Families are always complicated but probably none more so than in George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones universe. One family in Westeros that is particularly complicated, as we’re learning in House of the Dragon, is the Targaryens.
First introduced to us in Game of Thrones via Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen, House of the Dragon takes us back hundreds of years before the Mother of Dragons even existed, to a time when the Targaryen dynasty reigned supreme.
But who are all these new Targaryen characters, how do they all relate to each other, and how do they all relate to Daenerys?
George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood is the best source of information for this. But in lieu of reading all 700 pages of that, let’s break down the main players in the Targaryen family tree.
Warning: Some spoilers from previously aired House of the Dragon episodes are ahead.
The Targaryen family tree explained
Aegon the Conquerer
First King of Westeros
The Targaryen family’s reign of power in Westeros began with Aegon Targaryen, aka Aegon the Conquerer, who became the first King of the Seven Kingdoms.
Aegon’s power was bolstered by his dragon, the legendary Balerion the Black Dread (whose skull is kept within the walls of the Red Keep).
As is a tradition within Valyria, Aegon married within the family and actually took both of his sisters (Rhaenys and Visenya) as wives. It was Aegon’s son with Rhaenys, Aenys I, who continued the Targaryen line.
Jaehaerys I, the Old King
Great grandson of Aegon
Fast-forward a couple of kings and we come to Jaehaerys I. Jahaerys was the fourth king of Westeros and the longest-reigning Targaryen monarch at 55 years.
Despite having many children over his lifetime, when it came time for Jaehaerys to name a successor there were a few conflicting options.
To help determine the next heir he called a Great Council of all the lords of Westeros who pronounced that his grandson Viserys take the throne, instead of Jaehaerys’ granddaughter Rhaenys, who technically had the better claim as the daughter of his third child Aemon (Viserys was the son of his fourth child).
Jaehaerys is important to House of the Dragon as it is his matter of succession that kickstarts the story.
Grandson of Jaehaerys I
Viserys Targaryen is the fifth King of Westeros and one of the main characters in House of the Dragon, played by Paddy Considine.
Viserys’ ascension to the throne was welcomed by the Lords of Westeros, but not so much by his cousin Rhaenys, which has always caused some tension in the family. However, it’s generally agreed upon that he’s a good and fair king.
Unfortunately, like his grandfather before him, Viserys’ succession is put under pressure after he is unable to conceive a son with his wife Aemma. So instead he must choose between his daughter Rhaenyra and his brother Daemon.
As we’ve seen in House of the Dragon, Viserys does eventually marry again and has more children with Alicent Hightower, but he stays true to his commitment to Rhaenyra succeeding him.
It’s worth mentioning that Viserys’ fourth son with Alicent, Daeron, hasn’t yet shown up in the HBO show. Given he is born around the same time as Rhaenyra’s son, Joffrey, in the books it’s possible he may have been cut from the series.
Granddaughter of Jaehaerys I, cousin of Viserys I
Rhaenys Targaryen (second of her name, played by Eve Best in House of the Dragon) was the grandchild of the Old King, Jahaerys, and once considered the true heir to the throne, but was passed over by the Great Council so eventually picked up the moniker ‘the Queen who never was’.
She rides the dragon Meleys and is married to Lord Corlys Velaryon (played by Steve Toussaint), who is the Lord of Ships on Viserys’ small council. She is also the mother to Laena and Laenor.
Brother of Viserys I
Daemon (played by Matt Smith), has one of the most legitimate claims to his brother’s throne just by the fact he is male. But when Viserys chooses his daughter over his brother, Daemon has to resort to other tactics (i.e. marriage) for a shot at power.
Daemon is sometimes referred to as the Rogue Prince and wields the Valyrian blade Dark Sister. He rides the dragon Caraxes.
As we’ve learned in House of the Dragon, Daemon also goes on to marry Laena Velayron and father’s two daughters, Rhaena and Baela. He then goes on to marry his niece, Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Daughter of Viserys I and Aemma Arryn
Rhaenyra Targaryen (played by Millie Alcock and later Emma D’Arcy) is a prominent character in House of the Dragon.
After she is chosen as his heir, Viserys grooms Rhaneyra for a life of leadership. However, upon his death, her claim is disputed, which results in her leading the Blacks in a civil war within the Targaryen family known as the Dance of Dragons.
Rhaenyra rides the dragon Syrax. Her first marriage to Laenor Velaryon (son of Rhaenys and Corlys Velaryon), results in three children: Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey, however, their parentage is questioned after Rhaenyra’s long-standing secret affair with Ser Harwin Strong.
Rhaena and Baela Targaryen
Daughters of Daemon
Following the death of his first wife, Daemon married Laena Velaryon and produced twin daughters, Rhaena and Baela Targaryen.
In the book, Rhaena’s dragon hatchling died at an early age and she spent years praying for another one. Meanwhile, Baela bonded quickly with her dragon Moondancer.
Rhaena is considered more ladylike, while Baela takes after her father and his rogue tendencies. We’ll see both characters as child and adult versions in House of the Dragon.
Son of Viserys Targaryen and Alicent Hightower
Aegon II is the son of King Viserys Targaryen and his second wife Alicent Hightower. He is a key part of the conflict in the Targaryen civil war as the firstborn son of Viserys, who would traditionally go on to become King as the male heir.
However, he is in contention with his half-sister, Rhaenyra, who Viserys proclaimed would be his heir before Aegon’s birth.
Aegon is shown in both teen and adult versions in House of the Dragon, played by Ty Tennant and Tom Glynn-Carney.
Daughter of Viserys Targaryen and Alicent Hightower
Helaena was the second child and only daughter of Viserys and Alicent. She is betrothed to her brother, Aegon, and rides the dragon Dreamfyre.
In House of the Dragon, Helaena is portrayed in adult and teen versions by Phia Saban and Evie Allen respectively.
Son of Viserys Targaryen and Alicent Hightower
Aemond is the third child of Viserys and Alicent and did not bond with a dragon like his siblings. In his teenage years he claimed Vhagar, the ex-dragon of Laena Velaryon and the biggest of them all, as his own. In doing so he got into a fight with his cousins over the dragon’s ownership and lost his eye.
Aemond is played by Leo Ashton in Episodes 6 and 7 of the House of the Dragon and then by Ewan Mitchell in his adult years.
Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey Velaryon
Children of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon
Rhaenyra and Laenor’s children all bear the name Velaryon — as was agreed during their marriage pact — and they also bear features that set them apart from the traditional Targaryen and Velaryon appearance. This is why for some time, it was suspected Jacaerys, Lucerys and Joffrey were secretly children of Harwin Strong rather than Laenor.
Jacaerys (Jace) rides Vermax, Lucerys (Luke) rides Arrax and Joffrey (Joff) rides Tyraxes. All three siblings grow up alongside and in conflict with their cousins, Aegon, Helaena and Aemond.
Jacaerys is the first in line for the throne after his mother, Rhaenyra, and is being trained for a life of leadership. Lucerys, meanwhile, is heavily favoured to inherit the Velaryon ancestral home of Driftmark, as Laenor’s son, but given his true parentage that is thrown into question.
They are all shown as young and adult versions in House of the Dragon.
Aerys II, The Mad King
The next Targaryen many Game of Thrones fans will be familiar with is Aerys II, aka the Mad King.
Aerys comes many, many Targaryens down the line from the likes of Rhaenyra and Daemon. He is the 17th and final Targaryen King of Westeros. Paranoia led Aerys into madness and he began executing those around him without fair reason and ordering the burning of his enemies by wildfire. He was killed by Jaime Lannister during Robert’s Rebellion.
Of Aerys’ many children in the Targaryen family tree, the notable ones include Rhaegar (who married Elia Martell and then, secretly, Lyanna Stark), Viserys (killed by Khal Drogo) and, of course, Daenerys.
Daughter of Aerys II
Everyone’s familiar with Daenerys Targaryen by now, right? She starred in all eight seasons of Game of Thrones as the last surviving member of the Targaryen dynasty (or so we thought) and fought the entire way to reclaim her family’s place on the Iron Throne.
Dany was the first Targaryen to ride a dragon since they died out during Aegon III’s reign and eventually raised an army to march on King’s Landing and reclaim the throne from Cersei Lannister.
Unfortunately, her razing of King’s Landing didn’t sit well with her new subjects and she was assassinated by her lover, Jon Snow, apparently ending the Targaryen dynasty.
Grandson of Aerys II, son of Rhaegar
Just kidding, there’s one more Targaryen in the family tree to consider, and that’s everyone’s favourite bastard, Jon Snow.
After seasons of speculation, it turned out Jon wasn’t a bastard after all and was actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. He was named Aegon Targaryen at birth by his mother but disguised as a bastard by his uncle, Ned Stark, in order to keep him safe from Robert Baratheon’s vendetta against Targaryens.
He’s technically the true heir to the Iron Throne, but he doesn’t want it. We’ll see if that comes back to bite him in Jon Snow’s future spin-off series.
It’s safe to say the Targaryens are a confusing family, but hopefully, this helps you unravel the many complicated ties in House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones.
We’ve tried not to spoil too much of the happenings in the Targaryen family so that some things remain a surprise in House of the Dragon. But if you’d like more details, here’s a handy visual representation of the Targaryen family tree, or you can check out Fire & Blood, which goes into detail on each of the characters.
We’ll continue to update this post as more Targaryen characters are introduced in House of the Dragon.
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