From A Wiki of Ice and Fire
(Redirected from Marriage)
Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about customs in Westeros.

Monarchy and Nobility

See also Law and 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 was in 233 AC, when it chose the next king of the Seven Kingdoms, overriding the usual line of inheritance to give the crown to the youngest son of Maekar I, Aegon V, ahead of his elder brothers.[6]


Seven Kingdoms

Inheritance laws in the 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]

Male-preference primogeniture is customary, but not binding, for most nobles.[8] 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.[9] In practice it is usually sons, then whoever can manage to convince the local overlord that he ought to inherit. Still, there are examples of ladies who rule in their own right.[10]

In Dorne, however, no distinction is made between sons and daughters, with children inheriting in order of birth regardless of gender.[9] It is unclear whether women can inherit in their own right in the Iron Islands.

An otherwise weak claim may also be secured by the sword. Robert I Baratheon was chosen as the leader of the rebellion because of his Targaryen descent, but he only became king because the rebellion succeeded.

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.[11] Variations may arise, particularly in relation to the place of daughters: though by law a daughter should inherit before her uncle or cousin,[12] a male relative may stake a claim and be judged a better choice to be heir.[13]

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.[14]

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] Legitimisation, once made, is irreversible.[15] 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. Some examples could be cited:

Targaryen Inheritance

Targaryen inheritance differs from the inheritance customs in the rest of Westeros. In 92 AC Jaehaerys I Targaryen passed over Rhaenys, the daughter of his deceased eldest son, Aemon, in favor of the king's next eldest son, Baleon. Many Westerosi lords preferred a male line over a female line, and many believed the Great Council of 101 AC set a precedent that the Iron Throne could not pass to a woman or through a woman to her male descendents.[17] Jaehaerys's eventual successor, Baelon's son Viserys I Targaryen, disregarded the precedents of 92 AC and 101 AC, however, and named his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen as his heir.[18] This eventually led to the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.

The agnatic principle laid down in the Great Council of 101 was slightly modified after the Dance of the Dragons. Thereafter, according to a semi-canon source, women came after all men in the Targaryen succession,[19] i.e., women could only succeed if the entire male line of House Targaryen became extinct. Decades after the Dance, after the deaths of both King Daeron I and King Baelor I, their uncle, Viserys II, inherited the throne, and the claims of the three sisters of Daeron and Baelor or their children were passed over.[20] After the death of King Maekar I Targaryen, the claim of his simple-minded granddaughter Vaella Targaryen was immediately dismissed.[21]

The Sack of King's Landing during Robert's Rebellion led to the death of King Aerys II Targaryen. His sister-wife, Queen Rhaella Targaryen, pregnant with Daenerys, was at Dragonstone with Aerys's surviving son, Prince Viserys, who was declared king on the island fortress.[22] Robert I Baratheon, however, acceded the Iron Throne as the grandson of Princess Rhaelle Targaryen, a daughter of King Aegon V Targaryen.[23][24] Robert's accession has also been attributed to his military success.[25]

Loss of succession right

The right of succession may be renounced. An example is Prince Duncan the Small, who renounced his right to the throne in order to keep his wife Jenny of Oldstones.

Traitors may be attainted, in which case even his descendants would lose their right to succeed.

The right of succession is lost upon becoming a septon, a maester, a member of the Night's Watch or a Kingsguard.


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,[26] 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.[27]

Marriage contracts are often arranged between noble houses, but they can be broken later.[28] 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.[29] 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,[30] and in theory, a person cannot be declared to be married if they refuse to say the vows.[31] 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.[32]

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.[33]

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.[26] An annulment granted by the High Septon requires no witnesses and must be requested by at least one of the wedded pair.[34] The role and procedure of a Council of Faith is unclear.


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.[35] However, it is known that horse riding can break a girl’s maidenhead, so few families are insistent on physical proof.[36]

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,[37][38] but it is still practiced illegally in some parts of the north.[39]

Age of majority

See also: Name day

For boys, fifteen is considered almost a man grown (sixteen is age of majority).[40] 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.[41] 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.


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 guest right by the host, which protects guests and hosts for the length of the stay. It is a sacred rule as old as the First Men. The most proper way of receiving guest right is by "bread and salt," which means to share food with your host.[42][43]

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 So Spake Martin: Some Questions, March 16, 2000
  2. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
  3. So Spake Martin: Land Ownership and Marriage in Westeros
  4. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  5. The Sworn Sword, p127
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 8, Tyrion II.
  7. 7.0 7.1 So Spake Martin: The Hornwood Inheritance and the Whents, November 02, 1999
  8. Ran at A Forum of Ice and Fire: "Primogeniture is customary, but not binding... especially not to a king. We have other examples of people being passed over, or potentially passed over, for others."
  9. 9.0 9.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 62, Tyrion VIII.
  10. Ruling ladies include: 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.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
  12. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
  14. The Sworn Sword, p. 123.
  15. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  16. The World of Ice and Fire, The Westerlands.
  17. The World of Ice and Fire, Jaehaerys I.
  18. The World of Ice and Fire, Viserys I.
  19. So Spake Martin: Comic Con San Diego, July 23, 2006
  20. The World of Ice and Fire, Viserys II.
  21. The World of Ice and Fire, Maekar I.
  22. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Rhaella Targaryen.
  23. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  24. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
  25. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 22, Catelyn II.
  26. 26.0 26.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 34, Jon IV.
  27. So Spake Martin: Age of Sexual Relations in Westeros, October 05, 1999
  28. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 67, Tyrion XV.
  29. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 12, Cersei III.
  30. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 36, Tyrion VIII.
  31. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 80, Sansa VII.
  32. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 26, Arya VI.
  33. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 26, The Wayward Bride.
  34. So Spake Martin: Minisa Tully and Sansa, September 08, 2000
  35. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 28, Sansa III.
  36. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 28, Cersei VI.
  37. The Sworn Sword, p94
  38. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 43, Daenerys VII.
  39. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
  40. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
  41. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
  42. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
  43. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 23, Alayne I.

Navigation menu