Polygamy can be defined as a marriage which includes more than two partners. In Westeros, for both the highborn and lowborn, marriage is chiefly between two people, a man and a woman. The Faith of the Seven does not permit polygamy.
Polygamy in Westeros
House Targaryen was known to flout convention and openly practice polygamous marriages. Aenar Targaryen took multiple wives with him when he left Valyria for Dragonstone. Aegon I Targaryen was married to two women who were also his full sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. When Aegon married both his sisters, this was considered unusual, although there was precedent for it.
Aegon's son Maegor is the last Targaryen known to have had multiple wives. His second marriage to Alys Harroway upset the Faith, and led King Aenys I Targaryen to exile him to Pentos for a time. Later, as king, Maegor married three women, the Black Brides, in a single ceremony.
Maegor the Cruel has multiple wives, from lines outside his own, so there was and is precedent. However, the extent to which the Targaryen kings could defy convention, the Faith, and the opinions of the other lords decreased markedly after they no longer had dragons. If you have a dragon, you can have as many wives as you want, and people are less likely to object.
Despite the lack of dragons, it is possible that King Aegon IV Targaryen promised his bastard son Daemon Blackfyre that he could marry both Rohanne of Tyrosh and Princess Daenerys, but his successor King Daeron II Targaryen did not permit it.
In the Iron Islands, a man can still have several "salt wives", but only one true ironborn wife, his "rock wife". Salt wives are considered more than mere concubines. Sons born of such unions are not considered bastards, and can inherit if their father has no surviving sons by his rock wife.
In Dorne, it is not uncommon for a nobleman or a noblewoman to have a spouse for political reasons and a paramour for love. This isn't polygamy in the traditional way, but the closest thing to it because paramours have an official status in Dornish society. Nevertheless, children by paramours are bastards and have to use the surname "Sand", while the children by the spouse use the family name and inherit.
Polygamy Beyond the Wall
- The wildling Craster has multiple wives, some of whom are also his daughters.
- The wildling Ygon Oldfather has eighteen wives.
Polygamy in Essos
- Dothraki khals sometimes have more than one wife, such as Khal Jommo, who has four.
- In Leng, the first god-empress of the current dynasty, Khiara the Great, took two husbands, one Lengii and one YiTish - a customary pattern followed by her daughters and their daughters in turn.
- The Lyseni pirate Salladhor Saan has multiple wives.
References and Notes
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aenys I.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Maegor I.
- So Spake Martin: Asshai.com Forum Chat (July 27, 2008)
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 8, Daenerys I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 50, Daenerys VIII.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Reach: The Gardener Kings.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Stormlands: House Durrandon.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 46, Daenerys V.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond: Leng.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.