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Brush Up on the Lore Behind Aegon’s Conquest Ahead of ‘House of the Dragon’s Premiere

House of the Dragon finally drops in a few days, and since it’s been three years since Game of Thrones ended, a few of you may be in need of some brushing up with Thrones lore. But don’t worry about it because we’ve got it covered. 

The Timeline

As we all know, House of the Dragon will serve as a prequel to Thrones, but given George R.R. Martin’s dense and rich history of Westeros and A Song of Ice and Fire’s narrative, the first question to ask here is how far will this new show actually go back? Thrones take place in the year 298 AC (“AC” here means “After Conquest”), dating to nearly three centuries since Aegon the Conqueror’s invasion of Westeros. From what we currently know, House of the Dragon will cover different periods and eras of the Targaryens’ reign on the Iron Throne, unlike in Thrones, where the narrative ended at around 305 AC. George R.R. Martin himself has also essentially confirmed that the prequel would take place sometime during 103 AC, in a February 2022 post on his blog, sharing that the new show was based on his novellas The Princess and the Queen and The Rogue Prince (in addition to more material from Fire & Blood). 

That said, based on these tidbits and the released trailer, we most likely won’t actually see Aegon the Conqueror’s infamous and legendary invasion of Westeros (unless…they do flashbacks. Here’s to hoping that they do!) but rather, the Targaryens scheming and plotting against one another, a la Succession, to see whose turn it is to sit on the pointy chair made of swords. And as much as we all love Succession and to see the Targaryens at the height of their power (it’s during House of the Dragon’s timeframe that the Targaryens had, not only an abundance of heirs but also, dragons), it would have also been as equally fantastic to see Aegon, his sisters, and Balerion, the Black Dread, come to life. 

So what was Aegon’s Conquest, anyway? How did they take over Westeros?

The Targaryens were the last dragonlords and riders from Old Valyria. The family had escaped twelve years before the Doom (but that’s an entirely different story altogether) and set their sights on Dragonstone, which they would claim as their House’s seat. Years later, towards the end of the Century of Blood, Aegon Targaryen, the rider of the great Balerion, the Black Dread, would be approached with an offer of an alliance by one of the Free Cities. His interests, however, pointed him west: to Westeros. 

In the show, Westeros is alternatively called the Seven Kingdoms, because before the Conquest, it was not one continent but a group of seven independent kingdoms ruled by their respective kings. Accounts still vary as to the driving force that led Aegon actually to fly out to Westeros, but the official narrative can be credited to a petty rivalry featuring what would be an infamous cursed castle in Thrones

The Beginning

Harren Hoare was the King of the Isles and the Rivers and was not only nearing the end of construction of the expansive and towering Harrenhal, but was also thinking of furthering his dominion. This bothered the last Storm King, Argilac Durrandon (otherwise known as Argilac the Arrogant), who thought that his best recourse to protect his lands would be to get in touch with the, then aloof, Lord of Dragonstone Aegon. He offered lands and the hand of his only daughter Argella. This didn’t interest Aegon because (although the promise of lands was tempting) he already had two wives and would rather call the shots himself. And so, in response, he offered the hand of his closest friend (and some say, his allegedly bastard brother) Orys Baratheon. Argilac, being his arrogant self, took offense in this and said no. Well, he could have just said no, but also went the extra mile and cut off the hands of Aegon’s envoy and sent them back with a message saying, those were the only hands Aegon would receive. A bit much, but okay.

This led to Aegon calling for his banners and seeking counsel from his sister-wives Visenya, (the one he married out of duty because the Targaryens are like that) and Rhaenys (the one he married out of love because, well, Aegon is like that). They agreed that Aegon should send out ravens to every ruler in the Seven Kingdoms to warn them of Argilac’s coming, and to give them a choice: either bend the knee so they may keep their lands and titles or the less appealing option of fire and blood. Some offered alliance but not submission, but that wasn’t enough for Aegon. The rest probably ignored their ravens because it was here that Aegon began his conquest. 

A screenshot from the trailer for House of the Dragon, Game of Thrones' prequel series, featuring a Targaryen dragonknight on top of a dragon flying over King's Landing

The First Battles

Aegon and his sister-wives would mark their territory in Westeros on an area right by the mouth of the Blackwater Rush. The three of them landed on three hills that stood next to one another and called the land Aegon’s Landing—which would eventually become King’s Landing—and began construction of the Aegonfort. It was here, that Aegon was first crowned king by his sisters. They were initially joined by the small Houses of Celtigar, Massey, and Velaryon, before they would be joined by House Rosby (yielded to Rhaenys), Stokeworth (surrendered after threatened with dragonfire), and the Lords of Duskendale and Mooton (the lords were slain but their heirs yielded their strongholds and swords). 

After taking more land, Aegon would march to Harrenhal, which is probably one of the most famous parts, given that it also happens to be the origin story of the long-standing rumors of why the infamous castle is cursed and haunted (in Thrones’ timeline, it is said that every lord who has led Harrenhal has suffered a terrible fate). Upon hearing that Aegon was coming, Harren summoned his banners to protect Harrenhal but given his terrible treatment of them in the past, the riverlords refused, and instead, banded together under the rebellion of Lord Edmyn Tully of Riverrun—who had already declared his support for Aegon. He would be declared the first Lord Paramount of the Trident. Still, Harren refused to listen to reason. 

When Aegon asked for a parley, and offered Harren peace in exchange for him to bend the knee, Harren refused—despite the reminder that there were eight thousand men outside his walls. Harren knew his walls wouldn’t burn because they were made of thick layers of stone. And so, Aegon flew higher than Harrenhal’s tallest tower and burned Harren’s beloved castle, roasting him and his remaining sons inside. It was the swords, from his fallen enemies in this battle that were sent back to Aegon’s Landing, which formed what would be called, The Iron Throne.

The Stormlands and Westeros’ Greatest Army

The Stormlands were won by Orys Baratheon and Queen Rhaenys. It is during this battle we witness the Last Storm, as Orys battled with Argilac Durrandon in single-hand combat, resulting in Argilac’s death and the desertion of what remained of his stormlander soldiers. Argilac’s daughter declared herself the Storm Queen and hid herself behind the gates of Storm’s End but was ultimately delivered by the castle’s soldiers to Orys, who ended up marrying her but taking her family sigil and words, “Ours is the fury,” signaling the beginnings of House Baratheon and Orys as the first Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. 

Meanwhile, out in the West, the King of Highgarden Mern Gardener had formed an alliance with the King of the Rock Loren Lannister. Together, they formed a host of 50,000 strong—the largest army Westeros had ever seen at that point, and came head to head with Aegon and his sisters. The three Targaryens, atop their dragons, created what would become known as the Field of Fire, resulting in the extinction of House Gardener. Lannister and his men managed to escape but eventually yielded, and so, Loren was declared the Warden of the West. 

Cersei Lannister in the map room of 'Game of Thrones'
(image: HBO)

The King Who Knelt and The King Who Flew 

After hearing of Aegon’s successive victories, Torrhen Stark crossed the Neck with around 30,000 of his northern men. Upon hearing of this, Aegon and his queens flew out to meet him together with an army made of all those who have yielded to his reign. When he saw Aegon’s host, King Torrhen called for a council with his northern lords, who were split between two options: either fight or fortify Moat Cailin (this is because the Moat is the north’s most important stronghold and has never been taken from the south). Torrhen chose neither and opted for the safety of his people. The following day he crossed the Trident, offered Aegon peace, lay down his sword, and knelt. He was named the Lord of Winterfell and the first Warden of the North. But to the northerners, he is remembered as the King Who Knelt. 

In the Vale, Sharra Arryn, the Queen Regent who oversaw the Eyrie in her young son’s stead, offered the Targaryens a marriage alliance for her son. This was denied and so she began fortifying its defenses and generally felt a sense of ease given the Vale’s strategic location. It may have slipped her mind that dragons can fly. And so when she saw Queen Visenya out in their courtyard one day, she was surprised to see her with her son, who was very much fascinated by her dragon, Vhagar. Granting the boy king’s request, Visenya brought him atop Vhagar, and together they flew around the Vale three times. The Queen returned the overjoyed boy to his mother, who finally agreed to submit and found a new friend in Visenya. Ronnel Arryn was made Lord of the Eyrie and the Warden of the East.

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

Technically, Aegon’s Conquest wasn’t a complete success because he wasn’t actually able to subjugate all of the Seven Kingdoms. As the proud Dornish often say in Thrones, Dorne did not join Westeros out of intimidation or fear. It joined of its own accord through marriage and not for years after Aegon’s occupation of Westeros.

Rhaenys was the one who flew out to Dorne but rather than being met with men defending it, she was met with no one. All the castles were abandoned and upon making it to Planky Town, she found that it was deserted except for women and children. Eventually, she found herself in Sunspear, where she found Meria Martell, the Princess of Dorne, in yet another abandoned castle. The Princess stated simply that she will not fight but nor will she yield for Dorne had no king. Rhaenys warned her in response that she and her siblings will return—but this time, with fire and blood.

Princess Meria smiled and but this time, told the Dragon Queen the Martell words, “Your words. Ours are Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. You may burn us, my lady, but you will not bend us, break us, or make us bow. This is Dorne. You are not wanted here.”

Are you excited for House of the Dragon? Or do you want to see another spin-off focusing on the Conquest?

(featured image: HBO)

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Danielle is a twenty-something writer and postgrad student based in the Philippines. She loves books, movies, her cat, and traveling. In her spare time, she enjoys shooting 35mm film and going to concerts.