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Lady Olenna Tyrell: a strategist of the highest order

The Queen of Thorns was a shrewd master strategist, who knew silence was as powerful as a sharp tongue (she only used when it was necessary)
Fri, Sep 11, 2020
  • MAIN IMAGE: Lady Olenna Tyrell. Credit: HBO 

Put down your copy of The Art of War or whatever it is that you turn to when you need advice on how to crush your enemies. If there’s anyone who knew a thing or three about strategy, survival and victory, it’s Lady Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones.

With the news of the actor who portrayed her, Dame Diana Rigg’s death this week, we decided to honour her most famous character (at least for anyone younger than 40) – one who gave us that priceless gif.

Lady Olenna was one of the best supporting cast members on a show spoilt for choice when it came to a fantastic supporting cast, but it seems Rigg herself was also rather impressive.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, GoT showrunner David Benioff said of the first time he met Rigg: “Dames don’t audition for you, you audition for them.” Power.

Here are some life lessons one could learn from the woman who died the sweetest death on the show: while some were burnt to death, others shot with arrows at a wedding, viciously stabbed or had their heads crushed, Lady Olenna died drinking wine – and not before she dropped the mic with one of the most iconic lines in the show’s history.

She knew how to STFU

Like Varys, Lady Olenna understood that one doesn’t need to make bold proclamations and threats in order to get their way. And unlike Littlefinger, she didn’t speak with a forked tongue. She only spoke when she had something to say, preferring instead to quietly get things done. After all, she got away with secretly poisoning Joffrey (at his own wedding) and she wasn’t even a suspect – she had not uttered a bad word about him. We only found out she was the one who poisoned him when she later told her distraught granddaughter, the would-be bride: “You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?”

She wasn’t blinded by emotion

The coffee table book Inside HBO’s Game of Thrones Seasons 3 & 4 by C.A. Taylor describes Lady Olenna as “a strategist of the highest order”, and that’s the most important thing about her. She had patience and played a long game. She knew when to fight and when to accept defeat – as long as it helped her obtain her goal at the end.

That means she also forged alliances with people she didn’t particularly like, such as Tywin Lannister, for a bigger cause: the survival and prosperity of their houses. And, as the book says of House Tyrell, “their loyalty didn’t outweigh their pragmatism.”

She understood ‘adapt or die’

So yes, okay fine, Lady Olenna did die, but in instances where she wasn’t leading change, she was an early adopter. Stubbornness can only get you so far, and if things change, change with them. When we first met the Tyrells, her granddaughter Margaery was engaged to a would-be king who was soon killed. So, what did Lady Olenna do? She found Margaery another king to marry – and so what if he was betrothed to someone else? To quote Ariana Grande: “And what about it?”

She trusted herself

Self-doubt, insecurity and imposter syndrome were things Lady Olenna was unfamiliar with (unlike, say, Jaime, Jon, Daenerys and Cersei). Yes, she was strategic and forged alliances with those she didn’t like but ultimately, she followed her gut. As she said to Daenerys in season six: “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them.”

In fact, all the advice in this scene is worth revisiting:

She was quotable AF

Lady Olenna wasn’t nicknamed the Queen of Thorns for nothing. Her family sigil was a rose, but she was its thorns because of her biting and memorable remarks. This doesn’t mean you should be shady to people for reason – but if people come at you sideways, don’t be afraid to bite back.

We’ll let Dame Diana Rigg have the last word. In Inside Game of Thrones, she is quoted as saying about her character: “She’s just a ballsy old bag; she’s subtle and witty and sophisticated and at the same time so brutal.”

  • All 8 seasons of Game of Thrones are available to stream on Showmax