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The Targaryen Line of Succession, Explained

It's not as complicated as it might seem.

Closeup of Daenerys Targaryen in HBO's Game of Thrones.

*** Discussion of the book’s in-world history may spoil elements of House of the Dragon. You’ve been warned. ***

The release of House of the Dragon is upon us—I say, vibrating at a frequency that could shatter glass because I want to get my hands on this show a very normal amount. 

Look, like every single A Song of Ice and Fire fan out there, I’m still somewhat reeling from the terrible disappointment that was the final seasons of Game of Thrones—a true spectacle of such terrible writing that they pretty much tanked the whole thing. But, that said, I love the world of Westeros, and I’ve also always been a major Targaryen nerd. They’re such terrible rulers, truly torn between madness and godhood, that they make for some great storytelling, especially when things go wrong. How could I not love them? Plus, they have dragons. And I’m a dragon enthusiast first and a human second. 

So, here I am, desperately waiting for my fave problematic royal dynasty to appear back on my screen (with their family-drama-that-turns-into-disaster-for-the-realm and their impeccable fashion choices). And hoping, so hard, that it will be good, nay, great.

House of the Dragon

The plot of House of the Dragon will focus on the civil war that has come to be known as the Dance of the Dragons— taking place some hundred and fifty years before the events that we have seen in Game of Thrones.

It’s definitely one of the more interesting—and bloody—periods in the three centuries where the Targaryens ruled over the Seven Kingdoms, and also, in my humble opinion, the moment that started their demise—even though the final strike will be delivered by Robert Baratheon and his rebellion much later.

The Iron Throne is, of course, once again at the center of all conflicts—this time it’s because of dynastic disputes that open up after the death of King Viserys I Targaryen (played by Paddy Considine in the show). From his first wife, Aemma Arryn, the King had only one living daughter—Princess Rhaenyra, known as the Realm’s Delight (in House of the Dragon she will be portrayed by Milly Alcock as a young girl and by Emma D’Arcy as an adult). 

Milly Alcock and Emily Carey in House of the Dragon (2022)
(HBO)

From his second wife, Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke)—the daughter of Viserys’s Hand, Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans)—Viserys had four children, including three boys—Aegon, Helaena, Aemond, and Daeron. I bet you can already see where this is going.

While he was alive, the King actually declared Rhaenyra the Princess of Dragonstone and his successor— as we see in the trailer for House of the Dragon, where all the major lords of the Realms are swearing their allegiance to her. But of course, once Viserys I dies the Seven Kingdoms split in half—should precedence be given to Rhaenyra, since she’s the eldest child of the previous ruler, or to Aegon, who’s the firstborn male heir? And that’s without even considering Viserys’s tumultuous brother Daemon (played by Matt Smith in the series) or his cousin Rhaenys (Eve Best), married to the powerful Lord Corlys Velaryon. And when you take into account that everyone still has very large, very battle-ready dragons at their disposal, things will get heated pretty quickly.

It will be interesting to see so many Targaryens on our screens, as we’re used to them being nearly wiped out on GOT. It’s exciting, but it’s also a bit tricky to keep everyone straight. So, let’s dive into who is related to who.

The Targaryen Family Tree & Line of Succession

Matt Smith and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon (2022) as Targ trash
(HBO)

Okay, let’s start at the end. Daenerys Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Mother of Dragons, and Holder of Several More Awesome Titles, is indeed a direct descendant of Rhaenyra Targaryen. 

There are nine generations separating the two, sure, but climbing up Daenerys’s family tree you land fair and square on Rhaenyra—or more precisely, Daenerys descends from the line that originated from Rhaenyra’s second marriage to her uncle Daemon and from their son, Viserys II, who is going to sit on the Iron Throne at the very end of the Dance and continue the Targaryen dynasty until its end (during the Rebellion). 

From Viserys II, it’s a straight line down from parent to child ruling, that is until, Aerys II, known as the Mad King, and his sister-wife Rhaella—and their three children, Rhaegar, Viserys and Daenerys. This means that Jon Snow is also a direct descendant of Rhaenyra, even though there’s one more generation separating them when compared to Daenerys and Rhaenyra.

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen in the Winterfell crypts during Game of Thrones Season 8
As Rhaegar’s son, Jon Snow is also a direct descendant of Rhaenyra Targaryen (HBO)

Here’s a nice family tree that I’ve put together myself—one that includes only the direct parent-child line without siblings and uncles and the like, just so it’s easier to visualise exactly how Daenerys and Jon are related to the Realm’s Delight. 

Just keep in mind that the website I used doesn’t really have an option to show marriages between brothers and sisters—whenever you see queens with the Targaryen surname, just assume they are their respective Kings’s sister-wives.

A family tree connecting Rhaenyra Targaryen and Daenerys Targaryen
Of course, the real thing would be much more populated with siblings, cadet branches and the like.

If you remember, we’ve actually seen one more Targaryen during the course of Game of Thrones—Aemon, who was a Maester of the Night’s Watch when Jon Snow first arrived in Castle Black in Season 1. Aemon is yet another direct descendant of Rhaenyra and is of course much closer to her—there are six generations occurring between the two. 

Maester Aemon is not in the family tree above, but he was the older brother of King Aegon V—so just use his brother as a reference point on where to locate him. 

Maester Aemon Targaryen in Game of Thrones
Fun fact: Aemon was offered the Iron Throne, but he refused it because he was already a Maester of the Citadel (HBO)

And with that whole page of Targaryen history cleared, hopefully, we’re all feeling ready for House of the Dragon’s first episode—scheduled to premiere on HBO on August 21st. Eeeeeeeee!

(via: AWOIAF; image: HBO)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely still reading. She loves dragons, complex magic systems, stories about the intrinsic goodness of humanity, queer representation, women who could crush her and Mr Darcy type men. Her blood runs purple.