‘House of the Dragon’: History of Targaryen incest explained

This story contains spoilers for House of the Dragon Episode 7 Driftmark.

The romance long teased in House of the Dragon is finally official.

The seventh episode of the HBO prequel Game of Thrones begins with a funeral and ends with the wedding of Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and her uncle Daemon. The couple danced together before each marrying a Velaryon, so it is almost poetic that their relationship will be consummated in Driftmark (seat of House Velaryon).

Audiences will have to wait and see how King Viserys will react to his daughter and brother being married. But considering Episode 7 shows that two of Viserys’ other children – Aegon and Helaena – are engaged to each other, there would be no objections because the newlyweds are niece and uncle.

Game of Thrones fans know that the Targaryens have a long history of family marriages. Aegon the Conqueror, the first king to sit on the Iron Throne and ruled over the Seven Kingdoms, was married to his two sisters who helped him in his conquest – queens Visenya and Rhaenys. This custom of brothers marrying sisters continued through generations, right down to Daenerys’ father, the mad King Aerys II, the son of married siblings who was himself married to his sister.

Why do Targaryens keep getting married?

In short, to keep the dragon’s blood as pure as possible. Books such as The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones and Fire & Blood detail how the Targaryen tradition of incestuous marriages can be traced back to their days in ancient Valyria. For Valyrian families, especially those who raised and rode dragons, maintaining this purity was of paramount importance. The ideal connections were between brother and sister, but when a sibling was unavailable, uncles, aunts and cousins ​​were considered the next best candidates.

a man and young woman close enough to kiss amidst a crowd of revelers

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) and Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock) grow closer than an uncle and niece probably should.

(Ollie Upton / HBO)

Is incest accepted in Westeros?

It is not! In fact, the first marriage between Targaryen siblings after King Aegon I’s conquest of Westeros led to the first uprising against the monarchy.

The dominant religion in Westeros is the Faith of the Seven – although some places like the North still worship the old gods. According to the belief of the Seven, incest between siblings and between a parent and a child is an abomination. (It seems that cousins ​​are considered distant enough that their connections are not a sin.)

When Aegon the Conqueror took over Westeros, he was already married to his sisters, so belief did not comment on these connections. Also, the Targaryens had only showed the Seven Kingdoms the power of their dragons during the conquest.

But faith and believers did not remain so silent for King Aegon’s descendants. During the reign of Aegon’s son, King Aenys, the king’s half-brother, Prince Maegor, caused a rift between the Targaryens and the Faith by taking a second wife. King Aenys caused further trouble by marrying his eldest daughter to his eldest son.

The leader of the faith, the High Septon, denounced King Aenys as an abomination for this marriage. This led to a rebellion by the Faith Militant’s military arm against House Targaryen, which was joined by some rebellious houses.

a woman pulling a man's face towards her with both hands

Game of Thrones fans will recall that lovers Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) are nephew and aunt.


How did Targaryens become exceptional?

When King Jaehaerys I took his place on the Iron Throne, he did what his father (King Aenys I) and uncle (King Maegor I) could not: he set things right with the Faith of the Seven.

(This Jaehaerys is the king whose reign immediately precedes the current king in the “House of the Dragon”, Viserys – making him the great-grandfather of Princess Rhaenyra. Jaehaerys, the third son of King Aenys, was married to his younger sister Alysanne .)

Jaehaerys promised that the Iron Throne would always protect and defend the Faith. In return, he convinced her that the Targaryens were different from the other humans of Westeros because they were dragon riders from ancient Valyria. That said, the rules of the faith that forbid incest remain in effect, but they don’t officially apply to the Targaryens.

Thanks to King Jaehaerys, the Targaryens had the blessing of faith to continue their incestuous marriages through generations to ensure the dragon’s blood remained pure. Game of Thrones fans know how that ended.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-10-02/house-of-the-dragon-hbo-episode-7-targaryen-incest-history ‘House of the Dragon’: History of Targaryen incest explained

Sarah Ridley

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