House of the Dragon sets the clock back 200 years prior to the events of Game of Thrones. It was a time when the Targaryen bloodline ruled supreme over the Seven Kingdoms. However, they were on the precipice of a catastrophic downfall at the hands of its blonde dragon riders.
Today, we’ll be focusing on one of the most important female characters in the House Targaryen. Let’s learn about Princess Rhaenys Targaryen aka ‘The Queen Who Never War’, and how she earned that nickname.
The life of Rhaenys Targaryen
Princess Rhaenys Targaryen was the daughter of Prince Aemon Targaryen and Lady Jocelyn Baratheon. She married Lord Corlys Velaryon of Driftmark. She was a dragon rider whose dragon was Meleys, the Red Queen.
Eve Best portrays Rhaenys in House of the Dragon. The series covers her stature during the beginning of the end of House Targaryen and the war of succession.
Rhaenys in ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’
Rhaenys was born in 74 AC, on the seventh day of the seventh moon of the year. She was the firstborn child of the Prince of Dragonstone. Many considered her as being next in line for the Iron Throne, after her father Aemon. Queen Alysanne Targaryen called her “our queen to be” when she first saw her.
Rhaenys claimed the dragon Meleys in 87 AC and became a dragon rider thereafter. She later joined King Jaehaerys I Targaryen as part of his royal progress in 89 AC. She flew on Meleys to Highgarden to meet up with Jaehaerys. Together they flew to all four of the Shield Islands. She informed the king about her intention to marry Lord Corlys Velaryon on Greenshield. Rhaenys later received her grandfather’s blessing to marry Velaryon.
She married Velaryon in 90 AC at the age of sixteen. For the wedding, she insisted on arriving on the back of Meleys. Rhaenys learned that she was pregnant with her first child in early 92 AC. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter she named Laena Velaryon in the latter part of the same year. She then gave birth to a son, Laenor Velaryon, two years later.
Becoming the ‘Queen Who Never Was’
Rhaenys Targaryen was the only child of Prince Aemon, who was heir to King Jaehaerys I. She actually had the more senior-line claim to the Iron Throne in the way that we commonly understand succession. She should have come next in line to the throne when her father expired.
The issue was that the right to the throne goes from the present king to his eldest son – heir. Then it goes to his children. In the event that all children are dead, the other children of the king inherit the throne. Note that all legal children of Rhaegar come before Viserys and Daenerys.
First snub from the throne
Rhaenys’s father, Prince Aemon Targaryen, died in 92 AC. King Jaehaerys I Targaryen had to formally choose a new heir to the Iron Throne, as Aemon had been the Prince of Dragonstone. The competition was between Aemon’s only child and heir, Rhaenys, and Aemon’s brother Baelon.
Jaehaerys overlooked the pregnant Rhaenys and her unborn child by appointing Baelon as the new Prince of Dragonstone. Basically, an uncle had jumped in line ahead of his niece. Rhaenys herself objected to the king’s decision, and her husband, Lord Corlys Velaryon, gave up his role as lord admiral and his position on the small council.
Rhaenys and her husband returned to Driftmark following the event. Rhaenys’s mother, Lady Jocelyn Baratheon and her uncle, Lord Boremund Baratheon were also outraged by the king’s decision. So was her grandmother, as well as King Jaehaerys’s wife, Queen Alysanne Targaryen.
Second snub from the throne
The great council had to choose a new king after Baelon died nine years later. Among the candidates were Viserys, Baelon’s oldest son, Rhaenys and her two children – Laena and Laenor. Many people championed Rhaenys to inherit the throne. They include her uncle Boremund Baratheon, Lord of Storm’s End, Ellard Stark, Lord of Winterfell and his bannermen: Dustin, Manderly, her daughter and seven others.
But the great council dismissed many of their claims. So her allies then switched to supporting Rhaenys’ son over Baelon’s son. Baelon’s son Viserys eventually won and became King Viserys I. The council narrowed the competition down to Viserys and Laenor, the two males with the strongest claim. They eventually settled on Viserys to inherit the throne.
This set the precedent that a junior-line male claim trumps a senior-line female claim. This notion was further solidified during the Dance of the Dragons. Basically, even junior-line male claimants must be utterly exhausted before a senior-line female can ascend the throne. It didn’t outright ban women or their lines from taking the throne, unlike the Salic Law. It just dumped the women to the back of the line.
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The Dance of the Dragons
Princess Rhaenys resided on the black council of Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen when the Dance of the Dragons started in 129 AC. Rhaenyra Targaryen was the daughter of the late King Viserys I Targaryen. The blacks’ plan for Rhaenys was to fly above on Meleys to prevent the greens from ambushing their ships with dragons. This happened when the Velaryon’s fleet blocked off the Gullet, sailing forth from Dragonstone and Driftmark to close all shipping for Blackwater Bay.
Lucerys’s brother Joffrey later heard the news at Dragonstone about the death of Lucerys Velaryon, at the hands of Prince Aemond Targaryen. Rhaenys and her husband blocked Joffrey from climbing to his dragon to avenge his brother. Queen Rhaenyra Targaryen awarded Corlys and Rhaenys authority over her war council grieving over the death of Lucerys.
Rhaenys emerged over Rook’s Rest upon Meleys, nine days after Lord Staunton dispatched a plea for assistance. They ambushed the soldiers of Ser Criston Cole during the fight at Rook’s Rest. But this ambush proved to be a ploy. Rhaenys rushed to the fire when King Aegon II Targaryen and Prince Aemond Targaryen suddenly emerged upon Sunfyre and Vhagar. She still did it, despite her realization that Meleys had no chance against the two dragons. The three dragons rumbled each other and fell over the ground, entangled.
Meleys was killed in the attack, but a body was found laying beside her corpse. The body was speculated to be of Rhaenys, although it was so blurred that no one could be confident it was her. Her husband, Corlys Velaryon, was angered that Rhaenyra had dispatched Rhaenys instead of going herself. He was also outraged over the fact that Rhaenyra had forbidden her sons Joffrey and Jacaerys from escorting Rhaenys.
So this is how Rhaenys got her nickname. This is how the strongest legal claimant lost her place in the succession. Thus, she became the ‘Queen Who Never Was’.
The funny thing about Jaehaerys I is that he is widely considered the best, wisest and most progressive Targaryen king. But his short-sighted act of sexism set the precedent that would nearly wipe the family out a couple of generations later. The Dance of the Dragons set off when Rhaenys’ precedent was used to keep Rhaenyra off the throne.