The Red Kings of the North
House Bolton is an old and powerful house of the North. The Boltons were known as the Red Kings and ruled from the Dreadfort in the east of the North. Their lands reached from the Last River to the Sheepshead Hills. Their sigil is a red flayed man on a pink field. Their words are Our Blades are Sharp.
House Stark and House Bolton have been bitter rivals since their beginnings and have fought for generations against each other. In most of their battles, the Kings of Winter found a way to win against the Red Kings. The few times that the Boltons have won against the Starks tended to be massive, as an example both Royce Bolton II and IV burned Winterfell to the ground and flayed several of the Starks in the process. Fighting like this kept occurring until the last Red King, Rogar the Huntsman, knelt before the lords of Winterfell to defeat the invading Andals from destroying both houses. This did not mean they had a very stable relationship.
The Boltons attempted a rebellion with the Greystarks of the Wolf’s Den but was unsuccessful in overthrowing the Kings of Winter. Out of the process the Greystarks were exterminated by the Starks like House Reyne by the Lannisters. During another Bolton uprising, the Stark armies besieged the Dreadfort for nearly 2 years before the Boltons dipped their banners again.
A tradition that the Boltons have kept for centuries was the art of flaying their enemies alive. They would often hang the skins they collect along their walls. On other occasions the Boltons would wear the skins of dead Starks and other enemies as cloaks. During the Rape of the Three Sisters, when the Starks conquered the Three Sisters and went to war with the lords of the Vale, the current head of house Bolton was said to have made a “pink pavilion” made entirely out of the skins of Sisterton warriors.
In Recent Events
Even though there was bad blood between the two houses, when Lord Eddard Stark called his banners to fight in Robert’s Rebellion, Lord Roose Bolton took up arms against the Targaryens. When Robb Stark called the banners again after his father was arrested in King’s Landing, Roose came to Winterfell once again and even commanded an army of infantry against Tywin Lannister. During the War of the Five Kings, Bolton forces were able to take Harrenhal from the Brave Companion mercenary company. While Lord Roose Bolton was in the South, his bastard took Winterfell from the Ironborn invaders and killed everyone inside its walls.
Roose Bolton assassinated Robb Stark during the Red Wedding and usurped the Stark’s position as Wardens of the North. This was the only time a Bolton rebellion was successful in taking out their overlords and was only possible with an alliance between Tywin Lannister and Walder Frey. The Boltons were given the responsibility of keeping the northmen in line by the crown. When Stannis Baratheon attempted to take Winterfell from the Boltons, Ramsay Bolton was able to smash through Stannis’s army with ease as they could not take the harsh winter of the North.