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Wiki of Westeros
This page is about the Great House. For the short, see: House Bolton (short)

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

House Bolton[1] of the Dreadfort is an extinct Great House of Westeros. After the Red Wedding, they became the rulers of the North, having usurped their position from their former liege lords, House Stark. Their original lands were in the northeast of the North. The head of the house was the Lord of the Dreadfort.[2]

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 sigil. The Boltons supposedly gave up this practice after bending the knee to House Stark,[3] and centuries later, Lord Eddard Stark outlawed flaying in the North altogether, but the Boltons continued the practice.[4] This led to 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,"[3] though a common saying of members of the house was "A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."

History[]

Background[]

FlayedManHoldsNoSecrets

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.

Royce Redarm

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.[5][3]

Bolton-bends-the-knee

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.[3] However, the practice of flaying was not officially outlawed until the lordship of Eddard Stark.

House of the Dragon: Season 1[]

Tourney jousters

A Bolton knight alongside jousters from Houses Tyrell, Mallister, Corbray, Hightower, and Lefford.

A member of House Bolton travels to King's Landing to participate in the Heir's Tournament; a joust to celebrate the birth of Prince Baelon Targaryen. They dress in dark armor adorned with the flayed man of the Dreadfort, and wear a helmet with a plume of crimson feathers.[6]

Game of Thrones: 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.[7]

House Bolton swears its allegiance to Robb when Greatjon Umber proposes Northern independence under Robb as King in the North.[8]

Game of Thrones: Season 2[]

The forces of House Bolton remain with the main Northern host as it invades the Westerlands.[9] Bolton forces participate in the Battle of Oxcross.[4]

After news of the capture of Winterfell reaches Robb's host, Roose sends word to his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, to raise a force to retake Winterfell.[10]

The Bolton force lays siege to Winterfell. The Ironborn turn on Theon and deliver him to Ramsay in exchange for safe passage out of the North.[11] However, Ramsay and his men turn on the Ironborn and flay them alive, whilst putting Winterfell to the torch.[12]

Game of Thrones: Season 3[]

Bolton-troops

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 dispatches his "best hunters" to hunt down the fugitive Jaime Lannister.[13]

Boltonmen3

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.[14]

The Boltons are revealed as turncoats when they assist House Frey in the massacre known as the Red Wedding. As a reward for their betrayal, Tywin appoints Roose as the new Warden of the North as well as the new Lord of Winterfell.[12]

Game of Thrones: 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.[15] Ramsay uses Theon to persuade the Ironborn to surrender, then Bolton soldiers kiil them. 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.[16]

Game of Thrones: Season 5[]

Though the Boltons, in Roose's words, have become a Great House and are now situated at Winterfell, the death of Tywin 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.[17]

The Boltons defeat Stannis's host, but Sansa and Theon escape.[18]

Game of Thrones: Season 6[]

Despite the Boltons' victory, Sansa's escape severely jeopardizes their claim to the North. The birth of Roose's trueborn son visibly disturbs Ramsay, who knows that he no longer has the strongest claim to his father's titles and lands; he kills his father, his stepmother Walda, and his half-brother, thus becomes the Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, and Warden of the North.[19]

Ramsay forges an alliance with House Umber.[20] The Bolton army supports the Glovers in liberating Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn, successfully ending their campaign to retake the North. [21]

The battle between the Boltons and Starks, reinforced by their respective allies, ends with the victory of the Starks. 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.[22]

Military strength[]

Battle of the Bastards 22

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.[21] 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, most gruesome, and most hated 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.

House Bolton used a great deal of fear within their tactics, both militarily and politically. Their flaying reputation was very effective against the morality of their enemies and vassals after becoming the Norths dominant house. They tolerated no dissent of any kind and even the smallest of offenses were met with extreme punishments of torture. While this was effective for a time, the Boltons arguably used it too much and it contributed to their downfall. Even before becoming Wardens of the North, House Bolton was not very popular among the other Northern houses, but the excessive violence and bullying of their now subjects led to all out hatred. By the time of the Battle of the Bastards, the Boltons only had two houses come to their aid, and although both of these houses still gave them a massive numerical advantage over their enemies, neither ally was aiding out of respect. House Karstark was supportive due to disdain towards the Starks, and House Umber due to their desire to wipe out the Free Folk they believed were invading their lands. After the battle and House Boltons extinction, both immediately returned their allegiance to House Stark suggesting that was only Harald Karstark and Smalljon Umber themselves who felt this way.

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 in the ice, 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.

Relationships[]

Past members[]

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, the head of the family. Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, 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.
      • {Roose Bolton's son}, Roose and Walda’s trueborn son. Murdered by his half-brother Ramsay along with his mother shortly after his birth.

Ancestors[]

Family tree[]

Famtree-Unknown
Miller's
wife

Deceased
 
Famtree-RooseBolton
Roose
Bolton

Deceased
 
Famtree-WaldaFrey
Walda Bolton
née Frey House Frey
Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Famtree-RamsayBolton
Ramsay
Bolton

Deceased
 
Famtree-SansaStark
Sansa
Stark
House StarkSansa Stark

 
Famtree-BoltonNewborn
Son

Deceased
 

In the books[]

House Bolton ASOIAF

The Bolton coat of arms in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels: A flayed man on pink with red drops.

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.

Gallery[]

References[]

Notes[]

  1. In "Winter Is Coming," which takes place in 298 AC, Sansa Stark tells Cersei Lannister that she is 13 years old and Bran Stark tells Jaime Lannister that he is 10 years old. Arya Stark was born between Sansa and Bran, making her either 11 or 12 in Season 1. The rest of the Stark children have been aged up by 2 years from their book ages, so it can be assumed that she is 11 in Season 1. Arya is 18 in Season 8 according to HBO, which means at least 7 years occur in the span of the series; therefore, each season of Game of Thrones must roughly correspond to a year in-universe, placing the events of Season 3 in 300 AC.
  2. In "Winter Is Coming," which takes place in 298 AC, Sansa Stark tells Cersei Lannister that she is 13 years old and Bran Stark tells Jaime Lannister that he is 10 years old. Arya Stark was born between Sansa and Bran, making her either 11 or 12 in Season 1. The rest of the Stark children have been aged up by 2 years from their book ages, so it can be assumed that she is 11 in Season 1. Arya is 18 in Season 8 according to HBO, which means at least 7 years occur in the span of the series; therefore, each season of Game of Thrones must roughly correspond to a year in-universe, placing the events of Season 6 in 303 AC.

External links[]


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