Given the monarchical rules of the Game of Thrones world abides by, why did Viserys I choose Rhaenyra as his heir, and not his eldest son, Aegon?
The House Of The Dragon trailer revealed Viserys I named Rhaenyra as his heir in an ostentatious ceremony rather than his eldest son, Aegon. Given the monarchical rules of the Game of Thrones world abides by, it is initially unclear on first viewing why Rhaneyra was chosen. However, as confirmed by George R. R. Martin’s 2018 book Fire and Blood – which traced the Targaryen’s conquest of the Seven Kingdoms – there were a few reasons behind Viserys’ decision.
The second House Of The Dragon trailer was released in May 2022 to much anticipation after the disappointing season 8 of Game Of Thrones, showing Viserys Targaryen atop the iron throne and the volatile nature of keeping such a coveted seat. A key theme of the Game Of Thrones series was the inherent difficulties for a woman to be the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. And, while House Of The Dragon looks to address this issue as well, it is doing so with a woman named heir rather than the throne falling to her through more violent circumstances.
George R. R. Martin’s Fire and Blood book reveals several reasons for this approach from House of the Dragon. Firstly, Rhaenyra has a purer Targaryen bloodline than Aegon, as Viserys’ first wife was Aemma Arryn, who was Rhaenyra’s mother and cousin to Viserys. Due to the Targaryen family’s obsession with keeping the bloodline as pure as possible, they would inbreed with other family members. In comparison, Viserys’ other son, Aegon, was Rhaenyra’s half-brother, born to Alicent Hightower – Viserys’ second wife – who was biologically unrelated to the Targaryens. Aemma also had two boys – with one dying very young and the other, Baelon, perishing alongside his mother after a fallout between King Viserys and his brother Daemon. As a result, throughout this complex, interwoven Targaryen family, Rhaenyra was the only living, full-blooded Targaryen Viserys had to choose from for an heir.
The fallout between Viserys and Daemon is equally as important in Viserys’ decision, however. He put on such a grand ceremony for Rhaenyra to demonstrate the importance of bloodline over traditional rules of primogeniture – which would have placed Daemon on the throne as the next male heir. Though this was only suggested in the House Of The Dragon trailers, such a move looks to have ensured the stability of the Targaryen dynasty for the time being and served as a warning to Daemon not to challenge Viserys’ rule while marrying him to Rhaenyra. In effect, this also meant Viserys kept his enemies as close to him as possible.
In keeping with his desire to maintain his authority as King, there would have been consequences if Viserys did not name Rhaenyra as his heir. Since Aegon was born ten years after Rhaenyra, the latter had not only been better equipped for the rule, but Viserys would have had to bow to the court’s pressure, effectively undermining his authority. He would have also had to name Rhaenyra’s children as bastards and give her to the Faith lest she challenge Viserys’ rule after his death. This would have undermined his secular authority over religion in Game Of Thrones’ world even further. Additionally, Rhaenyra was well-respected across Westeros and even named the “Realm’s Delight.” This, coupled with Viserys’ eager-to-please personality, would have meant there would have been personal and regal consequences if he had not named Rhaenyra his heir in House of the Dragon.
House Of The Dragon is set to be released on August 21st, 2022 on HBO and Sky.
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