House Targaryen: Who are the Mad King, Rhaeyra and Daemon in the Targaryen family tree?

Breaking down the complicated House Targaryen family tree

Matt Smith as Daemon of House Targaryen & Milly Alcock portrays young Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of The Dragon
(Image credit: Sky/Future)

Get acquainted with House Targaryen with our handy who's-who family tree to compliment your House of the Dragon viewing.

House of The Dragon landed on August 21 to plenty of anticipation and fanfare. With much trepidation surrounding whether the show could possibly live up to its cult predecessor Game of Thrones, it's safe to say those fears have been put to rest. The latest outing of George R. R. Martin's incredible Thrones-verse already has critics and fans exploding with praise, and the pitch perfect House of The Dragon cast (opens in new tab) have brought his characters to life. At the heart of the new series is new House Velaryon (opens in new tab), a certain Alicent Hightower (opens in new tab) and of course the Targaryens - the ruling family of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. And we've broken down the Targaryen family tree, explaining who was the Mad King, and where newcomers Princess Rhaenyra and Daemon sit within the dynasty.

Those that have are up-to-date with the latest episodes might also find our guide on who is the crab feeder (opens in new tab) informative. We've delved into his background and the actor playing him as he gets set to feature heavily in the next few episodes.

Who is the Mad King in House of The Dragon? 

The Mad King is actually King Aerys II Targaryen, Daenerys Targaryen’s father. He doesn’t actually appear in House of The Dragon, because events of the show take place prior to his birth.  

Aerys continued a Targaryen tradition of maintaining pure bloodlines, by marrying his sister, Rhaella Targaryen. As a young King, Aerys was generous and ambitious, and his reign was a peaceful one. He began a slow descent into madness by becoming jealous of the power of others, and displaying paranoia towards his family and those offering him counsel. During a battle at the Defiance of Duskendale, Aerys was captured and imprisoned. This saw him fully succumb to his madness, and when freed, he executed all those involved in the rebellion. His reign then became full of death and murder, and he earned the title the Mad King. 

a still of the Mad King from House of the Dragon

The Mad King (played by David Rintoul) in series six of Game of Thrones.

(Image credit: HBO)

During an attack by his former friend and hand Tywin Lannister, Aerys ordered his Kinsguard Jaime Lannister to kill Tywin. Jaime betrayed the Mad King, by stabbing him in the back - this is the legend behind his nickname of “King Slayer”.  So despised was Aerys, that nobody wanted to avenge his death, and Jaime Lannister was pardoned. Robert Baratheon took the Iron Throne, ending the Targaryen Dynasty who had ruled the Seven Kingdoms for 300 years. Aerys’ surviving children, Viserys and Daenerys, were sent to the Free Cities for safety. Game of Thrones picks up their story from there. 

Do all Targaryen’s go mad?

No, not all Targaryen’s will go mad. Keeping their bloodline pure through incest resulted in some mental instability, but not always a pure madness.

Some Targaryens displayed unusual behaviour that was not classified insane. Some had aggressive and sociopathic personalities, with some personality traits being linked to a magical power in old Valyrian blood - from which Targaryens are descended. This magic is said to be responsible for some level of instability, and possibly that Targaryens no longer knew how to control the magic running through their veins, once it had disappeared from the world. 

Rhaegar Targaryen - Daenerys’ oldest brother - was certainly not mad, and was considered a potentially great future leader. Maester Aemon revealed himself as a Targrayen descendant, and he was a wise and sane advisor to the Night's Watch. It has been said that only 6 Targaryen’s were truly mad - King Baelor I Targaryen, Prince Rhaegel Targaryen, Prince Aerion Targaryen, King Aerys II Targaryen, Viserys Targaryen, and eventually, Daenerys herself. 

Who is in the House of Targaryen Family Tree?

an infographic showing the House Targaryen family tree from House of the Dragon

(Image credit: Future)

Aegon the Conquerer was the first documented Targaryen, conquering Westeros with his dragons and becoming the sole ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Dates within the universe are counted “Before Conquest” (BC) or “After Conquest” (AC). 

Dying in 37 AC, Aegon I Targaryen’s son Aenys I Targaryen took the iron throne. Aenys arranged the marriage of his eldest son and daughter - Princess Rhaena and Prince Aegon. Having been exiled, Aenys’ sixth son Maegor made a dramatic return to the Seven Kingdoms and reclaimed the Iron Throne for himself - following his death in 48 AD, Maegor was succeeded to the throne by Aenys’s only remaining heir, Jaehaerys.

Following a long and uninterrupted reign of 55 years, Viserys l Targaryen - Jaehaerys’ grandson - took up the throne in 103 AC. It’s under Viserys l rule, that House of The Dragon picks up from. His wife Lady Aemma Arryn, suffered many miscarriages and stillbirths, and at the beginning of the series the couple only have a single daughter together. Viserys remains awaiting the arrival of a son and heir. 

Rhaenys Targaryen also appears in House of The Dragon, is the firstborn child of Aemon Targaryen. Her husband is Corlys “The Sea Snake” Velaryon, descendant of another powerful dynasty. She had a claim to the throne that was overturned, in favour of her cousin Viserys. 

Who are Princess Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen?

Princess Rhaenyra is the only child of King Viserys l Taragryen, and his late wife Lady Aemma Arryn. Daemon Targaryen is Viserys’ brother, and rightful heir to the Iron Throne.  

However, unhappy with his brother’s behaviour, Viserys denies Daemon the title of King, and announces Rhaenyra will succeed him instead. Rhaenyra was 8-years-old at the time her succession was announced. Prince Daemon Targaryen was the youngest son of Prince Baelon Targaryen and a highly experienced warrior and dragon rider. 

Matt Smith as Daemon Targaryen & Milly Alcock portrays young Rhaenyra Targaryen in House of The Dragon

(Image credit: Sky)

Princess Rhaenyra and Daemon’s relationship to Daenerys explained

***Spoilers for possible House of The Dragon storylines ahead***

Rhaenyra is Daenerys’ great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. Daenerys’ relationship to Daemon is not so simple. With a very complicated bloodline separating them, he can only be described as a distant uncle.  

Following the death of their spouses, Rhaenyra and Daemon marry in 120 AC. Together, they have 3 children, Aegon the Younger, Viserys, and Visenya. When Viserys dies in 129 AC, his wife, Dowager Queen Alicent Hightower defies his dying wish, and crowns his son Aegon II King. Rhaenyra responds to this by declaring war - a war that kills thousands of men and sees the demise of several dragons. 

Aegon II kills Rhaenyra, and  betrothes his daughter Jaehaera to Aegon the Younger, her only surviving child. Aegon dies in In 131 AC, and the throne is taken by 11-year-old Aegon the Younger, who becomes Aegon III Targaryen. When he dies in 157 AC, his eldest son Daeron I Targaryen takes the throne, until his demise in 160 AC. 

Dying without an heir, Daeron’s younger brother Baelor I Targaryen takes the throne, and is succeeded in 171 AC - the throne is taken by his uncle, Prince Viserys, brother of Aegon III. Viserys becomes King Viserys ll. He is succeeded by his eldest son, Aegon IV. 

Aegon is succeeded by his son, Daeron II - his son takes the throne in 209 AC, becoming Aerys I Targaryen. In 221 AC, Aerys I's youngest brother, Maekar reigns for 12 years, until his youngest son Aegon V is crowned King. Aegon V's second son Jaehaerys II Targaryen takes the throne in 259 AC and is succeeded by his only son, Aerys II Targaryen after only 3 years of ruling. Aerys ll is, of course, the Mad King, and this is where the events of Game of Thrones begin. 

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

(Image credit: Sky)

Why do Targaryens have white hair? 

The official name for the Targaryen hair colour is silver, and not all Targaryen’s share that colour, although a lot of them do. 

According to Reddit (opens in new tab), the Targaryens are descended from the high Lords of Valyria, and of pure Valyrian blood. They took on the traits of the Valyrians including white blonde, or silver hair. They also have eye colour of varying shades of purple, violet, and indigo, which puts them in stark contrast to “ordinary” people who display normal human features and characteristics. 

It is believed that inbreeding began in order to retain what the Targrayens would have felt to be superior characteristics, setting them apart from other races. It is speculated that as the genes for silver hair and purple eyes are recessive, they would easily have been overridden by more dominant genes - offering another reason for inbreeding. As an example, Jon Snow was half Targaryen, and he took the loo of his mother - a Stark. This confirms that not all those born to a Targaryen would have white or silver hair.

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