Category Archives: The Three Heads of the Dragon

Episode 11: The Three Heads of the Dragon Recap

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Happy Christmas Eve Eve, lovelies!

If you’ve been following the blog for the last 8 months (I know! I can’t believe it’s been that long either!), you will almost certainly have noticed a long-ongoing series tracking the rise and fall of the royal Targaryens. Called “The Three Heads of the Dragon: Kings, Pretenders and the Ladies of Fire”, the series grew from a simple idea – to write political analyses of all the kings of House Targaryen – into the blog’s very first multi-author series, a comprehensive look at united Westeros’ first royal dynasty from its conquest origins to its fiery end. SomethingLikeaLawyer started us off back in April with Aegon the Conqueror, and just last week Militant_Penguin closed with Aerion Brightflame, the Dragon Who Burned. We’ve written about heroes and monsters, brilliant leaders and hopeless fools, beloved queens and reviled tyrants; the Targaryen coin of genius and madness has been flipped both ways throughout these many colorful essays.

So, in continuation of our Christmas Week festivities, we present to your our latest podcast episode, The Three Heads of the Dragon Recap. In Episode 11, we delve into the politics and personalities of the dragonkings, the ladies who shaped and influenced the dynasty, and the pretenders who sought that most glorious of Westerosi royal prizes, the Iron Throne.  BryndenBFish, who did not join in writing pieces for the series, played moderator, providing a number of thought-provoking questions about the characters and events explored throughout this series. From the brilliance of the Conqueror to the caprices of the Unworthy, the Great Councils to the Dance of the Dragons, the greatest Targaryen moment to the moment the dynasty was doomed, we cover the whole nearly three century span of Targaryen rule. We also rank the Targaryen kings as well, from greatest to least (each of our lists shares a few placements in common; points if you guess them beforehand!). It’s a great way to close out a truly massive essay series (in a truly massive way; this is a three hour-and-change podcast, kids).

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The Three Heads of The Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire: The Dragon Who Burned – Aerion ‘Brightflame’ Targaryen

 

Artwork by Mathia Arkoniel

Introduction

Hello again readers. Today I present you with the final entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aerion ‘Brightflame’ Targaryen. Prince Aerion Targaryen, also known as Aerion the Monstrous or Aerion Brightflame, born the second son to King Maekar Targaryen, may not be a pretender in the most traditional sense, he still had a role to play under the banner of the pretenders of House Targaryen.

Aerion was an unusual character in the Targaryen dynasty and had distinct ties with both the central kings, princes, and contemporaries of the dynasty, and the various pretenders seeking to oust them. He was a precursor to the Mad King Aerys, he was the despised monster of the family, an enemy of Ser Duncan the Tall, the likely murderer of Haegon Blackfyre, and the drinker of wildfire. Aerion Brightflame was the dragon who burned and his actions still affect Westeros to this day.

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An End to an Era: A Political Analysis of Aerys II Targaryen

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King Aerys II, The Mad King by Amok

Introduction

During the reign of King Jaehaerys II, the Blackfyre threat finally ended (as best as anyone could determine). The troubles that Aegon IV had begun came to a decisive close, and Westeros could finally move on from the past and look to the future. Yet it would only be a short time later that the King would complain of shortness of breath, and die soon after, leaving the Iron Throne to his only son, Aerys.

Aerys was called “the Mad King”, but how mad is a mad king? What was the method behind his madness? And why, if he were so insane, did it take a generation for someone to overthrow him? Did he ever have a chance to rule well? The curtain was about to fall on the Targaryen dynasty, but there were still twenty-one years between the death of Jaehaerys II and the end of the dragon kings. How could a dynasty that had weathered so many problems finally find Robert’s Rebellion as the straw that broke the camel’s back?

Welcome to the penultimate installment of The Three Heads of the Dragon essay series, the first multi-author essays for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire charting the rise and fall of House Targaryen, from fiery beginnings to bloody end. We have finally reached the end of House Targaryen; the dragon kings have their last fiery gasp here, with Aerys II.

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Queen of Woe: Rhaella Targaryen

Introduction

Hello and welcome once again to The Three Heads of the Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire, the first multi-author series for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire.  In this series, SomethingLikeaLawyer, MilitantPenguin, and I have explored the Targaryen dynasty from its rise in the Conquest to its fall in Robert’s Rebellion.  My pieces, the Ladies of Fire, have analyzed the queens and princesses of House Targaryen, as well as those ladies who had a substantial impact on the dynasty itself.

For over two and a half centuries, the Targaryen dynasty had seen its fair share of ladies. Rhaenys and Visenya were celebrated as founding, conquering matriarchs of the royal house, while Jaehaerys’ queen Alysanne was universally beloved for her clever goodness. Alongside the good, of course, were those ladies less pleasantly remembered – tyrannical, usurping Rhaenyra, or defiant Daena, whose son caused many decades of grief. Whether they were considered paragons or fiends, however, both sorts of ladies played into the inheritance of the Targaryen female: a well-bred marriage pawn she might have appeared to be, but a dragon princess was still the descendant of warriors, through whose veins ran the exalted blood of mighty Valyria.

Such was the burden placed on the delicate shoulders of the last of these dragon princesses, Rhaella. It was her duty to live up to this inheritance – to be the hope of a dynasty which, by the time of her birth, was already slipping into decline. Yet Rhaella, more than any of her lady predecessors, seems to have incurred the wrath of Fate; her life, at least since the age of 14, was an almost unmitigated, relentless tale of woe. It was hers to watch the collapse of everything she had ever relied on – a stable marriage, a role as royal mother, her very kingdom – and hers to endure the cruelties of marriage to the Mad King. It was hers, most of all, to be given glimmers of hope for the improvement of her lot, and then to watch them be snatched away one by one, until the Stranger finally relieved her of her tragic burden.

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The Three Heads of The Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire: Heirs to the Great Black Dragon and the Man Clothed In the Bittersteel

Introduction

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Artwork by Mark Simonetti

Hello again readers. Today I present you with my penultimate entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aegor ‘Bittersteel’ Rivers. Though not a pretender to the throne, Bittersteel played a central role in the Blackfyre Rebellions that plagued Westeros for decades. He was the left hand of Daemon Blackfyre, and he and his Golden Company would become the sword, armor, and shield of Daemon’s offspring. While the Blackfyre name might be on the name of the war, in many ways it was Bittersteel’s war to wage, and no examination of Targaryen royal pretenders would be complete without the man who drove them.

Aegor Rivers was a bastard born of the adulterous union of King Aegon IV ‘The Unworthy’ Targaryen and Lady Barba Bracken of the Riverlands. Though she was favoured by Aegon IV’s palette for a while, this would not be enough for Barba. When Queen Naerys was rendered infirm after a difficult pregnancy, Barba openly boasted of her desire to replace the Unworthy’s loathed sister-queen. Yet when Naerys recovered her health, Aegon’s favor was insufficient to protect Barba, for soon enough she would find herself exiled from Aegon’s court at the behest of Queen Naerys’s greatest two champions; Crown Prince Daeron II Targaryen and Aemon the Dragonknight. So it would be that the young Aegor would be raised away from the capitol and his father, and grew up in Stone Hedge, the seat of House Bracken.

Not only was he cast out and away from the delights of courtly life and his father’s company, Aegor would have to deal with a dishonour to his mother and her house when Aegon IV replaced Barba Bracken with Melissa Blackwood, a daughter of a house with whom the Bracken’s had been feuding with since time immemorial. Melissa would then go onto give birth to another bastard of Aegon’s, the albino Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers as well as two other bastard children.

To add more to Aegor’s already-impressive feelings of resentment and anger was the fact that though Aegon IV’s appetites would lead to him continually throwing away mistresses, Brynden Rivers and Melissa Blackwood would still be allowed to remain at court in spite of this, largely due to the popularity of Melissa Blackwood at court.

This is where the young Aegor’s rage and bitterness would begin to form. He was exiled, his mother was dishonoured, he was replaced by what he saw as a lesser freak, and neither his replacement nor his replacement’s mother were cast out by Prince Daeron and Prince Aemon like Aegor and his mother were. Aegor seethed at the perceived unfairness, at his exile for something he didn’t do. Making matters worse, when Aegor was but six, King Aegon found his new lover, Aegor’s aunt Bethany, abed with Terrence Toyne of the Kingsguard, and had both Bethany and her father executed, killing any chance of Aegor being welcomed back at court. Herself having lost a father and sister as well as royal favor, Barba Bracken would no doubt do little to curb her son’s rage during his youth at Stone Hedge.

Thus, in a bed of adultery, betrayal, and bloodshed, the start of Aegor’s lifelong vendetta against both the Targaryens and Bloodraven would begin and Bittersteel would carry that bile with him almost from the cradle to the grave.

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Reform and Reforming Reform: A Political Analysis of Aegon V and Jaehaerys II

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Aegon the Unlikely, by Amok

The death of King Maekar in the Peake Uprising left a peculiar kind of succession crisis in its wake.  The Iron Throne did not lack for claimants; rather, all of the remaining claimants had their own unique imperfections. The late king’s eldest son, Daeron ‘the Drunken’, had predeceased his father, dying from a pox caught by a whore. His only legitimate child, Vaella, was sweet and good-natured, but simple-minded as well as a minor; worse still, the male-only law established by the Great Council of 101 AC and proven in the Dance of Dragons dismissed her claim immediately  The heir to the Throne based on the Targaryen ‘male-only’ succession was the infant Maegor Targaryen, only legitimate son of Maekar’s second son, Aerion Brightflame (the notorious prince had also predeceased his father, drinking wildfire in a drunken attempt to prove he was a dragon). Though only a year old, the baby prince son was suspected of inheriting Aerion’s monstrous nature and insanity, and promised a long regency regardless. Maekar’s two younger sons, Aemon and Aegon, both had flaws in their claims as well. Aemon, the elder, was a chained maester, sworn in service to the Citadel and that oath forbid from holding lands or titles; the other, Aegon, spent half his life wandering Westeros in the service of a hedge knight, and was considered ill-prepared for the burdens of leadership. In the end, however, Maester Aemon refused the quiet offer of the throne, and the Great Council’s vote was made for it.

Thus Aegon Targaryen, fourth son of a fourth son, ascended the Iron Throne as Aegon the Unlikely. Chronologically, this is the first king that the readers are exposed to in-depth, showcasing his strengths, his weaknesses, and his maturation as he squires for Dunk of Flea Bottom, hedge knight and lovable dolt of Westeros. Aegon would rule for twenty-six years, until the disaster at Summerhall, and would see combat against the Blackfyres once as a prince and once as a king. His reign would be one of trouble, constantly putting down minor unrest and revolts, and marked as unpopular by the nobility. Why was the deuteragonist of Dunk and Egg so poorly received as king? Why did his reforms barely outlive him? What does Aegon V’s reign mean from a political and literary sense? And who exactly was Jaehaerys II Targaryen, the three-year king that followed after? What made Barristan Selmy respect him so much in a land that despised personal weakness in men?

Welcome to the next installment of The Three Heads of the Dragon essay series, the first multi-author essays for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire charting the rise and fall of House Targaryen, from fiery beginnings to bloody end. This will be the penultimate essay for the kings’ portion, as there are only three kings left in Westeros. Aegon V and Jaehaerys II are the next two, and their efforts are marked by war and unrest. Yet neither the kingdom nor the dynasty would fall under their watch, and the two would guide the ship of state as best they could for almost thirty years.

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Unlikely, Unwanted Crowns: A Political Analysis of Aerys I and Maekar I Targaryen

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Dragonstone, by Philip Straub

Traditionally, the heir-apparent to the Iron Throne holds the title of Prince of Dragonstone. From Aenys I, most of the sitting kings of Westeros learned to rule from the traditional Targaryen home (Aegon II and Aegon III did not, though this was due to the complicated succession situation that the Dance of the Dragons revolved around). Yet Aerys, First of His Name, who was never an heir and never trained in rule, led the kingdom for 12 years, during some of the worst disasters Westeros had ever seen. After him, his brother Maekar, fourth son, war hero, and long-suffering in the shadow of others, would inherit the throne after multiple disasters befell his family, and rule for another 12 years. These 24 years are the next ones under the microscope.

These turbulent times gave rise to the Dunk and Egg tales, and Westeros was noted to be full of troubles. Yet despite minor troubles cropping up all over the realm, the Third Blackfyre Rebellion, the only civil war of note, was less successful than the First. Was it simply diminishing support of the Blackfyre cause, or did Aerys, Maekar, or both, have some sort of trick up their sleeves that made these two unpopular, untrained men successful rulers?

Welcome to the next installment of the Three Heads of the Dragon, the first multi-author essay series of Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire. This series looks at the kings, pretenders, and famous ladies of the storied Targaryen dynasty, from fiery beginnings to bloody end. I concern myself with the ruling kings of the dynasty; those who are acclaimed as true and proper kings in their own right. We are nearing the end of the Targaryen dynasty, but there are still five kings remaining. This essay concerns itself with the next two, Aerys I and Maekar I.

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Brides of War: Ladies of the Blackfyre Rebellion

Hello and welcome once again to The Three Heads of the Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire, the first multi-author series for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire.  In this series, SomethingLikeaLawyer, MilitantPenguin, and I will explore the Targaryen dynasty from its rise in the Conquest to its fall in Robert’s Rebellion.  My pieces, the Ladies of Fire, will analyze the queens and princesses of House Targaryen, as well as those ladies who had a substantial impact on the dynasty itself.

Aegon IV had never adopted a personal sigil, but for a personal motto he might have taken Madame de Pompadour’s declaration: “Après nous, le déluge” (after us, the deluge).  His reign had seen the encouragement of gross excesses and extravagant immorality as ladies, backed by powerful families, surrendered themselves to the king’s pleasure. Yet as a direct consequence of the king’s capriciousness, Westeros would fall into civil war again. Instead of fighting directly, as had happened in the last civil war, the ladies involved would take a supporting role, through the traditional places for women in Westerosi society – as wives, mothers, and dynastic marriage pawns.  The threat of war and the necessities of politics would nudge these ladies and princesses into advantageous places across the great cyvasse board of Westeros until the board was set for the rise of the Black Dragon.

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Daeron the Pretty Good: A Political Analysis of Daeron II Targaryen

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Daeron the Good, by Amok

Daeron the Good is held up as one of the best Targaryen monarchs in the 300-year dynasty by in-universe actors and the fandom alike. His commitment to just rule undoing the corruption of his father Aegon the Unworthy and ability to peacefully incorporate Dorne into the Seven Kingdoms hold him both in-universe and out as a great man, and a great king. Free from the warmongering of his more martial counterparts, Daeron the Good improved the lot of the people under his wing, and the Great Spring Sickness would cut down a king on the cusp of building a golden age the equal of Jaehaerys the Wise. Or so the conventional wisdom would teach us.

Yet under Daeron the Good, Westeros faced the largest civil war of its time. While the Dance of the Dragons was arguably more destructive, no Westerosi war would involve as many houses as the First Blackfyre Rebellion, and five generations would see the Black Dragon pitted against the Red. What caused the Blackfyre Rebellion? What part did Daeron have in its creation? Was he truly as good as the fandom believes?

Welcome to the next installment of the Three Heads of the Dragons essay series, the first multi-author essay series for the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire site. This series looks at the kings, pretenders, and famous ladies of the storied Targaryen dynasty from fiery beginnings to bloody end. For my part, I examine who history defines as the true kings of the Targaryen dynasty, the men who wore the crown and sat the Iron Throne. There are only 100 years left in the Targaryen dynasty, and twenty-five of them belong to Daeron II.

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Loves of the Dragon, Mothers of Chaos: The Ladies of Aegon IV, Part 2

Hello and welcome once again to The Three Heads of the Dragon: Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire, the first multi-author series for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire.  In this series, SomethingLikeaLawyer, MilitantPenguin, and I will explore the Targaryen dynasty from its rise in the Conquest to its fall in Robert’s Rebellion.  My pieces, the Ladies of Fire, will analyze the queens and princesses of House Targaryen, as well as those ladies who had a substantial impact on the dynasty itself.

By 171 AC, Aegon’s campaign of sexual conquest was already 22 years old and had included four of his nine lifelong “true loves”.  Yet Prince Aegon found that his boundless energy and passionate desire had limits – from his capricious self, of course, but also from his masterful father and the larger world of Westerosi politics.  Predictably, these limits taught Aegon only a selfish lesson: in order to have full control  over his love life, he needed to be his own master.  As king, he would create his own court of beauties to serve at his pleasure – a court never seen before and never seen again in the history of the Targaryen dynasty.

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