The Game of Thrones series may have come to an end, but the franchise has only just begun. Since HBO announced the Thrones prequel spinoff House of the Dragon, there have been hints of more Westeros-based series in development as well. Everything from an adaptation of Dunk & Egg to a series about Robert's Rebellion could head to HBO and HBO Max. With so many possibilities, fans should refresh their memories of what the seven kingdoms are in Game of Thrones and how the continent is laid out.
Game of Thrones' iconic opening sequence is an excellent tool to help you get a lay of the land. The title sequence's map of significant locations (which changes each season) helps remind viewers where the action is based. But even with the opening credits swinging around from city to city, it can be hard to remember where exactly everything is located. The Wall is in the North, of course, and Essos is across the Narrow Sea. But where is the Eyrie as opposed to the Twins as opposed to Highgarden? How far is King's Landing from Winterfell?
Most importantly, let's start with that name, "The Seven Kingdoms." It's wrong. It's a leftover from earlier times, before Aegon's Conquest. When the Dragon Lords first arrived in Westeros 300 years ago, they redrew the map, splitting "The Kingdom of Isles and Rivers" in two, making eight kingdoms. Meanwhile, the Targaryens also carved out a ninth kingdom so they would have a home base from which to rule.
So, even though the Kings of Westeros are referred to as "Lords of the Seven Kingdoms," there are actually nine of them.
- The North
- The Vale
- The Iron Islands
- The Riverlands
- The Crownlands
- The Stormlands
- The Westerlands
- The Reach
Where Is The North?
The North is the largest continental segment of Westeros. On the day Aegon landed, it was ruled by Torrhen Stark, who was known as "The King of Winter."
House Stark has ruled the North since the Age of Heroes and the Long Night, some 8,000 years before Aegon's Conquest. The Stark family has a lineage that extends back to the Dawn Age and the First Men. The Starks were also one of the first to bend the knee to Targaryen rule without a fight. Torrhen may be remembered as the King Who Knelt, but he kept his people safe, his family in power, and the North intact.
Where Is The Vale?
Known as "The Vale of Arryn," it was part of a more extensive holding known as "The Mountain and Vale." It's also where the Andals began their invasion when they conquered the continent from the First Men. Consequently, the Arryn family is one of the oldest Andal lineages in Westeros.
When Aegon came, House Arryn followed the Stark example and bent the knee to its new Targaryen overlord rather than fight. Aegon granted the rechristened "Vale" area as the family's holdings in return.
Where Are The Iron Islands?
The Iron Islands are an outlier, with their separate religion of the Drowned God and their democratic Kingsmoot elections. Settled by seafaring First Men in the Dawn Age, they were ruled for years by the Greyirons. During the Andal rule, the Greyirons were overthrown by House Hoare, who turned their eyes toward the mainland, creating "The Kingdom of Isles and Rivers," with a planned centralized government run out of the newly built Harrenhal.
Harrenhal famously was completed on the day Aegon arrived and was the first castle his dragons burned to the ground. After the Targaryens destroyed House Hoare, Aegon allowed the Ironborn to hold a Kingsmoot, which the Greyjoys won. The islands stayed neutral through the Targaryen empire and Robert's Rebellion until Balon rebelled because he thought Robert was a weak king. Balon re-bent the knee after Stannis put down the rebellion in the years just preceding Game of Thrones' events.
Where Are The Riverlands?
In the center of Westeros lies the Riverlands. Game Of Thrones spends a lot of time here, as they include Riverrun, The Twins, Harrenhal, and the Bloody Gate. As the center of the continent, it's an area long under dispute. Back long ago in the Dawn Age, way before the Age of Heroes, The First Men drove out the Children of the Forest when they invaded. They, in turn, were conquered by the Andals, who fell to the Storm Kings, who finally lost their holdings to House Hoare.
When the Targaryens burned Harrenhal, they also eradicated the Hoare family line. While the Iron Islands returned to being ruled via Kingsmoot, House Tully, who bent the knee rather than follow the Hoares into extinction, were named Wardens of the Riverlands.
Where Are The Crownlands?
The Crownlands is the ninth kingdom added after Aegon's arrival. It was an area under dispute between the Stormlands and the Riverlands when Aegon arrived. It quickly fell to the Targaryens when Aegon flew into the area now known as King's Landing.
The Targaryens were previously settled on the island of Dragonstone, which was a short dragon flight across the bay from this peninsula area. After the Targaryens established its first foothold on the continent, they renamed the combined area "The Crownlands" and declared it the family's personal holdings.
Where Are The Stormlands?
The Stormlands lie directly to the south of the Crownlands. Ruled for centuries by House Durrandon, it once extended from the Vale mountains to Dorne's marshes and west into the central plains of The Reach. Misrule shrunk its borders until King Argilac Durrandon was barely holding on to the Crownlands when Aegon arrived.
Argilac refused to bend the knee to Aegon, and his failed bid to turn the invaders back became known as "The Last Storm." His forces were beaten by Orys Baratheon, Aegon Targaryen's bastard brother. But House Durrandon was not completely eradicated; Argilac's daughter, Argella, survived. The Targaryens wisely chose to use her to help legitimize their takeover, marrying her to Orys Baratheon and declaring their families the "Wardens of the Stormlands."
Where Are The Westerlands?
Known as the Kingdom of the Rock, the Lannisters ruled The Westerlands since the Age of Heroes, when they tricked House Gardener into giving it to them. When the Andals invaded, they teamed up with the invaders rather than fight, which is how they kept it.
When the Targaryens came, the Lannisters initially joined with Houses Hoare, Durrandon, and Gardener to form a united front against the invaders. But House Hoare burned, House Gardener was wiped out at the battle known as "the Field of Fire," and House Durrandon fell directly following that. The Lannisters quickly (and loudly) bent the knee, smooth-talking Aegon into keeping their holdings as Wardens of the West.
Where Is The Reach?
The Reach is the second-largest territory after The North. The temperate climates make it the fertile crescent of the Seven Kingdoms. The ruling House Gardener's line goes back to the Dawn Age. Fearsome fighters, they warred with the Dornish for generations over their shared border. The last of the line, King Mern IX, took half of the Stormlands from House Durrandon not long before Aegon's Conquest.
As the oldest continuously ruling family in Westeros (older even than the Starks), House Gardner led the fight against the Targaryen invasion. Aegon was merciless: Mern and all seven of his descendants were killed at the Field of Fire. The Tyrells were the Gardener's stewards, and in the face of defeat, they surrendered the Reach. Aegon named the Tyrells Warden but kept a sharp eye on them. The Tyrells never once openly put a foot out of place, but their ability to manipulate behind the scenes became legendary.
Where Is Dorne?
Dorne gets totally shafted by the HBO series. But in the books, this is the most fascinating of the Seven Kingdoms. Dorne's rulers are descended from The Rhoynar, who initially came to Westeros after the Valyrians (including the Targaryen family) drove them out of Essos. Unlike the other litany of Westeros-based conquests over the generations, this one had no battles. It was just mass migration followed by intermarriage into the powerful Martell clan, forming the current ruling family. The Dornish progressive attitudes toward women, sex, and bastards were ported over from Essos, as was the custom of calling themselves "Prince" instead of "King."
The longstanding resentment toward being driven from their ancestral home was part of what caused the Dornish refusal to bend the knee to the Valyrian Targaryens. But unlike the other kingdoms, they defeated Aegon when he attempted to take their land. The Targaryens wound up having to conquer Dorne the way the Rhoynish had: intermarriage. These marriages began in 187 AC, over halfway through the Targaryen's 300-year reign. The pact of Targaryen-to-Martell marriages allowed the Dornish to keep their "Prince" and "Princess" titles and the intermingling of the bloodlines tied the Dornish tighter to the Targaryens than any other kingdoms. It also left the Dornish on the wrong side during Robert's Rebellion, so they've been at odds with the rest of the continent ever since.
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