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Aegor Rivers, a Great Bastard, fathered by Aegon IV Targaryen - by Marc Simonetti ©
A bastard daughter of Prince Oberyn Martell - by Magali Villeneuve. © Fantasy Flight Games
Jon Snow, the acknowledged bastard son of Eddard Stark - by Natascha Roeoesli. © Fantasy Flight Games

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".[1]

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.[2] 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 are referred to as bastard-born, though not baseborn. Even a royal decree will have considerable difficulty in removing the stigma of a bastard[3] 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.[4][5]

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, although the boy was raised at Storm's End.[6] After the death of Domeric Bolton, Lord Roose Bolton brought his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, to the Dreadfort, although Roose did not recognize Ramsay as his heir.[7][8]

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.[9] Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized all of his bastards on his deathbed, both those born by highborn mothers, and baseborn.[3][10]

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. Other bastards, like Gendry, have no idea who their father is, and it might be the case that their father doesn't know about them, either.

In Dorne, bastards are viewed slightly different compared to the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Especially if the child is born to a paramour, Dornishmen are not that concerned if the child was born in or out of wedlock. Many Dornish noblemen, and even some ladies, have paramours.[11]

In recent times, Prince Oberyn Martell has fathered eight bastard daughters of five different mothers.[12] His children are raised at the court of Sunspear, where several are close to the heir of Prince Doran Martell, Princess Arianne.[13][14] Despite the fact that Oberyn's daughters were born of mothers of variable social stations - Obara's mother was a whore, Nymeria's mother a Volantenese noblewoman, Tyene's mother a septa and Sarella's mother a trader captain from the Summer Islands - they appear not to be treated different from Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza, the children he fathered on his recognized paramour, Ellaria Sand.[12][13][15]

Besides Ellaria there is another known "Sand", Daemon Sand. They both are the offspring of powerful noblemen; Ellaria is the daughter of Lord Harmen Uller, the head of one of the more powerful houses of Dorne, and Daemon is the son of Ryon Allyrion, the heir to another major house.[16] Their mothers haven't been revealed till now, but both are beloved members of their houses and respected people in Dorne. Ellaria was the paramour of Prince Oberyn[16] and Daemon Sand had squired for the prince, and was knighted by him as well.[17] In addition, Daemon is described as one of Dorne's finest swords.[citation needed]

Rights of Inheritance

The bastardborn 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. In 299 AC, after 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.[7] A bastard can inherit after being legitimized by a royal decree.[18] 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.[19]

Social Status

It is considered rude to pry into the origins of a man's natural children.[20] It is said that bastards are born from lust and lies, and that their nature is wanton and treacherous.[21] It is also said that bastards grow up faster than trueborn children.[21][22]

A bastard may study at the Citadel and become a maester. One such an example is Maester Walys, a former Maester of Winterfell.[23] It's also possible for female bastards to join the Faith of the Seven and become Septas, like the bastard daughters of King Aegon IV Targaryen by Megette.[10] Possibly, this might mean that male bastards could become septons.

As 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.[24] 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 Robin Hill and Jon Snow, who became Lord Commanders.

Coat of Arms

Bastards do not have the right to use the arms of the highborn families they descent from.[25] 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.[3] A bend sinister is sometimes added, as exemplified by Ser Walder Rivers's sigil.[26] 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,[27] perhaps illegally.[28][25]

Several examples:

House Targaryen House Blackfyre Arms of House Blackfyre, founded by a bastard of the House Targaryen, has the colors reversed.[3]
House Frey  personnel arms of Walder Rivers The personal arms of Walder Rivers, bastard son of Lord Walder Frey, has the Frey colors reversed and a red bend sinister added.[29]
House Blackfyre House Bracken  personnel arms of Aegor Rivers The coat of arms of Aegor Rivers "Bittersteel", a bastard son of Aegon IV Targaryen. He has combined the sigils 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, not law.[5] 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.

Region Surname Example
Crownlands Waters Aurane Waters
Dorne Sand Nymeria Sand
Iron Islands Pyke Wex Pyke
North Snow Jon Snow
Reach Flowers Robert Flowers
Riverlands Rivers Walder Rivers
Stormlands Storm Rolland Storm
Vale of Arryn Stone Mya Stone
Westerlands Hill Joy Hill

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 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.[10]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

Prince Joffrey Baratheon was believed by King Robert I Baratheon to be his trueborn son, and therefore heir to House Baratheon and the Iron Throne. However, Lord Eddard Stark discovers that Joffrey, as well as his siblings Myrcella and Tommen, are actually the bastards of Cersei and Jaime Lannister.[30]

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.[31]

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.[32]

Robb Stark, as King in the North, planned to legitimize his bastard half-brother Jon Snow and proclaim him as his heir;[18] 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 proposes to legitimize Snow and make him Lord of Winterfell,[33] but Jon declines Stannis's offer, electing to become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch instead.[34]

Notable Bastards



Iron Islands


The Reach



Vale of Arryn



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 ...[3]

- Egg to Duncan

Your mother was milking goats the first time I gave her my seed.[35]

Walder Frey, to Ryger Rivers

Go away, I wanted only Freys up here, the King in the North has no interest in base stock.[36]

Walder Frey, to little Walda Rivers

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.[37]

- Archmaester Gyldayn

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.[20]

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.[38]

- George R. R. Martin

References and Notes

  1. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 34, Catelyn VI.
  2. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 6, Catelyn II.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 The Sworn Sword.
  4. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 8, Jaime I.
  5. 5.0 5.1 So Spake Martin: SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and More (June 26, 2001)
  6. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 16, Bran II.
  8. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Ramsay Snow.
  9. The Princess and the Queen.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV.
  11. The World of Ice & Fire, Dorne: Queer Customs of the South.
  12. 12.0 12.1 A Feast for Crows, Appendix.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 13, The Soiled Knight.
  14. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 22, Arya II.
  15. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 40, Princess In The Tower.
  16. 16.0 16.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 38, Tyrion V.
  17. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.
  18. 18.0 18.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
  19. So Spake Martin: The Hornwood Inheritance and the Whents (November 02, 1999)
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
  21. 21.0 21.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 5, Jon I.
  22. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 26, Jon IV.
  23. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
  24. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  25. 25.0 25.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 7, Arya I.
  26. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 38, Jaime VI.
  27. The Mystery Knight.
  28. The Hedge Knight.
  29. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 39, Cersei IX.
  30. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 45, Eddard XII.
  31. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  32. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 72, Jaime IX.
  33. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
  34. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 79, Jon XII.
  35. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 59, Catelyn IX.
  36. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
  37. The World of Ice & Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest.
  38. So Spake Martin: Many Questions (October 14, 1998)

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Bastard (Law of England and Wales). The list of authors can be seen in the page history of Bastard (Law of England and Wales). As with A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.