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The Tragic And Brutally Short Life Of Rhaegar Targaryen, And What He Means For Game Of Thrones' End

Updated May 17, 2019 25.9k views11 items

Rhaegar Targaryen has a lot of Game of Thrones fans talking, even though his presence on the show has mostly consisted of anecdotes and differing accounts of what happened between him and Lyanna Stark. Mounting evidence suggests that Rhaegar will make his onscreen debut soon, which means it's time to ask and answer, "Who is Rhaegar Targaryen?"  

What was Jon Snow's father like? What were his personality traits? Why did Robert Baratheon hate him so much? Just what were the circumstances of Rhaegar's alleged abduction of Lyanna Stark? And is any of this related to the prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised? Could the story of Rhaegar Targaryen shed some light on how this series will end? He is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in A Song of Ice and Fire, and it's entirely possible he's the key to victory over the White Walkers. 

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  • Cersei Almost Married Him

    Cersei Almost Married Him
    Photo: HBO

    It's an uncomfortable truth that the Targaryens were very invested in inbreeding. In Aerys Targaryen's ideal world, Rhaegar would marry his sister, and the Targaryen bloodline would remain purely Valyrian. However, Daenerys wasn't born by the time Rhaegar came of age (or by the time he died, for that matter), so there were no Targaryen women for the Prince of Dragonstone to wed. 

    Cersei Lannister was very attracted to Rhaegar; she thought he was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. She even asked the witch Maggy the Frog - who predicted that all Cersei's children would die and that her brother will kill her - if she was going to marry "the prince." Tywin Lannister, who was Hand to King Aerys II at the time, offered Cersei as a potential wife, but he was summarily shot down by the Mad King.  

  • He Probably Didn't Love Elia Martell

    He Probably Didn't Love Elia Martell
    Photo: HBO

    Aerys turned down Tywin's offer of Cersei as a potential wife for Rhaegar, saying the Hand was "a mere servant of the crown, and no servant's daughter was fit to marry a prince of royal blood." Instead, The Mad King turned to Dorne to find a worthy wife for his son. Rhaegar was wed to Elia Martell (Prince Oberyn's sister), a princess of Dorne.

    Rhaegar wed Elia primarily out of duty. They had two children, but Elia's precarious health—especially after the births—forced her to be bedridden for months at a time. The relationship of the husband and wife was never romantic, but the couple seemed content.

  • He Loved To Sing For The People Of King's Landing

    He Loved To Sing For The People Of King's Landing
    Video: YouTube

    In the Season 5 episode "Sons of the Harpy," Daenerys notes that the people of Slaver's Bay look perfectly happy from a distance. This prompts Ser Barristan Selmy to reminisce about the many times Rhaegar would slip out of the Red Keep and wander the streets, entertaining the common people and singing for money, which he would then pass on to the nearest singing minstrel.

    This seems to be the first time Dany has heard of her dead brother's lighter, more jovial side. The anecdotes she heard from their other brother, Viserys, mainly involved Rhaegar killing people.  

  • He Was Really Interested In Prophecies

    Knowledgeable and scholarly, Rhaegar was very interested in the oft-mentioned prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised. There are multiple contenders for the title of Azor Ahai, but the gist of the prophecy is that a "bleeding star" (metaphorical or literal) will herald the coming of a hero to rid the world of darkness. 

    According to the books, Rhaegar believed his and Elia's son Aegon was going to be that hero. In The House of the Undying, Daenerys envisions Elia asking Rhaegar if he'll write a song for their newborn child. He replies, "He has a song. He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." The Mountain later kills Aegon and his sister, Rhaenys, so Rhaegar must've been wrong about Aegon, right?

    Well, not exactly. See, in Season 7, episode 7, we find out Jon Snow's real name: Aegon Targaryen. Yep, that's right, Rhaegar had two sons by two different women and named both of them Aegon. Why he did that remains a mystery - perhaps he was so convinced that his son Aegon would be Azor Ahai that he worked in a little contingency plan: he'd have two sons named Aegon, in case one of them turned out not to be the Prince That Was Promised.