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‘House of the Dragon’: Who Runs Westeros?

‘House of the Dragon’: Who Runs Westeros?

Fans of Game of Thrones (based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin) are waiting in anticipation for a new entry into the popular fandom, House of the Dragon. Based on Martin’s (fictional) historic text, Fire and Blood, House of the Dragon takes place 200 years before the events of Game of Thrones

While many are not familiar with the Targaryen Civil War known as the Dance of Dragons in which Princess Rhaenyra faced off against her brother Aegon, keen viewers will notice that Princess Shireen mentioned the war to her father, Stannis Baratheon, in the ninth episode of Game of Thrones Season 5. Now the story will unfold before our very eyes this Sunday. 

Before we dive in, let’s get to know some of the key players in Westeros.

House Targaryen

Sigil: Three-headed dragon

Seat: King’s Landing and Dragonstone

Their words: Fire and Blood

In Game of Thrones, the Targaryens were a dying house with only a few descendants remaining in Westeros. In House of the Dragon, the Targaryens are at the height of their power, ruling over the Seven Kingdoms with dragons at their side.

Viserys I Targaryen is the fifth Targaryen king to sit upon the Iron Throne. He was elected by the Great Council to succeed his grandfather, “Old King” Jaeherys I. While he rules in King’s Landing, his ancestral seat is Dragonstone. Viserys was a dragon rider who rode the black dragon, Balerion. Far from the ruthless temperament thought common of Targaryen rulers, Viserys is a kind and peaceful man with a great distaste for conflict. During his reign, the Seven Kingdoms lived in peace and prosperity, but soon that peace is shattered.

Rhaenyra Targaryen is the firstborn child of Viserys and heir to the throne after the death of her younger brother, Baelon. Described as beautiful and charming, Rhaenyra became a dragon rider as a small child, choosing the yellow-scaled dragon, Syrax. As a woman, her claim to the throne was often challenged and was the spark that started the civil war.

Daemon Targaryen is the younger brother of Viserys and Commander of the City Watch. He is an ambitious player and one of the greatest warriors of his time. As with the rest of his family, Daemon is a dragon rider, riding the formidable red dragon, Caraxes. Daemon has a complicated relationship with his older brother as he was once in line to inherit the throne. He’s an abrasive character and has an intense rivalry with the Hand of the King. Nonetheless, he reluctantly supported his brother’s reign all the while forging an alliance with his niece and future queen, Rhaenyra.

House Velaryon

Sigil: Silver Seahorse

Seat: Driftmark

Their words: The Old, the True, the Brave

Much like the Tyrells in Game of Thrones, the Velaryons are the second most powerful house in Westeros. And unlike the Tyrells, they were true allies of the Targaryens. The Velaryons’ house seat is Driftmark, the largest island in Blackwater Bay. The Velaryons are a great and ancient house of seafarers who came to Westeros before the Targaryens. As such, they hold an influential position in the series.

Corlys Velaryon, known as the Sea Snake, is the Lord of the Tides and Master of Driftmark. Corlys is a legendary seafarer, arguably the greatest of the Seven Kingdoms, and his travels across unknown lands bring great riches to his family. His alliance with the Targaryens is strengthened through his marriage to Rhaenys Targeryan, cousin to Viserys, and later through his son Laenor’s marriage to Princess Rhaenyra.

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Rhaenys Targeryan, known as the Queen Who Never Was as she was passed over by the Great Council in favor of Viserys, is the wife of Corlys Velaryon and a formidable force in her own right. She is described as a great beauty with matching intellect. Her mount was the scarlet dragon, Melys, one of the fastest dragons in all of Westeros. When the Dance of the Dragons breaks out, Rhaenys along with her husband shift their allegiance to Princess Rhaenyra, but we soon learn allegiances change.

Leanor Velaryon is the only son of Corlys and Rhaenys Targeryan and heir to Driftmark. Laenor’s dragon is the silver-gray Seasmoke. Like his mother, Leanor was passed over as heir apparent, but this slight is soon remedied once Leanor weds Rhaenyra. Their marriage is an unhappy one, as Leanor and Rhaenyra have very little interest in each other and spend much of their life apart. As a result, the validity of their children’s parentage is often called into question.

Laena Targaryen is the older sister of Leanor and only daughter of Corlys and Rhaenys Targeryan. She was said to have inherited her mother’s great beauty and was sought after by many suitors, although she was known to have far more interest in flying than boys. Her dragon was the largest Targaryen dragon alive — the flame-red Vhagar.

House Hightower

Sigil: Stone white watchtower, lit with a green flame.

Seat: Hightower, Old Town

Their Words: We Light the Way

The Hightowers are a great family from the Reach whose influence is cemented by the head of their family serving as Hand of the King and an arranged marriage with the Targaryen king. The Hightowers are an ancient house of Westeros tracing their lineage to the First Men. They amassed their wealth through trade and founded Old Town, home to the Citadel, the birthplace of the order of maesters. There’s no surprise why this family is one of the key players in House of the Dragon.

Otto Hightower is a knight of House Hightower and Hand of the King. He is described as a man of great learning. He formerly served “Old King” Jaeherys until his death and now is in the service of King Viserys. He attempts to use his influence to bend and manipulate others to do his bidding, a trait that greatly disgusts Daemon Targaryen. As such the two are bitter rivals at court and eventually face off on opposite sides during the Dance of the Dragons.

Alicent Hightower is the Queen of Westeros and second wife to Viserys. She is described as clever and enchanting, qualities that led Viserys to choose her as his bride. Initially, Alicent has a loving relationship with her stepdaughter (and childhood friend) Rhaenyra, but the relationship quickly turns sour after Alicent gives birth to her first son. Alicent believes Rhaenyra’s half-brother, Aegon, as the first-born son, should be heir to the Iron Throne. This desire drives a wedge between Rhaenyra and Alicent, a move that does not bode well for the realm.

There you have it; the board has been set and the players are in motion contending for the coveted Iron Throne. It’s a story we are all familiar with, and we have no doubt House of the Dragon will fill the void left behind by Game of Thrones.

House of the Dragon will premiere Sunday, August 21, 2022, on HBO. Be sure to join our live tweet under the hashtag #DragonsYall and look out for the return of our TV recap podcast!

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