- Princess Rhaenyra’s hasty decisions jeopardize her position as heir to the Iron Throne in House of the Dragon.
- Rhaenyra’s reckless behavior, including sneaking out and engaging in affairs, angers her father and brings dishonor upon her name and position.
- Rhaenyra’s choices lead to strained relationships with her family and ultimately result in the start of the Dance of the Dragons war.
King Viserys Targaryen has great faith in his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, whom he names heir in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 1 “The Heirs of the Dragon.” A charmer from the get-go, she is cheered as “the Realm’s Delight” at a young age, and her father regards her as a safe pair of hands. Though Rhaenyra grows up to be a motherless daughter, Viserys ensures she is properly educated in statecraft as it is essential to her future success.
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The young Rhaenyra often ignores her father’s counsel and makes hasty decisions that are detrimental to her position as heir to the Iron Throne. Her journey through House of the Dragon‘s time jumps is filled with terrible decisions and plans that aren’t very well thought out.
1 Lives Recklessly
Leaves On A Horse
Rhaenyra and Viserys have an estranged relationship following his decision to marry his daughter’s childhood companion, Alicent Hightower. The father-daughter duo grows apart, especially after Alicent bears the king his firstborn male child – Aegon.
As seen in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 3 “Second of His Name,” Rhaenyra dissociates from the royal celebrations held in honor of Prince Aegon’s second nameday. At the same time, Alicent wants to smooth over the cracks. Rhaenyra is particularly cranky on the occasion and leaves the hunt assembled in honor of her half-brother simply because Jason Lannister puts forth a marriage proposal. Rhaenyra publicly confronts her father, while he explains she is of age and Jason is a good match:
Even I do not exist above tradition and duty, Rhaenyra!
She storms out of the camp, mounts a horse, and races into the Kingswood, putting her life at stake. Her sworn shield, Ser Criston Cole, rides behind and catches up with her. Rhaenyra doesn’t think twice before airing the family’s dirty laundry in public and she puts herself in a situation that could have resulted in her being harmed, or worse, her death.
2 Abruptly Ends Her Tour
Angers Her Father Even More
The beginning of House of the Dragon season 1, episode 4 “King of the Narrow Sea,” is home to Rhaenyra’s decision to cut short her tour of Westeros that Viserys went to great lengths to arrange. A line of suitors has gathered at Storm’s End to pursue a courtship with her. She mocks Lord Dondarrion, and scoffs at the young Willem Blackwood, while Lord Boremund Baratheon tries to explain what each of these suitors brings to the table.
After an underage Willem and Jerrel Bracken get into a heated argument and decide to settle it through swordplay, Rhaenyra announces she’s leaving for King’s Landing, while Ser Criston tells her she’s expected in Bitterbridge in three days.
I would happily row myself to King’s Landing if it brought an end to this ridiculous pageant.
Rhaenyra leaves for King’s Landing, and even Ser Criston is slightly amazed at her decision to reject every suitor and cut the tour short. This further strains her relationship with her father, but she remains adamant.
3 Sneaks Out Of The Red Keep
Risks Her Position As Heir
Viserys on several occasions educates Rhaenyra about the importance of marrying for social and political gains, but she refuses to take her duties seriously. She happily sneaks out of the Red Keep and into the Street of Silk with the rogue prince, Daemon Targaryen, only to be left alone in a pleasure house and spied on by one of White Worm’s little birds.
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When word reaches the king through Otto Hightower, he finds himself in an utterly humiliating position, defending his daughter by vindicating Otto’s naked ambition for the throne. Rhaenyra’s name is soiled and when a worried Alicent confronts her the next morning, she tells half-truths, going as far as swearing upon the memory of her mother that nothing happened. Alicent is right, Rhaenyra brings dishonor upon her name and position as the king’s heir by being reckless in the streets with her uncle.
4 Desires Her Sworn Shield As A Paramour
Engages In Behavior Unbecoming Of A Queen
The night Daemon leaves Rhaenyra in a pleasure house, she finds her way back to the Red Keep and invites Ser Criston into her bedchamber.
Alicent eventually finds out about Ser Criston’s rendezvous with Rhaenyra from the man himself, and she feels betrayed. Now, Rhaenyra is free to do as she pleases and exercise her agency as a young woman, but she keeps taking all these risks with her family (Daemon) and men in close quarters (Ser Criston). Never does it occur to Rhaenyra to be discreet about her tryst with her sworn shield.
5 Shows Blatant Defiance
Chooses To Have Ser Harwin Strong’s Children
One of the biggest causes of rivalry between adults, Rhaenyra and Alicent, is the fact that the latter resents the Princess’ agency. Alicent does as her father instructs, and Viserys is forced to call Rhaenyra’s courtship to an end after the rumor-mongering.
Years later, after Laena Velaryon’s funeral at Driftmark, Alicent, who knew that none of Rhaenyra’s sons were sired by her husband, Laenor Velaryon, indirectly called into question the sanctity of her marriage.
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Everyone in the realm knows that the real father of Rhaenyra’s first three sons was Ser Harwin Strong, but none would dare speak of it because of Viserys. Another duo who had illegitimate children in Game of Thrones lore was Queen Cersei and her brother, Jaime Lannister, but their arrangement worked because their offspring were golden-haired like the mother.
Rhaenyra’s children, Lucerys, Jacaerys, and Joffrey Velaryon, on the other hand, lack Valyrian features, when both their parents are the blood of Old Valyria. Rhaenyra continues with Ser Harwin, until his father, Ser Lyonel Strong, escorts him back to Harrenhal:
Your intimacy with the Princess Rhaenyra is an offense that could mean exile and death for you, for her, for the children.
6 Leaves For Dragonstone
Vacates Her Place In The Small Council
One of Viserys’ worst decisions in House of the Dragon was denying his daughter the position of Hand. But this is a shared mistake because of Rhaenyra’s belligerence and the decision to have Ser Harwin’s children. Her choices diminish her position in Viserys’ Small Council, and she finally decides to leave for Dragonstone. In her defense, she tries in vain to end strife with Alicent by suggesting her son, Jacaerys, be betrothed to Helaena, and in time rule the Seven Kingdoms together.
Rhaenyra returns as Daemon’s wife in House of the Dragon season 1, episode 8 “The Lord of the Tides,” when Jace and Luke’s legitimacy is called into question. Viserys has become a shadow of his former self and Alicent and Otto rule in his name. The Hightowers have the Targaryen heraldry replaced with the emblems of the Seven. Rhaenyra, who is to rule one day, finds herself alienated in the capital.
7 Sends Young Lucerys Unaccompanied To Storm’s End
Leaves Lucerys Fending For Himself
A Queen contemplating waging a war should have known it was dangerous to send her young son, Lucerys Velaryon, on a diplomatic mission to Storm’s End. The boy of thirteen looked nervous before riding on his dragon, Arrax, to the Baratheon seat.
Lucerys is sent alone on this mission, as everyone at Rhaenyra’s court has a specific task assigned to them. Aemond, who is already at Storm’s End, ends up chasing him in midair and causes his and Arrax’s deaths with his enraged beast, Vhagar. This sets in motion the war known as the Dance of the Dragons.