Stannis Baratheon is the Lord of Dragonstone, the younger brother of late King Robert Baratheon, and older brother of Renly Baratheon. When Eddard Stark discovers that Robert's heir Joffrey is in reality a bastard born out of incest between Queen Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime, Stannis, as the lawful heir, claims the Iron Throne for himself, beginning the War of the Five Kings. He attacks King's Landing, but most of his forces are destroyed and scattered at the Battle of the Blackwater, and he retreats to Dragonstone.
Stannis is heavily influenced by his priestess Melisandre. an adherent of the Lord of Light religion. He is also attended at most times by his loyal Hand and confidant, Ser Davos Seaworth. Stannis raises a new army courtesy of a loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos, and inflicts a decisive defeat on an invading wilding army beyond the Wall. Stannis styles himself as Stannis of the House Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.
Stannis is the second born son of Steffon Baratheon and Cassana Baratheon, the younger brother of the late King Robert Baratheon and older brother of Renly Baratheon. Steffon was the head of House Baratheon and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. The Stormlands are one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Baratheon is one of the Great Houses of the realm. Steffon died when the boys were young and Robert inherited his titles. Stannis is a serious and severe man.
Robert led a rebellion against King Aerys II Targaryen, deposing and replacing him as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis fought for Robert during the war. He was besieged at Storm's End for much of the conflict. He was rescued from starvation by the smuggler Davos, who brought a ship full of onions into the castle. Stannis knighted Davos as a reward but also punished him for his smuggling by cutting four finger tips from his right hand. Davos is fiercely loyal to Stannis and saw his punishment as just. Davos's son Matthos now serves Stannis as a scribe. Stannis went on to conquer Dragonstone, the seat of House Targaryen. During the Greyjoy Rebellion, Stannis destroyed the Greyjoy fleet.
Stannis and Robert never loved one another. Despite Stannis' service during the war, Robert made Renly the Lord of Storm's End following his victory. Renly was only a child during the civil war, so he did not fight. Stannis was made Prince of Dragonstone and served on his brother's small council as Master of Ships. He is the least popular of the Baratheon brothers.
He married Selyse Florent. They have a loveless marriage; Stannis regards her as sickly and resents her failure to bear him a son. During the first season, Stannis is on Dragonstone for an extended stay, preferring the solitude of the island.
He has converted to the Lord of Light under the influence of the priestess Melisandre. His household have largely followed his conversion.He has adopted the flaming red heart of the Lord of Light with the stag of Baratheon in the middle as his sigil.
Stannis is first mentioned during a conversation between his younger brother Renly and Ser Loras Tyrell, in which Loras suggests that Renly could take the Iron Throne himself. Renly points out that he is fourth in the line of succession, behind his nephews and Stannis. Loras claims that no-one would support Stannis for the crown because he "has the personality of a lobster".
King Robert tells Eddard Stark that he does not love his brothers, and considers Eddard to be his true brother.
After King Robert's death, and realizing the truth of Joffrey's parentage, Eddard decides to back Stannis as the rightful King. Renly offers to help Eddard take Joffrey into custody, but only if Eddard backs Renly's own claim to the throne. Eddard angrily rejects the suggestion, pointing out that Stannis has the better claim and is a skilled battle commander and leader. Renly counters that Stannis is a good soldier like Robert, but like Robert may not make the best king. Eddard later sends a letter to Stannis at his fortress stronghold of Dragonstone, informing him of the situation. Littlefinger also advocates backing someone else - Joffrey or Renly - and manipulating them from behind the scenes, since Stannis claiming the throne will plunge the Seven Kingdoms into war. Eddard is adamant that Stannis is the rightful heir.
Varys tells Eddard that Queen Cersei is more concerned about Stannis than anyone else, including the army that Robb Stark has raised. Stannis is a proven and experienced battle commander and is known to be utterly without mercy to his enemies. Eddard replies that Stannis is the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, to Varys' disappointment
With civil war erupting in the Seven Kingdoms, news reaches both the Lannister and Stark camps that Stannis and Renly have made claims on the Iron Throne. Robb Stark considers declaring for Stannis, but his bannermen convince him to proclaim himself the King in the North.
Stannis is known as "The King in the Narrow Sea" because his power is centered on Dragonstone. Stannis converts to the Lord of Light and allows his priestess Melisandre to burn the statues of the seven outside Dragonstone. Maester Cressen attempts to interrupt the ceremony but is casually dismissed by Melisandre. She proclaims Stannis as a prophesied hero when he draws a flaming sword from one of the statues.
Stannis hosts a council and prepares a letter to be distributed throughout the Seven Kingdoms. He has learned from Eddard Stark that Joffrey Baratheon is a bastard born of incest between Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime rather than Robert Baratheon's true heir. Stannis is therefore the rightful heir and plans to pursue his claims to the throne despite being outnumbered. His younger brother Renly Baratheon has also claimed the throne to Stannis' frustration. Davos Seaworth urges Stannis to make peace with Renly or even Robb Stark to fight against Joffrey but Stannis refuses. Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre, framing it as an apology. Cressen drinks the poison first to make Melisandre feel safer. She realizes his plan but drinks the rest of the liquid regardless. Cressen quickly bleeds to death while Melisandre stands over his corpse unharmed.
Davos recruits the pirate admiral Salladhor Saan to Stannis' cause, bringing his 30 ships to Dragonstone. Melisandre seduces Stannis with the promise of an heir. Stannis parleys with Renly on the coast of the Stormlands. In a display of leniency that is uncharacteristic for him, Stannis offers Renly that if he relinquishes his claim, Stannis will grant him his old seat on the small council, and even name him as his heir (unless Stannis ever has a son in the future), but Renly refuses. Unable to reach a compromise, Stannis gives Renly the night to reconsider. Stannis then tasks Davos with smuggling Melisandre into the caves beneath Renly's camp, refusing to say why and ordering Davos not to discuss the mission in future. Once ashore, she births a horrific Shadow as Davos cowers in fear. The Shadow kills Renly and Stannis assumes control of the majority of his forces from the Stormlands. However, Renly's allies in House Tyrell returned to Highgarden with their numerous vassals from the Reach. He plans to move on the capital of King's Landing. Davos urges him to leave Melisandre out of the battle because of rumors that she is controlling him. Stannis is angry with Davos for breaking his orders but accepts his counsel. He names Davos as commander of his fleet for the assault on Blackwater Bay.
The fleet travels north along the coast. Davos predicts that they are just one day's sail from their destination. Stannis admires Davos' loyalty and the way he copes with the snobbery of the Highborn. He recalls Davos' timely intervention saving many lives in the siege of Storm's End. Stannis asks Davos to serve as his Hand of the King when he takes the Iron Throne.
Stannis arrives with a force superior to the defenders of King's landing in both ships and soldiers, and attempts to take the city in the massive Battle of the Blackwater. He is sailing into the harbor when Tyrion springs a surprise attack, using an unmanned ship filled with wildfire. Bronn shoots a flaming arrow at the wildfire, which has spread over the water in between Stannis' ships, and a massive explosion destroys many of them, including Davos' command ship. Stannis orders the survivors to prepare for landing. When Ser Imry Florent tells him that hundreds will die, he coldly replies, "Thousands."
Stannis is at the front of the vanguard for the whole battle, being the first to land, the first to make it to the wall, and the first to climb the ladders onto the battlements. He kills many soldiers, fighting several at a time, without a helmet or shield. He has a force breaking through the Mud Gate with a battering ram while he establishes a foothold on the city walls. A surprise attack led by Tyrion Lannister through tunnels under the city destroys the ram, though Tyrion is trapped outside the walls by the arrival of more of Stannis's men. Stannis seems to be on the verge of victory, until the arrival of Tywin Lannister and a host of House Lannister and House Tyrell cavalry turns the tide. His soldiers break and run for the ships in the face of the cavalry charge. Stannis screams for his routed men to "Stand and fight!" in desperation, but is dragged shouting from the lost battle by his guards.
Stannis returns to Dragonstone and confronts Melisandre about the validity of her predictions. He begins to strangle her in fury but relents when she reminds him of the spell they used to kill Renly. He experiences remorse of murdering his brother. Melisandre warns him that he will commit worse betrayals before their long war is over but insists that he must fight on and assures him that it will be worth it in the end, because he will be king. She shows him a vision in the flames that awes him and restores his faith in her.
Following his defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater Stannis falls into a deep depression, shunning the company of his bannermen and wife, and allowing no one but Melisandre to see him. When Davos Seaworth returns to Dragonstone, Stannis is indifferent to the survival of his oldest and closest supporter, and orders him thrown into a cell when he attempts to assassinate Melisandre.
Later as Melisandre prepares to depart Dragonstone by boat, King Stannis Baratheon speaks with her. He is worried that his enemies think he is defeated and laughing at him, as Renly laughed at him, and that now even she is abandoning him. She assures him that she still thinks he is the Lord's Chosen, but she must travel to the Riverlands to obtain something vital for his cause. Stannis says that he wants her, and that he wants Joffrey and Robb dead, and asks her to make "a son" again with him (like the Shadow-creature she conjured to assassinate Renly). Melisandre says that she cannot: creating a shadow-creature drains some of the fire of a man's life-force, and she fears that creating another would kill Stannis. Over his protests, she explains that what she is seeking is even more powerful than a shadow-creature, and will change his fortunes in this war, but she needs a king's blood to do it. Stannis doesn't understand, but then Melisandre implies that she needs to burn a human sacrifice who possesses a king's blood as an offering to the Lord of Light. She can't kill Stannis himself to achieve this, but as she points out, "There are others with your blood in their veins" - any of his brother King Robert's bastard children who managed to survive the purge.
Following Melisandre's departure, Stannis pays a visit to his wife and daughter who are locked away in a nearby tower. He admits his affair to Selyse, who brushes it off as being best for him and his cause (as she had only been able to give him stillborn males). She tries to disaude him from seeing Shireen, which he ignores. Upon reuniting with Shireen, he is troubled by her idolization of Davos and tells her that the man is a traitor and locked in a dungeon.
Melisandre finally arrives back at Dragonstone with Gendry, King Robert's bastard. Stannis is less than impressed by the sight of the bastard boy who is technically his nephew and is bemused when Melisandre orders him fed, bathed and clothed, believing it pointless as they intend to sacrifice him. However Melisandre reveals it is merely a sham to keep Gendry feeling secure, in much the same way as keeping a sacrificial lamb from seeing the blade of the knife.
Later Davos Seaworth, still languishing in his cell, is paid a visit by Stannis. Davos protests that Gendry is an innocent who has never done him any wrong, but Stannis argues that the sacrifice of one bastard boy will usher in his victory, which Stannis believes is the only way to save every man, woman and child in Westeros from the coming darkness that will devour everything in its path and asks how Davos can doubt the power of Melisandre's god when Stannis has seen visions of "a great battle in the snow" and Davos saw the creature she gave birth to. Davos speculates that the real reason Stannis came is because deep down, a part of him knows what he's about to do is wrong and he knew Davos would tell him the truth he needs to hear, regardless of how it would be taken. After extracting a promise from Davos that he won't act against Melisandre again, Stannis has Davos released.
As Stannis and Davos enter Gendry's quarters, they find that Melisandre had tied Gendry to the bed and placed leeches on his body. She explains that Davos wanted a demonstration of the power in king's blood, then removes the leeches and lights a fire in a nearby brazier. At Melisandre's direction, Stannis throws the leeches into the flames and as they burn, recites the names of three people he wants dead: "The usurper Robb Stark, the usurper Balon Greyjoy, the usurper Joffrey Baratheon".
Later, after hearing news of Robb Stark being betrayed and killed at the Twins, Melisandre is able to twist this to her advantage, making it seem that the spell with the leeches that Stannis, performed was responsible. It cements, in Stannis' mind, that the red priestesses' black magic is what will win him the Iron Throne. They intend to sacrifice Gendry in order to increase influence of the Lord of Light on his enemies and despite Davos' very vocal protests, Stannis decides to have Gendry killed. Before that can happen, Davos frees Gendry which upsets Stannis greatly, seeing it as a an act of betrayal from his friend. Grudgingly, he sentences Davos to death but Davos hands him a letter from the Night's Watch that is requesting assistance now that the threat of the White Walkers has become very real. Stannis, despite seeming interested, doesn't change his mind until Melisandre agrees with Davos that the real threat to the realm lies north and has nothing to do with the War of the Five Kings. Stannis brings Davos back into the fold, needing someone to rally more troops to his side, deciding that they should march to the Wall and help the Night's Watch against the threat of the White Walkers.
Stannis witnesses the burning of one of his bannermen, Ser Axell Florent, with his wife, Selyse, and Davos, as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. His resentment towards his wife continues, as she happily insists that their souls were transferred to the god. At dinner, he was displeased with the way she was talking about their daughter. He agreed, however, that Melisandre should speak to the poor child.
Since Davos is now literate, Stannis asks for his thoughts on a letter he received. Davos reads the letter and is shocked to learn Joffrey Baratheon is dead. Stannis gives credit to Melisandre and the leeches, but Davos is still sceptical. Davos recommends hiring mercenaries such as the Golden Company but Stannis is disgusted at the thought of paying men to fight. Stannis then tells Davos that he refuses to become a page in someone else's history book and that time is running out for both himself and Davos.
After being granted an audience with the Iron Bank of Braavos, Stannis and Davos travel to Braavos where they meet with Tycho Nestoris. Although at first dismissive of Stannis' claim due to his inferior army and his lack of resources to repay any debts to Bank, Davos defends Stannis as the only one able to repay the debts, both that he takes and those of the Iron Throne. Davos' plea insists that Stannis always pays up and that the Lannisters will be faced with a power vacuum when Tywin Lannister (who is 67 years old) dies and that, if such a moment occurred, the Bank wasn't likely to see a return on its investment in Westeros. The bankers decide to grant Stannis his loan and their support, allowing Davos to once again hire Salladhor Saan into their service.
On the day after the Battle of Castle Black, Stannis arrives with his army to fight the Wildlings. His attack interrupts Jon's meeting with Mance Rayder and actually saves his life. Mance's forces surrender to the Baratheon army, and Stannis is introduced as the true King of the Seven Kingdoms. Mance points out that they are outside the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis also demands that Mance and his forces kneel, as it is customary to kneel when surrendering to a King. Mance refuses, saying that Free Folk do not kneel, knowing that Stannis will kill him if he does not. Davos asks Jon what a member of the Night's Watch is doing in the camp, away from the wall, and Jon explains that he came to treat with the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Jon introduces himself and acknowledges that Stannis is the true king, as his own father died supporting the claim. Remembering his debt to Eddard Stark, Stannis takes Jon seriously, asking him what his father would do with the Wildlings. Jon responds that he was once a prisoner of Mance's, and that he could have killed him or tortured him but instead spared his life; in turn, his father would spare Mance in the situation. Jon however urges to Stannis that they should burn the dead, to avoid them returning as wights. Later, Stannis is present at the Watch's funeral for their fallen brothers.
Stannis has moved his remaining forces to the Wall, where he is attempting to rebuild his powerbase. Using Jon as an intermediary, he demands that Mance Rayder bend the knee and swear fealty to him so that he can recruit the wildlings into his army in order to crush Lord Roose Bolton and take back the North in his new campaign for the Iron Throne, also trying to sway Jon to his side by claiming he will be avenging his half-brother's killer. When Mance ultimately refuses, Stannis orders him burned alive.
Although Stannis was not pleased that Jon interfered with Mance's execution, he presents Jon an enticing offer. If Jon bends the knee and swears his loyalty to Stannis, the king will legitimize him as Jon Stark, making him the Lord of Winterfell. Stannis, after receiving a message from Lyanna Mormont, knows that having a Stark on his side is the best chance of rallying the Northerners to his cause. Jon is tempted by the offer since he wanted to be a true Stark since he was a boy, but he tells Samwell Tarly that he intends to refuse the offer.
After Jon is chosen as the new Lord Commander, Stannis approaches him again about his offer of legitimization. However, Jon declines Stannis's offer and reiterates that his place is with the Night's Watch. He also reiterates the Night's Watch's neutrality in the affairs of the Seven Kingdoms. Although having a Stark pledged to his cause would have been a great asset, Stannis respects Jon's decision and intends to leave Castle Black and march on Winterfell within a fortnight. He also recommends appointing Alliser Thorne as commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Later, Stannis witnesses Jon behead Janos Slynt for refusing to obey an official command. He gives Jon a nod of approval from across the courtyard.
Later, Stannis observes Jon training the new recruits, and implies to Selyse that he does not believe Jon to be Ned Stark's bastard son, remembering Ned's honor and integrity. Melisandre approaches him and asks him if they will march on Winterfell soon, and Stannis confirms it, since they must leave before the snows trap them. Stannis is later visited in his office by Shireen, who asks him if he is ashamed of her. Stannis tells her that when he was told that she had greyscale and was advised to send her to the ruins of Valyria to live out her short life before her death, he took no notice and sent for every maester, apothecary, and healer to treat her, which led to them saving Shireen's life, because she is his daughter. Stannis and Shireen share a tender embrace.
Jon tells Tormund he will talk to King Stannis about lending him his fleet to rescue the wildlings at Hardhome. Stannis is present in the common room of Castle Black when Jon Snow informs them of his plan to rescue the wildlings at Hardhome, correcting Othell Yarwyck's grammar. Later, Stannis finds Samwell Tarly and Gilly in the library. Stannis voices his surprise at Samwell‘s appearance, having known his father to be a fine soldier as he defeated Robert at the Battle of Ashford. He asks him how he killed a White Walker and Samwell tells him he killed it with a Dragonglass dagger. Stannis is aware of this material, stating he has Obsidian on Dragonstone. Stannis recognises the threat of the White Walkers and commands Samwell to keep reading, before departing the room. Stannis informs Davos that it is time to march, but Davos objects and asks him if it is not better to wait for Jon Snow to return from his mission with the wildlings, as they could have thousands more men in their army. Stannis states that they have to move now, before winter arrives in earnest. Selyse and Shireen will join them, as Stannis does not think they will be safe at Castle Black.
The following morning, his soldiers have gathered in the courtyard, getting ready to depart. Stannis tells Jon he hopes he knows what he is doing with the wildlings, as he needs his ships. Jon assures him that he will get his ships back, before thanking him and wishing him a safe journey south. Stannis mounts up besides Melisandre, and marches from the Wall towards Winterfell with his army.
However, the weather turns for the worse and a snow storm delays his army. Davos reports to him that forty horses have died and the Stormcrows, a sellsword company of five hundred men, have abandoned them. Disgruntled by these news, Stannis picks up the piece off the war map, asserting that sellswords are loyal to nothing but gold, before tossing the piece away. They are also running out of food, as they cannot open the supply lines until the snow clears. Stannis remains stubborn and refuses Davos's suggestion to return to Castle Black and wait out the winter there, on the basis that the winter may last several years and the Boltons will have strengthened their forces, and especially since he was previously forced to flee from the Battle of the Blackwater. He maintains that be it to victory or defeat, they will march forward. Later, Melisandre speaks alone with Stannis and reminds him that they may need to sacrifice more King's blood in order to better their chances of winning the upcoming battle in the snow which they both saw in the flames, citing the deaths of Robb Stark and Joffrey as examples. When Stannis says that they have no chance of locating Gendry, Melisandre suggests that they sacrifice Shireen. Stannis is visibly shocked and disgusted by the suggestion, asking her if she has lost her mind. She tries to convince him by saying that Stannis must be the undisputed king when the Long Night comes, but he rebuffs her and orders her to leave his presence.
Later, Ramsay Bolton and 20 men set fire to many places in Stannis' camp. The result is the loss of men, horses, and nearly the entire food supply. Stannis, who is desperate, turns to Melisandre and he finally accepts her suggestion at sacrificing his own daughter by burning her at the stake. He sends Ser Davos back to The Wall to retrieve food from the Night's Watch, but this is just to prevent Davos from interfering in the death of Shireen, which Stannis seemingly understood would happen. Stannis hence carries out Melisandre's wishes, not without reluctance.
As Shireen is tied to the stake, and begins to squirm and plead her father for her life as she begins to understand what is happening. As she continues her plea's, the pyre is lit, and Shireen becomes more desperate for her survival, beginning to plead for her mother to save her. At first Selyse is convinced that this is the right thing, but she begins to have a change of heart as Shireen continues her pleading. A distraught Selyse's feelings change drastically, and she runs toward the stake in an attempt to stop the ceremony before she is herself restrained by Baratheon soldiers, as Stannis remains unresponsive, but looks on in discomfort. As Shireen's screams die away, Selyse lets out a scream, as Stannis turns away with tears in his eyes.
By the following morning, the snows are rapidly melting and Melisandre is elated. Stannis, however, is gruff, clearly still shaken by what he did. A soldier reports that although they can now proceed to Winterfell, about half of their standing forces, including all of the sellswords, have deserted, taking nearly all the horses with them. Another soldier reports that Selyse's body has been discovered hanging in a nearby copse of trees: she hung herself in the night, unable to live with what she allowed to happen. After all this, Stannis is hardly surprised when yet another soldier informs him that Melisandre has fled.
Stannis leads his meager force to Winterfell and orders them to prepare for the siege, but his aide says there's no need: the Bolton army is meeting them on the open field. Knowing full well his chances, Stannis raises his sword as the armies clash. Stannis fights bravely, but the remains of his host stand no chance. As the battle winds down, Stannis takes out two more men, but breaks his leg in the process. As he rests against a tree, he is found by Brienne of Tarth, who identifies herself and sentences Stannis to death for his assassination of Renly. Acknowledging that his deeds have finally caught up with him, Stannis tells Brienne to do her duty.
One of Robert Baratheon's two younger brothers, Stannis plotted the murder of his brother Renly to rid himself of a rival after Robert's death. At the insistence of the Red Priestess Melisandre, Stannis sacrificed his only child, Shireen, to save his army and cause after snow and a Bolton ambush destroyed his supplies. The decision led to mass deseetion in his army and the suicide of his wife Selyse. Stannis was killed outside of Winterfell by Brienne of Tarth, who wished to avenge Renly's death.
Stannis is shown to believe strongly in a sense of justice but that no amount of good erases the bad. This is shown in how he removed the top segment of the four finger on Davos Seaworth's hand.
With the pressures of war, however, he appeared to be more lax in his morality under Melisandre's instruction he burned alive his own banner-men for following the faith of their ancestors.