SPOILER ALERT: This article includes spoilers for Game of Thrones, up to and including Season 8, Episode 5. Do not read any further unless you consent to read spoilers.
Cersei Lannister’s pregnancy was finally confirmed during the last episode of Game of Thrones. She told Jamie that she was pregnant and the baby was his. Why should we trust this revelation from Cersei before the baby is even born? Because Cersei had no reason to lie to Jamie. She was facing imminent death and revealed her most innate motivation: her children. In many ways, Cersei’s motherhood defined her life...and her death.
Cersei Loved Her Children Despite The Taboo Of Incest
Her incest wouldn’t be common knowledge if she didn’t have children. While she had a cover story, the family resemblance made Jamie’s paternity common knowledge, albeit unspoken. But Cersei loved her children even more than she loved Jamie - and that’s saying something. Cersei chose to raise her children and ultimately admitted their incestuous heritage despite the taboo.
Cersei’s Had A Strong Maternal Instinct
From their birth, Cersei’s sons had a price on their heads. Joffrey and Tommen would have furthered the Lannister dynasty and allowed Cersei indirect control of the Seven Kingdoms. But when Joffrey was poisoned, Cersei’s grief was visceral. It’s clear she truly loved her son; he wasn’t just a pawn in her political game. Still, Cersei’s children had no choice but to become political pawns in the Game of Thrones. Joffrey’s death was a catalyst for Cersei. She became even more ruthless, seizing political power out of anger and revenge. Myrcella was killed in a political coup, retaliation for some of Cersei’s harsh dealings. I imagine Cersei felt immense guilt over Tommen’s suicide - although she may just as likely blame “her enemies” for his death.
When her political ambition drives her, she makes riskier choices that endanger the lives of her children. When her maternal instincts drive her, she makes the “safer” choice - the choice that keeps her family intact but perhaps not in power.
Cersei’s Children Gave Her Hope
In the end, Cersei abandons her political pursuits and tries to escape with her life. In the face of certain death, Cersei pleads with Jamie, “I want our baby to live!” She confirms the pregnancy and Jamie’s paternity in one fell swoop. When faced with her own mortality, Cersei reveals her deepest motivations. Children - the children she made only with her own brother - are the signposts that shape her existence. They are the reason she has always been tainted by the shame of incest, the cause of her social isolation and simultaneously the source of her truest love. Joffrey’s death ignited a destructive fire within Cersei. As she watched each of her children die, Cersei grew more bitter and hardened. She probably felt she had nothing to live for but to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. And then - hope, in the form of a new baby made with her beloved Jamie. Tyrion pointed out Cersei finally had something to live for. Her final choices confirm that her children were ultimately more important than the Iron Throne.
Cersei’s life was defined by her maternity. Her final words were full of despair not for her own life, but for that of her unborn child. It seems fitting that she meets her demise in an attempt to protect her baby and the Lannister lineage. That maternal instinct shaped her choices, her worldview, and even the way she died. Will we say the same for Daenerys and her dragons next week?