Cersei Lannister is one of the most infamous villains in film and literary history. A perfect blend of history’s Elizabeth Woodville and Shakespeare’s Tamora, Queen of the Goths, Cersei is motivated by the success of herself and her children and the failure of everyone else. As she once told her brother and lover, Jaime, “Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.” In the desire to protect her family, Cersei has done some truly despicable things--even more despicable than sleeping with her brother. She’s abused, beaten, and killed people for any slight, real or imagined. She’s also become progressively more unhinged, making her unpredictable and, therefore, terrifying. Now that the children she fought so hard to protect are dead and she’s queen of the seven kingdoms, she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. She’s an unstoppable force of rage, power, and revenge, and there’s no telling what she’ll do. What’s more, a queen who is younger and more beautiful is sailing on the winds of winter to claim her rightful place on the iron throne, and Cersei’s not going to be happy about that.
With a whole new season of Cersei’s atrocities coming this summer, let’s take a look back on some of her most despicable acts, both in the books and in the show. You knew she was evil, but did you know she was this evil?
15 Poisoning Her Husband
Okay, so Cersei didn’t exactly poison Robert, but she definitely arranged the circumstances necessary for his untimely death.
Cersei hated Robert from early on in their marriage, and not without reason. On their wedding night, Robert got drunk and, while having sex with his new bride, called her “Lyanna”. Robert’s drunkenness would continue to play a prominent role in his relationship with Cersei; he would rape and beat her, in addition to openly sleeping with other women.
Cersei had enough. When Robert went hunting with his brother Renly, Cersei gave strongwine to her cousin Lancel to slow Robert’s movements and make him unsteady. Being a liberal drinker, it didn’t take long for Robert to get into a hunting accident, just as Cersei had intended.
In the books, Cersei argues with Robert at a public feast and implies he’s too old to joust. Many believe that she did this to intentionally bait him to joust, during which time Lancel would ply him with more strongwine.
14 Abusing Tyrion
It’s no secret that Cersei and her younger brother Tyrion don’t get along. Joanna Lannister died giving birth to Tyrion, and Cersei has always blamed her brother for killing her mother. Cersei called him a monster; while Tyrion was waiting for his trial-by-combat, Oberyn Martell came to him and told him the story of when he and his sister Elia came to visit Casterly Rock. When Cersei showed them her baby brother and told them that he killed her mother, she “pinched your little c--k so hard I thought she might pull it off.” If this was in front of perfect strangers, who knows what she might have done to Tyrion when there was no one there to stop her? Cersei also believes that Tyrion is the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) who was prophesied to wrap his hands around her throat and choke the life from her, and she has done everything in her power to make sure he dies before she does.
13 Killing Robert’s Bastards and Selling Their Mother to a Slaver
Now granted, this is a rumor told by Littlefinger, but it sounds like something Cersei would do. According to Littlefinger, while Robert and Cersei were visiting Casterly Rock, Robert had sex with a maidservant and, nine months later, she gave birth to his twin bastards. We don’t know their names or even their sexes, just that Cersei had them killed. We don’t know how old the twins were when this order was carried out, but presumably she didn’t want to look at them and be reminded of her husband’s infidelity. But it doesn’t end there: after killing the twins, Cersei then sold their mother to a slaver--which, as you may remember from Jorah Mormont’s exile, is illegal in Westeros.
Again, we don’t know how true this story actually is, because Littlefinger was the one who told it and we are hesitant to trust anything that man says. Still, we wouldn’t put it past Cersei.
12 Beating Alayaya/Ros
Cersei’s hatred of Tyrion isn’t isolated; she can and does allow it to extend to other people. In both the books and the show, Cersei vows revenge on Tyrion for sending her daughter Myrcella to Dorne without her permission. She finds out that he has a lover and decides to hurt her in order to hurt Tyrion. In the books, Tyrion frequents a brothel because it has a passageway that leads to the house where he keeps Shae hidden, but Cersei mistakes a prostitute there, Alayaya, for Tyrion’s lover and has her captured and beaten. In the show, Cersei believes Ros is Tyrion’s lover because she wears the golden lion pendant he gave her when he visited Winterfell. Cersei had Alayaya/Ros beaten to get back at Tyrion, after which he vowed to have revenge on her. Both women are eventually freed and allowed to return, and while Alayaya largely disappears from the story, Ros is eventually killed by Joffrey.
11 Raping Taena Merryweather
This is one deed that we’re glad didn’t make it into the show. In the books, Cersei finds a companion in Taena Merryweather, the Myrish wife of a Tyrell bannerman. Taena seeks to ingratiate herself with Cersei and testifies at Tyrion’s trial, claiming she saw him drop something into Joffrey’s drink. Cersei begins to feel that Taena is one of the only people she can trust and the two women begin sharing a bed--a normal and usually platonic practice amongst highborn women in Westeros. One night while they were sharing a bed, however, Cersei began to ruminate on Robert’s treatment of her in their marital bed. She used her fingers to have sex with Taena, shushing her when Taena protested that it hurt and imagining that she was a boar using her tusks to rip into the other woman. It’s little surprise, then, that Taena virtually abandoned Cersei after she was imprisoned by the High Sparrow.
10 Framing Margaery for Adultery
Cersei’s hatred of the Tyrells may seem unjustified, but it actually makes sense when you remember Maggy the Frog’s prophecy that Cersei will be queen until there comes another, younger and more beautiful. When Margaery is betrothed to Joffrey, Cersei fears that she will be the younger and more beautiful queen; her fears are only confirmed when Margaery outlives Joffrey and marries Tommen. To ensure that Margaery will not rule Tommen (and through him, rule Westeros), Cersei fabricates enough evidence to accuse Margaery of adultery. In the show, of course, Margaery is accused only of lying under oath. Cersei believed that Margaery would either be executed or divorced from Tommen, or at the very least stripped of her power; she did not anticipate that her evil intentions would backfire on her and get her landed in captivity under the High Sparrow. In the show, too, Cersei had to make a walk of shame, but Margaery deftly avoided it.
9 Killing the High Septon
One of Cersei’s more evil deeds in the books, this one doesn’t make it into the show. After Lancel Lannister turns towards a religious life, Cersei learns that he’s been praying with the High Septon (the one who replaced the High Septon who was murdered by the mob) and has confessed his sins--including sleeping with Cersei and giving Robert strongwine while hunting. Cersei is afraid that the High Septon will take action and, to counteract this, has her goonie Osney Kettleblack suffocate the High Septon with a pillow so that it looks as if he died in his sleep. When Cersei convinces Osney to lie and say he slept with Margaery, the High Sparrow tortures him until he admits that not only did he not sleep with Margaery, but he was told to kill the High Septon. Cersei fervently denies this, and it is decided that her guilt or innocence will be determined in a trial by combat.
8 Killing Lady
We’ve had a bad feeling about Cersei from the beginning, but the first time we saw her actually doing something bad (besides, you know, having sex with her brother) was when Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria, bit Joffrey. Arya and Nymeria ran away to hide, and Arya eventually threw rocks at Nymeria so that she’d leave. Cersei called for the death of the direwolf who had attacked her son, and when she was told that Nymeria could not be found, she demanded the death of another direwolf to act as proxy for Nymeria. The only other direwolf was, of course, Sansa’s wolf Lady, and even though Lady had not even been present during the biting, Cersei demanded her death, which Robert granted her. Ned was forced to kill Lady in Nymeria’s place. Killing Lady didn’t necessarily serve any purpose for Cersei, other than a sadistic pleasure for making little girls cry--just so you really get an idea for how evil Cersei is.
7 Preparing a Massacre
When Stannis Baratheon and his fleet sailed on King’s Landing in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Cersei knew that there was a very real possibility that Stannis would take the city, imprison or kill her sons, and hold her and the other noblewomen hostage--if they were not raped by his men first. Cersei decided instead to invite all the highborn women to a feast (in the show, they sit in a tower and pray) under the guise of distracting them from battle--however, she had the King’s Justice Ser Ilyn Payne on hand so that if the battle turned against their favor, Ilyn Payne could kill all of the women rather than let them be raped and taken as hostages.
If Cersei would rather die than be taken prisoner, that’s one thing, but for her to slaughter dozens of innocent women simply because she thought it would be the best thing for them is horrifying.
6 Sending People to Qyburn
We all know by now that Qyburn is a veritable Frankenstein. We know this from his experimentation with Gregor Clegane in the show, but in the books, his cadaverous deeds happen with greater frequency. Stripped of his maester’s chain and thrown out of the Citadel for performing experiments on living people, Qyburn gained Cersei’s trust when he discreetly handled Tywin’s death in the privy. Cersei allowed him to experiment on Gregor Clegane and prisoners in the dungeons; later, she granted him access to her maid Senelle, who Taena Merryweather claimed was a spy, and Falyse Stokeworth, a noblewoman who interfered with Cersei’s plans. When she attempted to accuse Margaery of adultery, she had Qyburn torture the Blue Bard, a singer who had often been in Margaery’s company and who Cersei accused of having sex with the young queen. Those who are sent to Qyburn never return, and for Cersei to knowingly send people there shows that she’s just as sadistic as the mad scientist allied with her.
5 Turning Shae on Tyrion
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Cersei HATES Tyrion. So much so that she will stop at nothing to ruin--and even end--his life. When she accused Tyrion of poisoning Joffrey at his wedding, she curried favor with the nobles of Westeros so that they would testify against him. Many of these testimonies were betrayals against Tyrion, but the one that hurt the most was undoubtedly Shae.
In the books, Shae is a young camp follower of about eighteen. She does not seem to genuinely love Tyrion, but is happy to be taken care of by him. When she testifies against Tyrion, she may have been threatened, but she may simply have been bribed heavily. In the show, however, Shae and Tyrion truly love one another, and no bribe could have encouraged her to testify against not only him, but Sansa too. Shae was undoubtedly threatened, and Cersei and Tywin were absolutely behind it.
4 Seducing Lancel
When Jaime was captured by Robb Stark, Cersei found herself without a bed companion. Rather than turn to a manly man or even just give her wrist a good workout, the dowager queen decided to turn to her teenage cousin--because nothing screams comfort like the wiry arms of your cousin who can’t grow a mustache, apparently.
While it may seem like Lancel was getting the better end of the deal, the truth is that Cersei was taking advantage of a young person who, by our laws today, would not have been able to give consent, both because of his age and because of the authority Cersei had over him. This had major psychological repercussions for Lancel, who became deeply religious and avoided sex completely after he and Cersei ended their affair--in the books, he was wedded to Amerei Frey, who he had never even touched because he intended to renounce his title and fortune and join the Warrior’s Sons.
3 Giving Jeyne Poole to Littlefinger
Jeyne Poole is a character who only appears in the books, but if you’ve seen season 5, then you get the gist. Daughter to Ned Stark’s household steward, Jeyne Poole was Sansa’s best friend and accompanied her to King’s Landing. After Cersei had the Stark household seized and/or killed, Jeyne was locked in a room with Sansa while the small council debated their next move. Jeyne’s father was killed and, as a result, she cried nonstop. When Sansa was finally released to talk to the small council, she mentioned her friend’s distress. Cersei ordered Littlefinger to do something with the girl, and though it was never outright stated, Littlefinger took the girl to his brothel, where it is implied she was whipped and “trained” to pleasure men.
Later, Littlefinger claimed that Jeyne Poole was actually Arya Stark, and he married her off to Ramsay Bolton to secure his claim to the North. Ramsay knew that “Arya” had been trained in a brothel, and he probably also knew that she was not the real Arya Stark. Jeyne was abused in every sense of the word until Theon rescued her.
2 Trying to Start War with the Dornish
It’s no secret that the Martells and the Lannisters have never exactly gotten along. When Tywin Lannister sacked King’s Landing, he ordered the deaths of Rhaegar and Elia’s children; his soldiers dragged a screaming Rhaenys from under her bed, and Gregor Clegane smashed baby Aegon’s head against the wall and then raped and killed Elia. Oberyn swore revenge for his sister and her children, something that Cersei was not blind to when he came to take his brother’s place on Joffrey’s small council. In the books, Cersei sends for Myrcella and asks if her daughter may visit her in King’s Landing along with her intended, Trystane Martell. Her plan, however, is to kill Trystane and make it look like Tyrion was behind the whole thing.
While Cersei was thinking in the short-term (bringing Dorne’s wrath down on Tyrion and getting her daughter back), her actions would have long-term consequences. War with Dorne would only further divide the seven kingdoms, as well as turn the Martells further against the Lannisters and cause them to ally themselves with the Targaryens.
1 Killing Her Best Friend
Scarily enough, one of Cersei’s worst actions was one of her first. When she was about eleven, she took her friends Melara Hetherspoon and Jeyne Farman to have their fortunes told by the woods witch, Maggy the Frog. Jeyne ran away in fear, but Cersei and Melara had their fortunes told. Cersei, as we know, was told that she would be the queen until there came another, younger and more beautiful, that she would marry the king, that she would have three children with golden crowns and golden shrouds, and when she had drowned in her tears the valonqar would wrap his hands around her throat and choke the life from her.
Melara asked if she would marry Jaime, but Maggy told her that she would die before she wed. She told Melara that her death was near, frightening Melara so badly that after they left, she told Cersei that if they didn’t talk about the things Maggy had said, they couldn’t come true.
Cersei is vague about the details, but what we do know is that Melara drowned in a well that night. It is heavily implied that Cersei was the one who pushed her in so that Melara would not tell anyone about the things Maggy had said to Cersei. That’s a terrifying thing for anyone to do, but especially one eleven-year-old to another. If Cersei was that evil that early in life, it’s no wonder she turned out to be pure evil.