Tracking a family tree is complicated in the world of Game of Thrones, especially for the Targaryen family. Much of their lineage was recorded in author George R.R. Martin‘s novels since they ruled Westeros for hundreds of years, but it’s still not as simple as just saying that Daenerys Targaryen is born eight generations after House of the Dragon‘s Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen.
Why? Because Rhaenrya and Daenerys appear to be one and the same—sharing the potential to mold the world into a better place (as long as you don’t end up burning an entire city to the ground). Daenerys once stated that she hoped to “break the wheel,” and Rhaenrya states in House of the Dragon that she wants to “establish a new world order.” She is Daenerys’s sixth great-grandmother after all. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, and that’s because the Targaryen’s are kind of known for one thing outside of riding dragons.
That’s right, it’s incest. Like the Spanish kings of the Habsburg dynasty throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, it wasn’t uncommon hundreds of years ago for siblings, cousins, uncles, or nieces to marry and have children together. It’s the same in Thrones, and the Targaryens are absolutely obsessed with it. Be warned! Their family tree is also loaded with spoilers for House of the Dragon, so turn around now if you don’t want to find out what awful relationships will soon take place.
Here we go! Working backward from Daenerys—the last Targaryen by name—we have her father, the “Mad King” Aerys II, and his sister-wife, Rhaella Targaryen. The Mad King’s death at the hands of the “king slayer” Jaime Lannister occurs right before the events of Game of Thrones, setting the stage for eight seasons of conflict. As does the murder of Daenerys’ brother, Rhaegar, who was killed alongside his lover, Lyanna Stark, just after giving birth to Jon Snow.
Aerys II and Rhaella’s parents, King Jaehaerys II Targaryen and Shaera Targaryen were also siblings. Genetically speaking, this was all very bad. Daenerys’s quick turn into an insane murderer in Season Eight of Thrones may have shocked and angered fans, but decades of incest certainly must explain why the mother of dragons eventually had a few screws loose.
Daenerys’s great-grandfather, Aegon V, was a rare example of Targaryens breaking the chain of marrying their siblings. He wed a woman named Betha Blackwood, and his adventures are chronicled in novellas by George R.R. Martin entitled Tales of Dunk and Egg. Fun fact: Davos Seaworth’s ship, Black Betha, also pays homage to the former Queen. Before Aegon V, his father Maekar married Dyanna Dane, and Maekar’s father,”the Good” King Daeron II Targaryen, married Mariah Martell. Wow! All of these normal relationships. “The Good” indeed!
Aegon V, Maekar, and Daeron II are still all products of incest, however, as they’re all Kings who stem from the sibling relationship between Aegon IV and Naerys Targaryen. We’re now six generations before Daenerys is born, with one of the worst Targaryen kings in history sitting on the throne. Aegon IV was dubbed “the Unworthy” because he sired many bastard children and incited countless rebellions. He also had a daughter named Daenerys, from whom our Daenerys in Thrones likely got her name.
Aegon IV’s parents were Viserys II Targaryen and a woman named Larra Rogare. Viserys II was named after his grandfather, King Viserys, who rules Westeros at the beginning of the House of the Dragon. Therefore, his mother is finally Rhaenyra Targaryen, the young princess at the center of House of the Dragon and the heir to the throne. This is, however, where the real spoilers occur. According to Fire & Blood—the fictional text on which House of the Dragon is based—his father is Daemon Targaryen, meaning that Rhaenyra eventually marries her insane uncle. Yuck!
Josh Rosenberg is an entertainment writer living in Brooklyn, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day; his work can be found at Spin, Insider, Vibe, and on his personal blog at Roseandblog.com.