Rickard Karstark

In Game of Thrones, Lord Rickard Karstark is the Lord of Karhold and head of House Karstark, a cadet branch of House Stark.

The Definitive Glossary for Game of Thrones

As one of the principal bannermen of the Starks, Lord Rickard Karstark was crucial in the events after the death of Lord Eddard Stark. Though Rickard believed in Robb Stark’s cause against the Lannisters, he got angry at the decision made by Catelyn Stark; this led to him committing murder and getting killed. After his death, House Karstark abandoned the Starks to their fate. Though he fathered four children, Rickard lost his sons to the War of the Five Kings.

Rickard Karstark Personal Details

  • Name: Rickard Karstark.
  • Title: Lord of Karhold.
  • Allegiance: House Karstark and House Stark of Winterfell.
  • Year of Death: 299 AC in Riverrun.
  • Culture: Northmen.
  • Religion: Old Gods of the Forest.
  • Children: Harrion Karstark, Eddard Karstark, Torrhen Karstark, Alys Karstark.

Appearance and Personality

Lord Rickard is a tall haggard-looking man with a grey beard and long hair flowing to his shoulders. His narrow face heightens his gauntness and gives him a stern demeanor. To match his looks, Rickard is a fierce warrior who believes in revenge. He wields a lance and wears a black woolen surcoat with an emblem of the Karstarks sunburst.


Lord Rickard Karstark was born in Karhold and named after the Lord of Winterfell, Lord Rickard Stark. When the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, killed Rickard and Brandon Stark and demanded the heads of Eddard and Robert Baratheon, the North rebelled against the Iron Throne. During Robert’s Rebellion, Rickard Karstark fought for Lord Eddard and was present during the Battle of the Trident. After the battle, he took his daughter, Alys, and tried making her charm Robb Stark in hopes of securing a wedding alliance.

Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire

A Game of Thrones

When Eddard Stark gets arrested by Cersei Lannister, Robb calls his banners to war. Lord Rickard answers the call and arrives with his three sons. He then travels to Moat Cailin and occupies the Drunken Tower. To destroy Tywin Lannister’s forces, Robb splits his army into two and hands command of one-half to Lord Roose Bolton.

Roose later retreats after losing at the Battle of the Green Fork. Rickard stays with Robb and partakes in the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Though Robb wins the battle, Rickard’s children, Torrhen and Eddard, get killed by Ser Jaime Lannister.

When Robb Stark wins the Battle of the Camps and frees Riverrun from its attackers, Rickard prays in the godswood of Riverrun. Robb holds a war council to decide on the manner of attack against the Lannisters. In the great hall of Riverrun, Rickard objects to Robb’s proposal to trade Jaime for Lord Ned Stark, Arya, and Sansa. When King Joffrey Baratheon sentences Ned to death, Rickard swears fealty to Robb after Lord Greatjon Umber declares him King in the North.

A Clash of Kings

After Robb becomes King in the North, he tries negotiating with other Kings, but they get rejected. Rickard accompanies him on campaigns in the Westerlands. During the Battle of Oxcross, he kills Ser Stafford Lannister and then heads with Galbart Glover to the coasts of the westerlands to raid the region.

A Storm of Swords

After Catelyn learns of Theon’s betrayal, the death of her sons Bran and Rickon, and the capture of Winterfell by Ramsay Snow, she frees Jaime from captivity. Brienne of Tarth gets tasked with taking him to King’s Landing in exchange for her captive daughters Arya and Sansa.

When Lord Karstark learns of what Catelyn did, he gets overwhelmed with grief and vengeance and sends a Karstark horse from Riverrun, promising Alys’s hand in marriage to anyone that can recover Jaime. He then leads some of his men to murder two guards, Willem Lannister and Tion Frey, captives from the Battle of the Whispering Woods, in their prison cell.

When Robb learns of what he did, he declares Rickard a traitor against the advice of many who beckons him to send the Lord of Karhold to Castle Black of the Night’s Watch. For treason, Robb sentences Rickard to death.

With Lord Rickard’s execution, the Karstarks, a significant portion of Robb’s army, abandon him. On his last breath, Rickard declares Robb a kinslayer as they share the blood of the First Men. Later, Vargo Hoat, leader of the Brave Companions, captures Jaime and cuts off his sword hand. He then takes him to Harrenhal, where Roose frees him and sends him back to his father, who is in King’s Landing after defeating Stannis Baratheon.

With the Boltons and Lord Walder Frey believing the North is a lost cause, they betray Robb at the Twins and kill him in the event known as the Red Wedding. With Rickard’s death and the Northern cause weakened, Roose becomes Warden of the North. The Iron Throne keeps Harrion Karstark hostage.

A Dance with Dragons

With Harrion held hostage, Arnolf tries to claim Karhold by marrying Rickard’s daughter Alys to his son Cregan. However, Alys runs away and reaches Castle Black, where she meets Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon marries her to Sigorn to adopt the free folk into Westerosi society.

Appearance in Adaptation

In HBO’s hit tv series Game of Thrones, Rickard got portrayed by Steven Blount and John Stahl. They appeared in seasons 1, 2, and 3 and starred in 6 episodes. There are some differences between the books and the show. In the series, Rickard had three sons: Harrion Karstark, Torrhen Karstark, and Harald Karstark, and a granddaughter Alys. His son Torrhen gets killed during Jaime’s escape attempt. When he asks for Jaime’s execution because of the murder of his son, he gets rebuffed; this makes him lose faith in Robb.

When Catelyn frees Jaime, Rickard declares a reward for Jaime’s recapture. He and his men enter the dungeons of Riverrun and kill some of Robb’s hostages.

Rickard Karstark: The Mighty Warrior

Though he was a vengeful man, Rickard served the Starks faithfully. However, he could not remain loyal as the grief of losing his children led him to take drastic measures. Robb Stark though a great commander, lost because he failed to realize that Rickard’s faith in his cause was gone. Robb killing the Lord of Karhold sealed his fate and led to his ultimate defeat.


Why did Rickard Karstark kill Robb’s prisoners?

Rickard was a vengeful man who held on to grudges. However, his actions were natural. When Catelyn learned that her sons Bran and Rickon got killed in the Sack of Winterfell, she freed Jaime and asked Brienne to take him to King’s Landing. As Jaime killed Rickard’s sons, he was angry at Catelyn’s actions; this caused him to kill two of Robb’s hostages.

Are the Karstarks related to the Starks?

Yes. House Karstark is related to House Stark because it got created by Karlon Stark. When Robb sentenced Rickard to death, the Lord of Karhold called him a kinslayer because they shared the same blood.

Was Rickard right to have killed Willem Lannister?

No. Though Rickard sons death led to anger, his killing Willem was a terrible move. It had no impact, as Willem was Kevan’s son. If he had killed Jaime Lannister, that would have been better.

What happened after Rickard’s death?

After Rickard’s death, House Karstark abandoned Robb Stark’s cause; this led to the loss of faith in his command and betrayal. If Robb had not killed Rickard, he might have had a better shot at winning.

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