Cersei Lannister of House Lannister is the older twin sister of Jaime and is the only daughter of Tywin Lannister. She serves as the third-person narrator for twelve chapters throughout A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. She is physically beautiful and intelligent, but she is also greedy, cruel, manipulative, and amoral; she is also short tempered and quick to hold grudges, as well as often rushing into situations without pausing to consider the consequences of her actions. She shares her father’s belief that to be feared is better than to be loved; however, unlike her father, Cersei has never learnt to temper ruthlessness with pragmatism and good judgement. She often feels that she should have been born male and given a sword, and she resents the restrictions put on her because she is female, never realising that people do not come to her or respect her commands because she is an ineffectual leader; she lacks the patience to deal with the tedious yet vital details of administration, and increasingly tends to avoid facing unpleasant facts, surrounding herself with sycophants rather than honest and competent advisers. Several characters state that she wants power but does not wield it well.
She is inseparable from Jaime, and the pair have maintained an incestuous relationship since they were young. On the other hand she despises her younger brother, the dwarf Tyrion Lannister, as she holds him responsible for their mother’s demise and has never forgiven him since then. Fifteen years before the events of the series, Cersei married King Robert Baratheon and became Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, but did not take on the Baratheon name after becoming Robert’s queen. She neither loved nor respected Robert because he called her Lyanna while consummating the marriage. She had three children, but all three are fathered by Jaime rather than Robert. She is greatly concerned for the safety of her children, but she does not care about the rest of their well-being, provides them with little in the way of sound guidance or consistent discipline, and can react abusively when they defy or disappoint her.
In A Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark discovers the truth of her children’s parentage. He offers her a chance to flee in exile before he informs Robert. She refuses to leave. She arranges for the death of Robert, and when he dies, she crowns her son Joffrey and names herself regent. When Eddard tries to publicly reveal the truth, she has him arrested for treason. Throughout A Clash of Kings, her brother Tyrion, serving as Hand of the King, curtails her policy and puts an end to her foolish decrees. As Jaime has been captured, she takes other lovers. When Tyrion is injured defending King’s Landing, she lies to Tywin and has Tyrion’s power stripped from him. However, when Tywin becomes Hand of the King in A Storm of Swords, he makes it clear that she should no longer rule as regent and plans to marry her off. Joffrey is poisoned, and she immediately accuses Tyrion and Sansa Stark, though they are not responsible. She reclaims her position as regent when Tywin is murdered and bends her son Tommen to her will. She also becomes Lady of Casterly Rock, the seat of House Lannister, as her brothers cannot claim it. Because there are no restrictions on her power, she feels that she can be a better ruler than her father. She replaces the small council, the King’s advisers, with her own supporters, but her appointments are unpopular with the nobles and the common people. She brushes off blunt but well-meaning advice from her uncle Kevan and her brother, convincing herself that their disagreement with her plans is proof they are plotting against her. Her paranoia alienates Jaime, who eventually abandons her to her plots. She suspects that her allies in House Tyrell are trying to seize control of the kingdom. She begins to remove the Tyrells from positions of influence and authority. She also refuses to honor the Crown’s debts, angering the Iron Bank of Braavos and the Faith of the Seven. The Iron Bank retaliates by calling in its debts throughout Westeros and refuses new loans, causing economic chaos. The Faith refuses to bless Tommen. In an attempt to reduce the Crown’s debts, win the Faith’s blessing, and gain more protection from her enemies, she allows the leader of the Faith to revive that religion’s military order, the Faith Militant, ignoring the order’s history of causing trouble for the monarchy and the large number of zealots that are gathering both in the city and in Westeros, many of whom believe the accurate charges of adultery leveled against her. Cersei does not have the foresight to realize that this is only trading one problem for another, as once the Faith has armed soldiers at its command it feels less compelled to accept her authority. Cersei is eventually able to frame Margaery Tyrell, Tommen’s wife, for adultery and high treason and has her arrested. However, one of Cersei’s lovers admits to having sex with Cersei and to killing on her command, and she is arrested by the Faith. She pins her hopes on a Kingsguard champion in a trial by combat. She sends a plea to Jaime, but it is ignored. In A Dance with Dragons, she confesses to adultery with her cousin Lancel and three others, knowing that she will not be executed for those crimes. Before her trial, the Faith requires that she submit to a penance walk across King’s Landing. All of her hair is shaved and she is forced to walk naked before the crowds. She breaks down in tears just before the end of the ordeal. She is carried into the Red Keep by Ser Robert Strong, the newest member of the Kingsguard and her champion in the trial by combat. After her penance walk, her uncle believes that she appears meeker. Cersei Lannister is portrayed by Lena Headey in the HBO adaptation of the books.