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Roose Bolton

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"The Lannisters send their regards."
―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark as he killed him.[src]

Lord Roose Bolton is a recurring character in the second and third seasons. He is played by Michael McElhatton and debuts in "Garden of Bones." Roose Bolton is the Lord of the Dreadfort and the head of House Bolton. He declared for Robb Stark in the War of the Five Kings, but ultimately betrayed Robb and murdered him during the massacre at Edmure Tully's wedding at The Twins, and was appointed Warden of the North as a reward.



He is the head of House Bolton, a vassal family to House Stark of Winterfell. He is the Lord of the Dreadfort. Roose takes pride in his house sigil; the flayed man. Although torture is outlawed in the North, his family is famous for flaying the skin from their enemies as a means of torture. Roose fought for Lord Eddard Stark in the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion and proved his worth as a soldier in the Battle of the Trident.[1]

Season 1

House Bolton banners are present among Robb Stark's forces as they assemble at Winterfell and march south to fight House Lannister following the imprisonment and execution of Lord Eddard Stark.[2][3] Robb is proclaimed King in the North by his bannermen following the death of Eddard, although Roose is not seen.[3]

Season 2

Roose fights for King Robb Stark in his decisive victory at the Battle of Oxcross. The following morning Roose reports that they killed five Lannister men for every casualty they suffered. He expresses concern over the volume of prisoners they have taken, saying that they are struggling to feed their own men. Robb insists that the prisoners be treated well and rejects Roose’s suggestion that they torture the officers, reminding him that the Bolton’s traditional practice of flaying their enemies is outlawed in the North. Roose warns Robb that the high road is pretty but difficult. Robb counters that he is treating his prisoners as he hopes the Lannisters will treat his sisters.[4]


Lord Bolton delivers news of Winterfell's capture in "The Old Gods and the New".

They come across a nurse, Talisa Maegyr, and a silent sister treating a wounded Lannister soldier. The healer is preparing to amputate his leg to prevent a wound infection spreading. The soldier is begging her not to proceed but she insists on the necessity of amputation. Roose criticizes her spending time on the Lannister soldiers and she retorts that the Northmen are not her men. Robb helps to restrain the wounded man as she saws off his lower leg.[4]

He later brings Robb and Catelyn Stark news of Winterfell's fall at the hands of the turncloak Theon Greyjoy. He reports that there is no news of Robb's brothers, but that Ser Rodrik Cassel has been killed. An enraged Robb declares that he must return north to retake his castle and save his brothers, but Roose counters that they have the Lannisters on the retreat, and must continue their offensive. He tells the King that he can have his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, muster several hundred men to retake Winterfell. Robb relents, but orders that the safety of his brothers is paramount. Robb insists that Theon must be brought to him alive so he can inquire as to why he betrayed the North - and so that Robb can execute him personally.[5]

Robb Stark and Roose Bolton

Robb Stark and Roose Bolton discuss plans to recapture Winterfell in "The Prince of Winterfell".

After the Battle of the Yellow Fork Robb's bannermen gather to hear Queen Regent Cersei Lannister's rejection of their peace terms. They complain that the prison cells are overflowing. Robb leaves the camp with a small force to negotiate the surrender of the Crag.[6] Catelyn releases Jaime Lannister, enraging Robb and his bannermen and resulting in her being placed under guard. Roose meets with Robb to discuss the situation of Winterfell. Robb details a plan to offer mercy to Theon's men so that they will abandon him allowing them to retake the castle with minimal bloodshed. Roose is confident that it will work. Their discussion is interrupted by Talisa and Roose leaves them alone.[7]

Season 3


Robb Stark and Roose Bolton discuss their attack on Harrenhal in "Valar Dohaeris."

Roose, along with the rest of the Northern host arrives at Harrenhal, finding the ruined castle abandoned and the captives slain, save for a man in maester robes named Qyburn. While Robb and Talisa attend to the man's injuries, Roose discusses Jaime Lannister's escape with Rickard Karstark, and assures him that the dead will be avenged in time.[8]

Messenger-ravens come to Harrenhal bearing news of Hoster Tully's death, and of Winterfell's destruction. Roose delivers the messages to Robb, who charges Bolton with holding Harrenhal with a portion of the Northern army, while he and the bulk of his forces ride for Riverrun.[9]

Roose's minion, Locke, successfully recaptures Jaime Lannister, and delivers him to his Lord at Harrenhal. Roose is visibly angered at Jaime's mutilated state.[10]


Roose negotiates with Jaime and Brienne in "The Climb".

Roose negotiates with Jaime and Brienne over dinner. Bolton weighs up his options; bluntly informing his captives that the safest course of action would simply be to murder both of them, and discreetly dispose of their bodies. Although Jaime attempts to sway Roose by reminding him of the consequences of crossing his father, Roose is unperturbed at the prospect of having Lord Tywin as an enemy, as the war is keeping him fully occupied. Ultimately Roose relents, agreeing to release Jaime, and return him safely to King's Landing on the condition that he inform his father that Bolton had no part in the loss of Jaime's hand. He also retains Brienne as a hostage, stating his intention to charge her with treason.[11]

Before Jaime departs for King's Landing, Roose asks Jaime to give his regards to Jaime's father Tywin. Jaime then asks Roose to tell Robb Stark that the Lannisters send their regards.[12]

Red wedding roose robb

Roose murders Robb in "The Rains of Castamere."

Afterwards, Roose arrives at The Twins to attend the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. However, he has been secretly plotting with House Frey to ultimately bring about the downfall of the Starks. During the wedding, Roose stays seated beside Lady Catelyn. She discovers his armor underneath his clothes, and strikes him, telling Robb to run. The Freys turn on the Starks, Bolton moves away from the massacre only to later approach Robb and whisper in his ear "the Lannisters send their regards", as he stabs him in the heart.[13]

After killing Robb, Roose climbs to the top of The Twins and watches the massacre of the Stark forces. The next day, he and Walder Frey gloat over the deaths of the Starks and the capture of Edmure Tully, though Roose is wary about the escape of Brynden Tully. Walder comments that it must have been difficult following Robb Stark, and Roose notes that Robb never once listened to his advice. Walder jokingly raises a toast to the Young Wolf, and Roose says that he will now be forever young. Roose then explains to Walder what really happened at the Sack of Winterfell: it was actually Roose's bastard son Ramsay Snow, leading a force of Bolton soldiers, who burned Winterfell to the ground. Roose falsely reported to Robb that Theon and the ironborn were responsible to deflect suspicion from the Boltons - while Ramsay captured Theon and has been sadistically torturing him in the Dreadfort's dungeon. Roose decided to betray Robb long ago, after the Lannisters won the Battle of the Blackwater, and was simply feigning loyalty this entire time, even as he was plotting the Starks' destruction.

As reward for his actions, Tywin Lannister has made Roose acting Warden of the North until a son of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister comes of age.[14]

Image Gallery


Season Two appearances
The North Remembers The Night Lands What is Dead May Never Die Garden of Bones The Ghost of Harrenhal
The Old Gods and the New A Man Without Honor The Prince of Winterfell Blackwater Valar Morghulis
Season Three appearances
Valar Dohaeris Dark Wings, Dark Words Walk of Punishment And Now His Watch is Ended Kissed by Fire
The Climb The Bear and the Maiden Fair Second Sons The Rains of Castamere Mhysa

Family tree

Unknown tree
miller's wife

Roose Bolton
Lady Bolton
Walda Bolton
née Frey Frey shield icon
Ramsay Bolton
100px-Sansa tree
Sansa Stark House-Stark-Main-Shield
Domeric Bolton


"The high road is very pretty, but you'll have a hard time marching your army down it."
―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark[src]
"In my family we say: A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none."
―Roose Bolton[src]
"A touch of mercy is a virtue, Your Grace; too much..."
―Roose Bolton to Robb Stark[src]
"You're in no place to insist on anything. I would have hoped you'd learned your lesson about overplaying your... position."
―Roose Bolton to Jaime Lannister[src]
Roose Bolton: "Lord Walder let me choose any of his granddaughters and promised me the girl's weight in silver as a dowry, so I have a fat young bride."
Catelyn Stark: "I hope she makes you very happy."
Roose Bolton: "Well she's made me very rich."
— Roose Bolton discusses his new wife at the Red Wedding.[src]

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Roose Bolton is noted for his practice of having regular leechings, which he believes improves his health and has earned him the nickname of "the Leech Lord". He's also noted for being extremely pale skinned and also soft spoken thus forcing those who listen to do so intently. He is also described as being mild mannered, but cunning, calculating and capable of great cruelty.

Roose is actually a cool, detached and manipulative psychopath: he is very much in control of his behavior, but several characters describe him as not possessing real human emotions. While he can be diplomatic and objectively polite, something about Roose comes off as cold and stilted, because he is simply pretending to have normal emotional responses which he does not possess. Roose's almost robotic detachment from actual human emotions works both ways, however, in that he never appears angered or frustrated by anything, possessing an inhuman quality of dissonant serenity in the face of major setbacks. Roose does engage in acts of petty cruelty when he judges that there are no consequences, but on the whole, he is as pragmatic as he is ruthless: he was not angered that Jaime Lannister lost his sword hand because of any empathy he felt, but because on a purely practical level it threatened to damage his political plans. Even Tywin Lannister is not as reserved or controlled as Roose, given Tywin's occasional outbursts against his children, and particularly how Tywin gloated at the death of Elia Martell at the end of Robert's Rebellion even though it was politically ill-advised to alienate the Martells. In contrast, Roose places great emphasis on the fact that he actually is not an infamously cruel butcher, and that "no tales were ever told of me". His personal rule is "A peaceful land, a quiet people." Unlike the Lannisters, Roose recognizes the practical difficulty of ruling over a population that has come to despise you, and has put great effort into avoiding such a negative reputation. While Roose did take part in the Red Wedding, this was a single calculated risk made as the master-stroke which would grant his family rule of the North. Still, Roose is utterly cold and manipulative, viewing other people as merely pieces on a gameboard, and playing with them as other men play with dice.

During Robert's Rebellion, Bolton joined the rebels and participated in the Battle of the Trident. After the battle he suggested Robert Baratheon to execute the imprisoned Ser Barristan Selmy, who had fought for the royalist army and had been severely injured. Robert, however, recognized Selmy's courage and sent his personal maester to treat him.

Roose had two wives. Nothing is known about his first wife (other than that he apparently had no children by her). His second wife was Bethany Ryswell, sister of Lady Dustin, and mother of Domeric Bolton, who died from a sickness of the bowels. Bethany died of fever two years after her son.

Roose is also the commander of the northern forces at the Battle of the Green Fork, which differed from the TV series' portrayal of the conflict. Roose Bolton met Tywin's host of 20,000 with a diversionary force of 16,000, retreating in good order after their surprise attack had failed and they had bought enough time for Robb Stark's success at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Northern casualties were relatively light, though several of their lords were either killed or captured.

Roose's army continues to operate independently of Robb Stark's. When Tywin Lannister leaves Harrenhal on his way to King's Landing, Roose quickly marches his army in to occupy the castle. Arya ends up serving Roose as his cupbearer, but was unnerved by his use of regular leechings. She decides to leave the castle incognito instead of revealing her true identity, despite Roose's position as a vassal to her brother.

It is not clear how the TV version will address this, but when Robb split the Northern army in two, he commanded the western half of the army (composed of all of their cavalry) in an invasion of the Westerlands, while Roose continued to command the eastern half (mostly infantry) from Harrenhal (the TV series pushed this split back until Season 3). The exact numbers are difficult to account for, because they took some losses but their forces were almost doubled by the local armies of the River lords. At any rate, Robb had about 6,000 cavalry with him when he withdrew from the Westerlands back to Riverrun, while Roose commanded a force of 9,000 infantry (the 16,000 infantry at the Battle of Green Fork apparently included the 4,000 Frey levies).

Whatever the case, after Roose decided to betray Robb and seize control of the North, so he intentionally sent the Northern infantry on suicide missions such as the disastrous Battle of Duskendale and Battle of Ruby Ford. Bolton's cynical and calculating intention was to bleed the strength of other Northern Houses still loyal to the Starks. Roose ultimately betrayed two thirds of the infantry under his command to their deaths in these battles, about 5,000 men - who had trusted their lives to Roose as their commander. Roose always made sure to send infantry of staunch Stark-loyalists into these ambushes, while holding back and preserving the soldiers of House Bolton. The result was that when Roose reached the Twins for the Red Wedding he had 3,500 men under his command (500 mounted, 3,000 infantry), primarily composed of his original Bolton forces, with some Karstark presence. Bolton had spared the Karstarks because he judged that their loyalty to the Starks was wavering by this point - indeed given that they began the war with 300 cavalry and 2,000 infantry, most of the Karstark forces had probably already withdrawn back to the North after Robb executed Lord Rickard. Bolton's treachery was cold, calculating, and decisive: by sacrificing his trusting Northern allies, Bolton's forces remained virtually unscathed, while simultaneously paving the way for his domination of the North.

Arya remains at Harrenhal in service to Roose (under an assumed identity) before making her escape, and she notices that he is in the habit of burning any letters he receives. At first, this seems to be simply prudent, as he doesn't want sensitive war communiques to fall into the hands of spies. However, Arya later notices that Roose has the bizarre habit of burning entire books as soon as he has finished reading them: keeping in mind that in the medieval society of Westeros, which does not possess printing presses, books are rare and extravagantly expensive items requiring a large amount of work to produce. Author George R.R. Martin has said that the scene in which Roose puts an entire book into a fireplace after he has finished reading it is meant to be a microcosm of the entire character: Roose is so selfish, calculating, and ruthless that he would destroy a valuable book to preserve the advantage in knowledge it gave him over other people. Roose will destroy any advantage, even potential advantage, rather than let it continue to exist and run the danger that it might one day aid his enemies. Similar to the burned books, Roose betrayed thousands of men under his own command to their deaths at Duskendale and Ruby Ford, rather than let them live and possibly turn against him when he tried to usurp the Starks.

See also


v  d  e
Lord: Lord Ramsay Bolton Heir: House-Bolton-Main-Shield
Seat: Winterfell
The Dreadfort
Lands: The North
Title(s): Red King (former) · Lord of the Dreadfort · Warden of the North · Lord Paramount of the North · Lord of Winterfell
Ancestors:Rogar Bolton
Current members:Sansa Stark
Deceased members:Domeric Bolton · Roose Bolton · Walda Bolton
Household:{Locke} · Steelshanks · {Myranda} · {Tansy} · {Violet} · {Master Torturer} · Maester Wolkan
Overlord:House Baratheon of King's Landing

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