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A bastard is a person whose parents are not married to each other.[1] A bastard can also be referred to as natural son or natural daughter.[2][3][4][5]

Social status

A bastard daughter of Prince Oberyn Martell - by Magali Villeneuve. © Fantasy Flight Games

A polite way of referring to someone who is bastard-born is referring to them as a "natural son" or "natural daughter".[2][3][4][5] Others might refer to a bastard simply as "bastard-born".[6][7][8] The term "baseborn"[9][10] is used to refer to a child of whom one parent is of the smallfolk.[1][9][10][11] A euphemism for being bastard-born is being "born on the wrong side of the blanket".[1]

It is not unexpected for noblemen to have bastard children,[12] though it is considered rude to pry into the origins of a man's bastards.[13] While it is not typical for a noble to bring his bastards home and raise them with his own children, it is usually expected that he will see to the child's well-being to some degree.[12] Some might chose to have their bastards fostered at the home of another lord,[14] while others might decide to raise their bastard at their own home, in the position of a servant (e.g. Falia Flowers).[15] A noble-born wife can take insult at her husband's bastards being introduced into her household and being commensurate in rank with her legally-born children.[12]

There is a certain stigma that comes from being born as a bastard. They are said to be born from lust, lies, and weakness,[16][13][17] and as such, they are said to be wanton and treacherous by nature.[16][13][17] Because of the stigma bastards have to deal with, they are said to grow up faster than trueborn children.[18][19] Even after being legitimized, bastards will usually have considerable difficulty in removing the stigma of having been bastard-born.[17]

Nonetheless, a bastard might rise high. Male bastards may study at the Citadel and become a maester (e.g., Walys, a former maester of Winterfell[20]) Female bastards are allowed to join the Faith of the Seven and become septas, like Alysanne, Lily, Willow, and Rosey, the four bastard daughters of King Aegon IV Targaryen by his second mistress, Megette.[21] Potentially, this might mean that male bastards could become septons.

Bastards can also be knighted, and may even be appointed to the Kingsguard (e.g., Mervyn Flowers[22]). Bastards can even rise to become the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, as Robert Flowers and Addison Hill did.[23] In the Night's Watch, any man may rise to command, no matter the circumstance of his birth. Bastards who have risen to positions of command include Cotter Pyke,[9] who is the commander at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and Robin Hill[16] and Jon Snow,[24] who both became Lord Commanders.

Another example is the origin of House Justman. This house was founded by Benedict Rivers, a bastard son descending of both House Blackwood and House Bracken. House Justman ruled the riverlands for three centuries before being eventually wiped out during a war against the ironborn and King Qhored Hoare.[25]


Each of the nine constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms have bastard surnames decreed by custom, not law.[26] Bastards with a high-born parent are given these surnames to hold them apart from their parent's houses.[26] The parents may give a bastard a different surname if they wish, e.g. Tyrion Tanner[27], or no name at all.[26] Bastard children of two people of the smallfolk are not given a distinctive surname.[26] A bastard might also chose a surname for himself. Daemon Waters took the surname Blackfyre at the age of twelve, after having been knighted and having received lands and the Valyrian steel sword of the same name from his father, King Aegon IV Targaryen.[21]

The surname a bastard received appears to be connected to the location the child is raised, though this is not a consistent rule. Because of this, bastards who are half-siblings might have different surnames. For example, King Robert I Baratheon's eldest bastard, born and raised in the Vale, is called Mya Stone, while his bastard from the stormlands (fathered on a noblewoman from the Reach) is called Edric Storm. However, whilst Aegor Rivers was raised at Stone Hedge in the riverlands, his half-brother Brynden was also called Rivers, despite having lived at least the first few years of his life with his mother at King's Landing in the crownlands.[21] Prince Oberyn Martell's eight bastard daughters all have the surname Sand, even though the eldest, Obara, lived in Oldtown in the Reach during the earlier years of her life,[28] and her sister Nymeria was born in Volantis, across the narrow sea.[29] As the youngest region in the realm, it is unclear exactly when "Waters" became the common surname for bastards from the crownlands: the earliest mention of it is from 74 AC, applied to the children of shamed kingsguard knight Lucamore Strong.[30]

Most legitimate offspring of a bastard decides to keep the bastard surname.[26] If two bastards from two different regions (i.e. with two different surnames) marry, the children will most likely take their father's surname.[31] Some later legitimate offspring of bastards might change their surname to demonstrate their legitimate nature, and remove the bastard-born taint.[26] One such an example is the son of Jon Waters. Jon Waters was the bastard son of Princess Elaena Targaryen and Lord Alyn Velaryon.[32][33] His trueborn son changed his name from "Waters" to "Longwaters" in an attempt to remove the taint of bastardy,[33] and to demonstrate he was of legitimate birth himself.[26]

Region Surname Example
Crownlands Waters[34][35] Aurane Waters
Dorne Sand[2] Ellaria Sand
Iron Islands Pyke[9][36] Cotter Pyke
North Snow[37][38] Jon Snow
Reach Flowers[38] Falia Flowers
Riverlands Rivers[39] Walder Rivers
Stormlands Storm[40] Rolland Storm
Vale of Arryn Stone[38] Mya Stone
Westerlands Hill[41] Joy Hill


Jon Snow, the acknowledged bastard son of Eddard Stark - by Natascha Roeoesli. © Fantasy Flight Games

At any point, the biological father of a bastard may acknowledge him and bring him formally into his house. King Robert I Baratheon acknowledged Edric Storm at his birth, although the boy was raised at Storm's End.[40] Lord Roose Bolton brought his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, to the Dreadfort following the death of his only trueborn son, Domeric, albeit without acknowledging him.[14][42] An acknowledged bastard might even be considered to inherit a seat when no direct heirs can be found.[14]

Prince Oberyn Martell has fathered eight bastard daughters on five mothers.[43] His children are raised at the court of Sunspear, where several are close to the heir of Prince Doran Martell, Princess Arianne.[44][45] The Dornish are not greatly concerned about whether or not a child is trueborn or bastard-born, especially not if the child born to a paramour.[46] While Prince Oberyn's four elder daughters were born of mothers of variable social stations - Obara's mother was a whore, Nymeria's mother a Volantene noblewoman, Tyene's mother a septa and Sarella's mother a trader captain from the Summer Islands - they appear to be treated no differently from Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza, the children he fathered on his recognized paramour, Ellaria Sand.[43][44][47]


Aegor Rivers, a Great Bastard, fathered by Aegon IV Targaryen - by Marc Simonetti ©

Besides acknowledging bastards, they can also be legitimized. This power is reserved to monarchs alone.[48][49] Once a bastard is legitimized, this cannot be undone.[48]

Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen legitimized the brothers Addam and Alyn of Hull as heirs of Lord Corlys Velaryon.[50]

The children of Lord Lyonel Hightower and Lady Samantha Tarly were rendered legitimate once a new High Septon allowed the couple to marry.[51][52]

King Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized all of his bastards on his deathbed, both those born by highborn mothers, who were also known as the Great Bastards, and those who had been baseborn.[17][21] This act by King Aegon eventually played a large role in several wars fought over the Iron Throne between the trueborn descendants of King Aegon and his bastard-born offspring, the Blackfyre Pretenders.[48]

Following his role in the War of the Five Kings, the bastard-born son of Lord Roose Bolton, Ramsay Snow, is legitimized in order to marry a highborn bride.[53]

Rights of Inheritance

The bastard-born have few rights under law and custom.[10] When it comes to rights of inheritance, there are no clear cut laws.[54]

A bastard may inherit if the father has no other trueborn children nor any other direct heirs to follow him. For example, in 299 AC, following the deaths of Lord Halys Hornwood and his trueborn son, Daryn, Halys's natural son Larence Snow is considered as a potential heir by House Hornwoods overlords, House Stark.[14] However, in order to inherit or be installed as an heir, the bastard-born child will first have to be legitimized by a royal decree.[48]

It is unclear whether a legitimized bastard would be placed in the succession according to birth order, or would be placed at the end, after the trueborn children.[54]

Coat of Arms

Bastards do not have the right to use the arms of the highborn families from which they descend.[55] Recognized bastards who take arms (noble born, knighted, etc.) often, but not always, take the coat of arms of their fathers with the colors reversed.[17] A bend sinister is sometimes added, as exemplified by Ser Walder Rivers's sigil.[56] A bastard that wants to emphasize his affiliation and minimize his own bastardy may decide to use the same sigil as his father, as did Glendon Flowers,[1] perhaps illegally.[57][55] Other bastards might choose to combine multiple sigils, as Aegor Rivers did.[58]

Several examples:

House Targaryen House Blackfyre Arms of House Blackfyre (right), founded by Daemon I Blackfyre, a bastard descending from House Targaryen, has the colors of the Targaryen sigil (left) reversed.[17]
House Frey  personal arms of Walder Rivers The personal arms of Walder Rivers (right), bastard son of Lord Walder Frey, has the colors of the sigil of House Frey (left) reversed and a red bend sinister added.[56]
House Blackfyre House Bracken personal arms of Aegor Rivers The coat of arms of Aegor Rivers (right), a bastard son of King Aegon IV Targaryen. He has combined the sigils of his mother's house, House Bracken (middle), and House Blackfyre (left).

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Prince Joffrey Baratheon is believed by King Robert I Baratheon to be his trueborn son, and is therefore the heir to House Baratheon of King's Landing, and heir to the Iron Throne. However, Lord Eddard Stark discovers that Joffrey, as well as his siblings Myrcella and Tommen, are actually the bastards of Queen Cersei Lannister and her twin brother, Jaime.[59]

A Clash of Kings

The revelation of Joffrey's bastardy, as the product of adultery on the part of Queen Cersei Lannister, causes Joffrey's claim to the Iron Throne to be disputed after Robert's death by Robert's eldest brother, Stannis Baratheon.[60]

A Storm of Swords

Ramsay Snow's official bastard status is removed by a royal decree, as a reward for the Boltons betraying the Starks and bowing to the Lannisters, and he becomes the heir of House Bolton.[53]

Robb Stark, as King in the North, plans to legitimize his bastard half-brother Jon Snow and proclaim him as his heir.[48] Following Robb's death, Stannis Baratheon, having proclaimed himself King of the Seven Kingdoms, also proposes to legitimize Snow and make him Lord of Winterfell,[61] but Jon declines Stannis's offer, electing to become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch instead.[24]

Having fled King's Landing with the aid of Lord Petyr Baelish, Sansa Stark poses as his natural daughter, named Alayne Stone.[4]

A Feast for Crows

Sansa Stark is still posing in the Vale as Alayne Stone, the bastard-born daughter of Petyr Baelish.[62]

A Dance with Dragons

Tyrion Lannister uses the name Hugor Hill while traveling through Essos, pretending to be a bastard from Lannisport.[63][64]

Notable Bastards

See also: List of known bastards



Iron Islands


The Reach



Vale of Arryn



Orys Baratheon was a baseborn half brother to Lord Aegon, it was whispered, and the Storm King would not dishonor his daughter by giving her hand to a bastard. The very suggestion enraged him.[65]

—writings of Gyldayn

The old High Septon told my father that king's laws are one thing, and the laws of the gods another. Trueborn children are made in a marriage bed and blessed by the Father and the Mother, but bastards are born of lust and weakness, he said. King Aegon decreed that his bastards were not bastards, but he could not change their nature. The High Septon said all bastards are born to betrayal ...[17]

Egg to Duncan

A bastard had to learn to notice things, to read the truth that people hid behind their eyes.[18]

—thoughts of Jon Snow

Go away, I wanted only Freys up here, the King in the North has no interest in base stock.[66]

Bastard children were born from lust and lies, men said; their nature was wanton and treacherous. Once Jon had meant to prove them wrong, to show his lord father he could as good a true son as Robb Stark.[13]

—thoughts of Jon Snow

Well, Aerion Brightflame did not stay in Lys all his life, only a few years. He may have fathered a few bastards there, which would mean Dany has "relatives" of a sort in Lys... but they would be very distant relatives, from the wrong side of the blanket.[67]


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 38, Tyrion V.
  3. 3.0 3.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 53, Tyrion VI.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 68, Sansa VI.
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
  6. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 15, Jon II.
  7. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  8. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 48, Jon VI.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 19, Jon III.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 35, Eddard IX.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
  15. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 29, The Reaver.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 55, Jon VII.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 The Sworn Sword.
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
  19. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 26, Jon IV.
  20. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV.
  22. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon III.
  23. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  24. 24.0 24.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 79, Jon XII.
  25. The World of Ice & Fire, The Riverlands.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 26.6 SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and more (June 26, 2001)
  27. A Dance with Dragons, Appendix.
  28. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
  29. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Nymeria Sand.
  30. Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
  31. So Spake Martin: Bastard's Offspring (January 20, 1999)
  32. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Baelor I.
  33. 33.0 33.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
  34. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 34, Cat Of The Canals.
  35. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 12, Cersei III.
  36. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 70, Tyrion X.
  37. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 34, Catelyn VI.
  39. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
  40. 40.0 40.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  41. A Storm of Swords, Prologue.
  42. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Ramsay Snow.
  43. 43.0 43.1 A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  44. 44.0 44.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
  45. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  46. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: Queer Customs of the South.
  47. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
  48. 48.0 48.1 48.2 48.3 48.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  49. So Spake Martin: Jon Snow (August 6, 2000)
  50. The Princess and the Queen.
  51. Which bastards in Westeros were automatically legitimized once their parents married? (September 8, 2017)
  52. Fire & Blood, Aftermath - The Hour of the Wolf.
  53. 53.0 53.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
  54. 54.0 54.1 So Spake Martin: The Hornwood Inheritance and the Whents (November 2, 1999)
  55. 55.0 55.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 7, Arya I.
  56. 56.0 56.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 38, Jaime VI.
  57. 57.0 57.1 The Hedge Knight.
  58. So Spake Martin: (December 26, 2005)
  59. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  60. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  61. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
  62. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 10, Sansa I.
  63. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 8, Tyrion III.
  64. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14, Tyrion IV.
  65. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  66. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
  67. So Spake Martin: Many Questions (October 14, 1998)