House Martell

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House Martell of Sunspear is one of the Great Houses of Westeros. It rules the peninsula of Dorne in the far south of the continent from their castle Sunspear. Though loyal to the Iron Throne, the Martells were never conquered by the Targaryens and pursued a more isolated role in wider political events since Robert’s Rebellion.

House Martell’s sigil is a red sun pierced by a golden spear, on an orange field, a combination of the original Martell sigil – a yellow spear – and the emblem of Princess Nymeria – a red sun – to symbolise the marriage of the warrior-queen to Mors Martell. Their house words are “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.”

With the assassinations of Prince Doran Martell and his only heir, Prince Trystane, by Ellaria Sand and the three eldest Sand Snakes, the Sand Snakes carried the Martell blood through their father Oberyn Martell. The Sand Snakes also continued to use the Martell sigil to represent themselves and Dorne.

Under the leadership of Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes, the forces of House Martell and Dorne were aligned to support the cause of Daenerys Targaryen against House Lannister after they declared war against them.

Following the deaths of the older Sand Snakes and Ellaria’s imprisonment in King’s Landing and likely death, an unnamed Martell acquires the lordship of Dorne, becoming its prince.

History

Background

Nymeria Ten Thousand Ships

Nymeria led the Rhoynar refugee fleet in a massive migration to Dorne, fleeing the Valyrians.

House Martell started out as local kings in Dorne, which was long divided between many petty kings of the First Men and Andals. About a thousand years ago, Rhoynar refugees fleeing conquest by the Valyrian Freehold in Essos migrated across the Narrow Sea to Dorne, led by their warrior-queen Nymeria. Mors Martell was smitten with Nymeria and chose to join forces with her through marriage-alliance. With their combined strength, they conquered and unified the rest of Dorne. To symbolise their union, the original golden spear sigil of Mors Martell was combined with the red sun sigil of Nymeria, creating the red sun pierced by a golden spear sigil that House Martell has used as a sigil ever since. Like their Rhoynar ancestors, House Martell styled its rulers as “princes” instead of “kings”, and kept using the titles, resisting the Targaryen invasion and keeping local laws and traditions even after joining the Seven Kingdoms after a matrimonial alliance.

Dorne resists the Targaryen Conquest

The Martells resisted the Targaryen conquest by resorting to guerrilla warfare: if a dragon came the Dornish hid in the desert until it left, then ambushed the Targaryens’ supply lines, until they eventually withdrew.

The Martell words are “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” – referring to their history, in which they have never been successfully conquered by outsiders. This makes them unique among all of the Great Houses. During the Targaryen Conquest (three centuries before the War of the Five Kings), Dorne was the only region of the Seven Kingdoms to successfully resist the Targaryens and their dragons. Realising that large armies could not stand against dragons (as seen at the Field of Fire), nor large castles (as seen at the Burning of Harrenhal), the Dornish instead resorted to guerrilla warfare, ambushing Targaryen soldiers and harassing their supply lines as soon as their dragons moved on to the next castle, then disappearing back into the harsh deserts when the dragons returned. The Dornish armies took advantage of Dorne’s arid climate, which helped them to adopt attrition warfare against the invading Targaryens, as the arid climate and harsh wastelands of Dorne cannot easily support large invading armies. Losing many men due to attrition, ultimately even Aegon the Conqueror decided to withdraw from Dorne, to focus on reining in the other six newly conquered kingdoms.

Daeron's death

King Daeron I Targaryen’s invasion of Dorne lasted only 4 years, ending with the death of Daeron I, along with 60,000 of his men, and the Martells still defiantly independent.

House Martell and Dorne have never been successfully conquered. Over a century and a half after the Targaryen Conquest of the rest of Westeros, they were invaded again by King Daeron I Targaryen, the Young Dragon. A military genius, his Conquest of Dorne actually succeeded – on the battlefield. But the initial conquest was followed by a four year long Dornish insurgency, in which occupying troops were again bled through ambush and guerrilla tactics. Lyonel Tyrell, the steward that Daeron I put in charge of Dorne, was then assassinated, and all of Dorne rose up in open rebellion. Daeron I himself was killed attempting to put down the insurrection, and after only four short years House Martell once again ruled an independent Dorne.

Targaryen Martell two marriages

The double marriage-alliance that united the Martells with the Iron Throne: King Daeron II Targaryen married Prince Maron Martell’s sister Myriah (left), and Prince Maron married Daeron II’s sister Daenerys (right).

A few decades later (a little over a century before the War of the Five Kings), King Daeron II the Good managed to finally unite Dorne with the Iron Throne – not through conquest, but by voluntary marriage-alliance on equal terms. Daeron II married the sister of the Prince of Dorne, and the Prince of Dorne married Daeron II’s sister. This special, semi-autonomous status allowed Dorne to retain several special privileges, such as the Martells continuing to style themselves as “Prince” or “Princess” instead of “Lord Paramount” and continuing their practice of gender-blind primogeniture. This union did cause several political tensions at the royal court between Daeron II’s pro-Martell faction and anti-Martell lords (from the Reach, the Storm lands, and the Dornish Marches), eventually leading to the Blackfyre Rebellion.

Slaughter

At the end of Robert’s Rebellion, Lannister banner man Gregor Clegane killed Elia Martell’s children, then raped and killed Elia.

Generations later, King Aerys II Targaryen (later known as “the Mad King”) had no daughters, so he sought a suitable bride for his son Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen from outside of the family. Aerys II chose to snub the offer of Tywin Lannister, his own trusted Hand of the King and dutiful servant, that Rhaegar marry his own young daughter Cersei. Instead, a match was arranged with the then-current Princess of Dorne to wed her daughter Elia Martell to Rhaegar.

In Robert’s Rebellion, Elia was kept in King’s Landing to ensure the continued allegiance of House Martell to the Targaryen’s against the rebels. Elia bore Rhaegar two children but all three were later killed during Robert’s Rebellion, during the Sack of King’s Landing by Tywin Lannister’s army. Elia’s brothers Doran and Oberyn were outraged and, while peace was restored, the Martells withdrew from interacting with the royal court. During King Robert Baratheon’s subsequent reign, the Martells and Dorne were rarely if ever even mentioned at court, except for their Dornish wine.

Practices

“After the tradition of her people, House Martell then ruled Dorne as ‘princes’, not ‘kings’ – unless the eldest child was a daughter, for unlike the rest of Westeros, our loyalty isn’t commanded by a cock. We follow a Prince or a Princess Martell just the same.”
―Oberyn Martell
Nymeria and Mors Martell

Mors Martell and Nymeria united to conquer and unify Dorne. Afterwards they ruled equally, and were succeeded by their eldest daughter over their younger son – following the gender-blind inheritance customs of the Rhoynar.

Like their Rhoynar ancestors who migrated to Dorne a thousand years ago, Dornish noble Houses follow gender-blind equal primogeniture, in which the eldest child is the heir regardless of whether that child is male or female. This is different from the male-preference inheritance laws in all of the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the laws of the First Men and Andals, in which a younger son succeeds ahead of an older daughter. In House Stark, for example, Bran and Rickon are officially ahead of their older sister Sansa in the line of succession, and in House Lannister, Tyrion was officially ahead of Cersei despite being younger than her.

In contrast, a ruler of House Martell is always succeeded by their eldest child, even if it is a daughter. The current ruler of Dorne (when House Martell is fully introduced in Season 5) is Prince Doran Martell, who has been the head of House Martell for many years. The immediately preceding head of House Martell, however, was Doran’s mother, who was also the mother of Elia and Oberyn. Doran’s mother actually had a younger brother, Lewyn Martell. Under the inheritance laws of the rest of Westeros, Lewyn would have succeeded ahead of Doran’s mother, but because Dornish inheritance laws are gender-blind he did not (and therefore he was free to join the elite Kings guard).

In the style of their Rhoynar ancestors who lived in city-states in Essos (near the location of the later Free Cities), House Martell styles its rulers as “Prince of Dorne” (or “Princess”) instead of “King” or “Queen”. All members of House Martell are called a Prince/Princess, though the current head of the household is the ruling Prince/Princess. There is little functional difference between the “Prince of Dorne” and a “Lord Paramount of the North”, though the title “Prince” is considered to be, at least nominally, more prestigious.

Due to uniting with the Iron Throne through marriage-alliance on equal terms instead of through conquest, the Martells were allowed to retain several special privileges, among which were continuing to style their ruler as a “Prince”, and continuing to practice gender-blind equal primogeniture.  While many of the Martells are hot-tempered, especially Prince Oberyn, they are a close-knit and loving family, undivided by internal rivalries such as those in House Lannister and House Baratheon.

Season 1

Bran Stark recites the motto of House Martell during a lesson with Maester Luwin.

Season 2

Tyrion Lannister announces his plan to marry Myrcella Baratheon to Prince Trystane Martell of Dorne. The alliance is intended to keep the Dornish from siding with their enemies in the War of the Five Kings, and to ensure the survival of a Baratheon/Lannister heir should King’s Landing fall. Cersei is shocked, and tells her brother that the Martells loathe them. Tyrion concurs, but says that this is exactly why they need to seduce the Martells back into allegiance, by offering them a royal marriage alliance.

Some weeks later, Tyrion, Cersei, and Joffrey see Myrcella off from the docks at King’s Landing for the first stage of her journey to Dorne.

Season 4

Prince Oberyn Martell, along with a retinue of Dornish lords and knights, arrives in King’s Landing to attend the royal wedding in the place of his brother, Prince Doran Martell. Oberyn is joined by his paramour, Ellaria Sand. Oberyn explains the bad blood between the Lannisters and Martells. His sister, Elia Martell, was the wife of Rhaegar Targaryen and she and her children were raped and murdered by Tywin Lannister’s troops when they sacked King’s Landing. Oberyn holds Tywin personally responsible and is in the capital intent on taking revenge on the Lannisters.

Oberyn and Ellaria represent House Martell at the royal wedding between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, and witness Joffrey’s poisoning. Joffrey’s uncle Tyrion Lannister is falsely accused of poisoning Joffrey. Lord Tywin subsequently meets with Oberyn in private, and tells him that he wants to ensure that the Martells remain close to the throne, which is still facing numerous threats: the Iron Islands are still in open rebellion to the west, a wildling horde is massing against the Wall to the north, and worst of all, to the east in Slaver’s Bay, Daenerys Targaryen possesses three live Dragons and is amassing a large army of her own. As a sign of good faith, Tywin makes Oberyn one of the three judges at Tyrion’s trial. Tyrion is subjected to a humiliating show trial at court, which he ends by demanding a Trial by combat. The crown’s champion is the fearsome Gregor Clegane, but ultimately Oberyn volunteers to be Tyrion’s champion.

Oberyn faces off against the massive Gregor in the following trial by combat in front of the gathered royal court. Oberyn uses speed and agility to outmanoeuvre and subdue Gregor, but is knocked off his feet during an unguarded moment, after which Gregor crushes Oberyn’s skull between his bare hands. Oberyn, however, had coated his spear with manticore venom, one of the deadliest poisons in the Known World, incapacitating and seemingly dooming Ser Gregor.

Season 5

Doran, Ellaria, Areo & Sand Snakes

Oberyn’s death in King’s Landing has caused outrage among the Dornish population, as the prince was popular in Dorne. Among those calling for revenge was Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria Sand, and his bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes. They sought to wage war against the Lannisters for killing Oberyn and Elia by using Myrcella Baratheon, Queen Cersei Lannister’s daughter who was betrothed to Trystane Martell. However, Prince Doran refused to wage war, believing that it was a war they could not win. He also refused to let Myrcella be harmed and kept her close to him in the Water Gardens, for her safety. However, Doran’s attempts to keep the princess safe are ultimately futile as Ellaria secretly poisons Myrcella as she leaves on her return voyage to King’s Landing.

Season 6

Prince Doran is escorted back to the Water Gardens by Ellaria and Tyene with whom he reminisces about his late brother and how he was envious of the life he lived. The conversation is ended when Maester Calleote brings word of Myrcella’s murder to the Prince. Before he can react, he is promptly assassinated by Ellaria Sand whilst Tyene kills Areo Hotah. As Doran dies in a pool of his own blood, helpless as his guards do nothing but watch, Ellaria angrily states that he is weak for not avenging the deaths of his sister or brother and that weak men will never rule Dorne again. Immediately following this in the harbor at King’s Landing, Trystane is killed by Obara and Nymeria who had sneaked aboard the ship. With their deaths, House Martell becomes legally extinct.

Later, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes meet with Olenna Tyrell to persuade her to join the forces of House Tyrell with Dorne, to exact vengeance for the deaths of various members of both House Martell and Tyrell. It is revealed that Ellaria, after hearing of Daenerys Targaryen’s recent alliance with Yara and Theon Greyjoy, has aligned Dorne and the forces of the now-extinct House Martell with Daenerys in support of a Targaryen restoration, with the appearance of Varys offering the Targaryen words of “Fire and Blood.”

In Daenerys’s invasion fleet, some ships can be seen bearing the sun-and-spear sigil of House Martell, although legally extinct, but instead representing Dorne as a whole alongside Tyrell, Greyjoy, and Daenerys’s own Targaryen ships. This takes place as Dorne pledges their allegiance to House Targaryen, and sets sail with the other Targaryen allies to exact revenge against House Lannister for the deaths of Elia and Oberyn Martell, and to restore the Targaryen Dynasty to the Iron Throne.

Season 7

Ellaria and the oldest three Sand Snakes arrive at Dragon stone and hold council with Daenerys and her court, where a plan is laid out on how best to deal with Cersei and her allies. The Martells are taken by Yara and the Iron born fleet to return to Dorne, where they will gather their armies and prepare to lay seige to King’s Landing along with the Tyrell armies. En route, however, the Iron born ships are attacked by Euron Greyjoy and his new fleet. When Euron’s lead ship, Silence, crashes into Yara’s flagship, Black Wind, his crew boards her ship and begins fighting. Tyene and Ellaria Sand are both captured, while Obara and Nymeria are each killed with their own weapons at Euron’s own hands. The sisters are attached to the bowsprit of the ship before Silence departs, leaving Black Wind to burn.

Ellaria and Tyene are paraded through the streets of King’s Landing, where they are jeered and pelted with rotten fruits by the small folk. The mother and daughter are brought before Queen Cersei Lannister, who thanks Euron for delivering her “justice”. Later, Cersei takes Ellaria and Tyene to the dungeons beneath the Red Keep and has them gagged and chained up. As punishment for the murder of her daughter Myrcella Baratheon, Cersei kisses Tyene with the Long farewell and forces Ellaria to watch as her daughter succumbs to the poison. Cersei taunts Ellaria that she will spend the rest of her days in the dungeons watching her daughter’s corpse rotting.

Season 8

An unnamed Martell assumes power after the imprisonment of Ellaria Sand and pledged his support to Daenerys. He takes part in the trial of Tyrion Lannister after her assassination and elects Bran Stark as the new King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men.

Members

  • Prince {Doran Martell}, Prince of Dorne and Lord of Sunspear. An elderly man suffering from gout, which prevents him from walking and leaves him mostly confined to a wheelchair. Assassinated by Ellaria Sand during her seizure of power.
    • Prince {Trystane Martell}, his son and heir. Betrothed to Myrcella Baratheon. Killed by Obara Sand.
  • Princess {Elia Martell}, Doran’s sister and middle sibling. Married to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. Raped and murdered by Ser Gregor Clegane in the Sack of King’s Landing along with her two children, four-year-old Princess Rhaenys Targaryen and the infant Aegon Targaryen.
  • Prince {Oberyn Martell}, Doran’s brother and youngest sibling. Called “the Red Viper”, for his penchant for poisoning. Killed by Ser Gregor Clegane while championing Tyrion Lannister during his trial by combat. Oberyn has eight bastard daughters, collectively known as the “Sand Snakes”.
    • Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s paramour and mother of several of his bastard daughters. Later seized power by killing Myrcella Baratheon and staging a coup. Imprisoned for life in the dungeons of the Red Keep by Cersei Lannister. Status uncertain.
      • {Obara Sand}, Oberyn’s eldest bastard daughter. Killed by Euron Greyjoy in the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet.
      • {Nymeria “Nym” Sand}, Oberyn’s second bastard daughter, born to an eastern noblewoman. Named after the warrior-queen of the Rhoynar. Killed by Euron Greyjoy in the Assault on the Targaryen Fleet.
      • {Tyene Sand}, Oberyn’s third bastard daughter, the eldest born to Ellaria Sand. Killed by Cersei Lannister, who gave her a poisonous kiss.
      • Sarella Sand, Oberyn’s fourth bastard daughter.
      • Elia Sand, Oberyn’s fifth bastard daughter. Named in honor of Oberyn’s sister.
      • Obella Sand, Oberyn’s sixth bastard daughter.
      • Dorea Sand, Oberyn’s seventh bastard daughter.
      • Loreza Sand, Oberyn’s youngest bastard daughter.

With unspecified familiar relationship to the main branch there is also:

  • Prince Martell, whose first name is unknown, successor to Doran Martell.

The immediately previous generation of House Martell:

  • The Ruling Princess of Dorne, mother of Doran, Elia, and Oberyn. Inherited rule of Dorne in her own right from one of her parents. Succeeded upon her death by her eldest child, Doran. Name currently unknown.
  • Prince {Lewyn Martell}. Younger brother of the Ruling Princess, and thus the uncle of Doran, Elia, and Oberyn. A member of Aerys II Targaryen’s Kingsguard. Slain at the Battle of the Trident.

Household

  • {Areo Hotah}, Doran’s trusted captain of the guards at Sunspear. Killed by Tyene Sand during the Dornish Coup.
  • {Maester Caleotte}, Sunspear’s Maester. Killed by Tyene Sand during the Dornish Coup.
  • Princess {Myrcella Baratheon}, ward of Prince Doran and betrothed of Prince Trystane. Killed by Ellaria Sand with poison.
    • Ser Arys Oakheart, a knight of the Kings guard, her sworn shield.
    • Septa Eglantine, of the Faith of the Seven, her governess and tutor.

Ancestors

  • Prince {Mors Martell}, head of House Martell when Nymeria arrived in Dorne, which he would unite under his house by wedding Nymeria.
    • Princess {Nymeria}, warrior-queen who led Rhoynar refugees to Dorne and wed into House Martell, uniting Dorne under their rule.
  • Princess {Meria Martell}, the Ruling Princess of Dorne during the War of Conquest and the only ruler to successfully resist the Targaryens.
  • Prince {Maron Martell}, the Ruling Prince of Dorne, who ultimately consented to join the rest of the Seven Kingdoms under Targaryen rule through marriage.
    • Princess {Daenerys of Sunspear}, wife of Maron and sister of King Daeron II.
      • An {unnamed crippled son}, for whom Daeron II built a wheelchair.
  • Queen {Myriah Martell}, sister of Maron and wife of King Daeron II Targaryen, who along with her brother united Dorne with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms through marriage.

Sworn to House Martell

  • House Allyrion of Godsgrace
  • House Blackmont of Blackmont
  • House Dalt of Lemonwood
  • House Dayne of Starfall
  • House Gargalen of Saltshore
  • House Jordayne of the Tor
  • House Manwoody of Kingsgrave
  • House Qorgyle of Sandstone
  • House Santagar of Spottswood
  • House Uller of Hellholt
  • House Yronwood of Yronwood

Military strength

During the War of the Five Kings, the military of Dorne has been left largely untouched, in part due to their isolation from the conflicts of the war, as Dorne is the southernmost kingdom, with the only known Dornish casualties were taken during Ser Jaime Lannister’s mission to Dorne to rescue Princess Myrcella Baratheon, which would end at the Confrontation in the Water Gardens. During the Coup in Dorne, Ellaria Sand, leader of the Sand Snakes states that the Dornish people are with her as she murders Prince Doran Martell, while Dornish Guards watch in support of Ellaria Sand. Prior to Daenerys Targaryen’s war for Westeros, Dorne and House Tyrell forged an alliance with Queen Daenerys Targaryen, and join her coalition military. While planning for the upcoming war, the Dornish and Tyrell armies would lay siege to King’s Landing, while the Unsullied would lay siege to Casterly Rock. Dorne also possesses a sizeable navy, as ships with the sigil of House Martell compose a part of the Allied Targaryen Fleet on route to Westeros. It is likely, however, that most, if not all, of the Dornish Fleet was destroyed along with Queen Yara Greyjoy’s faction of the Iron Fleet on route to Dorne to transport the Dornish army to King’s Landing. After the naval battle and the death and capture of the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand, Dorne was left leaderless, and their army has remained in Dorne, effectively knocked out of the war.

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