How could Rhaegar beat Ser Arthur Dayne

Why did Eddard Stark keep Catelyn in the dark?

Because Eddard didn't trust Catelyn enough back then to tell her about a secret that could lead to Jon's murder and House Stark's destruction.Later the topic just never came up and they both decided not to bring it up and enjoy a loving married life.There was nothing to be gained but Jon's guaranteed safety.Just a precaution.

To understand this, you must first understand how Eddard Stark and Catelyn Tully got married. Since the show didn't cover these events, we'll have to rely on books instead.

Catelyn's engagement to Brandon & Eddard's interest in Ashara Dayne

Catelyn Tully was first betrothed to Eddard's older brother Brandon, who was heir to Winterfell (ADWD, chapter 41, ACOK, chapter 45). Eddard himself was in love with Lady Ashara Dayne, sister of the legendary Ser Arthur Dayne (ASOS, chapter 34). Ashara was considered a great beauty of her time. A very great rendering by Elena Maria Vacas can be seen on her page here.

Brandon's death and Robert's rebellion

Rhaegar and Lyanna run away together when the Starks are on their way to Riverrun to marry Brandon and Catelyn. Brandon, hot-headed and impulsive, got the impression that Rhaegar had kidnapped Lyanna. He rode to King's Landing with close friends and yelled at Prince Rhaegar " Come out and die ". Prince Rhaegar wasn't there, but the mad King Aerys was there. He locked Brandon up and called his father Lord Rickard Stark to King's Landing. Then he had them both executed. Then he asked Lord Arryn to put the heads of his wards on him young Lords Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark. Jon Arryn called his banners instead because he loved these boys as his own sons and began Roberts rebellion (AGOT chapter 4, ACOK chapter 55, AGOT chapter 2)

Eddard marries Catelyn

Always dutiful and responsible, Eddard put his own marriage wishes aside and instead of his brother married a complete stranger Catelyn Tully in order to secure the swords of House Tully for Robert's cause (AGOT, chapter 6). He didn't know her, he didn't love her, and he didn't trust her. He didn't even like her then, it was Ashara he liked.

He could not have married Ashara because:

  1. House Dayne was a small house with less power compared to House Tully. The rebels faced a combined power of The Reach, Dorne and Crownlands. There was no telling which side Lannisters would go, but since Tywin was a childhood friend of Aerys II, he may have been on Aerys's side as well. They desperately needed swords from the Lord Paramount of Riverlands to wage war. Daynes was once a king, but those days were long gone.
  2. House Dayne was a vassal of House Martell, who had already declared Targaryen King Aerys because of the marriage between Princess Elijah von Dorne and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. So it was an honor for them to follow their liege lord Prince Doran in the war, which made them unable to help the rebels.
  3. House Dayne's help would have been very little, if any. Had they teamed up with rebels, they would be caught between the loyalist forces of the Tyrells and Martells, who would immediately move to fight the Daynes. That in itself would put Ashara and her relatives in great danger. Lord Dayne would have to be a complete idiot to endorse such an alliance.

After the wedding and the bedding of Catelyn, Eddard went to war.

The Battle of the Bells came when the forces of Eddard and his father-in-law rescued the captured Robert Baratheon.

Prince Rhaegar returned from the south and died in Trident.

With Robert wounded in the battle, Eddard led a swift attack towards King's Landing only to find that he had been captured by the Lannisters for Robert. Eddard and Robert had an argument over the murders of Rhaegar's children, but Robert just called them dragon brood. An angry Eddard led his men further south to fight the rest of the battles alone. He first ended the siege of Storm's End and then moved further south to Dorne, where the entire episode of Tower of Joy happened.

Eddard's return from ToJ

When Eddard returned with Jon, he knew he couldn't trust anyone, especially after seeing Robert's reaction to the murder of Rhaegar's children (AGOT, chapter 12). He knew that if he got so much of who he was, Robert would kill Jon too. So he decided to keep it a secret. His friend Lord Howland Reed did the same.

When Eddard got home, his wife arrived soon after, the woman he barely knew and therefore did not trust enough to divulge such an important secret that if the wrong people found out, it would mean the death of his sister's only son would. So before he returned to Winterfell, Eddard told her that the baby was his bastard child. Many men have fathered bastard children, and such matters are private so probably no one would go into them, especially if it was a bastard of a man like Eddard who was known to be very private, shy, and calm.

Risk of being spied on

Over time, Eddard learned to love and trust Catelyn, but he never gave that information to her. He probably thought it best to let it go instead of addressing it again. You never know who's listening in the castles, especially with Varys in Robert's service. We know it was wise because Varys had spies in Winterfell and he found out about the assassination of Bran by Joff's cat paw, even though Catelyn tried to keep it a secret.

Catelyn's attempts to find out the truth

Catelyn tried to get the information, but Eddard was adamant. There were rumors that Ashara Dayne was the child's mother, so Catelyn decided to face Eddard. Eddard got very strict with her and told her " Jon is my blood, that's all you need to know ". Catelyn was afraid of Ned for the first and last time in their married life. After that, Catelyn never brought up the subject again, and neither did Eddard. (AGOT Chapter 6)

Ashara Dayne factor

It's also worth noting that after Eddard killed Arthur Dayne in the Tower of Joy, he first went to the Castle of Starfall, the seat of House Dayne. There he gave House Dayne's ancestral sword, called Dawn, and carried by Ser Arthur Dayne in ToJ, his (Eddard's, not Arthur's) apparent lover, Ashara Dayne, and gave her the news of her brother's death. Ashara was mad at her brother (and allegedly had lost a child) and the fact that it was Eddard who killed Arthur. He jumped from a tower into the sea and died. So it would make sense that Ned would do everything possible to avoid mentioning Ashara Dayne as this brought back memories he would never want to remember again.

Ashara was a known alleged mistress of Eddard 1, who was also pregnant and had a child before she died 2 to the world brought. Rumor has it that Ashara Dayne was Jon's mother and she killed herself when Eddard took Jon away from her. Eddard did not deny or confirm these rumors but tried to suppress them, especially in his own household. Eddard's strange reaction made many people believe that Ashara was Jon's mother. Apparently Eddard thought it best to give the impression that Ashara must have been the mother.

Ashara's nephew, Lord Edric Dayne, met Arya and confirmed that Ashara was not Jon's mother, but he also confirmed that she and Eddard loved each other. (ASOS chapter 39). Exact quote added because I loved this conversation:

“My father was Ser Arthur's older brother. Lady Ashara was my aunt. However, I never knew her. She threw herself into the sea from above on the Palestinian sword before I was born. "

"Why should she do that?" said Arya, startled.

Ned looked cautious. Maybe he was afraid that she would throw something at him. "Your father never mentioned her?" he said. "The Lady Ashara Dayne from Starfall?"

"No. Did he know her?"

“Before Robert was king. She met her father and his brothers in Harrenhal during the false spring year. "

"Oh." Arya didn't know what else to say. "But why did she jump into the sea?"

"Your heart was broken."

Sansa would have sighed and shed a tear for true love, but Arya thought it was just stupid. She couldn't tell Ned that, though, not about his own aunt. "Did someone break it?"

He hesitated. "Maybe it's not my place ..."

"Tell me."

He looked at her uncomfortably. "My aunt Allyria says Lady Ashara and her father fell in love with Harrenhal -"

Catelyn's grudge

Catelyn was not a bad woman, but it is too much to ask of a woman to endure a walk and remember her husband's infidelity, especially when you know it wasn't just one night the other woman was very much loved by yours Man. She knew about Ashara Dayne, though not with certainty, who she viewed as a ghost who was her rival for Eddard's love. She hated that Ashara's supposed son looked stronger than her own son Robb, who looked like a Tully. She hated that Eddard loved Jon's mother so much that he wouldn't leave her son despite Cat's constant pleading.

So she treated Jon with contempt and hatred like any medieval stepmother. As suggested by Gowenfawr, if she had told Catelyn about it, Ned would have been kind to Jon, and everyone would have wondered what was actually going on there, even if Varys hadn't managed to report the conversation at all.

Conclusion

Eddard took his vows very seriously and promised his sister that he would keep Jon safe. He endured jeering, ridicule, and confrontation with his wife, but he never compromised Jon's safety by sharing his true identity with anyone. Some things should better be buried.

EDIT: I read AGOT again today and found something I had never thought of before. In AGOT Chapter 33 Eddard VIII, Eddard thinks this:

Lord Stannis shared the secret Jon Arryn had died for, he was sure of it. The truth he was seeking might very well be waiting for him in the ancient island fortress of House Targaryen. And if you have it, what then?Some secrets are more securely kept hidden.Some secrets are too dangerous to share with others, even those you love and trust.

It seems that this is a clue as to why Eddard kept Catelyn in the dark about Jon's ancestry even after he loved and trusted her. That's why I love ASOIAF. Every time you read it again, you discover something new.


1There is an alternate theory propounded by Barristan Selmy's memoirs on Harrenhal that it is possible that Eddard's older brother Brandon Stark "dishonored" Ashara Dayne and had Harrenhal hurled with her.In any case, it has not yet been proven because Selmy has the word Heavily used instead of remembering Ashara's lover by name.Brandon Stark was one such person, however, a Playboy aristocrat.He's also had an alleged affair with Barbary Dustin despite his engagement, so he doesn't miss getting Ashara to sleep with him by lying to her about his intentions / feelings and then leaving her.It is very atypical for Eddard Stark to "dishonor" a woman and then leave her.Since Robb does most things like Eddard Stark would, we know he risked his kingdom and crown instead of "dishonoring" Jeyne Westerling. This may be a hint, but as mentioned earlier, this is a theory.Canon sources still suggest it was Eddard, not Brandon.

2. According to Barristan Selmy, Ashara's child was a daughter who was dead at birth

Paul L.

The fact that it was initially a marriage with no love, and that the marriage happened so shortly before Ned returned with the baby, were two factors I didn't realize after just watching the show. That definitely makes more sense now.

Captain Man

In retrospect, I think Jon, who is part of Targaryen (and thus a potential target of Robert's anger), was part of the reason Ned went out of his way to get Robert to stop trying, Dany and killing her brother - if he could convince Robert to stop killing the Targaryens because they posed no threat, maybe one day he could at least reveal his secret to a few people without putting Jon in such great danger.

Aegon

@ CaptainMan He intended to tell Jon the truth one day. When he said to Jon on leaving Winterfell, "When I see you again, we'll talk about your mother." So yeah, apparently he didn't want to keep it a secret any longer.

Sorrel Vespers

I think the reason Eddard must have decided to tell Jon the truth was that Jon took the black guy. Once you take the black, you give up all claims on your name, home, and everything else. He just wanted Jon to commit to NW before the truth emerges. But before that could happen, Eddard lost his head. And before that, it might have been too busy exposing Lannisters' lies.

Aegon

@SorrelVesper That's plausible because when Jon comes to NW Robert can't touch him like he didn't visit Aemon Targaryen. But then we have to keep in mind that initially Ned was not ready to let Jon go to the northwest, but that his maester and wife put pressure on him to accept it.