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All I did, I did for House Lannister! Always! Your lord father, ask him! I've always been his servant, since the days of the Mad King!
~ Grand Maester Pycelle to Tyrion Lannister

Grand Maester Pycelle is a supporting antagonist from both the A Song of Ice and Fire novels and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. In the television series, he was portrayed by veteran actor Julian Glover, who also portrayed Walter Donovan, General VeersAris Kristatos and voiced Aragog.

Pycelle is a Grand Maester of the Citadel and a sycophant who dabbles in poison and politics. He served in King's Landing and on the small council for over 40 years. Although sworn to serve the realm, he has always been more loyal to House Lannister since the realm saw peace and prosperity during Tywin Lannister's service as Hand of the King to Aerys II Targaryen. To protect House Lannister, he let Jon Arryn die by sending away Jon's maester. He also tried, but failed, to give milk of the poppy to the dying King Robert I Baratheon before Lord Eddard Stark could speak alone to him. Unbeknownst to most, it was also him who advised the Mad King to open the gates of Kings Landing for the waiting Lannister army, resulting in the sack of the city and the death of the King by the hands of Jaime Lannister and Prince Rhaegar's family by the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane and Ser Amory Lorch.

He is a cunning, cravenly, and wily man and knows how to act in politics despite being dislike by many in King's Landing. Despite all of this, he genuinely cares only for peace and order in the realm, because he wants to live quiet pleasant life without conflicts. He's more loyal to Tywin and Kevan Lannister, or any capable ruler for the matter. As a maester, he's actually truly loyal to the Citadel rather than a noble house. He does pretend to be completely loyal to the Lannisters, but he will only serve a capable ruler.

He served for 6 kings during his time as Grand Maester: Aegon V, Jaehaerys II, Aerys II, Robert I, Joffrey I, and Tommen I.


Pycelle forged his maester's chain during the realm of King Maekar I Targaryen. The first king he served was Aegon V Targaryen.

After Lord Tywin resigned his position as Hand of the King, Aerys focused his paranoia on his heir Prince Rhaegar, who was weary of his father's behavior. The court was divided between those loyal to the king and those loyal to the prince. Grand Maester Pycelle and the Hand of the King, Lord Owen Merryweather tried to keep the peace between the factions. Pycelle dispatched a letter to Oldtown, for the Citadel, writing that tensions and division at court strongly resembled those before the Dance of the Dragons, Pycelle was fearful of a civil war between those loyal to the king and those who supported Rhaegar would break out unless some accord could be reached that would satisfy both factions. Pycelle urged Aerys to attend the Tourney at Harrenhal, warning him that Lord Walter Whent might have used this event to prepare a rebellion for Rhaegar.

During Robert's Rebellion the main force of the royal army was destroyed by the rebels led by the lords Robert Baratheon, Jon Arryn, Eddard Stark, and Hoster Tully. Lord Owen Merryweather failed to prevent the insurrection and was exiled under the accusation of indirectly helping the rebels, and his successor Lord Jon Connington was exiled as well for failing to defeat Robert. Pycelle was one of the few surviving people to know about Aerys' wildfire plot and after the Hand Lord Qarlton Chelsted was burned for opposing the plan and resign his position, the pyromance Wisdom Rossart became the new Hand. After Prince Rhaegar's death and the destruction of most of the royal army at the Trident, the army of the westerlands marched to the gates of King's Landing before the rebels could. It was Pycelle who urged and convinced Aerys to open the gates to Lord Tywin, hoping for Tywin to become king. However Tywin wanted to please Robert, who had a stronger claim to the throne due to the Baratheons being cousins to the Targaryens. Pycelle's advice led to the Sack of King's Landing and the deaths of many, however it also caused Ser Jaime to betray and kill the king and his 3 main pyromancers, preventing the execution of the wildifre plot. In the following years only 3 places with the king's wildfire have ben found: the dungeons of the Red Keep, the Dragon Pit, and the Great Sept of Baelor. The rest remains lost and still underground.

Pycelle is pardoned by Lord Robert Baratheon, just like the rest of the small council, the Lannisters, and the Merryweathers. Since Robert was a poor ruler, Pycelle kept promoting the interest of House Lannister on the small council for years.

Main series

During his service Pycelle's lack of loyalty as a maester angered and caused suspicions on many people, including Jon Arryn, Cersei Lannister, Stannis Baratheon, Varys, Eddard Stark, Tyrion Lannister, Mace Tyrell, Taena Merryweather, and Kevan Lannister. Pycelle often tends to blame Varys for all the bad things that happen at court, using the mistrust and fear that everyone has for the eunuch, often accusing Varys of being a sorcerer.

During the War of the Five Kings, Tywin Lannister sends his son Tyrion to rule in his stead in King's Landing and fix the damages made by Cersei and King Joffrey I Baratheon. Tywin orders Tyrion to get rid of Lord Janos Slynt and test the loyalty of the remaining members of the small council, to avoid possible help for King Stannis or King Renly. Tyrion does it by forging an alliance between House Lannister and House Martell, in which Pycelle is found treacherous. Tyrion removes him from his position and the small council and has him thrown in the black cells. A short time later however, he's released but still stripped of his titles.

After the Lannisters and the Tyrells defeat Stannis Baratheon at the Battle of the Blackwater, the Enclave of the Citadel sends a message to the court to make known their annoyance of the removal of Pycelle, because only the Enclave has the power and right to unmake Grand Maesters, unless they are guilty of a crime against the realm. The Arch Maesters want to send Maester Gormon, born as Gormon Tyrell, to replace Pycelle and Tywin promptly reinstates Pycelle as Grand Maester to avoid another Tyrell's presence in the capital. Pycelle is then also reinstated on the small council, since his actions were against the vengeful Martells (and he was actually right since both Doran and Oberyn hate the Lannisters).

Pycelle helps Cersei and Tywin by supporting them at the trial of Tyrion Lannister, accused of killing Joffrey. Pycelle and other 2 maesters help the court by confirming that Joffrey was indeed poisoned bt the Strangler.

Following Tywin's death, the relationship between Pycelle and Queen Regent Cersei becomes more strained. Cersei blames him for the bad state of Tywin's corpse (actually a result from poisoned drink by Oberyn Martell) and the death of the sick Lord Gyles Rosby. Lady Taena also reports Cersei that Pycelle is often found with Queen Margaery Tyrell. Pycelle is also very angered by Cersei's decision: she creates chaos everywhere and he's bothered by Qyburn's presence on the small council, Cersei refusing to honor the debts owned to the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Faith, her decision to allow the Faith to re-institute the Faith Militant. Cersei also deliberately damages the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, refusing the Tyrells to gather their fleets against King Euron Greyjoy, stating that King Stannis was the priority among their enemies.

After pressure from Cersei, Pycelle admits publicly to giving the 15 years old "virgin" Margaery moon tea, a contraceptive used to prevent pregnancy. This discovery is crucial in Cersei's efforts to frame Margaery for adultery and treason, delivering her to the captivity of the High Septon.

Cersei considers replacing Pycelle. But she's arrested by the Faith, and Pycelle successfully seizes control of the small council, now able to decide himself who's going to rule the Seven Kingdoms for King Tommen. Pycelle finds no opposition because at the time the lords Mace Tyrell, Paxter Redwyne, and Mathis Rowan are out of the capital to deal with Stannis's forces at Dragonstone and Storm's End, while the Hand Lord Orton Merryweather and Aurane Waters have abandoned the capital in fear of the Faith. Pycelle personally removes Ser Osfryd Kettleblack as commander of the City Watch so Osfyrd will not be able to use the Watch to try and free Cersei and his brother Osney, both of whom are prisoners of the Faith. He also raises Humfrey Waters of the Dragon Gate to command the Watch. Qyburn states to Cersei that the realm is effectively being ruled by Pycelle and Ser Harys Swyft. Pycelle dispatches a message to Ser Kevan Lannister offering him the regency.

Pycelle grows weary of Mace Tyrell, who arrived in King's Landing with his army and another one led by Lord Randyll Tarly. Lord Tyrell is angry at Pycelle for revealing Margaery requests for moon tea, ruining the official statements about her virginity and humiliating her in public. Worried about his personal safety, Pycelle requests a guard from Ser Kevan. However, Pycelle is killed anyway, not by Tyrell men but by Lord Varys, who removes both him and Kevan to ensure they cannot repair the damage Cersei had done to the kingdom and the Lannister-Tyrell alliance. Kevan is killed in Pycelle's room, because he was doing too good at restoring the king's peace. Kevan and Pycelle's death will also provoke Cersei's madness and paranoia towards House Tyrell and many other enemies at court.


In the television series, Cersei grows more and more weary and annoyed with feeble Pycelle, who's not loyal to her at all, due to his tendence to serve competent rulers, while Cersei gives the most important duty to the despised Qyburn. After having been imprisoned by the Faith, with her trial, which she would likely lose. ahead, Cersei decides to get rid of all her enemies in the capital in a bold stroke. Pycelle is one of her victims and is lured into Qyburn's dungeon by use of a forged letter. There, he is confronted by Qyburn who apologizes and tells Pycelle that, despite his many flaws, he does not deserve to die like this. He claims that in order to usher in the new, the old has to be put to rest and orders several of his little birds to finish off Pycelle. The children known as the "little birds" draw daggers and attack Pycelle who, despite trying to fight back, is thrown off his feet and stabbed and hacked at multiple times.

In the novels, neither Cersei nor Qyburn have part in Pycelle's death. While meeting with Kevan Lannister, Pycelle reveals that he fears that Mace Tyrell wishes him dead for testifying in his daughter's trial. Kevan advises him to hire guards and the two part ways. Later, Kevan is told by a messenger that Pycelle is awaiting him in his chambers. Upon arriving, Kevan finds Pycelle slumped over his desk and believes him to be asleep. He is then hit by a crossbow bolt in the groins and sinks to the ground. Expecting the Maester to be able to save him, Kevan cries out but then realises that Pycelle is not sleeping but dead, his head smashed in by a massive book on which blood, bone and brains are clear visible. Kevan is then approached by Varys, who apologizes (like Qyburn in the series) and tells that Kevan and Pycelle would have likely been able to undo the chaos Cersei created. After telling him that Pycelle's and Kevan's deaths will be likely blamed on Tyrion or the Tyrells, Varys orders Kevan to be finished off.


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