House Bolton

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House Bolton of the Dreadfort is an extinct Great House from the North. After the Red Wedding, they became the Great House of the North, having usurped their position from their former liege lords, House Stark. Their original lands were in the northeast of the Stark territories. Their stronghold was a castle called the Dreadfort and the head of the house was the Lord of the Dreadfort.

House Bolton was infamous for its centuries-old practice of flaying their enemies alive, to the point that they used a flayed man as their House sigil. The Boltons supposedly gave up this practice after bending the knee to House Stark, and centuries later Lord Eddard Stark outlawed flaying in the North altogether, but the Boltons continued the practice. This resulted in them being despised and feared by many of the Northern houses, especially after their betrayal of House Stark and their torching of Winterfell.

Shortly before the Battle of the Bastards, Lord Ramsay Bolton murdered his father, Lord Roose Bolton, taking his father’s titles and ranks. In the aftermath of the battle, Ramsay was defeated by Jon Snow and subsequently executed by the Starks; with no heir to follow him, House Bolton has become extinct.

House Bolton’s heraldry consisted of a red flayed man upside-down on an x-shaped white cross over a field of black. Their house words were “Our Blades Are Sharp,” though a common saying of members of the house was “A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none.”

History

Background

FlayedManHoldsNoSecrets

House Bolton is infamous for its centuries-old practice of flaying their enemies alive, to the point that they use a flayed man as their House sigil.

The origins of House Bolton date back to at least the Age of Heroes, a savage age in which the houses of First Men waged war one upon the other. For centuries, the Red Kings of House Bolton resisted the efforts of the Stark Kings of Winter to unify the North under their rule, killing several Starks in the process, and, according to rumours, keeping their skins as trophies and even wearing them as cloaks.

Royce Redarm

King Royce IV Bolton, known as “the Redarm” because of his fondness for pulling out entrails.

During these centuries when the North was divided into a dozen or so smaller petty kingdoms, the Boltons and Starks were chief rivals for domination over all the others. House Bolton’s kingdom covered a large portion of the lands east of Winterfell, centred around the Dreadfort itself.

Bolton-bends-the-knee

King Rogar Bolton bends the knee to the Starks of Winterfell.

Eventually, the Boltons were defeated and bent the knee to House Stark, giving up their practice of flaying their prisoners as sign of their submission. Nevertheless, they remained the second most powerful house of the North. The practice of flaying, however, was officially outlawed in the North just during the lordship of Eddard Stark.

Season 1

House Bolton answers the summon of Robb Stark, acting Lord of Winterfell, when he calls the banner men of House Stark to march south to demand the liberation of Ned Stark and answer the aggression of House Lannister against the River lands. The sigil of House Bolton is present during the feast Robb holds for his lords banner men.

House Bolton swears its allegiance to Robb Stark when Greatjon Umber proposes Northern independence under Robb as King in the North.

Season 2

The forces of House Bolton remain with the main Northern host as it invades the Wester lands while a relief force led by the Greatjon liberates the seats of the River lords occupied by Lannister forces. Bolton forces participate in the Battle of Oxcross.

After news of the fall of Winterfell to Theon Greyjoy reaches King Robb’s host, Lord Bolton sends word to his bastard son, Ramsay Snow, to raise a force to retake Winterfell.

When the Bolton force is a few days from Winterfell, Robb orders that any iron born in Winterfell who surrenders will be allowed to return safely to the Iron Isles if they hand over Theon Greyjoy.

The Bolton force lays siege to Winterfell, with Ramsay constantly sounding a warhorn to demoralise Theon’s crew. As Robb expected, the iron born turn on Theon and deliver him to Ramsay in exchange for safe passage out of the North. However, Ramsay and his men turn on the iron born and flay them alive, whilst putting Winterfell to the torch and all the members of the Stark household to the sword.

Season 3

Bolton-troops

Bolton men take Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth prisoner.

The Bolton forces march along with the rest of the Northern army all the way to the castle of Harrenhal in the River lands, only to find it empty, except for the bodies of Northern and River lands prisoners put to the sword. In the meantime Lord Bolton has also dispatched his “best hunters”, led by Locke, to hunt down the fugitive Jaime Lannister, who had been liberated by Catelyn Stark in exchange for the freedom of her daughters, Arya and Sansa.

Boltonmen3

Bolton men garrisoned at Harrenhal.

The Bolton host is left to hold Harrenhal after news of the death of Hoster Tully reach the ruined castle. Another letter also informs of the Sack of Winterfell and the disappearance of Bran and Rickon Stark, but puts the blame on Theon and his iron men, claiming the Bolton host had reached Winterfell too late. A few Bolton men accompany Robb’s host to Riverrun.

In the Dreadfort, Theon is tortured by men wearing clothing similar to that of the raiders of House Greyjoy, who take one of his fingernails and use a foot press on him and demand to know why he took Winterfell. Despite his answers, they keep torturing him. When the torturers leave, a man who claims to have been sent by Theon’s sister Yara promises to release him when the castle sleeps.

Locke and his men capture the King slayer and Brienne after Jaime is identified by a peasant in exchange for a reward.

House Bolton are revealed as turncoats when they assist House Frey in the massacre known as the Red Wedding. The Boltons and the Freys kill Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark and all of the northern lords assembled at the Twins for Edmure Tully’s wedding while their forces kill off their banner men. As a reward for their betrayal, Tywin Lannister appoints Roose Bolton as the new Warden of the North as well as the new Lord of Winterfell.

Season 4

The Boltons launch a campaign to retake The North from the invading iron born but their army is stuck south of Moat Cailin, cutting them off from entering the North. Ramsay raises a small army and marches to Moat Cailin, intending to use Theon to persuade the Iron born to surrender the fortress. Theon successfully gets the Iron born to surrender, promising them mercy and safe passage back to the Iron Islands. However, upon being let into the castle, Bolton soldiers flay the Iron born alive, and display their corpses in the courtyard of the fortress. The main Bolton army now enters the North, along with Roose Bolton, who legitimises Ramsay as a Bolton for capturing the Moat. With their army now in the North, Roose and Ramsay March to Winterfell and begin repairs on the ruined castle.

Season 5

Though the Boltons, in Roose’s words, have become a Great House and are now situated at Winterfell, the death of Tywin Lannister by his own son Tyrion Lannister hands has left House Bolton’s protection in a dire situation, since they no longer have enough men to hold the North should the banner men of House Stark rise up against them, especially in response to Ramsay’s atrocities. The Boltons also face a new threat in the form of Stannis Baratheon, who is garrisoned at the Wall and is planning to retake the North from the Boltons and rally the North to his army for another chance to take the Iron Throne. In order to strengthen their position, Roose conspires with Petyr Baelish to have Ramsay marry Sansa Stark, unaware that Baelish is apparently plotting the Boltons’ downfall in revenge for the part they played in Catelyn Stark’s death.

Roose is prepared to wait out Stannis until his army breaks from the bitter cold, although Ramsay obtains his father’s permission to attempt a daring nighttime sabotage mission, one that destroys much of Stannis’s food supplies, siege weapons, and horses. Once Stannis finally reaches Winterfell, his army is handily defeated by the Bolton army. During the Battle of Winterfell, Sansa escapes with the help of Theon.

Season 6

While Roose is pleased with Ramsay’s battlefield command, he is more displeased that Sansa and Theon have escaped, severely jeopardising their claim to the North. Marrying Ramsay and Sansa was nothing short of rebellion against the Iron Throne, and without a Stark in Winterfell, the other houses are unlikely to rally behind the Boltons when the Iron Throne sends its armies after them. Ramsay’s first attempt to recapture the pair fails due to the timely rescue of Sansa and Theon by Brienne of Tarth and her squire, Podrick Payne. Ramsay then proposes to storm Castle Black and kill Jon Snow as Sansa and Theon will have no safe haven with Jon dead. Roose dismisses this proposal as outrageous, stating that Northern houses would almost certainly rise up in revolt against the Boltons should they kill the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.

The birth of Roose Bolton’s son by Walda Bolton visibly bothers Ramsay, who knows that he no longer has the strongest claim to his father’s titles and lands, being a legitimised bastard instead of a true born son. Ramsay kills his father Roose, his stepmother Walda, and his half-brother almost immediately after he hears the news of his half-brother’s birth. His actions are witnessed by Lord Harald Karstark, who acts undisturbed and unsurprised, and Maester Wolkan, who fearfully and reluctantly agrees to send ravens to the Northern lords that Roose Bolton has been poisoned by his enemies. This secures Ramsay’s positions as the next Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, and Warden of the North. However, this also jeopardises the future of his house as he lacks his father’s foresight and strategic mind. Furthermore, he has no heir, as he never fathered a child with Sansa.

As Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell, Ramsay forges an alliance with House Umber after Lord Small jon Umber presents him with a gift: the wildling Osha and Rickon Stark, the last known remaining heir to House Stark. Due to his lineage, Rickon becomes a valuable hostage for House Bolton. Later, Ramsay kills Osha after baiting her into attempting to kill him. Ramsay then pens a letter to Jon Snow telling him that he has his brother Rickon and demanding the return of his wife Sansa. If his demands are not met, he threatens to march to Castle Black and kill every wildling under his protection, have his soldiers rape Sansa, and burn Jon and Rickon alive after torturing them. At Sansa’s urging, Jon agrees to start recruiting houses to try and overthrow the Boltons. Sometime before this, the Bolton army had supported the Glovers in liberating Deep wood Motte from the Iron born, successfully ending their campaign to retake the North.

The two armies eventually meet at battle. House Bolton is backed by House Karstark and House Umber, while the bulk of the Stark army is made up of wildling’s, including the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, and is further backed by House Mormont, House Hornwood, and House Mazin. Immediately before the battle commences, Ramsay kills Rickon to lure Jon and his army into a trap. Ramsay sends forward his cavalry, who outnumber the Stark cavalry, but a fierce melee soon ensues, with both sides taking heavy casualties. However, due to Ramsay constantly ordering his archers to fire into the battlefield, he kills all his horsemen, giving the Starks the upper-hand. As the battle rages on, Ramsay’s army seizes the upper-hand, trapping the Stark army in a phalanx and moving in. However, the battle is suddenly turned around when Lord Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark arrive with the knights of the Vale at the behest of Lord Robin Arryn, the current head of House Arryn, the rulers of the Vale. The Knights of the Vale smash through the unguarded rear flank of the phalanx, cutting down the remaining Bolton soldiers. Ramsay retreats to Winterfell with his general. Ramsay is confident they are able to hold off a siege, but Wun Wun begins smashing down the main gate. Bolton archers desperately fire off dozens of arrows, bolts and javelins into the giant, who uses the last of his strength to smash open the gate, letting the Stark forces enter. They are able to retake the castle and annihilate the Bolton garrison stationed there. Wun Wun falls to his knees, on the brink of death. Ramsay gives the killing blow to the (presumably) last giant. Surrounded and with no troops left, Ramsay attempts to kill Jon with his bow and arrow, though Jon protects himself with a shield of House Mormont and nearly beats Ramsay to death. However, out of respect, Jon stops when he notices his half-sister, Sansa, staring at him. Ramsay is imprisoned in the kennels, where he is later devoured by his starving dogs who are let out of their cages by Sansa. Ramsay’s death and the annihilation of his army mark the end of the Boltons’ reign over the North and the extinction of House Bolton as a whole.

Military

Battle of the Bastards 22

Soldiers of House Bolton at the Battle of the Bastards.

House Bolton commanded a formidable military before its downfall. It was able to field over 6,000 men, and it is possible its army was even larger before the War of the Five Kings started. Although not as large or rich as other armies in Westeros, the Bolton army was very well trained and equipped; as shown in the Battle of Winterfell, Bolton cavalry performed a perfect pincer movement around Stannis Baratheon’s army and completely surrounded them. In the Battle of the Bastards, Bolton soldiers surrounded the Stark army in a shield phalanx, and began cutting down the Stark forces with spears from behind the shields. The Bolton army was also responsible for ending the iron born occupation of the North, by recapturing the castles and lands claimed by the invaders. Bolton soldiers were easily distinguishable from other Northern soldiers, as their helmets were pointed on top with a flayed man sigil on the front. Their uniforms were darker with thicker leather and chain mail for protection. Ultimately, it took the intervention of House Arryn, another Great House, to bring about the Boltons’ downfall.

Relationships

Past Members

  • Lord {Roose Bolton}, the head of the family. Lord of the Dreadfort, Lord of Winterfell, Lord Paramount of the North, and Warden of the North. Murdered by his legitimised bastard son Ramsay Bolton shortly after the birth of his true born son by his wife Walda.
    • Lady {Walda}, his current wife of House Frey. Murdered by her stepson Ramsay after giving birth to a true born son by Roose.
      • Lord {Ramsay Bolton}, originally Ramsay Snow, Roose’s legitimised bastard son by an unnamed miller’s wife. Executed by House Stark for committing countless atrocities by being fed to his own starving hounds. His death marks the extinction of House Bolton as Ramsay had previously killed his father and half-brother.
        • Lady Sansa Stark, Ramsay’s wife of House Stark. Wed Ramsay at the behest of Petyr Baelish to avenge her family but later fled after being physically and sexually abused by her husband. She and Baelish later bring the Knights of the Vale, turning the tide against Ramsay at the Battle of the Bastards and ultimately defeating him. She visits him one last time to witness his impending execution and reminds him that his house will die with him.
      • {Domeric Bolton}, Roose’s first true born son and heir. Died supposedly from illness.
      • {Unnamed son}, Roose and Walda’s true born son. Murdered by his half-brother Ramsay along with his mother shortly after his birth.

Ancestors

  • King Royce IV Bolton, called “the Redarm” due to his fondness for pulling out entrails.
  • King Rogar Bolton, the last Red King of the Dreadfort.

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