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The Iron Throne Is Vacant—so Who Will End up Sitting on It?

Time for the dragons to dance.

Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in House of the Dragon (2022)

***Potential spoilers for the future episodes and seasons of House of the Dragon from Fire & Blood and The World of Ice and Fire. Be warned. ***

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The latest episode of HBO’s House of the Dragon, the eighth in the show’s first season and titled “The Lord of the Tides,” closed up with an event that we pretty much all saw coming ever since Game of Thrones’ prequel premiered: the death of King Viserys, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men and All His Other Titles.

Considering that we’ve never really seen him completely healthy—the Red Keep masters were already checking out his sores and wounds in Episode 1—the worsening of his conditions and his ultimate death are no real shock. But its aftermath will be felt far and wide all throughout Westeros since with Viserys dead, the Iron Throne remains vacant.

A picture of Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon in the role of King Viserys I
Viserys was not a particularly assertive King, but his presence was the only thing keeping the Realm together (HBO)

The question of which of the late King’s children should sit on it is the one that will tear the realm apart in the bloody civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. This is the real center of the House of the Dragon plot and the great conflagration this entire first season is leading up to, moving the pieces into their starting places on the chessboard and letting us get emotionally attached to them before letting loose the bloodshed the world of Westeros has become so famous for.

On King Viserys’ part, however, there have never been doubts about who should succeed him: his eldest daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, the only surviving child from his wedding to his first wife Aemma Arryn. Viserys named Rhaenyra Princess of Dragonstone—the official title of the crown prince or princess, in this case—in the first episode of House of the Dragon and has steadfastly stood by her even when everyone around him expected him to change his mind. His last act was literally rising from his deathbed and making his way to the Iron Throne to defend Rhaenyra one final time.

daemon helping viserys in house of the dragon
Literally dying but still strong enough to protect his daughter (HBO)

But why would anyone expect the King to walk back his decision of having his daughter as the heir? Because while Rhaenyra might have been Viserys’s only child at the time of her investiture, she certainly wasn’t so when the King finally passes away, with Viserys having had four more children with his second wife Alicent, including three sons. And the laws of Westeros (according to which Viserys himself inherited the crown over his cousin Rhaenys Targaryen), state clearly that a male heir has precedence over a female one, even if the daughter is the firstborn.

All of these inheritance issues have been driving the plot forward these past episodes, with Alicent and her father Otto Hightower scheming to place Prince Aegon on the Iron Throne rather than Rhaenyra and Rhaenyra herself fighting tooth and nail to ensure that her birthright and that of her children is not taken away. So here’s the question everyone’s asking: will Rhaenyra be Queen? Luckily Fire & Blood, the book George R.R. Martin on which House of the Dragon is based, has all the answers. Spoilers ahead, of course—and some grains of salt, because it’s likely that the HBO show will take some liberties and add some twists to the plot that were not in the book.

Leo Hart, Harvey Sadler, and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon (2022)
Rhaenyra’s firstborn, Jacaerys, should inherit the Iron Throne after her (HBO)

As we can all expect, the Realm will split in two: Aegon will ascend the Iron Throne as Aegon II in King’s Landing, while Rhaenyra will crown herself Queen on Dragonstone, with all the various lords great and small declaring for either one half-sibling or the other. 

And then the dragons will dance, as the Westerosi historians say—vicious aerial battles that will cause the death of many Targaryen dragons and dragon-riders, paralleled with fighting throughout the realm that will once again turn the Seven Kingdoms into a massive and ravaged battlefield.

A picture of older Prince Aemond Targaryen, as he will appear during the Dance of the Dragons in House of the Dragon
Raise your hand if you’re surprised to learn that many of those battles will feature Aemonf Targaryen (HBO)

The fact that Rhaenyra has become known to history as the Half-Year Queen, though, and that she doesn’t appear in the official count of the Kings of the Iron Throne—which passes from Viserys I to Aegon II and immediately to Aegon III—is a hint that her campaign will not have a happy ending.

Still, even though Rhaenyra’s place in the history of Westeros is that of a pretender to the Iron Throne rather than that of a ruling Queen, it was her line that eventually continued House Targaryen. Her first son with Prince Daemon will take the crown after the end of the Dance as Aegon III, and some years later her youngest son will also rule as Viserys II. And it’s a straight line down from Viserys to the last of the dragons, Daenerys Targaryen.

rhaenyra in House of the Dragon
The line from Rhaenyra to Daenerys is a straight one (HBO)

As for how House of the Dragon will show these bloody events unfolding, and whether they’ll throw

(source: AWOIAF; image: HBO)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She 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 reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.

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