Are the names of the Targaryen conquerors cursed?

March 8, 2019 0 By SerBuckley

Whilst doing some average to so-so writing about Rhaegar earlier last week (If, on the by chance, you did want to be super cool and take a look at that essay, you can do so here: http://thegrindstone.co.uk/rhaegars-plan-jon-or-visenya/) I, as you commonly do when taking a look at Targaryens, began thinking about their habit of reusing first names and doing honour to their ancestors thusly.

This isn’t singular to House Targaryen of course (cough, Bran, cough) but they do seem to go for it harder than others. Or perhaps it’s just because we know way more of their names. Either way, the names of the Targaryen are easily recognisible and come up often.

Anyway, part of my reading for this essay was thinking on Rhaegar’s children, his choices in naming, and the theory that he was trying to recreate the original trio of Targaryens (Yes. Correct. Your interest has been piqued. Scroll right back up so you too can become a believer).

As you may have guessed, a large basis of that theory is that Rhaegar named his daughter Rhaenys and his son Aegon. The renaming of Targaryen children makes sense- you pay homage to your ancestors, or you likely choose a name of someone famous/successful in the belief that your newborn will have a similar fortune.

With that in mind, there seems no better choice than the name Aegon. Aegon the Conqueror took an entire continent with his sisters, established a three-century-long dynasty and basically gave the Targaryens all they had. In many ways it is the ‘first’ Targaryen name. Unsurprisingly then, the Targaryen family tree is littered with various Aegons. Some of them royal, some of them never seeing puberty. But I noticed two things when writing this essay.

Firstly, while the name Aegon comes up a bunch, Queens Rhaenys and Visenya are not honoured so, despite their huge roles in the invasion. Yes, fair enough, this is Westeros, where women are never going to get the credit they deserve, especially with a larger than life male to root for. But still, surprising.

Secondly, those who did inherit the names did not have the best of lives. And especially the best of endings.

It brings me to the following question: are the names of the conquerors, Aegon; Visenya; Rhaenys; cursed somehow?

After all, they did invade and take over an entire country. They killed tens of thousands. They brought dragons and the magic of fire back to the shores of Westeros. The main nod against would be a question of who? The Andals certainly weren’t into this kind of thing. This is more of an old-school, old gods, children of the forest type past time. But hey, they were being invaded too. This was a tip-the-scales-of-the-world event, so who’s to say some small power didn’t do it?

But let’s look at the evidence first, one by one for our conquerors.

Visenya

Only one Visenya, other than the original, has come from House Targaryen. On this occasion, it isn’t that astonishing. Queen Visenya was not well-loved by the people. They (and Aegon himself) preferred younger, happier and more fun-loving Rhaenys. Her later years didn’t help, when the rumours of black magic began, or when her son Maegor became king and proceeded to bathe the realm in blood. She didn’t do herself any favours with the other Targaryens of the time either, aside from Maegor himself. So without further adieu, the singular Visenya:

  • Visenya (B. 129AC to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen)
    • You would think that being stillborn is enough of a tragedy for one poor soul, but apparently not. Rhaenyra went into labour a month early with Visenya, upon hearing of her half-brother Aegon II claiming the Iron Throne (don’t worry, we’ll get to him).
    • The labour lasted three days, during which Rhaenyra began to curse her unborn daughter, according to Mushroom. The curse, he says, worked, for Visenya was born with monstrous birth defects including a hole where her heart would have been and a scaled tail.
    • Curse rating: Pretty tragic, guys. 4/5

Rhaenys

Queen Rhaenys came to perhaps the worst ending of the three original Targaryen royals. She either fell from the sky above Hellholt, plunging to her death along with her dragon, Meraxes; or she was captured and spent two years being tortured by the Ullers. Whichever case is true, it’s a gruesome thought, and probably doesn’t inspire that much naming motivation. Having said that, Rhaenys was popular, a big supporter of arts and laughter, so it’s odd only two other Rhaenys’ have been named:

  • Rhaenys Targaryen (B. 74AC to Aemon Targaryen and Jocelyn Baratheon)
  • We’ve got ourselves an outlier…kinda. This Rhaenys did live to the age of 55, she did marry Corlys Velaryon, and she did have two children. So a much better deal than more than a few Targaryens.
  • Having said that, Rhaenys was passed over for the crown of Westeros itself. I won’t go into the details here, but she very easily could have become the Queen of Westeros, or failing that, her children could have ruled. Instead, based on decisions, councils, and ultimately her gender, Rhaenys became known as “The Queen Who Never Was”
  • Obviously, this injustice caused her great frustration, but I’d struggle to call that a curse. Some learned people might say sitting on the Iron Throne is the true curse. Regardless, things did get worse for Rhaenys as she aged. Both of her children died long before her, and she then became embroiled in the Dance of the Dragons on behalf of her daughter-in-law, Rhaenyra.
  • Without going into too much detail, Rhaenys flew her dragon Meleys in battle, but at one point was tricked and surrounded by Aegon II on Sunfyre, and Prince Aemond on Vhagar. Instead of running from the odds, Rhaenys faced them down. But both she and Meleys died.
  • The problem we have here is that if we cast the net too wide, you can claim pretty much any name in Westeros is cursed, because a lot of really bad shit happens. So yes, Rhaenys did have her children die prematurely, get passed over for the crown, and eventually get burned by a dragon, but she also died in a courageous blaze of glory, and had a better lot than most on the list
  • Curse rating: 2/5
  • Rhaenys Targaryen (B 283AC to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell)
  • There is not too much I need to say here. After all, it is her death that is part way responsible for me kicking this whole thing off in the first place.
  • But for parity’s sake let’s go through it. Rhaenys, a happy little girl who was fond of cats, found herself just three years old on the day of her death. With King’s Landing being sacked, Rhaenys crawled under her father’s bed in the hope of protection. Instead, she was found by Amory Lorch, and stabbed half-a-hundred times in cold blood. Her body was presented to Robert Baratheon in a red Lannister cloak, in order to hide the horror of her murder.
  • I don’t think I need to– and I know I don’t want to– write any further about a scared toddler dragged out from beneath her father’s bed
  • Curse rating: 5/5

Aegon

Ah, the big gun, and the bulk of this investigation. Unsurprisingly, there have been more Aegons than any other name in the Targaryen tree, with five of them becoming king, again more than any other moniker.

Nine further Aegons have been born since the Conqueror. Four kings, Four mere-royals, and one baby boy who could have been either. It is the kings who should dominate our interest here, seeing as I think this is where the ‘curse’ would come strongly. So much is linked to the inherent power of Kingship, or King’s blood, or what have you in A Song of Ice and Fire, so we can make reasonable assumption that’s how curses work too. Besides, if it is Aegon I who earned this curse, then he himself was a king, and the four who followed him are closest in their imitation.

But before those, let us quickly discuss the four who never wore a crown. To examine all of them in great detail would be a good way to persuade you to leave, so let’s go rapid-fire style instead:

Non-Kings

  • Aegon, the Uncrowned (B. 26AC to King Aenys I and Queen Alyssa Velaryon)
    • Was named heir to the throne, but became known as Aegon the Uncrowned after Maegor I took it instead. Killed by Maegor during the Battle beneath the God’s Eye
  • Aegon (B. 52AC to King Jaehaerys I and Queen Alysanne Targaryen)
    • Premature birth, only survived for three days. Extra curse points as his parents would have been Jaehaerys and Alysanne, who were the coolest.
  • Aegon (B. 84AC to Prince Baelon Targaryen and Princess Alyssa Targaryen)
    • Born in a difficult labour, died before his first birthday, as did his mother.
  • Aegon (B. 272AC to Kings Aerys II Targaryen and Queen Rhaella Targaryen)
    • Another premature birth, this time by two whole months. This Aegon only survived from around a year

Kings

Thus begins the basis of this curse theory. This is what we’re here for, the men who wore the crown and sat the throne. History remembers them and tells us just how rough some of them had it. I will try to stay away from going full-on biography mode, and instead stick to things relatively…cursey.

  • Aegon II (B. 107AC to King Viserys I Targaryen and Queen Alicent Hightower)
    • What I like about all four of these kings is that they all had kind of terrible lives, but all in completely different ways. It might even be kind of abstract to understand, but it is kind of mesmerising.
    • In the case of Aegon II a lot of the damage was done before he was even born or fully grown, with Viserys I having to remarry and having his first son in the second marriage. It lead to a whole heap of trouble with his original heir, Rhaenyra Targaryen, and you probably know exactly where it lead.
    • After a childhood in which he was repeatedly told that his birthright to the Iron Throne had been stolen, in which he did not get along with his step-sister and nephews and basically that side of the family, Aegon II still seemed on a pretty even keel. He got himself a wife, some children, some bastards. OK, he wasn’t heir but it’s not a bad lot, especially in curse terms. But then his father died.
    • Aegon had to actually be convinced to get into the whole ordeal, but once he agreed to be crowned before Rhaenyra could hear of her father’s death, he was all in. He took his crown, Rhaenyra took hers, everyone picked sides, the ref threw the ball up, and the Dance of the Dragons began.
    • To go through the war in detail would be fruitless. Aegon lost people he loved, same as Rhaenyra. We can hardly count that for much of a curse in a war he helped start. But there are two ways to look at this, one big and one small. Let’s start off with the small scale, and how Aegon himself endured the war. Instead of specific events, or wins and losses, I want to examine the effect. For instance, Aegon nerves and worries grew so much that he began to lean heavily on strongwine. The boyhood habit of gluttony grew worse, and took its toll. His short temper grew shorter while his troubles grew longer. This may be just me having a punch at pop psychology, but I think Aegon spent the war living in fear, and it showed.
    • One event did have a definitive effect on Aegon, and it was one you may remember from a few minutes ago. When Aegon and his dragon Sunfyre attacked Princess Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was, they were victorious, but Rhaenys got a punch in before her death. Aegon was burned by dragon fire, broke his ribs and a hip, his armour melted onto his arm. Reportedly, half of his body was damaged by his burns.
    • Imagine, if you will, a kind of shittier Anakin Skywalker.
    • Even after the initial year of essentially nothing but recovery, Aegon would remain bent, twisted and scarred (and very obviously lacking a cool Darth Vadar suit) for the rest of his life.
    • His wife, son, the sister he hated and his dragon all soon came to perish. So black was Aegon’s soul by this point he fed Rhaenyra to Sunfyre in front of her own son.
    • Fast forward to mere days before certain defeat, when Aegon II was found dead in his litter, the victim of poisoning.
    • But I promised a larger look, didn’t I?
    • I think more so than the personal toll on himself, is the fact that Aegon II presided over the worst civil war Westeros had ever seen. Hundreds of thousands died, including many key members of his own family, to say nothing of the dragons themselves. Perhaps it is not the person who was so cursed in this edition, but the effect he had upon the world. The war was a dire, bitter thing, in which it is very hard to claim anyone a true winner. It was a conflict of his own creation (though not without inside influence), and an event that trickled down through the next century or so, having an everlasting effect on not simply his family, but the very idea of the established monarchy.
    • Curse Rating: 3/5
  • Aegon III (B. 120 AC to Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Daemon Targaryen)
    • History didn’t wait long to bully another Aegon. Right after Aegon II’s death, Aegon III was announced as king by the supporters of his recently eaten mother. Before we do details, a quick recap of common nicknames for Aegon III.
      • Aegon the Younger (Not too bad)
      • Aegon the Unlucky (That’s a shame)
      • Aegon the Unhappy (Aww)
      • The Broken King (Oh dear)
      • Aegon the Dragonbane (I’m not crying you are)
    • A great deal of the tragedy surrounding Aegon III is that which we’ve just covered. As a young boy he was suddenly dead centre in a dangerous war where death was common as breakfast.
    • Aegon himself, being so valuable as Rhaenyra’s son, got shipped hither and thither. Firstly, to Essos, with his younger brother, Viserys. They were both captured soon enough, with Aegon III managing to escape on the dragon Stormcloud. Escape is all well and good, except Aegon had to leave poor Viserys behind, the guilt and shame of which was just the first in a long line of deeply emotional scars. We’ll come back to Stormcloud in a moment.
    • Just to add insult to injury, one of Aegon’s older brothers also died in an attempt at revenge for Viserys’ captors.
    • He was next moved to be with his mother in King’s Landing, and the pair were hardly apart. But Rhaenyra was fighting a losing war, and it showed. Aegon, already a quiet, shy boy, retracted further into himself.
    • Immediately after watching another brother die during the riots, mother and son both took flight again. This time to Duskendale, and eventually Dragonstone, where, as mentioned, Aegon III was forced to watch his mother get eaten by a dragon. I know I’ve said it twice now, but this really needs to sink in.
    • HE HAD TO WATCH HIS MOTHER BE EATEN. BY A DRAGON. I could really have typed that sentence for Aegon III and left it there. But let’s assume that’s not enough, for Aegon was then thrown in a dungeon while everyone argued whether to murder him, exile him or merely castrate him.
    • As it happened, none of these were chosen, because six months later in 131AC, Aegon III was crowned king. Scroll up and check those brackets. This all happened to this kid before he even turned 12.
    • Being king is nice, and the eventual return of young Viserys even nicer, but the beginning of Aegon’s reign was based on the rule of a ruined kingdom, with hatred still prevalent around the survivors of the two sides. Throw in a winter fever and lords or advisors more interested in their own lots than the realms, and Aegon was little more than a very quiet Cyvasse piece to be moved, yet again, hither and thither across the board.
    • Aegon regained some control as he got older, but he handed the majority of it to Viserys, his new hand. Aegon himself remained quiet, broody, and deeply unhappy (hence the nicknames)
    • Most prevalent of Aegon III’s curse, however, is that final nickname: Dragonbane. The ride on Stormcloud and Sunfyre’s Rhaenyra-lunch obviously contributed greatly to Aegon’s personal hatred of dragons, but in addition to the storming of the Dragonpit, it is during his reign that the final dragons died, and if there is a better curse out there for House Targaryen than taking their dragons away, I don’t know what it is.
    • Again, it is both personal yet wide-reaching. Aegon is a Targaryen who didn’t like dragons. That isn’t how it works. Do you have Freys who are nice? Starks who can’t ski? Of course not. Some things are elemental. Foundational.
    • Just so for House Targaryen. They won Westeros with dragons. They kept it with dragons. Guess what happened without them? No, it wasn’t immediate, but it brought the Targs down from near-god status, from different to all others, to just one of the gang. Do you think, a century-and-change- later, that all those southrons are so quick to share their ambitions if there’s a decent chance they get roasted if they do?
    • House Targaryen words: Fire and Blood. House Targaryen sigil: A dragon. This is all far more important to them than it is other houses. Baratheon’s don’t go around riding stags. The Greyjoys don’t use krakens on their reaving trips. But dragons were a real, tangible asset that got the Targaryens where they were. And it was under Aegon III (and due to the war that came before him) that they lost them.
    • He lead a deeply horrible childhood, an adulthood that had to deal with the fallout, and reigned over the ultimate hollowing of his house.
    • Curse rating, 5/5
  • Aegon IV (B.135 AC to Prince Viserys Targaryen and Larra Rogare)
    • Sticking with the nickname theme, ‘The Unworthy’ doesn’t envoke ideas of a happy time had by all. Aegon IV is a name known to those who don’t even dwell into Targaryen histories all that much. He is widely acknowledged to be the worst Targaryen king, and his efforts lead to a whole heap of trouble for future generations (something familiar here).
    • Aegon IV is quite a different case in that he, personally, had the exact life he wanted. Aegon was cruel, gluttonous, corruptible, and pretty damn horny. He got food, he got money, and he certainly got women. Don’t think for a moment he didn’t have opportunities to be cruel, or that he didn’t take them. To go through the details of his life would be moot, as he was everything he wanted to be.
    • So this curse takes a different angle. It spreads to those around; the sister-wife he abused, or the brother he taunted. The son who had to bear the mistakes of the father. The countless husbands and fathers who saw their daughters and wives taken to the bed of the kings. The honest, realm-focused men who had to see important decisions, positions, credit, coin, and land given to those who flattered the king rather than give him advice that might actually help anyone. The realm that was left uncared for as its King grew larger, gave out more insults, and sired more bastards.
    • The only personal part that can be considered a curse that actually affected Aegon IV was the end. At this point he was so monstrously heavy he could not stand. He sat on one sofa all day, covered in his own filth. Eventually an illness grew, one that no one could understand. He swelled and rotted on the inside. Flesh worms devoured him from the inside out. Even milk of the poppy could not do anything except leave him in excruciating pain.
    • Of course, as most will know, it was his last act that was the most curse…ful (I’m pretty sure that is a word). Aegon IV legitimized all of his many bastards on his deathbed, which lead to generations upon generations of further warfare in the Blackfyre Rebellions.
    • These conflicts, as deadly and divisive as the Dance before it, yet again tore Westeros asunder, and certainly did nothing to help the Targaryens out. Yeah, in the day to day, Aegon IV had it pretty good. But has a worse Targaryen curse been inflicted on the land? Not many, for sure.
    • Curse Rating: 4/5
  • Aegon V (B. 200 AC to Prince Maekar Targaryen and Dyanna Dayne)
    • Ah, the emotions, they begin.
    • Aegon V, better known to us as Egg, was never supposed to be king. Perhaps his greatest curse is that he was. The curse is at its most subtle here. Yes, young Egg had to put up with some very annoying siblings, but he travelled Westeros and made a lifelong friend in Ser Duncan the Tall. He married for love (incredibly rare in Targaryen history), he was named king, Dunk became his Lord Commander, and his wife gifted him five children. Aegon was smart, humble, and caring to the smallfolk. It’s what makes his reign so sad.
    • Sad, tragic, more so than outright cursed. Aegon spent much of his reign trying to help those less fortunate, but came up against pompous lords unwilling to part with a single penny. With the Blackfyres sniffing around, and a severe lack of dragons, Aegon had to constantly compromise and peacekeep and offer that which he didn’t want to just to keep the realm together.
    • Problems then began with his children. Aegon and his wife Betha prepared smart, political marriage matches for all five, in the hopes of getting the realm back on side and allowing Egg to do some of his good guy work. Unfortunately, in most cases, the young followed the old and chose to marry for love instead. There was abdication, further incest and tragic death. All of which set Egg back on the path of apologising to the various lords of the realm for his children’s actions.
    • Aegon could have been one of the best. He had the smarts, knew the people, had the intent and the people around him. But circumstances, and not even particularly bad circumstances, hindered him the entire way. It doesn’t seem hateful, or dramatic. It just remains sad.
    • And none more so than his end at Summerhall. Desperate for a homerun, old Egg seemed to have become slightly obsessed with hatching dragons. He was doing just that at the Targaryen summer home when wildfire burst into life, taking Egg, and his lifetime friend Dunk (with others) into death. If you have read the Dunk & Egg novellas, and can stomach imagining an inferno in which Dunk & Egg are trying to save each other one last time for more than nine seconds you are much stronger than I.
    • Egg also had the real last gasp of a Targ trying to really do something for the realm. Having been knocked down another peg, it all got pretty bad pretty quick after this. It wasn’t the big explosions, dragons fighting, prequel-series worthy stuff of the other Aegons, but it was the slow, poisonous curse that really just makes you want to give our Egg a good hug.
    • Curse Rating: 4/5

  • Aegon the VI, kind of. (B 281AC to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Princess Elia Martell)
    • Andddd, the final Aegon. The baby who had his head dashed against a wall just as some extra insurance by the people who ended his family. No further explanation needed.
    • For what it’s worth, Young Griff, whether he be the real Aegon or not, might be able to get a taste of this named curse. If he’s the real deal, goes through all this to be cast aside and defeated by Daenerys (and I’m only spitballing here), that kinda sucks. If he’s not, he goes through all this winning Westeros stuff, maybe gets defeated maybe doesn’t, then maybe finds out its all or a lie. Or he doesn’t. Either way, tragic. There aren’t many good outcomes for Griff, and it’s just as likely that Aegon truly did end in the hands of Gregor Clegane

The Conqueror’s curse

The original question: Are the names of the conquerors cursed?

The answer: Probably not, but I like buying into stuff like this, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the original trio and Rhaegar’s second attempt lately. The idea of a name curse isn’t ever going to be something that George just lays right out for us, but it is something chumps like me can claim fits, so we have something to chat about.

It is Westeros, so if we look close enough at any name we might be able to make a case for cursing. But I think the above demonstrates that, at the very least, naming your kings Aegon isn’t a good idea. The first one, he was great, superb, excellent. So were his sisters. But since, any reiteration has been not so hot.

I don’t know the nitty gritty of how, or even why. But I just like the idea that the Targaryen invasion was such a momentous event, one that caused such ripples through the universe, that there was some kind of blemish left over. Some three hundred year voodoo on the memories of those Targaryens, and their names.

Which may or may not be bad news for a fella whose real name actually isn’t Jon Snow.