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Anarch Half-Hoare

The betrothal of nephews, cousins and nieces ...

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Hey everyone. Another question from me regarding the practical daily life of nobles in Westeros. I'm someone who is heavily involved in running RP communities so at times I stumble upon things which don't always often hold obvious answers. This week I stumbled upon the not entirely clear issue of how wide the authority of the head and lord of a House and thus his family would extend regarding betrothals and marriage contracts. It is obvious that it extends to younger siblings and their own children, but does it extend to their uncles, their nephews, nieces and cousins too?

I've did some basic research so far via various sources and the general conclusion seems to be that the lord of the House would hold all the power in decision making for betrothals for his family. ASOIAF University mentions: "the true head of an individual’s House is still going to have decisionmaking power over his or her fate, including presumably marriage" (source: http://asoiafuniversity.tumblr.com/post/160655645025/did-jon-arryn-have-any-control-over-the-marriage )

GRRM also answered a question related to this:

Quote

Q: "I was his lord...My right, to make his match" says Lord Hoster about Brynden. Does it mean that the lord can force anyone under his rule to marry whomever he wishes? Can the people in question legally break the commitments made for them by the lord (i.e. promises, betrothals) and what penalty can the lord visit on them for this? What if they just refuse to exchange the marriage vows, etc?GRRM: They can indeed refuse to take the vows, as the Blackfish did, but there are often severe consequences to this. The lord is certainly expected to arrange the matches for his own children and unmarried younger siblings. He does not necessarily arrange marriages for his vassal lords or household knights... but they would be wise to consult with him and respect his feelings. It would not be prudent for a vassal to marry one of his liege lord's enemies, for instance.

 

However our own common sense would persuade us to think that a father would have the final say over whether or not whom his children get to marry, even if they are not the head of the House. GRRM also specifically only mentions "own children and unmarried younger siblings." 

From the top of my head I can recall Kevan Lannister who seemed to be sorting his own matchmaking for his son Lancel Lannister. But part of me would also believe that he would've interfered if a bad match had been proposed or made. However, I'd also think Kevan to be wise enough to discuss and consult such a matter with Tywin anyhow. But then when Tywin passed, would it fall on Tommen to make such a decision? The man did not seem to put much fate into the wisdom of the remaining Lannisters. It is however also worth noting that Kevan Lannister was not the typical 'uncle' example, the man held his own land, household knights and taxes - where as most uncles would be landless, without their own income, etc. The books are also sprinkled with examples of cousins and nephews of noble families with fathers and mothers who did not seem all that bright or all that well guided. Podrick Payne comes to mind, whose mother seemingly eloped with a bard and a father who didn't seem to make the most responsible choices for his child either. So the mainline family often didn't seem all that involved or bothered with what the cousins were up to, cousin-lines almost seem to have a certain stigma attached to them of being 'less', being free loaders, drunks, idiots, etc.

As the ASOIAF University earlier link shows there apparently is the example of Jon Arryn who might've even discussed the possible matches for Ned Stark whom he fostered, so everything seems a bit blurry.

Can it be this is mostly a case by case thing? Even if while technically the ultimate authority lies with the head of the house?

Edited by Anarch Half-Hoare

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15 minutes ago, Anarch Half-Hoare said:

Hey everyone. Another question from me regarding the practical daily life of nobles in Westeros. I'm someone who is heavily involved in running RP communities so at times I stumble upon things which don't always often hold obvious answers. This week I stumbled upon the not entirely clear issue of how wide authority the head and lord of a House and thus his family would extend.

I've did some basic research so far via various sources and the general conclusion seems to be that the lord of the House would hold all the power in decision making for betrothals.
ASOIAF University mentions: "the true head of an individual’s House is still going to have decisionmaking power over his or her fate, including presumably marriage" (source: http://asoiafuniversity.tumblr.com/post/160655645025/did-jon-arryn-have-any-control-over-the-marriage )

GRRM also answered a question related to this:

 

However our own common sense would persuade us to think that a father would have the final say over whether or not whom his children get to marry, even if they are not the head of the House. GRRM also specifically only mentions "own children and unmarried younger siblings." 

From the top of my head I can recall Kevan Lannister who seemed to be sorting his own matchmaking for his son Lancel Lannister. But part of me would also believe that he would've interfered if a bad match had been proposed or made. However, I'd also think Kevan to be wise enough to discuss and consult such a matter with Tywin anyhow.

Kevan and Tywin consulted each other pretty much on every issue. Genna later points out that it was Kevan's decision that Lancel got Darry and Gatehouse Ami while she and Emmon had to take the much more dangerous Riverrun.

15 minutes ago, Anarch Half-Hoare said:

But then when Tywin passed, would it fall on Tommen to make such a decision?

Tommen is a boy. He doesn't decide anything. His regent(s), Hand, and council make decisions in his name. And Kevan happened to be the Lord Regent when he died.

15 minutes ago, Anarch Half-Hoare said:

The man did not seem to put much fate into the wisdom of the remaining Lannisters. It is however also worth noting that Kevan Lannister was not the typical 'uncle' example, the man held his own land, household knights and taxes - where as most uncles would be landless, without their own income, etc. The books are also sprinkled with examples of cousins and nephews of noble families with fathers and mothers who did not seem all that bright or all that well guided. Podrick Payne comes to mind, whose mother seemingly eloped with a bard and a father who didn't seem to make the most responsible choices for his child either. So the mainline family often didn't seem all that involved or bothered with what the cousins were up to, cousin-lines almost seem to have a certain stigma attached to them of being 'less', being free loaders, drunks, idiots, etc.

If we go down to very distant cousins it is not very likely that the technical head of the house is going to be involved in the matter. Say, Bronze Yohn Royce of the senior branch of House Royce has very likely nothing to do with the marriages of the junior branch Royces.

15 minutes ago, Anarch Half-Hoare said:

Can it be this is mostly a case by case thing? Even if while technically the ultimate authority lies with the head of the house?

I'm pretty sure that a king or great lord rules the marriages of all members of his house, down to grandsons, great-grandsons, nephews, and cousins through the male line.

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Thank you for the answer, I did a lot of research in the meanwhile and my main confusion or ignorance came from not realizing how houses could branch like this. It's even referred to in the first Bran chapter:

Quote: "One day, Bran, you will be Robb's bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. When that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away. A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is." (Bran I, A Game of Thrones)

So branching houses is a lot more commonly than I first expected. I'm also going to assume that this branching would only happen if Robb (as Lord Stark) already had a likely heir.

The world of Westeros is sometimes a bit difficult to understand, until you realize that a lot of 'rules' and 'customs' seem quite malleable. 

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I’m pretty sure the idea is to marry up. It really depends on the reigning lord, his dispositions, and ambition. Brandon Stark and Catelyn Tully were betrothed before Brandon’s untimely death solidifiying the the Stark/Tully alliance. Eddard at the time of his wedding proved to be a better match; being the reigning Lord of Winterfell, not just the heir. With Catelyn being  mistress of Winterfell, and Lysa Lady of the vale and wife to the hand, I would say Hoster Tully made advantages alliance for his house. If he could’ve managed to marry his little brother Brendan to a redwyne, and his son to Arianne Martell all the better. Allistor florents younger daughter is married to Lord Leyton Hightower who is arguably one of the most powerful lords in Westeros. His eldest daughter is married to Lord Randal Tarly, and his niece Selese is queen to Stannis Baratheon. With younger great nieces all marrying norcross knights. 

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It's worth taking into account that nephews, nieces and cousins of a noble family are actually living of the goodwill (or charity) of the Lord's house. It is him who decides if they are allowed to live in the family castle, if they are given a position in the household, if they receive incomes from certain lands, or if they are given minor keeps to rule. They depend from him at all levels.

With this in mind, I think that whether the lord has the legal power to enforce a marriage is a moot point. If he wants to impose it, it's either acceptance or exile.

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On 4/19/2018 at 2:00 PM, The hairy bear said:

It's worth taking into account that nephews, nieces and cousins of a noble family are actually living of the goodwill (or charity) of the Lord's house. It is him who decides if they are allowed to live in the family castle, if they are given a position in the household, if they receive incomes from certain lands, or if they are given minor keeps to rule. They depend from him at all levels.

That´s actually not clear. Are the certain lands and minor keeps at the continued charity of the present Lord, or are they given forever by a dead lord and as much protected property as that of any other bannerman?

On 4/19/2018 at 2:00 PM, The hairy bear said:

With this in mind, I think that whether the lord has the legal power to enforce a marriage is a moot point. If he wants to impose it, it's either acceptance or exile.

How about family members who are exiled anyway? Can a Head of House invalidate a marriage?

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Jaak said:

That´s actually not clear. Are the certain lands and minor keeps at the continued charity of the present Lord, or are they given forever by a dead lord and as much protected property as that of any other bannerman?

I'm convinced it's the former. The only instances where we have seen in Westeros that a younger brother is given forever a property is in situations where they are given the holds of an expelled house (Garlan getting Brightwater, Stannis getting Dragonstone, Karlon getting Karhold,...)

We have never seen that in any other instance. Supporting this notion we see the facts that the holdings in Westeros remain huge (instead of fragmented minor holdings as one would expect after centuries of giving away lands) and that there are very few repeated noble names (instead of dozens of families named Stark holding keeps around Winterfell).

There's also this quote from Kevan, when he tries to menace Cersei in the begining of Feast:

"I hold no lands, that is true. But I have certain incomes, and chests of coin set aside. My own father forgot none of his children when he died, and Tywin knew how to reward good service. I feed two hundred knights and can double that number if need be. There are freeriders who will follow my banner, and I have the gold to hire sellswords."

Since Kevan is actually proud of what he has gotten and he was particularly valued by his wealthy brother, I think we can assume that he would had received lands if that had been customary in Westeros.

15 hours ago, Jaak said:

How about family members who are exiled anyway? Can a Head of House invalidate a marriage?

I don't really know. Tywin managed to invalidate Tyrion's first marriage, but that on involved a commoner, a minor, and a drunken septon. In more normal circumstances I doubt that it'd be as easy to invalidate a marriage blessed by a septon.

We know that the king could invalidate a marriage, since Daemon asked his brother Viserys I to annul his marriage to Rhea Royce.

Edited by The hairy bear

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On 5/2/2018 at 1:58 PM, The hairy bear said:

I don't really know. Tywin managed to invalidate Tyrion's first marriage, but that on involved a commoner, a minor, and a drunken septon. In more normal circumstances I doubt that it'd be as easy to invalidate a marriage blessed by a septon.

We know that the king could invalidate a marriage, since Daemon asked his brother Viserys I to annul his marriage to Rhea Royce.

For example, Blackfish, an adult, refused a marriage arrangement from his Head of House, his elder brother, went to exile, and as a militarily trained high noble got a respectable appointed employment in Vale as Knight of the Gate - one that did not require vows of celibacy.

If Blackfish had gone on to seek an otherwise respectable marriage on his own - like, daughter of a modest Lord in Vale, or third or seventh daughter - and Hoster had persisted in his objections, would Hoster´s objections have legally invalidated the marriage, as far as Vale was concerned?

Another similar family was Cleganes - if Sandor wanted to marry an otherwise suitable girl, some daughter of a household knight, could ser Gregor have legally invalidated it?

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15 hours ago, Jaak said:

If Blackfish had gone on to seek an otherwise respectable marriage on his own - like, daughter of a modest Lord in Vale, or third or seventh daughter - and Hoster had persisted in his objections, would Hoster´s objections have legally invalidated the marriage, as far as Vale was concerned?

Certainly not.

15 hours ago, Jaak said:

Another similar family was Cleganes - if Sandor wanted to marry an otherwise suitable girl, some daughter of a household knight, could ser Gregor have legally invalidated it?

Definitely not.

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What would have happened if Oberyn had not succeeded in intercepting Arianne on her elopement to Highgarden?

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On 5/1/2018 at 3:55 PM, Jaak said:

That´s actually not clear. Are the certain lands and minor keeps at the continued charity of the present Lord, or are they given forever by a dead lord and as much protected property as that of any other bannerman?

 

The only bit of text I could ever really find was this:

Quote

 

He had thought on it long and hard, lying abed at night while his brothers slept around him. Robb would someday inherit Winterfell, would command great armies as the Warden of the North. Bran and Rickon would be Robb's bannermen and rule holdfasts in his name. His sisters Arya and Sansa would marry the heirs of other great houses and go south as mistress of castles of their own. But what place could a bastard hope to earn?

A Game of Thrones - Jon I

 

That seems to imply that future Lord Robb would grant the lesser Stark holdings on his brothers, and they would be ... what? Life estates? Would those holdings revert back to Robb (and Robb's heirs) upon the deaths of his siblings, or would they in effect create lots of smaller Stark holdings that follow the lines of descent from Bran and Rickon (cadet houses?). It's never really been clear.

 

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On 6/18/2018 at 1:06 PM, Daena the Defiant said:

The only bit of text I could ever really find was this:

That seems to imply that future Lord Robb would grant the lesser Stark holdings on his brothers, and they would be ... what? Life estates? Would those holdings revert back to Robb (and Robb's heirs) upon the deaths of his siblings, or would they in effect create lots of smaller Stark holdings that follow the lines of descent from Bran and Rickon (cadet houses?). It's never really been clear.

 

I always took this excerpt, plus Eddard's talk with Bran early in AGOT, as evidence for the idea that Eddard was going to install his children as petty lords in the New Gift, should his negotiations with LC Mormont (or Benjen in a few years) be successful.  A couple of minor houses, pledged to Robb.  It wouldn't even carve any land from the current Stark holdings, as it would all come from the New Gift.  I imagine there would be a mini-rush of Northern nobility looking to get in on the 2nd-son action.

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On 2/9/2018 at 7:11 AM, Lord Varys said:

Kevan and Tywin consulted each other pretty much on every issue. Genna later points out that it was Kevan's decision that Lancel got Darry and Gatehouse Ami while she and Emmon had to take the much more dangerous Riverrun.

 

I interpreted this differently.  I don't think it was Kevan's decision, it was Kevin's desire to have the safer seat for Lancel, and given the personal losses Kevan suffered up to that point, Tywin took his brother's desires into consideration.  Riverrun was obviously the greater prize, and Tywin trusted Kevan to effectively administer that castle, but Kevan feared for his remaining children.  Gemma and Emmon were clearly a back-up plan.

Tywin made a political compromise out of sentiment, which is surprising, given his character.

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