Great houses are the most powerful members of nobility of the Seven Kingdoms, often being former royalty and now sworn directly to the Iron Throne. The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms describes the great houses and high lords of Westeros.
George R. R. Martin also sometimes refers to great houses as the most powerful houses from regions throughout the Known World. For example, Maester Luwin explains that only a few great houses of the North follow the Faith of the Seven, and Maester Yandel writes that the Valyrian great houses were rife with deception and conflict.
House Targaryen conquered most of Westeros during Aegon's Conquest. House Stark of Winterfell, the former Kings in the North, became Wardens of the North for the new king, Aegon I Targaryen. House Arryn of the Eyrie, the former Kings of Mountain and Vale, became the Wardens of the East, while House Lannister of Casterly Rock, the Kings of the Rock, became the Wardens of the West. The Lannisters are the wealthiest of the Great Houses.
House Gardener of Highgarden, the Kings of the Reach, were extinguished at the Field of Fire by Aegon's dragons. Aegon granted Highgarden to House Tyrell, his new Wardens of the South. Despite being sworn to the Tyrells, the Hightowers of Oldtown are among the oldest and proudest of the Great Houses of Westeros.
House Hoare of Harrenhal, the Kings of the Isles and the Rivers, were extinguished in the burning of Harrenhal. Aegon granted dominion over the riverlands to House Tully of Riverrun, the new Lords Paramount of the Trident. Aegon allowed the Iron Islands to choose House Greyjoy of Pyke as their new liege lords.
Aegon's half-brother, Orys Baratheon, slew Argilac the Arrogant, the last Storm King from House Durrandon. Orys married Argilac's daughter, Argella Durrandon, forming House Baratheon of Storm's End, the youngest of the Great Houses of Westeros.
The principality of Dorne, ruled by House Martell of Sunspear, resisted Aegon in the First Dornish War. The Martells later peacefully joined the Seven Kingdoms during the reign of King Daeron II Targaryen.
Aegon created the crownlands around Blackwater Bay, with House Targaryen ruling from the Iron Throne. The Targaryens were eventually deposed during Robert's Rebellion, however, and the crownlands have since been ruled by House Baratheon of King's Landing and House Baratheon of Dragonstone.
A Game of Thrones
When discussing the claimants after the death of King Robert I Baratheon, Marq Piper indicates that if Renly Baratheon gains the support of the Tyrells of Highgarden, the Baratheons of Storm's End, the Martells of Sunspear, the Starks of Winterfell, the Tullys of Riverrun, and the Arryns of the Eyrie, Renly would have six of the seven great houses aligned against the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. Marq omits House Greyjoy of Pyke.
A Clash of Kings
Following the Battle of the Blackwater, the Iron Throne decrees that House Baelish of Harrenhal are the new Lords Paramount of the Trident with dominion over the riverlands, displacing the Tullys of Riverrun.
A Storm of Swords
Prior to the royal wedding, Lord Mace Tyrell gives King Joffrey I Baratheon a seven-sided chalice decorated with great houses: ruby lion, emerald rose, onyx stag, silver trout, blue jade falcon, opal sun, and pearl direwolf. With the War of the Five Kings in mind, Joffrey suggests replacing the direwolf with a squid.
A Dance with Dragons
References and Notes
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn XI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 27, Eddard VI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 53, Bran VI.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Doom of Valyria.
- A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
- A Storm of Swords, Appendix.
- A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Daeron II.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 65, Sansa VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 59, Sansa IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.