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I am wondering about the marriage laws of Westeros. To keep this question from being too broad, let’s discuss only the case of the prevalent religion of Westeros, the Faith of the Seven.

We do know that a marriage of people adhering to Faith of Seven can only be annulled by the High Septon or a council of faith if it hasn't been consummated.

The following orders require vows of celibacy in Westeros:

  1. Kingsguards
  2. Nights Watch
  3. Order of Maesters
  4. Septons and Septas of faith
  5. The Silent Sisters

We do know Ser Quentyn Ball sent his wife to join the Silent Sisters so that he could be free to take the vows of the Kingsguards, since he couldn't get his marriage annulled as it had been consummated. That implies that simply swearing the Kingsguards vows won't automatically annul his marriage.

So what happens if a married man is made to join the Nights Watch? Does his marriage get annulled automatically or is his wife bound to be alone for the rest of her life?

Also what happens if a married man takes the vows of Citadel to become a Maester or becomes a Septon?

For women adhering to the Faith of the Seven, the situation seems clear that joining the Silent Sisters will annul their marriage. It is not so clear as to what happens when a married woman wishes to be a septa? Virginity might not be required to take a Septa's vow because we know Septa Lemore has childbirth marks. (But that in itself means nothing, she might have gotten pregnant after taking a Septa's vows. That is of course if she is not what she is suspected to be).

I have also created a Reddit thread for it here, but there are not really many insights there. But do check it in case there might be some comment which might help you form your answer.

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    Depends on how much gold you have in your pocket... Not enough and no one will probably even know or care about you. Enough and you can pay to make the rules. – Skooba May 20 '16 at 12:57
  • Nobody can be sentenced to join the Nights Watch. Joining NW is an alternative for another kind of punishment. Maybe married man will not have option to join NW instead of punishment. – Schullz May 20 '16 at 13:15
  • @Schullz True it is a chance though not necessarily. if alternative was getting my head nicked, I would sooner join the NW too. Plus Prisoners don't get any say in the matter. NW Recruiters choose their pick and go off to wall. (See case of Jaqen Hghar, Ned gave Yoren his pick of the dungeons which included Jaqen, Rorge and biter). – Aegon May 20 '16 at 13:16
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    I do not remember a place in the books where this could derived from - I just remember that Ned Stark begged Joffrey to join the Nights Watch. I assume that the marriage is not annulled. Is there anything mentioned in the books about Lord Commander Mormonts wife? He went to night's watch because to let Jorah become his sucessor. – Supahupe May 20 '16 at 14:09
  • Ned never begged joff. Cersei offered him the wall in return of Sansa's life on price of confession. Joer Mormont's wife is not mentioned otherwise I would have added it to the post – Aegon May 20 '16 at 17:30
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+50

I will try to answer the question in general but just note that different orders probably have different rules on marriages. Also it likely depends on who you are: high-born/low-born, male/female, noble/peasant etc.


We do not know and there appears to be people on three sides of the argument with:

  1. No you're both still married
  2. No but it does mean that an annulment is possible
  3. Yes you are annulled

The biggest group of people seem to believe that option 3 is the most likely; especially when considering the Night's Watch. This is because joining the Watch essentially means that you are dead to the world. You give up any titles or lands and leave your place in the world, it would make sense that you also give up your wife. However, as others have pointed out before, the oath is expressed in terms of not doing anything in the future so it does leave way for the Watchmen to still have a wife.

Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.

I've had a brief conversation with Elio, one of the co-author's of The World of Ice and Fire, on twitter and he seems to be in camp 2 for someone joining the Night's Watch.

I think someone could take the black without necessarily annulling the marriage, but their having taken the vows would give grounds for the wife to get an annulment. Just my guess.
Twitter, @westerosorg

In this conversation he's also stated that Fireball sent his wife to the Silent Sisters to annul their marriage so he could become eligible to be a member of the Kingsguard. This theory means a man must not be married before joining the order but the implication is the same as you state in that joining the Kingsguard likely doesn't annul a marriage. It would even seem, from Elio's answer, that it is impossible to join if you are married.

Marriages must be annulled before one can become a member. Fireball forced his wife to become a silent sister, apparently, which allowed him to get the annulment that would make him able to take the vows of the Kingsguard.
Twitter, @westerosorg

From Elio's above tweet it would also seem that a wife joining the Silent Sisters means their marriage became eligible for an annulment not that it was an automatic process.

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This is a difficult question to answer for two reasons, the first one because the books don't throw deeply enough information into this type of legal matters and the other because even in our world, where we can go back to try to find a resemblance of Martin's Westeros, there wouldn't be neither an easy answer.

First of all, let's start stating that Celibacy have different meanings depending on the culture and the situation. Basically there are two levels of celibacy: being forbidden to get married and get forbidden of any sexual contact.

In Westeros, for example, we can find that, although Kingsguards and Night Watch asks for celibacy vows, nobody expects a Kingsguard to avoid sexual contact, while this is implied in the Night Watch's vow own words.

So, if different orders have different exigency levels accounting celibacy, it's fairly safe to infer that they will treat previous marriages in different ways. In fact, if we keep in mind the deep connections and importance between marriages, wealth, social achievement and inheritance in medieval cultures (Westerosi in particular), we can agree that this is an important matter.

Has to be repudiated a noblewoman married to a knight which is granted the honor to be Kingsguard promoted? Does it means that she has to enter the Silent Sisters? Will promoted knight family run with the risk to aggraviate it's wife's former family to accept which should be an honor? On the contrary, if we accept that the wife should remain into her husband's family, what effect will it have into it's relationships and position within this family? What if we are talking about entering the Nights Watch? Now it's not an honor... should the wife be punished getting expelled of the family for her's husband crime?

There are too many questions of profound importance within this feudal society to just wonder an answer. Probably each different order has it's own rules, easier ones and much more complicated others, but we cannot make anything but especulate about them as books and current canon doesn't explain them deeply enough.

  • Actually people do expect them to avoid sexual contacts at least the KG. Ser Lucamore the Lusty was gelded and sent to the wall for breaking his vow of celibacy. However, In case of Prince Lewyn, Ser Borros etc, people who knew, closed their eyes. And NW has to compromise because of dwindling numbers. "If we beheaded every boy who went to Mole Town to have sex, Only ghosts would guard the wall" (Or something like that) – Aegon Aug 5 '16 at 12:24
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    I understand it is currently unanswerable from the books, which is why I was kind of looking for somethimg GRRM may have said in this regard. (Pity he is not like JK Rowling, creating canon as she goes with tweets and interviews lol) – Aegon Aug 5 '16 at 12:26

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