While Game of Thrones introduced us to dozens of characters from across Westeros, House of the Dragon focused almost entirely on the Targaryens. (The hint is in the name.) Given that the show takes place about 200 years before the start of Thrones, there are no familiar faces to cling to. This can make entering and following House of the Dragon a challenge. There are so many new characters and so many complicated relationships that it can be a little overwhelming at first.
This list of key Targaryens should help us make sense of the chaos as we move forward. Note that there are House of the Dragon Episode 1 Spoilers Below.
Aegon the Conqueror
Aegon Targaryen is not shown in House of the Dragon, but his new legend is often mentioned. Often referred to as Aegon the Conqueror, Aegon was the first king of Westeros. He married both of his sisters, Rhaenys and Visenia (yes, his sisters). All three had dragons that they used to forcefully unite the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Using the swords of his fallen enemies, Aegon had his dragon forge the Iron Throne.
If you delve into the lore of A Song of Ice and Fire, you’ll notice the terms BC and AC. This is before the conquest and after the conquest. Rhaenyra Targaryen, for example, was born in 97 AD.
King Jaehaerys I Targaryen
King Jaehaerys Targaryen is only seen briefly in House of the Dragon, but he’s an important Targaryen to know. You saw it in the opening vignette of the premiere episode of House of the Dragon, in which Jaehaerys had called a council of the Westerosi lords to vote on who would succeed him. He’s played by Michael Carter, who, fun fact, played Jabba the Hutt lackey Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi.
Only the fourth Targaryen ruler of Westeros, Jaehaerys was a great king in the legend of A Song of Ice and Fire. “The kingdom Jaehaerys inherited was impoverished, torn by war, lawlessness, and riven by division and distrust, while the new king himself was a green boy with no experience in government,” wrote George RR Martin in Fire and Blood. Yet despite these inauspicious beginnings, Jaehaerys would rule for 55 years, a period marked by peace and prosperity.
Jaehaerys married his sister, Alysanne Targaryen, which was apparently fashionable at the time. Both of their sons died without leaving a direct heir.
King Viserys I Targaryen
King Viserys is perhaps the most famous character of House of the Dragon, especially in the opening episodes. He is the grandson of Jaehaerys Targaryen and was the winner of the contest that determined Jaehaerys’ heir. His main competitor in this vote was Rhaenys Targaryen, who is Viserys’ cousin and Jaehaerys’ granddaughter.
King Viserys’ father was Baelor Targaryen, who was heir to the throne until his death from appendicitis, which explains why Viserys in episode 1 named his newborn son Baelor.
“The reign of King Viserys I is considered by many to represent the height of Targaryen power in Westeros,” Martin writes in Fire and Blood, though he also notes the king’s faults. “It must be said that King Viserys I Targaryen was not the most strong-willed of kings; always kind and eager to please, he relied heavily on the advice of the men around him and more often than not did as they were told.’
King Viserys is played by Paddy Considine, who you may have seen in Hot Fuzz, The Bourne Ultimatum, The World’s End and HBO’s The Outsider.
Queen Aema Targaryen was the first wife of Viserys and mother of Rhaenyra Targaryen. Before marrying into the royal family, she was Aema Arryn, making her a distant relative of Jon Arryn, whose poisoning precipitated the events described in Game of Thrones.
Emma’s marriage to Viserys was beset with great misfortune. She became pregnant several times, but suffered miscarriages. Only one healthy child was born: Renira. Two boys are born, but both die in their beds. Aema died giving birth to the second, Baylor. Although her death was a natural consequence of childbirth in the book Fire and Blood, in House of the Dragon it was caused by Viserys, who instructed Grand Master Melos to perform a C-section on Aema in hopes of saving the child.
Actress Sian Brooke plays Aema Targaryen. In addition to several television roles, including Eurasian Holmes in Sherlock, Brooke is also a prolific actress on the British theater circuit.
Perhaps the biggest star entering House of the Dragons is Matt Smith, who plays Damon Targaryen. For four years, Smith played the Doctor in Doctor Who, and most recently played Prince Philip in The Crown.
Damon Targaryen is the younger brother of Viserys Targaryen and begins House Dragon as heir to the Iron Throne. As we see in episode 1, however, Viserys decides that his daughter Rhaenyra is a more suitable heir, disqualifying Daemon’s traditional right to become king.
Damon is married to Rhea Royce. The Roys are a large family from the Valley; Game of Thrones fans will remember Ion Royce as the key figure in the Vale following Littlefinger’s murder of Lysa Arryn.
Daemon is sort of a cross between Jaime and Tyrion Lannister. He is a famous warrior, but, like the “devil” Tyrion, rightly or wrongly, he is considered a black spot in the family. He is known for regularly visiting funhouses and has a distinctly rebellious streak.
Rhaenys Targaryen is “the queen who never was.” She declared her right to become queen as she was the eldest grandson of King Jaehaerys, but was rejected by the lords of Westeros when they voted en masse for Viserys instead.
Rhaenys is the daughter of Aemon Targaryen – the namesake of Maester Aemon of the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones. Rhaenys is introduced as a badass in Fire and Blood, known for her spirit, beauty, and ability to ride dragons. She is married to Lord Corlys Velarion, who is a prominent member of the Small Council in Fire and Blood. Although the Lannisters were known for their wealth in Game of Thrones, in this era Lord Corlys Velarion’s house is the most cashed in Westeros.
Rhaenys is played by Eve Best, best known for her role as Eleanor O’Hara in Nurse Jackie. Steve Toussaint plays Lord Corliss.
It should be noted that in Fire and Blood, the vote to establish Jaehaerys’ heir was mainly between Viserys and Laenor Velarion (Rhaenys’ son, not Rhaenys herself). In the book – this may not matter in the show – both House Baratheon and House Stark were supporters of Rhaenys’ claim to the Iron Throne.
King Viserys may be the central character of the first season of House of the Dragon, but the star character is Rhaenyra Targaryen. As noted, Matt Smith is probably the most famous actor coming to the show. Milly Alcock, who played Rhaenyra for most of the first season, may emerge as House of the Dragon’s biggest star.
Rhaenyra is the only surviving child of King Viserys and Queen Aema Targaryen. After the death of Baelor, who only lived for about 10 hours, Viserys declared Rhaenyra as the rightful heir to the throne. She is a young woman when the show begins, only 14 years old. But Renira grows rapidly as House of the Dragon progresses and becomes a compelling force in her own right.
The older Rhaenyra is played by Emma D’Arcy, who had a prominent role in 2020’s Seekers of Truth. Nine generations separate Rhaenyra and Daenerys Targaryen: Rhaenyra is awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome, awesome to Daenerys great grandmother.
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