A continuation on Dragon Kings…
The very first of the dragon kings was Aegon the Conqueror. He was a formidable ruler but a wise one. After conquering the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, he founded a new castle called the Red Keep and established a new capital city called Kings Landing. He melted the swords of the kings and lords he conquered, with the breath of his dragon Balerion, and forged them into what we now know as the Iron Throne.
Aenys I and Maegor the Cruel
For more than 30 years, Aegon the Conqueror ruled Westeros. Upon his death, his son Aenys ascended the throne. The Faith of the Seven objected because according to their laws, Aenys and his half-brother Maegor were born of incest.
When Aenys took the Iron Throne anyway, the Faith urged the people to rise up and follow the leadership of the Poor Fellows and Warrior’s Sons, otherwise known as the Faith Militant. This bloody civil war lasted for eleven years. Incapable of suppressing the rebellion, Aenys let his half brother Maegor, Hand of the King, deal with it. Maegor’s response resulted in more bloody disputes and repression, crushing every hint of insurrection in the kingdom. When Aenys died, Maegor took the Iron Throne and was later known as Maegor the Cruel.
Soon, Maegor was killed by the Iron Throne itself (though skeptics insist this is more figurative than literal). His son Jaeherys I ascended the throne and immediately offered peace and pardon to The Faith. Weary of war and death, the Faith agreed.
Jaeherys I Targaryen was one of the finest rulers to sit on the Iron Throne. His reign lasted for over 50 years and saw many improvements to Westeros. He outlawed the practice of first night; a tradition where a Lord or King could demand the first night of sexual favors from a newly wed woman, a practice obviously loathed by the common people.
He commissioned the construction of Kingsroad which linked Kings Landing with Castle Black and other Great Houses in Westeros. His sister-wife Alyssane flew to The Wall on her dragon, Silverwing, and immediately became a patron and friend to the Night’s Watch. She suggested the founding of a new castle to replace Nightfort, which was Castle Black. Jaeherys chose Septon Barth, a smith’s son, to become his Hand. Both he and the king ruled wisely and justly.
The Dance of Dragons
Jaeherys outlived his own son and upon his death, it was his grandson Viserys I who ascended the throne. Viserys was a good ruler but he was often lenient, indulgent, and particularly naive in politics.
His first marriage was to an Arryn of the Vale which resulted in three children (although only one grew to adulthood, Princess Rhaenyra). Viserys groomed Rhaenyra to be the first ruling Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. He took her to council meetings and he sought her advice on important matters. When Viserys married again to a Hightower of Oldtown, he had four more children, three of them sons. Although, his heir was still Rhaenyra by proclamation of his will.
When Viserys died, despite what was stipulated in his will, Ser Criston Cole, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard then, proclaimed Viserys’ eldest son Aegon II as the new king. This dispute resulted in another bloody civil war, known as the Dance of Dragons.
Targaryen fought Targaryen and dragons fought dragons. Many of the Targaryen dragons died during this war. Aegon II eventually gained the upper hand when his dragon swallowed Rhaenyra whole. Rhaenyra’s son, Aegon III, continued the war in honor of his mother. When Aegon II died, Aegon III had the best claim to the throne, presumably since Aegon II’s brothers died in the war too.
Aegon III the Dragonbane
Traumatised by his mother’s death, Aegon III imprisoned the last remaining Targaryen dragons in the Dragonpit, a great hall for the dragons in Kings Landing.
Because dragons needed flight and freedom to grow, they perished. Eventually, the last dragon, a stunted green lizard, died and her eggs turned to stone.
Daeron I the Young Dragon
When Aegon III died, his son Daeron I inherited the throne. He was a great knight and highly skilled in tourneys, battle, and swordfight. He was a great strategist and soldier. Believing that it was a mistake to leave Dorne unconquered, Daeron amassed his army and marched through the Red Mountains.
With the Targaryen dragons gone, the Dornish army assembled their infantry on field battles and conducted guerilla attacks. However, Daeron countered these tactics and Sunspear eventually surrendered. Lord Tyrell of the Reach was appointed to command Dorne, as proclaimed by Daeron.
However, this proved to be giant mistake. The Reach and Dorne had been vicious mortal enemies for a thousand years. Tyrell was assassinated less than a fortnight after being appointed and the Dornish army rebelled against Targaryen rule. Daeron I marched back to Dorne to conquer the land once again, but was killed in the fighting. His cousin known as Aemon the Dragonknight, a Kingsguard, was imprisoned and thrown into a pit.
Baelor the Blessed
Upon Daeron’s death, his brother Baelor inherited the throne. He was extremely pious and religious, daring to walk the Boneway barefoot in the hopes of making peace with Dorne. When Aemon was released, Baelor made a marriage pact to Sunspear, marrying his second-cousin Daeron II to Princess Myriah Martell of Dorne.
Although Baelor was wise and kind, he was too much of a pacifist. He also rejected carnal thoughts and deeds and remained pious. He divorced his sister-wife Daena and locked her in the tower of the Red Keep along with his two other sisters, Rhaena and Elaena. He locked them away so he would not be tempted with carnal longings. Despite imprisonment, Daena still became pregnant although she refused to name the father.
Baelor devoted a lot of his time praying over the last remaining dragon eggs, hoping that they would hatch. When he starved himself to death because of his fasting and prayers, Viserys II, his Hand, became king. However, Viserys died not more than a year later due to old age.
Aegon IV the Unworthy
As Viserys II’s eldest son, Aegon IV inherited the crown. He was dubbed as the worst sane king to hold the crown. Despite being a great warrior, he was too self indulgent, drinking and eating too much.
He and his sister-wife Naerys had a son, Daeron, who was married to Princess Myriah Martell of Dorne. Naerys, unhappy in her marriage, sought solace and comfort from her other brother, Aemon the Dragonknight, a great warrior.
Aegon IV kept an entire harem of his mistresses at court, amused by the complex intrigues and gossips that arose between his paramours. He sired many bastards from them and he eventually admitted that he was the father of Daena’s bastard. Because he was unimpressed with his own son Daeron, Aegon IV paid more attention to his bastard-son Daemon.
On his 12th birthday, Aegon gave him Blackfyre, one of the two Targaryen Valyrian steel blades remaining. Soon, rumors began to circulate that his wife Naerys has been having an affair with their brother Aemon, bringing the paternity of Daeron in question.
One particular knight who questioned this in the open was Ser Mormegil; he was slain in single battle by Aemon. One of the Kingsguard, Ser Terrence Toyne, was found abed with one of Aegon’s mistresses. When Aegon slew him, Toyne’s brothers attempted to assassinate Aegon. Aemon defended his brother but was only killed while Aegon escaped. In a few years, Aegon IV fell ill and died. Upon his deathbed, he legitimised all of his bastard children, bringing the kingdom into another civil crisis.
The Great Bastards
Daemon, a bastard-son who was the favorite of Aegon IV, founded House Blackfyre and took the name Daemon Blackfyre as his own. He supported his half-brother Daeron II who claimed the Iron Throne.
However, only a decade since the start of Daeron’s reign, Daemon Blackfyre initiated a rebellion and claimed that Daeron II was a bastard born between Naerys and Aemon. This opposition was apparently triggered by Daeron’s decision to marry his younger sister Daenerys to Prince Maron Martell of Dorne. It was rumored that Daemon and Daenerys were in love and having an affair. The kingdom was divided between those who supported Daeron’s claim and Daemon’s rebellion. Eventually, this dispute resulted in the Battle of the Redgrass Field.
Daemon and his many sons led that opposition but eventually lost, exiling Bittersteel and Daemon’s remaining sons who will later found the Golden Company (a mercenary group sworn to reclaim Westeros).
Aegon V the Unlikely King
When Daeron’s son Prince Baelor died, the Seven Kingdoms was plagued with the Great Spring Sickness which killed thousands of people. It killed King Daeron II, his wife, and Baelor’s children. Daeron’s second son, Aerys, took the throne. Because he was weak and lenient, Dagon Greyjoy led a rebellion and raided the coasts. It fell to Beron Stark and the Lannisters to crush the force.
When Aerys died, the throne passed to his youngest brother Maekar instead of his younger brother Rhaegel (who was sick and apparently mad). Maekar was an unexceptional ruler, spending most of his time in Summerhall instead of the Red Keep. When he died fighting an outlaw lord, the throne passed to his third son Aemon (the older two sons had died). However, Aemon was already a maester of the Citadel and refused the crown, choosing to join the Night’s Watch instead. Aegon V Targaryen, youngest of Maekar’s sons, inherited the crown. He was called the Unlikely King because he was the fourth son of a fourth son.
However unlikely his inheritance was, Aegon V ruled wisely for more than 30 years. The roads in the realm were made safer to pass again. The Blackfyre Pretenders who attempted to usurp the Iron Throne was crushed. He married his daughter Rhaelle to a Baratheon at Storm’s End, fortifying his own troops and supporters. He made his old friend Duncan a member of the Kingsguard who eventually became Lord Commander. It was also during his reign that familiar names like Pycelle and Barristan Selmy rose to fame.
However, Aegon was desperate to see that Targaryen dragon eggs hatch. He created an enormous fire at Summerhall and attempted to burn the eggs. When the fire got out of control, it killed Aegon, his Lord Commander Duncan, and Duncan the Small. It was during this chaos of fire that Aegon V’s granddaughter, Rhaella give birth to a son sired by her brother-husband Prince Aerys. The boy’s name was Rhaegar.
Upon Aegon’s death, his son Jaeherys inherited the throne. Although he was sickly and weak, he was still able to rule the realm and respond firmly to rebellions.
One such opposition was initiated by new Blackfyre Pretenders from the Golden Company. This group banded together with other exiled rulers of the Free Cities, otherwise known the The Ninepenny Kings. Eventually, the war was crushed and the Ninepenny Kings vanquished.The greatest honor for battle fell to a young knight, Ser Barristan Selmy. He faced a monstrous knight called Maelys. Barristan, also known as Barristan the fold, defeated the last Blackfyre pretender and was then named to the Kingsguard by King Jaeherys II.
Aerys II the Mad King
When King Jaeherys died shortly after the war, his son Aerys II took the throne and showed great promise with his rule. He named Tywin Lannister of Casterly Rock his Hand of the King. The realm flourished under their rule, the common folk were happy, and the last vestiges of rebellion were crushed.
However, this period of peace disturbed Aerys. He began to hear rumors that it was Tywin who ruled the kingdom and not him, that it was Tywin responsible for peace and prosperity. He even tore out the tongue of one of Tywin’s knights, Ser Illyn Payne. When Lord Darklyn of Duskendale refused to pay his taxes, King Aerys dared to handle the matter instead of letting Tywin deal with it. Aerys was captured in the attempt and was imprisoned in the castle for several months. Even as Tywin seized the castle and Barristan Selmy rescued him, Aerys was maddened with rage, fear, and paranoia. He commanded that the Darklyns be burned alive.
Aerys’ paranoia grew worse once he returned to Kings Landing. Seeing Tywin a threat and meaning to spite him, he refused to marry Tywin’s daughter Cersei to his son, Rhaegar. Instead, he married the young prince to Princess Elia Martell of Dorne. He also named Jaime Lannister to the Kingsguard, effectively robbing Tywin Lannister of an heir. Due to these slights, Tywin resigned from the Handship and returned to Casterly Rock.
Aery’s madness became even more apparent in the Year of False Spring.
Upon a great tourney hosted by Lord Whent of Harrenhal, Prince Rhaegar was hailed champion. It was tradition for the champion to name a fair lady as Queen of Love and Beauty. But rather than name his own lady wife, Prince Rhaegar named Lyanna Stark of Winterfell instead.
A few months after the tourney, it was rumored that Rhaegar took Lyanna from Winterfell and journeyed with her to the south. When Lord Rickard Stark and his son Brandon demanded justice, Aerys had them burned alive instead, right in the Great Hall of the Red Keep. The kidnapping of Lyanna Stark and the unjust execution of the Starks triggered a bloody uprising against the Targaryen rule which will eventually lead to Aerys’ death, his own son Rhaegar’s, and the brutal murder of the Prince’s wife Elia and their children Rhaenys and Aegon. Aery’s sister-wife Queen Rhaella and their son Prince Viserys escaped the sack of Kings Landing, aided by Ser Willem Darry and other Targaryen loyalists. Queen Rhaella was already pregnant with Princess Daenerys during the Usurper’s Rebellion.
So far, Aerys II is the last Targaryen ruler to sit on the Iron Throne.
Did you enjoy this rich Targaryen history as much as I did? Are you intrigued with all the backstory and plot twists surrounding this once-powerful House? Lemme know in the comments! 😀
P.S. I “might” do a blog series next about the most intriguing “love stories” in Westeros, starting with the kidnapping(?) of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen 🙂