'Game of Thrones': Can Sansa Rule Winterfell?
After this week’s incredible Game of Thrones episode, people have a lot of questions going into the finale. One of those questions is whether or not Sansa can even hold Winterfell in her own name now that she and Jon have taken it. We know that there are several significant seats in Westeros that have never been held by women, leading some to wonder if it’s even possible for her to inherit. While we don’t have any hard answers, there are some examples in the North where women did inherit their family’s seats after all male heirs were extinguished.
First we have House Hornwood, which was held by Donella Hornwood after her husband was killed in the Battle of the Green Fork and her son was killed in the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Even though she married into the Hornwood family, she currently holds the castle and will control it until the question of a new heir is settled. Unfortunately, before that could happen, she was abducted and forcibly married to Ramsay Snow, who then shut her into a tower to starve to death. Her lands were seized by her cousin, Wyman Manderly, to keep them from falling into Ramsay’s control.
Then we have Barbrey Dustin, the Lady of Barrowton who we meet in A Dance With Dragons. She is also holding her husband’s lands since her husband died years ago in Robert’s Rebellion. She has no children, so the future of Barrow Hall and House Dustin remains uncertain. However, her control of them is uncontested.
In A Dance with Dragons we also meet Alys Karstark. Her older brother is a hostage and her remaining brothers were killed in the Whispering Wood. Her father was beheaded by Robb Stark for killing Lannister hostages. She turns to Jon to avoid a forced marriage to her cousin so her great-uncle can seize Karhold. Jon marries her to Sigorn, the Magnar of Thenn, creating a new House of Thenn for the happy couple. Should her older brother Harrion die, Karhold will pass to Alys before her great-uncle or either of his sons. We can assume this holds true for other Northern houses, with inheritance passing through surviving daughters of the Lord before moving to further family members, even if those daughters have married.
There is also House Cerwyn, the history of which is not as detailed but which is currently held by Lady Jonelle Cerwyn since the death of her father and brother.
So we have textual support for women inheriting castles and lands in the North when there are no legitimate male heirs. Interestingly, we also have support for women inheriting their husband’s lands when there is no heir. At this point, with Bran considered dead and Jon’s legitimacy unrecognized/non existent, Sansa could rightfully hold Winterfell AND the Dreadfort. It’s unlikely she will hold either or both comfortably for the time being, but the laws of the land are in her favor.