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As I understand it, the "Seven Kingdoms" refer to the kingdoms before Aegon's Conquest. Aren't there more kingdoms around the time that the first book is set? (For example, the Iron Islands and Riverlands are now two kingdoms, right?)

So why does everyone refer to there being seven?

For example, Robert says to Ned:

"In the South, the way they talk about my Seven Kingdoms, a man forgets that your part is as big as the other six combined."

If there ARE still Seven Kingdoms, and I'm wrong, which are the contemporary Seven Kingdoms, and which are the Houses that rule them?

  • Related: scifi.stackexchange.com/q/28058/3253 – Martin Schröder Dec 15 '12 at 11:33
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    Iron Islands and Riverlands are not independent kingdoms at the start of "A Game Of Thrones". Rivelands (ruled by the Tullys) never even claim to be independent in the books, and the Iron Islands proclaim themselves a kingdom only after the war of five kings begins. – Dima Dec 15 '12 at 23:43
  • @Dima, who are you addressing? – Django Reinhardt Dec 16 '12 at 18:43
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    @DjangoReinhardt, why you, of course. :) As I understand it, the comments are addressed to the author of the question, unless specified otherwise. :) – Dima Dec 17 '12 at 20:33
  • @Dima I see. I was just wondering if you meant to post your comment on this question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/28058/… as I can't see the relevance to the one on this page? :-/ – Django Reinhardt Dec 17 '12 at 21:02
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After the Conquest there were no more kingdoms (plural), just one single kingdom under the Iron Throne founded by the Targaryens and now ruled by the Baratheons. But the story of the Targaryens conquering the Seven Kingdoms of old is now an intrinsic part of the lore of the land, and the stuff of legend. So when people refer to the Seven Kingdoms, they really mean the lands that were once ruled as seven separate kingdoms before the rise of Aegon I. You can say it's a romantic way to refer to Westeros.

A real life analogue would be the UK, which is more officially known as The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There's only one kingdom, but it was once many kingdoms that united into one.

  • 2
    I think you mean King Robert saying to Ned (about how big the North is) "I keep forgetting your part is bigger than the other six combined". But yes, that still just a way of referring to it. The North (and the others) are not kingdoms anymore. There are no kings there. But the name Seven Kingdoms has been around from thousands of years before Aegon I came, and it stuck. People still use it. – System Down Dec 14 '12 at 23:48
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    Sorry, but you are wrong about the UK. Even today the UK is made of two Kingdoms (England and Scotland) a principality (Wales) and a province (N. Ireland). The former three each being a constituent country in its own right as well as part of the larger country. (A better example would be modern Germany or Italy where in each country you see references to the historic separation into separate states of various kinds.) – Richard Dec 15 '12 at 13:18
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    @SystemDown No, in the sense they are separate countries. Eg. Scotland has a different legal system. Also remember there are in total 14 countries also with the same monarch (that's 14 not separating UK's constituent countries). In reality it makes no difference for almost all matters and is mostly about local cultural identity and confusing non-Britons :-). – Richard Dec 16 '12 at 8:17
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    Also it's worth remembering that with the religion of the Seven Gods, having "Seven kingdoms" as an expression, even if there are really another number, is probably going to happen. Seven is a number which is used all the time! – Nick Jul 16 '14 at 16:11
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    @Richard There were seven kingdoms of ancient Britain: East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Mercia, Northumbria, Sussex and Wessex. I don't know if GRRM used that fact to build the history of Westeros. – Generic Geek Apr 28 '16 at 5:28
18

The Seven Kingdoms confusion

Seven Kingdoms were the political entities which existed at time of Aegon's landing on shores of Blackwater Bay. Number of these political entities has always varied from time to time i.e. During the Age of Heroes and Andal invasions, there were hundreds of small Kingdoms in Westeros. Before Aegon's landing, there were only seven however.

The titles which Aegon created for himself and all other Kings inherited after him were:

King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm

This title remained the same even 300 years after Aegon's death despite the fact that in Post-invasion era, there were no longer 7 Kingdoms or administrative Units. This is the title which causes all the confusion because many people do not realize that When Aegon came, there actually were seven Kingdoms which is no longer the case today or necessarily before Aegon's times.


De-Jure Kingdoms

The De-jure Kingdoms of Westeros which are based on distinct cultures and religions (And in some cases ethnicities) are:

  1. Kingdom of Stormlands
  2. Kingdom of Riverlands
  3. Kingdom of Vale and Mountain
  4. Kingdom of Iron Islands
  5. Kingdom of the North
  6. Kingdom of the Reach
  7. Kingdom of Westerlands
  8. Principality of Dorne

That gives us a sum of 8 De-jure Kingdoms.


Historical Aspect and De-Facto Kingdoms

When Aegon came however, Westeros was not divided along de-jure lines. Kingdoms were continuously at wars against each other with all of them occupying de-jure regions of some other Kingdom.

Many centuries before the conquest, House Justman ruled Riverlands with splendor. Last of their line Bernarr II Justman was killed by King Qhored Hoare of Iron Islands. Riverlands fell into chaos with every House claiming the throne for themselves. The Chaos Ended when King Torrence Teague claimed the throne. Riverlords did not like House Teague and rose in rebellions many time.

Finally during one uprising, The traitorous Tullys, Vances and Blackwoods under leadership Roderick Blackwood invited King Arlan III Durrandon of Stormlands to attack their own liege King Humfrey Teague. House Teague was wiped out in Battle of Six Kings and King Arlan merged Riverlands into Stormlands.

Years passed until Harwyn 'Hardhand' Hoare took throne of Iron Islands. The ambitious King kicked Stormkings out of Riverlands and became King of Isles and Rivers. Rule of House Hoare over Riverlands continued until Aegon came to conquer Westeros.

So at time of Aegon's conquest, Riverlands was not a royal political entity but rather subjects to Kingdom of Iron Islands. De-Facto Kingdoms at that time were the following (With their current status in parenthesis):

  1. Kingdom of the North (Still Exists)
  2. Kingdom of the Reach (Still Exists)
  3. Kingdom of Stormlands (Still Exists)
  4. Kingdom of Isles and Rivers (Non-Existant: Split into two)
  5. Kingdom of Westerlands (Still Exists)
  6. Kingdom of Vale and Mountain (Still Exists)
  7. Principality of Dorne (Still Exists)

A Pre-conquest map of Westeros from Crusader Kings II: A Game of Thrones Mod (Which I can verify is correct except the fact that technically Dorne should be referred to as a principality as Rhoynar culture has Princes, not Kings even though they are equivalents of Kings for all intents and purposes, and that It should be Kingdom of Isles and Rivers instead of Kingdom of Iron Islands):

enter image description here


Administrative Units of Post-Conquest Era

Aegon the Conqueror usually retained the political hegemony of Kingdoms which submitted to his rule.

The Notable exception was however Kingdom of Isles and Rivers because they refused to submit and chose to fight till the bitter end. Riverlords under Lord Tully rallied to Aegon's cause against King Harren the Black. Harren the Black refused to submit to Aegon's rule and chose to fight. After House Hoare was extinguished in Burning of Harrenhal, Aegon raised Lord Edmyn Tully to office of Lord Paramount of Riverlands due to Edmyn Tully's service in cause of Targaryens especially in the initial days of the conquest when Targaryen position was uncertain.

The other Part of Harren's Kingdom, The Iron Islands fell into chaos. Many pretenders to House Hoare's inheritance rose and fought against each other. King Aegon invaded Iron Islands two years after completion of his invasion of mainland Westeros (With Exception of Dorne). Aegon defeated all the pretenders but allowed them to choose their own Liege Lord which was unique as all other Lords Paramount were appointed by Aegon I and Ironborn were the only people who were allowed to choose their own Leaders. Defeated Ironborn chose Lord Vickon Greyjoy. Aegon named Vickon as Lord of Iron Islands and left for King's Landing. Greyjoys were now Lord Paramounts of Iron Islands and answerable to no one except the King himself.

Other than that Aegon also took the disputed regions of Blackwater Rush and Bay as royal lands because there was no clear owner of those Lands and Aegon needed a foothold on main continent to stabilize his rule. This region was named Crownlands.

So in Aegon's time there were following administrative units with their own governing ruler:

  1. Paramount Lordship of Vale and Mountain
  2. Paramount Lordship of Iron Islands
  3. Paramount Lordship of Westerlands
  4. Paramount Lordship of North
  5. Paramount Lordship of the Reach
  6. Paramount Lordship of Stormlands
  7. Paramount Lordship of Riverlands
  8. Royal fief of Crownlands

Later Dorne also came under Iron Throne during reign of King Daeron II (And briefly in reign of King Daeron I). According to the agreement, Dornish retained several special rights which included the right to address their rulers as Prince/Princess instead of Lords. So the new Administrative units were:

  1. Paramount Lordship of Vale and Mountain (Currently ruled by House Arryn)
  2. Paramount Lordship of Iron Islands (Currently ruled by House Greyjoy)
  3. Paramount Lordship of Westerlands (Currently ruled by House Lannister)
  4. Paramount Lordship of North (Currently ruled by House Stark in Show, House Bolton in Books)
  5. Paramount Lordship of the Reach (Currently ruled by Olenna Tyrell nee Redwyne in Show. House Tyrell in Books)
  6. Paramount Lordship of Stormlands (No current Lord Paramount in show, "House Baratheon 😉" in Books)
  7. Paramount Lordship of Riverlands (Currently ruled by House Frey in show, House Baelish in Books)
  8. Royal fief of Crownlands (Currently ruled by House Lannister in show, House Baratheon (wink wink) in Books).
  9. Principality of Dorne (Currently ruled by a bastard daughter of Lord Uller in show, House Martell in Books)

A map of post-Robert's Rebellion Westeros which has the same administrative units as constituted by Aegon the Conqueror.

enter image description here

14

I quote from the recently published The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin, Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson:

For centuries it has been the custom to speak of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. This familiar usage derives from the seven great kingdoms that held sway over most of Westeros below the Wall during years immediately preceding Aegon’s Conquest. Yet even then, the term was far from exact, for one of those “kingdoms” was ruled by a princess rather than a king (Dorne), and Aegon Targaryen’s own “kingdom” of Dragonstone was never included in the count. Nonetheless, the term endures. Just as we speak of the Hundred Kingdoms of yore, though there was never a time when Westeros was actually divided into a hundred independent states, we must bow to common usage and talk of the Seven Kingdoms, despite the imprecision.

7

In short old habits die hard.

When Aegon I came to power there were 7 kingdoms (1-North 2-Vale and Mountain 3-Iron Islands and Riverlands 4-Rock 5-Stormlands 6-Reach 7-Dorne) of which Aegon conquered SIX as he failed to take Dorne ("Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken").

The six kingdoms he took conquered were divided into 8 sections, 7 of which had their own ruling family.

Dorne came into the picture much more recently making a grand total of 9 kingdoms under the rule of the iron throne (plus that wonderful tenth one on the other side of the wall).

I'd say it has most of its roots in the religion of the Andals, however, with their seven gods in one.

4

The seven kingdoms before Aegon’s conquest are:

  1. Kingdom of the Reach: Royal House Gardeners, removed by Aegon and replaced with the Tyrell seated at Highgarden, made Warden of the South.

  2. Kingdom of the Mountain and Vale: Royal House Arynn of the Eyrie, Warden of the East.

  3. Kingdom of the Iron Islands: Greyjoys of Pyke who took place of extinct House Hoar after conquest.

  4. Kingdom of the Riverlands: Tullys of Riverunn who took place of extinct House Hoare after conquest.

  5. Kingdom of the Rock: ruled by House Casterly and seated at Casterly Rock, tricked by the Lannisters ancestor. Made Wardens of the West by Aegon.

  6. Kingdom of the North: the Starks of Winterfell, Wardens of the North, descendants of the First Men, whose king (known as the king who knelt) voluntarily submitted to Aegon to spare the lives of his bannerman and soldiers.

  7. Principality of Dorne: House Martell, the only house not to be defeated by Aegon and subdued only by intermarriage with Targaryens.

Note the Targeryens and Baratheons did not have any kingdoms. The Targaryens came from ancient Valyria and then moved to Dragonstone before the conquest. The Baratheons are a bloodline of Targaryens whose ancestor was a bastard but were legitimised as a house when the bastard Targaryen was legitimised by his true born brother after the true born brother became king. Because they had no kingdom of their own was the main reason why Aegon set out on his conquest with Visenya and Rhaenys.

By bestowing the Wardens of the North, South, West and East, House Targaryen gave houses Arryn, Stark, Lannister and Tyrell dominion in his stead and any revolts against these houses would have been seen as rebellion against Aegon. This is why the Tyrells were able to rule peacefully in Highgarden even though they were only stewards to the Garderners (original lords), and despite the presence of other true born royal houses like the Oakhearts, and the Florents.

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    You have forgotten 8) the kingdom of the Stormlands. – Peter Shor May 18 '14 at 16:52
  • @PeterShor: Yeah, making it not 7 kingdoms... – einpoklum May 18 '14 at 19:25
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    In fact points 3 and 4 should be combined as The Kingdom of Isles and Rivers, bringing us back to 7. – psicopoo May 19 '14 at 6:07
  • Dorne was not one of the seven. It came much later, was "married in", not conquered, and maintained some sovereignty as a principality. – Paul Jul 26 '16 at 9:08
  • At Aegon's conquest, Kingdom of Rivers was a subject to Iron Islands as combined Kingdom of Isles and Rivers as psicopoo pointed out. Also Orys Baratheon was rumored to be a bastard brother of Aegon but that was never confirmed. And Orys was never legitimized to form a house because that's not how legitimization works. Orys could lay foundations of a house without legitimization and that's what he did. If he was indeed a bastard Targaryen and was legitimized, he would then be a Targaryen, not a Baratheon – Aegon Jul 27 '16 at 5:48

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