There’s an impression amongst some in the ASOIAF fandom that House Targaryen has a history of polygamy, and that Westeros permitted this. Ergo, Rhaegar could TOTALLY take Lyanna Stark as a second wife and thus Jon Snow is legitimate.
As I’ve ranted elsewhere, Jon does not need to be legitimate. There’s just no need to tie ourselves up in knots to find a way for Jon Snow to be Jon Targaryen. Or Jaehaerys or Aemon or Visenya/Viserys or whatever Targaryen. The world will be saved by a bastard son of House Stark… and that’s fine.
But the need for a legitimate Jon, and this idea that House Targaryen was super special and never, ever subject to the social norms, customs and laws of Westeros when they conquered and took on the role of the defender of the Faith seems to perpetuate throughout the fandom. This post is about breaking down how and why we can be reasonably sure that the Targaryens took on the laws and lores of their new Seven Kingdoms. And, bonus…. polygamy was never “common” in Valyria. It was just a thing that happened.
House words in Westeros aren’t just a catchy buzzword. They’re a mantra, an ethos to the way that this family works. Even after she’s Lady Stark, Catelyn Tully Stark makes decisions based on the Tully creed family, duty, honour. Daenerys spends her arc from Pentos to Meereen to the Dothraki Sea again figuring out what it means to bring fire and blood.
So if the Tyrells want to grow strong, work their way up the social chain, into positions of power, and have a Tyrell child one day be King on the Iron Throne… why marry the gay Baratheon brother?
This post could also be titled: the Tyrells knew all about the Lannister twins incest, because Mace’s enthusiasm for a Tyrell King only makes sense if he knew that a child born to Renly Baratheon had the best chance of ending up on the Iron Throne.
They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert’s hammer stove in the dragon and the chest beneath it. When Ned had finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream, while men of both armies scrabbled in the swirling waters for rubies knocked free of his armor.
Rhaegar Targaryen is, to put it mildly, problematic.
At worst, he’s a kidnapping, prophecy-obsessed rapist. At best, he’s a fool in love who forgot everything political he knew (or ought to have known) to run off with 15 year old Lyanna Stark.
One of the more interesting tales that Bran Stark hears is that of the Knight of the Laughing Tree. This is the story that Meera and Jojen Reed tell Bran in Chapter 24 of A Storm of Swords. The most interesting aspect about this story is that both Reed children are astounded that Ned Stark never told his children this story, it’s a story that the Reeds heard a hundred times or more from their father Howland.
I propose to explore why Ned didn’t tell the Stark kids this tale. It’s a simple reason: it was too dangerous to tell them. He couldn’t risk them asking inconvenient questions about two fictions that he was desperate for the children to believe.
He only loved their mother, Catelyn Tully Stark; and
Their aunt Lyanna was kidnapped by Rhaegar Targaryen, according to the official Robert Baratheon version of history.