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Legitimization Letter for Ramsay

The Royal Decree that officially legitimizes Ramsay Snow as Ramsay Bolton

Roose: "From this day until your last day, you are Ramsay Bolton, son of Roose Bolton, Warden of the North."
Ramsay: "You honor me. I swear I will uphold your name, and your tradition. I'll be worthy of you, father. I promise."
— Roose and Ramsay Bolton.[src]

Legitimization ​is the process by which a bastard receives the rights and social status of trueborn offspring by royal decree.

HistoryEdit

Season 1Edit

​The infamous Great Bastards, legitimized bastard children of King Aegon IV Targaryen, are mentioned in The Lineages and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms.[1]

Season 3Edit

Catelyn Stark tells Talisa Stark that when her husband's bastard Jon Snow became ill as an infant, she prayed to the Seven to let him live, and in return promised to love him and ask her husband to legitimize him. Jon recovered, but Lady Stark did not stay true to her vow.[2]

Season 4Edit

As a reward for Roose Bolton's role in the Red Wedding, his bastard son Ramsay Snow is legitimized by the crown, but Roose does not present it to Ramsay until he succeeds in liberating Moat Cailin from the Ironborn. This makes him an official Bolton and Roose's heir, with the right to inherit his lands and titles when he dies. Ramsay is grateful for this, and promises to uphold his father's name and traditions.[3]

Season 5Edit

Stannis Baratheon offers to legitimize Jon Snow as Jon Stark and make him Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North in return for pledging his allegiance to him and helping him retake the North from the Boltons. Jon confides to Samwell Tarly that this was the first thing he ever wanted, often wishing that his father would ask Robert Baratheon to legitimize him (though he never did out of respect for Catelyn), but decides to refuse Stannis's offer so as to avoid violating his Night's Watch vows.[4]

Known legitimized bastardsEdit

House-Blackfyre-heraldry

House Blackfyre was founded by the legitimized bastard Daemon Blackfyre

In the booksEdit

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, bastards can receive a bill of legitimacy, allowing them to take their father's surname and formally join his House, or to take a new surname and found a new House (some bastards take new names altogether, like "Blackfyre", while others add a prefix to their bastard name, such as "Longwaters"). For example, House Baratheon was founded by Orys Baratheon, the legitimized bastard half-brother of Aegon the Conqueror.

However, while bastards stand outside the lines of succession and inheritance, there are still exceptions which have caused immense problems. King Aegon IV Targaryen legitimized three of his bastard sons and one of his bastard daughters on his deathbed. His eldest bastard son, Daemon Blackfyre, later claimed the Iron Throne and led a bloody civil war known as the First Blackfyre Rebellion. His sons and descendants launched four more attempts to take the Iron Throne before their final claimant, Maelys the Monstrous, was slain by Ser Barristan Selmy during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. This is sometimes used as an example of what happens if a bastard is treated too well and given too much power and legitimacy. It should be noted that the social stigma is not automatically removed even after the formal legitimization is performed.

George R.R. Martin has stated that in-universe, legitimization happens so rarely that there is no set legal principle for where a legitimized bastard ranks in the line of succession: whether they should go after all of a lord's trueborn children, or whether they should be placed according to birth order. For example, if Eddard Stark ever had Jon Snow legitimized, there is no established rule for whether Jon would go behind or ahead of his younger but trueborn half-brothers Bran and Rickon. In the case of the First Blackfyre Rebellion this was a moot point, because Daemon Blackfyre was not only bastard-born, but simply younger than Daeron II Targaryen. Daemon's followers therefore had to promote the rumor that Daeron II was himself a bastard of his father's younger brother.

Robb Stark had planned to legitimize Jon Snow and name him his heir until a son was born to him from Jeyne Westerling. He signed the decree in the presence of several lords as witnesses. However, it is unknown what became of the decree, as it is no longer mentioned in the books. It is speculated that Robb gave it to Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover, but their current location is unknown. So far Jon has not received the decree, and has no idea of its existence.

In the novels, Ramsay receives his decree of legitimacy signed by King Tommen Baratheon as a reward for the part his father played in the Red Wedding, as he was in need of an heir after the death of his trueborn son Domeric who apparently died of a stomach virus. Roose believes Ramsay to have poisoned Domeric out of jealousy of his status as their father's heir. He wins Ramsay's legitimacy despite this, as he believes that due to his age he will not live to see any children he might have with his new wife Walda live to adulthood, and suspects that Ramsay will kill them anyway. Ramsay is very sensitive to his origin, and reacts very violently if someone calls him "bastard" or "Snow", even without offensive intention.

In the novels, Jon finds Stannis's offer to legitimize him very tempting, but explains that he is bound by his oath to the Watch. Melisandre tells him "R'hllor is the only true god. A vow sworn to a tree has no more power than one sworn to your shoes. Open your heart and let the light of the Lord come in. Burn these weirwoods, and accept Winterfell as a gift of the Lord of Light". Jon thinks it over, recalling how when he was very young, too young to understand what it meant to be a bastard, he used to dream that one day Winterfell might be his. Later, when he was older, he had been ashamed of those dreams. Now, in order to claim his father's castle, he must turn against his father's gods. The more Jon thinks about it, he grows to loathe the notion of destroying the weirwood of Winterfell. He looks at Ghost, whose white fur and red eyes remind him of a heart tree, and this is what makes him reject the legitimization offer.

ReferencesEdit

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