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The Targaryen Family Tree Explained

Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff shaped George R. R. Martin's book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" into "Game of Thrones," a hit HBO show that stunned audiences during its eight-season run. In this epic fantasy, House Targaryen, though a fallen dynasty at the start of the show and the books' narratives, stands as a prominent player in Westeros history. The family's lineage is complicated, expansive, and full of a whole lot of incest. As a result, the Targaryen family tree can be pretty difficult to keep straight — but that's what we're here for. 

We've mapped out the House of the Dragon's bloodline in order to offer you an overview of the most significant members of this royal family and the most prominent historical moments during their reign. If we gave you every small detail, we'd be here until next year and you'd probably have one killer headache, but this rundown serves as a good, comprehensive guide to the Targaryen family tree. You can even pair it with our piece on the entire House Targaryen timeline, as this will also help you trace the once-mighty empire's lifespan — from its conception to its golden era to its slow and painful death and, finally, to the bloody and ruinous aftermath (which is where the story depicted in the television series and the books really starts). For a lovely visual aid while you read, consider checking out poly-m's depiction of the complete House Targaryen family tree on DeviantArt.

Aegon the Conqueror unites the Seven Kingdoms

Aegon the Conqueror, also known as Aegon the Dragon, was the first Targaryen to reign over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. In the War of Conquest, with the aid of his sister-wives and fellow dragonriders Visenya and Rhaenys, three dragons, and an army, Aegon invaded and conquered six of the seven realms, ensuring centuries-long Targaryen rule. Only Dorne resisted, managing to successfully hold out for a couple hundred years with guerrilla war tactics before eventually joining the rest of the continent voluntarily via the marital unions of Maron Martell and Princess Daenerys (daughter of Aegon IV) and Myriah Martell and King Daeron II (son of Aegon IV and the twelfth Targaryen king). 

Notably, Aegon is also responsible for the construction of King's Landing and the creation of the ultimate symbol of power with the mighty Iron Throne, the royal seat forged from the dragonfire-melted swords of his fallen enemies. In Season 1 of the show, during a conversation between Daenerys and Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) about Aegon's sweeping conquest, Jorah criticizes Aegon for taking over the continent, arguing the man had no claim or right. Daenaerys believes Aegon's dragons made all the difference, but Jorah doubts the existence of such beasts. In their time, the events that brought the realms together happened so long ago. And to Jorah, the idea of real live dragons feels like a distant fairytale.

Aegon IV prompts Blackfyre Rebellion

Aegon IV, or Aegon the Unworthy, is the next most significant entry in the Targaryen family tree because he's largely considered the worst king in this dynasty's entire history. Vain, corrupt, lustful, and gluttonous, the eleventh Protector of the Realm took many mistresses and indulged his vices to absurd levels. While his children Daeron and Daenerys helped solidify Targaryen rule over the seven realms by uniting Dorne with the rest of the continent through their marriages with the Martells, Aegon IV threatened the family's hold over the other kingdoms by legitimizing all his illegitimate children on his deathbed. 

Perhaps he did it for his son Daemon, the product of the king's intimate relations with his cousin and mistress, Queen Daena. After all, Daemon was rumored to be Aegon IV's favorite child. Upon his new status as the recognized son of a ruling — and dying — king, Daemon created House Blackfyre to solidify his House of the Dragon status and declare himself the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, dividing loyalties and igniting civil war in his bid for the crown. While Daemon himself perished in the Battle of the Redgrass Field during the first Blackfyre Rebellion, his successors took on his cause and fueled a movement that lasted for 60 years. So, all in all, this guy is, indeed, a pretty unworthy king. There also seems to be a pretty distinct parallel between Aegon IV and King Henry VIII.

Aegon V rules over a harsh winter

After King Daeron II succumbed to the Great Spring Sickness, he passed the crown to his son Aerys, whose rule, according to the books, was plagued by famine and various rebellions. Because Aerys had no children and his other brothers were dead or suffering from the "Targaryen madness" that comes with generations of inbreeding, his brother Maekar inherited the throne. And then, due to one son's death and another's vows as a maester, Aegon V (known as "Egg" by book fans and older brother Aemon), originally 12th in line, became Maekar's unlikely successor. Martin traces Aegon V's childhood through the prequel novella series "Tales of Dunk and Egg," which follows the youngster as he bonds with and becomes the squire of Ser Duncan the Tall, his eventual Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and develops great compassion for the struggling smallfolk. 

Aegon V began his rule in the midst of a harsh winter and reigned for 26 years, raising taxes on the wealthy to help ensure economic stability for commoners. This made him popular among the masses, but nobility came to resent him. In the show, he married his sister, but in the books, he married Betha Blackwood and was considered a champion of liberal policies and love-filled unions (despite the political implications). In the books, his son Jaehaerys took the throne after he and original heir Prince Duncan perished in the Tragedy at Summerhall during an ill-fated attempt to hatch ancient dragon eggs.

Maester Aemon and the Night's Watch

As the second son of Maekar and Dyanna, Aemon (portrayed by the late Peter Vaughan) had more claim to the throne than younger brother Aegon V after their other brother, Aerion, died. But Aemon had little interest in being king, seeking knowledge and a life of service instead. By Aerion's death, Aemon had already taken his maester vows and relinquished his surname. Eventually, he removed himself from the royal court completely — to prevent others from pitting him against his brother — by joining the Night's Watch in service of Castle Black. 

At the start of the show, Aemon's already considered a wise hundred-year-old man who provides guidance to anyone who needs it, and most have forgotten he ever carried the Targaryen name. In Season 2, he reveals his royal lineage to Jon Snow when the younger man considers deserting the Night's Watch after hearing about Ned Stark's imprisonment. Aemon confesses he was faced with a similar choice during Robert's Rebellion when he learned of the deaths of nephew Aerys, Aerys' son Rhaegar, and Rhaegar's young children. He fumed over their slaughter, but ultimately chose his duty to the Watch, the Wall, and Castle Black over his former House and family. While on his deathbed, finally succumbing to old age, Aemon calls out for "Egg," and upon learning of Dany's survival (his great-niece in the show, but great-great niece in the books), laments that she'll be left to fight her battles alone.

Aerys II, The Mad King

To make the Targaryen lineage simpler and certain familial connections easier to understand, the showrunners of the HBO series retconned a few details regarding this expansive family tree. Instead of Aerys II being the son of Jaehaerys and the grandson of Aegon V, as he is in the books, he's the son and heir of Aegon V instead. With the omission of Jaehaerys, who, according to the books, ruled over Westeros for a mere three years before dying of grief, Aerys becomes the 16th Protector of the Realm rather than the 17th. 

As you can see, whether you're tracing the Targaryen dynasty through the show's mythology or through book canon, it's still a bit tricky to keep track of. But that's what happens when a royal family's so intent on keeping bloodlines pure by marrying their siblings and cousins. Things get complicated. While Aerys fought for his father in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and began his rule as a benevolent king, he eventually fell victim to the "Targaryen madness." His six-month imprisonment during the Defiance of Duskendale marked his descent into tyrannical cruelty. He beat and raped his sister-wife, lusted after his Hand Tywin Lannister's wife, and appointed Jaime Lannister a member of the Kingsguard to spite his old friend and take away the man's heir. Believing himself a dragon in human skin, he chose to execute by fire, and was ready to burn everything down before Jaime stabbed him.

Rhaegar falls in love with a Stark

As the eldest son of King Aerys II and Queen Rhaella, Rhaegar showed great promise as future king and all of Westeros looked forward to his reign. In fact, everyone held such high hopes for what Rhaegar would do for the realms that they were willing to endure Aerys' madness for a while longer. Rhaegar, too, decided to wait out his father's rule rather than intervene when the man became even more erratic — he believed the small royal court could maintain stability until he assumed power. But fueled by distrust and growing insanity, Aerys continued to make powerful enemies of his former friends — particularly the Lannisters. 

Fearful of Hand Tywin possibly usurping him, the increasingly paranoid Aerys II rejected the idea of a union between his son Rhaegar and Tywin's daughter Cersei that might have solidified the relationship between House Targaryen and House Lannister. Instead (and also because his heir had no sister to wed), the king arranged a marriage between Rhaegar and Elia Martell. The pair had a son and a daughter together: Aegon and Rhaenys. But Rhaegar loved another. During the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, Rhaeger moved Lyanna Stark of Winterfell to tears with his harp and, upon winning his joust against Ser Barristan Selmy, laid the victor's wreath before Lyanna rather than his own wife, declaring the northern she-wolf the "Queen of Love and Beauty." Not long after, he annulled his marriage with Elia Martell.

Robert's Rebellion

The Mad King's sadistic rule, Rhaegar and Lyanna's disappearance and elopement, and the execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark eventually culminated in Robert's Rebellion. Though Rhaegar and Lyanna ran off with each other willingly, it came across as a straight-up abduction of Robert Baratheon's betrothed to everyone else. Which, when there's already an incredible amount of unrest throughout the realms, is not a great look. And that's where things got bloody. 

The pair's secret (but consensual) marriage sparked some grave misconceptions, condemned others to death, and fueled Robert's brutal but successful Rebellion. While Tywin Lannister led the Sack of King's Landing, Jaime Lannister saved everyone from burning by murdering the crazed ruler and his pyromancer (thus becoming the Kingslayer). During this time, Rhaegar's loyalist army clashed with Robert's rebels on the Trident, where Robert finally defeated his foe on the battlefield. Robert's Rebellion marks a historical moment in which most — if not all — of the Targaryens are wiped out, making it a notable entry in tracing the Targaryen family tree. After trying to cleanse the land of the dragonborn, Robert Baratheon took over as Protector of the Realm. In the show, when Robert hears news of Daenerys' marriage to Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa) and her resulting pregnancy, he considers sending assassins after her despite his friend Ned's horrified protests.

Rhaenys, Aegon, and Elia

Rhaegar's ex-wife Elia and her children did not survive the relentless bloodshed the Mad King and the Rebellion brought upon the land. The Houses had rallied behind the Lannisters and Robert Baratheon, and even the fact that she, Rhaenys, and Aegon were considered to be Aerys II's royal hostages to ensure the loyalty of House Dorne didn't grant them any sympathy from the rebels. Anyone with a connection to Aerys and Rhaegar — really, anyone with Targaryen blood — faced a death sentence. 

During the Sack of King's Landing, the sadistic Ser Gregor Clegane (aka "The Mountain," played by Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) slaughtered little Rhaenys and baby Aegon before torturing and murdering Elia. Elia's brother Oberyn Martell, who spent years dreaming of and preparing for his chance to avenge his sister, nephew, and niece's deaths, sees the perfect opportunity to do so in Season 4 of the show when Tyrion requests a trial by combat. No one else — including Kingslayer Jaime Lannister — feels up to the task of facing Queen Cersei's champion Gregor, but Oberyn's determined. He approaches Tyrion and volunteers to fight for him (and thus for his sister). A fatal duel between the Red Viper and the Mountain follows. Unfortunately for Oberyn, while he nearly prevails, he pays for his efforts with his life when the Mountain gouges his eyes out and bashes his head in. Still, Oberyn exacts posthumous revenge by coating the spear he used with manticore venom.

Queen Rhaella

Queen Rhaella is the daughter of Jaehaerys in the books, the daughter of Aegon V in the show, and the wife and sister of Aerys II, the Mad King, in both of those universes. During her marriage to her brother, she endured a lot of intimate cruelty and violence and, despite the cold, loveless marriage, several miscarriages and stillbirths between Rhaegar's birth and Viserys'. After her eldest son, Rhaegar, died at the Battle of the Trident, Rhaella fled to Dragonstone, the Targaryen's ancestral seat, with her remaining son Viserys, while her abusive brother-husband died in the Sack of King's Landing. There, in Dragonstone, during a great storm, she gave birth to her youngest child, daughter Daenerys, before dying herself from the stress of the labor. Targaryen loyalists then took Viserys and Daenerys across the Narrow Sea, where they grew up in exile amid the Free Cities. In "A Song of Ice and Fire," Rhaella is remembered as a good mother who always tried to keep her children from seeing the worst parts of their father.

Viserys, The Beggar King

At the start of both the television and book series, Viserys is one of the few Targaryens still alive. Son of Aerys II and Queen Rhaella, and brother to Daenerys and the late Rhaegar, he's depicted as an unstable lunatic who's exceptionally despicable toward his sister because he blames her for the death of their mother. The siblings grew up roaming the Free Cities while Viserys searched for supporters who might help him return to Westeros to reclaim the Iron Throne, but he never gained much ground. Sometimes, he even had to beg for food. 

In the beginning of the show, Viserys and Daenerys are guests of Magister Illyrio Mopatis in Pentos. Viserys has just arranged a marriage between Daenerys and Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord, in exchange for an army big enough to get him back across the Narrow Sea and invade the Seven Kingdoms. After the wedding, Viserys insists on traveling with the Dothraki until Khal Drogo makes good on his end of the bargain, and by the time the group reaches the city of Vaes Dothrak, his patience has grown fatally thin. Viserys meets a brutal Season 1 death when he threatens Dany and her unborn child with Khal Drogo, drunkenly demanding what the warlord promised him. The other man simply replies that he will give Viserys "a golden crown that men will tremble to behold." Then, with Dany's permission, Khal Drogo kills Viserys by pouring molten gold over the Targaryen's head.

Daenerys, Mother of Dragons

Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), the only daughter of the Mad King and Queen Rhaella and the little sister of Rhaegar and Viserys, has what's arguably the most badass name in all of Westeros and Essos. Her formal (according to her) title: "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, and Mother of Dragons." 

You'd be forgiven for wondering why Daenerys calls herself the first of her name. Growing up, she was meek and obedient to her creep of a brother. And, in the aftermath of her arranged wedding during the show's first season, when she's gifted three ancient dragon eggs from Magister Illyrio Mopatis and books about the Seven Kingdoms from exiled knight Ser Jorah (who offers his service to her and her brother), Daenerys briefly struggles to cope. But after her handmaiden teaches her how to use her sexuality to her advantage and her translator starts teaching her the Dothraki language, Dany begins carving out a comfortable place and powerful position for herself. She eventually loses her brother, her unborn child, and the love of her life, but she also frees slaves, amasses armies, and emerges from her husband's funeral pyre unburnt — with three newly-hatched dragons to boot. Unfortunately, Dany's immunity to fire (only in the show) and her liberation of slaves fail to save her from descending into "Targaryen madness."

Jon Snow is dragonborn

Raised as a member of House Stark and as Ned Stark's illegitimate son, Jon Snow (born Aegon Targaryen) is actually the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Despite the shame it would bring upon himself and his wife, Ned promised his dying sister he would raise her child as his own and hide the boy's family roots. As Rhaegar's only son, Jon/Aegon (Kit Harington) is the true heir to the Iron Throne, but with few exceptions, no one (including Jon) knows he has both fire and ice in his veins. 

When he comes of age, he swears his allegiance to the Night's Watch. During his service, he travels beyond the Wall, encounters — and bonds with — wildlings, witnesses the horrors of wights and White Walkers, becomes Lord Commander, dies at the hands of mutinous men, and rises from the dead. Alive again, Jon finds himself free of his Night Watch vows and returns to Winterfell, where he assists Sansa Stark in taking back the North. From there, he pledges fealty to Dany in the fight against Cersei and the two, unaware of their familial ties, become lovers (though he does eventually learn he's her nephew). At the end of the HBO series, after watching Dany decimate a surrendered King's Landing with her dragon, Jon sacrifices love for duty and kills her to prevent more carnage. After a brief imprisonment for his crimes, he joins the wildlings beyond the Wall, effectively removing the last known Targaryen from Westeros.