Leo Hart, Harvey Sadler, and Emma D'Arcy in House of the Dragon (2022)

Why Does the Father of Rhaenyra’s Children Matter on ‘House of the Dragon’?

House of the Dragon on HBO has a lot of drama, but none more significant than the paternity issue surrounding Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen’s three oldest sons: Jacaerys Velaryon, Lucerys Velaryon, and Joffrey Velaryon. These issues and more came to a head in the episode “The Lord of the Tides.”

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Spoilers for House of the Dragon S1 Ep8 “The Lord of the Tides”

“The Lord of the Tides” opens with the news that it has been six years since Lord Corlys Velaryon has been on Dirftmark and has recently been wounded in the Stepstones fighting the newest incarnation of the Triarchy. This has led his younger brother, Ser Vaemond Velaryon (Wil Johnson), to petition to become his brother’s heir. Of course, this is a problem because Rhaenyra’s second son Lucerys Velaryon is meant to become the next Lord of Driftmark. Everyone, including the boys themselves, knows their true father is the late Ser Harwin Strong rather than Laenor Velaryon. While forbidden to call it out, by bringing a petition to the Iron Throne, it says the quiet part out loud.

A pregnant Rhaenyra and her new husband/uncle Daemon return to King’s Landing and find that it has been changed heavily by Queen Alicent, who has leaned into her religious values. Vaemond feels emboldened by the fact that Alicent and her father, Otto Hightower, Hand of the King, are in power and would be willing to allow the paternity question to be heard. Until, surprise, Daddy King Viserys I heads to the Iron Throne and defends his daughter.

Many have rightfully called this actor Paddy Considine’s episode, and he is Acting with a capital A as Viserys. We love to see it. Viserys calls the succession settled, but Vaemond decides to fuck around and find out and calls Rhaenyra’s children bastards. Daemon cuts his head off in response to what is considered treason against his wife.

Later on, Viserys attempts to have a family dinner and reconcile his wife and daughter’s factions together. However, they have passed along so much ill will to their children that they can not make it throughout the night without Prince Aemond calling his nephews “Strongs.”

House of the Dragon has made many changes meant to complicate the rivalry between the Greens and the Blacks, but in many ways, at least in my opinion, the show has leaned in favor of Rhaenyra’s faction. But one glaring issue is that her first three children are not “legitimate.”

As the first fully acknowledged female heir to the Iron Throne, Rhaenyra has always been in a challenging situation. This is a situation that grew trickier when her father and Alicent proceeded to have three sons and a daughter of their own. Viserys has never explicitly done much to help strengthen Rhaenyra’s claim other than support her lies. But that has only served to make Alicent more frustrated. The sad truth is that if Rhaenyra were a man, it wouldn’t matter if she had a whole team of bastards because she wouldn’t be held to such a puritanical standard, and she could also make them legitimate if she wanted to. Instead, she must play wife and mother, even more than a future queen.

Her first husband Laenor was a gay man, and in the show, it is made explicit that they tried, but it wasn’t working. Still, Laenor cared for and claimed the Strong boys as his children. Not perfectly, mind you, but the fact that he was excited when Rhaenyra gave birth and named one after his lover shows a side of paternalism. It would have been cruel and dubious if Rhaenyra forced Laenor to lie with her. So what was she meant to do? Not have “legitimate” heirs as her half-brother would then become her heir and have ambition to want her killed due to the bad blood between their families?

If Rhaenyra divorced Laenor it would shame the Velaryon family and possibly put them in the hands of her enemies. Plus, what does it matter? Well, it matters to the men of the realm. Jacaerys Velaryon and his brothers seem to be good men and with their engagement to their first-ish cousins/step-sisters make sure that Velaryon blood will still rule Driftmark under the Velaryon name. It is a problem of ego. A problem of tradition. A problem of women shouldn’t be allowed to play these kinds of games.

I would argue that Rhaenyra’s choice puts her children in a difficult situation. Unable to mourn loved ones, in direct conflict with their family members because of the very obvious non-Velaryon heritage, and with rumors around them at all times. Yet she seems to be a loving mother who raised boys that could be good rulers one day, especially Jace. In a different world what would matter is them being the blood of the Targaryen dynasty. The son of a female dragon is still a dragon.

(image: HBO)

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Princess Weekes
Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.