Lord Tywin wore no crown, yet he was all a king should be.
There is a greater truth hidden in the character of Tywin that many people often overlook. He was known for being ruthless. He was known for never smiling. He was known for being wealthy. He was known for all kinds of things, but how many people actually pieced together who Tywin was as a being?
He was a king that was never crowned.
Tywin Lannister understood that being a king is not a job title, it’s a lifestyle. The people of Westeros were terrified of Tywin, they were not terrified of Robert Baratheon or even Joffrey. It’s not only because he was ruthless or intelligent, it’s because his presence demanded respect. It’s also because of his principles.
He hated his youngest son Tyrion for being a dwarf, yet he allowed Tyrion to live a full life as his son nonetheless. Tywin’s greatest principle is putting family first. Not only did he allow Tyrion to live a full life, he even started a war when Catelyn Stark abducted him. Tywin was an agent of his principles; a walking embodiment of what he believed in. ‘Fuck with my family, and I’ll fuck with you.’
But Tywin’s principles don’t stop there. Family was his highest priority, but not his only priority. He served the kingdom as well. This is why every king during his lifetime wanted him to be second in command. Tywin was not a schemer, strictly speaking. He was not manipulative, strictly speaking. He simply got shit done, and he respected the rule of law. Granted, he ignored the law when it came to serving his family’s interests, but when that was not the case, he was never vicious for the mere sake of being vicious.
Tywin also never rubbed his status in anyone’s face. Everyone knew his reputation without him boasting about it even once. Every single day of his career, he stayed focused on the tasks at hand, nothing else.
The traits of a true king.
This has real-life applications. The world may not have many kings left, but that doesn’t matter. You can be the head of a large corporation, or the head of a household. If you are in command of anything, it is your job to be a true king. Don’t abuse your power, don’t be obsessed with power itself. Don’t be focused on yourself, be focused on those whom you have power over. Focus on what needs to be done, and care nothing about the opinions of those who want to hold you back. Be a force to be reckoned with.
Tywin had a fatal flaw though, literally. His greatest flaw was also his greatest strength. His ambition made him blind to the most important things in his life. He paid no real attention to his children, he was too demanding of them, and he clearly cared more about his family’s status than the actual people in his family. He gave his children everything, but in the end, he also gave them nothing. He was all muscle, and no soul. He allowed Tyrion to live despite hating him, but ultimately drove Tyrion to betray him because he did nothing for Tyrion beyond not killing him.
I want to emphasize the point about ‘all muscle, no soul.’ Because as Tyrion states later in the series, his father’s methods made his power brittle. In other words, Tywin was effective, but not a source of stability. Basically, everything he did, he did in excess. A true king ought to know where to draw the line. Tywin did not think there was a line, and that was his downfall.
I think Tywin is a good character to learn some important lessons from. No saint, but certainly no pushover.