This is a minor detail, but I was kind of delighted when I saw it. The Game of Thrones crew really has amazing attention to detail. (Although I’m sure this was in the books, so George RR Martin does as well.)
At the beginning of Game of Thrones, when Robert Baratheon and his entourage arrive at Winterfell, Arya is wearing a helmet, pretending she is a soldier. She scampers off the cart she is perched on and races back to take her place in the receiving line. Her parents and their household are lined up in their finest to greet the king. Arya doesn’t just stand anywhere. She shoves Bran out of the way – “Move!” she snarls – and assumes her place between Bran and Sansa.
Arya and her siblings are lining up in their birth order. The eldest, Robb, is closest to Ned, followed by Sansa who is the next oldest and so on.
In the Middle Ages, the order in which you were born – how close you were to being the eldest – really mattered for both men and women. The effects of primogeniture (first son preference) are pretty well known. But, younger sisters had to defer to their elder sisters as well. For example, a younger sister typically had to wait to wed until her older sister married.
When it came time to divide inherited items, if there were no specific bequeathments, the elder children chose before the younger children. As Michael Hicks notes in his discussion of the division of Warwick’s estate, Isabel, the eldest daughter, would normally pick the land she wanted before her younger sister Isabel.
In the Middle Ages, status mattered and seniority in the family was yet another way to assign status.
By Jamie Adair