In A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, children born to a noble parent, but out of wedlock, are given special "bastard" surnames. They are openly acknowledged as the children of a noble, and it's generally expected for their noble parent to take care of them in some way, but they have none of the inherent legal rights of trueborn children.

In the novels, any child born to a lord or lady, who's other parent is not that lord or lady's spouse, is acknowledges as a "bastard-born". Most of them involve Lords having affairs with commoners, but not all. For example, Aegon IV had tons of bastards, with both common and highborn mothers (all of which he legitimized on his death.) This lines up with the "normal English" definition of the term bastard as well.

However, in the show, as far as I know, all of the acknowledged bastards we have seen have highborn fathers and lowborn mothers:

  • Jon Snow -- everyone thinks he's Ned's son by a barmaid.
  • Ramsay Snow -- Roose Bolton's son by a miller's wife.
  • Obara Sand -- Oberyn Martell's daughter by a peasant
  • Nymeria Sand -- Oberyn Martell's daughter by a foreign woman
  • The other Sand Snakes -- Oberyn Martell by Ellia Sand

Other characters with bastard surnames are mentioned but, as far as I know, we don't learn enough about them to know if their parents were both highborn or not.

So, my question is, is the child of two unmarried, but highborn, parents still considered a "legal bastard" in the TV universe? Have we seen a single acknowledged example of this on-screen?

The reason I'm asking is because:

someone contended that Jon Snow isn't really a bastard, since both his parents were nobles, and I contend they are wrong, he is really Jon Waters.

Thus, a claim has been made that a child of two noble unwed parents would not get the usual "bastard" surname because both their parents were nobles. I am looking for proof that this isn't true in the show.


To address the current comments and answers:

I know what the English word "bastard" means. In the Game of Thrones universe, though, there is a special class of "bastard" that has noble parents -- they get a last name, for starters. My question is about those children of two unwed noble parents.

I also what the novels have to say, (which I called out in my question), and there the answer is trivial because we see plenty of bastard-born children with two noble parents. But for this purpose, the novels are irrelevant -- I'm looking for evidence specifically from the TV show, and so far, every instance I have come up with was cut from the show.

(For the record, I'm 100% positive that it doesn't matter but that isn't proof.)

  • 1
    So it's Himarm's fault ;) Jul 25, 2016 at 13:49
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    I'm tempted to -1 because bastard means bastard - a child of unmarried parents; class is irrelevant, and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get a dictionary - but the question in the title is OK, so I won't :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 25, 2016 at 13:58
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    We have at least one. Edric Storm, fathered by Robert Baratheon and his mother was Delena Florent.
    – user65648
    Jul 25, 2016 at 13:59
  • @C.Koca If that's all in show canon, sounds like it'd make a good answer.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:00
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    When a child of a lord is born to a peasant woman, they might end up as a bastard. Since ladies have a lot of arranged marriages, it's probably generally assumed that children born to highborn ladies are trueborn, unless evidence to the contrary surfaces (c.f. Cersei's children). Jul 25, 2016 at 22:14

2 Answers 2



So, my question is, is the child of two unmarried, but highborn, parents still considered a "legal bastard" in the TV universe? Have we seen a single acknowledged example of this on-screen?

Technically, yes...

To parse down your question if we (meaning the external viewer) have seen a character that is a child of 1) unmarried parents that 2) highborn and 3) considered legal.

The answer to this question would be Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen Baratheon

  1. Jaime and Cersei are not married
  2. Lannisters are considered noble
  3. Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen are considered legal

However, there is a huge disclaimer to this. Their status is only fully known to us as outside viewers. The three are considered legal Baratheons because their father (Robert) does not know the children are not his! Only a few people in-universe are aware of this as fact. We do not know what would have happened if the truth had been exposed AND accepted. Remember Ned claimed he was lying and a traitor and Joffrey was Robert's true son before he was executed, and through extension anyone else claiming the same is considered a traitor.


Thus, a claim has been made that a child of two noble unwed parents would not get the usual "bastard" surname because both their parents were nobles. I am looking for proof that this isn't true in the show.

A bastard is a bastard if their parents were not married at the time the child was born.

Only a King by Royal Decree can legitimize a bastard. Hence, Jon is bastard because his parents were not married 1... it does not matter who they were. The story of Daemon Blackfyre shows this.

While not physically seen on-screen, Daemon Blackfyre is (arguably) the highest-profile person that could be considered a "noble-born" bastard.

Daemon was the bastard son of Aegon IV Targaryen and his first cousin Daena the Defiant, the infamous daughter of Aegon III Targaryen. Daena named him after her grandfather. He was conceived during Daena's imprisonment in the Maidenvault. Daemon was raised in the Red Keep and was taught arms by Ser Quentyn Ball, the master-at-arms at the Red Keep.

The identity of his father was kept secret until his twelfth birthday, when Daemon distinguished himself during a tourney melee by besting a score of other squires. Afterwards, his father, King Aegon IV, acknowledged Daemon as his bastard son and presented him with Blackfyre, the Valyrian steel sword of Targaryen kings.

He took the name of Blackfyre for his house and displayed the inverted Targaryen arms, a black three-headed dragon on red.

Daemon was born to two Targaryens but still considered a bastard, even by his own father. Even once Daemon was acknowledge he did not gain the Targaryen name. Aegon IV legitimized all his bastards on his death bed which would eventually cause the Blackfyre Rebllions

To prove Daemon Blackfyre is part of show canon: "The Death of Kings" is part of the "Histories & Lore", a special feature in the Blu-ray of Season 4 of Game of Thrones. It is narrated by Conleth Hill as Varys, who narrates several instances of regicide during the history of the Seven Kingdoms.

Decades later, Aegon the Unworthy legitimized all of his bastards on his deathbed. Inevitably, the greatest of these - Daemon Blackfyre - declared himself the rightful heir and ignited yet another war for the crown. After much bloodshed, Daemon was killed by an alliance of his half-brothers on the Redgrass Field. All the same, his descendants continued to threaten the Targaryens until half a century later, when Barristan the Bold slew Maelys the Monstrous on the Stepstones, extinguishing Daemon's line.

1: Update on Jon, as of Season 7

Jon's parents were married after all in the show-verse...

  • Daemon is not the closest :P Before that we have Jeyne Waters and Jon Waters who were born of Elaena Targaryen and Alyn Velaryon
    – Aegon
    Jul 25, 2016 at 14:27
  • Do they even mention Daemon Blackfyre in the show?
    – KutuluMike
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:38
  • @KutuluMike doesn't Three-Eyed Raven obliquely make reference to him ("...a brother I despised...") or is that only in the books? Jul 25, 2016 at 16:03
  • We don't know whether or not Jon's parents were married. Targaryens practiced polygamy, so it is possible that Reagar and Lyanna were married.
    – Dima
    Jul 25, 2016 at 19:51
  • @Dima They have had "open relationships" but I don't think the Faith of the Seven allowed polygamy. Incest being another topic altogether.
    – Skooba
    Jul 25, 2016 at 20:07

Nymeria Sand is the only Example I believe there is in the show.

According to this interview of the actress who plays Nymeria, her character is daughter of Oberyn Martell and an Essosi Noblewoman. To quote from the article:

Jessica Henwick: I play Nymeria Sand also known as Lady Nym, Oberyn’s second daughter but not by Ellaria. My mother, who died in battle, was an Eastern noblewoman and she is actually the person who taught me my weapon — the bullwhip.

Also if someone is arguing that taint of bastardy does not apply if both parents are noble, point them to great bastards of Aegon IV and have a laugh.

Also Ellaria Sand is bastard daughter of Lord Uller so that makes her daughters also kind of noble born.

From books perspective, there is a clear distinction between Base-born and Bastard-born. Baseborn are bastards fathered/mothered by one or two peasant parent(s). Bastard-born are noble on both sides.

There are plenty of examples for bastards with noble Parents. Some of them are:

  1. Daemon Blackfyre
  2. Aegor Rivers
  3. Brynden Rivers
  4. Shiera Seastar
  5. Gwenys Rivers
  6. Edric Storm

Shiera's mother was also an Essosi Noble woman and her father was King Aegon IV. She was still a bastard.

Also one does not need to have Noble parents on both side to get a bastard surname. To get a bastard surname following are required:

  1. At least one noble Parent
  2. Acknowledgment by that Parent

E.g. Ramsay Bolton was born of a peasant but after acknowledgement by his father, he got the bastard surname Snow.

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    Nymeria Sand's mother wasn't a Westerosi Lady, though, which legally may be significant. And I am specifically ignoring the books here because the answer in the books is trivial.
    – KutuluMike
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:37
  • @KutuluMike Your question was however about "Noble born" bastards, not Westerosi Noble born bastards. Essosi Nobility is fully recognised in Show world as well I think. Maybe you should edit the question to state that both parents must be Westerosi?
    – Aegon
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:43
  • As for legal insignificance, I would say it is not the case. There is no legal basis for differentiating between Essosi and Westerosi nobles. The Dornish have married with Essosi nobles (Show hasnt mentioned Mellario of Norvos I think). Even Targaryens have married Essosi women. Prince Rhaegar would have married an Essosi noblewoman if Steffon Baratheon's mission had gone well.
    – Aegon
    Jul 25, 2016 at 15:50

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