In the Game of Thrones universe, being born out of wedlock results in significant negative social and legal consequences.

A “bastard” – a term frequently used in the Seven Kingdoms, although no longer considered appropriate in our world – cannot inherit their father’s lands or titles. They are also not entitled to enjoy the “privileges of the House”. The father of a bastard can choose whether to completely ignore the child, or maybe secretly send them some money for support. In the best case scenario, the father will acknowledge the child, assign them a special last name although not the same last name as the father, but will then send the child away to some distant land to be raised by others. There is no law in Westeros which attaches a penalty to having illegitimate children, but socially and religiously it is frowned upon.

A king can legitimize the bastard child of a lord but it’s very rare. Despite all of this, an illegitimate child of royal blood may have a stronger claim to the throne if there are no other legitimate children or, as is the case with the wicked King Joffrey, where a purported child is not actually the biological child of the King but was secretly fathered by another.

Illegitimate children in our world have faced similar disadvantages. Until the passage of the Ontario Legitimacy Act, 1961-61 the disadvantages imposed by law on illegitimate children included being unable to inherit from his or her parents or anyone else. Clauses in wills that exclude children born out of wedlock are still very common. Hopefully, with the increasing acceptance of non-traditional families, any kinds of bias faced by children born out of wedlock will be a thing of the distant past, or strictly limited to fantasy worlds like the one in Game of Thrones.

Have a great weekend!

Moira Visoiu