Why did Eddard "Ned" Stark never mention or clarify that

Jon "Snow" is not his bastard son but his sister's, Lyanna Stark, son?

  • 2
    why down vote? because of wrong tagging? I am new on this site and I didnt know which tags should I use. – Just_another_developer Jun 13 '13 at 11:01
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    I don't know for the other, but my downvote comes from the fact that you act as if what you say is undoubtedly the truth whereas it has yet to be confirmed in-universe – Kalissar Jun 13 '13 at 11:09
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    @TLP it is not a duplicate I asked "WHY" Ned Stark hide this fact. – Just_another_developer Jun 13 '13 at 11:31
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    The "why" is that he presumably wanted to protect Jon, which is what he promised Lyanna (Promise me, Ned). He knew that Robert might kill Jon if he knew the truth. – TLP Jun 13 '13 at 11:33
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    I'd argue that it is a duplicate because the "why" part is dependent on confirmation that the theory is correct. We don't have that confirmation from the author, so the "why" part is therefore invalidated and it boils down to: is the theory correct or not? Until such a time as confirmation does come, and assuming that the theory does prove correct, it's totally pointless asking "why". – user8719 Jun 13 '13 at 11:57

Three reasons:

  1. We do not know if this is true.
  2. Ned Stark is an honorable man who keeps his promises.
  3. The books would be very boring if everything was immediately and clearly explained.
  • 2- Ned didnot make any promise to anyone to keep this a secret, or did he(if yes, kindly provide reference)? – Just_another_developer Jun 14 '13 at 6:25
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    "Promise me, Ned...". Naturally, we do not really know what exactly Ned promised to Lyanna on her deathbed. But if we assume that John is Lyanna's son, then Ned must have promised to keep him safe, which requires him to not reveal his true parentage. Again, assuming that John is Lyanna and Rhaegar's son, which we do not know for a fact. – Dima Jun 14 '13 at 12:53

This answer is partly from the books, but as most of the Rhaegar and Lyanna theory evidence is from the books I'll assume that's ok.

Consider that if Lyanna and Rhaegar are the parents of Jon Snow, then Jon Snow would be a Targaryen. As such he would almost certainly be killed by Robert, given that Robert wants all surviving Targaryens dead (like with his assassination order of Daenerys). Jon would infuriate Robert in particular because Robert believes Lyanna was raped by Rhaegar, so he would stand as a reminder / insult to Robert.

Remember that Eddard had just had a falling out with Robert over the murder of Aegon and Rhaenys, so Eddard would likely expect a violent action from Robert if Jon Snow was Rhaegar's son.

  • Robert "I'll kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on" Baratheon. – Skooba Oct 26 '17 at 12:56

IF what you say is true... It's a popular belief but, as I say in my comment, has yet to be confirmed by the author/in the next books.

The question is tagged game-of-throne, which is the series tag. In the series, I don't remember any clear evidence that Jon is not Eddard's son.

When Eddard sees Jon for the last time (when he leaves for King's Landing whereas Jon leaves for the Wall) he says something like "I will tell you everything you want to know about your mother the next time we meet". So I guess he just didn't plan to die before telling the truth.

If you want a book-based answer, the most likely to be is that Lyanna probably asked Eddard not to tell the truth: she made him make swear something. We do not know what, but probably to claim Jon as his son. See Warwick's answer for details about the reasons for that.


There appear to be two main reasons why this was the case.

Promise me, Ned

Ned is an honourable man and he promised Lyanna he would not tell anyone.

Lyanna Stark: You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned.
Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 7, "The Dragon and the Wolf"

The Targaryen Threat

When we found out about Jon's true parents we also found out another little secret that Jon was actually a legitimate child of Rhaegar Targaryn and Lyanna Stark. As such he is actually a Targaryen.

Bran Stark: Jon isn't really my father's son. He's the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and my aunt, Lyanna Stark.
Bran Stark: He's never been a bastard. He's the heir to the Iron Throne. He needs to know. Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 7, "The Dragon and the Wolf"

This is why Lyanna asked Ned to protect the child, if Robert had found out he would have killed him.

Lyanna Stark: Please. Listen to me, Ned. If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him, you know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.
Game of Thrones, Season 6 Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"

This is for the same reason he wanted Dany dead.

Robert Baratheon: The whore is pregnant.
Eddard Stark: You're speaking of murdering a child.
Robert Baratheon: I warned you this would happen. Back in the North, I warned you, but you didn't care to hear. Well, hear it now. I want 'em dead, mother and child both. And that fool, Viserys as well. Is that plain enough for you? I want them both dead.
Game of Thrones, Season 1 Episode 5, "The Wolf and the Lion"


Additional. Note that Eddard told Jon he'd tell him about his mother when they meet next. By that time, Jon would be in the Night's Watch and have given up claims to any titles. Essentially, he'd be safe from retribution because he'd no longer be able to claim the throne.

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