Out of all the generations of House Targaryen, the one I find most intriguing would be the generation that lived before and during the Dance of the Dragons. Before the Dance of the Dragons, this generation represented House Targaryen at the height of its power over the Seven Kingdoms. Not only were there plenty of heirs that would secure the dynasty, but there were over twenty dragons, which were the most dragons seen since the glory days of Valyria. Sadly, despite the power they represented, this generation had one fatal weakness: they despised one another with a passion. This hatred started when King Viserys I remarried to Alicent Hightower, who produced several legitimate male heirs. These heirs undermined Princess Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne since she was named the designated heir apparent by her father, which was a decision he stood by until the day he died. Unfortunately, Alicent and her children failed to honor their patriarch’s dying wish and usurped the throne for themselves. This led to the bloodiest and most devastating Westerosi civil war in history: the Dance of the Dragons. Throughout the war, this generation of Targaryens gradually killed each other and their dragons until there were only two Targaryens and two dragons left. Shortly after the war, the last dragons eventually died out completely. This marked the start of the long term decline of House Targaryen. This generation had so much potential and they squandered it because they despised and coveted one another. I often think about what could have happened if this generation of Targaryens were not so dysfunctional. If they didn’t kill each other, would they still have their dragons and the Iron Throne? So many questions that will never be answered. All I can do is imagine and brainstorm this scenario.
As a dragon fanatic, I have enjoyed and sympathized with the dragons in Game of Thrones. Dragons were the linchpin to House Targaryen’s long term hold to the Iron Throne. Instead of being preserved as the last of their kind, the Targaryen dragons were used as living weapons of mass destruction. One of the saddest of these cases was the dragon known as Sunfyre, the dragon bonded to King Aegon II. Before the Dance of the Dragons, Sunfyre was the most beautiful of all the Targaryen dragons with golden scales that made him look like a living gilded statue. After the Dance of the Dragons, Sunfyre became a ruined and scarred creature that would never fly again. Such a beautiful animal became a ravaged shadow of its former self because of the ambitions of its masters. I frequently wonder what it would have been like if Sunfyre had the chance to live out his existence in peace and die of old age like Balerion the Black Dread did. If Sunfyre reached maturity, I think it would be hard to tell if he was a dragon or an angel.
I just realized something significant about House Targaryen! Even though Daenerys is dead and “Jon Snow” is exiled, they are not the last of the Targaryens; far from it! Allow me to explain. Over a hundred years before the main story of Game of Thrones, Aegon the Unworthy legitimized ALL of his bastards on his deathbed. This led to the five Blackfyre Rebellions. However, Daemon Blackfyre, Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers, and Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers were not Aegon’s only bastards of noble birth and not all of Aegon’s bastards of noble birth were acknowledged. Also, even though Aegon had nine prominent mistresses, the exact number of women he had children with are unknown even to him. He definitely had more bastards than even Walder Frey or Robert Baratheon and he legitimized ALL of his bastards including the ones who were unacknowledged or of low birth. The only catch is that these legitimized bastards and their descendants don’t know who or what they are. Even though most of Aegon the Unworthy’s noble bastards mostly killed each other off, his unacknowledged and low birth bastards and their descendants still live. With no one knowing who they are, they will not be hunted and killed like their known relatives. Because they were legitimized, they and their descendants are not bastards anymore. Due to this House Targaryen still lives, but only in secret.
Allow me to address some of the many flaws in House Targaryen. Even though I will always be a fan of this infamous family, I cannot shake off their flaws. Among those flaws was the fact that they were very careless and irresponsible with their heirlooms compared to other noble houses.
To begin with, the Targaryens lost the Valyrian steel crown of Aegon the Conqueror when Daeron the Young Dragon attempted to conquer Dorne. Since then, Targaryen kings replaced it with inferior crowns that any normal king would wear. Because Valyrian steel is so rare and impossible to make from scratch, that crown was irreplaceable. When House Arryn ruled as Kings of the Vale, they had a collection of crowns they had worn for thousands of years until Visenya Targaryen took them away.
While we are on the subject of Valyrian steel, let’s turn our attention to the two Valyrian steel ancestral swords of House Targaryen: Blackfyre and Dark Sister. Most noble families were super lucky if they even had one Valyrian steel sword, but the Targaryens had TWO!!! Then they squandered both swords at the start and end of the five Blackfyre Rebellions. The noble families who had Valyrian steel swords such as the Starks, Mormonts, and Tarlys took great care of their ancestral blades and had them for five hundred years. With the Targaryen Dynasty, they lost both of their ancestral blades after having them for less than two hundred years.
Thanks to the Mad King’s insanity and tyranny, the Targaryen Dynasty lost the Iron Throne; the seat of absolute power that they held for almost three hundred years. If it wasn’t for the Targaryen family curse of madness and had the sense of giving up their practice of incest, the Targaryens could have ruled Westeros until the end of time.
However, even though the Iron Throne served as a symbol of the Targaryen’s power, the true source of their power came in the form of their greatest weapons: DRAGONS!!! For over a century, the Targaryen Dynasty were able to hold onto their power thanks to their dragons. With the exception of the Dornishmen and the zealots of the Faith Militant, no one was crazy enough to wage war against dragons. Then the Dance of the Dragons came along and the Targaryens lost their dragons along with the long term lynchpin to their hold to the Iron Throne. Instead of being responsible with their dragons, the Targaryens regarded them as weapons and they paid the price for this neglect.
I breaks my heart that the Targaryens did not take better care with all of their heirlooms. They truly had it in them to rule Westeros forever if they had taken the proper steps to prevent their downfall.
Like many early Targaryens, Jaehaerys the Conciliator was a dragonrider with his own dragon. His dragon was named Vermithor AKA the Bronze Fury. Vermithor had magnificent bronze scales, tan wings, and he was the third largest dragon after Balerion and Vhagar. We have all seen Targaryens threatening their enemies with their dragons, but Jaehaerys did it in a smart way. Instead of openly threatening unruly vassals and describing what his dragon will do to them, Jaehaerys simply showed them his dragon. He made no mention of threatening them with his dragon, but the veiled threat was in plain sight. He was nonverbally saying, “Obey me or I will unleash HIM on you!” The very sight of the growing dragon was more than enough to frighten his enemies into submission. When showing the dragon was not enough, Jaehaerys rode Vermithor and took flight to put down the conflict personally. On one occasion, Jaehaerys took his sons Aemon and Baelon on their dragons with him to defeat an attempted invasion from Dorne. Jaehaerys and his sons used their dragons to burn the Dornish fleet into the sea and the royal army did not suffer a single casualty and this war with Dorne ended in a single day. Both with his sword and with his dragon, Jaehaerys knew how to fight and win his battles quickly and decisively. Jaehaerys demonstrated how you should rule the Seven Kingdoms with dragons.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Jaehaerys I ruled the Iron Throne longer than anyone before or after him. He was widely known as a good king, but you do not have a reign as long as his just from being good. Just because he was a good king, Jaehaerys was by no means a weakling like his father Aenys I. During the first two years of his reign, Jaehaerys trained every morning with his master-at-arms and Kingsguard so that he would not be weak like his father and no one would doubt his courage. Based on the reigns of his grandfather, father, and uncle, Jaehaerys knew there would be challenges for him throughout his reign and he wanted to be ready when those challenges came. There were times when Jaehaerys had to put down a rebellion or fight his own battles. One time, a knight from the Reach seduced and violated one of his daughters and Jaehaerys brought the knight before him. When the knight asked for a trial-by-combat, Jaehaerys personally fought him instead of sending one of his Kingsguard. During the duel, Jaehaerys remained on the defensive and waited for the younger man to tire himself out. When that happened, Jaehaerys went on the offensive and drove his sword through the knight’s skull. Most kings we have seen in Game of Thrones were either warriors or politicians, but Jaehaerys was a healthy balance between warrior and politician.
Easily my all-time favorite Targaryen king would be Jaehaerys the First of His Name AKA The Conciliator. He was easily the greatest king House Targaryen ever produced and many historians believed he was the greatest king Westeros has ever known. He ruled the Iron Throne for fifty-five years, which is longer than any living soul before or after him. He was crowned when he was just a fourteen-year-old kid, but he proved wise, charismatic, and just beyond his years. Like Robb Stark, Jaehaerys married for love instead of political gain, but unlike Robb Stark, Jaehaerys was able to get away with it because of the power and authority he wielded. His true love was his sister Alysanne, who was a wise and capable politician in her own right. He always listened to his queen and many of his decisions were influenced by her. They had thirteen children, but only nine of them grew into adulthood and four had children and grandchildren of their own. Later in his reign, Jaehaerys had one succession crisis after another as several of his children died from wars, diseases, and accidents. Eventually, Jaehaerys held a Great Council where the lords of Westeros decided who would succeed him, which turned out to be his grandson who would reign as Viserys I. After his queen died, Jaehaerys became a broken shadow of his former self and old age made his mind fade. He died peacefully in his bed, which is EXTREMELY rare in the Game of Thrones universe. He was sixty-nine years old and his death was felt across the Seven Kingdoms. Even Dorne, who were part-time enemies of the Targaryens at the time, mourned Jaehaerys’s death. You know someone was a truly great king if even his enemies mourned him. His reign was a time of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and justice that Westeros would never see again. Thanks to Jaehaerys’s efforts, his grandson inherited a secure throne, an overflowing treasury, and a legacy of goodwill from the people. No other king since has been on Jaehaerys’s level and he was one of the rare few who were truly worthy to rule the Iron Throne.