Daemon Targaryen is a character with many lovers, who has many affairs despite being a married man. The latest episode of House of the Dragon introduces his estranged wife, Rhea Royce. He has a rather unfortunate nickname for her – The Bronze Bitch, which is never explained completely. Here’s everything you need to know about this character and the effect she will have on the story moving forward.
SPOILER ALERT: The article contains spoilers for House of the Dragon. Consider yourself warned.
Who is Rhea Royce?
In the premiere, we learned that Daemon has not been back to the Vale, where his wife Lady Rhea resides, in quite some time. We see this at the Small Council meeting, where Otto Hightower criticizes Daemon for the way he treats his wife, saying,
“If only the Prince would show the same devotion to his lady wife as he does to his work.”
Daemon retaliates by referring to his wife as his “bronze bitch” and saying that Vale’s sheep are more attractive than its women. He further says that he would be happy to give his wife to Otto so that his bed will be warmer since Hightower’s wife just died. Alysanne Targaryen, Daemon’s grandmother, orchestrated the couple’s wedding, which happened before the series’ events. This strengthened the bond between the two houses, and Daemon was in a favourable position politically.
Rachel Redford plays Lady Rhea in the series. She is the head of House Royce and the heir to Runestone in the Vale of Arryn making her marriage to Daemon helpful for House Targaryen. Runestone is in the Vale of Arryn, a fertile valley bordered by the Mountains of the Moon in eastern Westeros. It has long been a coveted strategic stronghold in wartime, including during the events of Game of Thrones. Bronze Yohn Royce, who questioned Littlefinger about the death of Lysa Arryn in Game of Thrones, hails from this House. Ser Waymar Royce, the Night’s Watch officer killed by a White Walker in the series premiere of GOT, is also descended from this House.
Rhea’s nickname and its origins
The marriage between Rhea and Daemon is not a happy one. There are hints throughout Martin’s writings that Rhea prefers the company of women, and her lack of desire for Daemon leads to no children from the union. Daemon has no affection or love toward Rhea and despises the inhospitable mountains of the Vale of Arryn.
He calls her his “bronze bitch” which is a jab at her looks, her personality, and her House. It refers to the runic bronze armor worn by the lords of House Royce. They are estranged soon after their wedding and remain so until the end of Rhea’s life. When King Viserys ascended the throne, Daemon pleaded that he be allowed to nullify his marriage to Rhea. Viserys rejected his request but allowed Daemon to serve on the small council as the Commander of the City Watch and a Master of both Coin and Laws.
During this time, Rhea became the Lady of Runestone after the head of House Royce, Yorbert Royce, presumably passed away. Daemon was barely present in her life at this time, as he would frequently leave Runestone to pursue his endeavors. These included fighting in the War for the Stepstones and having an affair with Mysaria. He had to return to his wife after the King banished him for his relationship with Rhaenyra Targaryen.
George R. R. Martin’s books explain Rhea’s fate in great detail. Rhea died in 115 AC, after a 20-year-long, unhappy relationship with Daemon. The text says that she died by falling off her horse and hitting her head on a rock. After staying in bed for nine days, Rhea started to feel better, but within an hour of getting up, she fell down and died. Based on the premiere of the latest episode, we now know that it was Daemon who orchestrated her death. As she is out hunting alone, Daemon confronts her and causes her to fall off her horse. He then picks up a large rock and walks towards her as the scene ends. Later in the episode, Corlys and Rhaenys inform Viserys of her death, saying that it was a hunting accident.
But at Rhaenyra’s wedding, Rhea’s cousin Gerold Royce accuses Daemon of having murdered her. Daemon says that Gerold should answer for his slander, denying the accusation. He also takes this opportunity to demand all the lands, castles, and income of House Royce as the widower of Rhea. When Daemon made this claim in the books, the Arryns denied Daemon’s claim and exiled him from the Vale, asking him to never return. After her demise in the show, we may yet see Rhea in flashbacks with Daemon. However, it is most likely that the show will focus on how Daemon destroys any chance the Targaryens have of seizing control of the Vale. Rhea’s death meant that Daemon could marry someone else, and he fell in love with Laena Velaryon, the daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon. We see a precursor to this in the latest episode, as the two share a dance and a conversation together.