I recently read an article on Buzzfeed that reimagined the events of season one of [Game of Thrones](tag:817617) as if Westeros was a matriarchal society.
It was a great idea and I thoroughly enjoyed bits and pieces of it (especially Joffrey's fate), but maybe we should take another look at how this would actually alter the lines of succession of the families we know and love.
First of all, tip of the hat to the writer of the original post because it's true that if Lyanna Stark's agency had been respected, then Robert's Rebellion probably wouldn't have happened.
Not to mention, "Mad" King Aerys would be delegated to Queen Rhaella's consort. So even if he were still confined as a hostage during the Defiance of Duskendale, Aerys's grasp on reality would not have had as much of an influence on the governance of the realm. Lord Rickard Stark, Brandon Stark (his heir in the patriarchal version), and countless others would have been spared from being tortured and killed by wildfire.
Basically, no one would have had a valid reason to overthrow the Targaryen dynasty if Westeros had been written as a matriarchy. Prince Rhaegar and Princess Elia's daughter Rhaenys would have been heir to the Iron Throne until the birth of her aunt Daenerys. The real Prince Aegon probably would have been married off to Dany at the first chance (Dornish blood = a welcome change to the gene pool). Dany and Viserys would have spent their childhood surrounded by a loving family instead of running around the Free Cities. Robert Baratheon would (probably, but more on this later) be the Lord of Storms End (since he has no sisters). Brandon Stark would be heir to Winterfell after his younger sister Lyanna. And everyone would be much happier in the long run.
So now that we've covered Robert's Rebellion and who sits the Iron Throne, let's cover the bases of this little fantasy geographically.
Since The World of Ice and Fire confirmed that Brandon, Ned, Lyanna, and Benjen Stark were all products of a marriage between Rodrik Stark and a distant cousin Lyarra Stark, Lyanna would absolutely be heir to Winterfell since she is Stark on both sides.
Even in a matriarchal society, it is hard to say whether or not a polyamorous situation between Rhaegar, Elia Martell, and Lyanna Stark would have been recognized. Polygamy would have almost certainly been unheard of. In this society, even the story of Aegon the Conqueror (who had two sister-wives) would have played out ( or at least told) very differently so there would not be the precedent for it. I highly doubt that Rhaegar would have had the political capital in the matriarchal version of this world to pull off having two legitimate wives (I highly doubt he did in the original either, but I digress).
So what does this mean for the fate of Winterfell?
If R + L = J is true, and if Lyanna had not had to be whisked away from proper medical care during her (not technically confirmed) pregnancy, then maybe maybe as the nephew of the future queen, Jon Snow could have been legitimized as the heir to Winterfell. As a bastard, he would still be last in line should Lyanna have lived long enough to marry and have legitimate children, BUT he would have still grown up with the recognition as a Stark that he continues to crave and grapple with in the series. Also, as a male born of a second wife of a Targaryen Prince that would be unlikely to inherit, Jon Snow/Stark probably would not be seen as a legitimate contender for the Iron Throne which would crush many a reader's hopes and dreams. Unless, of course, he was betrothed to Rhaenys which would make him Queen's Consort should anything happen to Dany in this AU.
If R + L Ã¢ÂÂ J, then Lyanna would probably have married to keep the Stark line going and any potential children she had would proceed those of her brothers in the order of succession. Jon Snow might be sent to Dorne as the heir to Starfall through Ashara or just grow up a peasant boy with his mother's (probably Wylla's) family.
THE IRON ISLANDS
Although a certain King Henry VIII would have done anything to be able to produce boys like the Greyjoys, in this world, it wouldn't be ideal.
Balon Greyjoy would (probably) still be Lord of the Iron Islands as the eldest of five, but the loss of his two eldest sons during the Greyjoy Rebellion (which still could conceivably have happened in this scenario) and the removal of his youngest to Winterfell would not have dealt such a crushing blow. Granted, Asha (or whatever they renamed her on the show) probably would have been the one taken as hostage as the true heir, but since there are a lot of "ifs" involved let's just simplify and say that the Starks of Winterfell still took Theon.
Not only would Asha be first in line to inherit Pyke, but she would also be the heir to Harlaw (her "Nuncle" Rodrik the Reader's seat in the books) through her mother. She would undoubtedly be the most powerful and influential person in the Iron Islands and would have no problem mustering the troops needed to expel her Uncle Euron "Crow's Eye" for a second time (for his violence towards women, of course).
Can you say Queensmoot?
The situation in the Vale would, interestingly enough, indirectly affect the entire storyline.
Jon Arryn would not be Lord of the Vale in a matriarchal Westeros. "Harry the Heir" from the books would actually displace Jon Arryn because Jon's right comes through the male line while Harold Hardying's comes through the female.
If you follow this line of thinking, Jon probably would not have fostered young Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark in the Eyrie which means that the two would not have become such good friends. Coupled with the unlikelihood of Robert's Rebellion gaining any traction in matriarchal Westeros, the change in Jon Arryn's situation throws out half of the set-up for the first book. Without Robert as ruling as King and honoring his foster father Jon Arryn with the title of Hand of the King, there would be no discovery of Cersei and Jaime's incest, no poison, no Littlefinger/Lysa Arryn scheming, no Ned going to King's Landing, and certainly no Sean Bean beheading.
Overall, even though the Vale remained neutral throughout the War of the Five Kings, it is integral to the creation of the chaos that surrounds it. And where's the fun without a little chaos?
Catelyn really had to make things complicated.
As far as I can tell, the Tully brothers Hoster and Brynden "The Blackfish" didn't have any sisters, so the line for Riverrun would go through Hoster to his daughters.
However, like with Asha Greyjoy, Catelyn would most likely have to juggle the inheritance of two castles.
Catelyn's mother was a Whent. At the time of the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, Harenhall is lorded over by Lady Shella Whent who has no heirs to succeed her. Although it is unclear how Minisa Whent fit into the family tree, under normal circumstances Lady Shella's death would have either placed Catelyn as the heir to Harrenhall or one of the two Whent women that married into the Freys. Since one of them died without issue from the ever-fertile Lord Frey and the other still has yet to have a child live past infancy (not to mention the fact that no one likes Freys), Catelyn seems to be the most likely contender. She would be the perfect heir to a dying house with two trueborn daughters, three sons, and plenty of childbearing years left ahead of her.
Granted, I am assuming that she still marries Ned instead of Brandon just because. I mean, we can't let a silly little thing like a shift from a patriarchal to a matriarchal society destroy one of the most memorable families of modern literature (imho), can we?
Keep in mind, though, that their lives would be completely different. The "Stark" children would only visit Winterfell and would probably never feel at home there. The "Tully Look" in Robb, Sansa, Bran, and Rickon would be greatly prized as ensuring the continuation of the line in Riverrun instead of as a fluke. Sansa would be heir to Riverrun and the future Lady of the Trident. Arya might even be named as the heir to Harrenhall and serve as Sansa's bannerman (oh, how she would hate that) which would be incredibly ironic considering Arya's time as a servant/hostage there in the books. Bran would be thrilled to climb the monstrosity that is Harrenhall. The children would most likely not be raised with Theon or Jon Snow. Their warging/greensight abilities would be less likely to show up so far south and they wouldn't find as much symbolism in the appearance of a few orphaned direwolves (and it would be a little harder to rationalize keeping trouts or bats for pets).
Even only going this far south down the map proves that the events of ASOIAF would be vastly different in this AU because the consolidation of power would completely change how the characters would interact with the world around them.
I think it goes without saying that Cersei would be the heir to Casterly Rock. She, like Lyanna, isn't the product of outbreeding so Cersei is Lannister on both sides (unless of course you subscribe to a certain theory which really wouldn't be able to be proven in this case either).
Cersei wouldn't have felt threatened by the different expectations placed upon herself and her twin based on gender because, deep down, she really is a selfish person. Coming out on top of the food chain might have actually improved her personality because she would not have felt cheated her whole life. Also, her power-hungry father would not have married her off to Robert just for the prospect of a grandchild on the Iron Throne. In fact, had she married anyone else, it is entirely possible that Cersei wouldn't have felt the need to turn to Jaime for sexual fulfillment. I think everyone would agree with me in saying that a world without Joffrey would be a much, much better world.
She would be one of the wealthiest and most powerful women in Westeros in her own right, but would that really be enough for Cersei?
Robert Baratheon's hold on Storms End in this AU would be tenuous at best. Yes, he lacks sisters, but a notorious womanizer would not be held in high regard in a matrilineal and matriarchal society.
Robert would also be the heir to House Estermont through his mother (only girl in her line) so once again we have a character who would magically become their own liege lord (like Asha and Catelyn). It's probable that he would marry the widowed Estermont cousin that Cersei mentions that he slept with in Feast for Crows to cement his hold on the Estermont lands, but there is no way to be sure.
Another questionable aspect of the Baratheon lineage is that, since his paternal grandmother was a Targaryen, the Robert Baratheon that we know would probably have been known as Robert Targaryen and would be very distantly in line for the Iron Throne. Yes, he did use this relationship to help legitimize his claim to the throne in the books, but can you just imagine Robert, still fuming over Lyanna's "betrayal", cursing his own family name? Holy irony, Batman!
Now right here, right in this spot on the map is exactly where I lose any idea of who would be where.
For the Tyrells, I went a few more generations back than on the other characters because Lady Oleanna is still alive during the events of the series.
So in the books, Lady Olenna claims to have done everything in her power to evade her betrothal to Prince Daeron Targaryen (who might have been homosexual) and instead marry Luthor Tyrell, heir to Highgarden. This could be consistent in our little alternate matriarchal universe so I'm going to keep it.
Luthor had no sisters so their children together would be both the heirs to Highgarden and House Redwyne. Their eldest daughter, Mina, married a Redwyne (consolidating her hold on the Arbor wouldn't make as much sense as my imaginary match for Robert with House Estermont because, as a female heir, there is no real question of her right to rule as lady). Mina has three children. Her heir (and the subsequent heir to both Highgarden and the Arbor) is another character we haven't met in the books yet, Desmera Redwyne. In line after Desmera would be two characters that we have met in the books though, Horas and Hobber. Yeah, that's right. "Horror" and "Slobber" would be in line ahead of all of the Tyrells for Highgarden. Loras and Margaery would be relegated from third and fourth in line for Highgarden to almost completely out of the running because after Mina and her children is still Olenna's other daughter, Janna, who married into the green-apple Fossaways.
Mace Tyrell's wife, Alerie would probably be the next in line to lead House Hightower. Alerie does have an older sister, but since her sister's nickname is "The Mad Maid", it is doubtful that she would be allowed to inherit. That puts Margaery directly in line to lord over Oldtown.
And yet Margaery's situation is complicated further by the fact that her maternal grandmother was a Florent (like Selyse). She would be behind all of House Tarly in the line of succession, but Margaery would still be a contender.
Just as a quick summary, three-time Queen Margaery Tyrell would instead probably quarter her coat of arms in this world because (should all of her distant family members fall dead at the same time) she could possibly stand to inherit Highgarden (Tyrell rose), the Arbor (Redwyne grapes), Oldtown (Hightower tower), as well as Brightwater Keep (Florent Fox).
Whew! How in the seven hells do actual nobility keep up with all of this crap?
YAY FOR MOVING ON!
Since I am the one making all of the decisions here (and since I am exhausted by the Margaery question), I say that Dorne gets to stay exactly the same.
Dorne is easily the coolest because their system of inheritance is not based upon gender at all, but rather simple birth order.
Arianne Martell would still be the heir and could still be set to marry her aunt's brother-in-law, Prince Viserys. Due to his upbringing in a safe, loving environment, Viserys would most likely not be the paranoid, abusive boy we met in the books so the two might have a chance at happiness. Prince Viserys might even be sent to foster at Sunspear and get to watch his little sister Dany splash and play with his nephew and niece in the Water Gardens on their visits.
ACROSS THE NARROW SEA
I just wanted to briefly mention that, if the Aegon we meet in A Dance of Dragons is really fAegon and a Blackfyre, then it is through the female line. Basically, in a matriarchal Westeros, fAegon would have a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than his book canon counterpart. Illyrio would be able to raise him openly as his son without diminishing fAegon's claim.
However, if not, he is safely in Westeros with his Targaryen family.
AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO:
Basically, no one would be in the same places and have the same allegiances as their book counterparts if Westeros were matriarchal.
I felt that the changes were so significant that I wanted to put my own two cents in regarding the Buzzfeed article that inexplicably doesn't account for them. As fun as that version was, I just wanted a more realistic look at how this might change some of the major characters' lives for better or worse.
All in all, this would not have been as well thought out without the invaluable resources of A Wiki of Ice and Fire.
Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below!