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There are cases described in the A Song of Ice and Fire books in which some commoner gains a title of knight/lord, knights gain a title of lord, and lords gain more influence and land - the individual climbs up the feudal ladder. I know that battles are among such cases.

The most notable example is the Battle of the Blackwater where several honors have been given out after the successful defense of King's Landing.

The first part of the my question is: Apart from battles, what other cases of granting honors and land are described in the books?

For the second part, I am wondering if a knight/lord has some initiative to get a title or land. I mean something like

Petyr Baelish's conspiracy which turned him from a meaningless, poor, virtually landless lord to high lord of Riverlands.

but on a smaller scale.

Can some petty lord raid and take over some other lord's land (excluding actual war)? What would be the higher lord's reaction? Can a high lord take land from one of his vassals and grant it to the other, or is only the king able to do it?

To sum it up: What can a knight/petty lord do to impove his situation in the feudal hierarchy?

  • Yes. the order of precedence is Monarch > High Lord / Warden > Lesser Lord. Pretty much a top-down approach, Monarch can do whatever they please, then the High Lord can do whatever they please with anyone/place below them, then the Lesser Lords can bicker amongst themselves. An example of Lesser Lords fighting and claiming lands is Lady Rohanne Webber and Ser Eustace Osgrey's confrontation in The Sworn Sword. – Möoz Feb 12 '15 at 23:10
  • What can knight/petty lord do to impove his situation in feudal hierarchy? Kill the people above them – Dreamwalker Feb 13 '15 at 8:26
  • @Dreamwalker yeah, I get that but there would be some repercussions. As I understand these are not encouraged actions, because it destabilises the situation in the region and leads to further conflicts. So are there other ways? – dzielins42 Feb 13 '15 at 8:50
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    In normal world with vassalage system the loyalty oath was sworn by BOTH suzerain AND vassal. So wars between equals would be normally very unwelcome and rather resolved by petition of grievance to one's lord, as the lord's oath was to protect vassal from harm by his equal. Loyalty must flow both ways otherwise it's bad deal for vassal. Of course, this assumes open warfare, so assassination/proxy was usually way to go and why Petyr had to have scapegoat. Else he would be hanged by King (assuming that King was able to do that). @Mooz that was not fighting - it was feud and followed rules... – AcePL Feb 13 '15 at 11:32
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    Heh, of course. But that would do exactly nothing to further status, unless there was some relationship (marriage to oldest daughter, for example) or agreement (in case of childless death), or NON-hereditary title. So In the books people worked to gain status normal ways: faithful service with sword (good knight could expect good rewards) or brownie points (as was way with Stannis and his turned smuggler), marriage or rebellion. Don't remember if there was anything else... – AcePL Feb 13 '15 at 11:44
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Titles and lands are two separate issues.

Titles

  • New titles and honours can be arbitrarily made up by the King, as when Baelish is made Lord Paramount of the Trident.
  • Some existing offices are in the gift of the King and can be reassigned at will, such as seats on the Small Council and positions such as Warden of the North.
  • Feudal lordships (such as Lord of Winterfell) are inherited rather than granted by the King. These cannot be arbitrarily reassigned, although they may fall vacant if the family has no legitimate heir, or a lord found guilty of treason or rebellion may be stripped of his titles.

Lands

There are basically three ways of getting new land:

Conquest

This is uncommon in Westeros, although it can happen, as when Tywin Lannister took over the lands of the Reynes of Castamere. Historically it was quite common, for example in the Norman Conquest of England; later English conquests in France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales; or events such as the Crusades or the Spanish Reconquista. A ruler would seize new territory and distribute it among his followers.

Most rulers strongly discourage open warfare between their followers; it weakens the realm and undermines the overlord's authority. If the overlord is weak, his or her followers may ignore this and go to war with each other regardless.

Conquest may not be as dramatic as marching off to war with banners flying. It is also possible to gain territory though some combination of intrigue, murder and dirty tricks.

Marriage/inheritance

Land isn't bought and sold in a feudal system, so in theory this is the only "routine" way of getting new land.

Confiscation

As with titles above, a lord's lands may be taken and reassigned as a punishment.

The Bolton Example

Roose Bolton is an excellent, albeit extremely ruthless, example of how a lord can rise under this system. Through betrayal, warfare, and murder, as well as marriages (his own and his bastard son's), he rises from a moderately important vassal of Winterfell to become Warden of the North and (arguably) its most powerful lord.

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    Tywin didn't just take any old land; the Lannisters were the high lords and the Reynes/Tarbecks were vassals. Tywin has the right to strip them of their lands after their rebellion, it was not conquest. – Möoz Feb 13 '15 at 19:12

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