Eddard is the head of House Stark and Lord Paramount of the North. He is a dedicated husband and father, a loyal friend and an honourable lord. Eddard becomes Hand of the King to his lifelong friend, Robert Baratheon, when the previous hand dies in suspicious circumstances. He follows his predecessor's footsteps and uncovers an incestuous relationship between Queen, Cersei Lannister, and her brother, Ser Jaime Lannister. Robert dies after being injured while hunting and Eddard challenges the legitimacy of his successor, Joffrey Baratheon, but is betrayed by his political allies and arrested for treason. He confesses to the crime to protect his family, but is nevertheless executed due to Joffrey's impulsive sadism. The conflict between House Stark and House Lannister sets the stage for the War of the Five Kings.
Eddard Stark is the head of House Stark and Lord Paramount of the North. The North is one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Stark is one of the Great Houses of the realm. House Stark rule the region from their seat of Winterfell and Eddard also holds the title Lord of Winterfell. In addition, he is the Warden of the North.
Eddard is married to Lady Catelyn of House Tully. Though they barely knew one another when they wed they have formed a strong and loving marriage. They have five legitimate children: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon. Eddard also has an illegitimate bastard son, Jon Snow, reportedly by a common serving girl named Wylla. Jon's presence at Winterfell is a source of friction between Eddard and his wife.
Eddard is the second son of Lord Rickard Stark. Lord Rickard served King Aerys II Targaryen as Warden of the North. Eddard's older brother Brandon was Rickard's heir. Eddard also has a younger sister Lyanna and a younger brother Benjen. Eddard is a stoic, dutiful and honorable man and is considered to embody the values of the North.
Eddard is a trusted, close friend and counselor of King Robert Baratheon. He supported Robert's play for the throne by acting as a general in several major battles. Eddard's sister Lyanna, who was betrothed to Robert, was kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, sparking the war. Brandon protested the kidnapping but his attempt to bring Rhaegar to justice failed. Lord Rickard was summoned to court in King's Landing by Aerys and both Brandon and Rickard were executed by the Mad King. Their deaths left Eddard to inherit Rickard's responsibilities, serving King Robert instead. Brandon had been betrothed to Catelyn and Eddard also inherited his brother's bride. Lyanna died in Eddard's arms during the conflict. Eddard's other younger sibling, Benjen, still lives and is a member of the Night's Watch, an institution of which Eddard is a keen supporter. Eddard wields a Valyrian greatsword named Ice (an heirloom of House Stark) which he uses on ceremonial occasions.
Eddard Stark executes a deserter from the Night's Watch named Will. Will tries to warn Eddard about the return of the White Walkers, but Eddard dismisses him as a madman. Eddard's sons Robb, Bran and Jon accompany him to the execution. Eddard makes a point of telling Bran that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword and take responsibility for his own decisions.
On the way back to Winterfell, the party finds a dead stag and a dead female direwolf. The direwolf was survived by her litter of six pups. Eddard's first instinct is to kill them, but Jon argues that as the direwolf is the sigil of House Stark, this may be an omen. Eddard agrees to let his children look after them on the condition that they clean, raise and feed them with no help from the servants.
A raven bears news of the death of Jon Arryn, Eddard's childhood mentor, to Winterfell. The missive also states that King Robert and much of the royal court is on their way to the castle. Eddard realizes that Robert means to name him as Hand of the King to replace Jon. He ponders refusing, but when Robert arrives he makes it clear that he badly needs Eddard's help in King's Landing. He also sweetens the deal by offering to betrothe his son and heir Joffrey to Eddard's daughter Sansa. Eddard remains uncertain until a secret letter from Lysa Arryn, Catelyn's sister, implicates the Lannisters in the death of Jon Arryn. Eddard decides to accept to investigate both Jon's death and a potential plot against the king. He decides to bring both of his daughters to introduce them to the court.
Bran is found comatose at the base of a disused tower following an apparent climbing accident. Eddard reluctantly decides to leave as planned, to his wife's distress. Eddard, Arya, Sansa and the royal party head south to King's Landing. At their parting Eddard tells Jon that, though he does not have Eddard's name, he has his blood. He also promises Jon to tell him about his mother the next time they meet.
On the Kingsroad south to the capital, King Robert calls a halt to discuss troubling news from Essos. Robert's spies have learned of Daenerys Targaryen's marriage to Khal Drogo, whose khalasar is reported to number over one hundred thousand warriors. Eddard points out that the Dothraki cannot cross the Narrow Sea, as they have no ships, but Robert is concerned that the Seven Kingdoms will soon face another war. Robert also asks about, Wylla, the mother of Jon Snow, but Eddard quickly deflects the line of questioning.
Joffrey is mauled by Arya's direwolf Nymeria after he attacks Arya. Arya then forces Nymeria to flee and hides in the woods. Arya is found and Eddard is brought before the King and instructed to punish Arya. Joffrey lies about the cause of the incident and Sansa supports him, enraging Arya. Queen Cersei insists that a direwolf must be punished and Robert orders that Sansa's direwolf, Lady, must be killed in Nymeria's place. Eddard attends to the matter himself, to Sansa's anger.
On his arrival in King's Landing, Eddard is immediately summoned to a small council meeting and finds the capital immersed in political intrigue. Members of the King's small council are at the heart of these machinations: Petyr Baelish, the master of coin, known as Littlefinger; Varys, the master of whisperers; Pycelle, the Grand Maester; and Renly Baratheon, the master of laws and Robert's younger brother. Eddard learns that the crown is six million gold dragons in debt with half of it owed to Lord Tywin Lannister. Robert has ordered a lavish tournament to celebrate Eddard's appointment regardless. While acclimating to the political manoeuvring, Eddard also tries to repair the rift between Sansa and Arya, with mixed results. Sansa rejects his gifts, but Arya is delighted when he hires a swordmaster, Syrio Forel, to train her.
Littlefinger tells Eddard that Catelyn has followed him to the city. Eddard is furious when Littlefinger brings him to a brothel, believing he is being made to look a fool. Catelyn intervenes as Eddard attacks Littlefinger. She tells Eddard that she has traveled south to report that an assassination attempt against Bran. The assassin was killed but was carrying a Valyrian steel knife. Littlefinger identifies the blade as one that he lost in a bet with Tyrion Lannister and they conclude that the Lannisters were also behind Bran's original injuries. Eddard agrees to try to expose the truth and Catelyn urges him to trust Littlefinger, her childhood friend. Eddard reluctantly agrees, though he finds Littlefinger obnoxious and dishonorable.
Eddard's investigation reveals that Jon Arryn took an interest in Robert's numerous bastard children, including his son Gendry. He learns that Jon borrowed The Lineage and Histories of the Great Houses of the Seven Kingdoms from Pycelle. Eddard reads the book but cannot determine why Jon wanted it. Eddard discovers that soon after Jon's death his squire, Hugh, was knighted. Eddard sends the captain of his guards, Jory Cassel, to investigate but Hugh refuses to talk to Jory. Hugh is killed by Ser Gregor Clegane - a noted servant of Lord Tywin Lannister - in an apparent tourney mishap before Eddard can talk to him. As the tourney continues, Eddard discusses the death with Lord Commander Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard, one of the most decorated and honorable knights in Westeros. They cannot ascertain if Hugh was killed deliberately. Eddard convinces King Robert not to fight in the tourney, bluntly calling him too fat. Robert reluctantly agrees.
Yoren of the Night's Watch arrives in the city and tells Eddard that he witnessed Catelyn arresting Tyrion Lannister. This allows Eddard to claim that he ordered the arrest. Varys visits Eddard and warns him that there is a conspiracy, saying that Jon was poisoned and that King Robert may also be killed if Eddard cannot unearth and stop it
A rift is opened between Eddard and Robert when Eddard refuses to sanction the assassination of Daenerys. Eddard resigns as Hand and prepares to return to Winterfell. Littlefinger gives Eddard another lead, keeping him in the city. Eddard finds another of Robert's bastards, a baby girl named Barra in one of Littlefinger's brothels. As Eddard leaves the brothel, he is confronted by Ser Jaime Lannister over Tyrion's capture. Jaime kills Jory and Eddard's other bodyguards and engages Eddard in single combat. A Lannister guardsman interferes and stabs Eddard in the leg, angering Jaime. He tells Eddard that he wants his brother back and leaves.
An injured Eddard wakes up in the Red Keep to be confronted by Cersei and Robert about the fight with Jaime and the abduction of Tyrion by Catelyn. Cersei is enraged that Eddard will not be punished. Robert tells Eddard that he is like a brother, and he refuses to accept his resignation as Hand. Robert commands Eddard to take back the badge and to make peace with the Lannisters, as he will not risk another civil war. Eddard reluctantly agrees. Robert goes on a hunting expedition, and Eddard receives word that Ser Gregor Clegane is leading a series of pillaging raids on the Riverlands, possibly at Lord Tywin Lannister's command. Despite his order to make peace with the Lannisters, Eddard commands Lord Beric Dondarrion to carry out an order of execution on Gregor, whom he strips of all rank and title. Eddard also orders that Tywin present himself in the capital to explain his vassal's actions under penalty of being branded a traitor.
Despite being restored to the King's favor, Eddard worries that the situation may yet come to war. He orders Sansa and Arya to return to Winterfell. A chance comment by Sansa that golden-haired Joffrey is a lion, not a stag, and is "nothing like" his old drunk of a father, makes Eddard realize the truth. He consults The Lineage book and sees that in every match between a Baratheon and a member of another house, the Baratheon black hair always dominates. He realizes with shock that this means that Joffrey and the other royal children are not Robert's and have no claim to the Iron Throne.
Eddard confronts Cersei and warns her that he knows that her three children are the product of her incestuous relationship with Jaime. He warns her to flee into exile before Robert returns from his hunt, when he will tell Robert the truth. Robert is mortally wounded whilst on the hunt. Wishing him a peaceful death, Eddard withholds his discovery. Robert names Eddard Protector of the Realm, to rule until Joffrey comes of age. Eddard transcribes the command as referring to Robert's rightful heir, not mentioning Joffrey by name.
Eddard writes to Robert's brother and true heir, Stannis, urging him to take the crown. He dispatches his guardsman Tomard to deliver the letter. He tells Littlefinger the truth of the matter, but rejects Littlefinger's suggestion that they take advantage of the situation to increase their own power. Reluctantly, Littlefinger agrees to recruit the City Watch to Eddard's cause. Renly also offers Eddard the use of soldiers in securing Cersei and her children, but Eddard refuses to dishonor Robert's last few hours by spilling blood and frightening children. Renly flees the castle fearing that the Lannisters will show no such respect.
Robert dies and Joffrey takes the throne. Cersei tears up the letter proclaiming Eddard as Protector of the Realm. Eddard tells Joffrey that he has no right to the Iron Throne and commands the City Watch to take him and his mother into custody. Instead, the City Watch turns on Eddard's men and kills them. Littlefinger holds a knife to Eddard's throat, telling him that he shouldn't have trusted him.
Eddard is incarcerated in the black cells under the Red Keep. He is visited by Varys who is disguised as a gaoler. Varys is bemused by Eddard telling Cersei that he knew about the parentage of her children and adds that his mercy is what killed Robert. He also informs Ned says that Catelyn no longer has Tyrion in custody. Eddard asks if he will be killed and Varys replies, "Not today." Varys returns to urge Eddard to confess to treason in exchange for exile in the Night's Watch. Eddard refuses until Varys elucidates that the Lannisters still have Sansa as a hostage - Arya has escaped. Varys adds that the Lannisters need him alive so they can bargain with his son Robb, who is leading an army to confront them in the Riverlands
Eddard is taken to the front steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. He spots Arya crouching beside the statue of Baelor the Blessed and signals Yoren, who is also present amidst the gathered crowd. Having relented to Varys' request, Eddard confesses that he intended to seize the throne for himself and recognizes Joffrey as the rightful king. Joffrey, however, ignores his mother's counsel that Eddard be exiled and orders his immediate execution. Before Ser Ilyn Payne swings the Lord of Winterfell's own sword Ice, Eddard notices that Yoren has taken Arya. Sansa watches as Payne decapitates Eddard before the shocked Cersei and council can intervene, as the baying crowd cheers. Before he dies, Eddard mutters a few last unheard words. Yoren is able to smuggle Arya out of the city.
Eddard's head is placed on a spike above the Traitor's Walk in the Red Keep. Joffrey torments Sansa by forcing her to look upon it as well as the other slain members of her household. She overcomes her revulsion and is able to maintain her composure, preventing his satisfaction at seeing her upset. Eddard's death launches the Seven Kingdoms into the devastating War of the Five Kings, with the North and the Riverlands seceding from the authority of the Iron Throne and Robb Stark proclaimed as the King in the North.
Ned appears in one of Bran's visions while under the tutelage of the Three-eyed raven. In the vision, Ned appears in his youth, training with Benjen Stark. Ned teases Benjen about his swordsmanship while hugging him. The brother also try to invite Wylis, a stable boy who later became Hodor, but Wylis' mother insists that her son will not be fighting with lords. The brothers' older sister Lyanna Stark also appears in the vision.
Later, Ned appears in another flashback, in which he leads a small force against Ser Oswell Whent and Ser Arthur Dayne in the Red Mountains. In this battle, Ned Stark is shown to have been a highly skilled swordsman who bested Ser Oswell and held his own against Ser Arthur before he was disarmed by the latter. Before Ser Arthur is able to kill him, however, Lord Howland Reed stabs Ser Arthur through the back of his neck, and Ned picks up Dawn and finishes him off with it. He then heads for the Tower of Joy, though he pauses when Bran calls out to him.
In Braavos, Arya Stark watches a play mocking the War of the Five Kings as part of an assignment from the Faceless Men. The actor playing Ned depicts him as a stereotypical "country bumpkin", much to Arya's displeasure.
In a later vision, Bran witnesses Ned hugging Benjen and bidding his father, Rickard, farewell before his departure to be fostered at the Vale. After the Three-Eyed Raven frantically passes all of his knowledge to Bran, he sees several images, some of them of his father, such as Ned's beheading and his fight with Dayne.
After the victory at the Battle of the Bastards, Jon and Sansa decide to bury Rickon, recently murdered by Ramsay Bolton, besides their late father at the crypts of Winterfell, indicating that Ned's bones reached the castle and were interred at some point prior to the castle falling to the ironborn. Bran later returns to the vision of the Tower of Joy, picking up from Ned entering the tower. He arrives to a room where he sees her sister Lyanna lying in a bed and a slice in her stomach. Ned calls the present maidens for help but Lyanna stops him and tells him to take care of her recently born son, fathered by Rhaegar. Lyanna makes Ned promise to keep him safe, knowing that Robert will kill him if he finds out of his Targaryen blood, and then passes away. To cover up the true parentage of his sister's son, Ned returns to Winterfell with his infant nephew, presenting him as his bastard son, Jon Snow
During Jon and Sansa's conversation, Jon remembers Ned telling him and his brothers that, "Everything before the word 'but' is horsehit." Sansa tells Jon she never heard him say that and Jon recalls that their father didn't say this in front of his daughters, but his sons.
Sansa remarks to the newly crowned Jon, that even though she loved Ned and Robb, both made mistakes which led to their deaths.
While Jon is visiting his "father's" tomb, he is interrupted by Petyr, who comments on how he didn't always see eye to eye with Ned, but they both loved Catelyn. Petyr then reveals he loves Sansa in the same way, prompting Jon to angrily slam Petyr against the wall and tell him not to touch his sister. Afterward, Jon leaves the crypt and Petyr follows a few moments after to avoid association with a fight between them.
When Jon Snow visits Daenerys Targaryen at Dragonstone, she makes it clear that Ned was clearly on Robert's side during his rebellion and was therefore a traitor.
Upon Arya's return to Winterfell, she manages to sneak away from disbelieving guards and into the crypts. She looks upon the statue of her father, and is then reunited with Sansa, where they both discuss how the statue doesn't resemble Eddard. Sansa says that there is no one left who would remember his face and therefore make an accurate statue, to which Arya says that they are still alive and remember him.
Jon and Gendry bond over their fathers, Ned and Robert, having been friends. Jon tells Gendry that he saw Robert Baratheon at Winterfell and Gendry tells Jon that he met Ned in King's Landing. Jon reveals he grew up on stories about their fathers and Gendry says he heard they fought together and won, telling Jon he wants to join him on their mission beyond the Wall.
Arya enters Petyr's chamber and rummages through his study and furniture. While searching through his mattress, she finds a scroll written by Sansa. This turns out to be the scroll that Sansa wrote to their late brother Robb Stark urging him to bend the knee to King Joffrey Baratheon. Arya is unaware that Sansa had written the letter under duress from Queen Cersei in an attempt to save their father.
At Petyr's surprise trial in Winterfell, Bran reveals Baelish's betrayal of Eddard in shocking detail. Arya subsequently slits Littlefinger's throat with his own dagger, avenging her father.
Stoic, duty-bound and honorable, Ned Stark embodied the values of the north. In moving to King's Landing to serve as Hand to his longtime friend Robert Baratheon, Ned fell on the wrong side of court intrigues and paid for it with his life.
Eddard Stark was a man of principle, being patient, cautious, intelligent, noble and possessing an immense sense of duty. He was remembered profusely for being extremely honorable and a firmly moral character at heart. He always reacted to situations calmly and reasonably, even if the situations endangered him or the people he loved. He was a skilled and fierce warrior but certainly preferred the diplomatic and peaceful solution to situations, even if that solution was martial law. He, himself, remarked that he didn't fear death, and recollected that he grew up with soldiers - Cersei elaborated that Eddard's older brother Brandon was born to lead, whilst he was born to follow. In his own words, Ned explained that he "learned how to die a long time ago." Ned viewed situations and individuals by the scope of their moral compass, and judged almost everything on that perspective. He also speculated the concept that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword, showing that he can be pragmatic in his sense of honor. In spite of that, he was not narrow-minded and did not appear prejudiced, arrogant or self-serving.
Ned was a very loving father to all of his children, including Jon Snow, his "bastard son", even though Catelyn was of a different opinion. He was very patient with the romantic delusions that Sansa enjoyed, visibly tolerating the fact that she was obsessed with being married to a handsome prince. He did point out to her that Joffrey lacked bravery, strength of character, and even morality, but she didn't listen. He was also on great terms with Arya, and seemed to be one of few who could tolerate her feisty, adventurous mentality, and even encouraged it. He was, in many ways, like his son Robb, in that his sense of honor and duty ruled every aspect of his being, and he was a charismatic leader to those who served him. Ned had a close relationship with Jon Snow, who Ned raised as his own child alongside his lawful children. Like Robb, Jon inherited Ned’s traits of honor and duty. Ned treated Jon as his son - regardless of his legitimacy, and despite Jon being his nephew, and not his son. Ned was willing to sacrifice his own honor to protect Jon, and spent years letting everyone - including his whole family - believe that Jon was his bastard son to ensure Jon's protection. Ned's death provoked such a brutal reaction from all of his family because they all loved him more than words could say.
Eddard was highly skilled in combat, both in strategy and in a duel. He killed Ser Gerold Hightower, survived the Battle of the Trident and held his own impressively against the younger Jaime Lannister. He had earned the respect of men like Ser Arthur Dayne, the greatest warrior of his generation - indeed, Ned's sense of honor seemed to impress everyone around him, including the rigid and cold Stannis Baratheon and the cunning Varys. Aside from being selfless, dutiful and brave, he was slow to anger and thus he was one of the very, very few who could withstand the temper and misgivings of Robert Baratheon, with whom he shared a relationship that was a hair's breadth from being considered a brotherly one. Robert actually admitted that he never loved Stannis or Renly Baratheon, and had instead labelled Ned as his brother, showing that Robert's admiration for his old comrade was tremendous. Ned's calm and reasonable mentality was respected firmly by Robert, who recognized that Ned was the only one who would dare say no to him for the right reasons. Robert obviously trusted Ned, begging him on his deathbed to help Jofffrey in a way that Robert himself had failed and even naming the man as Protector of the Realm until Joffrey came of age. However, he had the fatal weakness of being a poor politician, preferring to take the honorable route than doing what would politically benefit him - Cersei speculated that, in the game of thrones, one had to take what was in arm's reach or be damned, but Ned disagreed because the fight he fought was never to survive, but to preserve the lives of those he loved.
Eddard Stark's honorable and dutiful personality put him at a weakness of judging people impractically by the evidence he saw with his own eyes, as opposed to the bigger picture. He had a bad habit of trusting people, which was a mistake he disastrously made with Petyr Baelish. He also did not predict that Cersei Lannister would be unreasonable enough to turn down his offer of mercy if and when Robert found out that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella weren't his children; a mistake that cost Ned not just his own life, but set off a chain of events that has also so far led to the deaths of his wife and two of his sons. Still, Cersei's refusal also ironically led to the deaths of all three of her own children, an outcome that Ned sought to prevent in the first place when he confronted Cersei despite the trauma that her son Joffrey had visited upon his daughters on the kingsroad. Finally, he judged Jaime Lannister to have betrayed his king for dishonorable reasons the moment he discovered the Kingslayer sitting on the Iron Throne with the Mad King's corpse lying at his feet, though Jaime's arrogance did nothing to dispel this misconception. Ned would have probably understood if Jaime explained how Aerys ordered him to kill his father Tywin, since Ned would never have followed that kind of order even if such a refusal would have cost him his life.