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A Faithful Knight in Winterfell

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What's the backstory on Rickard Stark? Why did he send Ned to foster with Jon Arryn, and what did Lady Barbary mean when she said Rickard had 'southron ambitions'?

Brandon and Catelyn were 12 years old when Rickard and Hoster negotiated their marriage alliance. Ned was 8 years old at the time, and it's mentioned that he was sent to Jon Arryn to foster, but I suspect he was actually sent there to be his squire along side Robert Baratheon so that they could train together as knights. Ned talked about some of his training including being taught how to give orders in a booming voice.

Some squires choose to never become a knight, and live the rest of their lives as squires. This may be because the individual does not have the inclination to live a knight's martial lifestyle, or does not have the funds to properly equip himself. According to George R. R. Martin:
 

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We tend to think of squires as teenaged boys, knights in training, but that is only part of the truth. Historically, there were many men who spent their entire lives as squires, and never became knights. It was quite common to have thirty- and forty-year-old squires, even some in their fifties. Such men perhaps did not have the wealth to become knights (knights had to pay for their own equipment), or perhaps did not have the inclination. They were the medieval counterparts of the career army sergeant who has no desire to be promoted to lieutenant, let alone general.


Squires remain with their knights until they themselves are knighted, but Ned remained with Jon Arryn until he was considered a "man grown" which by Westeros standards was probably 16. There isn't any confirmation in the text that he was knighted, but he certainly trained to be one.

In ASOIAF there’s a ceremony tied to the Faith of the Seven where the candidate would participate in an elaborate religious ceremony where he would be presented with his sword, followed by an overnight vigil in the sept. His tools and sword would be placed upon the altar to be blessed by a septon. This might be the reason why Ned may have chosen not to be knighted since he followed the old gods.

Of course, any knight can make a knight, usually on the battlefield as a reward for courageous service. This is called ‘earning your spurs’. The main point is that knighthood is typically reserved for followers of the Faith. The northmen who are descendants of the First Men, followed the old gods. Life at Winterfell was more like the Vikings with regards to culture, and their warriors aren't mentioned as having full suits of armor. More commonly the northmen are described as wearing boiled leather and furs. In real life the Vikings that settled in England wore bits and pieces of armor taken in battle, and the same could be true of the northmen in our story. A few houses in the north are mentioned as having knights such as the Manderlys and of course Jorah Mormont, and I believe Roose had on armor when he killed Robb, but I'm thinking this is a relatively new practice adopted within the last generation.

When Rickard was younger he fought alongside Jon Arryn, Hoster Tully, Prince Aerys Targaryen, and Tywin Lannister during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. It’s quite possible that Rickard was introduced to the tradition of knighthood from these war time friends.

It’s important to point out that Rickard promised Brandon to Catelyn, and sent Ned to Jon Arryn, a full six years prior to the Rebellion, so I posit his actions had nothing to do with the Rebellion and everything to do with adopting the Andal traditions, including knighthood. This is why I believe that when Lady Barbary Dustin accuses Rickard of having ‘southron ambitions’, and how she blamed ‘grey rat’ Maester Walys for his influence, that what she’s really talking about was Rickard’s possible conversion to the Faith. Maesters are more than healers - they are educators, and part of the education they provide is on the Faith of the Seven - complete with exciting tales of honorable and courageous knights. Where did you think young Bran Stark got is desire to become a knight from? Why, Maester Luwin of course!

When King Aerys summoned Rickard to answer for his son’s crimes, Rickard dressed in the armor of a knight:

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“There were trials. Of a sort. Lord Rickard demanded trial by combat, and the king granted the request. Stark armored himself as for battle, thinking to duel one of the Kingsguard. Me, perhaps. Instead they took him to the throne room and suspended him from the rafters while two of Aerys’s pyromancers kindled a blaze beneath him. The king told him that fire was the champion of House Targaryen. So all Lord Rickard needed to do to prove himself innocent of treason was… well, not burn.

“When the fire was blazing, Brandon was brought in. His hands were chained behind his back, and around his neck was a wet leathern cord attached to a device the king had brought from Tyrosh. His legs were left free, though, and his longsword was set down just beyond his reach.

“The pyromancers roasted Lord Rickard slowly, banking and fanning that fire carefully to get a nice even heat. His cloak caught first, and then his surcoat, and soon he wore nothing but metal and ashes. Next he would start to cook, Aerys promised… unless his son could free him. Brandon tried, but the more he struggled, the tighter the cord constricted around his throat. In the end he strangled himself.

“As for Lord Rickard, the steel of his breastplate turned cherry-red before the end, and his gold melted off his spurs and dripped down into the fire. I stood at the foot of the Iron Throne in my white armor and white cloak, filling my head with thoughts of Cersei. After, Gerold Hightower himself took me aside and said to me, ‘You swore a vow to guard the king, not to judge him.’ That was the White Bull, loyal to the end and a better man than me, all agree.


Ned's brother Brandon is confirmed in the text as being a knight. We know this, because he had a squire:

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A Game of Thrones - Eddard X

In the dream his friends rode with him, as they had in life. Proud Martyn Cassel, Jory's father; faithful Theo Wull; Ethan Glover, who had been Brandon's squire; Ser Mark Ryswell..

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.A Clash of Kings - Catelyn VII


Jaime poured the last half cup of wine. "He rode into the Red Keep with a few companions, shouting for Prince Rhaegar to come out and die. But Rhaegar wasn't there. Aerys sent his guards to arrest them all for plotting his son's murder. The others were lords' sons too, it seems to me."


"Ethan Glover was Brandon's squire," Catelyn said. "He was the only one to survive.

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Game of Thrones - Catelyn VII

A fortnight passed before Littlefinger was strong enough to leave Riverrun, but her lord father forbade her to visit him in the tower where he lay abed. Lysa helped their maester nurse him; she had been softer and shyer in those days. Edmure had called on him as well, but Petyr had sent him away. Her brother had acted as Brandon's squire at the duel, and Littlefinger would not forgive that.

 

 

Thanks to essosiwatch on HoBaW for the squire passages!

If we have confirmation that Brandon was a knight with his own squire and that Rickard dressed as a knight and requested the Andal tradition of trial by battle when called to answer for his son. It's not a large amount of text, but it is evidence that Rickard may have converted even if Ned did not. It also gives a different reason for why Ned was sent to the Vale in the first place: to train as Jon Arryn's squire. Ned trained along side Jon's other squire, Robert Baratheon. They both may have remained in the Eyrie up until the Rebellion, because neither one of them had been knighted yet.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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I don't really think armour is all too different in the North and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, apart from stylistic changes, amendments for the colder weather, etc. Old Gods Northmen are probably just as well equipped as Faith of the Seven knights, they just don't have the title "Ser" since it's tied to religious differences.

Maesters aren't that tied to the Faith, either. They were established by the very first (First Man) Hightowers, and there don't seem to have been many problems with Drowned God, Old Gods and Faith maesters being made and appointed to various different castles across Westeros. I don't think Walys would have been the first Seven-worshipping maester at Winterfell; I assume it would be a regular occurrence since the coming of the Andals.

The simpler solution is to think Barbrey is talking about Brandon being promised to Catelyn instead of her, since she clearly was jealous. I don't think there's much to think she'd be strongly opposed to some Stark conversion into the Seven. She doesn't say anything on Catelyn bringing a septon and septa north with her, for example. 

Ned probably refused knighthood because it would clash with his traditional beliefs, though he would have just been trained by Jon like any other northern man. Brandon having a squire could also just refer to him having charge of Ethan Glover for training -- besides, there are quite a few instances in AGOT where the terminology is a bit fuzzy from the series not quite being fully-baked. 

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52 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

Ned's brother Brandon is confirmed in the text as being a knight. We know this, because he had a squire:

That is not true. Robb was not a knight and had a squire though.

52 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

Squires remain with their knights until they themselves are knighted. Ned was still living in the Eyrie with Jon until he was 17 years old, and only left after Jon Arryn defied King Aerys and refused to give up Ned and Robert.

No, he did not live there anymore but visited it.

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2 minutes ago, Vaith said:

I don't really think armour is all too different in the North and the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, apart from stylistic changes, amendments for the colder weather, etc. Old Gods Northmen are probably just as well equipped as Faith of the Seven knights, they just don't have the title "Ser" since it's tied to religious differences.

The First Men culture was more like Nordic Vikings with boiled leather and furs with a few pieces of metal. A full set of armor indicates a knight as does the use of the word "squire". 

2 minutes ago, Vaith said:

Maesters aren't that tied to the Faith, either. They were established by the very first (First Man) Hightowers, and there don't seem to have been many problems with Drowned God, Old Gods and Faith maesters being made and appointed to various different castles across Westeros. I don't think Walys would have been the first Seven-worshipping maester at Winterfell; I assume it would be a regular occurrence since the coming of the Andals.

The Hightowers follow the Faith of the Seven, and "maesters" are sometimes referred to as "knights of the mind". 

2 minutes ago, Vaith said:

The simpler solution is to think Barbrey is talking about Brandon being promised to Catelyn instead of her, since she clearly was jealous. I don't think there's much to think she'd be strongly opposed to some Stark conversion into the Seven. She doesn't say anything on Catelyn bringing a septon and septa north with her, for example. 

Brandon was promised to Catelyn at a very young age. Catelyn says she was 12 when her father promised her. Lady Barbary claims Brandon fostered with old Lord Dustin, and she implies they had sex before she learned he was promised to Catelyn, but surely they were older than 12 when they had sex?

I think the marriage alliance was already made and Brandon was sent to Lord Dustin as his squire. I admit there's not much evidence that old man Dustin was a knight, but when King Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne Targaryen visited Barrowton in 58 AC, an earlier Lord Dustin showed them the Great Barrow and honored them with a small tourney. We learned in the Dunc and Egg tales that only knights can enter tourneys.

If Brandon was old Lord Dustin's squire, then he stayed there until he was knighted, and during his time there he began his affair with Barbary. Once he became a knight he would have been free to leave and could've told Barbary the date of his marriage had been set right before he left.

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3 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

It would be helpful if you would back your assertions up with text. I think GRRM is dancing around this knight business in Winterfell. 

You said only knights had squires. Robb had Olyvar Frey and Rollam Westerling.

You said Ned was still living at the Eyrie when he was 17. GRRM himself says that was not the case.

Edited by The Wondering Wolf

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2 minutes ago, The Wondering Wolf said:

You said only knights had squires. Robb had Olyvar Frey and Rollam Westerling.

You said Ned was still living at the Eyrie when he was 17. GRRM himself says that was not the case.

How do we know Robb wasn't knighted? Is there text somewhere that says this?

Same goes for Ned only "visiting" the Eyrie. Can you share the SSM?

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You don't need to be a knight to wear armor, and I imagine many Northmen in battle have squires although they are not by definition knights.  I really find it doubtful that the lord of proud northern house Stark would forego the old gods in light of the 7.

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1 minute ago, Feather Crystal said:

How do we know Robb wasn't knighted? Is there text somewhere that says this?

That is not how it works. When it is not stated in the text, the burden of proof is on you. Robb comes down from the North and accepts Olyvar as his squire when he is 15 himself. There is no reason to assume he was knighted by anyone before. We have a POV who is very close to him and it never comes up.

I have already linked the SSM in my first response.

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3 minutes ago, Igziabeher said:

You don't need to be a knight to wear armor, and I imagine many Northmen in battle have squires although they are not by definition knights.  I really find it doubtful that the lord of proud northern house Stark would forego the old gods in light of the 7.

You wouldn't think so, but I think this is the true definition of "southron ambitions". Rickard was adopting Andal ways, specifically knighthood, and wanted his sons to become knights as well. I don't know how long Rodrik Cassel has served Winterfell as master-at-arms, but he is a knight and has trained Robb and Jon how to fight like knights.

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1 hour ago, Feather Crystal said:

What's the backstory on Rickard Stark? Why did he send Ned to foster with Jon Arryn, and what did Lady Barbary mean when she said Rickard had 'southron ambitions'?

From what I understand, he wanted to gain influence in the south through his children. The more marriages he managed to arrange, the more influence he would have. 

Edited by Takiedevushkikakzvezdy

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3 minutes ago, The Wondering Wolf said:

That is not how it works. When it is not stated in the text, the burden of proof is on you. Robb comes down from the North and accepts Olyvar as his squire when he is 15 himself. There is no reason to assume he was knighted by anyone before. We have a POV who is very close to him and it never comes up.

I have already linked the SSM in my first response.

I missed your link, but I've read it now. GRRM did have this to say:

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He was fostered, not exiled. Yes, certainly he returned home. Less frequently the first few years, when he would have been performing the duties of a page and then a squire, more often and for longer periods later.

Then he adds:

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During his "squire" years (he wasn't a squire in the strict sense, since he wasn't training for knighthood, but he was acting as one), he would also have accompanied Jon Arryn on many travels out of the Vale. And once he reached the age of sixteen he was a man grown, free to come to go as he liked... which would have included both time at home and in the Vale, since Jon Arryn had become a second father.

I am thinking GRRM is telling a little white lie here. He doesn't like to reveal specific facts in his interviews, so this feels like he's backtracking a bit. I think he is trying to hide the fact that Ned was training to be a knight as Jon Arryn's squire, because he also says he wasn't free to leave until he was sixteen.

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5 minutes ago, Igziabeher said:

So you think the interview in which Martin specifically says he wasn't training for knighthood is a lie?  That's hard to argue with.

A little white lie, because Ned never did become a knight. GRRM has added a couple exceptions. He says he was a page and then a squire, but not a squire in the "strict" sense, because Ned wasn't training to be a knight, and yet Ned was obligated to stay with Jon Arryn until he was sixteen. 

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1 hour ago, Feather Crystal said:

When Rickard was younger he fought alongside Jon Arryn, Hoster Tully, Prince Aerys Targaryen, and Tywin Lannister during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. It’s quite possible that Rickard was introduced to the tradition of knighthood from these war time friends.

I don't believe we know if Rickard was there at the War of the Ninepenny Kings. I don't remember his name being mentioned in connection with that. 

Rickard's mother was Marna Locke. We are introduced to three Lockes in the story. Lord Ondrow Locke who is now a relic and a lord, so if he was a knight at some point, we don't know. But the other two Lockes in the story, Ser Donnel Locke who was killed at the Red Wedding and Ser Mallador Locke who died on the Great Ranging are both knights.

There's a good chance that Rickard's uncles and cousins on his mother's side, if he had any could have been knights. 

There's also Ser Rodrik Cassel who may have grown up with Rickard. I personally don't think knighthood was a concept Rickard Stark had to be introduced to by southron knights and lords. There are northern lords in the story and considering the fact that Brandon entered the tourney at Harrenhal and those are apparently reserved to knights, the odds that he was one are I think good.

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3 minutes ago, Alexis-something-Rose said:

I don't believe we know if Rickard was there at the War of the Ninepenny Kings. I don't remember his name being mentioned in connection with that. 

Rickard's mother was Marna Locke. We are introduced to three Lockes in the story. Lord Ondrow Locke who is now a relic and a lord, so if he was a knight at some point, we don't know. But the other two Lockes in the story, Ser Donnel Locke who was killed at the Red Wedding and Ser Mallador Locke who died on the Great Ranging are both knights.

There's a good chance that Rickard's uncles and cousins on his mother's side, if he had any could have been knights. 

There's also Ser Rodrik Cassel who may have grown up with Rickard. I personally don't think knighthood was a concept Rickard Stark had to be introduced to by southron knights and lords. There are northern lords in the story and considering the fact that Brandon entered the tourney at Harrenhal and those are apparently reserved to knights, the odds that he was one are I think good.

I didn't mean to imply that he was introduced to knighthood by those men, but rather influenced or became interested in becoming one himself. Knights are trained in specific military tactics which Rickard may have admired and wanted to learn for himself.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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23 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

The First Men culture was more like Nordic Vikings with boiled leather and furs with a few pieces of metal. A full set of armor indicates a knight as does the use of the word "squire". 

The Hightowers follow the Faith of the Seven, and "maesters" are sometimes referred to as "knights of the mind". 

Brandon was promised to Catelyn at a very young age. Catelyn says she was 12 when her father promised her. Lady Barbary claims Brandon fostered with old Lord Dustin, and she implies they had sex before she learned he was promised to Catelyn, but surely they were older than 12 when they had sex?

I think the marriage alliance was already made and Brandon was sent to Lord Dustin as his squire. I admit there's not much evidence that old man Dustin was a knight, but when King Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne Targaryen visited Barrowton in 58 AC, an earlier Lord Dustin showed them the Great Barrow and honored them with a small tourney. We learned in the Dunc and Egg tales that only knights can enter tourneys.

If Brandon was old Lord Dustin's squire, then he stayed there until he was knighted, and during his time there he began his affair with Barbary. Once he became a knight he would have been free to leave and could've told Barbary the date of his marriage had been set right before he left.

The First Men can clearly adopt Andal metalworking without following their religion or knightly customs. The boiled leather/furs setup is in the days of yore. First Man culture doesn't mean you spur heavy armour?

The Citadel predates the faith. I assume they are "knights of the mind" in the same way that they are expected to be chivalrous, but in a scholarly sense. It's a romantic figure of speech.

Brandon was a couple years older than Catelyn, so I think it's plausible to have happened at that age? IIRC Barb definitely had hangups about Cat.

 

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There are Northerners that have been knighted, wasn't Jorah knighted after the Greyjoy Rebellion?  So it's not like knighthood is a foreign concept to Northerners, its just not the common thing as they are knighted in the faith of the seven and most Northern Lords take the old gods.  I would just imagine for all the time that Ned has spent in the Vale and if his father really wanted to change religions, he wouldn't be such a staunch follower of the old gods traditions.  I would imagine if a Northerner wanted to partake in a tourney there must be alternate means of legitimizing their military prowess than proving knighthood.

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1 minute ago, Vaith said:

The First Men can clearly adopt Andal metalworking without following their religion or knightly customs. The boiled leather/furs setup is in the days of yore. First Man culture doesn't mean you spur heavy armour?

The Starks are presented as blood of the First Men in style and culture. During medieval times when the "Danes" lived in England they stole various pieces of metal from the English knights, but never resorted to creating whole suits of armor for themselves. The Andal culture has slowly infiltrated the northern houses and there are some northmen referred to as knights, but it's not wide spread. The only ones that could afford to purchase a suit of armor would be the lords from each house, but did they also automatically wear spurs? Becoming a knight was often referred to as "earning spurs", and Rickard had gold spurs.

1 minute ago, Vaith said:

The Citadel predates the faith.

You'll have to help me out with this one, because I don't recall any text supporting this. 

Even if House Hightower started out as a First Men house, they converted early on to the Faith, because it's said they avoided many conflicts, because of their staunch defense of the Faith. And then they are credited with being the main supporter of the Citadel. It's a bit fuzzy, but the Andal connection seems much stronger than the First Men connection. And after thousands of years it wouldn't be surprising if the Faith had gained control over it.

1 minute ago, Vaith said:

Brandon was a couple years older than Catelyn, so I think it's plausible to have happened at that age? IIRC Barb definitely had hangups about Cat.

Brandon's age at death is listed as 20 when Catelyn was 18, so you are right about him being a couple years older, but the text implies Barbary was talking about his wedding day and not his engagement. It sounds like he spent years riding the rills, but somehow found the time to train and then be good enough to have his own squire by the time he rode to Kings Landing.

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8 minutes ago, Igziabeher said:

There are Northerners that have been knighted, wasn't Jorah knighted after the Greyjoy Rebellion?  So it's not like knighthood is a foreign concept to Northerners, its just not the common thing as they are knighted in the faith of the seven and most Northern Lords take the old gods.  I would just imagine for all the time that Ned has spent in the Vale and if his father really wanted to change religions, he wouldn't be such a staunch follower of the old gods traditions.  I would imagine if a Northerner wanted to partake in a tourney there must be alternate means of legitimizing their military prowess than proving knighthood.

Jorah said he earned his spurs during the Greyjoy Rebellion, which is one way to become a knight. There really isn't much more evidence to draw on as to whether or not he was anybody's squire prior to that or just that somebody said, hey, lets make that guy a knight!

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