The Wardens are, in theory, the supreme military leaders of their respective areas of Westeros, under the overall authority of the King. The individual titles are Warden of the West, Warden of the North, Warden of the East and Warden of the South.
The title carries significant prestige and honour, although it is often secondary to the holder's primary title, which is usually the ruling lord of a great House. Tradition holds that the title is given to certain lords, but the King can award it to another of his choosing. This typically only happens if the traditional holder dies and his heir is not yet of age.
Traditionally the titles are awarded as follows:
- The Warden of the West is usually the ruling Lord of House Lannister of Casterly Rock.
- The Warden of the North is usually the ruling Lord of House Stark of Winterfell.
- The Warden of the East is usually the ruling Lord of House Arryn of the Eyrie.
- The Warden of the South is usually the ruling Lord of House Tyrell of Highgarden.
The Riverlands, Iron Islands and Dorne are, in theory, subject to the authority of the respective Wardens of the East, West and South, but traditionally the ruling lords of those areas command their own forces in battle. The title is usually only employed when an exterior threat to all of Westeros arises, which is very rare: the last time this happened was during the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
As the post is martial, it is not considered acceptable for a woman to hold the role, so Lord Jon Arryn's widow, Lady Lysa Arryn was not allowed to take the title of Warden of the East after the death of her husband, and Queen Regent Cersei Lannister decided not to take the title of Warden of the West after the death of her father, although she inherited his title as Lady of Casterly Rock. In the former case there was discussion of the title being temporarily being given to Ser Jaime Lannister, but with the Arryns swearing fealty to King Tommen Baratheon at the conclusion of the War of the Five Kings, the title was instead awarded as an honour to Lord Robert Arryn, despite his extreme youth. In the latter case, Cersei awarded the title to her cousin, Ser Daven Lannister, who was prosecuting a siege of Riverrun at the time.