From A Storm of Swords.

Lord Rickard had spoken truly, Catelyn knew. The Karstarks traced their descent to Karlon Stark, a younger son of Winterfell who had put down a rebel lord a thousand years ago, and been granted lands for his valor. The castle he built had been named Karl’s Hold, but that soon became Karhold, and over the centuries the Karhold Starks had become Karstarks.

In a scenario where all the Starks have died, will Winterfell rightfully go to the Karstarks? Are the Karstarks considered a house of their own or do they still have claim to Winterfell?

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    As with anything political, the "theoretical" answer as to who rightfully inherits Winterfell will be tossed aside for the more "practical" answer of whichever lord's army is big enough to hold it.
    – KutuluMike
    May 6 '13 at 16:29

No. As is demonstrated many times in the series, if there is bloodlines to work out, people will tend to do that to find out who the heir is, for example:

  • The complex Arryn family tree ends with Harry the Heir
  • The Frey constantly argue about their lines of succession

There are also examples when people just take what they want with physical force or general consensus, such as the dothraki and ironborn, or the wildlings. Or in a rather general way, the way Robert took his throne, and Renly tried to, by combination of both. A convoluted bloodline has also been the Blackfyres' biggest motivation.

I believe that there will always be heirs to be found in major houses. You might have to go back through the generations, but I doubt very much that anyone would ever resort to such generic family ties as those between Stark and Karstark. If no "direct" blood relative could be found, whatever the king or ruling house in the north would probably decide who takes over Winterfell.

And anyone who takes Winterfell without the support of the North would probably sit rather insecurely on their lordship.

  • Both your answer and @SystemDown's is great. I'm gonna accept this since it came 7 mins earlier though. :)
    – Ayrx
    May 9 '13 at 16:45
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    I don't quite understand what you're saying in your first sentence. Could you explain?
    – Jasper
    Sep 7 '17 at 13:23

Karlon Stark's split was a thousand years ago. So that's a thousand years separation of bloodline. For some reason we have seen no cadet Stark houses, and their absence is something of a mystery. But even if Ned Stark's family is indeed the last pure blooded Starks, there are still many families that have married into the Starks and may lay claim should the Stark line become extinguished. The Westerlings may claim it through marriage to King Robb Stark, although the circumstances surrounding the whole deal might put a spanner in the works since you'll probably need the support of the North to hold Winterfell. The Tullys through marriage with Ned Stark is another claimant, and while we don't know who Ned's mother was her house would be another claimant.

  • 1
    Good point about the lack of Stark cadet houses. It's likely that Stark younger sons took the Black much more frequently than other houses. Also as far as we know Ned's father Rickard was an old child and his father had a brother Brandon who died young. So any Stark cousins to Rob would be fourth cousins at least and perhaps not close at all to the Winterfell Starks. May 7 '13 at 2:15

If the only blood connection to the Starks is from 1000 years ago, then there must be thousands of Stark descendants with stronger claims - 2nd, 3rd or 4th degree cousins to Rob, the North must be teeming with them.



As DDFirst Name Dd stated, I believe that Catelyn stated that Eddards Grand-Aunt married into another house, which I believe is house Royce, although I may be wrong about this. If for whatever reason these distant relatives are ineligible to inherit, such as dying without issue, then there would likely be another house who can trace descent through a grandparent or great grandparent to a direct male-line ancestor of Robb. Unfortunately, it would seem that Westeros, or at least the north, does not have a directly clear system for dealing with succession, and as such the claimant with the most direct blood relation to the current Stark's of Winterfell may not be the best potential claimant. In Westeros there are numerous examples of claimants with lesser claims being favored over the most direct heir, such as the first Lord Paramount of the Reach, who was granted dominion over Highgarden and the Reach despite the fact that while numerous Reachman houses claimed direct descent to the Gardeners through the male line, such as the houses of Oakheart, Redwyne, Fossoway, Oakenshield, Tarly, and many others. This is because in Westerosi culture the ultimate authority is the King. If a potential claimant has no real chance of holding said title, it would be unlikely that the current king would appoint another person to said title. As Robb is the King in the North, so long as that kingdom continues to exist, his designated heir, Jon in the books, if the will of Robb had been read, and only if Jon was willing to forsake his vows, and the other northern houses were willing to accept his as their king, then he would become the new Lord of Winterfell. However practicality would likely dictate that another, such as Lord Karstark, or possibly even a member of house Royce, if they are in fact the house that Catlyn mentions, would step up to claim Winterfell. In the end, the heir to Winterfell is whoever is able to hold it, be it a potential husband to Sansa or Arya, a distant cousin backed by the other northern houses, or even the Karstarks, any could claim legitimacy, and in the end, sucession in Westeros is not about who has the best claim, but who has the most power.

  • 1
    Please use paragraphs!
    – Jasper
    Sep 7 '17 at 13:21

When Robb was talking about naming an heir, Catelyn Stark was thinking and she said that Ned's father's father had a sister that married somebody (I cannot remember it was Catelyn V ASoS). So it would whomever descended from that line.


Okay according to Westeros succession laws the Karstarks do inherit after all the males of the main line die out since the male line always takes precedence over the female line and its also implied the Starks and Karstarks have intermarried multiple times over that thousand year period like Rickard trying to marry Robb to Alys Karstark and Sansa to Torrhen anyways even if Tywins plans worked out he was really overreaching in the end with Tyrion the Northern lords would have murdered Tyrion and the child the moment they set foot in north or said child would just grow up to hate his family and press his claims on the westerlands which would be stronger than anyone elses ironically enough.

  • 1
    Hi there. I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say here and how that answers the question. I suggest you edit your post to clarify it, split it into sentences etc. As well as providing some info from the books to back up some of these claims.
    – Jenayah
    Apr 20 '19 at 18:58
  • This answer could use some sources but for the most part there's nothing wrong with it that makes it worthy of deletion...
    – Edlothiad
    Apr 20 '19 at 19:04

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