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House of the Dragon: Daemon Targaryen explained

House of the Dragon: Daemon Targaryen's been causing trouble for his brother King Viserys but who is this pompous prince and what does he want with Rhaenyra?

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen

Who is Daemon Targaryen? House HBO’s House of the Dragon has taken Game of Thrones fans back in time to before the rise of the Mad King and Robert’s Rebellion to when the Targaryen family ruled Westeros.

But like all families in Game of Thrones, the House of the Dragon is not united. Indeed, one apple on the Targaryen family tree seems rotten to the core. Or at least he does sometimes because other times he seems extremely loyal to his brother King Viserys Targaryen and wife Rhaenyra Targaryen. So what’s the deal with Daemon? Well here’s everything you need to know about the Rogue Prince.


Daemon Targaryen’s early life

Born the second son of Prince Baelon Targaryen, Daemon enjoyed a comfortable early life spent playing with dragons and his older brother Viserys. At just 16, he was knighted, and his grandfather King Jaehaerys gifted him the Valyrian blade Dark Sister – the sword used by Queen Visenya during Aegon’s Conquest. He also took the vast red dragon Caraxes as his personal mount.

Unfortunately, his life of pomp and privilege ended when he was married off to Lady Rhea Royce for political reasons. Daemon openly hated the Vale of Arryn and constantly moaned about about being married to  his “bronze bitch”.

It was during the Great Council that gathered to address Jaehaerys looming succession crisis that Daemon saw a way to escape his hated life in the Vale. He championed his brother Viserys’ claim to the throne, knowing that this would make him the heir apparent should his older brother die.

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in House of the Dragon

Viserys was crowned King, and he named Daemon his heir and Commander of the City Watch of King’s Landing. As we saw in the TV series, Otto Hightower attempted to limit Daemon’s power, but the prince took the ragtag guards and formed them into a 2,000-man-strong army. Renaming them the Goldcloaks, this new order practised brutal justice, maiming and mutilating the criminals of King’s Landing.

As Viserys struggled to conceive a male heir, Daemon was convinced he’d inherit the throne and made a big mistake. After the death of Viserys’ son Baelon Targaryen, he cruelly named the child “Heir for a Day”, enraging the King.

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Exile and war in the Stepstones

In response, King Viserys Targaryen named his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen heir and disinherited Daemon. The scorned price took Caraxes and flew to Dragonstone, where he stewed on his lost throne. He attempted to declare himself the true heir and marry his mistress Mysaria, who’d later become The White Worm.

His plans, however, amounted to nothing when Rhaenyra sailed out to meet her uncle. The pair had always enjoyed a close relationship, and she convinced Daemon to drop his false claims. Daemon then distracted himself from his lost throne by waging war against the Crab Feeder, a corsair admiral in the employ of the Triarchy.

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in House of the Dragon

Eventually, Daemon would ally with Corlys Velaryon and with the power of his dragon combined with the Velaryon army, he claimed the Stepstones as his own petty kingdom. Surprisingly, Daemon chose not to rule as King and turned the lands over to Viserys. This act reconciled the brothers, but their reunion was a brief one.

Viserys believed that Daemon was grooming Princess Rhaenyra as part of a plan to seize the crown for himself finally. Viserys exiled his brother once again, and Daemon fled to the Stepstones. While exiled, he married Laena Velaryon, the daughter of Corlys, and the pair explored the free cities for several years. During this time, Viserys’ opinion of his brother softened, and he again invited Daemon back to court, presumably because Rhaenyra was married to Laenor Velaryon.

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in House of the Dragon

Marriage to Rhaenyra Targaryen

Unfortunately, Laena would later die in childbirth while Laenor fakes his own death. This gave Daemon the opportunity he’d been waiting for all his life, and he took Rhaenyra as his wife.

The pair married secretly on Dragonstone, but Viserys soon found out and was furious at his brother and daughter. Dispute this, and under pressure from the small council Viserys did not disinherit Rhaenyra, but those at court began a plot to circumvent the King’s wishes.

Daemon and Rhaenyra’s marriage led to them having two children Prince Aegon the Younger and Prince Viserys, but it was not a happy union. Daemon was not loyal to his Queen and had multiple affairs.

Eventually, Viserys passed away, but before Rhaenyra could be told about her father’s death, Ser Criston Cole and Alicent Hightower crowned her younger half-brother King Aegon II Targaryen, sparking a civil war that would ruin the kingdom and break the Targaryen dynasty’s power base.

Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) in House of the Dragon

Daemon Targaryen and the Dance of the Dragons

During the early days of the war, which would become known as the Dance of the Dragons, Daemon had his wife crowned Queen and began courting the great houses of Westeros while looking for allies. The Starks, Greyjoys, Tullys, and Arryns sided with the Queen, while the Baratheons and Lannisters were for the young king.

As we’ll see in House of the Dragons season 2, the war was brutal, and Daemon was an active participant leading the Black (Rhaenyra’s faction) against the Greens (Aegon’s followers). On the battlefield, he captured Harrenhal, and he had Aegon II’s son Prince Jaehaerys assassinated by two cut throats known as Blood and Cheese. However, the prince was as much a hindrance as a help, and his old enemies, the Triarchy, sent a fleet to support Aegon II.

Daemon was also instrumental in recruiting the Dragonseeds —Targaryen bastards entrusted by the Blacks with dragons — and this turned out to be a disaster. Two of the Dragonseeds Ser Hugh Hammer and Ser Ulf White, betrayed the Blacks at at the First Battle of Tumbleton taking Vermithor and Silverwing with them.

Even worse Daemon grew extremely close to a Dragonseed named Nettles, with some whispering he may have even taken her as a mistress. This infuriated Rhaenyra who, after the betrayal of Ser Hugh and Ser Ulf, demanded all the Dragonseeds executed. Not wanting to see his favorite die, Daemon told Nettles to flee and she left on her dragon Sheepstealer depriving the Blacks of yet another dragon.

In the end, Daemon died in service of his queen though, fighting Aemond Targaryen, the second son of Viserys I during the Battle of the God’s Eye. The pair met in the skies above Harrenhal, during where they fought on dragons. Daemon managed to slay his nephew and his dragon Vhagar but fell into the God’s Eye lake below. Caraxes washed up on the lake’s beach, but Daemon’s body was never discovered.

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen

Did Daemon die during the Battle of the God’s Eye?

As Daemon’s body was never discovered many fans believe it’s possible he survived the fall and somehow began a new life for himself away from the constant squabbling of the Targaryen royal family. Some among the smallfolk believe he went and found Nettles and started a life with her. Could it be true?

Well, George RR Martin did say that Daemon is his favorite character, once saying, “I’m notorious for my love of grey characters and one of the greyest characters in the entire history of Westeros is Daemon Targaryen, the Rogue Prince.”

So there’s certainly a chance he did survive the fall. Maybe we’ll learn more if House of the Dragon gets a third season.

Matt MSith as Daemon Targaryen in House of the Dragon

If you enjoyed the new Game of Thrones TV series, then check out our list of the best Game of Thrones characters; we also have a breakdown of the House of the Dragon cast you may like; or we have guides to the dragons, Meleys, Arrax, Meraxes, and Syrax for you to peruse.

Finally, if you want to know more about the future of the Seven Kingdoms, you should give our guide to Game of Thrones season 9 a read. It’s not as silly as it first sounds, although I don’t expect Daenerys Targaryen although a few faces in the Game of Thrones cast may pop up.

Our sister site Wargamer also has a guide to the best Game of Thrones board games if you want to play this deadly political game for yourself.