The Men Who Would Be Kings: Perspectives on the Would Be Kings of Westeros: Rhaegar Targaryen

Administrative Note: This is the first in a series of posts that will be discussing the various character perspectives of the many would be kings of Westeros. These posts will comprise several character’s opinions, my analysis of said opinions, and a few of my final thoughts regarding the character being discussed. The analysis parts of these essays are informed my own interpretation of the opinions expressed by various characters. The intention of this series is to build up a more complete picture of these would be kings by using these opinions.

The Great Mad Dragon

Rhaegar's Harp by feliciacano

Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games

Despite never really having met the man we gain a lot of perspective on Rhaegar Targaryen from many different characters. I intend to use the perspectives of these various characters to build up a more complete picture of the man.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Rhaegar but I will do my very best to remain as neutral as possible during this analysis.

Jorah Mormont

Artwork by Amok

We begin with Jorah Mormont as he is the one of the few characters that can provide one of the least biased reports on Rhaegar given that he had no real interaction with the man and has no reason to lie. However, I am aware that he may be sparing Daenerys’ feelings in regards to any comments about her brother.

“I hit him. Ser Jorah, do you think… he’ll be so angry when he gets back… I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”

“Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”

What I take from this interaction, other than Jorah’s clear disdain for Viserys, is that Jorah has some glimmer of respect for Rhaegar despite the fact that the North rebelled against the Targaryens. Referring to him as “the Last Dragon” gives the impression that Rhaegar was a man to be respected even in death despite the alleged kidnapping of Lyanna Stark.

“Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.”

Jorah later comments on Rhaegar’s valour, nobility, and honour. This seems to imply that despite the animosity between the Targaryens and the North, Jorah still sees Rhaegar in a positive light with regards to his valour, noble, and honourable nature. However, I do agree that this comment is largely meant as a lesson to Daenerys to remind her that honour, nobility, and honour do not make you invincible, and that good men can still be defeated/die despite their positive attributes.

Eddard Stark

File:John Picacio Ned Stark.jpg

Artwork by John Picacio

Despite being brother to Lyanna and best friends with Robert Baratheon, Eddard has remarkably little to say about the Prince of Dragonstone and that says something in it of itself.

There was no answer Ned Stark could give to that but a frown. For the first time in years, he found himself remembering Rhaegar Targaryen. He wondered if Rhaegar had frequented brothels; somehow he thought not.

Despite the animosity between the Starks and the Targaryens, Eddard still thinks that Rhaegar was above visiting brothels. That, to me at least, speaks volumes about Rhaegar’s character since even Ned, whose sister, brother, and father lie dead because of the Targaryens, can’t really say a bad word about the Prince of Dragonstone. This opinion seems to be further legitimised by Ned’s lack of agreement/disagreement whenever Robert Baratheon laments on his hatred for Rhaegar and the Targaryens.

However, there is the distinct possibility that raising Jon, whose father is more than likely Rhaegar, and Lyanna’s promise might have softened Ned’s stance towards Rhaegar. To me, Ned seems to have one of the most neutral opinions of Rhaegar despite the events of the Rebellion.

Barristan Selmy

Artwork by Amok

As a knight of the Kingsguard, Barristan had a unique and personal insight into the life of Rhaegar. However, as Barristan was friends with Rhaegar and is in the service of Daenerys Targaryen, there remains a possibility that his opinions and comments on Rhaegar may be biased.

“Did you know my brother Rhaegar as well?”

“It was said that no man ever knew Prince Rhaegar, truly.”

In this quote Barristan comments that no one every really knew the true nature of Rhaegar, what he was thinking or how he felt.

 “There was a melancholy to Rhaegar, a sense… of doom.”

This comment is later expanded upon when Barristan tells Daenerys that Rhaegar had an air of sadness to him, that he seemed doomed. The fact that characters say that Rhaegar was “born in grief” because of the “shadow of Summerhall” may explain the sad nature of Rhaegar and the fact that he felt doomed. Selmy seems to have pitied and sympathised with Rhaegar.

“As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.’”

This passage gives us one of the greater insights to Rhaegar as a person. From what we read, he was very well read and intelligent despite the japes from members of his household. However, we also see that Rhaegar did not just read for the sake of learning but that the things he read apparently informed his behaviour extensively. From Selmy’s POV, Rhaegar comes across as a well read but melancholic young man who seemed doomed. Perhaps whatever book or scroll that Rhaegar read that caused such a dramatic change in his behaviour also caused him to become so wounded and melancholic.

“. . .that was the tourney when he crowned Lyanna Stark as Queen of Love and Beauty! Princess Elia was there, his wife, and yet my brother gave the crown to the Stark girl, and later stole her away from her betrothed. How could he do that? Did the Dornish woman treat him so ill?”

“It is not for such as me to say what might have been in your brother’s heart, Your Grace. The Princess Elia was a good and gracious lady, though her health was ever delicate.”

While reflecting on his accomplishments during the Tourney at Harrenhal, Barristan tells Daenerys that he does not know why Rhaegar crowned Lyanna his Queen of Love and Beauty. He does not exactly leap to the defence of Rhaegar in this act and instead, remarks on Elia’s positive qualities over Rhaegar’s negative ones. It seems to me that Barristan did not want to speak ill of Daenerys’ brother to her face despite the fact that she expressed shock at Rhaegar’s actions at the tourney.

“Prince Rhaegar loved his Lady Lyanna and thousands died for it.”

Barristan later reflects on the tourney and seems to acknowledge the fact that Rhaegar’s love for Lyanna and the decisions he made did in fact cause the deaths of thousands. Although, Barristan seems to express this as more of tragedy overall, because thousands of people were condemned to die because of love, than as a moment to harshly express blame against Rhaegar.

Barristan does seem to express a positive bias towards Rhaegar in some respects for various reasons. He shows sympathy towards Rhaegar and highlights his positive qualities. Additionally, he also acknowledges, at least to himself, that Rhaegar is largely responsible for the rebellion.

Jaime Lannister

 Artwork by Michael Kormack

As another knight of the Kingsguard, Jaime too had an insight into the man that was Rhaegar Targaryen. However, his time in both Aerys’ and Robert’s Kingsguards may have coloured Jaime’s opinions somewhat.

“And beside them, crowned in mist and grief with his long hair streaming behind him, rode Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone and rightful heir to the Iron Throne.”

Jaime seems to reiterate the common belief that grief and sadness hung over Rhaegar his entire life. He even goes so far as to say that grief was Rhaegar’s crown.

Prince Rhaegar burned with a cold light, now white, now red, now dark.

“I left my wife and children in your hands.”

“I never thought he’d hurt them.” Jaime’s sword was burning less brightly now. “I was with the king…”

Jaime seems to feel immense guilt over the Sack of King’s Landing, particularly the deaths of Aegon, Rhaenys, and Elia. This is likely worsened by the fact that Rhaegar seems to have trusted Jaime with his family’s safety. Rhaegar appears to be have been extremely trusting of Jaime despite his young age, inexperience, and the lack of Lannister aid against the rebels during the rebellion.

“When the battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but … well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.”

Rhaegar’s trust of Jaime is further shown when Jaime recalls their last encounter before the prince left for the Trident. Rhaegar was so trusting of Jaime that he told the young knight about his future plans for when he returned.

Jaime’s perception of Rhaegar seems to imply that the prince was worthy of his trust and respect. Additionally, Jaime also recalls the sadness that hung over Rhaegar throughout his life.

Cersei Lannister

File:MagaliVilleneuve CLannister.jpg

Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games

During her youth Cersei wished to marry Rhaegar Targaryen and was promised just as much by her father. Upon their first meeting Cersei became infatuated by Rhaegar but was devastated to learn that Aerys II would not allow a match between the pair. Due to Cersei’s attraction to Rhaegar her opinions of her may be very biased.

By night the prince played his silver harp and made her weep. When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes. He has been wounded, she recalled thinking, but I will mend his hurt when we are wed. Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought, giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the queen. Her aunt had confided that truth to her before the tourney. “You must be especially beautiful,” Lady Genna told her, fussing with her dress, “for at the final feast it shall be announced that you and Prince Rhaegar are betrothed.

Cersei follows the pattern of mentioning Rhaegar’s sadness and wounded nature. She remarks on his beauty, even placing him above Jaime in terms of attractiveness.

The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was.

Aurane Waters, the dashing young Bastard of Driftmark, would be her grand admiral.

Aurane Waters seemed as bored as Cersei by all this prattle about septons. Seen up close, his hair was more silvery than gold, and his eyes were grey-green where Prince Rhaegar’s had been purple. Even so, the resemblance… She wondered if Waters would shave his beard for her.

Cersei’s infatuation with Rhaegar also informs her opinion and actions in regards to Aurane Water, a man with similar features to Rhaegar, such as making him Master of Ships on the Small Council and deferring the crown’s debts to the Faith of the Seven and the Iron Bank of Braavos in favour of building a new fleet for the Iron Throne.

It seems clear that Rhaegar was both very attractive, talented, and sensitive if he was able to earn the genuine affections of Cersei, Lyanna, and many others.

Jon Connington

Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games

As a companion, squire, and close friend of Rhaegar, Jon Connington provides a certain insight into the prince’s life. However, as Jon Connington is noted to have been in love with Rhaegar, his opinions may be biased.

I rose too high, loved too hard, dared too much. I tried to grasp a star, overreached, and fell.

Let me live long enough to see the boy sit on the Iron Throne, and Varys will pay for that slight and so much more. Then we’ll see who’s soon forgotten.

I failed the father, but I will not fail the son.

Death, he knew, but slow. I still have time. A year. Two years. Five. Some stone men live for ten. Time enough to cross the sea, to see Griffin’s Roost again. To end the Usurper’s line for good and all, and put Rhaegar’s son upon the Iron Throne. Then Lord Jon Connington could die content.

What sort of man was he? Honest and honorable, venal and grasping, proud?

Proud, for a certainty. Even arrogant. A faithful friend to Rhaegar, but prickly with others. Robert was his liege, but I’ve heard it said that Connington chafed at serving such a lord.

It is clear from these quotes that Jon Connington shows a deep regret over the death of Rhaegar and ultimately blames himself for it. The fact that the man is so willing to give up his own life just to seat Aegon upon the Iron Throne certainly gives the impression that Rhaegar was a man who could command love, loyalty, and respect like few others. That he disliked serving Robert and preferred the company of Rhaegar also says something about Rhaegar’s character.

The bells tolled for all of us that day. For Aerys and his queen, for Elia of Dorne and her little daughter, for every true man and honest woman in the Seven Kingdoms. And for my silver prince.

Prince Rhaegar was returning from Dorne, and he and his escort had lingered here a fortnight. He was so young then, and I was younger. Boys, the both of us. At the welcoming feast, the prince had taken up his silver-stringed harp and played for them. A song of love and doom, Jon Connington recalled, and every woman in the hall was weeping when he put down the harp. Not the men, of course……”Your father’s lands are beautiful,” Prince Rhaegar had said, standing right where Jon was standing now. And the boy he’d been had replied, “One day they will all be mine.” As if that could impress a prince who was heir to the entire realm, from the Arbor to the Wall.

A bride for our bright prince. Jon Connington remembered Prince Rhaegar’s wedding all too well. Elia was never worthy of him. She was frail and sickly from the first, and childbirth only left her weaker.

Jon Connington had known that, and he had also known that Robert’s head upon a spear would have put an end to the rebellion, then and there. He was young and full of pride. How not? King Aerys had named him Hand and given him an army, and he meant to prove himself worthy of that trust, of Rhaegar’s love.

The fact that Jon Connington loved Rhaegar to this extent, almost obsessively too, tells me that Rhaegar must have been a truly unique and impressive character to be deserving of such devotion.

Robert Baratheon

Artwork by Amok

As the counterpoint to Rhaegar’s character it is only natural that Robert would have a less than stellar opinion of him. The prince’s “abduction” of Robert’s beloved Lyanna and her ultimate death can only have served to insight hatred from Robert towards Rhaegar. However, the inclusion of his external perception of the crown prince is important as it provides a balance to the previous accounts of others beforehand.

“In my dreams, I kill him every night. A thousand deaths will still be less than he deserves.”

“And Rhaegar … how many times do you think he raped your sister? How many hundreds of times? I will kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on, until they are as dead as their dragons, and then I will piss on their graves.”

“Treachery was a coin the Targaryens knew well. Lannister payed them back in kind. It was no less than they deserved. I shall not trouble my sleep over it.”

“You were not there. There was no honor in that conquest.”

“The Others take your honor! What did any Targaryen know of honor? Go down into your crypt and ask Lyanna about the dragon’s honor!”

“The gods be damned. It was a hollow victory they gave me. A crown … it was the girl I prayed them for. Your sister, safe … and mine again, as she was meant to be. I ask you, Ned, what good is it to wear a crown? The gods mock the prayers of kings and cowherds alike.”

“I swear to you, I was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead as now that I’ve won it.”

It’s made abundantly clear in these short quotes just how much Robert hated Rhaegar. His hatred of Rhaegar even extended to justifying the brutal murders of Elia, Aegon, and Rhaenys. To Robert, Rhaegar is the man who kidnapped, raped, and is ultimately responsible for the death of the only woman he ever loved. Robert’s hatred of Rhaegar followed him for the rest of his life after the death of Lyanna. Nothing could make him happy other than drinking, eating, whoring, and fighting, and even that was only a temporary distraction so he had to do it constantly. Robert blames Rhaegar for his constant unhappiness because Rhaegar’s actions broke him. In the end, the two men ultimately destroyed one another.

Some Final Thoughts…

It’s clear that Rhaegar was an accomplished, intelligent, talented, and attractive character who won the hearts and loyalty of both men and women extremely easily. However, it is also obvious that there was a dark cloud that hung over Rhaegar from the day he was born due to the tragic nature of the events at Summerhall. The crown prince may have in fact sensed this looming doom and this may explain certain radical actions that he carried out. It is also clear that Rhaegar’s shoulders most of the blame for the outbreak of the rebellion. For a man described as “Able. That above all. Determined, deliberate, dutiful, single-minded”, there remains an element of mystery surrounding his actions at the Tourney at Harrenhal and his subsequent “abduction” of Lyanna Stark. His actions scream impulsiveness and dishonour but his characterisation by other characters seems to be at odds with this. I believe that there is far more to this story and that it is likely that Rhaegar was acting this way due to some external factors that he perceived e.g. his son’s destiny. There is a good chance that I am wrong and that Rhaegar simply acted impulsively due to falling deeply and helplessly in love with Lyanna.

I have enjoyed writing this essay. I have wanted to for some time and never got around to it. As I wrote my opinion on Rhaegar Targaryen changed to a slightly more positive one. Originally I believed that Rhaegar possibly had a touch of the Targaryen Madness to him and that he was a cruel, self-aggrandising, deluded, impulsive, and entitled narcissist that was in love with his own legend. I was wrong, for the most part. I now believe that Rhaegar is something of a tragic figure who was haunted his entire life by Summerhall and whatever he read the day he decided to learn to be a knight. I truly believe that he had the best of intentions but that he was ultimately blind to the consequences of his actions, prioritised poorly, and that he damned himself, and thousands of others, when he did not offer an explanation or reasoning for them.


Filed under ASOIAF Analysis, ASOIAF Military Analysis, ASOIAF Political Analysis

35 responses to “The Men Who Would Be Kings: Perspectives on the Would Be Kings of Westeros: Rhaegar Targaryen

  1. somethinglikealawyer

    I’ve always subscribed to the notion that Rhaegar was far from the honorable idea that man gave to him, particularly when it comes to Barristan. In Rhaegar, Barristan needed to believe that Rhaegar was honorable due to Aerys’s madness, otherwise he would have had to accept the fact that he was serving under mad tyrants. By projecting positive qualities onto Rhaegar, Barristan was trying to stick out Aerys’s madness until Rhaegar could take charge. It would have to be worth it. Otherwise he would have been dishonorable. As I’ve argued before, Barristan is afraid that his service under the Targaryens was dishonorable. He runs from the truth.

    For my part, my belief is more akin to your original, that Rhaegar was an entitled narcissist that believed himself immune to the consequences of his own actions. This stems in large part from both his actions (how, exactly, did he think that angering the Starks, Baratheons, and Martells was going to play out?) and his nonaction (dithering away in Dorne while Rickard Stark was murdered by the Mad King). When he emerged from Dorne, he made vague mentions of change to Jaime Lannister, largely ignoring that the rebellion was largely his fault to begin with. He believed himself to be the fulfillment of the Prince that was Promised prophecy (and later believed himself to be the father of the Prince instead) and thus, the prophecy would protect him. Lucky for all of Westeros, it didn’t, and he had his breastplate caved in to the benefit of all.

    Rhaegar did as he pleased and ignored the consequences of his actions. As a monarch, he would have been awful. Not as bad as his father or Aegon the Unworthy, but I’d wager that he would be worse than Robert Baratheon.

  2. Beto

    I disagree.
    “Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.
    “He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.”

    Rhaegar believed in the prophecy. And for all we know of asoiaf, even if interpretations are wrong (as the one made by rhaegar and aemon, and melisandre), prophecies and magic are the real deal. He needed “one more”. A third head of the dragon. He was trying to replicate the original three heads. Aegon and his sisters. His wife couldn´t get pregnant again, therefore he was forced to look somewhere else for that second daughter. I think that he fell in love with Lyanna, and changed his mind. In their union he saw the real “song of ice and fire”. The joining of houses deeply represented by ice and fire would deliver the prince that was promised, and eventually save Westeros from doom. Of course, Lyanna was already betrothed, and he was already married. One could argue that his only option was to elope.
    Thousands paid the price (his house as well), but his actions could very well have saved the world from the second Long Night.

    • All-Stark

      Assuming that there is actually a Chosen one in the ASOIAF universe is far too tropey and typical fantasy for it to be a part of GRRM’s books. yes there very well might be a major role left for Jon Snow to play, but i hardly think it will be a saviour of all mankind aka AzorAhai or PTWP thingie. It would be a poor ending to the story to see Jon crowned king considering his entire arc is a direct consequence of him being Ned’s son and acting like him as much a possible. to cap it off by basically abandonign his duty to the Watch and instead him becoming Jon Targaryen would be anticlimactic imho.

      As far as Rhaegar is concerened, i feel he may been acting the way he did because he genuinely believed he was fulfilling some prophecy malarkey. ofc as Gorghan says abt prophecies they tend to bite your prick off or incase of RHaegar cause a brutal death. i dont think he had any ulterior motives wrt Lyanna or that he was acting simply to spite the Starks/Baratheons or others in the realm. agree with Militant abt his motives, as misguided as they seem at this pt.

      • Beto

        I´m sure that we won´t see a heroic Jon Snow fighting alone in the dark against the nights king and defeating him in single combat to save mankind. But we really can be sure he will have a mayor role to play in ending the Long Night 2.0. Does anyone believe he won´t? Probably not what we expect from the traditional Fantasy cliché hero, there are quite a few great theories around. But prophecies and Visions in asoiaf are the real deal. Characters misinterpret them, so Gorghan is completely right, but no in-universe character actually thinks of Jon as AA/PtwP, we are doing so (because we have more information than them), which makes me believe we (those who believe Jon=AA) have it right, and they have it wrong. We are introduced to the Prophecy by Melisandre, a very mysterious character, who shows to have true powers, but highly unreliable. After a while, characters of undeniable credibility (MAester Aemon, Marwyn, Benerro, Moqorro) refute her arguments with solid evidence (the fake sword, dragons) and point towards Dany as being the savior of the world, whilst GRRM plants all this foreshadowing and subtle symbolisms pointing Jon as AA/PtwP. So, Rhaegar, if i am correct in assuming Jon is AA/PtwP, saved indeed mankind, whatever that means, by conceiving Jon.
        Death will change Jon. Besides, his oaths were never such a huge deal (he almost quits the Nw when Stannis offered him winterfell, and he would have if it didn´t meant burning the godswood). Besides there is massive foreshadowing pointing Jon as King (of the seven kingdoms or just the north). I don´t understand the point in creating a character with a secret royal lineage if not to use it at the end.

  3. Anonymous

    I don’t think Ned’s comment means anything. Would Ned believe that Aerys or Tywin went to brothels? So does that mean he has a positive view on them?

    As for the others, Cersei and Connigton are hopelessly biased, but it doesn’t mean anything necessarily. A handsome and powerful man would certainly have dozens of women (and men) attracted to him, even more when he’s the heir to the Iron Throne.

    It’s also clear that in their minds Barristan (who also sees him as a sort of son figure) and Jaime have him as the anti-Aerys rather than a man of his own.

    As for Jorah, he’s trying to get into Dany’s good graces, so we’ll likely never know what he really thinks.

    I don’t think we’ll have an objective, unbiased view of Rhaegar unless we get a Varys POV, so he’ll remain somewhat of a mystery.

    However, my view is closer to somethinglikealawyer’s than yours or a good part of the fandom, that worships Rhaegar and sees him as a mix of Superman and Jesus Christ. Anyone that abandons his wife and children for months to sleep with a 15 year old isn’t worthy of much respect, even more considering the circunstances involved.

    • Stargaryen

      I don’t think people worship Rhaegar as superman or Jesus Christ. I certainly don’t. But I do believe that he was told some piece of information about his bloodline that he believed 100%. Think about it this way. When the realm is attacked who do the people look to? The King in Kings Landing. So if the King (or prince) is leading the defense of the realm vs the Others and wins then he would easily become the Prince that was Promised. Jon Snow doesn’t have to be special to be the prince that was promised he just has to be the leader during the victory and the people will give him that name. Rhaegar is in such a position that his off spring can attain such glory.

  4. Gerry G

    Given that kinslaying is such a taboo in Westeros, how did Robert Baratheon escape the wrath of gods and men for slaying Rhaegar? They were second cousins, after all.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      Generally speaking, you have to be closer than second cousins for it to count. Rickard Karstark cites some kinship with the Starks, but no one really vilifies Robb Stark for killing him.

      I like to use my hard-and-fast rule: if you can marry them, you can kill them. (Does not apply to Targaryens).

      • ajay

        My guess would be that it’s not so much consanguinuity as House membership that’s the critical point.Marrying into other Houses is supposed to create a bond, but no one supposes that it unites the houses – so they still aren’t kin in the sense of being entitled to the protection of the rest of the kinship group.

    • Stargaryen

      Didn’t Jamie and Tyrion confirm that there is no word for killing a cousin, ha ha. All good then, not kinslaying.

  5. WPA

    I have to agree with the first comment- yes, hindsight being 20/20 and all- you can still fairly question Rhaegar’s actions on the following complications resulting from his actions regardless of his reasons- (and you’d think he’d have had the sense to fill in SOMEONE or other on exactly why). Let’s give the most charitable interpretation and assume that his relationship with Lyanna was consensual and the “kidnapping” was he running off with him:

    1. This action, considering no one was informed otherwise, would be interpreted as an abduction and/or an affront to the House of Stark- probably the most safely established Lord Paramount of any of the Seven Kingdoms and whose family includes a son and heir nicknamed the “Wild Wolf” with an infamously explosive temper.

    2. This action involved the spiriting away the fiancée of another Lord Paramount, the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. A young Robert Baratheon already known to be built like a linebacker, popular, and with a completely justifiable grievance with the added level of humiliation. So that’s already two Lords Paramount whose social contract has been violated before the entire continent – and that’s well before anyone has died. And both the Stormlands and the North have sons fostered with Jon Arynn in the Vale.

    3. Rhaegar is married after all- and his wife, the mother of his children, is the beloved younger sister of another Lord Paramount (and presumably he would know his wife’s brothers adored her). So publically disappearing with another woman would reflect badly on him to say the least, humiliate her, and humiliate Dorne- oh and her other brother- though still fairly young is presumably already famous/infamous for being a roguish adventurer type not above seeking out vengeance. The fact that Dorne stays “true” during the Rebellion due to the Princess and her children being de facto hostages and hold grudges against the Lannisters/and Robert over their fate doesn’t mitigate the explosively dangerous element the Brothers Martell could be if their sister is humiliated in such a way.

    4. Rhaegar then basically disappears South, after producing myriad problems-and leaves one source of authority to clean up this mess, a completely predictable mess. A mess that require deft political handling, the soothing of egos, understanding and some sort of concession to be made. It would require an extremely skilled politician and/or wheeler dealer. That source of authority in place is his obviously mentally unstable, pyromaniac father whom it is implied Rhaeger himself believes is unfit for the throne. All this without any real explanation to anyone involved. All of the compounding problems then stem from this.

    So at a time when his family’s rule over the Seven Kingdoms is shaky at best, long past the dragons, and with a certifiable nutjob as king, Rhaegar decides to “fulfill his destiny” by alienating at least 3 of the subject Kingdoms, make himself look like a villain, and not tell anyone his reasons. I’m not to sympathetic- prophecy or no prophecy.

  6. Beto

    i think no one disputes that his actions brought forth a terrible war with countless deaths.
    My point is just that, if we assume:
    a) Jon is Rhaegar´s son
    b) Jon is the Prince that was promised/Azor Ahai
    c) Jon will have a paramount role in the War for Dawn 2.0

    Then we must conclude that even if Rhaegar was responsible for Robert´s Rebellion, he was also saving the world. 20 thousand deaths vs all mankind (at least all westeros).. it still seems like a good deal.
    Of course one could argue they were better ways to marry Lyanna. I personally don´t know if it could be done without war, knowing Robert, Brandon, Rickard, dorne´s reaction and so on.

    • Stargaryen

      Beto, you assume that Rhaegar was comfortable with all that death to save mankind. Remember a lot of these articles express how a plan never is completely saw through. Something always screws it up. Rhaegar “took” lyanna. I think Rhaegar did think he could simply take her without reprucussion. Impregnate her and bring her back. Unfortunately, his dad ruined his plan by killing the Starks and demanding more to die. I agree that Rhaegar believed he was saving millions. But I also think he didn’t expect a war given his high standing.

  7. Anonymous

    If Jon is TPTWP, then the best thing Rhaegar ever did for him was to die. After all, if Rhaegar lives, Jon is not raised by The Ned, is not humbled by thinking he’s a bastard, does not go to the Wall.

    Besides, we already know who Rhaegar thought to be TPTWP- it was Aegon. Judging by the names of his children, it’s obvious the 3rd child was supposed to be a daughter named Visenya.

    • Stargaryen

      Maybe Rhaegar had a vision that the Targs no matter would be cast out of Westeros and he knew he needed 3 to take Westeros back because that is what Aegon did. Maybe Rhaegar was never thinking about the Long Night 2.0.

      • ecr56

        I’m intrigued. It’s the first time I’ve come across that explanation and I actually like it. I don’t consider it canon, but it’s a funny theory that has decent arguments. I was wondering if it’s your theory or if you got it from somewhere else?

  8. Pudu

    I enjoyed reading your essay.
    I found it a little bit unfair to just blame Rheagar for the rebellion. It was a chain reaction that Rheagar started, but there was one person who could have stopped it: King Aerys.
    The Point of no return was, when he freaked out and killed Rickard and Brandon Strak and demand all the other heir. had he given them a trial by combat, even if they lost, Jon Arryn (and Hoster Tully) wouldnt have started the rebellion.

    I found it hard to judge Rhaegars actions towards Lyanna and Elia by just looking what it meant to the men around them.
    Maybe Rhaegar talked with his wife about everything. Maybe Elia knew the whole story why he crowned Lyanna Queen of Love and Beauty and understands him. Maybe she was okay with a Lyanna as second wife, because she believed in the prophecy too and couldnt give birth to another child. Maybe not. We just dont know that yet.
    I just dont remember Dorne being mad at Rhaegar and that seems strange to me, if Rhaegar treated Elia that bad.

    Running away with Lyanna seems pretty impulsive and a little bit out of character for the Rhaegar to me. Lyanna is the impulsive one. So I always thought it was Lyanna running away to him. Maybe she was already pregnant and feared some tansy being forced on her. I dont remember how long that was before the tower of joy.

    A lot of maybes, I know

    • Anonymous

      Dorne was angry with Rhaegar. That was what GRRM has to say. “However, the Dornishmen did not support him as strongly as they might have, in part because of anger at his treatment of Elia, in part because of Prince Doran’s innate caution.”

      Elia had no reasons to be OK with Lyanna and any children of hers. They were a threat to Elia’s own children, as Targaryen history showed. Nothing shows that Elia was convinced in Rhaegar’s interpretation of the prophecy that he already got wrong once (he thought he was the PWWP).
      And the public humiliation was probably not written in the prophecy – like, pass over your wife at a tournament, leave her while she hasn’t recovered after almost dying to give you a son.

      In short, in his treatment of Elia he’s shown as a repeated douche.

      • Stargaryen

        Obviously Dorne was not that upset if they allowed him to hold up shop in The Tower of Joy nearby Dorne with Lyanna.

    • Ned Stark

      I agree. If it was someone like Jaehaerys The Wise, it never would have happened. But, Aerys was mad, you can’t blame him for it.

      Rheagar acted foolishly, but yes, he believed that he was doing it for the good of the realm.

      • Stargaryen

        A war wouldn’t have started from the “abduction” the war started once heirs were requested to be killed and Kingdom Lords were being killed – I don’t think Tully gave two pieces of crap about Robert Baratheon, Lyanna Stark or Rhaegar Targ. But once Lord paramounts were being executed that mean order was out the window with this King. He had to go. Rhaegar did not start the war, he instigated a problem but never war. Aerys instigated war.

  9. Anonymous

    Pudu’s comment shows why Rhaegar fans are, IMHO, the most annoying group of fans in ASOIAF: they refuse to acknowlege anything was his fault and create often non-sensical theories to put the blame in other people.

    Pudu for example is blaming the 15 year old girl for them running away over the 24 year old married father of two who is the heir to the Iron Throne.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      Let’s keep it all civil, please.

    • Stargaryen

      I am not saying Rhaegar is perfect and had right to treat his immediate family the way he did. I think it is a couple different things. First, no war was going to happen from abducting Lyanna. Aerys executing Lord Paramounts and demanding others to be killed as well is the turning point and started war. When order is gone out the window and dictatorship is full circle other Lord paramounts don’t feel safe. The Vale came in because Aerys wanted Robert and Ned dead. The North was in because Aerys killed Rickard and Brandon. Baratheon’s were mainly in because Aerys requested their liege lord to be killed, Baratheon’s didn’t march on Kings Landing when Lyanna was “abducted” neither did the Starks army. But they did once Lords were being executed and demanding others to be as well. No war was going to happen over the abduction, hwoever, if it wasn’t for the abduction Aerys wouldn’t have killed the Starks which then started the war. It is but isn’t Rhaegar’s fault

  10. Pudu

    Im sorry, if anything i wrote came out offensive. English is not my native language.
    Im not a fan of rhaegar, but for the war i blamed the grown-up man in charge, who comitted a crime and killed two people: the king.
    I dont blame Lyanna over Rhaegar for running away.
    I just wanna know more about Lyannas and Elias Feelings and Thoughts on that subject. And im very sorry how it ended for both woman.
    And im little bit sorry how it ended for Rhaegar, too.

    Thanks for the link about dornes reaction.

  11. Tom

    I disagree with the point you made with JonCon. Being obsessively loved by a personal friend doesn’t speak much to his worth as a person. Most people experience that at some point

  12. new djinn

    Did the prophecy named Lyanna or was it Rhaegar’s choice? Did this child had to be legitemate or could it been the product of a secret affair? So he got it wrong the first time about who was the PTWP, but he was sure enough the second time to risk war on it?
    These were all issues that Rhaegar choose to deal in a certain way, which lead to the near destruction of his entire family. Coul the prophecy be fullfilled without a war? Possibily. Rhaegar didn’t put much of a effort in to it.
    Still, it was a very interesting article about a very relevant but little know character.

    • Stargaryen

      Yes, prophecy had an opportunity to come true still even without the Rebellion. How? I am an advocate that Rhaegar “abducting” Lyanna wouldn’t have started a war only hatred amongst a couple lords and a setback in the southron ambition. But Aerys killed the Starks help incite fighting.

  13. I enjoyed the essay. Nice job.

    The only real issue I have is with this statement: “It is also clear that Rhaegar’s shoulders most of the blame for the outbreak of the rebellion.”

    Aerys’ actions directly caused the rebellion. Rhaegar’s did not. After previously executing several nobles, including Rickard and Brandon Stark, Aerys demanded the heads of Ned and Robert. The rebels had no choice but to fight for their lives.

    • Stargaryen

      Agree – No Starks or Baratheon armies marched to KL when Lyanna was abducted but they sure got together to fight when Rickard/Brandon were killed and Aerys demanded Ned and Robert to die as well.

    • ecr56

      To be fair, Rhaegar seems smart enough to know nothing good will happen if he kidnaps/runs off with the daughter of a Lord Paramount (about to be wed to another Lord Paramount) and leaves his father in charge of straightening it all out.

      It’s a bit like saying it’s not your fault if your baby dies while you leave it alone (while adultering with some bride-to-be). I mean, you have to make sure things will be taken care of in your absence, which Rhaegar clearly doesn’t.

      And to Stargaryen, no armies marched to KL when Lyanna was abducted, but who says none won’t, even if Aerys doesn’t harm Brandon and his companions?

      I could see Rickard Stark and Robert Baratheon calling the banners if Aerys doesn’t produce a good explanation, which let’s face it, he probably won’t. By kidnapping the daughter of a Lord Paramount, Rhaegar made the Starks look weak, insulted the Baratheons and made every lord worry about the safety of his loved ones. With some politics, the Vale and the Riverlands could join (Jon Arryn wards a Stark and a Baratheon and Hoster Tully has two daughters he would like to keep safe). I agree it’s hypothetical, but I could see it happen.

  14. Pingback: Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  15. Anon

    Late into this, but I’ve been rereading the books…again. So a couple of things and maybe people have brought this up before, but I’ve been wondering if the whole Harrenhal incident with Rhaegar crowning Lyanna as Queen of Love and Beauty wasn’t because he had a thing for her, but rather because of her actions in fighting for Howland Reed’s honor. and his acknowledgement that she should have been the champion of the tourney because of her valor.

    The second thing is the Tower of Joy. Rhaegar gave the tower its name, and given how much people talk about his melancholy, sadness and his general gloominess, how Barristan says point blank that he didn’t think Rhaegar had it in him to be happy, to me, all of this seems to show that the year he spent in Dorne was perhaps the happiest time of his life. It just sounds like he forgot himself.

  16. DubC

    Just to add some perspectives to Elia and Lyanna because everyone seems to paint them a young victims and pit them against each other. I am of the mind that they both played the game as well, as well they could, but suffered from gender bias that fatally crippled their options.

    Elia doesn’t fit the ‘woman scorned’ profile. Rhaegar’s overall deference for her as one counterpoint and growing up Dornish another. Like Lyanna, Elia was the only girl among boys and like all tomboys, you get well acquainted with men/boys tick. She is Dornish, and the Dornish don’t subscribe to same political and social etiquettes as the rest of K7. I imagine that Elia was no stranger to paramours, mistresses, or polyamorous relationships, homosexuality etc especially with a host of brothers to show you how men do it. There is no evidence either way, but dismissing the idea that Elia wouldn’t be opposed to Rhaegar taking a lover just makes it easier to vilify Rhaegar and further victimize Elia. Elia is often described as smart, so I also imagine that she wasn’t ignorant of her physical condition and how it affected her desirability as a wife and lover. She was in as much need of a husband as Rhaegar was in need of a wife. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she wanted any of this for herself, she was probably very lonely and dissatisfied, but she was likely realistic about it, especially when you’re in a passionless relationship with a man that wants more children you can’t give him. Yes she had two children, but if so much as one of them is lost, then so is the whole dynasty. She would have seen the need for a third child, a spare just in case. By extension, Elia probably also knew how tenuous her position was Princess of Dragonstone the singular Dornish person at court save for her children under a prejudiced, mentally ill monarch. Another person to agitate the King’s paranoia would take some of the heat off of her and children. Especially if it’s another non-Dornish woman. They hate Elia for being Dornish, sure, but she was a princess in her own right. Lyanna, however, would be despised for breaking the rules and gaining a minor crown/royal favor for it. It would be like Afro Samurai where Number 2 has deal with all the crap lessers but only number 2 could approach number 1. Lyanna could be as much a potential danger as she could be an ally. Lyanna would agitate Aerys’ paranoia as well but they could seal an alliance right in the Red Keep, put Aerys, the more immediate threat, on his toes. And more than all these possibilities, Elia wouldn’t be such an island if she had another young lady around with just as much to lose. So Elia’s play, to play along, has merit too especially if you are as smart as she was. None of this dismisses Rhaegar’s mistakes and handling of the situation. This play relied on Rhaegar to be more politically sauve than he actually was unfortunately.

  17. Pingback: El hombre que pudo reinar: ensayo sobre la Cara A de Rhaegar Targaryen

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