Game of Thrones: Why Was Cersei the Only Lady to Keep Her Last Name?

Game of Thrones: Why Was Cersei the Only Lady to Keep Her Last Name?
Image credit: HBO

You’ve likely noticed that in Game of Thrones, most ladies took their husbands’ last names. How was Cersei Lannister allowed to keep her while everyone else wasn’t?


  • Most ladies in Westeros changed their last names to their husbands’ after marriage, symbolizing their becoming part of his family.
  • However, Cersei Lannister and Margaery Tyrell never changed their names despite being married to powerful lords.
  • That was because their husbands were Kings, and law states that one can’t marry into the King’s name — so they kept their nee last names.

Game of Thrones throws its audience into the dangerous world of medieval power struggle; and while swords and fire are effective at waging wars, only political moves can prevent them. Lords and ladies of Westeros have been making political marriages for countless centuries, securing alliances and realm peace that way — and just like in the real world, those marriages rarely benefitted the wife.

After marrying a lord, a lady lost her home, family, and even her last name… Except that didn’t happen to every lady. How was Cersei Lannister different from the rest?

Not All Marriages Are Deemed Equal

In the vast majority of cases, a husband’s last name takes over after marriage. Catelyn Tully became Stark after marrying Lord Eddard; her sister Lysa became Arryn after marrying Lord Jon; and so on, and so forth. But there’s one and only case where that doesn’t happen, and we’ve seen it quite a lot on the show, actually.

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The last name rule doesn’t apply to royal marriages.

You can marry into the royal family, but you can’t marry into the royal name. Cersei Lannister kept her last name because he married the King of the Seven Kingdoms, Robert Baratheon. The same happened with Margaery Tyrell who, despite marrying three Baratheons in a row — Renly, Joffrey, and Tommen — never becomes a Baratheon herself. Kings and queens follow different rules, you see.

This Rule Existed in Real World, Too

When writing A Song of Ice and Fire, George Martin largely drew inspiration from the real world — namely, from Medieval England. If we were to go cherry-picking at the series, the entirety of Westeros was one huge Medieval England with varying climate; many historical events there mirror those that happened in the real world.

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The Westerosi law was rooted there, too.

In England, the “can’t marry into the royal family” rule has always been active and remains to this day. None of Henry VIII’s six wives changed their last names to Tudor. None of the modern princes’ wives have become Windsor after marriage, either: Diana Spencer, Kate Middleton, and Megan Markle all kept their nee names.