Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) is an important female character in House Targaryen. Her trajectory was marked by prejudice and injustice, connecting her with her cousin, Rhaenyra (Emma D’Arcy) through the sisterhood. The Queen that Never Was was an excellent fighter and her trajectory will have a lot of weight in the 1st season of House of The Dragon. Let’s talk about her a little.
Rhaenys was the daughter of Jaehaerys‘ heir, Aemon, and, as the first granddaughter, also the favorite. In particular, from her grandmother, the good and adored Queen Alysanne who called the child her “future queen”. She learned to fly the dragon Meleys, fought alongside her father and grandfather, and, at age 18, married Lord Corlys Velarion (Steve Toussaint) for love. But fate would test Rhaenys’ loyalty and strength hard.
When the princess was pregnant with her daughter, Aemon was killed in battle, and Jaehaerys had to decide who would be the next King or Queen of Westeros. For Alysanne and many Nobles, there was no doubt: heredity had to be respected and Rhaenys would be Queen. But Jaehaerys chose his second son, Prince Baelon, changing the line of succession. Baelon had a second advantage, he had two sons, Viserys I and Daemon.
It wasn’t the first time Jaehaerys showed his sexism. Before the granddaughter, Princess Daenerys I, firstborn of the King and Alysanne had already been passed over, something that caused discord in the couple. With the princess’s death, the impasse was resolved by having Aemon as heir, but the prince’s premature death exposed Rhaenys to the entire Court because she was humiliated in front of everyone by being passed over.
Rhaenys and Corlys revolted, opposing the King’s decision, and together they left the Court. When their second child was born – male – they went back to arguing that it should, if Rhaenys was not fit because she was female, then her son was the rightful heir. But Jaehaerys held to his son rather than his great-grandson. Then, surprise, Baelon also dies, putting the succession back on the agenda. This is exactly where the series House of the Dragon begins (and where it already has slight differences from the book).
Rhaenys did not peacefully accept having her candidacy for the Crown ignored. Alongside Corlys, she presented not only her own name, but that of her son as heir (again), but the Great Council of Harrenhal opted for her cousin, Viserys I. In the series, we see a princess swallowing her pride.
Corlys: devoted husband, a political supporter of Rhaenys
We are therefore seeing that Corlys is part of Viserys I’s small council, without hiding his frustration at the King’s incompetence, forcibly agreeing with Daemon who prefers to act rather than listen to the nobles and, in particular, the ambitious Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans). When Viserys loses his wife and child, Daemon is heir presumptive, but Otto immediately begins a dangerous political maneuver. As an enemy of the rebel prince, he wants to prevent Daemon from reaching the Iron Throne at all costs, but he doesn’t want Rhaenys either. He laughs at Corlys, who then suggests, for the second time, his son, Laenor, as an option. By suggesting Rhaenyra’s name, Otto wants to buy time, and we know how.
Viserys I, still relatively young, is under two pressures: remarry and name an heir. And, once again, it is manipulated. Rhaenys and Corlys suggest that the king’s second wife should be none other than their daughter Laena, also Targaryen, and entitled to the throne. 12-year-old Laena wants the crown, but Otto had already started by bringing her daughter Alicent closer to the King. Result? Once again Rhaenys is publicly humiliated and passed over by others.
Annoyed, Rhaenys and Corlys refuse to be present at Viserys I and Alicent’s wedding ceremony (at least in the book!). The peace between the cousins is only reached again seven years later, when Viserys I discusses the best candidate for Rhaenyra’s husband and the chosen one is Laenor, son of Rhaenys and Corlys Velaryon. As Rhaenyra is the official heiress, marriage makes the correction so dreamed of by the Queen that it never was. At least your son will be king. That’s what everyone thought, but…
The Hightowers’ game for the throne cannot be underestimated
After years of injustice, Rhaenys and Corlys are indeed close to power as they always wanted. Although Laenor apparently prefers the company of men, he and Rhaenyra have three sons (who don’t look like him) and Laena marries Daemon Targaryen, with whom she has two daughters. But a wave of deaths changes every game.
Laena dies in childbirth, and Laenor dies in a fight with his best friend, Ser Qarl Correy. In this way, Daemon and Rhaenyra (uncle and niece) get married and have two other children. Viserys I, in failing health, refuses to give in to his wife, Alicent, or her father, Otto, to nominate his son by his second marriage as his successor, so for a little while, somehow, everything looked as planned.
The unexpected death of Viserys I throws Westeros into crisis. Alicent “understands” that her husband has changed his mind and wants their son, Aegon, as King. (Only not). She crowns him before Rhaenyra even learns of her father’s death. When the double bad news is given, a pregnant Rhaenyra miscarries and is upset. In Dragonstone, she is crowned Queen and has on her council both Ser Corlys Velaryon and Rhaenys, who vehemently supports her cousin, once again a woman being removed from the throne because of her gender. For Rhaenys, the fight is personal against the Hightowers.
In the civil war that became known as the Dance of Dragons (both by the fighting family and literally their dragons as well), Rhaenys came to prominence. An expert fighter and flyer, she led through the air – riding Meleys – in battles against the usurpers.
But a mother’s love seals the fate of the legendary princess. When Rhaenyra discovers that her half-brother Aemond has killed her son, Lucerys, she forbids her other children to fight. It’s up to Rhaenys to lead the war council. Unfortunately, Rhaenys is ambushed by the greens, only to be surprised by Aegon II and Aemond, mounted on Sunfyre and Vhagar, both larger than Meleys. Facing certain death, she doesn’t back down. The fight in the air – the dance of dragons – is epic and Rhaenys faces off against the two brothers but eventually falls with Meleys. Along with the dragon carcass, they find the body of a fully burned and blackened woman, who could only be Rhaenys. Fighting and brave, a Queen that Westeros despised.
Corlys Velaryon resents Rhaenyra for sending Rhaenys into battle without reinforcements, to spare her children Jacaerys and Joffrey. In time, she also repents, as we already know.
Rhaenys’ story blends courage, honor, and resilience. A heroine that will surely make many fans cry in House of the Dragon.