House Of The Dragon: The Life Of Rhaenyra Targaryen, Explained

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  • Who Is Rhaenyra Targaryen?
  • A Brief Overview Of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s Life
  • House Targaryen Family Tree: Who Is Rhaenyra Targaryen To The Mad King And Daenerys Targaryen?
  • Rhaenyra’s Death And Legacy

Rhaenyra Targaryen is King Viserys’ eldest daughter and only child by Queen Aemma Arryn of the Vale. She begins House of the Dragon as a promising young woman, itching to do her bit in ways that medieval women find difficult to comprehend. She resists the burden of duty for as long as possible and hopes to win glory on the battlefield for House Targaryen. She rides Syrax, loves cake, and wants to fly across the Narrow Sea with her childhood companion, the Lady Alicent Hightower.



Rhaenyra finds it preposterous that motherhood is an obligation for royal women like her. A new-generation Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s attitudes in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 1 “The Heirs of the Dragon,” reflects that Westeros has undergone cultural and societal shifts and that she is no longer bound by the same restrictions as her mother or aunt, Princess Rhaenys. That said, Rhaenyra remains an exception from the beginning until her story arc’s ending. Here’s how Game of Thrones‘ Daenerys Targaryen’s lineage is traced back to Rhaenyra Targaryen.

Younger Iterations of Rhaenyra and Alicent vs. older in House of the Dragon. Related House Of The Dragon Time Jumps, Explained

Here is how HBO’s House of the Dragon intelligently paces the story with time jumps.

Who Is Rhaenyra Targaryen?

Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon.

Rhaenyra Targaryen’s voiceover in the House of the Dragon prelude is a look into the Great Council of 101 AC that was convened to choose between the Old King’s two descendants from two sons. After losing Princes Aemon and Baelon, the Old King Jaehaerys settled succession through a Council of lords and vassals in order to prevent members of the House Targaryen from warring against each other. Princess Rhaenyra’s father – Viserys – was the King’s eldest male descendant, while Princess Rhaenys’ was the king’s eldest descendant, overall. Prince Viserys Targaryen was made the Prince of Dragonstone, and Rhaenys lost the throne because of Westeros’ gender bias.

Rhaenys, a woman, would not inherit the Iron Throne.

As years went by, King Viserys found himself in a similar fix due to the lack of a male heir. The issue of his succession came to the fore after the deaths of his wife and newborn male child, Baelon. He permitted Mellos to forcibly cut into Aemma’s womb to “free the child” but ended up losing both. Viserys coped with tragedy and loss by apologizing to Rhaenyra and naming her heir to the Iron Throne.

I am sorry, Rhaenyra. I have wasted the years since you were born, wanting for a son. You are the very best of your mother. And I believe it, I know she did, that you could be a great ruling queen.

The time between the Great Council and the lords of Westeros swearing fealty to Rhaenyra changed everything. Those who opposed change and respected precedent wanted the king to remarry to shore up the royal line, while solemnly swore oaths of fealty to the Princess. Rhaenyra’s succession was cemented at the end of House of the Dragon‘s pilot. She was to inherit the Iron Throne upon Viserys’ death; but when has the political spectrum of Westeros been anything but linear or predictable?

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A Brief Overview Of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s Life

Daemon and Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of the Dragon.

As a young girl, Rhaenyra Targaryen was dubbed “the Realm’s Delight.” She was friendly and respectful to those who deserved to be treated with respect. Although she served as the King’s cupbearer and not an advisor on his Small Council, she doled out the best pieces of advice. She suggested sending Dragonriders to settle the Stepstones but was turned down by the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower. Rhaenyra continued to be one of the smartest people in that room up until her stepmother, Alicent Hightower, left her no choice but to pack up for Dragonstone.

After the death of Queen Aemma Arryn, King Viserys married Alicent, leaving Rhaenyra in a difficult situation. The King simultaneously urged that Rhaenyra marry and produce heirs to shore up her succession. At first, Rhaenyra struggled to even look Alicent in the eye but tried to forgive her with time. During this time, Otto reported to the King about Rhaenyra and Prince Daemon’s tryst outside the Keep, and at a pleasure house in the thick of the night. Alicent overheard this bit and confronted her friend. Rhaenyra swore innocence, but Alicent eventually found out the truth straight from the horse’s mouth. Rhaenyra and her sworn protector, Ser Criston Cole, had spent the night together in the Princess’s chambers. The King dismissed Otto as Hand on grounds of partiality and named Lord Lyonel Strong to the position. Rhaenyra and Alicent’s relationship took a nosedive, thereafter.

The Lead Up To Rhaenyra And Daemon Targaryen’s Wedding In House of the Dragon

Rhaenyra and Daemon in disguise in House of the Dragon.

As seen in various House of the Dragon time jumps, the king arranged Rhaenyra’s marriage with Laenor Velaryon. The couple share three sons, none of whom are Velaryon in blood. Ser Harwin Strong, commander of the City Watch, is the actual father of Princess Rhaenyra’s three boys – Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey Velaryon. Alicent brings the matter to the King for years, but he chooses not to see it. Alicent’s paranoia, a lot of which is due to Otto’s fearmongering, worsens things at court.

After having her last child with Laenor, Rhaenyra proposes that her son, Jace, be wed to Alicent’s daughter, Helaena, but the Queen declines.

I have felt the… strife… between our families of late, my Queen. And for any offense given by mine, I apologize. But we are one House. And long before that, we were friends. My son Jacaerys will inherit the Iron Throne after me. I propose we betroth him to your daughter, Helaena. Ally ourselves. Once and for all. Let them rule together.

Alicent shames the lactating mother, Rhaenyra, for leaking milk and walks away. Viserys no longer rules as the end of his reign approaches and Otto and Alicent run the show at the Red Keep. Daemon, loses his wife, Laena Velaryon, in childbirth, and he comes face to face with Rhaenyra at the funeral. It is there that Alicent’s secondborn son, Aemond, claims the late Laena’s Vhagar, and Rhaenyra and Daemon agree to marry and join their families. House of the Dragon season 1, episode 7 “Driftmark,” is a turning point for the Greens and the Blacks. The Greens have the largest living dragon – Vhagar – on their side; the Blacks have two formidable Targaryens – Rhaenyra and Daemon – united behind one cause. Laenor, on the other hand, is given the golden opportunity to row away with his lover, Qarl Correy, while making it look like they dueled to death in the Hall of Nine. Rhaenyra marries Daemon and instates him as her prince consort. In doing so, she sets Laenor free and strengthens her position as the King’s heir.

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Rhaenyra Targaryen Through The Years


97 AC, Dragonstone

Also Known As

The Realm’s Delight, Princess Rhaenyra, Queen Rhaenyra, King Maegor with teats


King Viserys Targaryen and Queen Aemma Arryn


Baelon Targaryen (Died one day after his birth)


Aegon, Aemond, Daeron (in lore)


Helaena Targaryen


Alicent Hightower


Laenor Velaryon, Daemon Targaryen


Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey Velaryon. Aegon, Visenya and Viserys Targaryen


Jacaerys Velaryon (dies in the Battle of the Gullet)

Captured King’s Landing

129 AC, ruled for half a year


22nd day of the 10th moon of 130 AC

House Targaryen Family Tree: Who Is Rhaenyra Targaryen To The Mad King And Daenerys Targaryen?

Daenerys and Rhaenyra Targaryen in Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.

At the end of the Dance of the Dragons, Rhaenyra Targaryen’s firstborn with Daemon, Prince Aegon, aka Aegon the Younger, is placed on the Iron Throne. Rhaenyra is dead, Daemon dies battling Aemond Targaryen above the Gods Eye lake, and most of the Targaryen dragons are gone. A few members of House Targaryen live to see the end of the Dance.

Every Targaryen Who Survives The Dance Of The Dragons

Baela Targaryen

Daemon and Laena Velaryon’s daughter

Rhaena Targaryen

Daemon and Laena Velaryon’s daughter

Prince Aegon Targaryen

Rhaenyra and Daemon’s eldest

Prince Viserys Targaryen

Rhaenyra and Daemon’s younger son

To unite the House, Aegon the Younger is wed to his half-uncle, Aegon II’s daughter, Princess Jaehaera, but that marriage ends in a catastrophe. They have no children, and Princess Jaehaera dies by suicide. Aegon III remarries Queen Daenaera Velaryon and their son, Daeron I, takes the Iron Throne. He dies trying to seize Dorne and is succeeded by his brother, Baelor I. Baelor the Blessed dies childless, paving the way for Rhaenyra’s son, Prince Viserys, to inherit the Iron Throne. A few accounts in Fire & Blood lore claim that Viserys poisons Baelor for the throne, while others say the devout king Baelor the Blessed took a fast unto death.

Prince Viserys thus became Viserys II, and he was succeeded by his son, Aegon the Unworthy (Aegon IV). The next kings in line were Daeron II, Aerys I, and Maekar I, Aegon V, Jaehaerys II, and finally, Aerys II, or the Mad King. The Mad King is the direct descendant of King Viserys through Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen. The mad king’s daughter, Daenerys, too, is Rhaenyra’s descendant.

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House of the Dragon begins 172 years before the Mad King’s death and Daenerys’ birth. Game of Thrones begins roughly 16 years after the assassination of the Mad King and Daenerys’ birth.

Rhaenyra’s Death And Legacy

Viserys Rhaenyra and Jaehaerys Targaryen in House of the Dragon.

Rhaenyra sits the Iron Throne after the Blacks swiftly capture King’s Landing. Her reign isn’t particularly impressive, given that she’s in the midst of a dragon war with her half-brother, Aegon II, as the claimant. Septon Eustace claims that Rhaenyra, like Viserys, is cut from sitting the Iron Throne, and it was taken as a sign that her days are numbered. Since the coffers are empty when she takes the throne, her Master of Coin, Lord Bartimos Celtigar, imposes a back-breaking taxation system on the peasantry. The Smallfolk who welcomed her earlier begin to resent her and call her “King Maegor with teats.”

Following Shepherd’s dastardly Storming of the Dragonpit, Rhaenyra’s councilors advise her to leave the capital for safety. Rhaenyra and her son, Aegon, flee the capital the next day, traversing the lands of Rosby, Stokeworth, and Duskendale. She is forced to sell her crown to travel on the Violande merchantman to Dragonstone. She does not know that her stronghold, Dragonstone, had fallen to Aegon II’s forces, due to Ser Alfred Broome’s treachery.

Broome’s men kill whatever remains of Rhaenyra’s Queensguard. She holds tightly onto Prince Aegon until Aegon II forcibly separates them and feeds her to Sunfyre. Aegon the Younger is forced to watch the horror unfold at Dragonstone. Sunfyre devours Rhaenyra in six bites, leaving the remains of her left leg. Rhaenyra is killed on the 22nd day of the 10th moon of 130 AC, at the age of 33, while Aegon the Younger carries the scars of the war and his mother’s killing until the end of his life.

Rhaenyra is also dubbed “the Half-Year Queen” as she barely rules from 129-130 AC. She loses Lucerys at Shipbreaker Bay, Jacaerys at the Gullet, and Joffrey in the Storming of the Dragonpit. The war of kin nearly wipes out House Targaryen from the face of Westeros. Aegon II is reinstated at King’s Landing after he kills Rhaenyra, but is eventually poisoned. Neither sibling rules for long and the crown passes to Rhaenyra’s reluctant son, Aegon the Younger.

House of the Dragon Season 2 premieres June 16 at 9/8c on HBO and Max.

House of the Dragon House of the Dragon

House of the Dragon is HBO’s prequel series to Game of Thrones. Set hundreds of years earlier, the show follows the inner machinations and rivalries of the Targaryen royal family. The show was created by Ryan Condal and George R.R. Martin, and stars Matt Smith, Emma D’Arcy, Rhys Ifans, and Olivia Cooke.

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