Marriages are automatically conditioned on certain past events or lack thereof. If one's supposedly married partner turns out to be a psychopath, one has grounds for annulment.

If one's supposedly married partner lied about h past then one may or may not have grounds for annulment depending on the degree to which the marriage was based on the supposed truth of the particular part of the past of the partner.

For example if Jack marries Jill and then later finds our Jill once robbed a convenience store, I don't see a reason for annulment.

Some marriages such as those where divorce is not allowed cannot be conditioned on future events. Any such marriage where divorce is not allowed is invalid.

So there are some conditions on marriage allowed and some that are not.

What are valid conditions on decrees of legitimacy or succession in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire?

Well one is the condition of legitimacy of the authority of the one decreeing. If tommen is proven to be illegitimate in authority or in birth, ramsay's legitimisation was invalid. But that's like the aforementioned psychopath scenario in the sense that it applies to all decrees of legitimacy.

What about something like the lying or robbing scenarios presented above?

For example, in the books,* Robb may have legitimised Jon.

My understanding is that

  1. Robb talked it over with Cat who disagreed

  2. He did that or planned to do it because he assumed Arya, Bran and Rickon were dead and that Sansa was a captive of the Lannisters

  3. He would have named any of them his successors if the conditions were to his favour (well aside from being alive, there's also not being a captive of the Lannisters)

  4. He would not have legitimised or planned to legitimise Jon if he could have named others successor

Could he have said something like

I Robb titles titles hereby legitimise my half-brother Jon Snow assuming so and so are dead as of [this date] unless I have children.


Part of that includes:

Can a ruler legitimise someone on the condition of the untimely death of another?

So if Arya, Bran or Rickon is alive or turns out to be alive, then there should be no problem for Cat, I think?

How about including Sansa?

I Robb titles titles hereby name my sister Sansa my heir upon my death unless I have children, she's married to Tyrion, (state more conditions). If she would not be my heir upon my death then I name Arya unless (...). If not Arya then Bran unless (...). Then Rickon unless (...) and if not Rickon I hereby legitimise my half brother without further conditions.

Part of that includes:

Can a ruler legitimise someone on the condition of the captivity status of another?

So he's still kind of disagreeing with Cat but at least there wouldn't be an unnecessary decree of legitimisation or inheritance.

I mean Robb wants to legitimise Jon because Robb thinks Robb's out of options. So why not just make a decree of legitimisation or inheritance assuming he's indeed out options?

Am I understanding anything incorrectly?

If he could have done it but didnt, I think this is an oversight. If he couldn't have, I would like to understand why.


Robb tells his mother that he plans to legitimize his brother Jon and name him heir should he and Jeyne not have a child. Catelyn is stunned by this proclamation, and pleads with him not to make the mistake the Targaryens made when King Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized all his bastards on his deathbed. The Blackfyre Pretenders plagued the Targaryens for five generations until Ser Barristan Selmy slew Maelys Blackfyre on the Stepstones. They both fear that Sansa will give the Imp a son and thus control of Winterfell and agree that must be prevented. She pleads that Robb consider naming his sister Arya as heir, but Robb insists that no one has seen Arya since his father's death and that his sister is likely also dead. Catelyn tells Robb that she cannot support his choice of Jon but Robb reminds her that he doesn't have to ask for her support, stating his reason as, "I'm the King."

  • 3
    Good question! But once you are legitimate, you cannot go back to bastard. Conditional bastardary doesn't make much sense :)
    – user65648
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:34
  • @C.Koca you mean conditional non-bastardry? :P thanks ^-^
    – BCLC
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:36
  • @C.Koca well you can't go back to being a bastard once you are legitimate ASSUMING you are legitimate. It's the same idea as succession I think? If the third in line succeeds assuming the second in line is dead but it turns out that the second in line is actually alive then the third in line's succession is invalid?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:39
  • You can reincarnate into a bastard :)) Legitimate means you are trueborn. I guess you need to born again. Being the eldest trueborn doesn't really give make you direct heir. I guess your father can deny it. Roose Bolton threatened Ramsey many times about this.
    – user65648
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:50
  • @C.Koca right that's about succession not bastardry? So you can't be delegitimised but you can be disowned?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:55

2 Answers 2


There is no conditional (non)-bastardy in Westeros

Once a king legitimizes you, you are a true-born child. This is your right. This is why Ramsey keeps telling people he was legitimized.

Can the same or some other king delegitimize you? There is no precedence like that.

About conditional inheritance? Inheritance in general works only if the inheritor is respected and honorable.

So, knowing Jon has an utmost sense of honor, it would work. If Robb trusted Jon that after becoming King in the North he might step aside to let Bran or Rickon rule, then Catelyn is happy. But if he wasn't honorable and if he were to deny the throne to Bran or Rickon, he would be despised by the common and noble people.

The crucial point is having the authority. Everyone knew Renly was no true heir, but he had the backing of one of the largest house in Westeros. Similarly, A powerful king may be able to delegitimize an ex-bastard. Or, a powerful ex-bastard might defy a weak king. Hence, the laws do not matter much if you are powerful.

  • 1
    It's like marriage without possibility for divorce. Once you're married, there's no way you can be unmarried. If the marriage is found to be invalid you are not said to have been de-married as is this case with divorce but rather you were never married at all.
    – BCLC
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:53
  • 1
    That makes sense! If Tommen were never the king, then he couldn't have legitimize Ramsey. In theory, if someone was powerful enough he could claim all decrees of Tommen is void. Again, you need to be powerful.
    – user65648
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:55
  • 1
    Or the king might say, I was drunk :)
    – user65648
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 4:56
  • 1
    exactly. Same idea as marriage. So Ramsay's legitimacy could be invalid. The problem is if a decree of legitimisation under certain conditions would be valid. For example a marriage with a future condition is invalid in the catholic church. So I guess I might rephrase my question as if it was possible to grant a decree of legitimisation conditioned on the untimely death (Arya Bran Rickon) or position (Sansa) of someone else? What do you think?
    – BCLC
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 5:00
  • 1
    The attempt to twist the wording does not change the outcome. You're hinging Jon's state on the unknowable future action of a third party, whereby Jon ceases to be legitimate after being recognized. You're creating a "divorce clause" no matter how you say it.
    – T.J.L.
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 5:35

Adding the answer because existing answer does not take precedent for conditional succession in account.

What are valid conditions on decrees of legitimacy or succession in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire?

There is no precedent for adding conditions in decrees for legitimization. It is therefore unclear if this is possible but the current evidence is against it.

As Catelyn Stark said in ASOS Chapter 45 when Robb told her that he was going to legitimize Jon using his royal prerogative:

“Precedent,” she said bitterly. “Yes, Aegon the Fourth legitimized all his bastards on his deathbed. And how much pain, grief, war, and murder grew from that? I know you trust Jon. But can you trust his sons? Or their sons? The Blackfyre pretenders troubled the Targaryens for five generations, until Barristan the Bold slew the last of them on the Stepstones. If you make Jon legitimate, there is no way to turn him bastard again. Should he wed and breed, any sons you may have by Jeyne will never be safe.”

Tommen's personal legitimacy does not come into it. Legitimacy is the shadow which Varys was talking about. For some Tommen is a bastard with no claim, for some no Baratheon or Non-Targaryen is the rightful King to begin with. Their opinions do not matter, what matters is Tommen sits on Iron Throne and he issued the decree for Ramsay's legitimization from the Iron Throne. So He is the King for all intents and purposes.

If things worked out like that, Jon's supposed legitimization by Robb would be also invalid as Robb is considered a Rebel Lord by his enemies, not a King so they do not see him as the authority to remove taint of bastardy.

However, There is precedent to adding conditions to succession in ASOIAF. In Dunk and Egg: The Sworn Sword, According to her father's will, Lady Rohanne Webber's succession to title of Lady of Coldmoat was conditioned to her taking a husband within two years of her father's death. If she failed to do so, the titles and income will be passed to her father's cousin Ser Wendell Webber.

So it is clear that a Lord can change his heir posthomously if his de-jure heir fails to meet certain conditions laid out by that lord.

Can a ruler legitimise someone on the condition of the untimely death of another?

Read the previous section for this answer. TL;DR, it is unclear however it seems unlikely that legitimization Edicts work that way.

Can a ruler legitimise someone on the condition of the captivity status of another?

Again, this is the same question with different phrases. "Can a ruler legitimize someone with conditions that have to be met for the edict to be effective?". The answer remains the same. It is unclear and unlikely.

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