- "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died."
- ―Jorah Mormont
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is an unseen character in Game of Thrones, being deceased when the events of the series commence. He was the eldest son and heir of King Aerys II Targaryen, holding the title of Prince of Dragonstone. Rhaegar was the older brother of Viserys and Daenerys, though Daenerys was born after he died. He was known to have won the affections of many, most notably Cersei Lannister. He was the last great champion of House Targaryen before his sister rose to power.
Rhaegar was blamed for starting Robert's Rebellion by abducting Lyanna Stark - though his reasons for taking her remain unknown - and he was killed by Robert Baratheon, Lyanna's betrothed, at the climax of the war. Rhaegar was the husband of Elia Martell and the father of her two children, Aegon and Rhaenys. In addition, he was the biological father of Jon Snow by Lyanna.
BackgroundPrince Rhaegar Targaryen was the eldest son and heir to the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, by his sister/wife Queen Rhaella Targaryen. Tywin Lannister desired for his daughter Cersei to marry Rhaegar, but King Aerys II insulted Tywin by indicating that such a match would be beneath Rhaegar. Instead, Rhaegar was married to his distant cousin Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, with whom he had a daughter named Rhaenys and then a son named Aegon. In spite of Elia's love and loyalty to him, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna Stark of Winterfell for unknown reasons.
After the Mad King had both Lyanna's father Rickard and oldest brother Brandon brutally executed because the latter brazenly rode to the capital, demanding Rhaegar release Lyanna, her other brother, Eddard Stark, and her betrothed, Robert Baratheon, joined forces with several other houses to overthrow the Targaryen dynasty. This war became known as the War of the Usurper or Robert's Rebellion. After initially remaining away from the fighting in Dorne, Rhaegar was summoned to lead the Royalist forces in what would be the Battle of the Trident. Before he left Dorne however, he ordered Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower to remain at the Tower of Joy to protect Lyanna, who at the time was expecting his child. During the Battle, Rhaegar was killed in single combat with Lyanna's betrothed Robert Baratheon in the midst of a spectacular duel. Rhaegar was struck down with a massive blow from Robert's warhammer, which scattered the rubies encrusted in Rhaegar's armor under the water. That location was named the "Ruby Ford" thereafter.
His father was killed shortly afterwards by Ser Jaime Lannister during the Sack of King's Landing and his mother died in childbirth at Dragonstone. His younger brother Viserys and sister Daenerys (who was born after Rhaegar's death) survived in exile in the Free Cities across the sea. Lyanna later died at the Tower of Joy after giving birth to Jon Snow. Rhaenys and Aegon were killed in front of Elia by Ser Gregor Clegane, better known as "The Mountain that Rides", who afterwards raped Elia and killed her too.
When King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell, he immediately goes with Lord Eddard Stark to see Lyanna Stark's grave in the crypts beneath the castle. Robert tells Eddard that he kills Rhaegar every night in his dreams. Robert also mentions Rhaegar when arguing with Ned over the morality of having Daenerys assassinated, using what Rhaegar Targaryen did to Lyanna as ammunition for his claim.
When Daenerys successfully consumes a stallion's heart and the Dosh khaleen declare her unborn son to be the Stallion Who Mounts the World, Daenerys confirms this, and declares that he will be named Rhaego in honor of her brother.
When Jon Snow hears about his "father" Eddard Stark's imprisonment, Maester Aemon reveals his Targaryen heritage to him and recounts the deaths of his Rhaegar and his children, who unbeknownst to them both were Jon's true father and half-siblings.
When Daenerys Targaryen considers the possibility of buying Unsullied to employ as her army in her quest to win the Iron Throne, Ser Barristan Selmy pleads her not to do it, mentioning how Rhaegar fought with men that believed in his cause at the Trident. Ser Jorah Mormont counters that Rhaegar fought bravely and honorably, but perished nonetheless.
On her way to her father's funeral at the Great Sept of Baelor, Cersei recalls visiting a maegi known as Maggy to predict her future. Young Cersei asks Maggy if she will marry the Prince as her father desired. Maggy answers that she will not, but she will marry the King. Around the same time, Daenerys visits her imprisoned dragons, calling Rhaegal, the second child she has named after her brother, by name.
Barristan Selmy shares some of his memories of Rhaegar with his sister. Dany is pleasantly surprised to discover that Rhaegar was more than the great killer that Viserys made him out to be. Selmy tells her how Rhaegar used to disguise himself as a minstrel and play on the streets of King's Landing while Ser Barristan stood guard. Rhaegar made quite a tidy profit on these excursions, and although he once spent the money on getting himself and Selmy very, very drunk, he usually gave the money away to other minstrels or to orphanages. Barristan mentions that Rhaegar never liked killing but instead loved singing.
Around the same time, Petyr Baelish explains the events of the Tourney at Harrenhal to Sansa Stark when she accuses Rhaegar of kidnapping and raping Lyanna. Baelish gives Sansa a simple account of what everyone saw happen, rather than interpret the events that followed.
Bran Stark learns through a vision that his "half-brother", Jon Snow, is actually Rhaegar's son by his aunt Lyanna, and that his father Ned passed him off as his bastard son in order to protect him from Robert, who would have surely killed him if he ever found out.
- "In my dreams, I kill him every night."
- ―Robert Baratheon shows his undying hatred of Rhaegar.
- "When your brother Rhaegar led his army into battle at the Trident, men died for him because they believed in him, because they loved him. I fought beside the last dragon on that day, your Grace. I bled beside him."
- ―Ser Barristan Selmy to Daenerys
- Daenerys Targaryen: "Did you know him well, Ser Barristan?"
- Barristan Selmy: "I did, your Grace. Finest man I ever met."
- Daenerys Targaryen: "I wish I had known him, but he was not the last dragon."
- — Rhaegar Targaryen remembered.[src]
- Petyr Baelish: "The last two riders were Barristan Selmy and Rhaegar Targaryen. When Rhaegar won, everyone cheered for their prince. I remember the girls laughing when he took off his helmet and saw that silver hair. How handsome he was. Until he rode right past his wife Elia Martell, and all the smiles died. I've never seen so many people so quiet. He rode past his wife and he lay a crown of winter roses in Lyanna's lap. Blue with frost. How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?"
- Sansa Stark: "Yes he chose her. And then he kidnapped her and raped her."
- — Petyr Baelish and Sansa Stark discuss Rhaegar.
- Barristan Selmy: "Viserys never told you?"
- Daenerys Targaryen: "He told me Rhaegar was good at killing people."
- Barristan Selmy: "Rhaegar never liked killing. He loved singing."
- — Ser Barristan recounts his time with Rhaegar.[src]
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Rhaegar is depicted as a chivalrous, honorable, and just warrior well loved by the smallfolk, albeit one often distracted by other concerns, and apparently unable or unwilling to restrain the worst excesses of his father. He had a strained relationship with his father, which was helped along by the king's paranoia, and lords who spoke ill of the Crown Prince and claimed he was plotting to overthrow Aerys.
Rhaegar had silver-gold hair and dark lilac eyes. He was considered to be tall and handsome. Cersei Lannister, who was infatuated with him, remembers Rhaegar as the most beautiful man she had ever seen. Rhaegar was very bookish in his youth, such that people jested that the Queen must have swallowed some books and a candle while he was in her womb. As a boy, he was able to impress the maesters with his wit. He only became a warrior after reading something that changed his outlook, and thence pursued his martial training with as much dedication as his studies.
Apparently, Rhaegar read some prophecy in an arcane book about The Prince That Was Promised, who would save the world from the return of the White Walkers. For a time, it seems that Rhaegar thought he himself was the Prince, but later he apparently thought it would be his children: noting that "the dragon has three heads" (referring to the Targaryen sigil), he seems to have been convinced that the prophecy about "the" Prince actually referred to three people acting together: the Targaryens had first conquered and united Westeros when led by three dragon-riders: Aegon I and his two sister-wives, Rhaenys and Visenya. Rhaegar even named his first two children after the original trio of the Targaryen Conquest generation: first his daughter Rhaenys, then his son Aegon (though in the original trio, Visenya was actually the eldest, Rhaenys the youngest). Unfortunately, the health of Rhaegar's wife Elia Martell suffered greatly during her first two pregnancies, and the maesters warned that she would not survive an attempt to have a third child. This may have encouraged Rhaegar to try to fulfill the prophecy by having a third child with another woman.
Rhaegar's reasons for kidnapping Lyanna Stark remain a mystery to both his supporters and his detractors, but the entire realm knows that they first met at a great tourney at Harrenhal. Rhaegar had crowned her Queen of Love and Beauty, passing over his own wife, an action that shocked all present.
A year after the tourney, Rhaegar and two knights of the Kingsguard fell upon Lyanna in the Riverlands and took her to a secure location (eventually revealed to be a hidden redoubt in the Red Mountains of Dorne). This event is cited as the catalyst for Robert's Rebellion, although strictly speaking it was Aerys' own paranoia and brutal reaction when he executed Rickard and Brandon Stark, Lyanna's father and brother, that finally prompted the Starks, Baratheons, Arryns, and Tullys to rise in rebellion.
When Rhaegar returned to the capital to take command of the royal army and lead them into battle, Jaime Lannister - who had become quite appalled by the Mad King's actions - begged Rhaegar to take him along. Rhaegar refused but promised Jaime that changes would be made once the rebellion had been crushed. However, Rhaegar ultimately perished at the hands of Robert Baratheon at the Battle of the Trident.
With Rhaegar's death and the loss of the Battle of Trident, the Royalist cause was seen as doomed. With this decisive rebel victory, the Lannisters and Greyjoys, who had stayed out of the conflict, joined the war on the rebels' side. This led to the Greyjoy raid of the Reach, as well as the Lannister Sack of King's Landing and the death of Aerys.
When Daenerys Targaryen was in the House of the Undying, one of the visions she saw was a man resembling Viserys but taller than him, with dark indigo eyes, and a woman nursing a newborn babe in a great wooden bed. They were confirmed by George R.R. Martin to be Rhaegar, Elia, and their infant son Aegon.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The Winds of Winter"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Mad King Aerys (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Tywin Lannister's perspective"
- ↑ House Martell (Histories & Lore)
- ↑ "Robert's Rebellion#Oberyn Martell's perspective"
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "The Sack of King's Landing (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Luwin"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "Robert's Rebellion (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Robert Baratheon's perspective"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "Robert's Rebellion (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Viserys Targaryen's perspective"
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Winter is Coming"
- ↑ "Fire and Blood"
- ↑ "The Kingsroad"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ "Baelor"
- ↑ "Walk of Punishment"
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 "The Wars to Come"
- ↑ "Sons of the Harpy"
- ↑ The Citadel: Prophecies - Westeros.org