During Aegon's Conquest and the unification of the Seven Kingdoms, Aegon the Conqueror granted new warden titles to monarchs who submitted to House Targaryen, including Loren Lannister, Ronnel Arryn, and Torrhen Stark. Aegon also named Harlen Tyrell, a former steward, as warden.
Wardens for the Iron Throne act as supreme military leaders responsible for the defense of their region in the event of foreign invasion. In times of peace, this prestigious title is purely honorary. Tradition holds that each title is hereditarily given to the lord of a certain family, but the king retains the right to award it to another of his choosing. This typically only happens if the traditional holder dies and his heir is not yet of age, although in times of turbulence the office may be offered to those holding a monarch's favor.
The four major directional wardens as per the start of the books:
- Warden of the East, held by Jon Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie. House Arryn were once Kings of Mountain and Vale.
- Warden of the North, held by Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell. House Stark were once Kings in the North.
- Warden of the South, held by Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden. House Tyrell were once stewards to House Gardener, the Kings of the Reach.
- Warden of the West, held by Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock. House Lannister were once the Kings of the Rock.
There are also smaller-scale wardens:
- Warden of the Prince's Pass, guardian of the Prince's Pass in Dorne. Held by Lord Franklyn Fowler as per the tradition of House Fowler.
- Warden of the Sands, guardian of the deserts of Dorne. Only granted to Lord Rosby during the First Dornish War.
- Warden of Stone Way, guardian of the Boneway in Dorne. Held by Lord Anders Yronwood as per the tradition of House Yronwood.
- Warden of the White Knife, guardian of the White Knife in the north. Held by Lord Wyman Manderly of White Harbor as per the tradition of House Manderly.
A Game of Thrones
Lord Jon Arryn, the Warden of the East, dies unexpectedly. King Robert I Baratheon bestows the title on Ser Jaime Lannister, which upsets the Vale of Arryn. Lady Lysa Arryn refers to her son, Lord Robert Arryn, as the True Warden of the East.
Lord Eddard Stark, the Warden of the North, is executed upon the order of King Joffrey Baratheon. His son, Robb Stark, is declared King in the North by his bannermen in rebellion to the Iron Throne.
A Storm of Swords
Robb Stark, King in the North and King of the Trident, creates the new title of Warden of the Southern Marches for his uncle, Ser Brynden "Blackfish" Tully, in recognition of his prominent military role in the War of the Five Kings. Robb is murdered at the Red Wedding by Lord Roose Bolton. For his service to the Lannisters, the Iron Throne grants Roose the title of Warden of the North.
Lord Tywin Lannister restore the title of Warden of the East to Robert Arryn once Lysa weds Petyr Baelish, thereby restoring the allegiance of House Arryn to the Iron Throne. Tywin, the Warden of the West, is slain by his son and lawful heir, Tyrion Lannister.
A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
Wardens are supposed to defend their regions against invaders. In theory, at least, they are each the supreme general for their region and therefore preventing any disunity of command.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 55, The Queensguard.
- The World of Ice & Fire, Ancient History: Ten Thousand Ships.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
- So Spake Martin: Social Structure, Moat Cailin, and More, June 10, 2002
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Vale: House Arryn.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North: The Kings of Winter.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: House Tyrell.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands.
- Fire & Blood, A Time of Testing - The Realm Remade.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Iron Islands: The Old Way and the New.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 34, Catelyn VI.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 65, Arya V.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 71, Catelyn XI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 19, Tyrion III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 68, Sansa VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 77, Tyrion XI.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 12, Cersei III.