Who is the Mad King in Game of Thrones? The history books of Westeros are full of tyrannical, greedy, and cruel kings, yet few are as bad as the Mad King.
His very name has become a byword for the bad apples in the Targaryen family tree, and his shadow hangs over the fantasy series, despite the fact he’s been dead for years by the time it begins. But who was the Mad king, really? Was he always a paranoid lunatic, or could he have been saved from the Targaryen madness that consumed him?
Who is the Mad King in Game of Thrones?
The Mad King is Aerys II Targaryen, the father of Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys Targaryen. Aerys was the last Targaryen king and was deposed by Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark in an uprising that became known as Robert’s Rebellion.
Despite his reputation, Aerys’ early reign was promising (thanks in part to his Hand Tywin Lannister), and he hoped to be remembered as “the greatest Targaryen king”. Unfortunately, as his reign continued, a series of misfortunes, including the premature death of several of his children, caused Aerys’ moods to worsen and his paranoia to grow.
He fell out with Tywin, who many in the land saw as the true power behind the throne, and his wife, Rhaella. This all culminated in a disastrous event known as the Defiance of Duskendale, which saw the king imprisoned.
While he was eventually freed from Duskendale’s dungeons, the Aerys that returned was nothing short of a paranoid lunatic. He blamed everyone, from Tywin to his son, for his imprisonment and saw plots to assassinate him everywhere.
Eventually, Aerys’ cruelty grew to breaking point, and when the King had Rickard and Brandon Stark executed, several lords of Westeros rose up in rebellion. Ultimately Aerys was killed by Jamie Lannister, a member of the Kingsguard, bringing an end to the Targaryen dynasty.
If you love the history of Westeros, check out our guide to House of the Dragon season 2, or if you want more info on the players and schemers in the Dance of the Dragon, we have an article breaking down the best House of the Dragon characters including King Viserys Targaryen, Daemon Targaryen, Rhaenyra Targaryen, and Alicent Hightower.