Rules of the Game of Thrones - What are the laws of Westeros?

Rules of the Game of Thrones - What are the laws of Westeros?

With the fifth season coming to a dramatic end, many of us have been left crying "Where is the justice?!?" Well, we decided to take a look at exactly how law and justice are administered in the land of Westeros.

laws-of-westeros

Under the law, who should rule the seven kingdoms? Who makes the law for each kingdom and why? Why is the High Sparrow administering his bizarre form of justice?

In the words of Cersei Lannister, "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die." However, a lot can happen in between and we just want to stay on the right side of Westerosi law.

So, first things first, who really should sit on the Iron Throne under lines of succession law?

Except for in Dorne where women may rule (it is also rumoured that Targaryen succession also allows female rulers), Westerosi succession is as follows:

  1. Succession goes to the King's eldest male child's line. This means that it will go to eldest male child or the eldest male child's heirs, or if no one is of age a Regent is found until they come of age, enter Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent. King Robert died but Joffrey was not actually his child (awkward) and neither is Tommen so, really it should go to Gendry (Robert's illegitimate child) , or any children he may have. However, as Gendry has not made a claim to the throne, we must explore the next rule.
  2. When a King has no male children, or their lines have already been explored to no avail, succes-sion goes to the eldest female child's line. For the Lannisters this means Myrcella's eldest male child, but again Myrcella is not actually King Robert's child...There are also no surviving illegitimate female children of Robert's.
  3. Where a King has no children or all of their lines have been extinguished. Steps 1 and 2 are re-peated but in reference to the King's siblings. Eldest male being Stannis Baratheon. interestingly, Stannis has killed his only chance at an heir and seems to be on his last legs himself. Poor Renly seemed to have been confused by the rules and should have read this guide. Eldest brother Renly, eldest. Not you, not yet (not ever).
  4. If we still can't find a ruler, we search the King's grandfathers children, and if still no heir, thegreat grandfathers children and so on and so forth. However, they are presumed deceased or non-existent.
  5. These are the ideal world rules, but as can be seen from the War of 5 Kings, when the lines of suc-cession become confused and convoluted, opportunists may rise up and claim the throne with a large army - as in fact how King Robert claimed the throne himself (although it is rumoured that he is part Targareyn).

Why does Danerys have a claim to the throne?

Danerys has a claim to the throne based on the premise that King Robert is a 'usurper' and that the Targaryen line should have continued - to her brother Rhaegar and then to Dany. There is also rumour that Jon Snow is actually the son on Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark which would potentially make him the rightful heir to the Iron Throne and not a 'bastard' as his entire existence was defined by - irony eh?

How does the law in the Seven Kingdoms actually work?

The Lords have the power to issue justice in cases arising in their lands. A good example is where we see Brandon Stark speaking to the long line of citizens of the North and making decisions on their petitions. Lords must keep the peace, hear petitions and decide on justice and suitable punishments for crimes - in the name of the King. The lords rulings are based on rules of evidence and law - much like our own courts. The Lords may administer their justice through through their sworn lords, knights and bailiffs. The King however has final sentencing authority.

Laws are also enforced depending on status of the accused, most crimes or wrongs can be paid for by a fine - which means the nobility get away with things the common people cannot. Also, where a high profile member of the nobility is involved, it may be in the lord's best interest to overlook the wrongdoing. Members of the nobility also have the right to a trial, including a trial by combat should they so choose, or may 'take the black' and join the Night's Watch to avoid criminal punishment. Women however cannot take the black.

How are trials carried out?

Trials normally begin with a prayer from a Septon asking the Father Above to guide them towards justice.The accused and any witnesses are sworn to tell the truth before giving testimony. The High Septons may appoint seven judges to try a case and where the accused is female three of them might be women, representing the gods: maiden, mother, and crone.

What punishments are administered?

  • As previously discussed, fines are common for minor offences
  • Treason and and oath breaking is punishable by death.
  • Poachers may be forced to lose a hand.
  • Thieves customarily lose a finger but may be subject to harsher punishment dependent on circumstance.
  • Various mutilations are handed out for assault,
  • Castration may be ordered for rape (however it would appear that a trial for this is highly uncommon)
  • Floggings for minor offences are often carried out.
  • Executions for oath breaking and treason or any other serious crime are usually carried out by hanging or beheading , however the "crow cage" may also used for the most serious crime. This is where the victim is put in without food or water until they die.
  • As seen in the season 5 finale, crimes of adultery and incest are punishable by a 'walk of atonement' or 'walk of shame'. This is where the convicted person is shaved, stripped and scrubbed and paraded from one end of the town to the other to demonstrate their shame in act of public humiliation.

For more information about our own criminal justice system, please read our guides below.

Related:

Criminal Law in England & Wales - Essential Legal Guide

Scottish Criminal Law - The Complete Guide

To make a claim to the Iron Throne, just announce that it is your birth right...that's what everyone else seems to be doing.

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