A bastard is a person whose parents, at the time of their birth, were not married to each other. There is a certain stigma that comes from being born as a bastard, as their nature is often seen as lustful and deceitful. As a polite way of referring to someone who is bastard-born, someone may be referred to as a "natural son" or "natural daughter". A less polite term, indicative of the social stigma against bastards, is "baseborn", although this term does not apply if both parents are noble. A euphemism for being bastard-born is "being born on the wrong side of the sheets".
Family Life and Status
In A Song of Ice and Fire, it is not unexpected for noblemen to have bastard children. 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. A noble-born wife has the right to take insult at her husband's bastards being introduced into her household and being commensurate in rank with her legally-born children.
Bastards whose parents are both of the nobility may be considered non-baseborn, although even a royal decree has considerable difficulty in removing the stigma of a bastard and trueborn children of a bastard might change their surnames to show their legitimate nature. For example, a legitimate son of a Waters might change his surname to Longwaters.
At any point, the biological father of a bastard may acknowledge him and bring him formally into his house. King Robert Baratheon acknowledged Edric Storm, although the boy was raised at Storm's End. After the death of Domeric Bolton, Lord Roose Bolton brought Ramsay Snow to the Dreadfort, although Roose did not recognize Ramsay as his heir at that time.
A more drastic measure is legitimization, a power traditionally reserved to monarchs alone. Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen legitimized the brothers Addam and Alyn of Hull as heirs of Lord Corlys Velaryon. Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized many of his bastards of noble birth on his deathbed (the so-called Great Bastards), and, almost a century later, Ramsay Snow's official bastard status was removed by a royal decree (as a reward for the Boltons betraying the Starks and bowing to the Lannisters) and he became the heir of House Bolton. The social stigma of his bastardy was not lifted, however. Robb Stark, as King in the North, planned to legitimize his bastard half-brother Jon Snow and proclaim him as his heir; however, this would only be considered valid by those who supported Robb's claim to be King in the North. Following Robb's death, Stannis Baratheon, having proclaimed himself King of the Seven Kingdoms, also proposed to legitimize Snow and make him Lord of Winterfell, but Jon declined Stannis's offer, electing to become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch instead.
Joffrey Baratheon was believed by Robert Baratheon to be his trueborn son, and therefore heir to House Baratheon and the Iron Throne. The revelation of Joffrey's bastardy, as the product of adultery on the part of Queen Cersei, caused his claim to the Iron Throne to be disputed after Robert's death by Robert's brother, Stannis.
Far more often a bastard is acknowledged but not legitimized. For example, Eddard Stark acknowledged Jon Snow as his son and a member of House Stark, but did not legitimize him. Snow retained the bastard name of the North and the social status it conferred, and did not enter the line of succession of House Stark. Many bastards are never acknowledged and do not know who their fathers are. One example is Gendry.
Rights of Inheritance
The baseborn have few rights under law and custom when it comes to rights of inheritance. A bastard may inherit if the father has no other trueborn children nor any other likely kin to follow him. Additionally, a bastard can inherit if he is legitimized by a royal decree. 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.
Heraldic custom regarding bastards is fairly loose; bastards who take arms (noble born, knighted, etc.) often, but not always, take the coat of arms of their fathers with the colors reversed. A bend sinister is sometimes added, as exemplified by Ser Walder Rivers's sigil. A bastard that wants to emphasize his filiation and minimize his own bastardy may decide to use the same sigil as his father, as did Glendon Flowers, perhaps illegally.
However, any man can be knighted, even a bastard. A bastard may even be appointed to the Kingsguard; two such knights, Robert Flowers and Addison Hill, rose to become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. In the Night's Watch, any man may rise to command, no matter the circumstances of their birth. Such were the cases of Cotter Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and Jon Snow and Robin Hill, who became Lord Commanders.
It is considered rude to pry into the origins of a man's natural children. Men say that bastards are born from lust and lies, grow up more swiftly than other children, and their nature is wanton and treacherous.
Coat of Arms
Bastards do not have the right to use the arms of their families. The custom is thus a bastard using arms (when knighted for example) adds a distinction, called breaking. This can be in the form of a color inversion on their own coats of arms, with the addition of a possible bend sinister.
|Arms of House Blackfyre, founded by a bastard of the House Targaryen, has the colors reversed.|
|The personal arms of Walder Rivers, bastard son of Lord Walder Frey, has the Frey colors reversed and a red bend sinister added.|
|The coat of arms of Aegor Rivers "Bittersteel", a bastard son of Aegon IV. He has combined the sigills of House Bracken (his mothers house) and House Blackfyre.|
Each of the nine constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms have bastard surnames decreed by custom. Bastards with a high-born parent are given these surnames to hold them apart from their fathers' houses. The parents may give a bastard a different surname if they wish, e.g. Tyrion Tanner. Bastards with no known relation to a noble house have no surname, like other smallfolk.
|Reach||Flowers||Ser Robert Flowers|
|Iron Islands||Pyke||Wex Pyke|
|Stormlands||Storm||Ser Rolland Storm|
As the surname is applied depending on the region where the bastard is raised, bastards who are half-siblings may have different surnames. For example, Robert Baratheon's eldest bastard, born in the Vale, is called Mya Stone while his bastard from the Stormlands is called Edric Storm.
- Jon Snow, the recognized bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark and 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
- Ramsay Bolton, formerly known as Ramsay Snow, the recognized and legitimised son of Lord Roose Bolton. Commonly known as the Bastard of Bolton or the Bastard of the Dreadfort.
- Larence Snow, the son of Lord Halys Hornwood.
The Iron Islands
- Cotter Pyke, a member of the Night's Watch and the current Commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
- Wex Pyke, the baseborn son of Sargon Botley and the squire of Theon Greyjoy.
- Ser Aegor Rivers, better known as Bittersteel, is the recognized and legitimised son of King Aegon IV Targaryen and Barba Bracken. Founder of the Golden Company.
- Alys Rivers, was a bedmate of Prince Aemond Targaryen.
- Benedict Rivers, later known as King Benedict I Justman, was a bastard from Houses Blackwood and Bracken. Founder of House Justman and first Justman King of the Trident.
- Brynden Rivers, better known as Bloodraven, recognized and legitimised son of King Aegon IV Targaryen and Melissa Blackwood. Former Hand of the King and Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
- Robb Rivers, also known as Red Robb Rivers and the Bowman of Raventree, was a bastard of House Blackwood.
- Ser Walder Rivers, recognized eldest bastard son of Lord Walder Frey.
- Alayne Stone, the bastard daughter of Petyr Baelish, actually a false identity assumed by Sansa Stark.
- Mya Stone, the eldest bastard of King Robert Baratheon. (While she is not officially recognized, she is somewhat openly known to be the king's baseborn daughter.)
- Ser Samwell Stone, better known as Strong Sam Stone, is the master-at-arms at Runestone.
- Ser Addison Hill, a former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
- Joy Hill, the recognized daughter of Gerion Lannister.
- "Sweet" Donnel Hill, who claims to be a bastard of the Lannisters.
- Hugor Hill, a bastard named in analogy of the mythical Hugor of the Hill, actually a false identity assumed by Tyrion Lannister
- Addam of Hull, legitimised as Addam Velaryon, a dragonrider and heir to Driftmark.
- Alyn of Hull, legitimised as Alyn Velaryon, an admiral and heir to Driftmark.
- Aurane Waters, better known as the Bastard of Driftmark. He was part of Queen Cersei's small council as the Grand Admiral and Master of Ships.
- Daemon Waters, later known as Daemon Blackfyre, is the recognized and legitimised son of King Aegon IV Targaryen and Daena Targaryen. Founder of House Blackfyre.
- Humfrey Waters is the current Commander of the City Watch of King's Landing.
- Gendry, an unrecognized bastard of King Robert Baratheon. Unaware of his heritage but is the spitting image of Robert when he was young.
- Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen Baratheon are bastards conceived by Queen Cersei Lannister with her own twin brother, Ser Jaime, although they are commonly believed to be her legitimate children by King Robert Baratheon.
- Falia Flowers, the bastard daughter of Lord Humfrey Hewett.
- Ser Franklyn Flowers, also known as the Bastard of Cider Hall, a knight in service to the Golden Company.
- Garrett Flowers, is the bastard son of Garth the Gross. Garse's brother.
- Garse Flowers, is the bastard son of Garth the Gross. Garrett's brother.
- Ser Robert Flowers, a former Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
- Jafer Flowers, a ranger of the Night's Watch.
- Edric Storm, the acknowledged bastard son of King Robert Baratheon and Delena Florent.
- Ser Rolland Storm, better known as the Bastard of Nightsong, is the baseborn son of Lord Bryen Caron.
- Ronald Storm, the bastard son of Ser Ronnet Connington.
- Ellaria Sand, the bastard daughter of Lord Harmen Uller. She is also the paramour of Prince Oberyn Martell.
- The Sand Snakes is the collective name for the eight bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper. They are: Obara Sand, Nymeria Sand, Tyene Sand, Sarella Sand, Elia Sand, Obella Sand, Dorea Sand and Loreza Sand.
- Ser Daemon Sand, better known as the Bastard of Godsgrace, is the bastard son of Ryon Allyrion.
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 ...
Your mother was milking goats the first time I gave her my seed.
– Jon Snow
References and Notes
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
- The Sworn Sword, Legends II, ISBN 978-0345456441, page 97 of 73-152.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
- So Spake Martin: SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and More, June 26, 2001
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Ramsay Snow entry.
- The Princess and the Queen.
- So Spake Martin: The Hornwood Inheritance and the Whents, November 02, 1999
- The Sworn Sword, Legends II, ISBN 978-0345456441, page 104 of 73-152.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 38, Jaime VI.
- The Mystery Knight, Warriors 1, ISBN 978-0-7653-6026-7, page 279 of 251-394.
- The Hedge Knight.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 7, Arya I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- The Sworn Sword.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 39, Cersei IX.
- The Sworn Sword, Legends II, ISNB 0-00-715436-4, page 160 of 88-190.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI, p 560.
- The World of Ice and Fire sample: Aegon's Conquest
- So Spake Martin: Many Questions, October 14, 1998
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