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Alexander Leonard

Minimum marriage age and age of consent in Westeros

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Child marriage seems to be pretty common in Westeros. For example, Sansa was betrothed to Jefferey at the age of 13. Lyanna was already married to a man much older than her at the age of 14 and became a mother a year later. Is there a legal minimum marriage age and age of consent in Westeros?

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"Legal" is not a strict concept in Westeros and it is not a good way to think about how things are done.

1) As far as we know, Lyanna was not married.

2) It is purely up to the guardian(s) involved, for instance, Ermesande Hayford was married off to Tyrek Lannister when she was 2, because the crown/Lannisters were her guardian.

3) If someone is powerful enough, they can unmake almost any marriage.

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9 minutes ago, Alexander Leonard said:

Child marriage seems to be pretty common in Westeros. For example, Sansa was betrothed to Jefferey at the age of 13. Lyanna was already married to a man much older than her at the age of 14 and became a mother a year later. Is there a legal minimum marriage age and age of consent in Westeros?

Betrothal and marriage are different things.   A betrothed couple is not actually married, and no sexual activity would be permitted or expected.

The only child marriages I can find are those of Sansa, Daenerys, and FArya.  Tyrion/Tysha is a maybe but seems to have many irregularities (of which age is one).  Those seem to have been regarded as a bit unusual.  

We have no info on age of consent in Westeros.  In real middle ages, it either didn't exist or was so low as to be meaningless (7-10 was typical, I believe).  Children were essentially under control of their parents.

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8 minutes ago, Ser Leftwich said:

1) As far as we know, Lyanna was not married.

She might not be legally married, but Rhaegar already impregnated her, which raises the question of whether she had passed the age of consent. If not, his behavior would be illegal and similar to rape, regardless of whether she consented or not.

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There is no age of consent in Westeros, neither for marriage nor for sexual intercourse. Decency apparently dictates that you don't have intercourse with preteens/girls who haven't flowered yet, but that's just a guideline, not a rule you have to follow. Marriage can and does involve preteens. And those children, even if they are royal children or the king himself, don't get a say in such matters. Just look what happened to Aegon III, Joffrey, and Tommen, or how Alyssa Velaryon and Rogar Baratheon intended to treat Jaehaerys I.

Even adult nobles usually don't choose their spouses, nor do they get much of a say in the matter. The head of their house or your father makes the call, and you either obey him, or you suffer the consequences - which can be severe.

Women don't get a say in the matter at all unless they have nice dads.

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3 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

There is no age of consent in Westeros, neither for marriage nor for sexual intercourse. Decency apparently dictates that you don't have intercourse with preteens/girls who haven't flowered yet, but that's just a guideline, not a rule you have to follow. Marriage can and does involve preteens. And those children, even if they are royal children or the king himself, don't get a say in such matters. Just look what happened to Aegon III, Joffrey, and Tommen, or how Alyssa Velaryon and Rogar Baratheon intended to treat Jaehaerys I.

Even adult nobles usually don't choose their spouses, nor do they get much of a say in the matter. The head of their house or your father makes the call, and you either obey him, or you suffer the consequences - which can be severe.

Women don't get a say in the matter at all unless they have nice dads.

Good summary, @Lord Varys.

It would be really interesting to see the case of say, if a woman of age was unmarried, but became head of a family. Would she get to choose or would her vassal lord try to get involved?

 

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2 minutes ago, Ser Leftwich said:

Good summary, @Lord Varys.

It would be really interesting to see the case of say, if a woman of age was unmarried, but became head of a family. Would she get to choose or would her vassal lord try to get involved?

Look at Lady Rohanne Webber or Donella Hornwood or Sansa Stark. You can force a woman rather easily into marriage. 

There is also a reason why Lady Jeyne Arryn remained unwed - not just her personal preferences. Your husband is also your lord husband, never mind whether you are technically a ruling lady or not. Women are weak, men are strong. Most women in Westeros outside of Dorne will be ruled by their husbands. They are dependent on them, not so much the other way around. They will do all the martial business, etc., and they have the right to physically chastise their women under certain conditions.

There are some exceptions, of course - Barbrey Dustin, Rhaenyra Targaryen, even Lysa Arryn (who not only prevented a Donella Hornwood thing, but also succeeded at keeping the lords of the Vale under her heel in relation to the war) - but all the ruling ladies we hear about/meet are conspicuously husband-less - Lady Stokeworth, Lady Oakheart, Lady Waynwood, etc. They all must have been married once, but their men are either dead or otherwise absent, so they call the shots (again?).

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Well, the age of adulthood in Westeros (and perhaps the rest of the known world) seems to be 16.

But there doesn't seem to be an age of consent. In Westeros, a yes is a yes and a no is a no. The yes or no can come from an adult or a child. It doesn't matter: yes is yes and no is no.

And marrying someone is tantamount to saying yes to any and all future sexual advances and overtures to one's husband/wife. End of story.

Like @Lord Varys said, decency says that if you are a man married to a teenager, you shouldn't have sex with her until she gets into her late teens. If you do anytime before that and she gets pregnant, you have a high-risk pregnancy on your hands that the mother and the child are unlikely to survive unscathed.

But I don't think that there is much of a difference between adult female nobles and adult male nobles. Men have more options, true, but if your head of household tells you to get married for the sake of your house, you must do your duty to your house and get married. It is the law. Although, men are apparently considered to have better judgment than women do when it comes to these matters. That might be why there is a bit more wiggle room for them than for women--generally speaking.

In any case, the only thing that stopped Tywin from forcing Jaime into getting married was the fact that the law of the Iron Throne supercedes the commands of the Lord of Casterly Rock, the Warden of the West and the head of House Lannister. Granted, Tywin could've gotten around that rather easily but I doubt that he wanted to set that kind of precedent with Kingsguard OR risk disgracing House Lannister.

Interestingly enough, Tywin would have had a much easier time forcing his son to get married instead of his daughter. As both the Queen Mother and the incumbent Regent, Cersei not only outranks Tywin but she also belongs to a house of her own. And Tywin wouldn't dare to try and unseat her.

It also may be part of the reason why Prince Doran never arm-twisted Arianne into marrying any one of her suitors or his candidates. As both a Martell princess and his heir, Arianne technically can't be forced to marry anyone outside of her volition. It would have been political suicide and Arianne could have possibly had it annulled as soon as he dies...if not sooner.

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16 minutes ago, Ser Leftwich said:

Good summary, @Lord Varys.

It would be really interesting to see the case of say, if a woman of age was unmarried, but became head of a family. Would she get to choose or would her vassal lord try to get involved?

 

Legally? (Westeros has such a weak system of laws that using the term legally is almost a joke)

"Legally speaking," the unmarried female head of house would get to choose her own consort. The only time one of her vassals would dare to interfere is if:

  • she was weak or incompetent
  • if he had extremely selfish or evil ambitions
  • both

In any case, it'd be illegal. Not only it'd be a big social faux pas, but it'd also be a form of treason really. And she'd be well within her rights to nip it in the bud and reassert control. But it would all fall on her and the members of her house to enforce it. If the king has to step in, it's already too late.

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"Age of consent" implies the idea of consent exists in Westeros, and I've seen no evidence for that whatsoever. The rule of thumb seems to be 'old enough to bleed, old enough to breed', with a vague awareness that very young motherhood is a medical risk.

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I wouldn't say there is a minimum marriage age, with Ermesande Hayford's marriage to Tyrek Lannister as Exhibit A.

And not much regarding age of consent, if Ramsay's marriage to fArya is any indication; Arya is 11 by this point in the story, which would mean that Ramsay is marrying/raping a 13-year-old masquerading as a 11-year-old (yuck). 

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The line seems to be drawn to whenever the girl is flowered. They're good for marriage the second they can start popping babies out.

Rhaella Targaryen had her son either at the age of 13 or 14. 

Dany was married at 13 and pregnant at 14. Sansa betrothed at 12, married to Tyrion at 13 and he was being pressured into knocking her up. Eleanor Mooton is 13 when she marries Dickon Tarly. 

Walder Frey married a 15 year old on his 90th birthday. 

 

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Decency doesn't mean you wait until a girl comes of age, it means you wait until her first flowering if you want to fuck her.

But you can consummate a marriage even earlier than that. Jeyne-Ramsay would be one such incident, considering Jeyne would legally be eleven.

If you want to have children and keep your wife for some time you better wait, but in the end the woman is not that relevant if you just married her for her claim. Why not have her die in childbirth and claim the seat in the name of your infant son or daughter? Or better still, in your own name?

58 minutes ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

Interestingly enough, Tywin would have had a much easier time forcing his son to get married instead of his daughter. As both the Queen Mother and the incumbent Regent, Cersei not only outranks Tywin but she also belongs to a house of her own. And Tywin wouldn't dare to try and unseat her.

Tywin didn't give a crap that Cersei was 'the Queen Regent'. She technically outranked him but he showed her what he thought of that when they had their first confrontation. He would have taken the regency from her and then he would have married her off to a man of his choosing. End of story. Cersei is not Alyssa Velaryon, and Tywin was not Rogar the Windbag.

58 minutes ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

It also may be part of the reason why Prince Doran never arm-twisted Arianne into marrying any one of her suitors or his candidates. As both a Martell princess and his heir, Arianne technically can't be forced to marry anyone outside of her volition. It would have been political suicide and Arianne could have possibly had it annulled as soon as he dies...if not sooner.

Doran already had betrothed Arianne to King Viserys III, and he had every reason to believe Arianne would have liked such a match.

Arianne herself makes it clear to the reader that her father chooses her consort, not she herself, that's how she was raised. She only never married any of Doran's suggestions because Doran never commanded her to marry those men.

What is rather annoying is that there is apparently a fixed and universally accepted age of maturity in Westeros. That was not the case in the middle ages, especially not in kings. You just were declared a man grown or you asserted yourself that you were now old enough to manage your own affairs.

The idea that there is a particular birthday when that happens like in a modern state makes little sense, especially in light of the fact that powerful regents would have both the means and the will to keep puppet kings under their thumb. In a realistic medieval scenario a king like Aegon III or Tommen could easily enough end up under the thumb of his regents or mother his (or rather their) entire life, simply because he was never actually taught how to rule, and always surrounded by people chosen, paid, and beholden to regents.

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As others have said, Ermesande is a good example of how you'll get away with marrying a newborn child. We don't know if this is particularly exceptional in a time of great upheaval such as the main series, though, as vows not being made in duress is a point to the Faith, and I don't think it's that easy to consent to vows before you are able to speak. ;)

Betrothal, however, is a different thing altogether. There is no problem with betrothing two babies because you can wait until they are of age for the marriage to occur. It's not really like a modern day engagement.

As for consummation, it is considered perverse for such a thing to happen before menarche, but since that age is different for every woman, there's no particular point at which that is bound to happen. But that doesn't mean that it's typical for women to immediately be married young. We definitely have some examples of child marriage -- Rohanne Webber, Unwin Peake's daughter, Aemma Arryn (although this strikes me as odd that Alysanne agreed to this after she was upset about Daella dying in childbirth at 18.) But Catelyn married a little older and during a time of war, etc.

I would also just add that modern conceptions of consent likely do not exist outside of Dorne. Rape inside marriage is probably acceptable within Westeros. However, while sex outside marriage is going to be seen as illicit, there is still a distinction between consensual sex and rape in that area. But I think the smallfolk in Westeros may still recognise that younger people are going to be more vulnerable and that the male partner is more likely to be accused of rape, etc.

On the subject of ruling ladies:

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Look at Lady Rohanne Webber or Donella Hornwood or Sansa Stark. You can force a woman rather easily into marriage. 

Sansa is a hostage in King's Landing, Donella Hornwood was captured by Ramsay, and Rohanne's father's will explicitly stated that her inheritance was dependent on her being married. If there wasn't such a clause and the inheritance was during a time of peace, I think it would be rather circumspect for an overlord to force her to marry someone, no more than forcing a male vassal to marry someone instead of making appropriate negotiations.

A regent (mother, aunt, uncle, castellan, etc.) would probably have the full power to decide before she turned 16, and after that they may remain influential enough that she may likely be pressured, but I think after that nobody would have complete power over her choices.

On those choices...

12 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

There is also a reason why Lady Jeyne Arryn remained unwed - not just her personal preferences. Your husband is also your lord husband, never mind whether you are technically a ruling lady or not. Women are weak, men are strong. Most women in Westeros outside of Dorne will be ruled by their husbands. They are dependent on them, not so much the other way around. They will do all the martial business, etc., and they have the right to physically chastise their women under certain conditions.

There are some exceptions, of course - Barbrey Dustin, Rhaenyra Targaryen, even Lysa Arryn (who not only prevented a Donella Hornwood thing, but also succeeded at keeping the lords of the Vale under her heel in relation to the war) - but all the ruling ladies we hear about/meet are conspicuously husband-less - Lady Stokeworth, Lady Oakheart, Lady Waynwood, etc. They all must have been married once, but their men are either dead or otherwise absent, so they call the shots (again?).

Since it's unknown we can't really quantify how powerful their husbands were. Yes, Anya's husband is unknown, but neither do we need to know who Lord Hunter's wife was. And LF does not mention a powerful husband of Anya's when recounting the situation of her ward to Sansa in AFFC.

There are going to be some strategic choices that will reduce the risk of usurpation. For example, a younger son from a house of somewhat less standing, so the household will be more loyal to the suo jure lady and the husband will have enough incentive to respect his wife's station and position a little more. Since Lollys is a lackwit I doubt that how things turn out between her and Bronn is a standard in Westeros. 

On death in childbirth...

11 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

If you want to have children and keep your wife for some time you better wait, but in the end the woman is not that relevant if you just married her for her claim. Why not have her die in childbirth and claim the seat in the name of your infant son or daughter? Or better still, in your own name?

I imagine it's rather likely the maesters have observed that the younger the mother is, the more likely it is that not only she dies, but the child is stillborn, or dies young too. I am not sure how advantageous this would be if you are making some ruthless political match and your children die young due to associated complications. Or the wife is rendered sterile from repeated miscarriages, stillbirths, or simply early births. 

I'd also cast some doubt on spousal inheritance being accepted if there are no children. Yes, there is Bronn, Donella, Ramsay, but the main series is a time of war, and the only exception to this seems to be Barbrey Dustin. I am not sure how well things would go if in a time of relative peace, a cruel husband fathered children on a young heiress and claimed her seat after the child was stillborn. I imagine the vassals, knights, councillors, etc. would not be too pleased.

Yes, there does seem to be some dynastic stability with the husband sometimes adopting the surname, but King Joffrey (Lydden) Lannister had children with his wife instead of completely usurping the old Lannister line.

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14 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

Doran already had betrothed Arianne to King Viserys III, and he had every reason to believe Arianne would have liked such a match.

Arianne herself makes it clear to the reader that her father chooses her consort, not she herself, that's how she was raised. She only never married any of Doran's suggestions because Doran never commanded her to marry those men.

Doran was a fool to betroth Arianne to Viserys. Did he want Arianne to be treated like Sansa was by Joffrey? Bloody idiot.

On the other hand, when marriages where the couples are more than 10 years apart tend to do worse. Look at Jon Arryn and Lysa Tully; he was unable to provide on an emotional level, neglected to take care of his son, and his attempt to toughen him up by fostering him away led to his death. Tyrion and Sansa seemed to be heading downhill, since Sansa lived in constant fear of him raping her. And I don't expect any of Walder Frey's marriages to be particularly functional.

Edited by Angel Eyes

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20 hours ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

Well, the age of adulthood in Westeros (and perhaps the rest of the known world) seems to be 16.

But there doesn't seem to be an age of consent. In Westeros, a yes is a yes and a no is a no. The yes or no can come from an adult or a child. It doesn't matter: yes is yes and no is no.

And marrying someone is tantamount to saying yes to any and all future sexual advances and overtures to one's husband/wife. End of story.

Can a husband say no to his wife?

20 hours ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

Like @Lord Varys said, decency says that if you are a man married to a teenager, you shouldn't have sex with her until she gets into her late teens. If you do anytime before that and she gets pregnant, you have a high-risk pregnancy on your hands that the mother and the child are unlikely to survive unscathed.

That´s a matter of practical dangers.

Note that it is an issue specific to when it is the wife who is freshly flowered - but flowered.

An unflowered girl simply would not quicken even if consummated, so the dangers of pregnancy wait flowering.

And if it is an adult or late teen wife whose husband is early teen - or younger - then the practical risks do not apply. If he does produce seed and she does manage to conceive, it makes no difference for the hazards of a 15 year old mother giving birth to a full term baby as to whether its father was 33, 23, 83 or 13. And if he´s 8 then there is no physical danger to her.

Legal dangers? Ambiguity of "virginity"?

Cersei demanded that Margaery share Tommen´s bed for a single night... till when? Tyrells did demand and get that one night. Margaery has been celebrating Maiden´s Day as still a maiden - her maidenhead was found to be broken.

If on Margaery´s trial Tommen were to testify that it was Tommen´s fingers in Margaery that night, and that she bled when broken - assuming his evidence cannot be discredited, would Margaery be on some hook for it? Inherently not implausible. Not an instruction a 8 year old boy could not follow, or would have to find particularly objectionable. So what can Margaery be accused of? Allowing a boy unflowered to tamper with her? Presenting herself as a maiden when she wasn´t?

 

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1 hour ago, Angel Eyes said:

Doran was a fool to betroth Arianne to Viserys. Did he want Arianne to be treated like Sansa was by Joffrey? Bloody idiot.

Viserys is no way as worse as Joffrey. He mistreats his little sister, sure, but that's just because he is scared and miserable exile. Viserys would have an orgasm all day had he ever learned that he was betrothed to the heiress of Dorne.

Besides, how should have Doran known into what kind of man Viserys would grow into years ago when he had Oberyn make that deal? That was shortly after the Rebellion, when Darry was still around. He didn't read ASoIaF.

1 hour ago, Angel Eyes said:

On the other hand, when marriages where the couples are more than 10 years apart tend to do worse. Look at Jon Arryn and Lysa Tully; he was unable to provide on an emotional level, neglected to take care of his son, and his attempt to toughen him up by fostering him away led to his death. Tyrion and Sansa seemed to be heading downhill, since Sansa lived in constant fear of him raping her. And I don't expect any of Walder Frey's marriages to be particularly functional.

There are marriages of people with a pretty big age gap that are reasonably happy. Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys, for example.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

As others have said, Ermesande is a good example of how you'll get away with marrying a newborn child. We don't know if this is particularly exceptional in a time of great upheaval such as the main series, though, as vows not being made in duress is a point to the Faith, and I don't think it's that easy to consent to vows before you are able to speak. ;)

Oh, but it is rather easy to rape a young child, isn't it? Tyrek is Ermesande's husband, whether she wants it or not. She won't be able to prevent a consummation of that marriage, and the Hayford folks actually seem to be worried that 'Lord Tyrek' is gone, so they won't feed her the idea that the guy isn't her husband.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

Betrothal, however, is a different thing altogether. There is no problem with betrothing two babies because you can wait until they are of age for the marriage to occur. It's not really like a modern day engagement.

Usually people are not asked for their opinions there. Betrothals certainly can be dissolved, but those are decisions usually made the family/lord, not the people who were betrothed. They are supposed to do as they are told.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

As for consummation, it is considered perverse for such a thing to happen before menarche, but since that age is different for every woman, there's no particular point at which that is bound to happen. But that doesn't mean that it's typical for women to immediately be married young. We definitely have some examples of child marriage -- Rohanne Webber, Unwin Peake's daughter, Aemma Arryn (although this strikes me as odd that Alysanne agreed to this after she was upset about Daella dying in childbirth at 18.) But Catelyn married a little older and during a time of war, etc.

There are differences, of course, and there clearly are people more obsessed with marrying their children off than others. Jaehaerys I is clearly more obsessed with that kind of thing than, say, Hoster Tully after Lysa (else Edmure would long be married), Rickard Stark (no matches for either Eddard nor Benjen), Steffon Baratheon (no matches for either Robert or Stannis when he died), Mace Tyrell (not matches for either Willas, Loras, or Margaery by the time the series begins), not to mention all those bachelor/widow Northmen - Wyman and Wendel Manderly, Galbart Glover, the Umber uncles, all the Karstark children, all the Stark children (Robb and Sansa were old enough to be betrothed by the time the series began), etc.

Others are more interested in arranging marriages earlier.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

I would also just add that modern conceptions of consent likely do not exist outside of Dorne. Rape inside marriage is probably acceptable within Westeros. However, while sex outside marriage is going to be seen as illicit, there is still a distinction between consensual sex and rape in that area. But I think the smallfolk in Westeros may still recognise that younger people are going to be more vulnerable and that the male partner is more likely to be accused of rape, etc.

Oh, my impression is that there is just a difference between a slut/whore and rape in extramarital sex. Women who are neither married nor betrothed or already widows are sluts who fornicate, and those who sleep around while in a marriage or betrothal are raped, no matter whether they are of the opinion that they are raped or not.

Their (male) family (members) will decide what happened, their own opinion is pretty much irrelevant because women are not allowed their own romantic or sexual identity/agenda.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

On the subject of ruling ladies:

Sansa is a hostage in King's Landing, Donella Hornwood was captured by Ramsay, and Rohanne's father's will explicitly stated that her inheritance was dependent on her being married. If there wasn't such a clause and the inheritance was during a time of peace, I think it would be rather circumspect for an overlord to force her to marry someone, no more than forcing a male vassal to marry someone instead of making appropriate negotiations.

Sure, but it is reinforced again and again that the way Donella and Sansa (and later Jeyne) are treated is more or less okay. Rodrik makes it clear that Roose now has a claim to the Hornwood lands thanks to the public wedding and consummated marriage of his bastard and Donella. That means that the majority opinion seems to be that marriages made under duress or by force are not, in principle, invalid.

And that means that chances are pretty high that a great heiress/ruling lady is rather prone to be raped and forcefully wed against her will to one of her own men, her liege lord, or some neighboring lord. That is what Lady Rohanne fears the Longinch will do to her. And it doesn't seem to be a fear that is only in her head.

Not to mention that this kind of thing happened in the real middle ages all the time. Heiresses were abducted and forcefully wed all the time.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

A regent (mother, aunt, uncle, castellan, etc.) would probably have the full power to decide before she turned 16, and after that they may remain influential enough that she may likely be pressured, but I think after that nobody would have complete power over her choices.

Technically, it seems a castallan cannot really arrange marriages for you. That should do a proper guardian. Ser Rodrik or Arnolf Karstark don't have the right to arrange marriages for the Stark and Karstark children. In that sense, the marriage contract between Viserys III and Doran Martell done by Willem Darry and Oberyn Martell is also not really binding to either Viserys III or Dany because neither of them were actually actively involved in any of that, or had Darry given authority to arrange such matters in their name.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

Since it's unknown we can't really quantify how powerful their husbands were. Yes, Anya's husband is unknown, but neither do we need to know who Lord Hunter's wife was. And LF does not mention a powerful husband of Anya's when recounting the situation of her ward to Sansa in AFFC.

Oh, you have to contrast that with those ruling ladies where there is a husband. Take, for instance, Lollys Stokeworth whose husband now presumes to call himself 'Lord Stokeworth'. There you see where the true power lies.

I'm not saying that all ruling ladies have to be under the thumb of their lord husbands, but there should be such a tendency. Women in this world are not brought up to rule over men, and in those cases where a man is stuck with a female heir he might actually choose a husband for her which he thinks can effectively serve as a male heir, or at least as a protector or guardian for his daughter.

There is a reason why rather prominent and powerful female rulers did not marry or remarry, like Barbrey Dustin and Jeyne Arryn.

Widows ruling as regents for the sons can and did do that, e.g. Elenda Baratheon or Lysa Arryn, but they are not in the situation that they wield power in their own right - and thus their husbands cannot really usurp that power completely. It is different with women ruling in their own right.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

There are going to be some strategic choices that will reduce the risk of usurpation. For example, a younger son from a house of somewhat less standing, so the household will be more loyal to the suo jure lady and the husband will have enough incentive to respect his wife's station and position a little more. Since Lollys is a lackwit I doubt that how things turn out between her and Bronn is a standard in Westeros. 

Think of Lady Rohanne's fear.

Middle-aged/older women with heirs of their own, or women who ruled as ladies in their own right for quite some time before they (re)marry can likely protect themselves pretty well against a power grab by their husband - if they know how power and politics work. After all, they would be the ones choosing their husbands, if everything worked fine, and they certainly would have had the time to surround themselves with men they could trust.

But it would still be men. It is difficult to say whether the husband could slowly but surely win the loyalty of all those men to his side.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

I imagine it's rather likely the maesters have observed that the younger the mother is, the more likely it is that not only she dies, but the child is stillborn, or dies young too. I am not sure how advantageous this would be if you are making some ruthless political match and your children die young due to associated complications. Or the wife is rendered sterile from repeated miscarriages, stillbirths, or simply early births. 

One should expect them to learn from such things, but they clearly did not learn that very well.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

I'd also cast some doubt on spousal inheritance being accepted if there are no children. Yes, there is Bronn, Donella, Ramsay, but the main series is a time of war, and the only exception to this seems to be Barbrey Dustin. I am not sure how well things would go if in a time of relative peace, a cruel husband fathered children on a young heiress and claimed her seat after the child was stillborn. I imagine the vassals, knights, councillors, etc. would not be too pleased.

Daemon Targaryen tried it, too. Lady Jeyne did not allow it to happen, but him trying is another hint that such claims exist. They are mostly considered to be weaker than those of actual blood kin, but they can prevail, as they did in the case of Barbrey Dustin. I assume, though, it would be difficult to pull something like that off if there are close male relative around, like first cousins of the dead wife, for instance.

7 hours ago, Vaith said:

Yes, there does seem to be some dynastic stability with the husband sometimes adopting the surname, but King Joffrey (Lydden) Lannister had children with his wife instead of completely usurping the old Lannister line.

Well, Joffrey seems to have been married to the Lannister daughter already, and they already may have had children. And it is quite clear that this marriage was what gave him a claim in the first place. This is a kingdom, not just some (minor) lordship. The bigger the price and the greater the state the more people would want a say in the matter of succession.

But here it is telling that they did not allow the woman to rule. One assumes the Andals in the Westerlands were really pushing the guys there to make one of their own the new King of the Rock.

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I think one of the worst fathers when it comes to marriages is Rickard Karstark. He promises Alys' hand to any man who can capture Jaime Lannister and Vargo Hoat, a limb-taking sadist and rapist, tries to cash in. Does Rickard want his daughter to be tortured and raped? I thought he cared about his children.

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8 hours ago, Vaith said:

I'd also cast some doubt on spousal inheritance being accepted if there are no children. Yes, there is Bronn, Donella, Ramsay, but the main series is a time of war, and the only exception to this seems to be Barbrey Dustin. I am not sure how well things would go if in a time of relative peace, a cruel husband fathered children on a young heiress and claimed her seat after the child was stillborn. I imagine the vassals, knights, councillors, etc. would not be too pleased.

I wonder how Barbrey managed to keep her husband's estate in such a manner. I've theorized that she's a badass and fought people off; just look at Donella Hornwood, widowed early in the War of the Five Kings, captured, raped, ate her fingers in a vain attempt to keep alive long enough for rescue. Why she wasn't protected well enough leaving the Harvest Feast of Winterfell...

 

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