Ned Stark has five legitimate children (in order of age) Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon. Up through the events of A Dance With Dragons we end up with the following:

  • Robb - dead

  • Sansa - Alive, at the Eyrie, under the protection of Littlefinger who is plotting something.

  • Arya - Alive, off in Bravos, but even if she does return would still be behind all the others.

  • Bran - Alive, may or may not return, but given his situation it highly unlikely he would be laying a claim.

  • Rickon - Alive, MIA (Davos has been sent to see if he is hiding on Skagos)

Sansa and Rickon would have the best claims based on the above information. This would also mean that the Boltons will have to be stripped of their titles over the North as well. I do not see this as a major problem as the other Lords of the North believe only a Stark can rule Winterfell.

Sansa seems to be in a position to claim sooner, but Rickon is liable to just pop out of nowhere (much like Aegon VI). Littlefinger will not have wanted all his hard work to go to waste, so I would imagine he will do anything to install Sansa. The other Lords of the North may back Rickon as he is male... given the general rules of succession in Westeros, male heirs are given priority over females. However, with the state of turmoil most of these rules are subject to all kinds of interpretations and ignorance.

However, there is final option... Jon Snow. If Jon was able to secure a royal decree making him a true Stark his claim would be better than both Sansa (Jon is male) and Rickon (Jon is older). Is there any evidence that this has happened?

I am looking for evidence from the books only. The show is outpacing and has gone in different directions in many instances.


4 Answers 4


It's Jon. Robb legitimised him before his death, which he was legally able to do as King in the North, and so Jon is Ned Stark's legitimate heir and the rightful Lord of Winterfell and King in the North. Even his Night's Watch vows are no longer an obstacle, since they only bound him until death, and he has now died (presumably to be resurrected in some way).

In A Storm of Swords, Robb and Catelyn have the following conversation:

“Mother.” There was a sharpness in Robb’s tone. “You forget. My father had four sons.”

She had not forgotten; she had not wanted to look at it, yet there it was. “A Snow is not a Stark.”

“Jon’s more a Stark than some lordlings from the Vale who have never so much as set eyes on Winterfell.”

“Jon is a brother of the Night’s Watch, sworn to take no wife and hold no lands. Those who take the black serve for life.”

“So do the knights of the Kingsguard. That did not stop the Lannisters from stripping the white cloaks from Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Boros Blount when they had no more use for them. If I send the Watch a hundred men in Jon’s place, I’ll wager they find some way to release him from his vows.”

He is set on this. Catelyn knew how stubborn her son could be. “A bastard cannot inherit.”

“Not unless he’s legitimized by a royal decree,” said Robb. “There is more precedent for that than for releasing a Sworn Brother from his oath.”

Robb then has a council with his lords as follows:

He picked up a sheet of parchment. “One more matter. Lord Balon has left chaos in his wake, we hope. I would not do the same. Yet I have no son as yet, my brothers Bran and Rickon are dead, and my sister is wed to a Lannister. I’ve thought long and hard about who might follow me. I command you now as my true and loyal lords to fix your seals to this document as witnesses to my decision.”

It's not clear what has happened to that sheet of parchment. Robb then sent Galbart Glover and Maege Mormont to Howland Reed at Greywater Watch, but the written messages they carried were false, in case they were captured.

It is claimed in an answer on Quora that the World of Ice and Fire companion volume, which was written with the approval of George R R Martin, confirms that Jon was legitimized by Robb. But I can't find any such reference in the book.

  • 5
    "fix your seals to this document as witnesses to my decision.” Do we know that was a decree of legitimisation for Jon, or could it be a bit of GRRM misdirection? What immediately follows that quote?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 19:46
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    @AndresF. Well, that would complicate things, and it seems quite likely since two of the witnesses to the document Robb signed were last seen travelling to meet Howland Reed, who is the only surviving witness of whatever happened at the Tower of Joy. I think we'd be back to Renly's comments on the kingship, “Oh, there was talk of the blood ties between Baratheon and Targaryen, of weddings a hundred years past, of second sons and elder daughters. No one but the maesters care about any of it. Robert won the throne with his warhammer.”
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 22, 2016 at 20:58
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    How many things we're to assume, but not actually told, turn out to be true?
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 0:35
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    @Skooba I've been waiting for Howland Reed to appear since Book one.
    – Möoz
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 4:12
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    @user568458 Yes, there's already been a question here about it: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/37862/…
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:06

Things have changed a bit since the question was first posted.... since we now know that Bran is not supposed to sit around and let the roots of the trees grow into him, he'd be the next heir via the "bros before hos" rule of succession.

Jon Snow was legitimized in the books, but not, as far as we can tell, on the show. They showed him refusing the offer from Stannis, and didn't show him being legitimized by Robb, so we shouldn't assume anything along those lines.

This will be further complicated when it's revealed through Bran's time-travel-dreams that Jon is not a half-brother in the direct line of succession, but a cousin (child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen), which puts him, ironically, into claim queue for the Iron Throne.

  • 1
    Referring to the spoiler, that would put him 1st in the queue, wouldn't it? As the only male heir?
    – DCShannon
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 21:29
  • One small point, I agree with R+L=J just like most other book readers, however it has not yet been confirmed in the show or books. That spoiler presents a theory as fact. Otherwise I agree that Bran is the heir in show canon.
    – kuhl
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 12:26
  • It speculates that this will be coming. It's a pretty obvious spoiler on so many levels. DC - would grandson move ahead of daughter in succession if the son (father of the grandson) never took the throne, himself? I'll have to take a look at Brandyman's link to the rules. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 14:09
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    This question isn't tagged GoT though.
    – Amarth
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 18:28
  • 1
    The Targaryens use Salic rules: only males may inherit the throne, thus Dany is out of luck because the closest make relative to the Mad King would have priority. Of course, there's also the matter of Dragon Law that may be invoked: she has the dragons, she makes the laws. Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 23:34

Since this question has reappeared on the front page somehow, I will take advantage of that to offer my answer:

If Jon is ultimately revealed to be the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, and was born following their marriage, then he was never illegitimate and never a bastard in the first place. He cannot be legitimized as a Stark or as anything else.

I realize that OP may not consider this an answer "from the books" but the books contain the same clues that J = R + L that the show did. I don't think anyone doubts at this point that this will be the case in the books as well.

  • I am not asking if it will mean anything, just asking if it happened and if so what evidence there is. This really doesn't answer the question.
    – Skooba
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 17:49

In this answer I will be using only my own memories of the books as I have read them, this being only the first in English. Hopefully that will not make much difference as only the phrasing may change. Any facts that are taken from the show is pure happenstance considering I've in total seen less than ten minutes of it.

Now with that little disclaimer out of the way, we know that Stannis has offered and been declined to legitimize Jon, free him from Nights Watch vows and set him in as Lord of Winterfell. As stated above, Jon declined this offer for two reasons, Melissandre would burn the godswood, and he felt that the Nights Watch was more important at the time. Prior to that he also considered deserting the Nights Watch to ride south and assist Robb, in fact he was already on his way when he was stopped and convinced to stay. We also know that Robb considers Jon a brother fully, enough to consider releasing him from his Nights Watch vows, and legitimizing him as a son of Eddard Stark. We also know that when word of Bran and Rickons "deaths" reach him, he will not allow the succession to be in flux, thus designates an heir. It is fully possible that he was indeed both legitimized by Robb but also released from his vows in that decree. However, with the Others and wights to fight against I consider it unlikely he would leave, considering he has had numerous chances to do so.

  • 2
    This doesn't really answer the question of if Jon was legitimized by Robb, but rather what would Jon do if he was. Also try to source your answers with quote from the material to back up your assertions. Proper formatting, such as capitalization and paragraph breaks can also be useful.
    – Skooba
    Commented May 13, 2020 at 13:00

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