House of the Dragon: What Rickard Stark Means for the Game of Thrones Spinoff
Interestingly, though this character is definitively called “Rickard” in House of the Dragon, in Martin’s Westerosi history his closest analogue is called “Rickon.” It’s likely that the series’ writers opted to change his name to Rickard to avoid confusion with the youngest of Ned’s children in Game of Thrones called Rickon. Most viewers would be more familiar with that name than Ned’s father, Rickard.
Whatever he’s called, this Rickard Stark in House of the Dragon fulfills the same role that just about every Stark did before Ned rode south in Game of Thrones: he’s the Lord of Winterfell, and Warden of the North. Lords of Winterfell very rarely leave the confines of The North. The region they govern is geographically massive and quite different culturally from the rest of the realm to the south. If a Stark Lord is to visit King’s Landing, he’ll need a very compelling reason to do so.
And yet, here in this trailer we see Lord Rickard in the Iron Throne room alongside fellow major lords like Corlys Velaryon of Driftmark and Boremund Baratheon of Storm’s End. So what brought Rickard down to the political pit of vipers that is the Red Keep? Simply put: succession. This House of the Dragon trailer, and Lord Rickard Stark’s involvement in it, sets up a hugely important political event that will eventually lead to one of the most destructive wars in Westeros’s history.
Have you ever wondered why most of the dynasties in the Game of Thrones world operate under a primogeniture model of succession in which male descendents always take precedence over female? Maybe not, as even in our own Western world, primogeniture was the de facto law of the land in many areas for a long time. But did anybody in the Game of Thrones universe ever get together to hash things out and establish male heirs as the realm’s stated preference? Well, it turns out they did!
Well before the events of Game of Thrones and even before the events of House of the Dragon, King Jaehaerys I assembled a Great Council of Westerosi Lords to figure out who should succeed him on the Iron Throne. Jaehaerys was a great, much loved monarch, but his family tree was a bit of a mess after several of his chosen successors died prematurely. Ultimately The Great Council decided that the element most important to them in a successor was to maintain primogeniture. Therefore Jaehaerys I’s grandson Viserys was selected as heir and indeed ascended to the throne after Jaehaerys’s death.
How did the now King Viserys I respect his supporters’ desire to maintain primogeniture? By naming his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir, of course. And that is the moment we see in this House of the Dragon trailer. Rickard Stark, Corlys Velaryon, and Boremund Baratheon all promise to be faithful to King Viserys AND to his named heir Princess Rhaenyra.