The Targaryen Family Tree Explained

targaryens

The Targaryens are one of the most crucial families in the lore of Game of Thrones. They also happen to be the most cunning and terrifying, especially with their history of raising dragons! That being said, most fans are only vaguely aware of the huge family tree that the Targaryen clan represents.

Now, with the debut of House of the Dragon, we’ve been introduced to several more members from the Targaryen family.

Many wonder how Daenerys Targaryen is related to HotD‘s Princess Rhaenyra, but in fact, this new TV show takes place 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones and 172 years before the birth of Daenerys.

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In this prequel, we revisit Westeros a few centuries before Robert Baratheon sat the Iron Throne. While there are still Baratheons to be found, however (and Starks, Lannisters, and more), the King’s Landing we’re introduced to in House of the Dragons is a very different place. At this point in Westeros history, the Targaryens and their dragons are still firmly in control of the realm. 

This makes for a different drama altogether, and introduces two crucial questions for viewers: How did we get here? And who are these people? 

Here are some answers in the form of an abbreviated Targaryen family tree (with a few friends tacked on as well) spanning from those mentioned and introduced in HotD to the more familiar faces we know from GoT.

targaryen family tree

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What’s the earliest history of the Targaryen dynasty?

To understand where the Targaryens of House of the Dragon came from, it is first necessary to take a look back at the family’s earliest history in Westeros…. 

The Targaryens arrived in Westeros after their original home on the continent of Essos was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, “the Doom of Valyria”.

With the family tree spanning across 16 generations, it’s difficult to explore every family member, but one that started it all was King Aegon I Targaryen. Also known as Aegon the Conqueror, as explained in our GoT timeline, he was the first to unite and conquer the kingdoms of Westeros with the help of his three dragons.

King Aegon I Targaryen (Aegon the Conqueror)

A descendant of the Targaryens who fled Old Valyria before it succumbed to “The Doom,” Aegon was the first to take a real interest in the lands west of the Targaryen stronghold, Dragonstone. 

In “Fire & Blood,” Aegon (along with his dragon Balerion and his sister-wives and their respective dragons) conquers and unites Westeros almost just because he can. 

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In House of the Dragon however, it is implied that Aegon in fact sought to unite the kingdoms of Westeros to fend off an eventual, frosty apocalypse that has been foreseen (which we understand to be the coming of White Walkers centuries later). 

As to how we get to the characters and events of House of the Dragon though, Aegon’s role is simple. He conquered Westeros, established Targaryen rule, and sired two sons – one by each of his sister-wives…. 

King Aenys I Targaryen

Aenys I was Aegon the Conqueror’s first son, born to the younger of the king’s sister-wives, Queen Rhaenys. As such, he was the heir to the conqueror’s throne, and indeed, became the king upon Aegon’s death. 

Aenys was married to Alyssa Velaryon (a distant cousin), with whom he had five children. Unfortunately, however, he was a weak king; his reign was ineffectual, and he died young. 

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At that point, the crown ought to have passed to Aenys’ firstborn son – a boy named Aegon, after the conqueror. However, the remaining members of the conqueror’s immediate family had other ideas. 

Seeing his opportunity to become king, Aenys’s half-brother Maegor seized the Iron Throne, with support from his mother Visenya (the elder of Aegon the Conqueror’s sister-wives).  

King Maegor I Targaryen

The second son of Aegon the Conqueror, King Maegor ruled Westeros as a cruel tyrant. A warrior by nature, Maegor escalated simmering conflicts with the Faith (which disapproved of the Targaryen tendency to wed family members to one another). 

This led to one small war after another, and ultimately, to Maegor becoming a reviled leader. For some time he held onto his power despite the turmoil – but eventually he found himself all but friendless, about to be overcome by widespread rebellion before he died mysteriously in the throne room at King’s Landing. 

He died childless, and thus without a direct successor.  

King Jaehaerys I Targaryen

Among those who had been on the cusp of open rebellion against Maegor at the time of his death, were Aenys’s wife (Alyssa Velaryon) and surviving children. 

Allied with the powerful Rogar Baratheon of Storm’s End, Alyssa saw her son Jaehaerys established as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Upon Maegor’s death, young Jaehaerys was crowned (though his Hand, Rogar Baratheon, and Alyssa the Queen Regent would rule in his place until he reached 16 years of age). 

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Jaehaerys married his sister Alysanne before he took the crown. He would then go on to the longest rule of any Targaryen king – establishing peace with the Faith, fathering numerous children (nine who survived past infancy), and generally bringing about a prosperous era. His rule accounts for much of the history recounted in “Fire & Blood.” 

And as you may recall, House of the Dragon begins with the end of Jaehaerys I’s reign. We get a brief glimpse of the king in old age, as he names his grandson – Viserys – his heir…. 

The Targaryens of ‘House of the Dragon’

So, who are the characters we’ve been introduced to in House of the Dragon? Let’s go through the core cast, beginning with that same Viserys who was named as Jaehaerys’ heir…. 

King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine)

King Viserys I is the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms when House of the Dragon begins. The grandson and chosen heir of King Jaehaerys I, he faces two key responsibilities. 

The first is to maintain the general prosperity established by his grandfather (bearing in mind that peace and prosperity are always tenuous in the time of the Targaryens). The second is to establish a strong heir. 

Notably, Viserys’ own status as Jaehaerys’ heir was not beyond dispute. With none of Jaehaerys’ own children suitable for the role, there were some who believed that Princess Rhaenys – the daughter of Jaehaerys’s eldest son, Aemon – ought to have become queen. 

As Jaehaerys’s eldest grandson however, Viserys was named instead. Thus, it is he who rules when this new tale begins. 

Aemma Arryn (Sian Brooke)

Aemma Arryn is King Viserys’ queen – and, following the House of the Dragon premiere, will unfortunately be forever associated with a traumatic scene

Pregnant when the show begins, Aemma spends the bulk of the premiere under pressure from King Viserys to deliver a son and heir. Perhaps driven by memories of his own uncertain succession (and Jaehaerys’ lack of a direct heir), Viserys appears almost wholly focused on the matter. 

And so, when those assisting Aemma’s difficult labor inform the king that she is unlikely to survive, but that the baby might be saved, Viserys does the unthinkable: He signs off on what is essentially the medieval version of cesarean section. 

Aemma delivers the child (who dies soon thereafter) and dies in the process – without having had a say in the matter.  

Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock)

Princess Rhaenyra, the lone child of King Viserys and Aemma Arryn, is destined to be a key piece in the Targaryens’ own ‘game of thrones’, so to speak. 

In the debut episode, we saw Rhaenyra named as King Viserys’ heir, following the death of her infant brother (and her mother). Yet, it is strongly implied that we haven’t heard the last of questions over succession, with her uncle Prince Daemon and her young brother Prince Aegon looming as potential challengers. 

Note: Milly Alcock is portraying Rhaenyra Targaryen and will do so in sequences in which Rhaenyra is still quite young. However, actress Emma D’Arcy will also appear as a somewhat older Rhaenyra in portions of the series.

How is Princess Rhaenyra related to Daenerys?

For those who are wondering, Princess Rhaenyra is Daenerys’ great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother.

Baelon Targaryen

We mentioned that in the premiere of House of the Dragon, Aemma Arryn gives birth to a son, who dies soon thereafter. That son is Baelon Targaryen – however, briefly King Viserys’ heir and the next in line to take the Iron Throne. 

In his brief time with his family, Baelon is, in the Targaryen custom, set in a crib alongside a dragon egg. This particular egg came from Dreamfyre – the dragon who once belonged to Rhaena Targaryen (a particularly tragic Targaryen ancestor).

Queen Alicent Hightower (Emily Carey)

During the first few episodes of House of the Dragon, Alicent Hightower is portrayed as the daughter of Otto Hightower and a companion to Princess Rhaenyra.

We know from background material that Alicent played a role in nursing King Jaehaerys in his old age, and in the House of the Dragon premiere, she is suggestively dispatched (by her own father) to comfort King Viserys following the death of Aemma Arryn and the infant prince. 

Several months later, and sure enough, Alicent and the king prove to have grown close – at least as friends of a sort. Thus, when the king is pressured to remarry (and, you know, make a new heir), he surprises the majority of his small council and announces that he is to marry Alicent, making her the present Queen of the realm.

Note: As with Princess Rhaenyra, the role of Alicent will be played by two actresses. Emily Carey appeared in the premiere and will play the younger Alicent; Olivia Cooke will play the character as a grown woman.

Prince Aegon Targaryen (Tom Glynn-Carney)

Prince Aegon Targaryen is the firstborn son of King Viserys and Queen Alicent Hightower. Although we haven’t seen much of him yet (at least past his toddler age), it appears that this young character is already causing trouble in the realm, with questions looming over whether he should become heir to the Throne instead of his older half-sister Rhaenyra. 

Prince Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith)

Prince Daemon is the younger brother of King Viserys. He is also (as of the early stages of the show), the commander of the City Watch in King’s Landing (effectively a small army), as well as one of a few characters who think they’re in the mix to succeed Viserys.

Following the death of the King’s baby boy, the question of succession returns with greater urgency, but King Viserys shocks the realm by naming his daughter Rhaenyra as his heir, instead. Daemon loses his grip on heir status (to the extent he ever had it) and feels spurned.

From trying to marry his second wife, Mysaria; falsely claiming she is with child; and being named “King of the Narrow Sea” after his victory over the Triarchy, the rouge prince has attempted to prove himself the true heir multiple times.

In his most recent attempt, Daemon asks the King if he can “wed” Rhaenyra in order to return House Targaryen to its proper glory (in which the King refuses). This of course sets off a conflict and escalating tensions between the ruling brothers, as he is banished from King’s Landing.

Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (“The Queen Who Never Was”) (Eve Best)

We mentioned above that some believed the daughter of Jaehaerys’ eldest son ought to have been Jaehaerys’ successor. Said daughter was Rhaenys Targaryen, and because she was not chosen as her grandfather’s heir, she is known as “The Queen Who Never Was.” 

For now, Rhaenys plays a relatively minor role in the series, but she will have a role in the castle politics to come. She is also married to Corlys Velaryon – the powerful “Lord of the Tides” and head of House Velaryon.

Coryls Velaryon (“The Sea Snake”) (Steve Toussaint)

Known as both “The Sea Snake”’ and “Lord of the Tides,” Corlys Velaryon has a reputation as an unmatched sea captain. He is the head of House Velaryon and was at one point, the Master of Ships for the realm.

With his own political agenda, Corlys seeks an even greater power than he has already amassed by attempting to engineer an engagement between his very young daughter Laena and King Viserys. (“overreaching,” as Otto Hightower puts it). 

When Viserys instead decides he will marry Alicent Hightower, he appears to make an enemy of the Sea Snake. Corlys storms out of the small council and cozies up to Daemon – both of them “second sons” thirsty for power.

The pair then go to war in the siege of Bloodstone, and the Velaryon forces prevail when Daemon successfully kills the Crab-Feeder.

Laena Velaryon (Nova Foueillis-Mosé)

Laena Velaryon is the young daughter of the Sea Snake (her mother being Princess Rhaenys Targaryen). Early in the show, she is effectively used as a pawn by her father – sent to express to King Viserys why a marriage between them would be sensible. 

It’s an uncomfortable scene, because the character is 12 years old. With that said however, Laena does display intelligence that makes her an intriguing character moving forward.

We know we’ll be meeting older versions of her later in the show, and there seems to be every chance she’ll be a formidable strategist – even if she won’t be Viserys’ queen. 

Note: Multiple actresses will play Laena Velaryon. Nova Foueillis-Mosé plays her as a 12-year-old girl; Savannah Steyn will play her as a teenager; and an adult Laena will be portrayed by Nanna Blondell.

Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate)

Laenor is the younger brother of Laena Velaryon, and the heir to Driftmark (where Corlys is Lord). Showing up as a young boy in the earlier episodes, the now-matured version of Laenor is about to play a more prominent role in the story.

A skilled warrior and rider of the dragon Seasmoke, Laenor puts a stamp on his name by helping Prince Daemon defeat the Crab-Feeder during the siege of Bloodstone.

Laenor also notably has Velaryon blood and Targaryen heritage, making him a perfect suitor for Princess Rhaenyra…

Note: Matthew Carver played the young boy who appeared in the premiere; Theo Nate plays a teenage Laenor; and John Macmillan will portray the character as an adult (though possibly not until season two). 

Otto Hightower (Hand of the King) (Rhys Ifans)

We are introduced to Otto Hightower in the first episode of House of the Dragon as King Viserys’ Hand. However, he has actually been in the role longer than it may seem. 

Following the death of King Jaehaerys’ son Baelon – who had also been the king’s Hand – Otto Hightower in fact served in the same capacity. 

He was seen for a brief period as the de facto ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, while Jaehaerys grieved his son (and eventually his sister-wife Alysanne) near the end of his life. 

As Hand to King Viserys, Otto Hightower is a knowledgeable adviser, but also a power player in his own right. We can see that he is at odds with Daemon Targaryen in particular – keen to keep the hot-headed prince at arm’s length from the king. 

The Targaryens of ‘Game of Thrones’

We could delve deeper into this family’s history, exploring the Targaryens who were born in between the two shows, but unlike the Targaryens, we’re not that ambitious.

So, we’ll begin with Aemon Targaryen, the oldest Targaryen we’ve ever met on Game of Thrones, all the way down to Jon Snow, whom we now know is a Targaryen heir (or at least should have been).

Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan)

First we have Aemon Targaryen, whom we see in the flesh, in his very old age, across the first few seasons of Game of Thrones. Having served as a Night’s Watch maester for years, people simply forgot he was even a Targaryen.

He is the grand-uncle of Aerys II Targaryen, Daenerys’ father, who most viewers know as the Mad King. In his younger days, Aemon was offered the throne but refused it, and it went to his brother Aegon V, who then birthed more children than one can count.

Aegon V

Aegon was the fourth son of Maekar I. He is Aerys II’s grandfather and therefore Dany’s great-grandfather.

Aegon, nicknamed “Egg”, took the throne despite all odds and became the fifteenth Targaryen king to rule the Seven Kingdoms. In addition to being a fairly good king, Aegon V was one of the few sane minds in his family – he believed that incestuous marriages were not the best option (no, really?) and for this reason, had most of his children betrothed to non-relatives.

Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events led one of his children, Jaehaerys to get it on with his sister, Shaera, and the latter had two children: Aerys II (The Mad King) and Rhaella, who would also get married to each other.

Yeah, we also think Aegon V might have had a good hunch when he thought incestuous relationships weren’t a good idea, but this next part of the tree should speak for itself.

King Aerys II, or the Mad King (David Rintoul)

Skipping his incestuous parents, we have Aerys II. He is one of the most well-known names in GoT, not only because he’s the father (and grandfather, yes we can say that now) of the Targaryens that we know best, but also because his antics were the root of most bloodshed that would begin with Robert’s Rebellion and spill throughout the entire series.

Married to his sister Rhaella, Aerys started off as a promising king who seemed to do right by his subjects and kingdom. Unfortunately, many sorrowful events such as stillborn children, miscarriages, and political troubles including being kidnapped and probably tortured by a rebelling lord, led him to lose his mind for good.

In the latter years of his reign, Aerys became completely unhinged, paranoid, and cruel. Among many others, he had Rickard Stark, father of Eddard Stark, and his oldest son Brandon, killed when the latter came to ask for justice after Lyanna Stark was allegedly kidnapped by Aerys’ son, Rhaegar. Although it was actually a consensual lovers gateway so, you know…the irony.

Then, as most of us know, Aerys was eventually killed by a member of his own guard, Sir Jaime Lannister, thus putting an end to the Targaryen ruling.

Rhaegar Targaryen (Wilf Scolding)

Rhaegar Targaryen was the firstborn son of Aerys II, a dashing silver-haired knight who ravished the hearts of all the ladies in Westeros. But it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if he didn’t ravish the wrong one.

Although married to Elia Martell, Rhaegar truly loved Lyanna Stark, sister of Eddard Stark and betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Together, the lovebirds left everything behind to get married in secret, leaving everyone to believe that Rhaegar had kidnapped her. This, of course, led to an entire war that was actually built on a lie.

Rhaegar was killed in combat by Robert Baratheon during the Battle of the Trident, while Lyanna died as she gave birth to their son, Aegon Targaryen (Jon Snow, yes we can say it now!).

Shortly before her death, Lyanna asked Eddard to protect her son, which he did by raising him as his bastard son, Jon Snow, rather than the royal heir he truly was.

Wife of Rhaegar, Elia Martell was raped and killed by Sir Gregor Clegane during the Sack of King’s Landing, along with the two children she had with Rhaegar, making Jon Snow the last Targaryen heir.

Viserys Targaryen (Harry Lloyd)

Viserys was the second born son of Aerys II. He was an ambitious but cruel young man who practically raised his younger sister, Daenerys, though definitely not in a healthy way.

Exiled with his sister from the Seven Kingdoms after the overthrow of their father, Aerys, the siblings grew up in hiding, and Viserys, determined to get on the Iron Throne, made Dany’s childhood a living hell by abusing her.

After having practically sold his sister to the warlord, Khal Drogo in order to acquire the allegiance of his people, Viserys began to realize that it was actually Dany who was suddenly getting the royal treatment he so wanted.

This drove him to madness and during one of his fits of rage, Khal Drogo poured a crown of melting gold on his head, killing him in front of his very own sister.

We did tell you the whole incestuous thing wouldn’t have the best effects on the Targaryens’ sanity…

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)

Daenerys Targaryen is the youngest daughter of Aerys II. She was born in exile at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, during a great storm, earning herself the nickname of “Daenerys Stormborn”.

Afterwards, Dany and her brother grew up away from prying eyes, though she was abused and treated like cattle by her brother, who only saw her as an opportunity to gain allies in his quest for the throne.

After marrying Khal Drogo and seeing her brother die, Daenerys gained in confidence and soon became mistress of her own fate. With actual dragons by her side, Dany soon became the ‘Mother of Dragons’ which turned her into even more of a badass.

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Determined to get the throne, Dany cruised across the continent, freed people, gained an army and more allies than she could count. Dany made her way to Westeros and seduced none other than… Jon Snow… who was also her nephew (read an explanation of how they’re related).

At this point, nothing less surprising.

But following the death of her two dragons, her advisor, Jorah Mormont and dear friend, Missandei, as well as Jon Snow’s threat to the Throne, Daenerys was driven to madness, like her father.

The once-was savior burnt down King’s Landing, killing many innocent lives as well as Queen Cersei’s, and Dany was finally ready to steal the throne. Her story soon came to an end when her lover, Jon, killed her in order to protect the Seven Kingdoms.

What happened to Daenerys’ mother?

Indeed, no one really speaks of Dany’s mother, considering her father took most of the limelight throughout GoT history. But apparently, the Mad King’s wife died after suffering complications from Daenerys’ birth.

Jon Snow, or Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harrington)

Jon Snow was born during Robert’s Rebellion and subsequently raised as the bastard son of Lord Eddard Stark in Winterfell, alongside the Stark children that he considered his siblings.

Eddard never told him anything about his mother or ancestry, leading him and everyone else to believe that she was a mere commoner.

The major part of Jon’s journey happens as he fulfils his duty as a Night’s Watch guard, where he gains the confidence to go from a self-doubting bastard son to a fierce commander.

Jon Snow’s true lineage was heavily hinted at throughout the show, but it was only confirmed in the final episode of season seven. His brother (and actually his cousin), Bran Stark realized that Rhaegar secretly wed Lyanna, making their son a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.

But after refusing the royal position and as a new democratic system was introduced in Westeros, Jon Snow did not become king of the Iron Throne and was instead sent back to the Night’s Watch for his treason.

So, there you have it, a concise family tree including the earliest and most recent members of the Targaryen clan. House of the Dragon has an exciting new cast of characters, fit to carry this Game of Thrones spinoff to spectacular heights (quite literally on dragon back, no less).

With so many new names and faces though, we hope this guide is helping to make the series all the more accessible. 

Let us know in the comments what details about the Targaryen family you think were also worth mentioning, as well as any Game of Thrones theory you might have about this cunning family!

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Maria Supplisson

Maria Supplisson

Maria is a screenwriting student at the London Film Academy with a Bachelors' degree in English & Creative Writing, blogger and storytelling-obsessed, from literature to TV shows, movies to documentaries. During her time at the London Film Academy, Maria wrote two short films that were produced by the school, one of which was showcased at the BFI for graduation, and she is now working on multiple projects from a short film to a play, while also translating articles from English to French about film, series, and celebrities for a London-based entertainment news agency. Unhealthily addicted to Game of Thrones lore.

2 Responses

  1. You said : “Lyanna Stark, sister of Eddard Stark and wife of Robert Baratheon.” I don’t remember reading about that marriage.
    Where in the book is this?
    Thanks

    1. Hey, that was definitely a mistake on our behalf. Lyanna was betrothed to Robert. Thanks for pointing that out.

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