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I've seen at least two occurrences where the defending party is requesting a single combat to end a siege, and it looks like an actual way to end a siege : Stannis and Cortnay at Storm's End. Jaime and Brynden at Riverrun.

Is there a case where the attacking army accepts this duel? Does the besieging army simply go away if the besieged champion wins the fight?

  • Depends on the honor of the losing party. You could also ask, would the besieged castle open its gates if its champion loses? – chepner Nov 2 '16 at 17:07
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    Good question. Meeren is one example where the attacking army did accept the duel (though strictly speaking there wasn't a firm commitment to settle the siege on this one duel, and it's not Westeros so knightly honour isn't involved). They won, though (and the defending army didn't open the gates), so we don't know what they'd have done if they'd lost. At a stretch, there's kinda one in The Sworn Sword, too, but it's complicated... – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 2 '16 at 18:05
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    That would depend on the attackers. If they have come to such agreement and the attackers wish to keep their promise, they will. Otherwise they will stay. Most people usually deny putting such things to chance. Stannis declined Penrose's challenge just as Brynden refused Jaime's. Single Combat is the last hope of a besieged force in unfavorable circumstances. – Aegon Nov 3 '16 at 6:56
  • An out-of-universe example that Springs to mind is From Troy movie. Paris challenged the attacking Greeks to a single combat to settle the war. Agamemnon wanted to refuse the challenge but Menelaus asked him to accept the challenge to allow him to kill Paris, after that they will attack anyways. Menelaus lost (Albeit due to interference of Hector) but Agamemnon attacked, citing that the Trojans had betrayed the deal. – Aegon Nov 3 '16 at 6:58
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One also must remember that most armies are comprised of common folk who have been called by their liege lords, and tat be a long chain of lords until you reach a great house. The great houses are fighting for their own interests and not those of the common folk. Why should they continue the fight once the reason the fight was started is no longer an issue?

In a open field battle, even if the knights and direct retainers wanted to avenge their lord who lost the single combat they would most likely be out numbered as the common folk of the lord who won would still be there. For a castle being sieges it is much the same philosophy, except at that the common folk inside know it will only be a matter of time before they starve. Most would see the only option as opening the gate and praying the attackers are merciful.

For an in-universe perspective look to what happened when Renly was killed prior to meeting Stannis in battle. Renly is killed and his army divides and scatters. It is very demoralizing when your commanding officer is taken from the fight. The commanding officer is usually the best tactician as well, so an army missing their leader will quickly lose ranks and order. I will admit Renly's case is a bit different because his army was supposed to have sworn fealty to Stannis from the start. Once Renly was dead most of the lesser houses promptly went to Stannis' side.

  • Most would see the only option as opening the gate and praying the attackers are merciful. I would not expect mercy from the Boltons ! – Bebs V Nov 3 '16 at 8:05
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    @Bebs People don't like to give up hope. A general rule of medieval warfare was, the city which fights can expect no mercy if fallen. A city which surrenders however maybe shown mercy. You are saying that because you know things about Boltons that a normal Westerosi doesn't. Ramsay's brutality is shrouded in mystery. E.g. The surrender of Ironborn at Moat Callin with help of Reek and their subsequent slaughter by Ramsay. – Aegon Nov 4 '16 at 5:40
  • @Aegon : I think people of Westeros might know the bad reputation of the Boltons even before Ramsay (flaying people). – Bebs V Nov 4 '16 at 8:11
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    @Bebs That's not bad reputation. Ever Since Starks subdued Bolton Kings and outlawed Flaying, Boltons kept practicing it in extreme secrecy so for most people, it is just history. There are rumors but there is no evidence which is why Stark Kings and later Stark lords never took any actions against the Boltons. If people were going to judge people on history, every House would have bad reputation. – Aegon Nov 4 '16 at 8:30

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