Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Series: Lessons From the Citadel -- House Targaryen
[Contributor: Melanie]

Formally the most powerful and ruling house of Westeros, the Targaryens are equally feared, admired, and hated by their subjects. Their lineage to Valyria and mastery of dragons made them an unstoppable force during their conquest of Westeros. However, due to their practice of intermarrying brother to sister, many of them became predisposed to insanity that lead to the fall of their house.

  • Words: Fire and Blood
  • Sigil: A red three-headed dragon on a black field
  • Region: The Crownlands (formally)
  • Seat: Red Keep (formally)
  • Titles: King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men (disputed), Lord of the Seven Kingdoms (disputed), Prince of Dragonstone (formally)
  • Bastard Names: Blackfyre 
  • Members On Screen: Viserys II Targaryen (deceased), Daenerys Targaryen 
  • Current head: Daenerys Targaryen
House Targaryen constituted the fourth and final migratory group in Westeros. Their ancestral homeland was a peninsula on the southern coast of Essos, in the city of Valyria. Traditionally, the Valyrians were shepherds who stumbled on dragon eggs. They learned magic from them and formed a nearly unbreakable bond, and to this day only those of Valyrian descent can control a dragon. With these dragons, the Valyrians conquered much of Essos, forming an empire known as the Valyrian Freehold. During this time, the Targaryens were a seated minor house (counted among the forty dragonlords) in Valyria.

One day Daenys “the Dreamer” Targaryen had a vision of a cataclysmic event befalling their homeland and her father, heeding her warning, moved the family and their five dragons to a small island off the coat of Westeros which they named Dragonstone. A decade later, the Doom destroyed Valyria and shattered their empire. While some houses and minor descents of Valyria survived the Doom, the Targaryens became the sole dragonlords in the world. On Dragonstone, they waited a century to build up their strength before Aegon and his sisters landed on the continent and declared, “There will be one king.”

The War of Conquest began in the region that would one day become the capital. Aegon, Viseyna, and Rhaenys lead their small army along side their dragons and conquered the Seven Kingdoms one by one. They brought six of the seven kingdoms into the realm and Aegon was anointed king by the High Septon in Oldtown and forged the Iron Throne as a symbol of his power. A hundred years later, however, the last of the dragons would die out after a civil war within the family known as the Dance of the Dragons. It was also the closest Westeros came to having a reigning queen, but Princess Rhaenyra was defeated.

They were able to incorporate the seventh and final kingdom of Dorne after tensions with the Dornish boiled over and Princess Daenerys (not to be confused with our current Daenerys) married Maron Martell, cementing their last alliance. But succession crises plagued the family as a line of bastards known as the Blackfyres waged war for the throne from their legitimate cousins. The escalations of violence were not helped by the propensity for Targaryen rulers to go insane as a result of several generations of inbreeding.

Ultimately, it was King Aerys II who would ruin the house. His unhappy marriage with his sister Rhaella was forced upon him by the result of a prophecy foretelling a messianic ruler would be born of their line. Despite the personal misery, his reign started out with promise, but he grew increasingly paranoid. He became obsessed with fire, and like many Targaryens believed himself to be fireproof. He began executing his enemies without restraint. The unrest caused by this was only hastened by Prince Rhaegar’s public courtship of Lyanna Stark. This angered not only the Martells (as Rhaegar’s wife was Elia Martell) but also Robert Baratheon, who was betrothed to Lyanna. Ultimately, the tension boiled over when Lyanna disappeared in Rhaegar’s company.

After Aerys had Rickard and Brandon Stark executed when they demanded Rhaegar pay for his actions, Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, and Jon Arryn called their banners and began Robert’s Rebellion (remembered by Targaryen loyalists as the War of the Usurper). The yearlong campaign sought to depose the Targaryens and place Robert Baratheon on the throne. Of the decisive battles, the Battle of the Trident is remembered most vividly as Rhaegar reappeared to engage Robert in single combat. The crown prince was defeated and Aerys, sensing doom, sent his pregnant wife and remaining child to Dragonstone.

Shortly after, the rebels sacked King’s Landing. Aerys had set up defensive measures against an invasion by means of wildfire throughout the city. Rather than obeying the order to “burn them all,” including innocent civilians, Ser Jaime Lannister broke his Kingsguard oath and killed Aerys in the throne room. The Lannisters also saw to it that Princess Elia and her children were killed to prevent a rallying point for loyalists. Robert claimed the Iron Throne and sent his brother Stannis to capture the remaining Targaryens on Dragonstone.

On the island, Viserys was crowned king and Princess Daenerys named his heir. The princess was born during the worst storm in recent memory, which battered the castle and destroyed the fleet. Thus she was given the title “Stormborn.” The queen died in childbirth and the children were ferried away to Essos to escape their would-be assassins. They spent life as beggars on the street before a wealthy Pentoshi merchant (under Varys’ instructions) took them in and brokered a marriage between Daenerys and the Dothraki khal, Drogo. Viserys was killed for his disrespect to Dothraki culture but Dany thrived, eventually becoming a khaleesi in her own right after the death of her husband and unborn son.

Daenerys currently claims the title of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and has gained support from Ser Jorah Mormont, Ser Barristan Selmy, and Tyrion Lannister, among others, on this front. She controls a vast army and three dragons but has currently taken up residence in Meereen while the city learns to survive without the yoke of slavery. She has recently been taken captive by a Dothraki khalasar after an uprising in her city.

Traits and Customs

Targaryens are the most recognizable house when it comes to physical features. Like all Valyrians, they have silver-blond hair, pale skin, and purple eyes (the show omitted this part). They are considered to be ethereally beautiful and are immune to most sicknesses that affect human races. While they are tolerant of higher levels of heat, they are not fireproof (proven by several Targaryens over the years who attempted to test this theory). Only Daenerys Targaryen has shown repeated immunity to flames for unknown reasons.

Though they worshipped their own Valyrian gods, they converted to the Faith of the Seven upon their anointment as the ruling family. They have a natural and unique bond with dragons that, individually, lasts for the lifetime of either party (only one dragon to one rider and vice versa). They practiced intermarriage between family members in order to keep their bloodline as pure as possible.

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