Game of Thrones prequel series House of the Dragon shines the spotlight on House Targaryen around 200 years before the Daenerys stormed King’s Landing. And while the scope of the series may not be as broad as its predecessor just yet, there are still plenty of new characters to get your head around.
For starters, the Targaryens all have pretty similar names and they all look quite similar with those long, flowing silvery manes of hair. So, if you’re finding yourself struggling to tell the difference between Rhaenyra and Rhaenys, or getting confused between Aegon and Aemma, we’ve got you covered with a breakdown of all the key Targaryens we’ve encountered so far in House of the Dragon. Plus, we go into how they relate to the Targaryens we already know from later Game of Thrones history, like Daenerys.
Who are the Targaryens in House of the Dragon?
Jaehaerys is the eldest Targaryen we see on the show. Played by Michael Carter, we meet Jaehaerys during a flashback set nine years before the show in which the Great Council decides who should be heir to the Iron Throne – the two candidates are his grandchildren Viserys and Rhaenys, the two oldest children of his two sons, Baelon and Aemon, who died of a burst appendix and in battle, respectively.
Jaehaerys is the longest-reigning Westerosi monarch, sitting on the Iron Throne for 55 years, which were characterized by peace. He eventually died of old age and his grandson Viserys took over the throne.
Played by Eve Best, Rhaenys is married to Lord Corlys Velaryon, a member of King Viserys’ Small Council. The granddaughter of the late King Jaehaerys, she was passed over as heir to the throne by the Great Council, despite being older, as the lords of Westeros didn’t want a woman on the Iron Throne. She’s now known as the Queen Who Never Was. She is the cousin of Viserys and Daemon and has two children, Laenor and Laena.
When House of the Dragon kicks off, Viserys Targaryen, played by Paddy Considine, is the king of Westeros. He’s Rhaenrya’s father and Daemon’s older brother and he was chosen to succeed his grandfather King Jaehaerys to the throne by the Great Council.
He was married to Aemma before she died during childbirth, and in episode 2 he announced that he planned to marry Alicent Hightower in order to secure the Targaryen line. Alicent is the daughter of the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, and Rhaenyra’s best friend.
Although the name may be familiar, don’t get confused with Viserys from Game of Thrones – House of the Dragon is set around 200 years before Daenerys’ brother, played by Harry Lloyd in Game of Thrones, was marrying his sister off to Khal Drogo.
Daemon, played by Matt Smith, is Viserys’ younger brother. He assumed he would be his brother’s heir to the throne before Viserys chose his daughter Rhaenyra in his place. Daemon is currently Commander of the City Watch in King’s Landing and a renowned warrior, known for his brutality.
He leaves King’s Landing after Rhaenyra is confirmed to be Viserys’ heir and occupies Dragonstone – the home of the heir to the throne, which he still believes himself to rightly be.
Aemma, played by Sian Brooke, is married to Viserys and mother to Rhaenyra. She has suffered several miscarriages trying to give Viserys a son, and she dies giving birth to another boy, Baelon, in episode 1.
She’s a Targaryen by both blood and marriage – despite being born House Arryn, her mother, Daella, was a Targaryen and a daughter of King Jaehaerys. This means that Viserys and Aemma are cousins.
Rhaenyra is Viserys and Aemma’s daughter and their only surviving child, as well as Daemon’s niece. In episode 1, Viserys decides to make her his heir to the Iron Throne, naming her Princess of Dragonstone. Rhaenyra has been a dragonrider since she was a child and her dragon is named Syrax – we see the two together when they land on Dragonstone to confront Daemon in episode 2. Played by Milly Alcock at the start of season 1, an older version of Rhaenyra will later be played by Emma D’Arcy.
Baelon is Viserys and Aemma’s infant son who dies along with his mother in the aftermath of his birth in episode 1. With no son to succeed him, Viserys decides to make Rhaenyra his heir instead.
Aegon the Conqueror
Aegon’s grandson Jaehaerys was the grandfather of Viserys, Daemon, and Rhaenys. That means that King Viserys is the great-great-grandson of Aegon the Conqueror, and Rhaenyra is his great-great-great-granddaughter.
As we found out from Viserys in House of the Dragon episode 1, Aegon foresaw “the end of the world of men”, caused by a long winter from the North (Game of Thrones season 8, anyone?), which could only be defeated if a Targaryen sat on the Iron Throne. This is where the ‘Conqueror’ bit of his title comes in, as the Targaryens left their seat on Dragonstone to unite the Seven Kingdoms and seize power at King’s Landing. Aegon called this prophecy the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’, and it was passed down through the generations, from each ruler to their heir.
Aegon died from a stroke at the age of 64 after reigning for 36 years. He was succeeded by his son, Aenys.
As per episode 1’s opening text, we know that Daenerys Targaryen, AKA Game of Thrones’ Mother of Dragons (played by Emilia Clarke), was born 172 years after the events of House of the Dragon kick off. That makes her the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Rhaenyra and the – deep breath – great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Aegon the Conqueror.
Cast your minds back to Game of Thrones season 8, and you’ll remember the big reveal that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was a Targaryen. Growing up, he’d always believed he was the bastard son of Ned Stark, but his late parents were actually Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ older brother. This makes him Daenery’s nephew and the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Aegon the Conqueror.
House of the Dragon airs on Sundays on HBO and HBO Max, before following on Mondays in the UK on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV. Make sure you never miss an episode with our handy House of the Dragon release schedule.