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"I, Eddard of the House Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, sentence you to die."
Eddard Stark to Will[src]

The Wardens of the Seven Kingdoms before the War of the Five Kings, from left to right: Robin Arryn (Warden of the East), Mace Tyrell (Warden of the South), Eddard Stark (Warden of the North) and Tywin Lannister (Warden of the West).

The current Wardens of the Six Kingdoms, from left to right: Robin Arryn (Warden of the East), Gendry Baratheon (Warden of the South) and Tyrion Lannister (Warden of the West).

Warden (female equivalent being Wardeness) is a title bestowed upon the head of a Great House by the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. The Wardens command the armies of one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms in the name of Iron Throne for the defense of the entire realm. The Warden of a constituency is expected to lawfully command a quarter of all armies in the realm during a time of crisis.

By custom, the title is functionally hereditary. However, a Warden does not necessarily have to also be one of the Lords Paramount (rulers of the constituent regions of the realm) though this is almost always the case. For example, if an elderly or infirm ruler came to be the head of one of the Great Houses listed below, the office of Warden might be delegated to another family member young and capable enough to lead armies in the field. Likewise, if the head of one of the Great Houses listed below was too young, the office of Warden may be delegated to an older and more experienced individual.

Warden appears to be a title holding higher rank than that of "Lord Paramount." The Lords of the Riverlands do not traditionally hold the title of Warden and instead submit to the Warden of their area, the situation was similar for the Lords of the Stormlands prior to the extinction of House Tyrell. As of 305 AC, the ruler of the Stormlands is the Warden of the South instead of the ruler of the Reach. The Prince of Dorne is not a Warden, but has full control over their armies so it can be presumed that the Prince has the same military authority of a Warden in Dorne. Although there were traditionally four Wardens in Westeros, the office of Warden of the North was abolished in 305 AC following the secession of the North.

Current Wardens of the Six Kingdoms

Abolished Warden titles

In the books

Typically, the Warden of the North defends against wildling attacks that come south of the Wall. The Warden of the West, from House Lannister, defends against coastal raids from the Iron Islands. House Greyjoy were not chosen to be Wardens, because more often than not, they are what the Warden of the West is defending against. Even though they submitted to the Iron Throne, illicit ironborn raiding would occur from time to time and would have to be suppressed. The Warden of the South, from House Tyrell, would defend against border skirmishes with Dorne, as Dorne actually retained its independence for two centuries after the Targaryen Conquest, and was only united to the realm (by marriage alliance) a century before the War of the Five Kings. This is why House Martell of Dorne is not the Warden of the South. The Warden of the East, from House Arryn, seems to have defended against raids or invasion from the Free Cities across the Narrow Sea, such as the threat during the War of the Ninepenny Kings when an invasion was mounted from the Stepstones in the Narrow Sea.

House Tully were not Wardens, probably because the Riverlands are centrally located within the realm and far from external threats. It is not clear why House Baratheon were not named as Wardens, as the Stormlands border Dorne to the south (and thus they could have been Wardens of the South), and also border the Narrow Sea like the Vale (and thus could have been Wardens of the East). The Tyrells may have been chosen as Wardens of the South due to the larger army and population of the Reach, and because more Dornish attacks may have been targeted at the fertile lands of the Reach instead of the forests of the Stormlands. House Arryn may have been chosen ahead of the Baratheons as Wardens of the East because they had to deal with contentious Hill tribes in their mountains and thus needed the military assets at their disposal to deal with them. Also, the Andal Invasion thousands of years ago began in the Vale of Arryn, so it has been used an invasion corridor across the Narrow Sea before.

After Jon Arryn died, Queen Cersei managed to convince King Robert to name her brother Jaime Lannister as the Warden of the East, because Jon's only son and heir Robert "Sweetrobin" Arryn is just a child. This greatly angered many lords in the Vale because Jaime has no connection to House Arryn or the Vale, so they begin to defiantly refer to Sweetrobin as the "True Warden of the East". Ned Stark is also opposed to Robert's decree because it puts the armies of two regions under command of a single house. Jaime, however, never actually travels to the Vale or makes any attempt to take command of the Vale's armies during these few months, and thus his hold on the title was nominal. Jaime continues to technically hold the position while he spent a full year as a prisoner of the Starks after the Battle of the Whispering Wood, although his imprisonment meant that the position was left officially vacant. The title of Warden of the East is restored to Sweetrobin by Tywin Lannister as one of the conditions of the marriage-alliance between Lysa and Petyr Baelish which brings House Arryn back into the Lannister fold. The TV series omitted this entire subplot.

Following Tywin's death, Cersei gives the title of Warden of the West to Daven Lannister, son of Ser Stafford Lannister - not because she trusts Daven, but due to an unpleasant exchange of words with Kevan, who rejects the post of Hand of the King after Cersei refuses to name him Lord Regent as well and relocate to Casterly Rock. Daven does not regard his appointment lightly, but he feels that his uncle Kevan should have been chosen for that office.

By the point the books reached, the four major Wardens of Westeros are as followed:

  • Warden of the North: Roose Bolton
  • Warden of the West: Daven Lannister
  • Warden of the East: Robert Arryn
  • Warden of the South: Mace Tyrell

In addition to the four major Wardens, in the books there are other lesser Wardens which control certain areas:

  • Warden of the Prince's Pass: Traditionally held by House Fowler of Dorne as the guardians of the Prince's Pass. Currently this title is held by Lord Franklyn Fowler.
  • Warden of the Stone Way: Traditionally held by House Yronwood of Dorne as the guardians of the Boneway. Currently this title is held by Lord Anders Yronwood.
  • Warden of the White Knife: Traditionally held by House Manderly of the North as the guardians of the White Knife. Currently this title is held by Lord Wyman Manderly.
  • Warden of the Southern Marches: Created by Robb Stark for his uncle Brynden Tully, in recognition for his military prowess during the War of the Five Kings. Currently the title does not mean much, though, since the Starks and Tullys have been brought down, Riverrun has surrendered to the Lannisters, and Brynden is a fugitive.

In The World of Ice & Fire and Fire & Blood, a fifth major Warden title called Warden of the Sands was created by Aegon the Conqueror during the First Dornish War. Jon Rosby was appointed to this position to rule Dorne in the king's name. However, the Iron Throne was defeated by the Dornishmen, stopping Aegon's attempt to disestablish the princedom of House Martell. When Dorne entered the Seven Kingdoms over a century later, the position of Warden of the Sands wasn't renewed; the Martells continued styling themselves as Princes of Dorne.

See also