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This article is about the Great House. For the special feature, see: House Bolton (Histories & Lore)

"In my family we say: A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."
Roose Bolton[src]

House Bolton of the Dreadfort is an extinct Great House from the North. After the Red Wedding, they became the Great House of the North, having usurped their position from their former liege lords, House Stark. Their original lands were in the northeast of the Stark territories. Their stronghold was a castle called the Dreadfort and the head of the house was the Lord of the Dreadfort.[1]

House Bolton was infamous for its centuries-old practice of flaying their enemies alive, to the point that they used a flayed man as their House sigil. The Boltons supposedly gave up this practice after bending the knee to House Stark,[2] and centuries later Lord Eddard Stark outlawed flaying in the North altogether, but the Boltons continued the practice.[3] This resulted in them being despised and feared by many of the Northern houses, especially after their betrayal of House Stark.

House Bolton's heraldry consisted of a red flayed man upside-down, his flayed skin forming a white, X-shaped cross behind him, over a field of black. Their house words were "Our Blades Are Sharp,"[2] though a common saying of members of the house was "A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."



House Bolton is infamous for its centuries-old practice of flaying their enemies alive, to the point that they use a flayed man as their House sigil.

The origins of House Bolton date back to at least the Age of Heroes, a savage age in which the houses of First Men waged war one upon the other. For centuries, the Red Kings of House Bolton resisted the efforts of the Stark Kings of Winter to unify the North under their rule, killing several Starks in the process, and, according to rumors, keeping their skins as trophies and even wearing them as cloaks.

King Royce IV Bolton, known as "the Redarm" because of his fondness for pulling out entrails.

During these centuries when the North was divided into a dozen or so smaller petty kingdoms, the Boltons and Starks were chief rivals for domination over all the others. House Bolton's kingdom covered a large portion of the lands east of Winterfell, centered around the Dreadfort itself.[4][2]

King Rogar Bolton bends the knee to the Starks of Winterfell.

Eventually, the Boltons were defeated and bent the knee to House Stark, giving up their practice of flaying their prisoners as sign of their submission. Nevertheless, they remained the second most powerful house of the North.[2] However, the practice of flaying was not officially outlawed until the lordship of Eddard Stark.

Season 1

House Bolton answers the summon of Robb Stark, acting Lord of Winterfell, when he calls the bannermen of House Stark to march south to demand the liberation of Ned Stark and answer the aggression of House Lannister against the Riverlands. The sigil of House Bolton is present during the feast Robb holds for his lords bannermen.[5]

House Bolton swears its allegiance to Robb when Greatjon Umber proposes Northern independence under Robb as King in the North.[6]

Season 2

The forces of House Bolton remain with the main Northern host as it invades the Westerlands while a relief force led by the Greatjon liberates the seats of the Riverlords occupied by Lannister forces.[7] Bolton forces participate in the Battle of Oxcross.[3]

After news of the fall of Winterfell to Theon Greyjoy reaches Robb's host, Lord Bolton sends word to his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, to raise a force to retake Winterfell.[8]

When the Bolton force is a few days from Winterfell, Robb orders that any ironborn in Winterfell who surrenders will be allowed to return safely to the Iron Islands if they hand over Theon.[8]

The Bolton force lays siege to Winterfell, with Ramsay constantly sounding a warhorn to demoralize Theon's crew. As Robb expected, the ironborn turn on Theon and deliver him to Ramsay in exchange for safe passage out of the North.[9] However, Ramsay and his men turn on the ironborn and flay them alive, whilst putting Winterfell to the torch and all the members of the Stark household to the sword.[10]

Season 3

Bolton men take Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth prisoner.

The Bolton forces march along with the rest of the Northern army all the way to the castle of Harrenhal in the Riverlands, only to find it empty, except for the bodies of Northern and Riverlands prisoners put to the sword. In the meantime Lord Bolton has also dispatched his "best hunters", led by Locke, to hunt down the fugitive Jaime Lannister, who had been liberated by Catelyn Stark in exchange for the freedom of her daughters, Arya and Sansa.[11]

Bolton men garrisoned at Harrenhal.

The Bolton host is left to hold Harrenhal after news of the death of Hoster Tully reach the ruined castle. Another letter also informs of the Sack of Winterfell and the disappearance of Bran and Rickon Stark, but puts the blame on Theon and his ironmen, claiming the Bolton host had reached Winterfell too late. A few Bolton men accompany Robb's host to Riverrun.[12]

In the Dreadfort, Theon is tortured by men wearing clothing similar to that of the raiders of House Greyjoy, who take one of his fingernails and use a foot press on him and demand to know why he took Winterfell. Despite his answers, they keep torturing him. When the torturers leave, a man who claims to have been sent by Theon's sister Yara promises to release him when the castle sleeps.[12]

Locke and his men capture the Kingslayer and Brienne after Jaime is identified by a peasant in exchange for a reward.[12]

House Bolton are revealed as turncoats when they assist House Frey in the massacre known as the Red Wedding. The Boltons and the Freys kill Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and all of the northern lords assembled at the Twins for Edmure Tully's wedding while their forces kill off their bannermen. As a reward for their betrayal, Tywin Lannister appoints Roose Bolton as the new Warden of the North as well as the new Lord of Winterfell.[10]

Season 4

The Boltons launch a campaign to retake The North from the invading ironborn but their army is stuck south of Moat Cailin, cutting them off from entering the North. Ramsay raises a small army and marches to Moat Cailin, intending to use Theon to persuade the Ironborn to surrender the fortress. Theon successfully gets the Ironborn to surrender, promising them mercy and safe passage back to the Iron Islands. However, upon being let into the castle, Bolton soldiers flay the Ironborn alive, and display their corpses in the courtyard of the fortress. The main Bolton army now enters the North, along with Roose Bolton, who legitimizes Ramsay as a Bolton for capturing the Moat. With their army now in the North, Roose and Ramsay March to Winterfell and begin repairs on the ruined castle.

Season 5

Though the Boltons, in Roose's words, have become a Great House and are now situated at Winterfell, the death of Tywin Lannister by his own son Tyrion Lannister hands has left House Bolton's protection in a dire situation, since they no longer have enough men to hold the North should the bannermen of House Stark rise up against them, especially in response to Ramsay's atrocities. The Boltons also face a new threat in the form of Stannis Baratheon, who is garrisoned at the Wall and is planning to retake the North from the Boltons and rally the North to his army for another chance to take the Iron Throne. In order to strengthen their position, Roose conspires with Petyr Baelish to have Ramsay marry Sansa, unaware that Baelish is apparently plotting the Boltons' downfall in revenge for the part they played in Catelyn's death.[13]

Roose is prepared to wait out Stannis until his army breaks from the bitter cold, although Ramsay obtains his father's permission to attempt a daring nighttime sabotage mission, one that destroys much of Stannis's food supplies, siege weapons, and horses. [14] Once Stannis finally reaches Winterfell, his army is handily defeated by the Bolton army. During the Battle of Winterfell, Sansa escapes with the help of Theon.

Season 6

While Roose is pleased with Ramsay's battlefield command, he is more displeased that Sansa and Theon have escaped, severely jeopardizing their claim to the North. Marrying Ramsay and Sansa was nothing short of rebellion against the Iron Throne, and without a Stark in Winterfell, the other houses are unlikely to rally behind the Boltons when the Iron Throne sends its armies after them. Ramsay's first attempt to recapture the pair fails due to the timely rescue of Sansa and Theon by Brienne of Tarth and her squire, Podrick Payne.[15] Ramsay then proposes to storm Castle Black and kill Jon Snow as Sansa and Theon will have no safe haven with Jon dead. Roose dismisses this proposal as outrageous, stating that Northern houses would almost certainly rise up in revolt against the Boltons should they kill the Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

The birth of Roose's son visibly disturbs Ramsay, who knows that he no longer has the strongest claim to his father's titles and lands, being a legitimized bastard instead of a trueborn son. Acting quickly, Ramsay kills his father, his stepmother Walda, and his half-brother almost immediately after he hears the news of his half-brother's birth. His actions are witnessed by Harald Karstark, who appears unperturbed, and Maester Wolkan, who fearfully and reluctantly agrees to send ravens to the Northern lords that Roose has been poisoned by his enemies. This secures Ramsay's positions as the next Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, and Warden of the North. However, this also jeopardizes the future of his house as he lacks his father's foresight and strategic mind. Furthermore, he has no heir, as he never fathered a child with Sansa.[16]

As Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, Ramsay forges an alliance with House Umber after Lord Smalljon Umber presents him with a gift: Osha and Rickon Stark, the last known remaining heir to House Stark.[17] Due to his lineage, Rickon becomes a valuable hostage for House Bolton. Later, Ramsay kills Osha after baiting her into attempting to kill him. Ramsay then pens a letter to Jon telling him that he has his brother Rickon and demanding the return of his wife Sansa. If his demands are not met, he threatens to march to Castle Black and kill every wildling under his protection, have his soldiers rape Sansa, and burn Jon and Rickon alive after torturing them. At Sansa's urging, Jon agrees to start recruiting houses to try and overthrow the Boltons. Sometime before this, the Bolton army had supported the Glovers in liberating Deepwood Motte from the ironborn, successfully ending their campaign to retake the North. [18]

The two armies eventually meet at battle. House Bolton is backed by House Karstark and House Umber, while the bulk of the Stark army is made up of wildlings, including the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, and is further backed by House Mormont, House Hornwood, and House Mazin. Immediately before the battle commences, Ramsay kills Rickon to lure Jon and his army into a trap. Ramsay sends forward his cavalry, who outnumber the Stark cavalry, but a fierce melee soon ensues, with both sides taking heavy casualties. However, due to Ramsay constantly ordering his archers to fire into the battlefield, he kills all his horsemen, giving the Starks the upper-hand. As the battle rages on, Ramsay's army seizes the upper-hand, trapping the Stark army in a phalanx and moving in. However, the battle is suddenly turned around when Lord Petyr Baelish and Sansa arrive with the knights of the Vale at the behest of Lord Robin Arryn, the current head of House Arryn, the rulers of the Vale. The Knights of the Vale smash through the unguarded rear flank of the phalanx, cutting down the remaining Bolton soldiers. Ramsay retreats to Winterfell with his general. Ramsay is confident they are able to hold off a siege, but Wun Wun begins smashing down the main gate. Bolton archers desperately fire off dozens of arrows, bolts and javelins into the giant, who uses the last of his strength to smash open the gate, letting the Stark forces enter. They are able to retake the castle and annihilate the Bolton garrison stationed there. Wun Wun falls to his knees, on the brink of death. Ramsay gives the killing blow to the (presumably) last giant. Surrounded and with no troops left, Ramsay attempts to kill Jon with his bow and arrow, though Jon protects himself with a shield of House Mormont and nearly beats Ramsay to death. However, out of respect, Jon stops when he notices his half-sister, Sansa, staring at him. Ramsay is imprisoned in the kennels, where he is later devoured by his starving dogs who are let out of their cages by Sansa. Ramsay's death and the annihilation of his army mark the end of the Boltons' reign over the North and the extinction of House Bolton as a whole.[19]

Military strength

Soldiers of House Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards.

House Bolton commanded a formidable military prior to the outbreak of the War of the Five Kings, capable of fielding over 5,000 men.[18] As the second most powerful house within the North, the Boltons forces are formidable, rivaled only by House Stark and House Manderly in terms of power and influence. Unlike most Northern Houses, House Bolton is considered by far to be the cruelest and most gruesome vassals within the North, thus earning them the aptly-befitting title of the “Bane of the North”. Being formidable rivals of their Stark overlords for centuries, before ultimately swearing fealty to the Kings of Winter.

Bolton soldiers seem to be well-equipped. This is particularly evidenced by the degree of standardization of weapons and armor purchased due to high taxation of the probably intimidated and extorted populace.

The Bolton soldiers are outfitted with dark-colored leather tunics with chainmail and gorgets carved with the Bolton sigil. The most distinct characteristic of the Bolton army is the conical point-shaped helmets with a distinct groove at the edges which distinguishes them from other northern soldiers. The simplicity of the armor is more on its aesthetic and symbolic measure rather than practicality or effectiveness. Being likely attributed to the Bolton’s faculty of extreme cruelty, therefore, creating a sense of intimidation in the battlefield.

The Bolton army appears to be well-trained and well-organized in battle, fighting several battles during the War of the Five Kings. Such battles include the Battle of Winterfell, where Bolton cavalry performed a perfect pincer movement around Stannis Baratheon's army and completely surrounded it. In the Battle of the Bastards, Bolton soldiers surrounded the Stark army in a shield phalanx, and began cutting down the Stark forces with spears from behind the shields. The Bolton army was also responsible for ending the ironborn occupation of the North, by recapturing the castles and lands claimed by the invaders. Ultimately, it took the intervention of House Arryn, another Great House, to bring about the Boltons' downfall.


Past members

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, the head of the family. Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, Lord Paramount of the North, and Warden of the North. Murdered by his legitimized bastard son Ramsay Bolton shortly after the birth of his trueborn son by his wife Walda.
    • Lady {Walda}, his current wife of House Frey. Murdered by her stepson Ramsay after giving birth to a trueborn son by Roose.
      • Lord {Ramsay Bolton}, originally Ramsay Snow, Roose's legitimized bastard son by a miller's wife. Executed by House Stark for committing countless atrocities by being fed to his own starving hounds. His death marks the extinction of House Bolton as Ramsay had previously killed his father and half-brother.
        • Lady Sansa Stark, Ramsay's wife of House Stark. Wed Ramsay at the behest of Petyr Baelish to avenge her family but later fled after being physically and sexually abused by her husband. She and Baelish later bring the Knights of the Vale, turning the tide against Ramsay at the Battle of the Bastards and ultimately defeating him. She visits him one last time to witness his impending execution and reminds him that his house will die with him.
      • {Domeric Bolton}, Roose's first trueborn son and heir. Died supposedly from illness.
      • {Unnamed son}, Roose and Walda’s trueborn son. Murdered by his half-brother Ramsay along with his mother shortly after his birth.



Family tree

miller's wife


Walda Bolton
née Frey House-Frey-Main-Shield.PNG




In the books

House Bolton are said to have worn the skins of their enemies as cloaks after flaying them.

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, House Bolton is noted as one of the most powerful families of the North. They are noted for flaying their enemies alive and even wearing their skins as cloaks. They have even captured and flayed Starks in the distant past. House Bolton were unruly vassals of the Starks until approximately a thousand years ago, when they finally bent the knee. Three hundred years later they rebelled but were defeated. The armies of House Stark besieged the Dreadfort for two years before finally forcing the Boltons to surrender and submit.

The Boltons are considered a sinister and ill-omened house, but Lord Roose Bolton is noted as a capable battle commander. Roose Bolton fought alongside Eddard Stark during Robert's Rebellion. After the Battle of the Trident, Roose suggested executing the defeated Barristan Selmy, but Eddard and Robert Baratheon refused.

Known members

  • Lord Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort and Warden of the North, called "the Leech Lord".
    • His first wife, deceased.
    • Lady {Bethany Bolton}, his second wife, deceased.
      • {Domeric Bolton}, his trueborn son, deceased.
      • Unnamed sons, died still in the cradle.
    • Lady Walda Frey, Lord Roose's third wife, called "Fat Walda", currently pregnant.
    • Ramsay Bolton, born Ramsay Snow and called "the Bastard of the Dreadfort", his bastard son and heir. Self-styled Lord of the Hornwood and Lord of Winterfell.
      • Lady {Donella Manderly}, Ramsay's first wife, Lady of the Hornwood as the widow of Lord Halys Hornwood. Imprisoned by Ramsay and starved to death.
      • Lady "Arya Stark", actually Jeyne Poole, Ramsay's second wife. Currently in custody of King Stannis Baratheon.

Domeric Bolton died shortly before the beginning of the series, having sought out his bastard half-brother Ramsay (Domeric having always wanted a brother of his own). With no other trueborn heirs, Roose brought Ramsay to the Dreadfort and began to treat him as his heir.

The sigil of House Bolton in the books is a red flayed man on a field of pink with red blood drops. The TV series design has specified that the flayed man is displayed hanging upside down, his flayed skin forming an X-shaped cross. The color scheme in the TV series is slightly different: it is a red flayed man, but hanging upside-down, his flayed skin forming a white, X-shaped cross with a black background.

See also