- "That's my grandfather, Lord Rickard. He was burned alive by the Mad King, Aerys."
- ―Bran Stark in the Winterfell crypts
Rickard Stark is an unseen character in Game of Thrones. He is deceased when the events of the series begin. He is not expected to appear in the series. Rickard Stark was the Lord of Winterfell and head of House Stark. He was killed by the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen.
Rickard Stark was the head of House Stark and Lord Paramount of the North. The North is one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Stark is one of the Great Houses of the realm. House Stark rule the region from their seat of Winterfell and Rickard also held the title Lord of Winterfell. He was also the Warden of the North.
He served under King Aerys II (known as the Mad King). He is the father of Brandon, Eddard, Lyanna and Benjen Stark. He arranged for the betrothal of his daughter Lyanna Stark to Robert Baratheon, the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. He also betrothed his son and heir Brandon Stark to Catelyn Tully, the daughter of Hoster Tully, Lord Paramount of the Riverlands. Both engagements were broken when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen abducted Lyanna. Brandon protested Rhaegar's actions and King Aerys responded by summoning Rickard to court in King's Landing. Both Brandon and Rickard were killed by the Mad King. These events provoked the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion.Rhaegar Targaryen, the son of the King, Rickard's eldest son and heir, Brandon, rode to King's Landing seeking justice. Aerys II imprisoned Brandon and ordered that Rickard ride south to answer for his son's impertinence. Against advice, Rickard agreed, assuming that the matter would be settled through a trial or a bargain of some kind. Instead, Aerys had Lord Rickard burned alive whilst Brandon watched, and then had Brandon strangled.
The kidnap of Lyanna and the cold-blooded murder of Rickard and Brandon Stark in front of the entire Royal Court made the new Lord of Winterfell, Eddard Stark, declare war against the Targaryen family, supported by Lyanna's betrothed, Robert Baratheon, and the powerful lords Hoster Tully and Jon Arryn. This sparked the beginning of the war known as Robert's Rebellion, which led to the near-destruction of House Targaryen and its removal from the Iron Throne.
Reaching King's Landing, Lord Eddard Stark is greeted by Ser Jaime Lannister in the throne room, who recalls listening to Eddard's father and brother scream as hundreds watched them die at the whim of the Mad King. He suggests his assassination of the Mad King was an act of justice, but Eddard dismisses that as a paltry self-justification for breaking his solemn Kingsguard vows.
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- Eddard Stark: "My father once told me you were the best he'd ever seen. I never the man to be wrong about matters of combat."
- Barristan Selmy: "He was a fine man, your father. What the Mad King did to him was a terrible crime."
- — Ser Barristan recalls Rickard's death.[src]
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Rickard's role is unchanged.
In A Clash of Kings, Jaime Lannister explains to Catelyn Stark just how he died: Rickard demanded trial by combat to clear his son's name, assuming he would face a Kingsguard such as Jaime, but the Mad King had him locked in a cage with fire spewing beneath it, saying "Fire is the champion of House Targaryen" when Brandon tried to stop his father's death, he ended up strangling himself due to the device the Targaryen men had strapped him to. Jaime did not say how many knights were present, only that Gerold Hightower was there, and told him that they were sworn to defend the king, not to judge him.
|Lord:||Prince Bran Stark||Heir:||Rickon Stark|
|Title(s):||King in the North · Lord Paramount of the North · Lord of Winterfell|
|Ancestors:||Brandon the Builder · Rodrik Stark · Karlon Stark · Torrhen Stark|
|Current members:||Sansa Stark · Arya Stark · Benjen Stark · Jon Snow|
|Deceased members:||Rickard Stark · Brandon Stark · Lyanna Stark · Eddard Stark · King Robb Stark · Talisa Stark · Catelyn Stark|
|Household:||Ser Rodrik Cassel · Maester Luwin · Jory Cassel · Vayon Poole · Septa Mordane · Theon Greyjoy · Jeyne Poole · Osha · Hodor · Farlen · Old Nan · Mikken · Varly · Heward · Wyl · Tomard · Tommy · Jacks|