- "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died."
- ―Jorah Mormont
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen was the eldest son and heir to King Aerys II Targaryen, holding the title of Prince of Dragonstone. He was the older brother of Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen and husband of Elia Martell, with whom he had two children: Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen. Secretly, however, his marriage to Elia had been annulled and he remarried Lyanna Stark. Together, the two secretly had a son: Jon Snow, who was raised by Lyanna's brother Eddard Stark as his bastard son to protect the child from those that sought the destruction of House Targaryen after Robert's Rebellion. Rhaegar was said to have ignited the rebellion after allegedly abducting Lyanna Stark. Lyanna's betrothed, Lord Robert Baratheon, slew Rhaegar at the climactic Battle of the Trident.
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, who served as Aerys's faithful Hand of the King for nearly twenty years, desired that he would agree to a marriage between Rhaegar and his own daughter Cersei. Young Cersei herself hoped that she would marry Rhaegar some day. King Aerys denied the request, however, and 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.
During the great Tourney of Harrenhal, where all the prominent lords of Westeros assembled, Rhaegar faced off against Ser Barristan Selmy in the final tilt, and won. Instead of giving the victor's wreath to his own wife Elia, however, the entire crowd of hundreds of people fell silent as he rode past her and gave it to Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, to name her as the tournament's Queen of Love and Beauty. This was doubly controversial, as Lyanna was herself already betrothed to marry Robert Baratheon. Some months later, under as-yet unknown circumstances, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna.
Lyanna's oldest brother Brandon then rode to King's Landing to demand the return of his sister, but King Aerys imprisoned him. When their father Rickard went south to demand his son's release, he was imprisoned as well. The Mad King then brutally executed both of them by burning Lord Rickard alive with wildfire in front of the Iron Throne and baiting Brandon to strangle himself to death. In response, Eddard Stark and Lyanna's 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 climactic confrontation of the war, 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 war hammer, which scattered the rubies encrusted in Rhaegar's armor under the water. That location was named the "Ruby Ford" thereafter.
The rebel army continued on to King's Landing - but Tywin Lannister's army arrived there first. Feigning that he had come to help Aerys, Tywin really saw that with Rhaegar dead the Targaryen cause was lost, and was there to betray him to gain favor with the rebels after the war ended. After being let inside the gates, Tywin's army promptly began to brutally sack the entire city. Rhaegar's father the Mad King was himself killed by his own Kingsguard, Tywin's son Jaime Lannister (to stop him from enacting the Wildfire plot to burn down the city). Meanwhile, Lannister soldiers gained entry into the Red Keep. Ser Gregor Clegane, known as "the Mountain that Rides", cornered Rhaegar's wife and two small children in the royal apartments. Gregor killed Rhaenys and baby Aegon while their mother Elia watched helplessly, then raped Elia, before killing her too.
Shortly before the sack, however, Rhaegar's heavily pregnant mother Queen Rhaella had been sent to safety on Dragonstone island, along with his younger brother Viserys. Not long after they arrived, however, Rhaella died giving birth to Rhaegar's younger sister, Daenerys Targaryen. Viserys and his newborn sister then fled into exile in the Free Cities, across the Narrow Sea, before Robert's soldiers could arrive on the island.
Lyanna Stark did not survive much longer: after arriving at King's Landing in the aftermath of the sack, her brother Eddard rode south with his companions searching for her, before finding her at the Tower of Joy in the western mountains of Dorne, protected by the last of the Targaryen Kingsguard under the legendary Ser Arthur Dayne, who had been ordered to keep her safe by Rhaegar himself. Eddard and his companions fought them in an epic confrontation, at the end of which all were dead except for himself and the wounded Howland Reed.
Eddard raced inside only to find that Lyanna was dying from childbirth, to Rhaegar's last child and heir. Lyanna made Eddard promise to keep him safe, because if Robert ever found out that Rhaegar had a surviving son, he would kill him. Eddard departed with Rhaegar and Lyanna's newborn son and took him back to Winterfell, where he passed him off as his own bastard son fathered on campaign: Jon Snow.
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 great-nephew 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.
While conversing with Tyrion Lannister shortly after his arrival to King's Landing for the upcoming wedding of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell, Prince Oberyn Martell, Elia's younger brother, shows his ire toward Rhaegar for leaving his sister (after she bore his children) "for another woman".
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.
Through a series of visions, Bran Stark, Lyanna's nephew, witnesses the showdown that took place at the Tower of Joy, and learns that his "half-brother", Jon Snow, is actually Rhaegar's son by Bran's aunt Lyanna, and that his father, Eddard, 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. Before his death at the climax of the showdown, Ser Arthur told Eddard that Rhaegar had ordered them to remain at the Tower of Joy, but he did not specify why.
Daenerys tells Jon that both Viserion and Rhaegal were named for her deceased brothers, neither of them yet aware that Rhaegar was secretly Jon's biological father, or that this means Jon is really her nephew.
Gilly tells Samwell Tarly that she found a record establishing that Rhaegar had his marriage annulled so that he could wed another, but Samwell doesn't catch on as he is too absorbed in his own misery at the Citadel and cuts her off before Gilly can finish telling Sam what she discovered.
- 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]
Before his alleged abduction of Lyanna Stark, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is said to have been a very popular figure in the Seven Kingdoms in contrast to his erratic father, King Aerys. Despite the superb skills he displayed while participating in the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, where he mysteriously crowned Lyanna as the Queen of Love and Beauty instead of his own wife Elia Martell. Ser Barristan Selmy (whom Rhaegar had unhorsed in the final joust) described Rhaegar as a peaceful man who much preferred singing over fighting and killing. Rhaegar was certainly highly skilled in combat, being able to wound Robert Baratheon during their fateful duel during the Battle of the Trident, but nonetheless he was also a very compassionate young man, as evidenced by the fact that, when he went out to sing in Flea Bottom, he would give the money to the next minstrel on the street, or to an orphanage; there was one exception, where Barristan and Rhaegar got horribly drunk on the money they made, but this could be an example that Rhaegar considered the men following him to be his friends as well. The upshot of this is that Rhaegar loved his people almost as much as they loved him.
Rhaegar was a highly intelligent person who loved to read, so much that he was late into his decision to take up swordsmanship. He was an extremely charismatic man, shown by the fact that those who followed him were loyal to him and some believed him to be the finest man they ever met. However, this loyalty would come as a cost to some people, including Rhaegar himself. For example, Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower did not accompany Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident because Rhaegar had ordered them to stay at the Tower of Joy and guard Lyanna thus Rhaegar had ultimately doomed them to die at the hands of Lyanna's brother, Eddard. Before his death, Ser Gerold declared that had Rhaegar brought him and Ser Arthur along to the Trident, Robert would surely have perished instead. Ser Gerold managed to kill one of the Northmen in the ensuing skirmish, however, his bravado proved somewhat inadequate as he was killed less than a minute later by Eddard, leaving Ser Arthur all alone to follow their dead prince's orders to the bitter end. Although Ser Arthur managed to cut down half of the Northmen with relative ease and disarm Eddard, he too was eventually killed. Still, given the superb skills Ser Arthur displayed up to his death, there is always a possibility that things might have turned out differently had Rhaegar at least brought him along to the Trident.
Although Rhaegar proved to have been admirable enough that a great many men followed him to defeat at the Trident because they believed in him and his cause, there were those, mainly Robert Baratheon, who viewed Rhaegar as an evil man. This is probably a biased opinion, since Robert was plunged into depression by the loss of the woman he claimed to love, and the common theory that Rhaegar abducted her made him a cruel man in Robert's mind. Oberyn Martell also had an unfavorable view of Rhaegar for running off with Lyanna and leaving his sister, Elia. Also, Viserys Targaryen, Rhaegar's younger brother, thought that Rhaegar loved to kill people, derived from the basis that he was a great warrior, leading to Daenerys developing the same assumption. However, Daenerys would eventually hear a dramatically different account from Ser Barristan about Rhaegar, saying that her brother was peaceful man who never liked killing.
Rhaegar was very different from his father Aerys, and did not express the bloodthirst, obsession or pyromania that Aerys had done, therefore he presumably did not suffer the Targaryen madness that his family was legendary for. Although it was largely his father's brutal execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark, Lyanna's father and brother, that turned half the realm against the Targaryens and led to the deaths of tens of thousands, it can be argued that Rhaegar is not without blame. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding his alleged kidnapping of Lyanna and their apparent conception of Jon Snow, the fact remains that Rhaegar recklessly stole another man's betrothed. He might have eventually realized his mistake in taking Lyanna without an explanation, and hoped to end the rebellion without having to kill Eddard or Robert (which could explain why the latter ultimately killed him instead), but whatever plans Rhaegar had for restoring Targaryen rule over the Seven Kingdoms, despite the blowback that resulted due to his aforementioned actions, ultimately died with him. His other two children, Rhaenys and Aegon, also ultimately perished due in part to Rhaegar's unexplained actions. It is unknown whether or not Rhaegar merely lusted after Lyanna, or if he truly loved her. However, the fact that Lyanna, in her final moments, implored her brother Eddard to protect their son from Robert's wrath lends credence to the possibility that she loved Rhaegar.
It is uncertain whether Rhaegar's relationship with his wife Elia Martell was loving. Oberyn Martell expressed disdain towards Rhaegar for "leaving her for another woman" (Lyanna) and insisted that Elia loved her husband dearly, but despite Elia having born him two children, it is never stated in the series whether Rhaegar truly returned her love. However, the fact that he publicly chose Lyanna over Elia at the tournament and later had their marriage annulled implies he did not.
- "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]
- "The last time I was in the capital was many years ago. Another wedding. My sister Elia and Rhaegar Targaryen, the last dragon. My sister loved him. She bore his children. Swaddled them, rocked them, fed them at her own breast, Elia wouldn't let the wet nurse touch them. And beautiful, noble Rhaegar Targaryen...left her for another woman."
- ―Oberyn Martell shows his ire toward Rhaegar.
- 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.
|Aegon V Targaryen|
|Aerys II Targaryen|
|Elia Martell |
|Lyanna Stark |
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 (perhaps Rhaegar meant to depose his lunatic father). 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"
- ↑ "The Wars to Come"
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Mad King Aerys (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Tywin Lannister's perspective"
- ↑ House Martell (Histories & Lore)
- ↑ "Robert's Rebellion#Oberyn Martell's perspective"
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 "The Sack of King's Landing (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Luwin"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "Robert's Rebellion (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Robert Baratheon's perspective"
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Robert's Rebellion (Complete Guide to Westeros)#Viserys Targaryen's perspective"
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 "Winter is Coming"
- ↑ "Oathbreaker"
- ↑ "The Winds of Winter"
- ↑ "The Kingsroad"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ "Baelor"
- ↑ "Walk of Punishment"
- ↑ "Two Swords"
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 "The Wars to Come"
- ↑ "Sons of the Harpy"
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 "Oathbreaker"
- ↑ "The Queen's Justice"
- ↑ "Eastwatch"
- ↑ The Citadel: Prophecies - Westeros.org