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 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 four 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). He dies of leprosy at the end of Episode 8, after which he's known by the moniker Viserys the Peaceful.
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. He then gets married for a third time to...
Princess Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock, then 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 left and Emma D'Arcy took over the role (Olivia Cooke also assumed the Alicent Hightower role from Emily Carey)
Having previously married Laenor Velaryon in Episode 5, Rhaenyra is 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).
Rhaenyra's marriage to Laenor ends in Episode 7, when she marries her uncle Daemon after Laenor's "death." The pair welcome two sons together during the six-year time jump before Episode 8. They're still going strong when the realm is thrown into conflict in the Season 1 finale, where she is named the rightful Queen days after her nephew Aegon has usurped the Iron Throne.
'House of the Dragon' Era - Kids
Aegon II (Ty Tennant, then Tom Glynn-Carney)
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.
After the six-year jump before epsidoe 8, Aegon has married his sister Helaena and they share twins, Prince Jaehaerys and Princess Jaehaera. After his father Viserys death, Aegon is thrust into the role of king, though he doesn't want it (he'd rather drink and gamble and sire rumored illegitimate kids in King's Landing). However, her mother Alicent convinces him to take the throne as the Greens' placed monarch.
Princess Helaena (Evie Allen, then Phia Saban)
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. By the end of Season 1, she has become queen as her brother Aegon's wife, and she also has given a confirmed prophecy ("the beast beneath the boards" being Rhaenys and her dragon crashing Aegon's coronation").
Prince Aemond (Leo Ashton, then Ewan Mitchell)
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 becomes a major player in the Red Keep in Episode 7, when he bonds with Vhaghar, the largest living dragon in Westeros (and loses an eye in an accident with his nephew Lucerys). By the finale, he's a fearsome warrior who thinks he would be a better king than his older brother. He also strikes the first blow in the Dance of the Dragons. (More on that here.)
Prince Daeron Targaryen
Though we never meet him in HotD's first season, Alicent and Viserys actually have a fourth child, their youngest son. Per George R.R. Martin, the young man was living in Oldtown, the second-largest city in Westeros, during Season 1. Though the author doesn't confirm whether he'll be introduced in Season 2, Daeron does play a large role in the source novel Fire & Blood.
Prince Jacaerys Velaryon (Leo Hart, then Harry Collett)
Rhaenyra and Laenor Velaryon's eldest son, known as Jace, is second in line for the throne while Rhae is the official heir. Though he and his brother 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."
After the time jump before Episode 8, Jace is a thoughtful young man who is already preparing for his duties as king. He's extremely loyal to his mother, and he'll have an important place as Rhaenyra's heir in Season 2.
Prince Lucerys Velaryon (Harvey Sadler, then Elliot Grihault)
Rhaenyra's second-born child is more mild-mannered than his brother, and has a tougher time with his fate as a royal. In Episode 8, he's named heir to the seat of House Velaryon, Driftmark, but he later admits to his mother that he doesn't want it, and even gets "greensick" (Westerosi for seasick). He is also fiercely loyal to his mom and honorable, which spells trouble when his uncle Aemond comes after him for revenge after losing an eye.
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.)
Princess Aegon (III) and Viserys (II) Targaryen
After Rhaenyra and Daemon marry, they welcome two sons, whom they name after Aegon the Conqueror and Rhaenyra's father (and Daemon's brother) Viserys. We briefly meet them as infants in Episode 8.
Baela and Rhaena Targaryen (Shani Smethurst and Eva Ossei-Gerning, then Bethany Antonia and Phoebe Campbell)
During Daemon's marriage to Laena Velaryon, the couple has twin daughters, elder Baela and younger Rhaena, who we meet briefly in Episode 6. 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.
After Episode 7, Baela lived with her grandmother Rhaenys in Driftmark, while Rhaena moved in with her father and Rhaenyra at Dragonstone. Though we don't spend much time with them in the show, Baela grows up to be a dragon-rider and tomboy à la Arya Stark, while Rhaena loves dresses and dancing.
'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 during 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: Viserys and Rhaegar.
Viserys III (Harry Lloyd)
Viserys spent most of his life with Dany in the Free Cities, where they were smuggled as children to stay safe from Baratheon forces in the aftermath of the civil war known as Robert’s Rebellion. The rebellion took the Iron Throne away from the Targaryens; Viserys’ sole focus was on reclaiming that power. When we first meet the duo in GoT, they’re preparing for her wedding to Khal Drogo—a union orchestrated entirely by Viserys, without Dany’s consent. Arrogant, self-serving Viserys has agreed to allow the Dothraki warlord to wed Dany in return for military support in his plans to reclaim the Iron Throne.
We’d be remiss not to mention how creepy Viserys acts toward his little sister, but luckily, we don’t have to witness it for long. Toward the end of season one, after Viserys has insulted both his sister and her new husband—under the foolhardy belief that his own power outweighs their own when surrounded by loyal Dothraki—Drogo promises to give Viserys the “golden crown” he’s after: by pouring molten gold on his head, leading to his painful death and paving the way for Dany to seek the Iron Throne instead.
Rhaegar (Wilf Scolding)
Dany and Viserys’ oldest brother is long gone before the events of Game of Thrones begin, but is a key player in those events. It was Rhaegar’s decision to give Lyanna Stark—rather than his own wife, Elia Martell—a wreath naming her “Queen of Love and Beauty” at a tournament that eventually sparked Robert’s Rebellion, since Lyanna was then betrothed to Robert Baratheon, who teamed up with Lyanna’s brother Eddard to avenge his honor.
Soon after, Rhaegar and Lyanna ran away together to be secretly married, though the Starks and Baratheons framed it as an abduction rather than a mutual elopement, officially kicking off the war. Robert ultimately killed Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident, and Elia and her two children with Rhaegar were killed, too. Lyanna died early, too, due to complications after giving birth to her and Rhaegar’s only child.
As for that son…
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.
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 in development with Harington returning, so we may learn what's next for the hero in the future.
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