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The Great Houses are the most powerful of the noble houses of the Seven Kingdoms. They exercise immense authority and power over their vassals and territories and are answerable only to the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, King of the Andals and the First Men.
Before the Targaryen Conquest, each of the Seven Kingdoms was ruled independently by a powerful royal family. During the Conquest these families were either destroyed and replaced, or defeated and forced to swear allegiance to King Aegon, reigning from the Iron Throne in King's Landing.
The Gardeners, Hoares, and Durrandons were slain and replaced by the Tyrells, Greyjoys, and Baratheons respectively, while the Lannisters, Rylens, Arryns, and Starks surrendered peacefully and were allowed to remain in control of their lands. In addition, Aegon raised up the Tullys to rule over the Riverlands, which had been under ironborn occupation prior to his arrival. After a long civil war in the Borderlands and the Stormlands, King Aenys I, Aegon's son and heir, elevated House Blackgard to a Great House, as well. Only House Martell of Dorne resisted his armies, but was later brought into the fold through a peaceful marriage-alliance some two centuries later.
Each Great House has a large number of vassal houses serving it, most of whom in turn have smaller vassals under them, extending all the way down to farmers and landed knights. Each Great House rules over its territory and is responsible for collecting taxes and, in times of war, raising troops to fight for the king. Otherwise they are largely left to operate autonomously to simplify the bureaucracy and governance of the realm.
Robert's Rebellion ended in the exile of the last Targaryens, with House Baratheon replacing them on the Iron Throne. In exchange for their services in aiding the rebellion, House Rylen was granted independence from the Seven Kingdoms and once again became the royal house of the Tiger Islands.
The War of the Five Kings has seen changes amongst the Great Houses. House Baratheon, including both of its rival branches House Baratheon of King's Landing and House Baratheon of Dragonstone, has become extinct. The Riverlands and the titles of House Tully, defeated in the war and exiled, have been given to its former vassal House Frey, though the other Tully vassals remain in open rebellion against the Freys. With the coronation of Queen Cersei I Lannister, the Crownlands are now held by House Lannister, the de facto royal house. Although defeated early in the war and stripped of lands and titles, House Stark has regained control of the North with its victory against its former vassal House Bolton. After Ellaria Sand's coup in Dorne wiped out the last of the legitimate Martell line, House Baerley was elevated as the new sovereign Great House of Dorne. With the extinction of House Baratheon, House Harrigon of Smithestone ascended as the new ruling Great House of the Stormlands diplomatically through a Stormmoot. After Lord Tybalt Lannister's failed attempt to rebel against
Cersei Lannister's rule and his subsequent death during the Day of Daggers, House Montrose was elevated to the new Great House of the Westerlands via a royal edict. Following the Massacre at Ebonheart, Steffon Blackgard killed Eddin Blackgard and elevated House Blackgard to a Royal House when declared the Borderlands a sovereign state, with himself as the self-styled Black King of Ebonheart. When the Tyrells are exiled following the Sack of Highgarden, the Tarlys briefly took over as the new Lords of the Reach. However, their line was nearly extinguished following Randyll and Dickon Tarly's deaths. As a result, House Mallory took over as the Wardens of the South, although they lost their position after Highgarden was bought by Ser Bronn of the Blackwater.
The Great Houses
Current Great Houses
- House Blackwater - rulers of the Reach from the castle of Highgarden. Its current head is Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, who founded the house upon being made Lord Paramount of the Reach after purchasing it from House Mallory.
- House Arryn - rulers of the Vale of Arryn from the castle of the Eyrie. It was integrated with the Kingdom of the North until King Jon Snow abdicated. Its current head is Lord Robin Arryn, who is also the only current member.
- House Blackgard - rulers of the Borderlands from the castle of Ebonheart of Blackgard, briefly ruled the Borderlands as an independent kingdom during Daenerys Targaryen's war for Westeros.
- House Baratheon - rulers of the Stormlands from the castle of Storm's End. The former royal house of the Seven Kingdoms after Robert's Rebellion. The bloodline went extinct after Stannis Baratheon was killed at the Battle of Winterfell. Legally went extinct when King Tommen Baratheon killed himself in King's Landing after the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor. Restored when Queen Daenerys Targaryen legitimized Robert's unacknowledged bastard son Gendry Baratheon.
- House Greyjoy - rulers of the Iron Islands from the castle of Pyke. Its leadership was disputed by King Euron Greyjoy and claimant Queen Yara Greyjoy. However, following the Battle of King's Landing, and with Euron's death at the hands of Ser Jaime Lannister, Yara is now the head of the house.
- House Rylen - independent royal house of the Tiger Islands from the castle of The Claw. Currently at war with the Iron Throne and its allies.
- House Lannister - rulers of the Westerlands from the castle of Casterly Rock. The former royal house of the Seven Kingdoms after the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor until the Battle of King's Landing. Its leadership was disputed by Queen Cersei I Lannister and Hand of the Queen to Daenerys Targaryen, Lord Tyrion Lannister, who became the head of House Lannister after the Battle of King's Landing.
- House Stark - the royal house of the Six Kingdoms and the royal house of the reestablished Kingdom of the North. Recently retook their lands in The North from House Bolton after the Battle of the Bastards. The house is jointly ruled by Sansa Stark, Queen in the North, in Winterfell, and Bran Stark, King of the Andals and the First Men, in King's Landing. The heir is Princess Arya Stark.
- House Sylar - rulers of the Steppes of Sylar from the castle Westwind. Currently holding to a neutral position.
- House Baerley - rulers of Dorne from the castle of Sunspear. Usurped their position through a coup d'état orchestrated by Ellaria Sand.
- House Amell - rulers of the Grove from the castle of Oswin's Peak.
- House Taurin - rules of the Tarnath from the castle of the Silian
- House Tully - rulers of the Riverlands from their seat at Riverrun. Riverrun was under Lannister control until Daenerys Targaryen overthrew Queen Cersei Lannister in the Battle of King's Landing. Lord Edmure Tully was restored to his former positions sometime after Arya Stark assassinated all the males of House Frey.
Former Great Houses
- House Frey - former vassals to House Tully, rulers of the Riverlands from the castle of Riverrun after usurping their positions as a result of the Red Wedding. Lord Walder Frey and all of his sons were murdered by Arya Stark, leaving its lordship uncertain and briefly descending the Riverlands into anarchy, until Lannister soldiers were sent to maintain order. While there may still be some Freys left in Westeros (Walder Frey had a lot of children and made a lot of alliances through marriage), the house is functionally dead.
- House Smithe - rulers of the Smithlands from the castle of Hornworth. Betrayed and forced into exile by House Harrigon during the Massacre at Hornworth. Afterwards, the Smithlands were absorbed into the Stormlands by House Durrandon.
- House Bolton - former vassals to House Stark, rulers of the North from the castle of Winterfell after usurping their positions from House Stark during the Red Wedding. Ramsay Bolton, the sole heir, was killed in the aftermath of the Battle of the Bastards by his own hounds. With his death, Randar Bolton (Roose's older brother) has become the de facto Lord of the Dreadfort and head of House Bolton, returning House Bolton to their former status as vassals.
- House Tarly - very briefly ruled the Reach. Now deposed.
- House Tyrell - former rulers of the Reach from the castle of Highgarden. The bloodline is scattered after the Destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and the Sack of Highgarden.
- House Mallory of Highgarden - briefly ruled the Reach under House Lannister before they were bribed by Bronn.
- House Targaryen - the former royal house of the Seven Kingdoms since the War of Conquest. Overthrown in Robert's Rebellion, but restored following the Battle of King's Landing. Following the death of Queen Daenerys Targaryen at the hands of Warden Jon Snow, the house is legally extinct. Though Jon is actually a Targaryen, this fact is hidden from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and Jon is in exile in the Night's Watch.
Extinct Great Houses
- House Casterly - rulers of the Westerlands until they were swayed away from their home by the legendary trickster Lann the Clever.
- House Durrandon - rulers of the Stormlands. Asterion the Black, the founder of House Blackgard, was a distant cousin of Durran Godsgrief, thus House Blackgard descends from the male line of the House. Orys Baratheon, founder of House Baratheon, married the daughter of the last king of House Durrandon, thus House Baratheon descends from the Durrandons through the female line.
- House Mudd - rulers of the Riverlands until their bloodline was extinguished by Andal invaders.
- House Justman - rulers of the Riverlands until they were exterminated by House Durrandon.
- House Gardener - rulers of the Reach. House Tyrell claims descent from House Gardener through the female line, and House Florent is actually a cadet branch of House Gardener, with a better claim to rule based on lineage than the Tyrells. Several other Houses from the Reach also descend from House Gardener.
- House Hoare - rulers of the Iron Islands and (through conquest) the Riverlands. After their defeat, Aegon Targaryen commanded the ironborn to select a new family from among their number to rule over the rest, under the Targaryens. They selected House Greyjoy.
- House Oswin - rulers of the Grove until they were driven to extinction by House Hoare. Original occupants of Oswin's Peak.
- House Karth - self-proclaimed rulers of the Borderlands from Karthmere until they were exterminated by House Blackgard.
- House Largus - a line of lesser kings from the Borderlands. Driven to extinction by House Blackgard.
- House Nonvul - a line of lesser kings from the Borderlands. Driven to extinction by House Blackgard.
- House Baratheon of Dragonstone - rulers of the Stormlands from the castle of Dragonstone, claiming the Iron Throne. Extinct as of the Battle of Winterfell.
- House Baratheon of King's Landing - rulers of the Crownlands from the castle of the Red Keep in King's Landing, and the former royal house. Extinct as of King Tommen's suicide following the destruction of the Sept of Baelor.
- House Martell - rulers of Dorne from the castle of Sunspear. Wiped out by the Sand Snakes in their coup d'état, though due to the Sand Snakes all being bastard children to Oberyn Martell, the bloodline is technically still alive.