Who is Alicent Hightower? Warning spoilers ahead for House of the Dragon. The fantasy series House of the Dragon has taken us back to a time when dragons ruled the Seven Kingdoms and the Targaryen family was at its most powerful.
Yet despite having more than ten dragons at their command, the Targaryen’s rule is about to face one of its greatest tests, a civil war that threatens to destroy everything Aegon the Conqueror built. What caused this war? Well, the ambitions of Otto Hightower, who seeks to put his grandson on the throne.
To do so, Otto’s spent decades ingratiating himself into the royal family and even wedded his daughter Alicent to the Targaryens so his heir may take control of Westeros. But enough about Otto, who is Alicent Hightower, the woman at the heart of the Green’s plot to take over the Seven Kingdoms?
Alicent early life
Alicent was born to Otto Hightower in Oldtown. As the daughter of one of the kingdom’s most important and powerful families, Alicent spent her early days living in the lap of luxury and the comfort of her family home, The Hightower.
When King Viserys (Jaehaerys in the books) named Otto Hand of the King, she moved to King’s Landing with her father, where she met and befriended Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen. The pair spent their days playing together and grew up as close as sisters, although Alicent refused to ride on Rhaenyra’s dragon Syrax.
Alicent in House of the Dragon
Alicent looked like she was set to live a conventional life, but everything changed when Queen Aemma died during childbirth, leaving King Viserys Targaryen without a wife. Sensing an opportunity for advancement, Otto pressured his daughter to start going to the king’s bed chambers at night to ‘comfort’ him.
As Alicent started spending more time with the king, her relationship with Rhaenyra started to sour. Things finally came to a head when Viserys announced he planned on marrying Alicent, greatly upsetting Rhaenyra. Soon after they married, Alicent gave Viserys what he’d always wanted, a son.
Naming the boy Aegon, after the great conqueror of Westeros, Viserys was delighted, but importantly he did not name his son heir. Instead, he maintained that Rhaenyra would inherit the throne when he died. Even when Alicent gave the king two more children, Aemond and Helaena, he still preferred Rhaenyra.
While Alicent herself wasn’t too bothered by this, it greatly disturbed Otto, who believed it threatened the stability of the realm (and he wanted his grandson on the throne). Otto eventually overstepped; however, when he was caught spreading rumours about Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen’s relationship, he was stripped of his duties and sent back to Oldtown, but not before warning his daughter that the princess posed a danger to her children.
During this time, Alicent stood by Rhaenyra, but this served to ruin their friendship. Eventually, Alicent learned that while Rhaenyra hadn’t slept with Daemon, she had dishonoured her Kingsguard, Ser Criston Cole, by taking him to bed. Furious that she’d been tricked into siding against her father and convinced Rhaenyra was actively plotting against her and her children, Alicent began to conspire to have Aegon named heir and weaken Rhaenyra’s position at court.
To that end, she had her spymaster Larys Strong kill his father and brother Lyonel and Harwin, who were key allies of Rhaenyra. She also spreads the rumour that Lyonel was, in fact, the father of Rhaenyra’s children, Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey.
Faced with diminishing support in the Red Keep, Rhaenyra left King’s Landing and set up her court in Dragonstone, leaving Alicent unopposed. The pair next met at the funeral of Laena Velaryon, and to say things were frosty would be an understatement. Alicent’s cold resentment turned into a fiery fury, though, when Lucerys attacked Aemond, who had just claimed the dragon Vhagar.
Years passed, and Alicent established her power base in King’s Landing. As Viserys weakened, his queen removed the heraldry of the Targaryens, replacing it with symbols from the Faith of The Seven. She also took an active role on the small council, essentially ruling the kingdom with her father.
Still, she feared for her children, and Alicent worked with her father and Corlys Velaryon’s brother Vaemond to have her disinherited. The plan would have worked were it not for Viserys, who used the last of his strength to sit on the throne and find his daughter innocent. On what would end up being the last night of Viserys life, he requested the royal family dine together.
For the sake of Viserys, Rhaenyra and Alicent agreed and surprisingly found they had more common ground than they realised. Alicent even admitted that Rhaenyra would make a good queen, and it seemed that the Dance of Dragons had been averted. Alas, later that night, a dying Viserys told Alicent the Song of Ice and Fire prophecy. Alicent misinterpreted his words and thought with his last breath Viserys had named their son Aegon heir.
Alicent during the Dance of the Dragon
Wasting no time, Alicent and Otto immediately sought to find Aegon so they could crown him king. However, the pair disagreed over what to do with Rhaenyra. Otto wanted the princess and her children killed, but Alicentwas disgusted at the prospect.
In the end, with some help from the White Worm, Alicent found Aegon before her father, and she used him to guarantee Rhaenyra’s safety. Alicent was present when Aegon was crowned Aegon II Targaryen and witnessed Rhaenys Targaryen and Meleys escape the Dragon Pit, but this is where the TV series ends, and we enter the realm of the books.
Following the murder of Lucerys Velaryon, Daemon had assassins infiltrate the Red Keep. This pair of cutthroats, Blood and Cheese, took Alicent and Helaena (who had married her brother Aegon) hostage before making the queen choose which of her sons she wanted to survive. Helaena chose her younger son Maelor, but they instead slew Aegon’s heir Jaehaerys.
Helaena was driven mad by grief, and Alicent took the young Maelor from his mother to raise as her own. Alicent’s troubles didn’t end here, though. She frequently butted heads with Aegon, who turned out to be a cruel and capricious king. Eventually, Aegon’s mismanagement led to the Red Keep falling into the hands of Rhaenyra’s forces.
A prisoner of the Black Queen, Alicent suggested to her stepdaughter that the realm be split between Aegon and herself. Rhaenyra rejected this suggestion, enraged when Alicent suggested the deaths of her sons didn’t matter because they were bastards. Rhaenyra considered cutting out Alicent’s tongue at this point but relented.
Alicent then spent the rest of the war a prisoner of the various forces who captured the Red Keep. She was eventually freed when Borros Baratheon recaptured the city for Aegon, but her happiness did not last long. It soon became clear that Rhaenyra’s supporters would soon win the war (although Rhaenyra was dead at this point), and her son Aegon the Younger would be put on the throne. As such, Aegon’s former friends had Alicent arrested, and Aegon poisoned, bringing an end to the war.
Alicent Hightower’s death
Despite playing an active part in attempting to usurp the throne, ALicent was freed from her imprisonment when Aegon the younger (now Aegon III) took the throne.
However, the former queen would not be cowed and actively spoke out against Aegon, who was married to Alicent’s granddaughter. Eventually, she was once again imprisoned, this time in the comfort of the Red Keep. She spent the last few years of her life in her bed chambers before dying of a winter fever.
If you love the history of Westeros, check out our guide to House of the Dragon season 2 or our article looking into whether a Game of Thrones season 9 is possible.
If you want to know more about the major players in the coming war, we have an article breaking down the major House of the Dragon characters. If that’s not enough, we’ve also got a guide to the House of the Dragon cast. That’s a lot of dragon content… speaking of which, we have guides to Caraxes, Balerion the Black Dread, and Meraxes.