This season of Game of Thrones employed Bran Stark and his greensight to show us past events that we never thought we'd be able to see, like key events in the life of one young Ned Stark. The season's second episode revealed a scene from Ned's childhood back at Winterfell, and we couldn't take our eyes off a character we've heard a bit about but never really seen: Ned's sister, Lyanna. Finally, in the season's concluding episode, we returned to Tower of Joy to discover the truth about Lyanna. All this time, the show has been setting us up to learn more about Lyanna, the history of House Stark, and what it all might mean for the future. If you're not familiar with Lyanna Stark, let's go over the info we have from the books and the show.
Lyanna Was Ned's Only Sister
Early on in season six, Bran uses his greensight to visit a day in the life of the Winterfell kids, one generation before him. There's his father, Ned, older brother Brandon, younger brother Benjen, and the only girl: Lyanna. This is the most the show had revealed about a young Lyanna (and the first time she's had a face). Seen on horseback, she seems to have a lot on common with Arya; she's no handmaiden, hidden away inside learning to be a young lady. Even so, we know that she blossomed into one of the most eligible bachelorettes of her generation.
She Was Promised to Robert Baratheon, Who Started a War When She Was Kidnapped
Lyanna's engagement and subsequent kidnapping are legendary in Westeros. She was engaged to Robert Baratheon, who is pretty open about the fact that he never got over her, revealing how heartbroken he is in Lyanna's tomb below Winterfell in the series premiere. (And later, to his wife, Cersei. Ouch.)
The story goes that while Robert and Lyanna were engaged, Rhaegar Targaryen (an older brother of Daenerys who was dead before the show began) kidnapped her, inciting Robert's Rebellion when the "Mad King," Aerys Targaryen, refused to see his own son to justice. "Robert started a war to win her back. He killed Rhaegar, but she died anyway," Bran Stark says in season one, filling us in on the story. In season five, Sansa Stark reveals the world's perception of what happened: "Yes, he chose her, and then he kidnapped her and raped her." Indeed, Rhaegar being married to someone else and making off with Lyanna wasn't just quite the scandal — it's an event that still has reverberations in the Game of Thrones universe today.
Lyanna Had a Child Before She Died
Ned Stark was Robert's right-hand man, and as such, he was with him during Robert's Rebellion (and also because he obviously wanted to save his sister). In season six, we see Ned and Howland Reed approach the Tower of Joy after Rhaegar's death, and after Ned and Howland dishonourably defeat Arthur Dayne, Ned races up the Tower after he hears screaming — Lyanna's screaming. She dies there, but it's never revealed how, and what happened, until the season six finale. We learn that the birth of her child, a son, has caused her to bleed out. Her last words to her brother involve her asking Ned to protect her child.
The Longheld "R+L=J" Theory
The widely held theory basically stated that Jon Snow is the illegitimate son of Lyanna and Rhaegar, a theory that's proven in the season six finale. The promise was to protect Jon. Remember how, before Ned leaves for King's Landing in season one, he tells Jon they'll talk about his mother when he gets back, but then conveniently dies before he can? Hopefully he'll find out another way about his parentage next season.