Prince Oberyn "The Red Viper" Nymeros Martell is a member of House Martell. The Martells are one of the Great Houses of Westeros and the Ruling House of Dorne. Dorne is one of the seven regions of the Kingdom of Westeros, which means that they are under the Rule of the Iron Throne.

My question is why Oberyn (and also his siblings) called Prince (or Princess) if they are supplicants of the Iron Throne?

We don't see the Starks called Prince [A Clash of Kings Spoiler]

Until Robb Stark styles himself King in the North and Bran/Rickon are called Princes

So, why are the Martells called Prince?

  • 8
    Dorne was never conquered, they married into the Seven Kingdoms, which is why they kept their titles.
    – TLP
    May 12, 2014 at 23:04
  • 1
    Please specify the scope of the spoiler. It really helps if somebody has already read up/watched up to the part of the mentioned spoiler May 13, 2014 at 3:33

3 Answers 3


It should be noted that in the real world, in early European feudal societies, a prince wasn't necessarily the son of the king, but a ruler of a territory. The word "prince" originates from "princeps", which makes no reference to kings or their sons.

Specifically in Westeros:

The lords of the ruling House Martell still style themselves "Prince" and "Princess" in the Rhoynish fashion.

(source: A Wiki of Ice and Fire)

The Rhoynar are the ancestors of the people from Dorne, and they followed slightly different customs from the rest of the Andals, such as this one. Note that other lords from House Martell also style themselves as princes, not only Oberyn. For example, Prince Doran Martell, Lord of Sunspear.

  • 2
    As mentioned in the other answers, it was also a concession granted them from the Targaryens. Since they joined via marriage instead of being conquered, it was part of the agreement that they could keep their customs & titles.
    – Omegacron
    Mar 12, 2015 at 18:22

Dorne was never conquered by the Targaryens. As a result of joining through marriage and not conquest, Dorne was allowed to keep many of its local customs and laws, such as equal inheritance laws for male and female heirs. Due to these different ethnic, legal, and political factors, the Dornishmen are very independently minded, with a stronger sense of "national identity" than many of the other Seven Kingdoms. So, although Dorne is part of the Seven Kingdoms, in Dorne, the laws of Dorne apply (when in Rome...).

The Dornish agree that the King of Westeros is their King now, so they will not call themselves an independent kingdom. However, they insist on keeping the royal status of their ruling house. So since they cannot be Kings, they are Princes.

Here be spoilers from the books:

Since Myrcella is now in Dorne, it is argued that she is the heir to the Iron Throne, seing as the Dornish have equal inheritance and Myrcella is older than Tommen. This is possible only because she is in Dorne. And if she is in Dorne, Dornish laws apply to her.

  • So, why is Oberyn called Prince? May 13, 2014 at 8:16
  • Sorry for going offtopic, I'll edit my answer :) May 13, 2014 at 8:22
  • 3
    Note that any lord of the ruling house of Dorne can be a "Prince" (unlike it happens with kings). Hence both Oberyn and Doran are princes at the same time.
    – Andres F.
    May 13, 2014 at 14:49

I don't have the texts at hand, but I recall that unlike the other kingdoms - which came under the rule of the iron throne by defeat in conquest - Dorne was subsumed by diplomatic means. The terms were thus more favourable, and allowed them to continue using the titles Prince and Princess.

  • 3
    Interesting. But a source would be great.
    – Möoz
    May 13, 2014 at 4:20

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