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Once it was an honour to serve under the Night's Watch, but in more recent times it has become less of a role that people want and more of a role for people who commit crimes or are "bastards".

In the first series, we discover that Ned Stark is seen to be somewhat governing the Night's Watch (he is seen beheading someone of the Night's Watch for abandoning their post). It is also noted that the North sees the Night's Watch as an important factor, whereas the south, although they recognize it they do not show much regard. Ned Stark is no longer with us, and abandoning their post is no longer happening so this question is probably based on opinions.

Let's skip to the most recent series, we find that:

The north is no longer peaceful and is in utter turmoil, with Ramsey declaring himself the Warden of the North whose only intent on building an army to destroy everyone around him. No other houses are seen to be making a note.

In the latest episode (S6E5) we see that:

Jon Snow has left the the Night's Watch going to fight Ramsey

So the question is:

With what has been going on, what makes the people of the Night's Watch stay? The way that I see things, they could just leave and not face any punishment, at least not for a while anyway. Is the Night's Watch really turning back into a honourable place where everyone wants to stay there? They see it as their right and their duty now, they have seen what has been going on.

You could argue that:

Jon Snow

Would therefore give punishment, but can he? I mean, he's the commander but let's skip back to season 1 where we see Ned Stark carry out the punishment and not the commander.

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    Ned Stark executed the NW man because he was caught on his property, as the lord of Winterfell. Any lord would have been compelled to do the same in accordance with the laws of the Night's Watch. It's a fair question, though, but I guess those who wanted to flee already fled after the Battle of the Fist. – TLP May 28 '16 at 16:45
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    I think you have some facts confused. Ned Stark never governed the NW. It's an independent organization that receives support from the Throne (and thus all Lords who are under the authority of the throne). These people would still be outcasts if they left. If someone who was sentenced to the NW tried to return home, someone who knew him would most likely turn him into the authorities. – kuhl May 28 '16 at 19:32
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    Relevant: Why was it Lord Stark who executed Gared @TLP – Aegon Apr 3 '17 at 8:21
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To your title question

Who now governs the Night's Watch?

The answer is Eddison Tollett (aka "Dolorous Edd"). Jon Snow gave him his position at the end of episode S06E03:

EDD: We should burn the bodies.

JON: You should. (Jon gives his cloak to Edd)

EDD: What do you want me to do with this ?

JON: Wear it. Burn it. Whatever you want. You have Castle Black.

Concerning Lord Eddard Stark; he never had any position within the Night's Watch. As stated by @TLP in the comments, he was only doing his duty as the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. And there is still a Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North now: Lord Ramsay Bolton.

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    Perhaps a comment about how Edd is the interim commander? Either Jon Snow appointed him until Jon gets back or the NW needs to hold an election. – kuhl May 28 '16 at 19:34
  • @kuhl The future of the NW is unclear (it could well be their lowest point in history). Jon hasn't given any sign of planning to join them back later, so yes, there should be an election. But right now, with the Wildings and the White Walkers, I suspect there are simply too few people to really care about that (102 at S04E08, before the battle, the mutiny and the execution of the officers). Furthermore, Edd has been in the NW for a long time, he may not be loved, but nobody seems to dislike him. The remaining members may just be satisfied to have him as their Lord Commander. – Reyssor May 29 '16 at 11:20
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    regardless he's still interim until there's an election, even if the election takes years to occur. I did up vote before posting my original comment, I think it's a good answer, just needs refining. – kuhl May 29 '16 at 16:15
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Eddard Stark had nothing to do with the knights watch, he was simply executing a deserter. It is unclear if he does this execution as Warden of the North, or simply that any Lord would do the same, but that is irrelevant.

Since Jon died, his watch can be considered to have ended at death. An acting Lord commander, usually the highest ranking Ranger, takes control of the watch until a choosing.

  • Do you have a reference for that statement about the highest ranking ranger, and do we know who that is at this point? – DCShannon Jun 5 '16 at 11:12
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Jon Snow quit (dying and being resurrected might be a loop hole or not but seeing how he's got a rather larger army on his side nobody is going to push the issue) and passed the title to Dolorous Edd but both the men and Dolorous Edd still see him as the Lord Commander so he can also come back and say hi guys, I'm back and become Lord Commander again.

So nominally the title goes to Dolorous Edd but Jon Snow is still the unofficial Lord Commander.

  • What makes you say this: so he can also come back and say hi guys, I'm back and become Lord Commander again. It seems like earlier you were saying he left so he couldn't come back? Why can he now suddenly come back? – Edlothiad Jul 15 '17 at 1:26

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