2. “Kings have no friends,” Stannis said bluntly, “only subjects and enemies.”
Stannis makes this remark to Catelyn at the parley with Renly, after she says that Robb, the King in the North, holds out his hand in friendship to everyone. At its heart, A Clash of Kings is a story about people grappling for power and authority, and this quotation presents one of the costs of that struggle. The desire for power, it suggests, leaves no room for love or friendship. Stannis intends his quip simply as a dismissal of Robb’s gesture, which he sees as naive, but it has a particular relevance to his own situation. Stannis has the most legitimate claim to the Iron Throne, but he has trouble rallying supporters, as people find him personally distasteful. He claims to be uninterested in whether people like him so long as they obey him. Having alienated so many potential supporters, however, Stannis finds his path to the throne a difficult one. His hardness and ambition have left him with a few subjects and many enemies.
This desire for power above all else appears in multiple characters. Joffrey, who is currently the ruling king of Westeros, faces a similar situation in that he views others only as subjects or enemies. Theon, too, sacrifices all else for his ambition. Though he was raised among the Starks and grew so close to the family that Robb considered him like a brother, his ambition caused him to throw away that bond and try instead to claim Winterfell as his own. Notably, the only king in Westeros who does appear to have genuine friends is Robb Stark, and he was elevated to his position almost democratically, as the Northmen selected him.