Red Keep

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The Red Keep over King's Landing, art by Ted Nasmith ©

The Red Keep is a castle containing the Iron Throne and is the home of the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. It is located in King's Landing, the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, where it sits on Aegon's Hill.


Aegon the Conqueror first set foot on Westeros in the area of King's Landing at the start of his War of Conquest. On the highest of the three hills of the area, named Aegon's Hill, he built his first fort of earth and wood,[1] the Aegonfort.[2] After the completion of the Conquest, Aegon ordered the construction of a permanent royal castle on the hill. The construction was completed during the reign of Maegor I Targaryen, who killed all those who worked on the castle to preserve its secrets.[1]

The Castle

See also: Images of the Red Keep

The Red Keep is made of pale red stone. It has seven massive drum-towers crowned with iron ramparts. Massive curtain walls surround the keep, with nests and crenelations for archers.[1] Thick stone parapets, some four feet high, protect the outer edge of the wall ramparts, where the heads of traitors are traditionally placed on iron spikes between the crenels at the gatehouse. The walls have great bronze gates and portcullises, with narrow postern doors nearby. The immense barbican has a cobbled square in front of it. Behind the walls are small inner yards, vaulted halls, covered bridges, barracks of the gold cloaks, dungeons and granaries.

Dragon skulls in the Red Keep cellars
© Fantasy Flight Games

Inside, the Keep holds the Iron Throne, the seat of the monarch, and has several gathering halls, including the Great Hall and the Queen's Ballroom. Relics of the Targaryen dynasty, such as dusty suits of black armor and dragons' skulls, sit in hallways. Doors are made of oak banded with black iron. Rushes are used on the floors as the weather cools. Overall, the Keep is not particularly large, being smaller than Winterfell.


Maegor's Holdfast

Maegor's Holdfast is a massive square fortress inside the heart of the Red Keep behind walls twelve feet thick and a dry moat lined with iron spikes. It is a castle-within-a-castle. The royal apartments are in Maegor's Holdfast.[3] The king's bedchamber has twin hearths.

Queen's Ballroom

The Holdfast contains the Queen's Ballroom, a hall only half as big as the Small Hall in the Tower of the Hand. The Ballroom seats one hundred and has beaten silver mirrors behind the wall sconces which makes the torch's light seem twice as bright. Its walls are paneled with richly carved wood and it has a gallery above the main floor. High arched windows sit along the south wall.[4]

Tower of the Hand
© Fantasy Flight Games

Tower of the Hand

The Tower of the Hand contains the chambers of the Hand of the King. Its Small Hall is a long room with a high-vaulted ceiling and bench space for two hundred.[5] The private audience chamber is not as large as the king's, but has Myrish rugs, wall hangings, and a golden-tinted round window that give it a sense of intimacy. The Tower also has a solar, and a garderobe. The tower has tall windows.[6] Below the tower is the chamber of the dragon mosaic.


The Maidenvault is a long, slate-roofed building located behind the royal sept. Its entry has two tall carved doors. Baelor I Targaryen confined his sisters there when he came to the throne, claiming it would prevent any carnal thoughts.[7] Mace Tyrell's court stayed there during their visit to King's Landing.[7]

White Sword Tower

The White Sword Tower
© Fantasy Flight Games

White Sword Tower contains the chambers of the Kingsguard. It is a slender structure of four stories built into an angle of the castle wall overlooking the bay. A circular white room, known as the Round Room, has whitewashed stone walls hung with white woolen tapestries, and forms the first floor. A large white table (weirwood carved in the shape of a shield) with seven chairs provides a meeting space for the order. The undercroft holds arms and armor, the second and third floors hold the small sparse sleeping cells of the six brothers of the Kingsguard, and the topmost floor is given over to the Lord Commander's apartments. His rooms are sparse as well, but spacious, and they stand above the outer walls.[8]

Great Hall

The Great Hall is the throne room of the king. The Iron Throne sits on a raised iron dais with high and narrow steps. A long carpet stretches from the throne to the Hall's great oak-and-bronze doors. The Hall itself is cavernous, and can sit 1,000 people. It is oriented north to south, with high, narrow windows on the eastern and western walls. Skulls of the Targaryen dragons once adorned the walls, but Robert I Baratheon had them replaced with hunting tapestries at the beginning of his reign.[9]

Traitor's Walk

The Traitor's Walk is the squat, half-round tower that contains the entrance to the dungeons. The top floor holds the cells for the prisoners who were to be kept in a degree of comfort. The entrance to the dungeons sits on the ground floor of the tower, with the dungeons beneath the tower. Between the two prisons are rooms for the King's Justice, the Chief Gaoler and the Lord Confessor.[10]


The dungeon of the Red Keep has four levels. On the upper level are cells with high narrow windows where common criminals are confined together. The second level has smaller, personal cells without windows for highborn captives. Torches in the halls cast light through the bars. The third level cells, the "black cells", are smaller still, and have doors of wood so that no light enters them. These are reserved for the most vile and dangerous prisoners. The lowest level is used for torture. It is supposedly safer to go through the fourth level of the dungeons in darkness, because there are things one would not wish to see.[11]

Red Keep underground secret passages
© Fantasy Flight Games

Secret passages

The Red Keep has a network of secret passages and tunnels. King Maegor had them built to enable him to make a quick escape should his enemies ever trap him. The tunnels are supposedly full of traps. Some tunnels are of stone, while others are earth supported by timbers. Some of them are so small that a grown man must crawl through them. Some pass very close to other rooms in the Keep, allowing a hidden person to eavesdrop on conversations.[11] The bedchamber used by Varys contains a secret lever that causes a stone slab to float up and reveal a staircase.[12] One secret passage leads from the bedchamber of the Tower of the Hand to the outside.[11][13] There is also a secret way to get out of the Red Keep onto the cliffs facing the sea. Narrow handholds, impossible to see from the ground, have been cut into the rock so one may climb down to a trail beside the Blackwater.[14][15] Another passage out of the Red Keep leads to a sewer that empties into the Blackwater.[16]

Notably, Maegor's Holdfast is the only building in the Red Keep that has no secret passages, as Maegor "wanted no rats in his own walls", except for one secret escape door that does not connect to any other passage in the Red Keep.[12]

Characters familiar with the secret passages:


The godswood at the Red Keep is an acre of elm, alder and black cottonwood trees that overlook the Blackwater Rush. The heart tree is a great oak, whose limbs have become overgrown with smokeberry vines.[17]


The royal sept inside the Red Keep has crystal windows placed high in the walls. There are seven altars, one for each of the aspects of the Faith of the Seven.[4] It is located in front of the Maidenvault.[7]


The rookery is the home of the ravens used by maesters of the Citadel. The Grand Maester has his chambers beneath the rookery.[18]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Lost in the dark cellars of the Red Keep, Arya Stark overhears a conversation between two strangers to her, Varys and Illyrio Mopatis.[16] Queen Cersei Lannister has Lord Eddard Stark thrown into the dungeon of the Red Keep for plotting against King Joffrey Baratheon. The new king has the hunting tapestries of Robert Baratheon removed from the throne room.[19]

A Clash of Kings

The Tourney for King Joffrey's 13th Name Day is held in the Red Keep.[20]

During the Battle of the Blackwater, Sansa Stark and other ladies take refuge in the Red Keep's sept and the Queen's Ballroom.[4]

A Storm of Swords

Sansa marries Tyrion Lannister in the Red Keep's sept.[21]

King Joffrey receives wedding gifts in the Queen's Ballroom. Following his wedding to Margaery Tyrell at the Great Sept of Baelor, Joffrey dies at the reception in the throne room. Tyrion is blamed for Joffrey's death and is held in the dungeon. Sansa escapes the Red Keep with the assistance of the fool, Dontos Hollard.[15]

After he escapes the dungeon with the help of Varys and his brother, Ser Jaime Lannister, Tyrion kills his father, Lord Tywin Lannister, in the Tower of the Hand.[11]

A Feast for Crows

The Tower of the Hand is burned to the ground with wildfire by order of Queen Cersei Lannister in early 300 AC, after the death of her father, Tywin.[22]

A Dance with Dragons

The current Hand, Lord Mace Tyrell, plans to construct a replacement Tower of the Hand triple the size of the original. Ser Kevan Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle are assassinated by Varys and his "little birds" in the Grand Maester's chambers below the rookery.[18]


Aegon the Conqueror had commanded it built. His son Maegor the Cruel had seen it completed. Afterward he had taken the heads of every stonemason, woodworker, and builder who had labored on it. Only the blood of the dragon would ever know the secrets of the fortress the Dragonlords had built, he vowed.[1]
Catelyn Stark

The Red Keep has ways known only to ghosts and spiders. [23]

The Red Keep shelters two sorts of people, Lord Eddard. Those who are loyal to the realm, and those who are loyal only to themselves. [23]

Father said the Red Keep was smaller than Winterfell, but in her dreams it had been immense, an endless stone maze with that seemed to shift and change behind her.[16]
Arya Stark

No one knew the Red Keep better than the eunuch.[8]
Jaime Lannister