A boy is Westeros is considered to be a “man grown” at sixteen years. The same is true for girls. Sixteen is the age of legal majority, as twenty-one is for us.
However, for girls, the first flowering is also very significant… and in older traditions, a girl who has flowered is a woman, fit for both wedding and bedding.
A girl who has flowered, but not yet attained her sixteenth name day, is in a somewhat ambigious position: part child, part woman. A “maid,” in other words. Fertile but innocent, beloved of the singers.
In the “general Westerosi view,” well, girls may well be wed before their first flowerings, for political reasons, but it would considered perverse to bed them. And such early weddings, even without sex, remain rare. Generally weddings are postponed until the bride has passed from girlhood to maidenhood.
Maidens may be wedded and bedded… however, even there, many husbands will wait until the bride is fifteen or sixteen before sleeping with them. Very young mothers tend to have significantly higher rates of death in childbirth, which the maesters will have noted.
As in the real Middle Ages, highborn girls tend to flower significantly earlier than those of lower birth. Probably a matter of nutrition. As a result, they also tend to marry earlier, and to bear children earlier.
There are plenty of exceptions.
George R. R. Martin on the age of maturity/consent in Westeros (via ivanolix
The way I see it, it is not a case of all or nothing. No single person is to blame for Ned’s downfall. Sansa played a role, certainly, but it would be unfair to put all the blame on her. But it would also be unfair to exonerate her. She was not privy to all of Ned’s plans regarding Stannis, the gold cloaks, etc… but she knew more than just that her father planned to spirit her and Arya away from King’s Landing. She knew when they were to leave, on what ship, how many men would be in their escort, who would have the command, where Arya was that morning, etc… all of which was useful to Cersei in planning and timing her move.
Ned’s talk with Littlefinger was certainly a turning point, though I am not sure I would call it =the= turning point. There were other crucial decisions that could easily have changed all had they gone differently. You mention Ned’s refusal of Renly, which was equally critical. And there is Varys to consider, as well as the minor but crucial player everyone forgets — Janos Slynt, who might have chosen just to do his duty instead of selling the gold cloaks to the highest bidder.
So… all in all, I suppose my answer would be that there is no single villain in the piece who caused it all, but rather a good half dozen players whose actions were all in part responsible for what happened.
George R. R. Martin about who got Ned killed. (via ivanolix)
The word of god, ladies and gentlemen.