Is Rhaegar Targaryen the most important character in Game of Thrones? We will leave that up to all you Greenseers out there to decide. But it doesn't take a third eye to know that this silver haired prince is by far one of the most influential of the lot. He may have died before the events of the books and show ever came to fruition, delegated to live on solely through the memories of others, but the repercussions of his actions are as far reaching as the Hound is ugly. What's more, following recent reveals in Season 7, Rhaegar has become more important than ever.
Whether you are a devoted reader or avid watcher, you should probably have your facts straight about this bookworm turned warrior turned fanatical prophet. That is unless you are only here for the gratuitous violence and wanton nudity. Still, when you're checking out Khaleesi's dragon or crying over Hodor's brutal demise, it pays to know who her brother is and what plans he has for those responsible for the latter's door holding death. That way you won't be lost the next time some random baby's birth ends up changing your world forever.
Here are the 16 Things You Need to Know About Rhaegar Targaryen.
Rhaegar Targaryen was born in 259 AC (short for Aegon's Conquest). His birth occurred on the same day and at the same place as the Tragedy at Summerhall. Growing up, Rhaegar had an intense fascination with this event. The tragedy in question was a mysterious fire at a House Targaryen pleasure castle known as Summerhall. It is speculated King Aegon V unsuccessfully attempted to pull off a Khaleesi and hatch fossilized dragon eggs, killing a whole bunch of major players in the resulting inferno.
One life did rise from the ashes, however. Amidst all that smoke and salt, baby Rhaegar popped out. The legends swirling around this deadly day only fueled his later belief that he was The Prince That Was Promised - but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Rhaegar was the eldest son of King Aerys II Targaryen, aka the Mad King, and his sister turned wife, Queen Rhaella. As the heir-apparent to his father's crown, he was the Prince of Dragonstone and next in line to sit on the Iron Throne.
Rhaegar wasn't the only by-product of his parents' incestual romps. He had two younger siblings, Viserys and Dany. You may remember the former as the d-bag that got his head turned into a golden molten paperweight by Khal Drogo. Of course, the latter is none other than Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons and frontrunner to win the game of spiky seats.
Despite having a legacy of being one of the greatest fighters of his time, Rhaegar Targaryen originally wanted no part of all the bloodthirsty urges that run rampant throughout Westeros. In fact, he grew up with no inclination towards fighting at all, and instead was rather bookish. So how did someone so nerdy become the coolest dude in Westeros? By reading a book, of course.
Not just any book, mind you. A book to end all books. One that altered his entire outlook on the world and changed the course of his life's pursuit. Page after page, its passages got him to thinking about the value of stabbing people, so he busted his ass and became one of the finest warriors the Seven Kingdoms had ever known. What was in this awesome book that had the power to turn Rhaeger Targaryen from a solitary bookworm into a gallant warrior? Glad you asked...
As we mentioned earlier, Rhaegar had felt a deep-rooted connection to Summerhall. That was because his blazing beginnings symbolically recalled a prophecy of a hero that would save the world. While reading some ancient books written five thousand years prior in Asshai, a mysterious city from the Shadow Lands of Essos, Rhaegar came across a prophecy too good to be ignored.
As the story goes, Azor Ahai, a legendary warrior wielding the burning blade Lightbringer, would be reborn again as a champion sent by the Lord of Light to defeat a great darkness. Rhaegar was a strong believer in this prophecy and even surmised that he was “The Prince That Was Promised.” You can see how he might have gotten there given the passage:
When the red star bleeds and darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.
Perhaps King Aegon V hatched a dragon at Summerhall after all.
With his silver-gold hair, tall lean physique, dark lilac eyes, and constant brooding over being the next messiah, who wouldn't want to be by Rhaegar Targaryen's side? Certainly not Cersei Lannister. She was so infatuated with Rhaegar that as a little girl would do drawings of him doing manly tings like riding dragons. Even to this day, she remembers him as the most beautiful man she had ever seen.
Given Rhaegar's bloodline and claim to the throne, the ambitious Tywin Lannister was crushing just as hard on the young Targaryen, wanting desperately for his daughter to marry the young prince. At the time, Tywin had worked his way up the military ranks to become Hand of the King. Despite this prominent role, Rhaegar's father, King Aerys, refused the offer of betrothal, claiming, “No servant's daughter was fit to marry a prince of royal blood.” Tywin was left scorned, Rhaegar remained free for a more suitable bride, and Cersei settled for her brother, naturally.
When Rhaegar finally did tie the knot, he heeded his father's words and married a Dornish princess. Though if his dad had his way, Rhaegar would probably have ended up marrying within the family. Alas, Rhaeger had no siblings at the time to get his incest on with, so to Dorne he went.
When you couldn't marry your sister, the next best thing was furthering alliances with other nobilities. Likewise, Rhaegar's father arranged for his son to get hitched to Elia Martell, the sibling of the current head of House Martell. While Rhaegar was supposedly “fond” of his wife, their marriage wasn't exactly a match made in the Seven Heavens. His later actions involving Lyanna Stark didn't help much either. Actions that Elia's brother, Oberyn Martell, took serious offense to. That is until he got his skull imploded by the Mountain.
Speaking of whom...
Rhaegar and Elia had a daughter and son named Rhaenys and Aegon, respectively. Sadly, both children died in the most horrific of ways during the closing chapter of Robert's Rebellion, better known as the Sack of King's Landing. Famous for being the battle put Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne, and saw Jamie Lannister earn his name as a kingslayer, it also resulted in Rhaegar's immediate family being snuffed out for good.
The Mountain, Ser Gregor Clegane, was in particularly terrible form that fateful day. During the siege, he murdered both the three-year-old Rhaenys and her infant brother Aegon in front of their mother. Then, still drenched in their blood, he raped Elia before killing her too. The story differs slightly in the books, with the Mountain bashing little Aegon against a wall and ravaging Elia, while Ser Amory Lorch killed Rhaenys by stabbing her fifty times. Either way, horrible things all around and a very sad day for House Targaryen.
On the outside, Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell was a happy one. That was why it was such a shock when during the tournament at Harrenhal, he gave the winning winter rose crown to another woman. When Rhaegar won the tournament, most naturally assumed he would offer his winnings to his wife Elia. But when he rode right past her and laid the crown for the Queen of Love and Beauty on Lyanna Stark's lap, who was already betrothed to Robert Baratheon, it was particularly scandalous.
As Ned Stark recalled, that was the moment “when all the smiles died.” A little while later, Rhaegar broke the camel's back when he apparently kidnapped Lyanna. Ned's father and brother protested the abduction, and in turn were executed by the Mad King. All together, this prompted Ned and Robert to team up with several other households to take down the Targaryens once and for all.
Many a Westerosi citizen have long followed the view of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark that Rhaegar raped Lyanna Stark out of pure lust because he was a dick. Others believe they loved one another. Knowing what little we do about Rhaeger, it doesn't make sense that such a seemingly kind hearted and generous spirit would all of a sudden become a rapey kidnapper, but then again, who saw the Red Wedding coming? Of course recent revelations care of a curious wildling have all but proven this theory. Or has it?
The third possibility is that he neither cared for Lyanna Stark nor was acting out of malice. Rather, Rhaegar was seeking to fulfill the prophesy of The Prince That Was Promised, and saw Lyanna as the perfect vessel to make that happen. Of course, no one really knows for sure what Rhaegar was thinking, but it is said that he died with a last breath whispering Lyanna's name.
Regardless of Rhaegar Targaryen's true motives in stashing Lyanna Stark at the Tower of Joy, it all ended with his bones getting crushed in at the Battle of the Trident. Initially, Rhaegar was able to avoid the uprising due to his living far away from the action in Dorne. But eventually, he was summoned to fight, and he finally squared off at the Trident with the man that hated him so much - followed by 40,000 loyalist troops.
In the ensuing brawl, Robert Baratheon's rage is too much for the Dragon Prince, and the Usurper lands a decisive blow with his massive warhammer to Rhaegar's chest. So hard does Robert smash Rhaegar that the rubies encrusted on his armored breastplate pop off, scattering into a nearby river, an area known today as Ruby Ford. With Rhaegar gone, the beginning of the end was marked for House Targaryen.
Despite all the death, destruction, and possible rape he caused, Rhaegar Targaryen was a pretty decent guy. One of his defining characteristics, at least before he became obsessed with the prophecies, was his musicality. He loved playing a silver-stringed harp and would often go out and sing amongst the small folk.
Unlike most of the noble class that have walked the halls of the Red Keep in King Landing's, Rhaegar was well loved by the commoners, and in turn, he loved them back. He enjoyed spending time amongst his people and, as Ser Barristan Selmy related to Daenerys years later, often would walk the streets serenading them with his great pipes. So talented was Rhaegar at stringing a tune that despite being richer than the Iron Bank, his subjects would throw money at him. As a testament to his kind heartedness, the prince would take his earnings and share it with his fellow street minstrels, give it to an orphanage, or, because you can't be a saint all the time, get ass over backwards drunk.
Given George R. R. Martin's epic is over 4,000 pages long and counting, it makes sense a lot of characters from the books have been left out of HBO's Game of Thrones. Perhaps the biggest omission has been Young Griff, the supposedly deceased son of Rhaegar Targaryen - Prince Aegon.
In A Dance With Dragons, there is a long plotline where Tyrion Lannister is joined by a mysterious young boy claiming to be the believed-to-be-dead son of Rhaegar on a trip across Essos in search of Daenerys Targeryen. None of this story exists in the show. The choice to not adapt any of this leads some to see it as a clear indication that the Young Griff isn't who he says he (or thinks he is). There are plenty of other theories, but his being little Aegon certainly has its fair share of backers. If true, this raises another disturbing question we will probably never get an answer to: whose baby did the Mountain actually smash against a wall?
Rhaegar Targeryn has been circling Game of Thrones right from the very beginning. In its first episode, Robert Baratheon visits the site where Lyanna is buried and cryptically tells Ned, “in my dreams I kill him every night.” Aside from Bran's look into the past at the Tower of Joy some six years later and a few forgettable mentions along the way, Rhaeger's biggest role to date came in Episode 4 of Season 5, where two separate but lengthy discussions of the Dragon Prince went down.
The first came in the crypts of Winterfell, when Littlefinger puts a name to the “him” spoken by Robert by relaying a first hand account to Sansa of when Rhaegar lay the crown on Lyanna's lap at Harrenhal, adding “How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?” Across the Narrow Sea in Meereen, Ser Barristan Selmy later tells an enthralled Daenerys about her brother's love of singing and the popularity he held amongst his people. Both stories paint opposing image of the man, leaving us left to wonder who exactly he was.
Way back in Season 2 of Game of Thrones, Daenerys experienced a series of visions upon entering the House of the Undying. What she sees in the show doesn't come close to how things went down in chapter 48 of A Clash of Kings.
One vision in particular is worth exploring above all others, namely the one where her brother Rhaegar holds a newborn baby (Aegon) and tells a woman (Elia), “He is the Prince that was Promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” The vision then follows:
He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany, 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 bed she could not say. 'The dragon has three heads.'
But what does any of that craziness mean?
Right from the start, we were led to believe Jon Snow was the bastard progeny of Eddard Stark. However, the closing episode of the show's sixth season confirmed he is in fact the love child of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Lyanna asked her broth to keep the baby's true lineage a secret, knowing he would meet a similar fate to Rhaegar's other children if Robert Baratheon found out about lil' Rhaegar's existence. Ned agreed, and went ahead letting the world think he was just another philandering a-hole.
As fortune cookies have proven time and again, prophecies are rarely an exact science. There's no telling who Azor Ahai might be at the moment. While there is plenty of evidence to support Jon Snow for the part, his true birth being at the top of the list, Jon's Aunt Daenerys has just as strong a claim. Or might Aegon, who Rhaegar himself decreed to be the Promised Prince in Daenerys' vision, still be alive to take the title? There's also the possibility that they all somehow fill the role simultaneously, each being a different head of the three-headed dragon foretold by Rhaegar.
Game of Thrones has made sport of casually inserting mention of Rhaegar into the show and just as quickly having a character interrupt with whatever bloody melodrama is currently at hand. Still, each brief passing reference might as well be a burst of wildfire lit beneath our feet.
The discovery that Prince Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark got married in a secret ceremony in Dorne is particularly explosive. Performed by High Septon Maynard, Lyanna and Rhaegar were able to tie the knot on account of Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell having been annulled moments prior. Or at least this is all implied in not so many words by Gilly's recreational reading right before Sam rudely interrupts her to squabble over the end of the world or something. So why is all this such a big deal? Because it means that Jon Snow is a trueborn Targaryne, the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and by right has a legal claim to the crown. Dun Dun Dunnnn.
Know anything else about Rhaegar Targaryen's history? Share it with us in the comments.