Who was Aegon the Conqueror? In HBO’s Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon, the Targaryens are exceptionally important people who hold the future of Westeros in the palm of their hands.
But how did the scaliest house in Game of Thrones come to be? Where did the Targaryen family tree begin? Well, the complete history of the Targaryen dynasty is lost to history. Still, we do know how they came to claim the Iron Throne, and it begins with Aegon I Targaryen, also known as Aegon the Conqueror. Warning spoilers ahead for one of the best fantasy series ever made.
Aegon the Conqueror’s early life
Aegon was born on Dragonstone, the eldest son of Lord Aerion Targaryen and Lady Valaena Velaryon. While not much is known about the young Conqueror’s childhood, we can presume he spent his days living in his ancestral home and playing with his older sister, Visenya, and younger sister, Rhaenys.
At some point, Aegon bonded with possibly the most powerful of the Game of Thrones Dragons we’ve met (so far, at least), Balerion the Black Dread, and he would fly the beast far and wide, even visiting the city of Oldtown with Visenya. After taking Balerion as his mount, Aegon was married to his elder sister, Visenya (as was the tradition), but the Lord of Dragonstone also took Rhaenys as his wife as well.
Sometime after his marriage to his Sister Wives, Aegon would use Balerion to aid the Prince of Pentos in a battle against the people of Volantis, using the dragon’s breath to destroy the Volanteese fleet. According to the House of the Dragon TV series, it was at this point that Aegon turned his attention west.
Aegon had supposedly been plagued by Dragon Dreams – prophetic visions of the future the Targaryens experienced – and he came to believe in the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy. Basically, Aegon believed that the Targaryens must conquer Westeros to prevent some great unknown evil from destroying the world (spoilers he was dreaming of the Night King).
Assured that he needed to unite the Seven Kingdoms to avert disaster, Aegon began to plot his takeover of Westeros. He began by carving a huge table in the shape of the continent from which he and (his supposed half-brother) Orys Baratheon could plan the campaign. Meanwhile, the various petty kings of Westeros heard rumors of Aegon’s plans and attempted to stop his invasion through diplomacy.
King Argilac Durrandon even went so far as to suggest Aegon marry his only daughter, Princess Argella. When Aegon declined, Durrandon had the Targaryen messengers mutilated, which led to the Conqueror finally making his move. Aegon sent letters to each of the Seven Kingdoms demanding their total surrender before setting sail for Westeros.
Aegon and his sisters – accompanied by their dragons, Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes – landed a small force of soldiers on the east coast of Westeros close to the Blackwater Rush, where they established a beachhead. As the nearby houses surrendered to the Targaryens, Aegon had himself crowned and officially became Aegon I Targaryen.
While Aegon had named himself king, he didn’t actually control any of the Seven Kingdoms, and so he despatched his forces across the land in the hopes of bringing the unruly lords of Westeros to heel. Aegon went to the Riverlands to deal with the Iron Islander Harren Hoare, who’d conquered much of the continent. The Tullys, who’d long chafed at being subjects of the Iron Islands, soon declared for Aegon and rebelled against House Hoare.
Not that Harren was concerned, he believed himself untouchable in his mighty fortress Harrenhal, a notion he was quickly disabused of when Aegon and Balerion burned down the castle in a single night. With Harren dead, the lords of the Riverlands became subjects of the Targaryens.
Meanwhile, Orys and Rhaenys met King Durrandon in the south and slew him in open battle. With his death, the Stormlands fell in line, and now two kingdoms belonged to Aegon. As the Conqueror won victory after victory, King Loren I Lannister and King Mern IX Gardener formed an alliance to protect the Westerlands and Reach from Aegon’s ambitions. The two kings assembled a great host and set off to end Aegon’s reign.
Unfortunately, while the army of the two kings outnumbered the Targaryen men, they didn’t expect Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes to meet them on the battlefield. In what became known as the Field of Fire, the great army of the two kings was destroyed and Mern IX was killed. Realizing surrender was his only option, Loren set down his crown and agreed to serve Aegon. Meanwhile, the Targaryens installed the Tyrells as the new great house in the Reach.
With news of the Field of Fire reaching the North, the old Kings of Winter, House Stark, decided to march their armies south to the Trident River, where they surrendered and swore fealty to the Targaryens. Now only The Vale and Dorne were outside Aegon’s control, and he quickly captured the Vale after Visenya demonstrated the power of her dragon to the Arryns. Dorne, however, proved a trickier proposition, and its people resisted the conqueror for years to come.
Still with most of the Seven Kingdoms and the newly formed Crownlands under his control, Aegon was crowned King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm at the Starry Sept and officially began his reign.
The Reign of Aegon I Targaryen
Soon after he was crowned, Aegon moved his court to King’s Landing, the spontaneous city built around the initial beachhead where his army landed. There, in a ramshackle castle known as the Aegonfort, he forged the Iron Throne from the conquered swords of his enemies and got about the busy work of running Westeros.
Aegon quickly established peace in the land by forbidding his squabbling lords from warring with one another, and he also made the wise political decision to leave the Lords Paramount of each nation in the Seven Kingdoms in charge of local rules and laws as long as they paid their taxes to the throne. He also brought the Iron Islands into the Seven Kingdoms and established the Greyjoys as the Lord’s Paramount of the rocky outcrop. Still, Aegon’s work was not finished, and in the third year of his rule, he decided to invade Dorne again.
For a year, Aegon tried to bring Dorne into his realm through political machinations, but when that failed, he decided a more forceful approach was necessary and invaded with dragons. This didn’t go as well as one might think; while the Targaryens could defeat any foe, they couldn’t hold the land. Still, while the war went poorly, there was some joy in Aegon’s life as Rhaenys gave birth to his first son, Prince Aenys.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck six years into the war when Rhaenys and her dragon, Meraxes, were killed. For the next two years, Aegon scorched the sands of Dorne to glass in the hopes of getting vengeance, but eventually, his fury cooled. Around this time, Visenya gave birth to Prince Maegor, who would become the worst king in Westeros’s history, but that’s another story.
As the war drew to a close, Aegon, well, Visenya, formed the Kingguard, and when Dorne handed the remains of Meraxes, peace was reached between the two nations. With the war over, Aegon spent the rest of his reign, a whole 24 years, consolidating his power. He built up King’s Landing from a stinking village to a fortified city, began work on the Red Keep, and traveled the land, getting to know his people.
Aegon the Conqueror’s Death
37 years after the conquest began, at the age of 64, Aegon I Targaryen died of a stroke.
His remains were cremated on Dragonstone, and his death would spark the first succession crisis of many that would blight the Seven Kingdoms as Prince Maegor, and Visenya worked to usurp the new King Aenys.
Aegon’s importance to the Targaryen dynasty cannot be understated. The Conqueror remains the king most Targaryens aspire to be, and his name is frequently spoken of with high regard. In the House of the Dragon series, we also learn that the prophecy Aegon feared was passed down from generation to generation of kings, with each taking on his mission to protect the Seven Kingdoms.
It’s also, unfortunately, the reason for the Dance of Dragons as Alicent Hightower mistook the dying King Viserys Targaryen’s final words to mean she should put Aegon II Targaryen on the throne when, in fact, Viserys was referring to the Conqueror. This would ultimately lead to the Dance of the Dragons as Rhaenyra Targaryen fights for the Iron Throne and ultimately to the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty.
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