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My understanding is that Noble houses such as house Umber, serve the Starks, in times of war, and aid them through taxes.

There are several minor houses that serve the Umbers.

Do these smaller houses serve Great Houses directly, or do the Umbers collect tithes and taxes from these minor houses and The Umbers in turn give it to the Starks?

If anything I've said is wrong, I'd love to be corrected.

22

Westeros is a feudal kingdom. Which means it consists of a hierarchy of different noble houses serving the one senior to it, and all serving the Crown.

A Great House is one that is answerable only to the Crown. There are no noble houses senior to it. In essence, they are mini kingdoms. In Westeros, at the beginning of the series, the Great Houses are:

  • House Stark of the North
  • House Baratheon of the Stormlands
  • House Lannister of the Westerlands
  • House Tully of the Riverlands
  • House Arryn of the Vale
  • House Greyjoy of the Iron Islands
  • House Tyrell of the Reach
  • House Martell of Dorne

Under a Great House you have several Noble Houses serving them. They pay taxes, supply military aid in times of need, and submit to the authority of it's Great House. A Noble House is simply a noble family that has, more or less, full control of its territory and commands the allegiance of its inhabitants. Depending on it's size, a Noble House might have several lesser lords serving the more senior lord. For instance, House Royce (a vassal of House Arryn of the Vale) has two branches: House Royce of the Runestone, which is the senior branch, and House Royce of the Gates, which is a less senior cadet offshoot of the main branch. Sometimes, enough time passes that the cadet branch becomes it's own house. For instance House Karstark started out as a cadet branch of House Stark, known as the Starks of Karhold. With time Karhold Starks became Karstarks.

Under a Noble House you can have several Knightly Houses. Those are Knights who have also been granted land (along with its accompanying peasants) as reward for good service. In essence they are proto-Noble Houses, not big enough to have vassals of its own and do not have the authority to serve justice or arbitrate and must submit to its lord in those cases. For instance, House Clegane is a knightly house that swears fealty to House Lannister.

  • 3
    I have one issue with this answer. Are there any canon examples of the title "Lord Paramount" being used to describe the Great Houses listed above? I can only think of one use of the "Lord Paramount" title, and that's Peter Baelish (when he is made Lord Paramount of the Trident). I got the impression it was a separate thing to being a Great House. – The Giant of Lannister Apr 19 '15 at 10:18
  • @TheGiantofLannister - Very good point. I think you're right. I'll remove that part. – System Down Apr 19 '15 at 20:49
  • The Junior Branch of House Royce does not serve the Senior Branch of Runestone tho. They served Arryns of Eyrie. A proper example here would be House Webber and House Osgrey who served House Rowan. House Rowan in turn served House Tyrell of High Garden. – Aegon Sep 28 '16 at 8:36
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It's kind of convoluted...

Per kingdom, the Houses of Westeros are generally broken down into three categories, with each being subservient to the one above:

  • Great Houses
  • Noble Houses
  • Knightly Houses

There are other kinds but these three are the most common across all kingdoms.

To use Dorne as an example:

All of the Noble Houses directly serve House Martell, but some of the Knightly Houses serve Martell and some serve their respective Noble House.

The Knightly House Santagar serves the Noble House Yronwood, who in turn serves the Great House Martell.

While the Knightly House Dalty directly serves the Great House Martell.

Undoubtedly, all Noble and Knightly Houses would respond to a call-to-arms from their Great House, but it appears that some of the Knightly Houses would also do the same for their Noble Houses.

  • "All the noble houses directly serve House Martell": is it not the case that some serve indirectly - noble houses which are bannermen to other noble houses which in turn are directly serving Martell? – Mac Cooper Apr 18 '15 at 15:27
  • @MacCooper no, I believe that the Noble Houses directly serve the Great House. A Knightly House which serves a Noble House would then serve the Great House indirectly... I think. Each Noble House of Dorn directly serves House Martell. The details are in the wiki if you want to check. – Daft Apr 18 '15 at 15:59
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    right you are. I had a couple examples but they are knightly after all. – Mac Cooper Apr 18 '15 at 18:57
  • The breakdown is not correct I am afraid. Lesser noble houses can and do serve greater noble houses. E.g. House Webber is a lordly noble House and serves a greater Noble House, House Rowan. Similarly Knightly Houses can be sworn directly to a great House or a lesser noble House or a Major Noble House. – Aegon Sep 28 '16 at 8:37

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