Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, Eddard Stark is King Robert’s oldest and greatest friend. Raised together as wards of Lord Arryn, they were going to become brothers when his father Lord Rickard Stark agreed to wed Lyanna, Eddard’s sister, to the young Lord Robert. But Lyanna was stolen away by Prince Rhaegar, and Lord Rickard and his heir Brandon were murdered by the Mad King. Eddard became Lord of Winterfell, and with Robert and Lord Arryn led a rebellion that brought about the end of House Targaryen. A great commander and a dangerous warrior in his own right, Eddard Stark is perhaps best known for his sense of honor and duty; when Robert was willing to condone the murders of Prince Rhaegar’s infant children, Eddard was driven apart from him until the two were reunited in the grief following Lyanna’s lonely death.
Since the rebellion, Lord Eddard has largely kept to the North, only seeing the man he helped to the throne when he called his banners to join him in putting down Lord Greyjoy’s rebellion on the Iron Islands. Eddard is a great lord of the realm, and has the Stark look with his brown hair.
Eddard Stark has been aged 5 years for Game of Thrones. While he is certainly a skilled commander in the series, his skill as a swordsman are much more modest than they appear to be presented as in the show. His negative view of tourneys in the novels had more to do with not turning war into a game, as opposed to reports of the pilot presenting it as his preferring to keep possible opponents unaware of the full extent of his abilities.
On the day he beheads a deserter from the Watch, Lord Eddard learns that Jon Arryn—the man who fostered him—had died, and that King Robert was on his way to Winterfell. Greeting the royal party, Ned receives the offer to become Hand of the King from Robert and consults on the matter with Catelyn, who prefers that he remain at Winterfell. Her desire becomes more emphatic after their son Bran lies near death after his fall from a tower in Winterfell, but Ned insists that he must go south to serve Robert and to discover whether Lysa Arryn’s claim that Lord Arryn was murdered was true. Tensions with the Lannisters flare up when Prince Joffrey attacks Arya only to be mauled by Nymeria, her direwolf, leading Cersei to having Sansa’s own wolf, Lady, killed.
Arriving at King’s Landing, Ned is immediately burdened with the problems of the realm. Littlefinger takes him in secret to the brothel where he has hidden Lady Catelyn, who traveled there after having survived an attempt to assassinate her son. Believing that Tyrion Lannister was behind it, but that they lacked proof, Eddard sent Catelyn north again. Robert’s insistence on a tourney in his honor is not welcome by Eddard, but when Jon Arryn’s former squire is killed by Ser Gregor Clegane (a Lannister bannerman) he starts to question whether it was an accident. Not long after, he learns from Yoren of the Night’s Watch that Lady Catelyn has arrested Tyrion Lannister and carried him off. After resigning as Hand because of Robert’s decision to have Daenerys Targaryen assassinated, Littlefinger takes Ned to a brothel where the prostitute Mhaegen has an infant named Barra, one of Robert’s bastards. Leaving, the news of Tyrion’s abduction leads Jaime Lannister to kill Eddard’s escort and fight Eddard until one of his own men steps in and injures Stark.
As he slowly recovers, Eddard is confronted by Robert, who insists he become Hand again or he’ll name Jaime Lannister in his place. Then Robert leaves the capital to hunt and ignore the realm. This leaves Eddard on the throne when news arrives that Gregor Clegane is raiding in the riverlands. He dispatches Beric Dondarrion and a company of riders to deal with Clegane. Realizing the increasing tension, he prepares to send Sansa and Arya away when Sansa inadvertently makes him realize the Lannister secret: Cersei’s children are by Jaime, not Robert. He confronts Cersei on this point and attempts to convince her to flee with her children, but she does not do so. Instead, Robert is mortally wounded in a hunting accident soon after.
After having written Robert’s will—with a change, leaving out Joffrey’s name—Eddard prepares to deal with the coming conflict. He refuses Renly Baratheon’s call to act immediately, not wanting to trouble Robert’s last moments with the sound of swords and frightened children. However, he asks Littlefinger to buy the gold cloaks and ensure they’re prepared to act with him when needed. After Robert dies, he attempts to present the will to Cersei, who tears it apart. He calls on the gold cloaks, only to have them turn on him, and Littlefinger holding a knife to his throat and telling him that he warned him not to trust him.
Imprisoned in the black cells, he speaks with Varys about what’s happening, and Varys convinces him that he must confess himself a traitor to keep Sansa safe after Joffrey offers to send him to the Wall if he confesses. However, Joffrey lies and has Eddard beheaded.