Customs

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Monarchy and Nobility

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].

Lords in Westeros once had the right to the First Night i.e. the custom of bedding newly-wed common women before their husbands. Queen Alysanne convinced King Jaehaerys I to abolish it [7][8] but it is still practiced illegally in some parts of the North[9].

See Also Laws & Justice.

Inheritance

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[10] .


Inheritance laws in Westeros are not clear-cut, and the customs of Dorne and possibly the Iron Islands are different from the other kingdoms. Outside Dorne, a man’s eldest son is his heir, followed by his second son, then his third son, and so on. In most cases, the youngest son is followed in the line of succession by the eldest daughter, after whom come her sisters in birth order[11]. In Dorne, no distinction is made between sons and daughters, with children inheriting in order of birth regardless of gender[11]. It is unclear whether women can inherit in their own right in the Iron Islands.


The role of legitimised bastards throughout the Seven Kingdoms is also unclear i.e. whether they follow trueborn daughters, or join the line of succession in order of birth as if they were trueborn. Unlegitimised bastards have no legal claim.


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 in his will; for example, if his 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]. In practice, the sword may be all the hereditary justification that is needed, as in the case of Robert Baratheon.

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[13]. Therefore, in theory is it all but impossible for a noble house to become extinct: with enough research, each line can be traced back to the Age of Heroes and is highly unlikely to have no modern descendants.

Marriage

Marriage customs vary considerably between the 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[15], or a priest/ess.

The ceremony is usually followed by a feast and a ‘bedding’ ritual, which guests are invited to witness. The extent of their participation is uncertain[16].

Marriage Contracts

Marriage contracts are often arranged between noble houses, but they can be broken later[17]. 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[18].

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[19], and in theory a person cannot be declared to be married if they refuse to say the vows[20]. 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[21].

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[22].

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[23]. An annulment granted by the High Septon requires no witnesses and must be requested by at least one of the wedded pair [24]. The role and procedure of a Council of Faith is unclear.

Fostering

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.

See Also:

Refernces