• Mattie Stu

Game of Thrones Lore - House Martell

(Contains season 6 spoilers)

House Martell was one of the Great Houses of Westeros, and was ruled in Dorne from the Sunspear castle. Though the Martells were loyal to the Iron Throne, they were not conquered by the Targaryens and pursued a more isolated role in wider politics following Robert’s Rebellion. The House’s sigil was a combination of a yellow spear and a red sun, symbolising the marriage of the warrior-queen Princess Nymeria to Mors Martell. Unlike the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, and like their Rhoynar ancestors, the eldest child of Dornish noble Houses became the heir regardless of their gender. Whilst many of the Martells were hot-tempered, they were a close-knit and loving family, undivided by internal rivalries like those in Houses Lannister and Baratheon. The motto of the House was "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"​. However, following the assassinations of Prince Doran Martell and his only heir, Prince Trystane, House Martell became legally extinct…

The birth of House Martell came about when Rhoynar refugees migrated across the Narrow Sea to flee conquest by the Valyrian Freehold in Essos. Led by their warrior-queen Nymeria, she wed Mors Martell, combining both of their forces. With their combined strength, they conquered and unified the entirety of Dorne, which had been long divided by petty squabbling kings of the First Men and Andals. As a symbol of their unity, the yellow spear sigil of Mors Martell was merged with the red sun sigil of Nymeria, creating the instantly recognisable logo House Martell used ever since. Just like their Rhoynar ancestors, House Martell labelled their rulers as “Princes” instead of “Kings”. Referring to their history, in which, unlike the other Great Houses, they had never been conquered by outsiders, the Martell words read "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken".

Three centuries before the War of the Five Kings, Dorne was the only region of the Seven Kingdoms to successfully resist the Targaryens and their dragons during the Targaryen Conquest. They done so by learning from the mistakes made by other Houses. Rather than meet their large army with the opposing dragons or hide in their castles, the Martells equipped guerrilla warfare, ambushing Targaryen soldiers and harassing their supply lines as soon as their dragons were out of sight, then disappeared back into the harsh deserts when the dragons returned. The heat of Dorne’s deserts also played into the Martell’s favour since Dorne’s arid climate could not easily welcome large invading armies. After losing too many men to the Martell’s tactics, Aegon Targaryen decided to withdraw from Dorne, focussing on reining the other six conquered kingdoms instead.

House Martell and Dorne were never successfully conquered. Over 150 years after the Targaryen Conquest, they were invaded by the young dragon, King Daeron I Targaryen. As a military genius, his conquest of Dorne succeeded – on the battlefield. A four year long Dornish insurgency followed the initial conquest, in which occupying troops were once more bled through ambush and guerrilla tactics. When the steward that Daeron placed in charge of Dorne, Lyonel Tyrell, was assassinated, all of Dorne rose up in open rebellion. The young dragon was even killed himself, allowing House Martell to regain control of Dorne. A few decades later, Dorne eventually united with the Iron Throne when King Daeron II the Good married the sister of the Prince of Dorne, and the Prince of Dorne married Daeron II’s sister. Due to the special, semi-autonomous status, Dorne was able to retain several special privileges, such as the Martells continued use of the titles “Prince” and “Princess” rather than “Lord Paramount”. However, the alliance caused several political tensions at the royal court between Daeron II's pro-Martell faction and anti-Martell lords, which led to the Blackfyre Rebellion.

Generations later, King Aerys II Targaryen had no daughter, so he sought a suitable wife for his son, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. The Mad King snubbed the offer of his trusty and dutiful Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister, to marry his young daughter Cersei. Instead, Elia Martell was selected to marry Rhaegar. Together, the two produced two children, but they all were unfortunately killed as a result of the Tywin led Lannister men in the Sack of King's Landing, during Robert’s Rebellion. Although peace was restored soon after, Elia’s brothers Doran and Oberyn, were outraged by the act, leading to the Martells withdrawal from interacting with the royal court. During King Robert Baratheon’s subsequent reign, the Martells and Dorne were both rarely if ever mentioned at court, except for their Dornish wine that is.

Although the Martells grew to loathe the Lannisters as a result of Elia’s rape and death. Tywin Lannister planned to marry Myrcella Baratheon to Prince Trystane Martell of Dorne to sway the Dornish from siding with their enemies in the War of the Five Kings, and to ensure the survival of a Baratheon/Lannister heir in case King’s Landing fell. Not long after Myrcella arrived in Dorne, Prince Oberyn Martell departed to King’s Landing in place of his brother to attend the royal wedding between King Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. However, he held Tywin Lannister personally responsible for what happened to his sister and nephews, and possessed ulterior motives to just attending the wedding. When Tyrion Lannister was blamed for Joffrey’s poisoning at the royal wedding, Oberyn volunteered to be Tyrion’s champion in his trial by combat. Against the massive Gregor Clegane, who was rightfully renown as “the Mountain”, Oberyn used his speed and agility to outmanoeuvre and subdue his opponent. But when the Prince let his guard down, Gregor overpowered him and crushed Oberyn’s skull with his bare hands. Following Oberyn’s death, outrage swept the Dornish population. Among those calling for revenge was Oberyn’s lover, Ellaria Sand, and his bastard daughters, the Sand Snakes. As a result, they aimed to wage war against the Lannisters, using Myrcella to their advantage. However, Prince Doran refused such an action. Although he tried his best to secure Myrcella’s safety, Doran could not prevent Ellaria from secretly poisoning her. Not long after, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes murdered Prince Doran and Trystane Martell for being weak and not avenging Oberyn’s death. With their deaths, House Martell became legally extinct…

Now it’s time for this week’s question: was Prince Doran right to not exact revenge for the death of his brother, Oberyn? Let me know in the comments below.

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