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Three years after the divisive finale of Game of Thrones, it's time to return to a simpler time in Westeros (though is life in Westeros ever simple?). The highly anticipated prequel House of the Dragon arrived on August 21 and crashed HBO Max, with millions of viewers ready to watch a new era of Targaryen antics.
The new series takes place 172 years before Daenerys Targaryen was born, and shows a fight for succession that lead to an all-out civil war among the platinum-blonde clan. The full Targaryen family tree (opens in new tab) is complicated enough for its own book series (or at least three more spinoffs), so read on for our essentials explainer for the House of Dragon Targaryens and how they connect to the Thrones blondes we knew and loved.
The Beginnings of Westeros
Daenys the Dreamer
In the first episode of House of the Dragon, two dreamers who are pivotal to the Targaryens' conquest of Westeros are mentioned. The first, known as Daenys the Dreamer, was the maiden daughter or a Targaryen nobleman in Valyria, the ancestral land where the family lived before settling at the island Dragonstone. Daenys had a dream about the destruction of Valyria, and she convinced their family to leave before the land was destroyed in a volcanic cataclysm, known as the Doom of Valyria. The Targaryens were the only dragonriders (with the only dragons) to survive, and they lived on Dragonstone for the next century.
Aegon the Conquerer
Whenever later Targaryens mention the great Aegon, they're speaking of Aegon the Conqueror, the first king of Westeros who united the realm (minus Dorne and the land beyond the Wall) and founded the Targaryen dynasty. He married both of his sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya, and they had three dragons: Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes. After conquering the realm, he founded King's Landing, began construction on the Red Keep, and forged the Iron Throne out of the swords of his fallen enemies. (He's also the first crown you see in HotD's epic new opening credits.)
Also, for anyone who's confused about the A Song of Ice and Fire mention in HotD's premiere: Upon being named heir, Rhaenyra learns a secret passed down through Targaryen rulers. Rather than ambition, Aegon I's conquer of Westeros was actually spurred by a dream where he foresaw the end of men. Per the dream, a terrible winter would come the distant North, bringing a force which would destroy the world of the living.
That dream prophesied the coming of the White Walkers and the second Long Night, with Aegon passing down the solution that all of Westeros must unite for the force to be defeated. Centuries later, his prophecy eventually came true with the events of Game of Thrones.
'House of the Dragon' Era - Adults
King Jaehaerys I
House of the Dragon begins with a prelude introducing us to King Jaehaerys I, "The OId King," who had the most peaceful reign of any Targaryen. He married his sister Alysanne and together they had 14 children, with nine making it to adulthood and two outliving him. As he approached death with no heir apparent, he convened a Great Council to decide who would succeed him among at least 14 contenders, with the vote coming down to his two grandchildren Rhaenys and Viserys.
Princess Rhaenys (Eve Best)
Rhaenys had a stronger claim to the Iron Throne, as the daughter of Jaehaerys' eldest son, Aemon, and Jocelyn Baratheon (an ancestor of early Thrones king Robert Baratheon). Unfortunately, she was also a woman, so she was skipped over and became "The Queen Who Never Was." Though she doesn't have the throne in House of the Dragon, the shrewd royal still influences affairs from the sidelines, often scheming with her husband Corlys Velaryon, Viserys' Master of Ships.
Rhaenys and Corlys have two children who are involved throughout House of the Dragon, a daughter and son named Laena and Laenor. While Laenor ends up marrying Rhaenyra Targaryen to ally the houses, Laena marries Daemon Targaryen and later dies in childbirth.
King Viserys I (Paddy Considine)
"The Young King" Viserys, the fifth Targaryen king of the Seven Kingdoms, has also ruled over a period of peace so far. It's also the height of the Targaryens' power, with the family and their dragons thriving along with the realm. Viserys married his cousin Aemma Arryn at an early age and they have one daughter, Rhaenyra, as of the beginning of HotD. Aemma was pregnant with a second child in the series premiere, with Viserys expecting a son, but by the end of the episode, the king is left with no queen and no male heir.
Thanks to the machinations of his Hand Otto Hightower, Viserys ends up marrying Alicent Hightower as his second wife. As of episode 6, the couple has three children, while Viserys has become an old king who may not be long for this world (it's kind of amazing he survived the ten-year time jump).
Queen Aemma (Sian Brooke)
Aemma is King Viserys I's first wife and Rhaenyra's mother, who died in childbirth in the HotD series premiere (and deserved so much more). She was a dedicated mother to Rhaenyra, but she had difficulties in childbirth and passed without producing a male heir. Fun facts: her maiden name was Aemma Arryn (she was a distant ancestor of Jon Arryn, whose death led to Ned Stark being named Hand of the King and everything subsequent in Game of Thrones); and her mother was Viserys' aunt, making them first cousins.
Prince Daemon (Matt Smith)
Known as "The Rogue Prince," Daemon is the younger brother of King Viserys, and the presumed heir as of the start of HotD. He's an arrogant hothead who believes he would be a better king than his brother. He also has plenty of friends (especially among the City Watch) and enemies (especially Ser Otto Hightower, the current Hand of the King who also served King Jaehaerys). In the premiere, he was unhappily married to Rhea Royce of the Vale, and he had a mistress named Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno).
Things went downhill for Daemon by the end of the premiere, with Viserys taking away his title as heir and giving it to Princess Rhaenyra. After a failed bit of rebellion and a successful war against Craghas "The Crabfeeder" Drahar, Daemon returns to the Red Keep in victory, where he proceeds to make a pass at Rhaenyra with the aim of making his niece his second wife. A furious Viserys then kicks him back out of the Red Keep.
Daemon's marriage to Rhea Royce ends soon after his second banishment from the Red Keep, with the lady officially dying of a fall from her horse. (It's heavily implied that Daemon kills her.) His second wife is Laena Velaryon, with whom he has twin girls, Baela and Rhaena. By the end of episode 6, he's a single father after Laena dies by dragonfire while giving birth to a stillborn child.
Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock & Emma D'Arcy)
Young Rhaenyra, known as "The Realm’s Delight," is a devoted daughter, a talented dragonrider, and a budding tactician. As the only child of the king, she would be the presumed heir if she wasn't a woman. However, rather than let Daemon get the crown, Viserys decides to name her as his successor anyway, in a divisive move that becomes the closest a queen will get to the Iron Throne until Rhaenyra's great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter Daenerys.
Episode 6 includes a ten-year time jump in the HotD storyline, at which point young Rhaenyra actor Milly Alcock (opens in new tab) left and Emma D'Arcy took over the role (Olivia Cooke also assumed the Alicent Hightower role from Emily Carey (opens in new tab))
Having previously married Laenor Velaryon in Episode 5, Rhaenyra is now mother to three sons in episode 6: Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey, whom she literally welcomed in the episode's opening minutes. While Rhaenyra's place as heir is secure, her relationship with Alicent has deteriorated to the point where her former friend is pushing for her own son Aegon to be named heir instead. There are also rumors swirling about her children's parentage (more on that later).
'House of the Dragon' Era - Kids
Prince Aegon (Ty Tennant)
Aegon is a common name for Targaryen sons, that comes up several times in the family tree. This Prince Aegon is the firstborn son of Viserys I and his second wife, Alicent Hightower. As the firstborn son of the king, a faction of lords want him to be named heir pretty much as soon as he's born, though Rhaenyra was named heir years prior. As of episode 6, he's a bratty teenager who has yet to grapple with his birthright as Rhaenyra's strongest opponent in the succession.
Princess Helaena (Evie Allen)
Helaena is Viserys and Alicent's second-born and firstborn daughter. We only meet her briefly in episode 6, where she makes a prophetic-sounding observation while holding a little bug. No spoilers, but in the books, the girl will is beloved by the small folk as she grows older.
Prince Aemond (Leo Ashton)
Viserys and Alicent's third child Aemond is more timid than his elder brother. As of episode 6, he's still trying to find his way and has yet to bond with his own dragon. He's also the subject of Aegon's taunting, though as Alicent points out, things can get messy if the two royal brothers aren't getting along once the succession battle begins.
Princes Jacaerys and Lucerys Velaryon (Leo Hart and Harvey Sadler)
Known as Jace and Luke, Rhaenyra and Laenor Velaryon's two elder sons are second and third in line for the throne while Rhae is the official heir. Though the little princes have grown up with Laenor as their father, they don't look like him at all, and there are rumors that Commander of the City Watch Ser Harwin Strong is their biological dad. By the end of episode 6, Jace even asks his mother about his parentage. Her response: "You are a Targaryen. That's all that matters."
Prince Joffrey Velaryon
Rhaenyra and Laenor (but allegedly Harwin's) third son is born at the start of episode 6, and sports little dark baby curls similar to his brunette brothers. Laenor names the baby Joffrey after his late lover, who was killed by Ser Criston Cole on the night of Rhaenyra and Laenor's wedding in episode 5. (Joffrey is a common Westerosi name even before the young terror Joffrey Lannister is born centuries later.)
Baela and Rhaena Targaryen (Shani Smethurst and Eva Ossei-Gerning)
During Daemon's marriage to Laena Velaryon, the couple has twin daughters, elder Baela and younger Rhaena. We meet them briefly in episode 6, but per the books, Baela grows up to be a dragon-rider and tomboy à la Arya Stark, while Rhaena loves dresses and dancing.
Laena was also pregnant with a third child, but the baby was stillborn and wouldn't deliver, with Laena commanding her own dragon to kill her by fire rather than suffering a slow, painful death by childbirth.
'Game of Thrones' Era
King Aerys II
Before the Baratheons (and the Lannisters behind the scenes) ruled over Westeros in Game of Thrones, there was King Aerys II, the last Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne. "The Mad King" was initially beloved during his peaceful reign, before he slowly became paranoid, erratic, and murderous (possibly due to the Targaryen tradition of inbreeding). After his execution of Ned Stark's father and brother led to Robert's Rebellion, Aerys was betrayed by his hand, Tywin Lannister, and killed by Jamie Lannister. The reign of the Targaryens was over, but the lineage lived on through his two younger children Daenerys and Viserys, who were smuggled away to the Free Cities.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)
Daenerys Stormborn grew up in exile in the Free Cities, with the goal of returning to Westeros and reclaiming the Iron Throne. Game of Thrones followed her efforts to raise an army and learn how to rule, first as Khaleesi, then as the Breaker of Chains. Over the course of conquering Westeros, she eventually succumbed to the "Targaryen madness," or her family's tradition of becoming erratic and murderous every couple of generations. She razed King's Landing, but before she could even sit on the Iron Throne, Jon Snow assassinated her. (The official opinion of this writer is that Daenerys deserved a better finale arc. #JusticeForDany)
Dany had two brothers: the arrogant Viserys (whose death came from a hot-gold treatment early in season 1), and Rhaegar, who ran away with Lyanna Stark and indirectly dragged the Stark family into the war. Speaking of Rhaegar and Lyanna...
Aegon, a.k.a. Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
Sorry for the six-year spoiler (also not sorry, because again, it's been six years), but we can't mention the Thrones-era Targaryens without the secret, non-blonde member hiding in plain sight. As was revealed in the season 7 finale, the Stark bastard Jon Snow was really the secret love child of Rhaegar and Lyanna, named Aegon after several of his ancestors. (He also had a half-brother from Rhaegar's other marriage with Elia Martell, who was killed as a child in the war.)
After he assassinated his lover/unknown-aunt Dany, Jon was exiled back into the Night's Watch, and later travelled with the Wildlings to the land north of the Wall. There's currently a Jon Snow sequel series (opens in new tab) in development with Harington returning, so we may learn what's next for the hero in the future.
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