The Plodder’s Guide to Westeros’ Rulers

The title of this post is an homage to a former colleague, who used to do a professional development training lecture every year or so which he dubbed “the plodder’s guide to bail applications” – meaning that there is no great secret to a bail application, you can do a legally perfect one and be denied bail, or do a legally wobbly one and get bail for your client.

This is my plodder’s guide to the Kings and Queens of the Iron Throne of Westeros. Because frankly…. I frequently get totally confused, so if nothing else I’d like a short list for future reference just for myself!

This won’t be any detailed character analysis: just a dot point guide to the rulers of Westeros, from Aegon the Conqueror to Tommen the Beetslayer.

Fair warning: this is a long post. It got away from me when trying to figure out the Dance of the Dragons! 

I have also highlighted the moments of royal history that provide the relevant law to the Iron Throne’s succession – because this is going to be relevant to future plot points. Tommen is likely to die before he produces any “Baratheon” heirs, and then the realm will have to grapple with a field of potential applicants for the Throne – many of them women or girls.

Pre Unification

We talk about the Seven Kingdoms… but hang on. There’s NINE regions of Westeros, right?

  1. The North
  2. The Iron Islands
  3. The Vale
  4. The Riverlands
  5. The Westerlands
  6. The Reach
  7. The Storm Lands
  8. The Crownlands
  9. Dorne

Ah. But there were only SEVEN kingdoms at the time Aegon the Conqueror landed, hence why the rulers of Westeros have styled themselves as WHOEVER, First (or Second or Third) of his/her name, King of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm and whatever other shit they want to add on (like Dany’s Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi, the Stormborn, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons etc etc etc)

The Crownlands was established after King’s Landing was set up as the capital, so that the royal household had more lands (and income from those lands) than just Dragonstone, taking parts of the Reach and Stormlands to do so.

When Aegon launched his dragon-backed unification of Westeros, the Seven Kingdoms were ruled as follows:

  1. Torrhen Stark, King in the North
  2. Ronnel Arryn, King of Mountain and Vale (which was run under the regency of his mother, Sharra Arryn)
  3. Harren Hoare, King of the Isles and Rivers – builder of Harrenhal, also known as Harren the Black for his charming personality
  4. Loren I Lannister, King of the Rock
  5. Mern IX Gardener, King of the Reach
  6. Argilac Durrandon, the Storm King, also known as Argilac the Arrogant
  7. Meria Martell, Princess of Dorne, also known as the Yellow Toad.

And this is how we get the “Seven Kingdoms” out of what is now nine principalities or regions.

1: Aegon the Conqueror

  • As the name suggests, vini vedi veci – he came, he saw, he conquered.
  • Claimed rule of the Seven Kingdoms, despite never getting Dorne under control
  • Ruled as King on the Iron Throne with his two sister-wives, Visenya and Rhaenys Targaryen
  • Rode Balerion the Black Dread, the largest dragon remembered in Westeros
  • Wielded Blackfyre, an ancient Valyrian Steel sword of House Targaryen
  • Visenya was more of a warrior and ruler – she rode Vhagar into battle, and personally conquered the Vale
  • Rhaenys was more fond of dancing, partying and was more loved by Aegon than Visenya, who was an arranged marriage. Rhaenys didn’t wield a particular sword, but rode Meraxes in battle. Most of the future Targaryen (and Baratheon) rulers of the Iron Throne claim descent from her son, Aenys.
  • Rhaenys was the first feminist queen in some ways – she got Aegon to pass laws that forbid men from being able to strike their wives any more than six times (1 for each of the gods of the Faith, except the Stranger.)
  • Rhaenys died attempting to conquer Dorne – we don’t know the specifics, but she may have been captured by House Uller of the Hellholt, who were able to shoot down Meraxes on the last attempt by this generation of Targaryen rulers to bring Dorne under their rule.
  • Visenya outlived Aegon, who died having a stroke while playing with his grand kids – very Vito Corleone in the tomato patch…

2: Aenys I

  • Eldest son of Aegon the Conqueror, born to Queen Rhaenys
  • A weak and sickly boy who grew up to be a man who found it difficult to make tough decisions
  • Rode Quicksilver, and it was the gifting of this dragon hatchling that seems to have stopped the frail 3 year old from wasting away after his mother’s death in Dorne
  • Married to Alyssa Velaryon as a political match arranged by Aegon, had six children: three sons (Aegon, Viserys and Jaehaerys) and three daughters (Rhaena, Alysanne and Vaella).
  • Not much chop with fighting, so gave Blackfyre, his father’s sword, to his half brother Maegor, who was a stronger fighter. Aenys wanted to rule with Maegor beside him, presumably as his Hand.
  • However Dowager Queen Visenya may have had other plans: she uncharacteristically took over Aenys’ care after a particularly bad illness. Despite a brief upswing in his health, Aenys died while under Visenya’s care… and then her son Maegor took the Throne, rather than Aenys’ heir Aegon II.
  • His reign was characterised by dissent and problems: the Faith revolted at his insistence on his children Aegon and Rhaena wedding in incestuous Targaryen practice, as well as his brother Maegor’s insistence on taking a second wife while the first was still alive and bearing children. The Seven Kingdoms also tried to shake off their recent conquering, after the death of a the stronger Conqueror. Rebellions and skirmishes arose in the Iron Islands, the Vale and Dorne.
  • His battles with the Faith were the biggest challenge to his reign – the Warrior’s Sons strengthened the fortifications of the Starry Sept and actually attempted to assassinate the royal family by some Poor Fellows climbing the Red Keep and slipping into the royal chambers.

3: Maegor I, the Cruel

  • Son of Aegon the Conqueror and Queen Visenya
  • Rode his father’s dragon, Balerion, and wielded the sword Blackfyre
  • Came to power despite his nephew Aegon actually being Aenys’ heir, which supports the view that Visenya killed the son of her sister-rival Rhaenys to put her son on the Iron Throne
  • NOT A NICE BLOKE, hence the name.
  • Kept his brother’s widow and children hostage on Dragonstone, with the elder two boys being forced to serve as squires
  • Battled the Faith Militant regularly
  • After being in a month long coma after his first engagement with the Warrior’s Sons, Maegor flew to the Starry Sept on Balerion and unleashed the Black Dread’s dragonfire on the Sept and all within.
  • Also battled Aegon, son of Aenys, who rode his father’s dragon Quicksilver in his attempt to win back the Throne which ought to have been his. It didn’t end well for Aegon…
  • Finished the construction of the Red Keep, hence why the final towers were called Maegor’s Holdfast. Threw a giant 3 day party for all those involved in the construction, and then killed them all to ensure that only he and his heirs would know the secrets of his holdfast!
  • his mother Visenya died in 44 AC, and during the chaos Queen Alyssa escaped Dragonstone with Dark Sister and her youngest children, Jaehaerys and Alysanne. In response Maegor had his squire, her son Viserys, tortured and killed.
  • Had many wives – including polygamous marriages, the last Targaryen to do so. Like Henry VIII, Maegor was fond of executing wives who were unable to bear him heirs. Many of Maegor’s wives bore children who were misformed or dragon-esque, with wings, scales or deformities. None survived.
  • Maegor’s cruelty and viciousness in his war against the Faith, during which time he killed scores of smallfolk and minor lords who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, eventually cost him all support. The realm rallied behind Jaehaerys, son of Aenys and Alyssa.
  • Meanwhile Maegor was killed “by the Iron Throne” – or more likely, by an assassin who killed the King at night while he was sat on the Throne. Or killed, and then the body was staged to be on the Iron Throne. Or maybe he killed himself. IN ANY EVENT, Maegor’s body was found on the Iron Throne, covered in blood, with his wrists slashed. Whoever did the deed.. he ded.

4: Jaehaerys I, the Conciliator, the Old King

  • Son of Aenys, the line of Rhaenys Targaryen restored to the Iron Throne after the disastrous rule of Maegor, Visenya’s son.
  • After his uncle Maegor’s death on the Iron Throne, Jaehaerys ascended to the Throne at the age of 14 with the support of House Baratheon (as the Dowager Queen Alyssa and her children had fled from Dragonstone to Storm’s End) and wed his sister, Alysanne Targaryen
  • His reign started with the ongoing civil war with the Faith Militant (thanks to Maegor) which was resolved by Jaehaerys offering an amnesty for all participants, on the condition that the Faith Militant was disbanded. This removal of the ability of the Faith to call upon their own armed forces lasted until Cersei Lannister’s stupidity.
  • In exchange for the Faith giving up its Militant arm, Jaehaerys swore that the Targaryen rulers on the Iron Throne would always defend the Faith of the Seven, finally formalising the conversion of House Targaryen to the Faith, and cementing the Faith’s stranglehold over Westeros (except in the North, where they continued to largely ignore the Faith and follow the old gods.) Aegon the Conqueror had nominally converted for the sake of appealing to the Andals, but until Jaehaerys no Targaryens were really particularly fussed about the Faith. Now they were linked. There were some trade offs – the Faith would stop being outraged about the Targaryen Valyrian practice of incestuous marriage, but the Targaryens would stop taking multiple spouses. This is important as those who want Jon Snow to be legitimate claim Targaryen polygamy is “still legal” – it isn’t, no Targaryen has taken multiple wives since Maegor the Cruel and it seems pretty clear to me that part of Jaehaerys’ peace deal with the Faith was to abolish one of the marriage practices that the Faith was up in arms about to begin with. He wouldn’t abolish the incest which kept the Targaryens able to ride dragons.
  • Longest reign of all Targaryen kings, hence the name the Old King
  • Repaired the dissent in the realm, hence the name the Conciliator
  • Much loved in the Seven Kingdoms, alongside his sister wife Good Queen Alysanne, who got her husband to abolish First Night (herself following in Queen Rhaenys’ footsteps in abolishing violent practices against women)
  • Jaehaerys’ best mate was the legendary scholar Septon Barth. Barth helped Jaehaerys with many schemes, such as establishing sewers and other essential systems in King’s Landing, and building the King’s Road which enabled travel across the Seven Kingdoms in an easier fashion
  • Similar to Napoleon, Jaehaerys is responsible for a unified codification of basic laws across the Seven Kingdoms, so that from Dorne to the North, everyone was subject to the same laws
  • Jaehaerys and Alysanne travelled across the Seven Kingdoms on their dragons, as noted by various Northern POVs in ASOIAF
  • Had 13 children, 9 who survived to adulthood. His eldest son and first heir, Aemon, died in 92 AC. Baelon, Jaehaerys’ second eldest son was named heir, rather than Aemon’s daughter Rhaenys. Baelon then himself died in 101 AC, necessitating the First Great Council
  • Great Council 101 AC: Important as this is the first time the great lords of the Seven Kingdoms were invited to have their say on the laws of royal inheritance, as the aging king Jaehaerys was not willing to leave a realm to civil war over disputed inheritance. It was held at Harrenhal, and of the various claims discussed, two stood out: Viserys, son of Baelon and his sister-wife Alyssa, and Laenor Velaryon, the son of Princess Rhaenys, only child of the deceased eldest son of Jaehaerys & Alsyanne. So basically the question was: does the line of descent go to the eldest child of the eldest child, and a daughter if there are no sons; or does it go to the oldest male?Both Viserys and Laenor had dragons, Viserys being the last to ride Balerion before the Black Dread finally coughed out his last fireball, and Laenor had his own dragon Seasmoke. Viserys was older, at 24, while Laenor was only 7. However Laenor’s claim was backed by his father, Lord Corlys Velaryon, the wealthiest man in the Seven Kingdoms.

    Ultimately the Great Council concluded that male primogeniture was more important than direct descent to the eldest child – ruling out Laenor, whose claim came through the female line of Princess Rhaenys, and dubbing Prince Viserys the heir. This was subsequently interpreted that women, and men who claimed royal descent through a woman, were excluded from the Iron Throne – which is a problem for Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons!

5: Viserys I

  • the last rider of Balerion, never bonded with another dragon
  • Had a dwarf court jester, Mushroom, who histories of Westeros tend more to the ribald and crude than anything that Maester Yandel (the “author” of TWOIAF) prefers to reference
  • First wife: Aemma Arryn. They had one living child, Princess Rhaenyra, who was doted on by her loving father.
  • Prince Daemon Targaryen, Viserys’ younger brother, was keen to be officially appointed Prince of Dragonstone (and heir to the Iron Throne) until the King and Queen bore a living son… but Viserys was in no rush. He treated Rhaenyra as his heir for all intents and purposes, raising her to cupbearer and bringing her to all royal events.
  • Daemon’s overtures towards the Throne became such a problem that Viserys ultimately named him Commander of the City Guard to get him off the Small Council and away from his Hand, Otto Hightower, who had begun to regularly clash with the would-be Crown Prince and who reasonably believed that Daemon would build a military coalition to force the issue of inheritance.
  • Otto Hightower pressed Viserys to formally announce that Rhaenyra was the heir to the Throne, to shut everyone up, but Viserys believed he and Aemma had plenty of time yet to conceive and bear a male heir. Not so much…. Aemma died in labour birthing a boy, Baelon, who also died a day after his mother. Daemon prematurely celebrated his seeming stranglehold on the Crown Prince gig… only for Viserys to formally invest Rhaenyra as his heir and Princess of Dragonstone.
  • After some years, Viserys remarried to Wife #2: Alicent Hightower, daughter of his Hand, Otto. Initially Alicent and Rhaenyra, by then a teenager being formally trained by her father to be a ruling Queen, got on fine. But then over time things got prickly, as Alicent proved much more fertile. She bore Aegon, Helaena and Aemond in 107, 109 and 110 AC. Viserys refused to revisit his will, and still considered Rhaenyra his heir… despite now having two living sons.
  • Why was this a problem and root of civil war? Because the Great Council of 101, which brought Viserys to the Iron Throne, determined that a male claim of inheritance was worth more than a female one.
  • Otto Hightower’s attempts to have his grandson named heir over first born Rhaenyra ultimately got him sacked from the role of Hand of the King.
  • Factional lines were drawn, with those lords who supported the claims of Queen Alicent and her son’s, and those who supported Princess Rhaenyra as firstborn heir. These factions were dubbed the Greens and the Blacks, after dresses worn by the Queen and Crown Princess at a tourney in 111 AC.
  • Tensions continued to rise, and the issue of Princess Rhaenyra’s future husband arose. Queen Alicent was keen for her eldest son Aegon to marry his half sister, in Targaryen fashion (and to ensure he would be king) but Viserys nixed this idea: Rhaenyra was 10 years older than Aegon, and the king knew those children had never got along well. Viserys proposed a match with Laenor Velaryon, the same one who was passed over by the Great Council of 101 as a potential claimant for the Iron Throne. Slight problem: Laenor was gay. Viserys forged ahead, with the Grand Maester of the time suggesting that it was no matter – “I do not like fish, yet if fish is served I eat it…”
  • Rhaenyra wasn’t stoked with this marriage, but it went ahead. The couple lived apart and while there were suspicions the marriage was never consummated, Rhaenyra did bear a son, Jacaerys Velaryon… who bore no resemblance to his Valyrian-descended parents, but looked an awful lot like Harwin Strong, Rhaenyra’s head Man-at-Arms on Dragonstone!
  • Queen Alicent popped out a third son, Daeron, and Viserys ordered that his grandson and son would be nursed by the same wetnurse in the vain hope of mending some bridges between his familyI’m trying to summarise this guy’s reign but holy hell… the tensions that led up to the Dance of the Dragons are long winded!

     

  • Didn’t work. Add into the mix Daemon Targaryen, who had also had some children while on the outers with the royal family. Viserys hoped to have one big happy family, but the factions supporting Daemon, Rhaenyra and Alicent’s claims to the Throne were not easily won over.
  • Viserys became aware of the rumours about Rhaenyra’s children and began to crack down. As well as edicts ordering that anyone who perpetrated the treasonous “rumours” that Rhaenyra’s children were not trueborn would have their tongues cut out, he also forced Harwin Strong back to his father’s keep of Harrenhal…. where a fire broke out that conveniently killed then Hand of the King, Lyonel Strong and his son Harwin. In the same year, Laenor Velaryon was killed in a dispute with a knight rumoured to be his lover at the time, Qarl Correy.
  • Now a widow, Princess Rhaenyra wed her uncle, Daemon Targaryen, in what I can only presume was a calculated move to ensure her uncle’s long held ambitions for the Throne would be diverted to support her claim… he was a much older man. However, they did consummate the marriage, with two living sons – Prince Aegon the Younger (to distinguish him from the Prince Aegon born from Queen Alicent) and Prince Viserys.
  • Otto Hightower was brought back into the fold as Hand of the King, but by now the damage was done: the realm was divided between those who supported the claims of Rhaenyra to be a ruling Queen in her own right, or the claim of her eldest son if she was not to be acknowledged as her father’s heir by the sexist lords of Westeros (the latter plan supported by Daemon Targaryen, who had arranged marriage betrothals between his twin girls and Rhaenyra’s eldest sons, and clearly hoped to be the power behind the Throne as a father-in-law). Against this were those who supported the claims of Aegon, son of Alicent Hightower.
  • Viserys died in 129 AC, and his Dowager Queen Alicent quickly swooped with the support of Lord Commander Ser Cristan Cole, the “Kingmaker” Kingsguard, to crown Aegon II.

This then led to the Dance of the Dragons as Rhaenyra and her supporters sought to eject the “usurper” Aegon from her Throne.

THE DANCE OF THE DRAGONS: Civil War

6A: Aegon II – the Green’s King
6B: Rhaenyra – the Black’s Queen

So who was right?

Rhaenyra was clearly intended to be Viserys’ heir. The king had never wavered from his statement of intent to make her his heir following Aemma Arryn’s death in childbirth. King Viserys never, ever changed his will…. despite consistent advice from many on the Small Council, especially his Hand of the King and future father-in-law, Otto Hightower, that the Great Council of 101 AC gave legal precedent which favoured the claims of future sons over the claim of Rhaenyra.

Was this morally right? No. 

Was it legally right? Yes.

Much like our own law, the laws of royal inheritance in Westeros are clearly skewed towards male dominance. This is the same in property inheritance and lordship inheritance everywhere except Dorne.

If you think about a parallel to our real world, it’s only been fairly recently that laws have been passed confirming that gender is irrelevant to royal succession – because until recently the only way a woman could be a ruling Queen is if her royal father (or mother) only had female children. That’s how all of Britain’s ruling Queens have been ruling queens! Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart (although her husband William of Orange was treated as king in practice), Anne Stuart, Victoria, and Elizabeth II – all became ruling queens only because their male siblings died or were never born to begin with.

It wasn’t an issue through most of the sexist 20th century, as the eldest child of Elizabeth II was male (Charles, Prince of Wales) and he in turn produced boys (William and Harry). It was only once William was married that the British Parliament remembered that “oh shit – if William’s first child is female, we are going to have the embarrassing process of her being passed over for the crown to a brother unless we change the laws!” And so laws were quickly passed to bring Britain’s royal inheritance into line with modern standards (and European royal practices, where ruling queens have been common in the 20th and 21st century – and those laws had changed to reflect modern standards as a result of similar reasons, suddenly realising that a female eldest child should inherit the throne)

But Rhaenyra wasn’t in 21st century Britain. She was in medieval-esque Westeros, and the only thing that passed for law in so far as royal inheritance went was the Great Council of 101 AC, which said that her husband, Laenor Velaryon, did not have as good a claim to the Throne than his cousin (and her father) Viserys Targaryen because his claim came from Princess Rhaenys, and Viserys’ came from Prince Baelon. The law at the time, rightly or wrongly, said that men and claimants from male lines come first, over older female heirs and male heirs from a female line. It’s shit but that’s the lay of the land in the context of the Dance of the Dragons. Frankly, things only changed in the real world when there were no male claimants to the throne… Westeros hasn’t yet had that situation – they’ve always found a male Targaryen to plonk on the Throne. Dany’s claim, assuming she makes it off Essos and back to Westeros, will be the first time a woman’s claim to the Throne will be considered without competing male brothers or cousins – and she has dragons. Rhaenyra had a dragon, true – but so did her competitors. Dany’s competitors don’t!

Back to the plodder’s guide…

  • Crown Princess Rhaenyra, still officially King Viserys’ heir, was in the late stages of pregnancy on Dragonstone so when the king died, Queen Alicent, her supporter Lord Commander Cole and her son Aegon held back sending news to Dragonstone of their father’s death, and moved quickly to formally crown Aegon II before Rhaenyra would be in a position to mobilise herself or any supporters.
  • He had his own dragon, Sunfyre
  • He married his sister, Helaena Targaryen
  • His claims were supported by his brother Aemond Targaryen, who once lost an eye in a dispute with their Velaryon cousins when he called them Strongs rather than Velaryon’s, suggesting (correctly!) that they were not the trueborn children of Laenor Velaryon, but instead came from Princess Rhaenyra’s affair with her knight, Harwin Strong.
  • Predictably, the simmering tensions between the “Greens” and the “Blacks” erupted into civil war, as Rhaenyra refused to let her Throne be taken from her by her half-brother.
  • Just prior to Viserys’ death, Aemond was sent off to Storm’s End to wed a Baratheon daughter, to secure the support of the Stormlands for the Greens.
  • Ser Steffon Darklyn became the first to defect from the Greens for the Blacks – he disappeared from King’s Landing after Aegon’s coronation, and took the crown worn by Jaehaerys I and Viserys I to Rhaenyra. When Princess Rhaenyra heard the news of her father’s death and her half-brother’s excepted betrayal of their father’s will, she went into an early labour which resulted, after a long 3 days, in a stillborn daughter she called Visenya. She began to plot for war.
  • Rhaenyra’s Black Small Council was primarily composed of her husband-uncle, Daemon Targaryen, her eldest sons Jaecarys, Lucerys and Joffrey Velaryon, their grandfather Lord Corlys Velaryon and his wife, Princess Rhaenys (remember her – the eldest child of the eldest son, passed over by Jaehaerys for her uncle Baelon. The smallfolk called Rhaenys the Queen Who Never Was.)
  • Everyone declared each other traitors: Rhaenyra, crowned with Old King Jaehaerys’ crown smuggled out of King’s Landing by Ser Steffon Darklyn, named Queen Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower traitors, but declared she would give her half-siblings a pardon for their activities if they bent the knee and acknowledged her claim. In turn, Aegon II declared Rhaenyra and her husband-uncle Daemon traitors. No word on whether he offered a pardon to his hated cousins, the Strongs Velaryons. By this time, Rhaenyra and Daemon also had legitimate Targaryen sons, Aegon the Younger and Viserys (both of whom went on to be kings in their own right in the future).
  • Battles atop dragons ensued. Lucerys died in battle with Aemond, as the latter’s dragon was 5 times bigger than the one Lucerys rode. Rhaenyra collapsed with grief at the news of her son’s death. Daemon sent a raven from Harrenhal, where he was waging war, to promise Lucerys’ death would be avenged.
  • Blood and Cheese – Daemon procured the services of some dodgy types, Blood, a former serjeant of the City Watch, and Cheese, a rat catcher. They snuck into Maegor’s Holdfast using The Cruel’s secret pathways, and captured the royal family. Dowager Queen Alicent was bound and gagged, while Queen Helaena was forced to choose between her sons Maelor and Jaehaerys. Jaehaerys was killed (despite Helaena “choosing” Maelor) and Blood & Cheese ran off with the prince’s head. Lucerys avenged, but at what cost?
  • Further battles and major deaths ensued, culminating in the dragon-off Battle of Rook’s Nest. Aegon II arrived on Sunfyre, Rhaenys, the Queen That Never Was, rode Meleys. Vhagar, the ancient dragon that was once ridden by Queen Visenya alongside her brother-husband Aegon the Conqueror, was ridden by Aemond Targaryen. It was carnage. Sunfyre and Aegon II were badly injured. Meleys and Rhaenys perished in the battle – or at least Rhaenys was logically presumed KIA, as the charred corpse beside Meleys could not be identified. Prince Aemond had to take over as Regent, styling himself Protector of the Realm, until Aegon II was healed enough to rule as king again.
  • With his beloved wife Princess Rhaenys dead, Lord Corlys Velaryon threatened to abandon the Black’s cause, but was pacified by Jacaerys naming him Rhaenyra’s Hand. Jacaerys also had the bright idea to bolster the Black’s armies of dragonriders, by calling on all potential “dragonseeds” to see if they could claim a dragon and effectively ride it. Admission: I haven’t actually read The Rogue Prince or The Princess & The Queen, which cover the dragonseeds and the stories of Nettles and Sheepstealer in more detail. 
  • WTF were dragonseeds? Well, remember how Good Queen Alysanne convinced King Jaehaerys the Conciliator to abolish the practice of First Night, or prima nocte as it was known IRL? Many bastards were born to newly weds from Targaryen or Velaryon lords before this happened. These Valyrian-descended people from the wrong side of the sheets were considered to be “dragonseeds” (i.e. from the seed of a dragonlord) As Valyrian blood seems to be an essential ingredient to taming and riding a dragon, non-royal dragonriders have always been assumed to have a drop or ten of dragonblood somewhere. Will this be relevant to future books? Probably – it’s part of the reason why “Tyrion is a Secret Targ” is such a popular fan theory (Personally I think it’s bullshit – it cheapens Tyrion’s story enormously if he isn’t Tywin Lannister’s trueborn son, as he is the only one of Tywin’s children to really think and act like the fearsome Lion of the Rock. Tyrion will either not ride one of Dany’s dragons, or he will be the exception that proves that this notion of “you have to be of Valyrian blood to ride a dragon” is bullshit.)
  • Anyway…. blah blah blah. More fighting. Rhaenyra seized King’s Landing, Aegon II seized Dragonstone. Queen Helaena killed herself following the deaths of so many of her family.
  • Fleeing a coup in the capital after the Storming of the Dragonpit, Rhaenyra herself fled with young Aegon, her surviving heir, to Dragonstone, unaware it was now under the control of Aegon II. She was captured, given a perfunctory trial and fed to Sunfyre, while her son Aegon the Younger was forced to watch. (Understandably, Aegon the Younger was never fond of dragons after this traumatic incident)
  • Despite winning the Dance of the Dragons, Aegon II did not have a happy reign. He was found dead in his litter while being transported from one end of King’s Landing to his chambers – poisoned, but it is not known by whom.

7: Aegon III, Aegon the Younger, Aegon the Dragonbane

  • Aegon didn’t immediately inherit without dispute – another Great Council was held in 136 AC, five years after Aegon III was formally crowned as a boy king. An informal Council in 131 AC determined that a Council of Regents would help the boy reign, but that led to problems of scheming and nepotism as the various councillors tried to advance their own interests. For five years, as one councillor died, another would replace them, but in 136 AC 3 councillors died and a Great Council was called to sort this shit out. Seven councillors were confirm and reigned in Aegon’s stead until he sacked them all when he was 16.
  • The Dance of the Dragons officially ends not with the deaths of Rhaenyra or Aegon II, but with Rhaenyra’s son by Daemon Targaryen Aegon III, wedding his cousin Jaehaera, who was the daughter of Aegon II and Helaena. In uniting the feuding lines, Aegon III put an end to the civil war and ensured that whoever came after him would be considered a descendent of the Greens AND the Blacks. (In theory – it didn’t pan out that way, as we will see.)
  • Aegon and Jaehaera’s marriage was short, they bore no children as they were only kids themselves when wed – Aegon was 11 when crowned king, and Jaehaera only 8 and considered a “simple” (i.e. intellectually impaired) child. Jaehaera died following a leap off the Red Keep into the spikes in the moat below – whether as suicide, or as murder is unclear. She was just 10 when she died.
  • The first 5 years of Aegon’s reign were a tumultuous regency, as he was only 11-16. Various lords tried to plot and scheme, and people dropped like flies (including the young Queen) as murder was resorted to by those seeking to advantage themselves of a young and malleable king.
  • Eventually he was old enough to rule himself, and dismissed his various councillors. He appointed his brother Viserys Hand of the King, and began to try and repair the Seven Kingdoms after the long civil war of his mother and uncle.
  • But Aegon was a broken king presiding over a broken kingdom – he was sensible and clear headed, but traumatised. His cool demeanour meant he never won lords onto his side, and he was prone to periods of brooding alone. His brother Viserys did most of the work of ruling as the Hand of the King. (We come back to Viserys in the future, so remember him!)
  • He particularly hated dragons – understandable, given his uncle forced him to watch his mother be eaten by one. However much he personally feared and hated dragons, he understood the importance of dragons both as symbols of the Targaryen rule, and as practical weapons to ensure Targaryen dominance. So he rounded up mages and experts, and attempted to hatch the last clutch of dragon eggs. It didn’t work, and the last dragon, an unnamed small, sickly green thing, died in 153 AC. The death of the dragons under Aegon’s watch led to his moniker, Dragonbane.
  • His second marriage to Daenaera Velaryon was more fruitful, although Aegon was not fond of being touched by anyone, even his wife. They had five children: Daeron, Baelor, Daena, Rhaena, and Elaena.
  • Aegon died at the age of 36 from consumption, in 157 AC.

8: Daeron I, the Young Dragon, the Boy King

  • Eldest son of Aegon III and Daenaera Velyron, Daeron came to the Throne following his father’s death at the age of 14. Sensibly, he kept his uncle Viserys on as Hand of the King, as his father had.
  • Best known for conquering Dorne and finally bringing this renegade semi-independent region into the Seven Kingdoms properly…. even if it didn’t last too long or pan out too well for him.
  • The Young Dragon’s conquest of Dorne, which tooks several years of war to achieve, lasted a grand total of a fortnight. A trap was sprung in which Lord Lyonel Tyrell, left behind in Sunspear to act as steward of Dorne was murdered. An uprising began in which all of the successes Daeron had won in the previous years’ battles were undone.
  • Daeron himself was killed at the age of 18, while meeting the representatives of the Prince of Dorne under a peace banner, and his cousin Ser Aemon the Dragonknight was captured.
  • He was succeeded by his brother, having not got married or produced any heirs as he was so busy trying to finish the conquest of Westeros started by Aegon the Conqueror.

9: Baelor the Blessed

  • In my opinion, the most mad of all the mad Targaryens!
  • Succeeded his brother Daeron after he was murdered by the Dornish, at the age of 17
  • HUGELY loved and beatified by the smallfolk, but realistically a very bad king – no thought given to anything but religious excess
  • Baelor was married to his sister Daena at the insistence of their mother Daenaera, but he refused to consummate the marriage.
  • When he was crowned king, he locked his sister-wife and other sisters in Maegor’s Holdfast, which became known as the Maidenvault, in order to better protect their and his chastity and purity. (In the case of Daena the Defiant, it wasn’t that successful!)
  • About the only sensible thing Baelor did initially was to confirm that his uncle, Viserys would remain Hand of the King – serving a second son of his brother Aegon III and his third King in short succession.
  • But King and Hand clashed early on, over how to respond to Daeron’s murder under a banner of peace (a war crime under our laws, and under Westerosi law it seems.) Viserys wanted to execute the 14 Dornish hostages held in King’s Landing. Baelor had another idea…. he would “bind up the wounds” of his brother’s war with Dorne by personally WALKING the hostages back to Dorne.Yes. Walking. As in on foot. Barefoot as it happened. Across desert…
  • While on this journey, King Baelor encountered the cage at House Wyl where Aemon the Dragonknight was held captive. Baelor was unable to free his cousin, but prayed and swore to have him freed.
  • Bizarrely, this pilgrimage of Baelor actually worked: the Prince of Dorne was willing to settle. Albeit for far more independence than other regions of Westeros had, which continues to the current events – this is why Arianne is next in line to the Dornish Lord Paramount seat, and why Doran Martell is a Prince and not a Lord.
  • While simply walking across the desert to Sunspear was considered Baelor’s first miracle, his peace treaty with Dorne was considered his second. It wasn’t that miraculous really – the Dornish had been at war with the Iron Throne, or with the Stormlands or the Reach for hundreds of years. They seized a chance to obtain peace, but still maintain a significant level of independence. They also were rewarded with a betrothal between Baelor’s nephew, Daeron II son of Viserys, and Marian Martell, daughter of the ruling Prince.
  • Baelor got the Prince of Dorne to agree to release Aemon the Dragonknight. The Prince was so worried that Baelor, who was fasting and insisted on walking back to King’s Landing rather than taking a ship, would die en route and that Dorne would again be claimed (wrongfully this time) to have killed a ruling king of Westeros that he had the King accompanied by a fleet of Dornishmen who ensured the king was kept safe, hydrated and fed (as much as the pious Baelor would eat anyway.) But all this safekeeping nearly came undone when they reached the seat of House Wyl. By now Aemon’s cage was suspended over a viper’s nest… instead of waiting for Lord Wyl to remove the vipers, Baelor decided to go and free his cousin himself. The Faith would tell people in the future that the vipers bowed their heads to the saintly Baelor, but in reality the king was bitten repeatedly.
  • Aemon then carried his cousin out of the viper pit, and onwards to the safety of Blackhaven and then Storm’s End.
  • After recovering from that particularly stupid idea, Baelor requested/commanded the High Septon to annul his marriage to Daena as it was not consummated, and locked his sisters in the Maidenvault. Despite the consternation and protests of Viserys, Hand of the King, Baelor refused to wed or beget an heir, and focused himself on his religious studies instead.
  • Baelor’s next great idea was to outlaw sex work in King’s Landing. This resulted in thousands of sex workers and their children being expelled from the capital, not to mention the resentment of all the patrons of their facilties who were no longer allowed to get their end away because their king was scared of his own dick!
  • For me, the worst thing that Baelor did was burn books that he considered to be heretical: pertinently this included the bawdy histories of Mushroom, which would be hilarious if GRRM published them, and the works of Septon Barth. Now given that we can see from the surviving tidbits of Barth’s work in TWOIAF that when in doubt, Septon Barth was always right about the metaphysical and magical side of Planetos… this is a major bloody problem for our current protagonists. Samwell Tarly could have found out some very useful information about the Others and dragons from Septon Barth’s works but nooooo…. bloody Baelor had to have them burned!
  • Baelor regularly emptied the royal treasury to feed the smallfolk or donate to the Faith, so obviously he was loved and sanctified by the Faith and remembered as the only Westerosi equivalent to a Catholic saint.
  • But realistically he did bugger all to help patch up the realm after the catastrophic Dance of the Dragons and ineffectual governance of Aegon III.
  • Baelor had the Great Sept in King’s Landing constructed, which is why it is now called the Great Sept of Baelor – the site of Ned’s beheading, Cersei’s walk of shame and surely more crucial events to come…
  • Baelor regularly fasted for religious reasons, and ultimately starved himself to death in 171 AC. Some whispered that he was actually poisoned by his uncle Viserys, who would go on to claim the Throne as the next in line (as his nephews had not produced any heirs, the line of descent had to go back to Rhaenyra’s sons.)

Daeron and Baelor both failed to produce heirs: this is significant not because Viserys was a particularly bad king (he was a good one) but because of what would happen in the future. Think about it: if the Young Dragon or the Blessed had managed to focus on begetting an heir and a spare instead of conquering Dorne or praying to oblivion, Viserys would never had come to the Throne, which means Viserys’ son Aegon the Unworthy would have never come to the Throne…. which means the Blackfyre Rebellions would never have happened.

As Jaime says to Lancel Lannister in AFFC, the future realm would have been much better off had Baelor just closed his eyes and fucked his wife.

10: Viserys II

  • Charming but stern, and experienced. He governed the realm in the place of his brooding and traumatised brother Aegon, the distracted warrior Daeron and the pious idiot Baelor.
  • He finally got to be king in his own right in 171 AC, after Baelor starved himself to death for fasting for penance for Daena the Defiant’s birth of an illegitimate son while imprisoned in the Maidenvault to “protect” her chastity!
  • As a child, Viserys was sent to Lys for his safety while the Dance of the Dragons raged. He married the daughter of his hosts, Larra Rogare, and was brought back to Westeros in the early years of Aegon III’s reign (possibly the only moment of happiness for his morose brother)
  • Viserys and Larra had three children: Aegon, Naerys and Aemon. However Larra did not enjoy Westeros, especially after Aegon III booted her family out at the end of his regency (as they had been amongst those scheming around him in his regency). She left Viserys and her children and returned to Lys.
  • The Great Council of 101 crops up again: when Baelor died, some lords felt that Daena, as the next eldest of Aegon III’s children, should have been crowned. However the rest of the great lords, wary of conflict following the attempts of Viserys I to keep Rhaenyra his heir, decided that it was better to stick with a male Targaryen. In any event, Daena and her sisters had been isolated for years in the Maidenvault, and were unable to form the necessary alliances to push the issue further.
  • Viserys II only reigned in his own name for a year, but he was able to finally finish a lot of the work he had been trying to do as Hand for some years: established a royal mint, sealed some trade deals, stablised the realm.
  • He died in 172 AC following a suspicious sudden illness – it was widely believed that his heir, Aegon IV, decided to speed along his father’s reign with the help of some poison.

11: Aegon IV, the Unworthy

  • I wrote a lot about the failings of Aegon IV’s rule yesterday
  • Aegon married Naerys, his sister, at the behest of his father Viserys, before Viserys II was crowned king. But he wasn’t happy and they didn’t love each other.
  • Aegon loved many women and shagged his way across the Seven Kingdoms with a level of lechery not seen before or since.
  • Aegon’s rule had no real notable positives, it was all negative: the seeds of the future Blackfyre Rebellions sown with his Great Bastards, his poor treatment of his sister-wife and their son Daeron II, and his excesses running a royal treasury already depleted from Baelor’s excessive charity further into the ground.
  • Blah. Fat, horny arsehole did nothing good.

12: Daeron II, the Good

  • King at the time of The Hedge Knight, well loved by all
  • Married Marian Martell, as per the peace deal made by Baelor, and is the king who FINALLY managed to bring Dorne officially into the Seven Kingdoms. For all the posturing of the 11 kings before him, Daeron the Good is the one who actually achieved the dream of Aegon the Conqueror of a united realm in Westeros.
  • Smart, intellectual, kind and wise – but for the martial, misogynistic lords who found him disappointing, he was tubby, a poor swordsman and surrounded by Dornishmen, maesters and women.
  • Had several children: Baelor Breakspear, Aerys I, Rhaegal, Maekar. They in turn all had lots of children, so Daeron’s children suddenly led to a massive growth in the numbers of Targaryens (which had been decimated by the Dance). This didn’t last but for a while it was nice…
  • Did so much to unravel the successive reigns of poor governance by Aegon II, Aegon III, Daeron, Baelor and Aegon IV.
  • Built the palace of Summerhall, in the Dornish marches which would have such future prominence for House Targaryen
  • Dealt with the First Blackfyre Rebellion.
  • I touched on this issue yesterday in my post about the roots of the Blackfyre Rebellion, but I’m going to hammer it home again: feminism is relevant to men too. Because why were knights and lords willing to repeatedly rebel against a totally reasonable king, who was governing over a period of peace not seen in generations? Because the idea that a chubby book nerd could be a competent king flies in the face of every notion of masculinity held dear to Westeros. 

    This came up over and over again with criticisms of Daeron the Good and his son Aerys I – they were bookish, they were surrounded by the intelligentsia instead of chivalrous fighting knights, they weren’t fit warriors…. the fact that they were competent rulers was considered irrelevant to the many lords who prioritise hypermasculinity over, y’know, being fucking competent at the job.Why is this something that annoys me so much? Well until earlier this year Australia was led by a head of government that thought it was totes diplomatic to threaten to “shirt front” a despot who holds control of a fuckton of nukes! Big talking, small thinking men are an ongoing problem for us all, and I love so much that GRRM is ripping the fratboy knightly ideal a new arsehole in ASOAIF – not just through the historical stories of the Blackfyre Rebellion, but in exposing the weaknesses of Robert Baratheon’s rule.

  • Daeron and many in King’s Landing, including his grandsons Valarr and Matarys, died in the Great Spring Sickness. Remember, his heir Baelor Breakspear had already died at the Tourney of Ashford, so Valarr and then Matarys, Baelor’s sons, were Daeron’s heirs. Once Baelor’s sons were dead, the line of inheritance reverted to Daeron’s next eldest surviving son, Aerys I.

13: Aerys I

  • Came to the Throne in 209 AC, at the height of the Great Spring Sickness
  • Appointed his uncle, Brynden Rivers (or “Bloodraven”), one of Aegon IV’s Great Bastards, as Hand of the King. His younger brother Maekar had expected to be made Hand, and took off to Summerhall to sulk…. or to be wroth, as Maekar’s young son Egg insisted to Ser Duncan the Tall in The Sworn Sword
  • Married to a cousin (though no fan can figure out where she comes from) Aelinor Penrose, but not a fan of the opposite sex, or any sex as far as anyone knows. Unlike the pious Baelor, who explicitly shunned his wife’s bed on the grounds of religious fervour, Aerys just seems to be asexual – totally uninterested in his wife, or his duty to beget an heir and a spare.
  • After the Great Spring Sickness, the Seven Kingdoms plunged into a drought not seen before. Again, as with book nerd Daeron the Good, the people of Westeros decided this was divine retribution for an unwarrior king who refused to sleep with his wife, and appointed a sorcerous bastard as Hand. Realistically? Shit happens. The realm could have been governed by the martial warrior Blackfyres and King’s Landing would still have been decimated by the Great Spring Sickness and they would have still had the drought. And the people of Westeros would have then blamed the “bastard” line of Blackfyre…
  • Speaking of our Blackfyre friends, in Aerys’ reign the Second and Third Blackfyre Rebellions happened. Dealing with them was more or less done by Bloodraven – especially the woefully useless Second Rebellion, as described in The Mystery Knight.
  • We don’t know what happened in the Third Blackfyre Rebellion, as frustrating it is described in TWOIAF as “a well known tale that does not need repeating” – presumably it will form the basis of a future Dunk and Egg story, as Egg’s bravery in the battle for acts unknown is noted in TWOIAF. Bittersteel was captured, and Aerys overruled Bloodraven and Aerion Brightflame’s calls to kill him as a traitor – instead Aerys sent Bittersteel to the Wall. He never made it, escaping to Essos en route.
  • The main practical problem of Aerys I’s rule is that because he wasn’t interested in the necessary activity to produce an heir, the line of succession had to look down the lines of the rest of Daeron’s children. Rhaegal was bonkers, and regularly pranced around the Red Keep naked. He choked to death on a pie, and then his children died shortly after. That meant that Maekar was left to be Aerys’ heir – an unlikely result for the fourth son of Daeron the Good.
  • Aerys’ death was apparently unremarkable as we have no information about it.

14: Maekar I, the Anvil

  • a proud man who chafed life long at a lack of recognition, and then the taint and self-imposed guilt of being a kinslayer – even though the mace swing that caved in his brother Baelor’s head was not intended to kill him in the Trial by Seven at the Tourney of Ashford (The Hedge Knight)
  • We know a fair bit about Maekar’s character, thanks to the views of Ser Duncan the Tall and Egg – or Prince Aegon, to give him his proper title. Maekar is grumpy, always unhappy at being in the shadows of his more esteemed brother, or the bastard Bloodraven. Maekar was a stern man who wanted his sons to be better than Baelor’s – but this pressure only resulted in drunkenness, sociopathy and a boy who travelled around the Seven Kingdoms with a lowly hedge knight.
  • But for the people of Westeros disappointed with the booknerd kings of Daeron and Aerys, Maekar was a godsend – a proper warrior king. He even died in battle!
  • We have limited information about Maekar’s rule, but by all accounts it was straightforward and uneventful, apart from the hot summer which lingered.
  • Interestingly, he seems to have come to terms with Bloodraven’s aptitude for governance, as we have no indications that Bloodraven was fired from the role of Hand of the King when Maekar took the Throne. For someone who was willing to sulk at Summerhall for years because a bastard was appointed Hand over him, this is interesting.
  • It confirms something I took from Maekar’s appearance in The Hedge Knight: he’s a grumpy bugger, but he’s fundamentally a decent person. He appreciates competence. When Dunk makes the point that Daeron and Aerion, Maekar’s disappointing sons, have had every luxury that Egg was happy to do without to serve as Dunk’s squire on the road, Maekar is not happy with this insight from a lowly hedge knight and stormed out of the tent…. but he entrusts his young son to Dunk’s care as a squire anyway. Maekar is basically an earlier predecessor of Stannis Baratheon – not merciful but just, not necessarily kind but capable of rewarding those who do well.
  • Great Council 233 AC: Maekar’s reign is more notable for the succession crisis his death prompted: another Great Council was called.
  • Daeron II was Maekar’s heir, but he crumbled in the face of this pressure and had long lived the life of a drunkard. Once his father was crowned king, and Daeron himself named the Prince of Dragonstone, Daeron did get married, but died of an STI prior to his father’s death, and his only issue was a daughter, Princess Vaella, a “feeble minded simpleton”.
  • Next up was Aerion “Brightflame” Targaryen, the arsehole whose vanity and cruelty caused the whole Trial by Seven mess at Ashford. He returned from his banishment to Lys prior to the Third Blackfyre Rebellion, and fought with some skill… but he hadn’t learned any honour. Aerion killed Haegon Blackfyre despite his surrender. Perhaps this was because Aerion was secretly in league with the Blackfyres and the Golden Company? I highly recommend this theory by Militant Penguin.
  • In any event, by the time of the Great Council, Aerion was also dead – he’d drunk wildfire in an attempt to turn into the literal dragon he believed he was. By this point he had married and produced an heir, ominously named Maegor, but the child was an infant and the Council was wary to have a long regency (after the chaos of Aegon III’s regency) particularly if there’s a chance Maegor Brightflame could have inherited his father’s madness (remember, in recent Targaryen history at this point they’d had Prince Rhaegal the Nudist Dancer, Aerys the Bookworm who shunned his marriage bed, Aegon the Unworthy and his wandering cock, Baelor the Blessedly Religious Crackpot…. the odds of Targaryen sanity weren’t looking too crash hot for poor baby Maegor!) So Maegor Brightflame was crossed off the list, and seemingly disappears from history. Or does he?
  • Maekar’s third son, Aemon, had been sent to the Citadel for training as a maester at the suggestion of Daeron the Good, back when the Targaryens had more princes than they knew what to do with. He had become a sworn and chained maester, and so should have been removed from consideration. Maester Aemon found himself approached by lords who were reluctant to accept the claim of Aegon V, who had roamed Westeros for years in the service of a hedge knight, but he refused to usurp his younger brother and ultimately took himself to the Night’s Watch to ensure that he could not be used as a pawn in plots against his brother’s reign.
  • That left Aegon, Egg… the Unlikely…
  • Well, and Aenys Blackfyre, the fifth son of Daemon I Blackfyre, who wrote to the lords from Tyrosh, hoping that diplomacy would work where his brothers and nephews wars had failed. He was invited to attend the Great Council to put forward his claim by Bloodraven – who then killed Aenys when he arrived. Just so it was clear where the Blackfyre claim stood vis a vis the Great Council in Lord Bloodraven’s eyes…

15: Aegon V, the Unlikely

  • Dubbed the Unlikely as he was the fifth son of a fourth son of King Daeron the Good, and seriously unlikely to be anywhere near the inheritance of the Iron Throne until a series of disasters swept through his family.
  • Came to the Iron Throne at the age of 33. Thanks to Bloodraven’s actions with Aenys Blackfyre, his first royal act was to sentence his great-uncle to death – but he gave Bloodraven the option of commuting this sentence if he went to the Night’s Watch. The cells of King’s Landing were emptied, and Maester Aemon and most of Bloodraven’s loyal archers, the Raven’s Teeth, accompanied Brynden Rivers to Castle Black. Unlike his half brother Bittersteel, Bloodraven had no issue with being sent to the Wall – he ended up Lord Commander, until he disappeared on a ranging beyond the Wall…. and we know he is still kicking around, in the cave of the Children of the Forest, teaching Bran Stark how to be a greenseer.
  • He had married for love, back when he wasn’t considered to be in the line of succession, to Betha Blackwood. They had five children: Duncan the Small (named in honour of his friend Ser Duncan the Tall), Jaehaerys II, Shaera, Daeron, and Rhaelle.
  • No one expected an Egg to become an Aegon, least of all Egg. But he was keen to do a good job of it, fuelled by ideas of how to make things fairer for the smallfolk, based on his experiences as a squire to a wandering Ser Duncan.
  • This led to a reign marked by arguments and dissent with the great lords, who were not willing to part with their feudal ‘rights’ at the demand of a king who was “no better than a smallfolk himself”.
  • Aegon came to the Throne in the midst of a harsh winter, and his first battle with the nobility came when he wanted to ensure that the whole realm, especially the frozen and starving North, were able to be fed from the hoarded granaries of the more agricultural areas.
  • The grumbling over this aid slid into the Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion, although this last tilt by Bittersteel was even less successful than the three previous attempts. Ser Duncan the Tall slew Daemon III Blackfyre, and the Golden Company fled.
  • Aegon’s main problem with dissent and strife came in the Westerlands, where the cheerful and feckless Lord Tytos Lannister repeatedly failed to maintain the king’s peace (which is more or less the only real expectation of a Lord Paramount in a feudal state!) More discussion about this, and Tywin Lannister’s ruthless “solution” to his father’s inability to control the Westerland rioters, here.
  • Aegon turned to tried and true diplomacy through betrothals to win over the necessary nobles to support his reform projects. But everything went tits up because his children decided that seeing as Aegon and Betha married for love, they could too. What Aegon’s children failed to register is that Aegon could marry for love and not politics because when he married, his father was still behind Rhaegal and his sons’ in the line of succession to Aerys. Even once his father was crowned king, Aegon still had three older brothers would could, theoretically, inherit before him. They didn’t have this luxury, yet they all acted like they did for plot reasons
  • Duncan the Small was the first to chuck a spanner in the works, falling for Jenny of Oldstones. This buggered Aegon’s plans for Duncan to wed the daughter of “the Laughing Storm”, Lord Lyonel Baratheon, who did not take kindly to the slight (and it was only after a duel with Lord Commander Duncan the Tall that the Stormlands rebellion was quashed.) Prince Duncan was not so foolish as to be totally oblivious to the political impact of his marriage – like Edward VIII of Britain, he was willing to trade in the Throne for his wife, and became the “Prince of Dragonflies” rather than the Prince of Dragonstone.
  • Jenny is most notable for her companion, an albino woodswitch that Jenny “in her ignorance” (according to Maester Yandel) called a Child of the Forest. Now… we’ve met this woodswitch – she’s the Ghost of High Heart. Could she be a Child of the Forest, or descended from the Children and Green Men on the Isle of Faces? Certainly. This woodswitch/COTF made a prophetic pronouncement which is important to the current plot of ASOIAF: that the Prince That Was Promised would be born “of the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen”. Does that mean it was Rhaegar? Or is it Daenerys? Or is it Jon Snow, the last surviving son of Rhaegar?
  • Aegon’s next son Jaehaerys was of a more traditional bent… much to the displeasure of Aegon. Despite a youthful Egg discussing the possibility of marrying his sisters in a totally neutral tone to Dunk in The Sworn Sword, adult Aegon had come to believe that the Targaryen propensity for madness and self-destruction was due to their incestuous inbreeding. Nevertheless, his son Jaehaerys and daughter Shaera had been in love from a young age, and once their older brother Duncan set the precedent for ignoring their father’s commands, the two ran off and married in secret. This meant that House Tully (for Jaehaerys) and House Tyrell (for Shaera) were added to the list of disgruntled and jilted Lords Paramount.
  • Now, in hindsight, why didn’t Aegon just force the High Septon to annul the marriage and claim it wasn’t consummated? I swear we recently discussed this on /r/asoiaf but I can’t find any thread now! Jaehaerys and Shaera married in secret, before a septon, but without the full on public bedding spectacle that accompanies Westerosi marriages. They say that they consummated the marriage (and most likely did) but what was to stop Aegon telling Lord Tully and Lord Tyrell (in particular) that all was well and to ignore their attempt at running off? Egg could have been much firmer here, and perhaps then we wouldn’t have had Mad King Aerys… but anyway. Much later on, when Jenny’s woodswitch made her prophecy about Aerys and Rhaella, Egg’s inaction on Jaehaerys and Shaera’s elopement makes a kind of cosmic sense, even though it remains politically stupid.
  • Last up is Prince Daeron, betrothed for many years to Olenna Redwyne, who would go on to be Lady Olenna Tyrell, the “Queen” of Thorns. Unfortunately for Olenna, Daeron was not interested in the ladies, preferring the company of Ser Jeremy Norridge. Given that Daeron and Jeremy met as squires at Highgarden, I suspect that this was not exactly a big secret to the Tyrell household – I wonder if part of Olenna’s subsequent snarkiness is a suspicion that the Tyrells nixed her royal wedding by setting up or encouraging Daeron’s affair with Norridge?
  • Princess Rhaelle was young enough that she was the only child that Aegon was able to successfully use in a diplomatic marriage, soothing Lord Lyonel Baratheon’s anger as a replacement marriage, this time for Ormund Baratheon (and through this, becoming the Targaryen grandmother of Robert, Stannis and Renly which enabled Robert to justify his claim to the Iron Throne in the Rebellion – which Stannis understood, though Renly never did.)
  • Frustrated by all the pushback from the nobles to his efforts to make things fairer, Aegon became obsessed with the dragon-based firepower that enabled the Targaryen kings of old to tell Westeros what to do (although, if you go through this plodder’s guide, you’ll see that the only king to use dragonfire to force the point was Aegon the Conqueror!) This led to the Tragedy of Summerhall, where everything went kaboom, Rhaegar was born amidst smoke and salt, and the majority of House Targaryen died, including King Aegon the Unlikely. He was a cooked Egg in the end. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist!)

17: Jaehaerys II

  • Survived Summerhall
  • Came to the Throne at the age of 34, having long since married his sister-wife Shaera, and produced Aerys and Rhaella
  • Thanks to Jenny of Oldstones’ woodswitch, Jaehaerys forced his children to marry in order to produce the Prince That Was Promised
  • Reigned for 3 years
  • Only real major event (apart from Summerhall at the start) was the Fifth and final Blackfyre Rebellion – better remembered as the War of the Ninepenny Kings.
  • A capable king, despite his weak health, who started the process of appeasing the nobility offended by his father’s plans, which was later finished by Tywin Lannister as Hand to Jaehaerys’ son Aerys II.
  • This Jaehaerys made the famous comment to Ser Barristan Selmy which Selmy repeats to Daenerys in Essos: the madness and greatness of the Targaryens are two sides of the same coin. Every time a dragon is born, the gods flip the coin and see what happens… will Dany be great, like her grandfather Jaehaerys and her great-grandfather Aegon, or mad like her father Aerys?

18: Aerys II, the Mad King

  • As a young man, Prince Aerys was a charming, handsome, and generous…. although he was also vain, proud, quick to anger and changeable, a trait which over time became more and more pronounced
  • Best buddies with Tywin Lannister, who was serving as page to king Jaehaerys (?) and Steffon Baratheon, Aerys’ cousin thanks to his grandfather Aegon’s final diplomatic marriage bid to link up Rhaelle Targaryen and Ormund Baratheon.
  • Forced into a loveless marriage by his father, at the behest of a prophecy.
  • First child born at the tragedy of Summerhall
  • Served as a squire and fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, performed sufficiently to be knighted – and chose to be knighted by his friend Tywin Lannister
  • Returned home to become king shortly afterwards
  • As King, Aerys swept out the old and stuff councillors preferred by Aegon and Jaehaerys, and brought in a new generation, such as his buddy Tywin Lannister who was appointed Hand of the King.
  • Starts to show early signs of madness, with lots of spur of the moment and outlandish plans, such as building a new capital on the other side of the Blackwater (echoed by Mad Queen Cersei about 40 years later…) and so on. Tywin Lannister’s capable service as Hand manages to smooth over most of these flights of fancy… for now.
  • Treats Rhaella like dirt, and blames her for all their miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths. Rhaegar remains the only child born to Aerys and Rhaella, and is increasingly obsessed with scrolls, prophecies and Summerhall (much like his great-great-great uncle Aerys I…)
  • Over time gets more and more angry about the suggestion that Tywin Lannister is the real ruler of the Seven Kingdoms – this is the beginning of the decline into the Mad King. Despite increasing insults, Aerys refuses to let Tywin resign as Hand, but also refuses to heed his advice.
  • Following the death of a year old Prince Jaehaerys, who was hoped to be the spare to Rhaegar’s heir, Aerys fasts, prays and declares he will remain faithful to his wife from now on…. this doesn’t help Rhaella’s fertility issues in the slightest. Nor does it help Aerys’ sanity.
  • Finally Prince Viserys was born and survived. Aerys was paranoid that this new prince would die, and ordered a frankly insane level of supervision for the boy. It’s no wonder that Viserys turned out as crazy as he was!
  • The Defiance of Duskendale. The wheels have well and truly fallen off the Mad King’s ride.
  • Aerys refuses to let anyone come near him with a knife, resulting in his decrepit and freaky appearance of long, unkempt hair and beard and those awful talons on his fingers. Imagine what his toes looked like! YUK.
  • As his madness grows, Aerys employs Varys, a talented spymaster from Essos
  • Aerys decides that Rhaegar should have a Valyrian bride, and sends Steffon Baratheon off to Essos to find one. This doesn’t work, and results in the unfortunate death of Steffon and Lady Baratheon (within the sight of Storm’s End, as both Robert and Stannis watched) Rhaegar is married to Elia Martell instead.
  • Things with Tywin continue to breakdown, culminating in the famous tantrum thrown by Tywin when Jaime Lannister, Tywin’s beloved golden heir, is named to the Kingsguard. FWIW I don’t think Cersei managed to do this – she tells Jaime that she will arrange it but you know what I think is far more likely? While she was in King’s Landing, being shown off by her father as a suitable bride for Rhaegar (despite Aerys’ earlier refusal to countenance marrying his son to “a servant”) Cersei hears rumours, perhaps from Varys, that Jaime could be considered for a vacancy on the kingsguard if he was interested. It totally fits with Cersei’s manipulative behaviour that she would both take the credit for something she had no power to pull off, and that she would completely fail to see the problems with this plan – or that Aerys/Varys intended it as a massive insult to Tywin which would finally destabilise the realm.
  • Tourney of Harrenhal. Aerys was rightly paranoid that Rhaegar was planning a coup d’etat – although Rhaegar himself might have also been played by Lords Paramount with Southron Ambitions.
  • Robert’s Rebellion commences after Brandon and Rickard Stark are killed by Aerys following Rhaegar running off with Lyanna.
  • Rhaegar dies at the Battle of the Trident
  • Viserys and pregnant Queen Rhaella taken to Dragonstone with Ser William Darry of the Kingsguard. Rhaella dies in childbirth, after giving birth to Daenerys “Stormborn”.
  • Sack of King’s Landing: Aerys is killed by Jaime Lannister, Elia Martell and her children are killed by the Mountain. Viserys is nominally the new King but…
  • the Iron Throne is claimed by Robert Baratheon

19: Robert Baratheon

  • Wins Rebellion
  • Married to Cersei Lannister to shore up Westerlands support after Lyanna is confirmed to be dead
  • Greyjoy Rebellion quashed
  • Goes to seed – drinks, whores and feasts his way through life, oblivious to the decline of his kingdom in the hands of Littlefinger, Varys and the Lannisters.
  • Gored by a boar, thanks to a steady supply of strongwine supplied by Lancel Lannister at the behest of an angry Cersei who feared Hand of the King, Eddard Stark, telling Robert about her children not being his.
  • Totally fails to notice his “Baratheon” children all looks suspiciously like Lannisters. Also completely fails to teach Joffrey how to be a king (or even a sane person). 
  • Dead. 15 years of peace gone overnight as all hell breaks loose in AGOT.

WAR OF THE FIVE KINGS
20A: Joffrey Baratheon

  • Not a Baratheon!
  • Sadistic sociopath.
  • Ignores starving masses to throw regular feasts
  • Cries and runs from the Battle of the Bywater but claims afterwards it was his victory
  • Married to Margaery Tyrell, dies at wedding feast cough cough

20B: Stannis Baratheon

  • The lawful heir if the Baratheon children are Lannister bastards (which they are)
  • But not a well liked man – much like Maekar
  • Allies himself to Red Priestess Melisandre and the cult of R’hollor – while he gains many devout followers, especially amongst his wife’s liege lords in the Florent lands, he alienates most of Westeros.
  • Kills own brother with magic shadow baby
  • Loses Battle of the Blackwater
  • Is the only claimant to the Iron Throne to give a flying fuck about the plea for help from the Night’s Watch
  • Probably dead (show) or soon to be dead or otherwise persuaded to give up his claim to the Throne (books)

20C: Renly Baratheon

  • Idiot
  • A child at the time of Robert’s Rebellion, so he missed all the lessons about Robert claiming the Iron Throne because of their Targaryen grandmother, instead thinking that Robert got the Throne because he won the right battles
  • Accurately described by Catelyn Tully Stark as a boy playing at being a king
  • Dead

20D: Robb Stark, DAKINGINDANORF

  • Not on the Iron Throne, so for this list… eh
  • Dead.

20E: Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands

  • King of the Arsehole Pirates of Dickhead Islands
  • Dead

21A: Tommen Baratheon

  • SLAYER OF BEETS
  • STAMPER OF PAPERS
  • LORD COMMANDER OF SER POUNCE
  • Adorable kid, probably not long for this world thanks to Mummy dearest’s ineptitude at being a Queen Regent and talent for pissing off everyone in the world
  • Formally married to Margaery Tyrell, but yet to consummate the marriage because he’s only 8.
  • Given Cersei’s valonqar prophecy that predicts that all her children will have “golden crowns and golden shrouds“, highly likely to die before he is able to produce an heir or understand his role in the game of thrones.

21B: Euron Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands

  • Fucking crazy
  • Probably wants to be King of the Iron Throne too
  • Avoid at all costs
  • but likely to try and hook up with Daenerys and her dragons.

What are the Iron Throne succession laws?

  1. Let’s start with the obvious: legitimate heirs outrank bastards.
  2. Women face an uphill battle to get near the Iron Throne as a Queen Regnant (i.e. ruler in her own right)
  3. The eldest son inherits the Throne from his royal father at the moment of his father’s death
  4. Assuming several generations of royal family are living at once, the line of succession goes: King > Crown Prince > Crown Prince’s oldest son. Succession only goes from brother to brother when the Crown Prince’s children are all dead.
  5. The Iron Throne can be taken by conquest (as Robert Baratheon did.)

Many fans get caught up in the hype for Queen Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, and overlook the fact that she will be the first ruling queen, and faces some huge legal battles to get on that throne she wants so badly.

Westeros has never had a situation where the only claimants are female. 

But when they have had multiple claimants, female claims have been passed over. The Great Council of 101 AC is cited by the Citadel, whose job is to preserve knowledge and act as the legal advisors to the Iron Throne by virtue of holding these records and knowledge, as standing for the principle that a woman cannot inherit the crown, nor can a man who claims through an elder female line.

This was the root of the Dance of the Dragons: while Viserys I forced his lords to agree to back his daughter Rhaenyra’s claims over those of his brother Daemon, he completely refused to discuss or allow any legal discussion of whether Rhaenyra’s claims would be overtaken by her younger half-brothers. Under the laws of Westeros, Aegon II had the better claim to Rhaenyra  – it’s shit, but it is what it is. By refusing to revisit his will, Viserys I obviously hoped to overrule the existing common law by royal decree…. except he never actually made that decree. He just said he wouldn’t revisit his will, which named his daughter his heir.

It’s like he got a case of extreme tunnel vision: he named Rhaenyra his heir in the context of his younger brother having made demands to be invested as Prince of Dragonstone for years, and the death of his first wife giving birth to the son that would have been heir. Perhaps it was just too hard for him to think about it – if he sat down to think about the laws of succession, he would have to remember Aemma’s death in labour, followed a day later by Baelon. So he never thought about it, and in doing so, allowed Rhaenyra and Alicent to send the realm into civil war.

More importantly, Aegon III did not inherit because he was Rhaenyra’s son, he inherited because he was the oldest living Targaryen prince. There were literally no other candidates. All of Aegon II and Helaena’s sons had been killed and only Princess Jaehaera remained. Apart from being female, Jaehaera was 8 and “simple minded” – not a suitable candidate for the Greens to hoist up as a new ruler.

So what does that mean for Dany?

Her claim comes through the male line (Aerys II) and she makes the claim as the only living legitimate Targaryen. But she makes the claim 18-20 years after the Targaryens were overthrown as rulers of Westeros by conquest.

Robert Baratheon might have pointed to his royal bloodline to bolster the legality of his claim to the Iron Throne, but realistically he conquered. The rules of succession through a female line were irrelevant in the context of:

  • a civil war where the rebels had won
  • a Targaryen 8 year old prince on Dragonstone, with a baby sister and a former Kingsguard guardian
  • a realm sick to death of mad Targaryens

Robert didn’t claim the Iron Throne because of his grandmother Rhaelle Targaryen, he strode into the throne room covered in the blood of the royal armies (metaphorical or otherwise) and said “That’s mine!” 

Because his “children” are illegitimate incest bastards, that means his brother Stannis is actually the rightful heir. Shireen is his only child.

Ignoring the claim of Aegon VI, who is most likely a Blackfyre (born of Illyrio and Serra Mopatis – one or both of whom are descended from the women of House Blackfyre) supported by the son of Maegor Brightflame (Varys), the only viable claimants of the Iron Throne in any scenario that is not an outright conquest are women.

That’s what makes the upcoming game of thrones so exciting! Westeros is going to be forced to grapple with the concept of a female ruler!! 

Because either they continue to pretend that Myrcella Baratheon is the daughter of Cersei Lannister and Robert Baratheon, not Cersei and Jaime Lannister, and crown her after her brother Tommen dies… or they have to say “well – do we go with the female claimant Shireen or the female claimant Daenerys?”

Show!Myrcella and Show!Shireen are both dead, and “Aegon” has deliberately not been included, which suggests to me that the showrunners are just clearing the decks of this political intrigue to make Daenerys’  path the Iron Throne relatively straightforward. She has dragons and determination. She’ll get the Iron Throne: but at what cost? 

The realm didn’t want Targaryens any more, and this is a truth that Dany refuses to hear or consider. She firmly believes her brother’s bullshit that there are Targaryen supporters waiting for them in Westeros – but we have spent years there, and we know that there just aren’t.

What Westeros is crying out for is a capable commander who can SORT THIS SHIT OUT – especially once the realm finally listens to the warnings of the Night’s Watch about the coming invasion of ice zombie Others.

Will that be Dany, Azor Ahai Reborn with her 3 flaming swords… or will it be Jon Snow, the bastard Prince That Was Promised, who is the only leader in Westeros (apart from Stannis, who may be dead or soon to be so) who is capable of leading the people in the Second Long Night?

Quick list of potential future claimants

  • assuming Tommen bites the dust, Princess Myrcella – even though she’s dead on the show
  • assuming Stannis bites the dust, Princess Shireen – even though she’s dead on the show!
  • Aegon VI Targaryen, the boy who lived and is probably a Blackfyre or Brightflame
  • Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, Rhoynar and First Men, Lady Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, the Stormborn, She Who Shits Brown Liquid and is currently a captive of the Dothraki….
  • Maybe Jon Snow, revealed as the bastard-kinda not bastard if we all squint and pretend Targaryen polygamy is totes cool son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark
  • Moonboy for all we know….
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