In the Game of Thrones political power and military might seems to be mainly determined on a the house system (Lannister, Stark etc).

Under what circumstances is a house created? Marriages seem to amalgamate households but not create new ones.

Do people simply lose interest in their families and start their own? If so, where would they live - it was be unwise to give a new house a castle as it would create another potential enemy in the future and lose you a castle.

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    I think the politics of Westeros in Game of thrones operates in a pretty similar way to medieval Europe, and the fictional houses are created and destroyed in a similar manner to historic houses of European monarchies. – Mark Rogers May 17 '13 at 15:16

There are plenty of examples of new houses being made in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. Often after a peasant provides some great benefit to their liege they will be raised into the nobility and given a house sigil and name.

Examples include: Davos, the onion knight, who saved Stannis from a siege with a shipment of onions; Clegane who's sigil of dogs was created after his grandfather saved a Lanister from a Lion with his hunting dogs.

For a minor house to become a great house they generally have to be on the winning side in a civil war or conflict with the previous great house on the losing side.

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    Did Davos have his own house? I recall him being knighted - or does that amount to the same thing? When you say a minor house has to be on the winning side with the previous great house on the losing it sounds like there are a finite amount of great houses allowed - is that the case? – Stefan May 17 '13 at 12:14
  • Being knighted and having your own sigil is essentially the same thing as having a house I think. The great houses are the ones who are designated power by the king over their domain, eg being Warden of the North. – Nick May 17 '13 at 12:20
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    Knights wouldn't have their own houses -- any knight can make a knight, but can't grant the title and land that are needed to found a noble house. Knights are not nobility, either in Westeros or in real life in the UK. – Mike Scott May 17 '13 at 12:23
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    @Stefan Yes, Davos had his own house - House Seaworth awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/House_Seaworth – David Hall May 17 '13 at 12:57
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    I think any Knight with a title for land has a minor house. Otherwise they are a HedgeKnight. – Nick May 17 '13 at 13:08

I don't have the passages to attest it right now. But IIRC, houses are created by the king/authority giving the title and land for a previously common citizen, pretty much the same as a knighthood. Generally this happens if the citizen has done a action that result in great benefit of his master.

House Clegane is a example of that:

The first knight of House Clegane was kennelmaster at Casterly Rock until one autumn year when he saved Lord Tytos Lannister from a lioness and lost a leg and three dogs in the effort. As a reward, Lord Tytos gave him lands and a towerhouse and took his son as his squire. The three dogs on the Clegane sigil represent those that died saving Lord Tytos

Taken from wiki

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  • So a house would be granted to someone who did not have one and would then spread (hopefully) when he got married etc? Can house holds assimilate others via conquest? – Stefan May 17 '13 at 12:15
  • @Stefan yes and yes; that's traditionally how noble houses come into being and then disappear, dating back to Medieval society and continuing on through today. (Queen Elizabeth II has granted peerage to a lot of people during her reign, thought at this point it is mostly symbolic and non-hereditary; I think the last hereditary peer in the UK was created in 1984, the Earl of Stockton). – KutuluMike May 17 '13 at 14:32
  • @Stefan (BOOK 3 SPOILERS AHEAD) that's what the Boltons are trying to do. Supplant House Stark by assimilating them through marrying Ramsay to the (fake) Arya. – System Down May 17 '13 at 18:25

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