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‘House of the Dragon’: What are the Targaryen rules of succession? Explained

House Targaryen knows how to keep it in the family.

Paddy Considine as King Viserys I Targaryen House of the Dragon Season 1 Episode 1
Image via HBO Max

This article contains spoilers for the second episode of House of the Dragon.

HBO’s prequel Game of Thrones series House of the Dragon has only just begun, but the fight for the Iron Throne has already begun. Of course, the King of Westeros is currently King Viserys Targaryen, played by Paddy Considine in the series, but both his brother Aemon Targaryen, played by Matt Smith, and his daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen, played by Milly Alcock (and later Emma D’Arcy), are already fighting over which is the rightful heir. 

While Viserys cast aside his ambitious and ruthless brother in favor of his daughter, Aemon feels that he has been passed over. So Aemon is currently plotting to regain his spot as heir and even perhaps overthrow his brother. Baelon Targaryen was the heir before Rhaenyra, but he died the day he was born. With so many heirs, it’s worth taking a look at the history of the Targaryen line, and how heirs were chosen. So let’s take a look at the Targaryen rules of succession. 

What are the Targaryen rules of succession?

Jaehaerys Targaryen in 'House of the Dragon'
via HBO

The Targaryen line of succession first fell into place after the first Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Aegon Targaryen, died. When Aegon died, his two sons were heirs to the Iron Throne, with Aenys his eldest son, claiming the Iron Throne. However, when Aenys died his half-brother Maegor took the throne rather than it passing on to any of Aenys’s children. While Aenys was Aegon’s first son, he was conceived with his youngest wife (and sister) Rhaenys, while his second son Maegor was conceived with his older sister-wife Visenya. Maegor’s claim to the throne was supported by his mother, but none of the other Targaryens wanted this as Aenys’s son Aegon Targaryen was the rightful heir. Even so, when Aegon rose to challenge his uncle’s claim, Maegor and his dragon Balerion defeated him.

Maegor the Cruel’s reign would continue until he died upon the Iron Throne, and King Jaehaerys Targaryen rose as Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. Jaehaerys appeared in House of the Dragon, as he was The Old King who ruled before the Iron Throne was passed on to King Viserys. As Maegor had no children, he had no heirs to speak of, so the claim was passed on to Jaehaerys who, while young, was his nephew. Jaehaerys had a long reign and as such, he outlived many of his children. By the time an heir was to take up the Iron Throne, Jaehaerys had many heirs, but they mostly consisted of grandchildren as his children were either estranged from the King, or deceased. 

The two heirs that Jaehaerys was made to choose between were Viserys, who ended up on the Iron Throne, and Rhaenys Targaryen, both of whom were his grandchildren. As the first and second born of Jaehaerys’s children died while they were still children, they did not produce any heirs. Fortunately, his third-born son, Aemon Targaryen had one child with Lady Jocelyn Baratheon, Rhaenys Targaryen, played by Eve Best in the series. As Rhaenys was the only child of the king’s eldest son, she did have a rightful claim to the throne, unfortunately, she was a woman. 

Rhaenys and Corlys in 'House of the Dragon'
via HBO

The Old King’s fourth-born child, Baelon Targaryen, had three sons — Viserys, Daemon, and Aegon, and as the eldest child, Viserys was named heir to the Iron Throne. If Viserys did not have any children it would be likely that the Iron Throne would fall to Daemon, but he did have Rhaenyra and briefly Baelon with his wife Aemma Arryn, now deceased. If Daemon was not as much trouble as he proved himself to be, he may have been selected heir instead of Rhaenyra. 

Therefore, there is no real rule of thumb when it comes to the Targaryen line of succession. While it is supposed to be the eldest son of the King, if the King produces no heirs that line becomes blurred, turning to the other male relatives in the family. Because of this, Rhaenyra Targaryen is the first female heir to the Iron Throne to have had the Lords of the Seven Kingdoms swear fealty to her. But a new line of succession popped up after Viserys announced that he intended to marry Alicent Hightower, played by Emily Carey (and later Olivia Cooke) in House of the Dragon. If she has a child, especially if that child is a son, both Rhaenyra and Daemon’s claims to the Iron Throne would be negated and this child would be named heir to the throne. 

It’s also worth noting that by the time we reach the events of Game of Thrones the Targaryen line of succession is thrown out in a couple of different ways. One, because the usurper Robert Baratheon led the charge against the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, who was ultimately killed by Jamie Lannister. When Robert Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne, a brief Baratheon/Lannister line of succession began until Daenerys Targaryen claimed the Iron Throne after sacking King’s Landing with her dragon Drogon. When she was killed by her nephew Jon Snow, Bran Stark was elected to be the ruler of Westeros, and the Iron Throne was no more, along with any established line of succession.

Game of Thrones Jon Snow
Image via HBO

The second way the line of succession was altered was that Daenerys had two older brothers who should have been the heir before she was. When Rhaegar was killed by Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident, the line should have fallen to his brother Viserys. Then Viserys was killed by Khal Drogo for expecting too much from his brother-in-law and generally not being a great guy. So then the line fell to Daenerys, except her nephew Jon Snow was of Targaryen blood and would have had a stronger claim as he was Rhaegar’s son. 

As for House of the Dragon, it’s unclear how things will shake out for the Targaryens and their line of succession. Although viewers of the series who have read the source material Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin might know how this story ends. While the series will not stay one hundred percent faithful to the source material, surely the main order of events will stay the same. But make sure to tune in to the rest of the series to get the full timeline of who is the current heir to the Iron Throne and when. 

House of the Dragon will at least be getting one more season when season one finishes, but as of writing, it’s unclear how long it will take to fully tell the story of the Targaryen line of succession after King Viserys. If the quality of the series continues to be on par with the first two episodes we will surely be in for a ride.

House of the Dragon roars onto HBO on Sundays.

Tristyn Akbas
About the author

Tristyn Akbas

Tristyn Akbas is an SEO writer for We Got This Covered. He graduated from the University of New South Wales, with a Bachelor's Degree in Film and Writing. Tristyn specializes in the geekier side of writing and is always up to date on the latest movies, TV, comic books, and video games. He particularly likes anything superhero or horror-related, and in his free time, you'll find him earning PlayStation trophies.