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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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