That morning he called it first. “I’m Lord of Winterfell!” he cried, as he had a hundred times before. Only this time, this time, Robb had answered, “You can’t be Lord of Winterfell, you’re bastard-born. My lady mother says you can’t ever be the Lord of Winterfell.”
Tyrion Lannister had claimed that most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it, but Jon was done with denials. He was who he was; Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life - however long that might be - he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name. Wherever he might go throughout the Seven Kingdoms, he would need to live a lie, lest every man’s hand be raised against him. But it made no matter, so long as he lived long enough to take his place by his brother’s side and help avenge his father.
I know that Robb Stark gets shafted a lot in meta. He’s rarely- so far as I can tell- the focus of a positive meta. He’ll be mentioned (often as it relates to his family, normally either Sansa or Catelyn,) but I haven’t seen many posts on the books about Robb himself as a good person.
There’s a reason he had the unquestionable admiration from Jon, Arya, Sansa, and Bran. There’s a reason he was undefeated in battle. There’s a reason why I love him.
Honestly, Robb suffers in some people’s eyes for the same actions Jon takes in ADWD after becoming Lord Commander. We know both of them at least try to embody Ned’s teachings- we know both of them were taught something of ruling by Ned and that they look up to him.
Whenever her father had condemned a man to death, he did the deed himself with Ice, his greatsword. “If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look him in the face and hear his last words,” she’d heard him tell Robb and Jon once. Arya, ACoK
A good lord must know his men, his father had once told him and Robb, back at Winterfell. Jon, ADWD
We know Jon starts to distance himself from his friends in order to be the leader he thinks he has to given the advice that Ned Stark gave him on ruling and leadership.
(on being invited to eat with Grenn and his other friends) Jon wanted nothing more. No, he had to tell himself, those days are gone. The realization twisted in his belly like a knife. They had chosen him to rule. The Wall was his, and their lives were his as well. A lord may love the men that he commands, he could hear his lord father saying, but he cannot be a friend to them. One day he may need to sit in judgment on them, or send them forth to die. Jon, ADWD
We see in Sam’s POV how much this hurts his friends. They don’t understand his mindset and why he is detaching himself from them. Jon, taking Ned’s words to heart, believes that a ruler cannot be a friend to those who follow his rule. In fact, he even says “lord commanders have no friends” at one point.
Now, we see the same thing- without the sympathetic POV explaining- with Robb after he becomes lord/king. He refuses Bran’s advice, talks of Sansa as a bargaining chip for the Tyrells, dismisses Catelyn’s feelings/opinions at times, ect. Given that we’re not inside his head, it comes off more harshly than Jon’s POV where we know where he’s coming from.
Still, if Jon received this piece of advice from Ned, Robb definitely did as well. And we begin to see that Robb forces himself to grow up quickly and stop being a boy (similar to Jon’s “kill the boy and let the man be born” arc words.)
“Lannister won’t die,” Robb said. “No one so much as speaks to him without my warrant. He has food, water, clean straw, more comfort than he has any right to. But I won’t free him, not even for Arya and Sansa.”
Her son was looking down at her, Catelyn realized. Was it war that made him grow so fast, she wondered, or the crown they had put on his head? “Are you afraid to have Jaime Lannister in the field again, is that the truth of it?”
Grey Wind growled, as if he sensed Robb’s anger, and Edmure Tully put a brotherly hand on Catelyn’s shoulder. “Cat, don’t. The boy has the right of this.”
“Don’t call me the boy,” Robb said, rounding on his uncle, his anger spilling out all at once on poor Edmure, who had only meant to support him. “I’m almost a man grown, and a king-your king, ser.“ Catelyn, ACoK
The way Robb talks over Catelyn when he’s naming Jon his heir parallels the way Jon dismisses Sam when he’s sending him off to become a maester. The two of them are very similar in their actions and the way they bear the burden of young rulership. Sam and co. plotted to get Jon elected Lord Commander and his bannermen declared Robb King of the North, neither boy sought the power they got. However, the both quickly step into the role, and both of them immediately set out to be a ruler like Ned, who is the object of their admiration.
But even so, despite his desire to distance himself from his wants as king, Robb (like Jon) can’t fully separate and has some big moments of illustrating his devotion to his family.
He put Bran into bed, covered him with blankets, and blew out the candle. For a time Robb sat beside him in the dark. Bran wanted to talk to him, but he did not know what to say. “We’ll find a horse for you, I promise,” Robb whispered at last.
“Are they ever coming back?” Bran asked him.
“Yes,” Robb said with such hope in his voice that Bran knew he was hearing his brother and not just Robb the Lord. “Mother will be home soon. Maybe we can ride out to meet her when she comes. Wouldn’t that surprise her, to see you ahorse?” Even in the dark room, Bran could feel his brother’s smile. “And afterward, we’ll ride north to see the Wall. We won’t even tell Jon we’re coming, we’ll just be there one day, you and me. It will be an adventure.”
“An adventure,” Bran repeated wistfully. He heard his brother sob. The room was so dark he could not see the tears on Robb’s face, so he reached out and found his hand. Their fingers twined together. Bran, AGoT
“No man calls my lady of Winterfell a traitor in my hearing, Lord Rickard.” When he turned to Catelyn, his voice softened. “If I could wish the Kingslayer back in chains I would. You freed him without my knowledge or consent… but what you did, I know you did for love. For Arya and Sansa, and out of grief for Bran and Rickon. Love’s not always wise, I’ve learned. It can lead us to great folly, but we follow our hearts… wherever they take us. Don’t we, Mother?” Catelyn, ASoS
"Jon’s more a Stark than some lordlings from the Vale who have never so much as set eyes on Winterfell… Arya’s gone, the same as Bran and Rickon, and they’ll kill Sansa too once the dwarf gets a child from her. Jon is the only brother that remains to me. Should I die without issue, I want him to succeed me as King in the North.”Catelyn, ASoS
And really I think this thought by Arya encompasses both Robb and Jon’s conflict and struggle between their wants as people and their duties as rulers:
But what if Robb won’t pay their price [of Arya’s ransom]? She wasn’t a famous knight, and kings were supposed to put the realm before their sisters. Arya, ASoS