The Targaryens are one of the most ancient bloodlines in the fantasy series House of the Dragon. Originally from the Valyrian Freehold, the Targaryens were one of forty households who ruled over the lands with the help of their mighty dragons. Intriguingly, the Targaryens started off as not a particularly noteworthy house and far from the most powerful.
The family left Valyria when Daenys Targaryen had a vision of a great disaster destroying the Freehold. The Targaryens packed their bags, took their dragons, and went to take up residency in Dragonstone, just off the coast of Westeros. For 12 years, they lived there until the doom Daenys had predicted came true, wiping out the dragonlords.
As the enemies of the Freehold fought for control of the Valyrian’s former empire, the Targaryens lived and died on Dragonstone. Eventually, a young dragonlord named Aegon rose to lead the house, and he turned his ambitions West to the Seven Kingdoms, and he sought to unite them under his banners. So began the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros and the House of the Dragon.
For the record, the Targaryen family tree is like an ancient oak that’s not been pruned in centuries. As such, it’s pretty confusing. To simplify things, we’ve broken the tree up into bite-sized chunks and only focussed on the direct line of kings; so sorry if you were a fan of that random Targaryen who’s the second cousin of ‘Valeagaerysion’ or whatever (so sorry if we missed any of your favourite House of the Dragon characters).
Aegon the Conqueror and his sons
Aegon the Conqueror and his sister wives, Visenya and Rhaenys, were the Targaryens who kicked off the royal dynasty. Using their dragons Balerion, Vhagar, and Meraxes, they forged the Seven Kingdoms out of Westeros, bringing the land’s current rulers to heel.
After establishing their kingdom, the siblings set out to make more Targaryen,s to ensure their house would always sit on the Iron Throne. Aegon supposedly preferred Rhaenys, his younger sister, as a wife to Visenya, and so the youngest of the siblings bore the king his first son, Aenys. Five years later, Visenya gave birth to Maegor, the first Targaryen usurper.
Aenys I and his line
In his youth, Aenys could not have been less like his father. He was bookish and artistic, leading some to question whether Aenys was not a bastard. As he grew, however, Aenys became more like his father, yet he never quite had the same appetite for war.
The same could not be said for Maegor. Maegor was strong but callous, and many saw him as Aegon’s true-born son. When Aegon died, and Aenys took the throne, his rule was a brief one. He died after just five years of sitting on the Iron Throne.
Aenys’ eldest son Aegon should have inherited the throne, but Maegor usurped it. The second son of the Conqueror became known as Aegon King Maegor the Cruel, and he ruled with an iron fist, but, perhaps as punishment for his evil acts, he was never able to conceive an heir, so the line of Aenys took back the throne.
With his first two sons, Aegon and Viserys, dead, the throne passed to Jaehaerys Aenys’ third-born son.
Jaehaerys I and the great council
Jaehaerys was the fourth Targaryen to lead Westeros, and the kingdom prospered under his wise and judicious rule. He forged peace between warring houses, brought prosperity to the Seven Kingdoms, and managed to defeat a Dornish invasion with the help of his dragon Vermithor .
However, his life wasn’t without tragedy. Despite having 13 children, not all survived into adulthood, and because Jaehaerys ruled for 55 years, he managed to outlive his kids, who did make it out of diapers. This meant that when he reached the winter of his life, he had no heir and had to decide who would inherit his throne.
In what became known as The Great Council, Jaehaerys gathered the great houses of Westeros, the Maesters, and the faith and asked them to help him settle the issue of succession before civil war destroyed the kingdom he had built. 13 claimants came forward, but nine were quickly dismissed until the only three left were.
Archmaester Vaegon, Jaehaerys’ last living son who had given up his claim when he became a maester, Prince Viserys Targaryen, and Laenor Velaryon, the grandson of Jaehaerys’ eldest son Aemon and son of his daughter Rhaenys.
Ultimately, the kingdom voted for Viserys, believing that Laenor’s claim was weaker as it came through his mother, not his father. After Jaehaerys passed away, Viserys took the throne, and so began the Targaryen dynasty’s decline.
Viserys and the Dance of the Dragon
You’ve seen House of the Dragon. You know what’s happening here. Basically, Viserys had two wives, Aemma and Alicent Hightower. After Aemma and Baelon died, Viserys named Rhaenyra Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne, and even when he had a son, Aegon, with Alicent, he didn’t change his mind.
When Viserys died, there was a bit of a disagreement about who’d be the new ruler, with one faction, the Greens supporting Aegon II, while the Blacks supported Rhaenyra. The resulting civil war (which we’ll see in House of the Dragon season 2) became known as the Dance of the Dragons, and ultimately Rhaenyra’s sons, with her uncle Daemon Targaryen, Viserys II and Aegon II, ended up on the throne.
After the Dance of the Dragons, things only got more complicated. Aegon the Unworthy took the throne and ruined the kingdom again, Baelor the blessed rebuilt it, but he was a bit pious about the whole thing.
Eventually, we get to Aerys II, better known as the Mad King, a lunatic who’s deposed after Robert’s Rebellion. His son Viserys and daughter Daenerys survive and escape to Essos. Viserys gets himself killed by the Dothraki, but Daenerys eventually reclaims her family’s throne… by committing war crimes. Yeah, she’s murdered soon after as well, bringing an end to the Targaryen bloodline.
If you can’t get enough of the Targaryens, check out our list of the best Game of Thrones characters.