersei Lannister is played by Lena Headey in the television adaption of the series of books.

In October 2014, Headey and several other key cast members, all contracted for six seasons of the series, renegotiated their deals to include a potential seventh season and salary increases for seasons five, six, and seven.[1][2] The Hollywood Reporter called the raises "huge", noting that the deal would make the performers "among the highest-paid actors on cable TV".[1] Deadline.com put the number for season five at "close to $300,000 an episode" for each actor,[2] and The Hollywood Reporter wrote in June 2016 that the performers would each be paid "upward of $500,000 per episode" for seasons seven and the potential eight.[3]


Cersei Lannister, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, is the wife of King Robert Baratheon. Her father arranged the marriage when she was a teenager, initiating himself as a political counselor for King Robert. The Lannisters are the richest family in Westeros,[4] which is why Robert was interested in a marriage between them. Cersei has a twin brother, Jaime, with whom she has been involved in an incestuous affair from early childhood. All three of Cersei's children are Jaime's.[4] Cersei's main character attribute is her desire for power and her deep loyalty to her father, children, and brother Jaime.

Season 1[edit]

Cersei learns that her husband Robert is in danger of finding out that the children he sees as his heirs to the throne are not his. Robert meets his end as the result of a boar attack on a hunting trip, before Ned Stark tells him of the truth about his children. Cersei works quickly to instate her oldest son, Joffrey, on the throne, with her as his chief political advisor and Queen Regent.[5] Joffrey quits listening to his mother.

Season 2[edit]

Her father decides Cersei does not exercise enough control over her son, and her father sends his youngest son Tyrion as an additional political advisor. Cersei and Tyrion do not get along, and constantly try to undermine each other's authority over the crown. As of the end of season 2, Tyrion has accumulated more sway over the Iron Throne, and has shipped Cersei's only daughter off against Cersei's will to be married to the prince of Dorne.

Season 3[edit]

She takes pleasure in Tyrion's diminished position and taunts him for being forced into a marriage pact with Sansa Stark, only to be told by her father that he intends to marry her to Loras Tyrell. At the end of the season, the two siblings ponder at their respective marriages, and Cersei reunites with Jaime in her bedchamber as he unexpectedly returns from captivity.

Season 4[edit]

She has Tyrion arrested after Joffrey is fatally poisoned. It is implied that she knows Tyrion's guilt is highly unlikely, but just wants to see him dead, though Jaime refuses to carry out the order.[6] Indeed, at Tyrion's trial, it is obvious that Cersei has manipulated the entire procedure so that the only witnesses (herself, Lord Varys, Meryn Trant, Grand Maester Pycelle and Shae) give either incomplete or entirely false testimonies to implicate Tyrion and Sansa further in the murder. When Tyrion demands a trial by combat, Cersei quickly chooses Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane as her champion to diminish Tyrion's chances of acquittal, and has Bronn betrothed to a noblewoman so that Tyrion cannot choose him as his champion. Cersei's wish comes true when Tyrion's champion, Oberyn Martell, is killed by Clegane, but she still refuses to marry Loras, even threatening her father with revealing the truth about her relationship with Jaime and the parentage of her children. Tywin rebuffs her threats, though he himself is killed by an escaping Tyrion soon afterwards.

Season 5[edit]

Cersei receives a threat from Dorne, where Myrcella is betrothed to Trystane Martell, and sends Jaime to Dorne to retrieve her. Tommen is married to Margaery, who tries to manipulate Tommen into sending Cersei back home to Casterly Rock. Fearful of losing her power, Cersei meets religious leader the High Sparrow, appointing him as the High Septon and giving him authority to re-establish the Faith Militant, the military arm of the Faith of the Seven. In order to destabilise House Tyrell, Cersei arranges for the High Sparrow to arrest Loras for his homosexuality, with Margaery also arrested for perjury after lying to defend Loras. However, Cersei's plot backfires when Lancel, now a member of the Faith Militant, confesses to his affair with her and his role in Robert Baratheon's assassination, and also accuses Cersei of incest, prompting the High Sparrow to arrest her. Cersei is eventually allowed to return to the Red Keep after confessing to adultery with Lancel, but has her hair cut off and is forced to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing as atonement. Cersei returns distraught by the abuse directed at her by the smallfolk of King's Landing, but is consoled by Qyburn's successful reanimation of Ser Gregor Clegane.

Season 6[edit]

Cersei remains in the Red Keep, confined to her chambers and stripped of her authority. Though Cersei accepts Tommen's apology for his lack of action in her arrest and walk of atonement, she remains looked down upon by other members of the court. Cersei learns from Tommen that the High Sparrow plans to have Margaery do a walk of atonement before Cersei's trial and conspires with the Small Council to have the Tyrell army march on the Sept of Baelor to secure Margaery and Loras' release. Their plan backfires when it is revealed that Margaery has joined the Faith of the Seven and has convinced Tommen to merge the Faith and the Crown. Despite being stripped of her allies, Cersei opts to remain in King's Landing, having named Ser Gregor as her champion in her trial by combat. However, Tommen announces that trial by combat has been abolished and replaced by trial by the Seven. Cersei arranges for a cache of wildfire to be detonated beneath the Sept during Loras' trial, killing the High Sparrow, Margaery, Loras, and the rest of the Small Council. Upon witnessing the fallout of Cersei's attack, Tommen commits suicide. With House Baratheon extinct, Cersei is crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Reception and awards[edit]

Cersei has been continuously praised as one of the most complex and multi-faceted characters in either version of the story. Rolling Stone ranked Cersei at No.6 on a list of the "Top 40 Game of Thrones Characters", describing her as a character who'd "rather die than give you control". [7] On a similar list made by Rolling Stone ranking the "30 Best Game of Thrones Villains", Cersei was ranked No.1, being described as the "most dangerous human being in Westeros" as well as "one of the most complex and fascinating characters on television.....she's also a strangely sympathetic figure, warped by being treated like an expensive brood mare by powerful men her entire life and genuine in her affections". [8] Alyssa Rosenburg of The Washington Post wrote "As the men....destroy themselves and each other, leaving a generation of women without husbands, sons, and marriage partners, [Cersei] may be the only [person] left to repair the shattered world".[9]

Lena Headey has received significant acclaim for her portrayal of Cersei, receiving three consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2014, 2015, and 2016, respectively; the first one she garnered for her performance in "The Lion and the Rose", the second one for "Mother's Mercy", and the third one for her performance in a to-be-confirmed Season 6 episode.

  • Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (2016)[22]


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  2. ^ a b Andreeva, Nellie (October 30, 2014). "Game Of Thrones Stars Score Big Raises". Deadline.com. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  3. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (June 21, 2016). "Game of Thrones Stars Score Hefty Pay Raises for Season 8". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
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  5. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd. ""You Win Or You Die" Review". AV Club. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  6. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd. ""Valar Morghulis" Review". AV Club. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
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  19. ^ Jacobs, Matthew (July 10, 2014). "Emmy Nominations 2014: Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black Among Top Nominees". The Huffington Post. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  20. ^ Brown, Tracy (July 10, 2014). "Emmys 2014: Complete list of nominees". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Emmy Award Nominations: Full List of 2015 Emmy Nominees". Variety. July 16, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2015. 
  22. ^ Rice, Lynette (July 14, 2016). "Emmy nominations 2016: See the full list". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 14, 2016.