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Customs

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Monarchy and Nobility

See also Laws & Justice.

Authority derives from the king. Nobles receive their status either from birth or from the largesse of a king or lord. Lords are not bound by law or custom to support their relatives; some do, by giving their kin posts and positions or by granting them vassal holdfasts. A lord is expected to arrange matches for his children and any unwed younger siblings.[1]

It is possible for the king to redistribute lands and titles as he sees fit; he may also sign bills of attainder to strip lords of their lands and incomes.[2] Though a lord could conceivably hold more than one title, it is unusual for noble holdings to be divided or combined.[3] Territorial disputes between landowners are adjudicated by the king or his Hand[4] or by their liege-lord.[5]

On extremely rare occasions, the lords of the kingdom may be gathered together to decide some great matter. The last time a Great Council was convened, it chose the next king of the Seven Kingdoms, overriding the proper lines of inheritance to give the crown to the youngest son of Maekar, Aegon V, ahead of his elder brothers.[6]

Inheritance

Inheritance laws in Seven Kingdoms are not clear-cut. According to George R. R. Martin,

The short answer is that the laws of inheritance in the Seven Kingdoms are modelled on those in real medieval history... which is to say, they were vague, uncodified, subject to varying interpretations, and often contradictory.[7]

Most nobles of the Seven Kingdoms, influenced by the Andal traditions, practice male-preference primogeniture, while customs of Dorne and possibly the Iron Islands are different from the other kingdoms. In Dorne, no distinction is made between sons and daughters, with children inheriting in order of birth regardless of gender.[8] It is unclear whether women can inherit in their own right in the Iron Islands.

In the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, a man's eldest son is his heir, followed by his second son, then his third son, and so on. In theory, the youngest son is followed in the line of succession by the eldest daughter, after whom come her sisters in birth order.[8] In practice it is usually sons, then whoever can manage to convince the local overlord that he ought to inherit. The sword can be all the hereditary justification that is needed, as in the case of Robert Baratheon. Still, there are examples of ladies who rule in their own right, including: Delonne Allyrion, Larra Blackmont, Alysanne Bulwer, Barbrey Dustin, Shyra Errol, Lyessa Flint, Mary Mertyns, Maege Mormont, Arwyn Oakheart, Tanda Stokeworth, Nymella Toland, Anya Waynwood, and Shella Whent.

Noble titles (e.g. Lord of a certain place) and lands are passed on within families; knighthood is not inherited but is conferred on individuals independently due to merit, not birth. In the Great Houses, where elder siblings inherit a significant title and lands, small holdings and keeps may be granted to their younger brothers, who hold their lands as bannermen.[9] Variations may arise, particularly in relation to the place of daughters: though by law a daughter should inherit before her uncle or cousin,[10] a male relative may stake a claim and be judged a better choice to be heir.[11]

A lord may lay out specific terms for inheritance or pass over their offspring in his will, which may invite legal wrangling after their death, and potentially violence during it. For instance, Lord Tywin Lannister wants his elder son, Ser Jaime, to be his heir to Casterly Rock and refuses to acknowledge the claim of his younger son, Tyrion, despite custom disqualifying Jaime as a member of the Kingsguard. If a lord's heir is a daughter without a husband, he might specify that she must wed by a certain time or the inheritance will pass to a cousin.[12]

The role of legitimised bastards throughout the Seven Kingdoms is also unclear i.e. whether they follow trueborn children, or join the line of succession in order of birth as if they had been trueborn all along.[7] Unlegitimised bastards have no legal claim.

Heirs born into a different house drop their birth surname when they come into their inheritance, adopting the name of the inherited house as their own. An example is Beren Tallhart possibly adopting the Hornwood name.[11]

Targaryen inheritance

Targaryen inheritance differs from the inheritance customs in the rest of Westeros. After the Dance of the Dragons is was decreed by law that all males would be placed before all females. The execution of this law was seen within decades after the Dance, when, after the deaths of both King Daeron I and King Baelor I, their uncle, Viserys, inherited the thrones, instead of the three sisters of Daeron and Baelor, or their children.[13]

Marriage

Marriage customs vary considerably between the lands and major faiths, i.e. followers of the old gods, the Faith of the Seven, R'hllor, and the Drowned God. All appear to be religious ceremonies between one man and one woman (who should not be more closely related than first cousins), involving the exchange of vows in the presence of particular sacred witnesses e.g. a septon, a heart tree,[14] or a priest/ess. It is followed by the feast, where the bride and groom eat and drink with everyone and finally, there is the bedding.

The Targaryens of Old Valyria allow marriage between brother and sister, which they brought to the Seven Kingdoms. This practice was never accepted or practiced by the population they ruled, however, to the extent that such unions are deemed ungodly and even accursed.

Marriage Contracts

While marriages to women who have not reached their majority or even their first flowering have happened, they are rare. Moreover, bedding these girls before they are at the least flowered is seen as perverse. Generally, weddings are postponed until the girl has passed into maidenhood with her flowering, although betrothals may happen earlier.[15]

Marriage contracts are often arranged between noble houses, but they can be broken later.[16] Contracts are most often arranged on behalf of offspring or unmarried younger siblings. Although a lord cannot force the marriage if their dependent refuses to say the vows, this would carry serious consequences.[1] It is not uncommon for a noble maiden, betrothed early, to wed within the year following her first flowering.[17] Most women outside of Dorne take the names of their husbands, although not in all cases. If a woman is of higher birth or station than her husband, for example, she may use his name little, if at all.

Lords do not necessarily arrange marriages for their vassals or household knights, but they would be wise to consult him and respect his feelings when arranging their own matches.[1]

Legality and Annulment

Vows said at swordpoint are not held to be valid,[18] and in theory, a person cannot be declared to be married if they refuse to say the vows.[19] However, there are still issues of consent. Marriages may be conducted between children or even babies; this is unusual and tends to occur when inheritances are the chief concern.[20]

In the cult of the Drowned God, it is possible for someone to be married by proxy without their consent and without saying the vows for oneself.[21]

In the Faith of the Seven, a marriage that has not been consummated can be set aside by the High Septon or a Council of Faith.[14] An annulment granted by the High Septon requires no witnesses and must be requested by at least one of the wedded pair.[22] The role and procedure of a Council of Faith is unclear.

Consummation

Main articles: Bedding, and First Night

Women are generally expected to be virgins on their wedding night, more so for noble women. Witnesses may be called upon to witness the bedding of a newly wedded couple, the ceremony usually takes place following the feast.[23] However, it is known that horse riding can break a girl’s maidenhead, so few families are insistent on physical proof.[24]

Lords in Westeros once had the right to the first night, the custom of bedding newly-wed common women before their husbands. Queen Alysanne convinced King Jaehaerys I to abolish it,[25][26] but it is still practiced illegally in some parts of the North.[27]

Age of majority

See also: Nameday

For boys, fifteen is considered almost a man grown (sixteen is age of majority).[28] A girl is not considered a woman until her first menstruation, or flowering, as the folk of the Seven Kingdom say. More precisely, she is a maiden who is both still a child and a woman at the same time.[29] Eleven is seen as old enough for a girl to be betrothed, but marriage tends to wait a few years.

It is not uncommon for a noble maiden, betrothed early, to wed within the year following her first flowering and normally expect to be married by twenty (smallfolk tend to marry a bit later). Noble boys of about seven or eight are often sent to other noble houses to be raised until they reach the age of majority. The boys serve as pages and squires, acquiring training in arms, law, and courtesy.

Hospitality

Main article: Guest right

The obligations of hospitality are taken very seriously in Westeros. After hospitality has been offered and accepted, the guest is afforded the guest right by the host, which protects the guest, at least for the length of the stay. It is a sacred rule as old as the First Men. The most proper way of receiving the guest right is by the "bread and salt," which means to share food with your host.

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