In a later essay I hope to unpack the Maligned Woman trope in Westeros, so for now I will say that much of the talk about Rohanne seems to boil down to her being a female heir who outlived four eventually five husbands and whose babies died in infancy. Whenever she gives birth, a demon comes by night to carry off the issue. They dance and sing and do embroidery. And still, her father would not let her inherit after him unless she married.
Such a stipulation would not have been made for a male heir, so this is clearly a patriarchal bias at work. I could spend a lot of time unpacking her symbolism, and I will eventually. A male relative her father attempts to usurp her rule via marriage multiple times, even making it a stipulation of his will. She eventually marries solar king figure Gerold Lannister. That was where he would be found, Dunk knew, puttering amongst the chests and barrels.
Half the banners were mildewed, and all were badly faded and covered with dust, their once bright colors gone to gray and green ….
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In his youth, Ser Eustace Osgrey must have been the very picture of chivalry, tall and broad and handsome. Time and grief had worked their will on him, but he was still unbent, a big-boned, broad-shouldered, barrel-chested man with features as strong and sharp as some old eagle. His close-cropped hair had gone white as milk, but the thick mustache that hid his mouth remained an ashy gray.
His eyebrows were the same color, the eyes beneath a paler shade of gray, and full of sadness. A grey king with milk-white hair, grey beard, and sad grey eyes haunting a room gone gray and green. Plus there are all the rumors of dark arts and poison going around about her, even some child sacrifice. Like Rohanne, this Lady of Harrenhal and last head of House Lothston has a lot of spooky tales told about her by the smallfolk:. Stories that maligned her even made their way into the history books of Westeros, albeit sans flesh-eating and child-cooking:.
Newly wed to the Lady Falena Stokeworth, following the scandal of her relations with Prince Aegon, the future Aegon the Unworthy, Lothston soon departed court with his bride. Their line was ended in madness and chaos when Lady Danelle Lothston turned to the black arts during the reign of King Maekar I. Like Rohanne, heir to house Lothston Danelle was accused of dark arts and witchcraft, including the murder of children. Unlike with Rohanne, we have no context for understanding why such accusations spread. Danelle lacks the male relative as a usurper component of the Amethyst Empress archetype, but she is a female heir whose reign ends with the usurpation of her house by the king.
We have no evidence that they knew each other closely, but she is one of the lords to support Bloodraven in the Second Blackfyre Rebellion. Mad Danelle Lothston herself rode forth in strength from her haunted towers at Harrenhal, clad in black armor that fit her like an iron glove, her long red hair streaming.
And, she has long, streaming red hair like the red-headed moon maidens Catelyn, Sansa, and Ygritte as well as like the streaming red tail of the Lightbringer comet. This raises the possibility that Bloodraven and Danelle could have been cozy at some point. The Westerosi have strong superstitions about people who are claimed to practice the black arts, most of whom are women, so once Bloodraven fell out of favor, anyone with similar ties to the black arts could have come under more intense scrutiny.
Or it could just be that the Targaryen king used the accusations of black arts and witchcraft to depose her and put someone with less reason to potentially rebel against his rule in her place. Suffice to say, the Lothstons had no reason to love the Targaryens and despite assisting Bloodraven in the Second Blackfyre Rebellion, they could very well have changed sides or harbored resentment toward the Targaryens for the disease and humiliation of their ancestors.
In the end, all we know is Danelle was deposed and a family that had formerly served the Lothstons were installed in her place as lords of Harrenhal. A red-haired woman who bathes in blood, eats human flesh, and cooks children carried to her by bats. A red-haired woman who murdered four husbands and offered her children to the Lord of Seven Hells to learn dark arts.
And yes, you are correct! Give yourselves a pat on the back. It is important to note how much the Nissa Nissa and Amethyst Empress archetypes overlap. So what about those women we do see wielding authority in Westeros? Great question! Young childless widows who are still fertile, especially those with pollical value like Margaery Tyrell or Jeyne Westerling, are highly encouraged to remarry to secure a new political connection for their families. Yet, she is still fertile and could produce children that would further solidify such connections, so Tywin schemes away.
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Older childless widows such as the Lady Donella Hornwood also face pressure to marry. After the death of her husband and son, Lady Hornwood is not allowed to continue ruling in their stead. In fact, her existence as a childless widow threatens the peace of the North, with houses from all over vying to marry her. Not that she herself matters, though Rodrik Cassel does point out she is comely for a woman past childbearing years.
No, the Umbers, Manderlys, Tallharts, Karstarks, Flints, Glovers, and Boltons want her land , her seat, and the power that comes with it. She is but a means to the acquisition of power in various forms. Nowhere is it ever considered that she be allowed the rule. Barbray Dustin seems to be the exception that proves the rule in the current timeline.
A childless widow of Willam Dustin who rules in his name, she does not face the same slew of suitors vying to control her body and lands the way Lady Hornwood does.
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There are no other male heirs of House Dustin that we know of. Yet unlike, Lady Hornwood, Barbray Dustin has not had to remarry, and the why is never explicated on page. It may be that Deepwood Motte is a less desirable position than Lord of the Hornwood.
It may also be that her connection to the Starks and Boltons, as well as her forceful personality, prevented any claim being pressed too much. Maege Mormont seems another exception, as she, too, rules without contest from Bear Isle after her brother Jeor is sent to the wall and her nephew Jorah exiled.
With no other male capable of inheriting, no husband, and a single mother of three daughters, there is literally no one to contest her rule. Or it may also be that in the North, where they are in closer contact with Wildlings and their spearwives and less beholden to the Faith of the Seven, which seems to have a more diminished role for women in general, a woman ruling a house with no other male heirs need not remarry.
Were it peacetime rather than war with all its tensions, perhaps Lady Hornwood and her land would not have been fought over so much. Who knows? In the Reach, Arwen Oakheart currently rules House Oakheart even with a dead husband and several living sons. While Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell may not be the titular head of House Tyrell, despite what the television show presented, she is the more intelligent and capable of the two. She also appears to be more of the mastermind behind the purple wedding, though how much was her idea and within her control is still up for debate.
Yet even if we give her more power than, say Littlefinger, in the events that unfolded, behind the scenes control is not the same as being recognized as a ruler in her own right. Anya Waynewood in the Veil not only presides over House Waynewood after the death of her husband yet with three living sons, she is also the Lord Declarant and warden of Harry the Heir. Here we find what may truly be an exception to the Westerosi tradition of disempowering female heirs.
The Amethyst Empress was an heir by birth, not by marriage. Alright, so after all this what do we have? What conclusions can we make about female heirs and rulers in Westeros outside of Dorne. Well, of the handful of women we do see in seats of power, most are primarily widows of House Lords rather than heirs of their own houses. For the most part women are, with very, very few exceptions, not allowed to inherit the rule of their family of birth, including in the royal family.
Those who do inherit from their family of birth are often unfairly maligned by society and history, accused of dealing in the dark arts and perpetrating violent, bloody crimes, and eventually see their lands and seat ruled by men.
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Which brings us to the final thing of note: for both women who rule in place of a dead husband and those very few who inherited rule from their father, they only rule in absence of a husband or brother. Male children may be present, but never a brother or husband. Given that the Amethyst Empress was usurped by her younger brother—who may also have been her husband, more on this later—I find this consistent detail, shall we say…interesting. Why is this significant for our understanding of the Amethyst Empress? That women rarely inherit from their family of birth in Westeros outside of Dorne is symbolically and thematically interesting for our understanding of what Martin is doing.
But Westeros is still our primary lens, so when we see Westerosi culture embodying a cultural perspective or system the rest of Planetos does not share, we should sit up and pay attention. In this case, we know that not all of the societies of Planetos, whether historical or outside of Westeros, abide by a system that regularly disempowers female heirs.
The Fisher Queens of Essos ruled the lands adjacent to the Silver Sea from a floating palace that made its way around the shores. In The World of Ice and Fire it is said,. The Fisher Queens were wise and benevolent and favored of the gods, we are told, and kings and lords and wise men sought the floating palace for their counsel.