When it comes to the kings and queens of Game of Thrones, it seems like everyone and their mother is gunning for the throne in some shape or form. We've seen three Baratheons (though one actually was king), four Lannisters, House Tyrell, and what I'm assuming was all of Dorne go down in the battle for the Iron Throne, and the only person who's made any progress is Cersei Lannister — and we all know that's not going to end well. Now that we're quickly approaching the final season, the question on everyone's mind — even the characters themselves — is who will finally claim the Iron Throne? The answer may have been under our noses all along: Sansa Stark.
Since her first introduction, Sansa's narrative centers on queenship. As a tween, she's preparing to be a southern princess and marry Prince Joffrey. She's admittedly at her worst during the beginning of season one, but she's also around 13 and spoiled, so that isn't a massive surprise. After the death of her father and the beginning of the War of the Five Kings, everything changes.
She's also not afraid to be fierce and unrelenting.
Though Sansa's narrative shifts focus to her imprisonment at Kings Landing and her family's slow demise, there are still moments where her potential is apparent. The Battle of the Blackwater is a particularly important moment because it shows the greatest difference between Cersei's way of ruling and the potential Sansa has to be a queen. Though she's visibly terrified and believes her continued survival depends on the battle's outcome, she is the one who calms the people of King's Landing while Cersei flees the Maidenvault. She puts the needs of those around her over her own.
She continues to show her compassion as the series continues. Sansa is sweet to Tommen during her time in King's Landing, even though he's part of the family that tortures her; she risks the ire of Joffrey and Cersei to save Sir Dontos's life; and at the Eyrie in the Vale of Arryn, she shows affection to little Robin even though he's terrible. Her compassion would make her a completely different ruler than Westeros has seen in a while, and it's a marked difference between her and the current queen, for sure.
But she's also not afraid to be fierce and unrelenting; she's the one who pushes Jon to help her fight for Winterfell and has no qualms letting Ramsay know where he can stick his threats. When Jon doesn't heed her advice to postpone battle to get more men, she contacts Petyr behind his back, saving both Jon and his forces when Ramsay's men pin them in. Sansa is the one who wrangles in the northern lords while Jon is with Dany, and she plots with her siblings to take down Petyr for good (we'll all have to agree to ignore the cut scene between Sansa and Bran because it casts a very bad light on both Stark sisters).
Winterfell is the first time Sansa is truly a leader, as the lady of the house and Jon's regent, and she visibly flourishes in the role. The show takes pains to show the difference between Jon and Sansa's ruling styles: Jon (before he bends the knee) is a reluctant king who isn't really into the politics of his position and prefers to follow his warrior instincts. He sees the big picture (the Night King's threat), but misses the smaller details (his northern lords don't agree with any of his decisions). While Sansa has an admittedly mixed bag of role models, she's continues to learn enough from all of them to be an efficient leader that can see the details of the picture.
As we've seen, Sansa has the honor and steel of her father and mother, while understanding what got them killed. She's ruthless and supports her family's interests, like Cersei, but is more compassionate and concerned about her people. Petyr Baelish taught her to be sly, but she knows better than to burn as many bridges as him. And if she were to ever sit on the throne, there's no doubt she would be wary enough to surround herself with people she can trust — like Brienne of Tarth, Arya, and even Tyrion. Honestly, with a crew like that, Sansa could be the greatest queen the Seven Kingdoms have ever seen.
Of course, this is mostly banking on Jon, Dany, and Cersei not contending for the throne. Cersei is really a nonfactor, since we all know that blonde is going down. Daenerys's survival is up in the air because she's too popular and bloodthirsty ("Dracarys" is like the only word in her vocabulary now) to actually make it to the end, and Jon doesn't even want the throne. So if there is still an ugly Iron Throne for someone to sit on, Sansa Stark might just be the best bet to sit on it.
It must be said, as much as queenship is woven into her narrative, Sansa has been very vocal about her desire to never leave the North again. Just like Jon, she wants nothing to do with the Iron Throne. If there is any throne she's most likely to sit on, it's the northern one, and it's the one I think she would be happiest taking. Whether or not the Iron Throne still exists after the battle against the Night King and his army, it's more than likely the North will desire independence once again. As the eldest Stark and the only one capable of ruling (considering Bran is a Three-Eyed Raven now and Arya would never), Sansa is the natural choice and would most likely have the full support of the northern lords behind her (as they were when Jon was gone).
Of course, this is all speculation as the final season is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Game of Thrones fans are forever on the edge of our seats waiting to see how it all works out, especially when it comes to who ends up "on top of the wheel." If any of us have learned anything over the last seven seasons, it's to never underestimate a northerner, especially Sansa Stark.