Updated: Nov 25, 2018
The Targaryen line of succession, inspired by English history, was written in blood, violence, betrayal and conquest.
The Targaryen Dynasty is one that was truly built by their words: Fire and Blood. Primarily, King Aegon I Targaryen conquered six of the seven kingdoms, making the kings of each realm bend the knee to his might. Those who refused, were murdered and replaced by others with better joints.
The right of conquest, however, was played before he decided to unite the continent into one country. It was a valid and viable military maneuver that had been used in several of the kingdoms before the union.
The history of the North claims that the Starks were the first “Kings of Winter”, but the Vale of Arryn was taken by the Andals through war and conquest; the Riverlands were conquered by the Mudds, then passed from hand to hand through war as a true rebellious country, ending with Harren the Black; the Westerlands had a handful of petty kings until Lann the Clever “acquired” Casterly Rock and gradually conquered the rest, and Dorne had houses Fowler, Dayne and Yronwood as kings who were then conquered by house Nymeros Martell.
Once Westeros was conquered, the heir to the throne was Prince Aenys, the first son of king Aegon with his sister Rhaenys. Once Aenys died, his sons should follow suit, however, right after Aenys died a mysterious and sudden death, his half-brother Maegor, with the help of his mother, Visenya, usurped the throne from the line of succession. King Maegor died without producing an heir and the line went back to his half-brother’s children, but the two eldest had already died at their uncle’s hands, so the fourth Targaryen king of Westeros was the third son of Aenys, king Jahaerys, and he is historically considered to have been the best king of Westeros. He brought peace and prosperity to the realm, but also brought the Great Council of 101 into existence and that Great Council determined that no woman should sit the Iron Throne, which then appointed his grandson, Viserys, as the next king. There are several considerations to be made in regards to that council because, had Jahaerys left both his sons and daughters ascend to the throne, the country would have suffered less.
King Viserys I was a calm and pleasant king, but he went against the Great Council of 101, naming his daughter, Rhaenyra, his heir to the throne. Rhaenyra was not to become queen, however. She and her half-brother Aegon II fought in the events that came to be known as The Dance of The Dragons. His reign was so terrible, and the wars were so violent that, in the end, he was even counselled to “take the black”. He was poisoned instead. As Aegon II died without a male heir, Rhaenyra’s son – Aegon III- became seventh king of Westeros, which was against the Great Council of 101 that prohibited women and their male heirs to ascend to the throne. Either way, Aegon's reign was one of brooding. His brother Viserys had been captured and was presumed dead during Dance, and Aegon escaped, which brought him tremendous feeling of guilt. When Viserys was found during Aegon’s reign, the king measured no efforts or money to have his brother brought back and that was the major joy he had. Once he came of age, he named Viserys as his hand. Aegon III died leaving two sons, Daeron and Baelor. and three daughters, Daena, Rhaena and Elaena. So Daeron I became king and fought hard to unite Dorne to the kingdom. It came with great losses, including, eventually, his own. Without having any sons, his brother, King Baelor I followed him to the throne. King Baelor was extremely religious and married to his sister Daena. To “protect the virtue” of his sisters, he locked them up in the Red Keep and kept them in comfortable, but confined quarters that came to be known as the “Maidenvault”. He refused to consummate the marriage with Daena and eventually had it annulled and became a Septon. His religious obsessions helped bridge a relationship with Dorne, but it also came with heavy costs to the crown. When his sister and ex-wife Daena gave birth to a bastard son she conceived with her cousin, he fasted until he died and his uncle Viserys became king.
King Viserys I was the son of Rhaenyra, the boy who had been presumed dead during ‘The Dance of the Dragons’. He had three children, Aegon, Aemon and Naerys. Viserys had been Hand of the King to his brother Aegon III while Aegon brooded, then Hand of the King to his nephew Daeron I while Daeron warred and finally, Hand of the King to his nephew Baelor I while Baelor prayed. He had his eldest son Aegon marry his daughter Naerys, but the youngest, Aemon, was the one who loved her, so once Aegon and Naerys got married, Aemon joined the Kingsguard and there he served five kings, from Aegon III, his uncle, then Daeron I, Baelor I, his father Viserys II and then his brother Aegon IV. He is referred to as the noblest knight who ever lived and with unsurpassed skills. Viserys’s reign was very short, however. He was king for only a year and when he passed, Aegon was crowned king
It is said that Aegon IV killed his father to become king faster. He is considered by many to have been the worst king of Westeros, alongside Maegor the Cruel and Aegon III. He had affairs with ladies rich and poor, regardless if they were married, maidens, whores and even one of his own daughters, which was despicable even for a Targaryen. He had sons and daughters born to him from noblewomen that came to be known as “the Great Bastards” as well as bastards of no renown. In his dying bed, he legitimized all his natural children and placed them in the line of succession after his son by his sister/wife Naerys – King Daeron. As his first bastard, Daemon - son born to his cousin Daena, Baelor's wife who was kept in the Maidenvault and whose birth caused king Baelor to starve himself to death - was older than Daeron, the revolt known as “Blackfyre Rebellion” eventually took place.
Daeron II was a good man and a good king. He brought Dorne peacefully into the realm. He was seen as wise, just and kind hearted. Not a warrior, but a scholarly man, he had four children and what seemed to be a healthy line of succession. That is when Ser Duncan the Tall’s stories started.
Akin to the line of succession in the English Monarchy, A Song of Ice and Fire was written to show the crown was passed on through terror and ambition. England has had 66 monarchs to date and a history written in blood, violence, betrayal and conquest. The first twenty kings were called “The Saxon Kings”. The very first one, King Egbert (827-839) was the first monarch to establish a stable and extensive rule over all of Anglo-Saxon England. He was recognized by the title of Bretwalda (“ruler of the British”) and spent a great deal of his reign fighting the Danes. His son, Aethelwulf was a religious man who traveled with his eldest son to Rome to see the pope, leaving his throne in the hands of a “Small Council” of sorts.
It was that eldest son, Aethelbald, who forced Aethelwulf to abdicate in his favour upon their return from Rome. Once Aethelwulf died, in 858, Aethelbald married his father’s wife. The church was strongly against it, so the marriage was annulled, and he died without issue. His brother, Aethelbert became king after him. When the Danish Vikings invaded England again, he battled and died and his brother, Aethelred became king.
Aethelred’s reign was a succession of wars and battles against the Vikings who had set a Danish village in York. Alongside his brother Alfred, they fought until he got so many injuries he could no longer continue and died of his wounds, leaving the crown to his brother.
Alfred was the best of Aethelwulf’s sons. He was well educated, religious and a warrior. History named him “Alfred the Great”. He managed to secure five uneasy years of peace with the Danes before they attacked again, then he retreated and masterminded an incredible comeback. He was the founder of the English Army and Royal Navy and marked his place in history with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.
Edward the Elder was Alfred’s son and next in line. He fought the Danes and conquered back southeast England and the Midlands, united Essex and Mercia and was recognized by the Scottish King Constantine II as “father and lord”. That was of tremendous importance to the realm for the future.
Edward’s eldest son, Athelstan, became king in 924 and defeated Scots, Celts, Danes and Vikings at the Battle of Brunanburh. That is considered the bloodiest battle ever fought in British soil. The battle brought together for the first time, the individual Anglo-Saxon kingdoms to create a single and unified England. He died without issue and the crown went then to his half-brother Edmund. The issue is that Athelstan was mighty and feared and with his death, Scandinavia took northern England again, so Edmund had to fight and win it back. While celebrating, he was stabbed by a robber and died. His two sons were too young and not to be bothered with the nonsense of “regency”, his brother Eadred was crowned, but Eadred was borderline insignificant and he died without heirs, so Edmund’s eldest son, Eadwig, who was by then considered old enough to bear the responsibility, became king. He was 16 years-old at the time. His coronation was delayed because the bishop had to “pry him from the arms of a prostitute”. He became king and exiled the bishop for taking him from the arms of the prostitute. He died at the age of 20 and his brother Edgar became king.
When Edgar became king, his first act was to bring back the bishop and name him Archbishop of Canterbury and personal adviser. He had all sorts of problems with his brother and former king Eadwig and he did a lot to undo what Eadwig had done. The bishop was a “Hand of the King” of sorts to Edgar. Edgar gained the allegiance of ‘the six kings of Britain’ and his eldest son, Edward the Martyr, followed him to the throne, but his reign was very short. His step-mother had a son, Aethelred, and she wanted Aethelred to become king, so Edgar was stabbed just two years into his reign. Aethelred was only ten years old at the time, and unprepared for the demands of kingship, He went down in history known as Aethelred the Unready. Feeling weakness, the Danes invaded again and Aethelred he ran to Normandy. Sweyn Forkbeard, king of the Danes, claimed the English throne. Forkbeard was killed just five weeks into his reign and Aethelred returned to England, claimed the throne as his own and spent the rest of his days fighting Forkbeard’s son, Canute. Eventually, Aethelred and Canute divided the kingdom between them, so Aethelred’s son, Edmund, became king.
Edmund was king by election. He ascended to the throne chosen by the “good folk of London”, while Canute was chosen by the Witan (Which was equivalent to the Small Council). With enemies all around, Edmund was murdered the same year and Canute became king. He was seen very favourably by his English subjects and even sent his Danish armies back home. He then married Aethelred’s widow. He divided England into four earldoms.
Canute had a legitimate son, Harthacanute and a bastard son, Harold. When Canute died, Harthacanute was in Denmark fighting to protect that country, Harold took the crown and was named king. Just before Harthacanute invaded again, Harold died and was buried at Westminster Abbey that wasn’t all it is today, so Harthacanute had Harold dug up, decapitated and his body thrown in the Thames. His bits were gathered and buried afterwards.
Harthacanute, to appease his mother, allowed his half-brother, Edward, from her previous marriage with Aethelred the Unready, to return to England from his exile in Normandy. Then, during a wedding, while toasting to the health of the bride, Harthacanute was poisoned and died. He was 24 years-old and the last Danish king to ever rule over England. His half-brother Edward (the Confessor) became king after Harthacanute, reestablishing the Wessex family to the English throne. He was a sort of Baelor the Blessed, extremely pious, obsessed with the faith, he rebuilt Westminster Abbey which ended in 1066 and died childless eight days after the completion of the rebuilding work. The power struggle in England started there. As Edward had no interest in politics, he had Earl Godwin and his son Harold in control of the throne while he cared for the church. Once he died, Harold became king, elected by the Witan. That caused a lot of problems with one “William”, Duke of Normandy, who claimed that his relative Edward had promised the throne to him several years earlier. William invaded England and war started again, and despite a victorious beginning, Harold was eventually killed.
England had four Norman kings, starting with William, (called William the bastard). William’s reign is somewhat equivalent to King Robert’s reign. He conquered, liked to war and spent a lot of money following worthless pursuits. He died a stupid death (fell off a horse) and his son, also named William, became king. William II was extravagant and cruel, and his death was blamed on a man whose family name was Tyrrell. Sounds familiar?
All in all, the Targaryen crown passed from hand to hand, through a long line of warriors, bastards, pious, lying, brooding, temperamental, crazy and great men, until it ended in the hands of another bunch of people, both worthy and unworthy, who fight to maintain a power that, through the destruction it brings to the realm, is bound to become nothing more than irrelevant.