“I will be queen, though?” asked the younger her.
“Aye.” Malice gleamed in Maggy’s yellow eyes. “Queen you shall be . . . until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”
Cersei Lannister has a secret, one she tells almost nobody about- a deep, dark secret that claws at her mind and drives her hate. When she was a girl, she sought out a woods witch named Maggy the Frog and asked this witch to read her future. Cersei believes, much like other characters who delve into guessing the future such as Melisandre and Rhaegar Targaryen, that she knows the correct interpretation and acts on it. However, Cersei is likely very wrong about one part of it and it may prove deadly to her. Who is the “another, younger and more beautiful” that will cast her down and take all she holds dear?
In this prophecy, Maggy lays out a number of predictions. That Cersei will never wed the prince (Rhaegar) but will instead wed the king (King Robert Baratheon). Next, that she will be queen for a while until someone younger and more beautiful deposes her. Then, that Robert will have 20 children and Cersei will have three, but none will be his, and that Cersei will see her children dead. Book readers know of a fourth prediction: the infamous “Valonqar prophecy” that the show left out, stating “And when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” Here though, we’re going to focus on the identity of the “younger and more beautiful.”
Cersei believed, very strongly, that this meant a younger and more beautiful queen. After Joffrey died in front of her, she began looking for this person and found a likely target in Margaery Tyrell. Margaery was younger, widely praised for her beauty, and poised to become the new queen of the Seven Kingdoms by marrying Tommen. The important part of this logic chain from Cersei is that she thinks she can avert the death of the rest of her children by not being defeated by a younger, more beautiful queen. If one parts fails, then all the rest may be averted.
And as we know, Cersei focuses on Margaery Tyrell and attributes everything she can to the younger, more beautiful woman. Of course, Cersei is wrong and she kills Margaery along with hundreds more in the wildfire explosion of Baelor’s Sept- in her mind, avoiding the last part of Maggy’s prophecy. This is an important point; everything else Maggy has told her so far has come true.
Cersei married King Robert instead of Prince Rhaegar. Robert had 20 children and none with her. She would have 3 children who all would die before her. In Game of Thrones and ASOIAF, prophecies don’t come true in small parts- they come true completely or not at all. So while Cersei has missed out on finding the younger and more beautiful one, we can speculate based on who is remaining in the show who could fit this role.
The obvious choice is, of course, Daenerys Targaryen. She is far younger than Cersei, more beautiful, and has the dragons and the army to actually topple Cersei’s regime. Makes her a slam dunk pick, right? Margaery is dead, but Cersei will not have forgotten what Maggy said to her all those years ago and would still be on the look-out. If we can see that Dany is a younger, more beautiful queen, so will Cersei, and be on her guard. It also removes the narrative tension to make it so obvious that Dany fits the bill.
There’s a catch in the actual wording of the prophecy and it’s these things George R.R. Martin has long enjoyed playing with. The exact wording is:
“Queen you shall be… until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.”
Which does not explicitly say the person younger and more beautiful has to be a queen. Many in the fandom have long speculated that this means that it could be anyone younger and more beautiful than Cersei. You would think Sansa Stark then becomes a prime candidate, younger and more beautiful; however she is stuck in Winterfell, and unavailable for a Cersei smackdown.
However, there is one particular character, younger and often referred to as a beauty who was just sent south on Sansa’s order to represent her in King’s Landing: Brienne of Tarth.
I hear you already, Brienne more beautiful than Cersei? Gwendoline Christie is a gorgeous person and that unfortunately undersells how homely Brienne is supposed to look.
“Daughter?” Catelyn was horrified.
“Brienne the Beauty, they name her . . . though not to her face, lest they be called upon to defend those words with their bodies.”
Beauty, they called her . . . mocking. The hair beneath the visor was a squirrel’s nest of dirty straw, and her face . . . Brienne’s eyes were large and very blue, a young girl’s eyes, trusting and guileless, but the rest . . . her features were broad and coarse, her teeth prominent and crooked, her mouth too wide, her lips so plump they seemed swollen. A thousand freckles speckled her cheeks and brow, and her nose had been broken more than once. Pity filled Catelyn’s heart. Is there any creature on earth as unfortunate as an ugly woman?”
She is routinely mocked by jerks ironically calling her “the beauty”.
Much like Samwell Tarly being called “Sam the Slayer” when he actually slayed a White Walker, Brienne is beautiful as well. Not physically, but inside and as a true, loyal knight and a moral, kind hearted person. And the one person Cersei holds dear has noticed Brienne’s attractive qualities as a person: Jaime Lannister.
The steel links parted like silk. “A sword,” Brienne begged, and there it was, scabbard, belt, and all. She buckled it around her thick waist. The light was so dim that Jaime could scarcely see her, though they stood a scant few feet apart. In this light she could almost be a beauty, he thought. In this light she could almost be a knight. Brienne’s sword took flame as well, burning silvery blue. The darkness retreated a little more. A Storm of Swords, Jaime VI
Daenerys could take Cersei’s crown and kill Jaime, and that would certainly fulfill the wording of the prophecy by casting her down and taking all she holds dear. But Brienne is the one you don’t see coming. We’ve seen already in the show that Brienne has gotten closer to Jaime than almost anybody. She’s come the closest to getting Jaime to abandon Cersei, and gotten him to take his vows and promises seriously after years of being a morally bankrupt near-sociopath.
It’s one thing to kill Jaime, who Cersei now openly lays with and plans to declare the father of her unborn child. It’s another to persuade him to turn his back on Cersei in front of her. The pain and rage Cersei would feel at having her twin, her lover, the father of her children abandon her in time of need would be a fantastic way for the wheel of fate to finally roll over her. The rivalry between Cersei and Brienne has even been played up before, where Cersei shows jealousy towards Brienne’s connection and time with Jaime.
Brienne, in a twist of wording that Cersei would never see coming, could be the final nail in the prophecy of Maggy the Frog before the Valonqar comes for the Queen. There is one thing Cersei treasures above all else right now, and that is her pregnancy. Perhaps there will be a melee in King’s Landing that somehow causes Cersei to lose the pregnancy, or if Jaime really leaves Cersei once and for all, she might not want to keep the child.
While Daenerys is the conventional and obvious pick as the younger and more beautiful one, Game of Thrones thrives on surprising its audience. Having it be Brienne is a fascinating and narratively powerful twist for the show, having Brienne take all Cersei holds dear and casting her down.