Shadow of the Silver Prince: Who Was Rhaegar Targaryen?

The Battle of the Trident, by Justin Sweet

The Battle of the Trident, by Justin Sweet

Rhaegar Targaryen. The R in R+L=J. The dead man that Robert Baratheon cursed until his last days. An honorable man according to those who knew him who enjoyed spending his time playing his harp among the common people. A demon to those who saw him on the other side of the war.

With all the conflicting reports and opinions on Rhaegar Targaryen, who was he really? Why are fans obsessed with him across Twitter and social media, and why is it a big deal that it was revealed in the last episode of Game of Thrones that he annulled his marriage?

Let’s start with the basics. Some of the information on Rhaegar comes from the books and may not be included in the show.

Rhaegar Targaryen, by Karla Ortiz

Rhaegar Targaryen,
by Karla Ortiz

Rhaegar was born crown prince to the Seven Kingdoms in 259 A.C. (after conquest, 39 years before the events of Game of Thrones). His parents were Aerys II, the Mad King, and Aerys’ sister and queen Rhaella. He was born at the Targaryen country palace of Summerhall on the day it exploded and killed most of his family, including then-current king Aegon V. It was rumored that King Aegon was trying to hatch dragon eggs, and a terrible accident swallowed the Targaryens in flame. Rhaegar carried their deaths with him for the rest of his life, even though he was only a newborn.

Contrary to the picture of Rhaegar as the brutal rapist we get from Robert Baratheon:

In his youth, Rhaegar was described as a bookish, intelligent introvert who preferred the company of libraries to other people.

From Barristan to Daenerys in A Storm of Swords – Daenerys I:

“As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.'”

It remains to this day a debated topic about what Rhaegar read in his scrolls that turned his life, but in a very dramatic way, from that day forward Rhaegar was different. (Click here to read my theory on what Rhaegar read.) He began fighting, jousting, engaging in politics, showing interest in people, and being the prince that those around him wished he would be. A martial young leader as his father Aerys began showing signs of his coming madness. Someone the realm could breath easier knowing was in line to take the throne.

In public, he was the noble, handsome warrior coming to lead the Seven Kingdoms described by Ser Barristan.

Rhaegar inspired devotion and love from many. Cersei Lannister in her youth had hoped to marry Rhaegar, inwardly thinking she would’ve preferred him over her own twin Jaime.

Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought, giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the queen. Her aunt had confided that truth to her before the tourney. “You must be especially beautiful,” Lady Genna told her, fussing with her dress, “for at the final feast it shall be announced that you and Prince Rhaegar are betrothed.” – A Feast for Crows – Cersei V

He was also known far and wide for abilities as a singer and a player of the harp.

Prince Rhaegar was returning from Dorne, and he and his escort had lingered here a fortnight. He was so young then, and I was younger. Boys, the both of us. At the welcoming feast, the prince had taken up his silver-stringed harp and played for them. A song of love and doom, Jon Connington recalled, and every woman in the hall was weeping when he put down the harp. – A Dance with Dragons – The Griffin Reborn

There was always a strangeness to Rhaegar though, noted early on in his life by those around him, and he kept most people at arm’s length. No one really knew him, they only knew what he choose to show them. And for his deepest secrets, he kept a very small council. Why? Because Rhaegar believed, very strongly, in prophecy and that he, or eventually his children, would fulfill that prophecy. You may recognize it from Melisandre this season when she described it to Daenerys.

The Prince That Was Promised who would beat back the darkness and save the world from the endless winter. It turns out that Rhaegar’s primary confidant about this was old Maester Aemon, who he wrote back and forth to for many years. Aemon, on his death bed in the books, describes their interactions.

Aemon-Castle-Black

“No one ever looked for a girl,” he said. “It was a prince that was promised, not a princess. Rhaegar, I thought . . . the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke. The dragons prove it.” – A Feast for Crows – Samwell IV

It is also from Rhaegar that we get the title of the book series Game of Thrones is based on. From Daenerys’ visions in the House of the Undying:

“Will you make a song for him?” the woman asked.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. “There must be one more,” he said, though whether he was speaking to her or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” He went to the window seat, picked up a harp, and ran his fingers lightly over its silvery strings. Sweet sadness filled the room as man and wife and babe faded like the morning mist, only the music lingering behind to speed her on her way. – A Clash of Kings –  Daenerys IV

There’s speculation that Rhaegar spent most of his adult life trying to become that Prince, and when eventually it showed that he could not be (as the White Walkers never showed up to be his foe) he turned his focus on having children who would fulfill it for him. And this is where all the trouble begins that lead to war and his death.

Rhaegar eventually married Princess of Dorne, Elia Martell – the very same sister of Oberyn and Doran Martell.

Barristan comments on their marriage as well to Daenerys.

“You saw my brother Rhaegar wed. Tell me, did he wed for love or duty?”

The old knight hesitated. “Princess Elia was a good woman, Your Grace. She was kind and clever, with a gentle heart and a sweet wit. I know the prince was very fond of her.”

Fond, thought Dany. The word spoke volumes. I could become fond of Hizdahr zo Loraq, in time. Perhaps.

Rhaegar and Elia seemed to be an average political marriage between future highlords, an arrangement built on their positions rather than passion and romance. It could’ve been a personality mismatch, a more political marriage that Rhaegar arranged to counter his father’s growing racism against the Dornish. Or perhaps Rhaegar was expecting something more…magical to happen from their marriage. Like a bleeding star, salt and smoke, signs of the prophecy coming true.

What happens next, summarized nicely by Oberyn in the above video, is that there was an enormous tournament at Harrenhal that all the great lords and ladies of the Seven Kingdoms attended. At this tournament, it appears that Rhaegar had a dramatic effect on one particular attendee, Lyanna Stark.

Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their sworn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. – A Storm of Swords – Bran III

After winning the joust, which included a surprise mystery competitor named the Knight of the Laughing Tree (that many suspect was Lyanna in disguise), Rhaegar was allowed to proclaim a woman his queen of love and beauty. As his wife Elia was in attendance, it was expected that Rhaegar would give her the crown of blue winter roses. Instead, Rhaegar rode past Elia and gave the crown to Lyanna Stark.

A little under a year later, Lyanna Stark went missing with Prince Rhaegar and several of his companions.

Those on the side of the Starks and Baratheons insist that Lyanna was kidnapped, that Rhaegar was a mad dragon who abducted their beloved sister and Robert’s fiancee. Those on the side of the Targaryens insist that Rhaegar and Lyanna loved each other, having met at the tournament and citing his lack of passion for Elia, and ran off together in a romantic gesture.

Whatever the truth may be, this caused Brandon Stark to ride to King’s Landing and call for Rhaegar to “come out and die” to his father’s face. This ill-advised act led to his execution along with his father, leading to Robert’s Rebellion. Robert was betrothed to Lyanna, and after the death of Rickard and Brandon, he started a war to reclaim her from Rhaegar and depose King Aerys for his crimes.

Rhaegar eventually re-emerged and led the Royal Army against Robert, falling to Baratheon’s warhammer at the Trident. It was revealed that Rhaegar had been in Dorne, at a tower he named “The Tower of Joy” with Lyanna Stark, where she was found by her brother Ned pregnant with Rhaegar’s child.

What was revealed in this past episode “Eastwatch” is that Rhaegar had legally annulled his marriage with Elia Martell in Dorne with the help of the High Septon and then married another woman. The implication is that this other woman was Lyanna Stark. This is seemingly a fulfillment of “the song of ice and fire”, with Lyanna being the Ice from the Starks of the Frozen North, and Rhaegar being the fire of the dragonlords, Targaryens born from the volcanoes of Valyria.

Why this matters is that, while annulling marriage does not remove others from the line of succession, Rhaegar’s children by his new wife have a claim to the Iron Throne. It turns out the Battle of the Bastards only had one bastard battling- Jon is a legitimate Targaryen heir. If proven and recognized, Jon’s claim is actually better than Dany’s as, being the son of the crown prince, he would come first before Rhaegar’s younger sister.

And more than the question of succession- what kind of person abandons his wife and children to run away with a teenage girl to get married? Book fans have for year favored that Rhaegar married Lyanna in addition to Elia, citing that Aegon the Conqueror famously has two wives. It’s difficult to defend someone that left behind his family, especially knowing her eventual fate at the hands of Tywin Lannister’s men.

On the other hand, it was revealed that Elia Martell had almost died in both of her births. She spent weeks and months bedridden and recovering. If Rhaegar truly believed “the dragon has three heads” meaning that he needed three children, then by taking Lyanna as his new wife, he was sparing Elia from what seemed to be certain death in childbirth.

After the birth of Princess Rhaenys, her mother had been bedridden for half a year, and Prince Aegon’s birth had almost been the death of her. She would bear no more children, the maesters told Prince Rhaegar afterward. – A Dance with Dragons – The Griffin Reborn

He seemingly chased prophecy to the end of his days, making huge decisions in his life based on whether or not he and Aemon felt those choices would better fulfill The Prince That Was Promised. He gambled the fate of Westeros and the lives of untold numbers of people, including his own estranged wife and children, his family, friends, his home, his own life, that he knew the correct interpretation of a prophecy. It is because of these incredibly hard decisions that Rhaegar remains a character whose morality, decision making, actual actions, and goals have inspired many impassioned debates.

Did he actually kidnap Lyanna? Did he hold her captive in Dorne even if she willingly left with him? If they left as lovers, why do the Starks think it was kidnapping and rape? How much of Robert’s Rebellion was his fault? Was it Aerys and Brandon’s rash actions that turned a scandal into a war? Was it a good idea to run away with a high-born girl, leaving his unstable and violent father Aerys to deal with the fallout? And from this past episode, he also abandoned his wife and children. Even if he believed that Lyanna Stark fulfilled the prophecy that would save the world, creating the Song of Ice and Fire, is Rhaegar justified in treating his wife and children as poorly as he did? Is it worth the deaths of hundreds of thousands, to save the world from eternal darkness?

stannis-and-selyse-baratheon-burn-shireen-game-of-thrones-helen-sloan-hbo

If it is hard to imagine Rhaegar as a character, we luckily have a character who followed a similar path in his life: Stannis Baratheon. Stannis was convinced by Melisandre he was also the savior of Westeros. He ignored his wife Selyse for another woman in Melisandre. Stannis famously burned his daughter Shireen alive in an offering to the Lord of Light.

The idea behind the murder of Shireen was that the outcome would be worth the atrocity, as Stannis believed (like Rhaegar) that he was a prophetic figure of destiny against the darkness. Rhaegar may have faced the exact same choices in his life. Stay with Elia, Rhaenys, and Aegon (although he doesn’t feel they fulfill his destiny and it may kill Elia to do so) or run away with/kidnap Lyanna Stark, hoping she is the right woman for him, and trusting that the realm won’t erupt over it. It’s an impossible choice when you fervently believe the fate of the entire planet is in the balance.

Rhaegar is one of my favorite characters for these reasons, a fascinating creation of George R. R. Martin designed specifically to be mysterious and not easily understood or judged. As the show reveals more about him in the coming seasons in relation to his supposed son, Jon Snow, I feel it’s important to keep in mind the complexity of Rhaegar’s actions and character and that the man who may end up saving Westeros through his children may not be a classical hero, or even a moral person. Rather he was a melancholy book nerd who found destiny shoved into his hands, and tried to play the role given to him. How well he played that role, we’ll have to wait and see.

74 responses

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    1. Excellent and comprehensive article, man! I know Rhaegar is a controversial figure, with book readers arguing about Jon’s legitimacy for years, and what that meant for Elia and her children.

      Hope everyone comes and reads this.

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    2. Rhaegar Targaryen was a 24 years old man who fucked a 15 years old girl because he read some old prophecies in scrolls, and as she was betrothed to another, it started a war that got thousands of people killed, and he gave up on his Dornish wife as well, wife who bore children for him (who ultimately got massacred after said war, with their children of course).

      Even if he wasn’t the rapist Robert pretended Rhaegar was, I don’t see how some people can think of him as a “good guy”.

      Put it in a comparable real life situation… If the daughter of the Russia’s president is about to marry the son of China’s president of the republic, but I flirt with her because something in some religion tells me our kid will be super special and we elope together and it starts WWIII and 5 billions of people die, would the fact that she was consenting to the relation makes it all OK?

      Add to the fact that Rhaegar was almost 10 years her senior, and that he was already married…

      Lyanna wasn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer either. She talks badly on Robert Baratheon (to Eddard) because she think he would not be faithful…
      Yeah I guess he would not be as faithful as the guy who ditched his wife to elope with a kid?

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    3. You are completely ignoring the fact, that Aerys II made Viserys his new heir.
      Jon might have been born in wedlock, but he is heir after Daenerys.

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    4. Great Article.

      Hopefully we will learn more details.

      One comment – Are you sure that an anullment doesn’t remove Elia’s children from the line of succession. I sort of remember that royal anullments do remove the children from line of succession. Don’t know about Westeros.

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    5. This is a damn good read. Really enjoyed it.

      Summerhall is a partial key….waiting for Martin to share the details on that one.

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    6. Thank you! An excellent article and thought-provoking analysis. Nothing simple in these stories!

      I really regret losing Ser Barristan so early in the show.

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    7. Lonin,

      Obviously Westeros may have its own rules, but in our world, annulment doesn’t affect children- they’re still legitimate and have full rights.

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    8. Really excellent summary! You put together all of the bits and peiceds that I have heard and read and made me understandjust who this man was.. Wish the show had included him somehow, through a vision possibly. Would have helped people who are confused by why he mtters so much.

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    9. It was revealed that Rhaegar had been in Dorne, at a tower he named “The Tower of Joy” with Lyanna Stark, where she was found by her brother Ned pregnant with Rhaegar’s child.

      Ned is Jon’s mom? He was pregnant with Rhaegar’s babe? No wonder he couldn’t give Jon up and Cat was so jelly.

      On a more serious note, wasn’t Jon already born when Ned arrived?

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    10. Patrick Sponaugle:
      Excellent and comprehensive article, man! I know Rhaegar is a controversial figure, with book readers arguing about Jon’s legitimacy for years, and what that meant for Elia and her children.

      Hope everyone comes and reads this.

      Thank you Pat! Definitely controversial, when people start talking about him the volume in the room goes up drastically. There’s no easy takes on the character, and understanding him is extremely tough given almost all the sources on him are biased memories and histories.

      The legitimacy question is one similar to, you guessed it, Stannis and Renly. It sort of doesn’t matter who has the stronger claim between Jon and Dany. It matters who will follow and honor that claim. Given that Dany has the dragons and Dothraki, I imagine she will remain the favorite to sit the throne.

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    11. Ginevra: Ned is Jon’s mom?He was pregnant with Rhaegar’s babe?No wonder he couldn’t give Jon up and Cat was so jelly.

      On a more serious note, wasn’t Jon already born when Ned arrived?

      Hahaha you know, you write something and think it is clear but then something like this happens. That’s some A+ tinfoil!

      They appear to be happening at the same time at least in the show. Lyanna screaming in pain as Jon is born while Ned and his merry men take on the Kingsguard.

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    12. He seemingly chased prophecy to the end of his days, making huge decisions in his life based on whether or not he and Aemon felt those choices would better fulfill The Prince That Was Promised. He gambled the fate of Westeros and the lives of untold numbers of people, including his own estranged wife and children, his family, friends, his home, his own life, that he knew the correct interpretation of a prophecy. It is because of these incredibly hard decisions that Rhaegar remains a character whose morality, decision making, actual actions, and goals have inspired many impassioned debates.

      Love! This is so true. And it reminds me of another book quote, this one from Archmaester Marwyn (who is and isn’t Ebrose):

      Gorghan of Old Ghis once wrote that a prophecy is like a treacherous woman. She takes your member in her mouth, and you moan with the pleasure of it and think, how sweet, how fine, how good this is… and then her teeth snap shut and your moans turn to screams. That is the nature of prophecy, said Gorghan. Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.

      And yet I would still land on giving Rhaegar the benefit of the doubt until we know his whole story. George – as well as D&D – is famous for fooling us into feeling one emotion about a character only to have us completely reverse those feelings.

      Thanks for the awesome article!

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    13. Nina,

      Wrong, jon being male and the last male succesor of aerys II means jons claim is higher, even if this happened which it didn’t if viserys was next in line it wouldnt move to dany itd move to the male…Jon.

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    14. I strongly believe the starks did believe the rumor at first and then ned found lyanna dying and she told ned the truth and thats why ned was so against killing dany.
      Nina,

      Wrong, jon being male and the last male succesor of aerys II means jons claim is higher, even if this happened which it didn’t if viserys was next in line it wouldnt move to dany itd move to the male…Jon.

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    15. Great article, thanks! As an unsullied this helps bring Rhaegar to life and since he will be an import part of the conclusion of this TV series, it is wonderful to have this information.

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    16. Whatever the truth may be, this caused Brandon Stark to ride to King’s Landing and call for Rhaegar to “come out and die” to his father’s face. This ill-advised act led to his execution along with his father, leading to Robert’s Rebellion.

      So Brandon Stark threatened to kill Rhaegar Targaryen, the crown prince, heir to the throne. Is that not high treason (treason against the king or state by attempting to kill the first person in line to the throne)? And does not high treason demand to be punished by death in this era? And so wasn’t Aerys completely and rationally justified in burning Brandon Stark and his co-conspirator, Rickard?

      At the very least, there seems to be as much rationale and logic and explanation in the Stark burning as in the Tarly burning, who although less sympathetic in character are also less treasonous in action since even Dany, with the deliberate absence of a crown, admits she’s not yet truly queen.

      #notreallyafanofaerysbutanavidfanofshitstirringonoccasion

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    17. Nina,

      No he comes before Dany if he is the legitimate son of the crown prince. Evidence of this is the presence of the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy. Omitted from the show but in the books, Ned wonders why they are not guarding Viserys and questions them about it. They reply that they swore a vow. Of course that vow was to protect the King. That being their answer is evidence they did not view Viserys as the rightful heir or King at that point.

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    18. Lonin,

      Not exactly. King Henry VIII divorced his first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and he declared their daughter illegitimate. But then he put her back in the line of succession and she eventually became Queen Mary I. So annulment and divorce doesn’t necessarily effect the legitimacy of the children.

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    19. Not a book reader, so I know little about Rhaegar. He was the Mad King’s son, and must have witnessed the madness of his father. But instead of doing something about it, he chased after prophecies. I wish Melissandre had arrived when he was alive, and messed him up even more than she did Stannis! 😀 Excellent comparison in this article to Stannis!
      I have a question: did the recorded annulment happen with the knowledge and consent of his first wife? If it did, why wasn’t she back in the safety of Dorne with her children? If it didn’t, wow! Awesome husband and father to his first two kids!

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    20. And it would seem Lyanna Stark has a lot in common with Helen of Troy, Rhaegar with Paris and Robert’s Rebellion with The Trojan War. Why did Paris choose Aphrodite or rather Helen, who was already married to Menelaus, and not the two others? And why did he kidnap her (or she felt in love and left with him…the story isn’t clear). Of course Menelaus would seek vengeance and a war will ensue. War the Baratheon and Stark…I meant the Greek will eventually win.

      But aside from that comparison, Rhaegar behavior was strange indeed. With his father madness, before he abducted Lyanna, he was in a position to overthrow his father. Many accounts say Tywin Lannister was working with him to cause the Mad King downfall. But instead of getting the support of the Stark, the Vale and the Baratheon against the Mad King, he fell in love and went away with Lyanna Stark ruining everything and actually having to fight on his father side (whom he despised).
      It is surprising for someone said to be very bookish and smart to make such a mistake. It is almost as if he didn’t care and he was indeed too obsessed with prophecies or love (or both) to even question the rationality and consequence of his actions.

      Jon is not like his father. He felt in love with Ygritte and yet, he remained faithful to the Night Watch, even betraying his wife for them. And even if his heart was telling him otherwise, he placed the faith of the Kingdom and the North before his love for Daenarys until he knew her enough to figure both were actually compatible.
      The same could be said about Daenarys…she is the loving and the gentle heart who care about everyone and who want to break the wheel. She is meant to become (not easily though) the opposite of her own father. And I believe it was made on purpose to show what both fathers had the potential to become and failed and what their children avoided because they made better choices (btw, we could easily include Sansa and Ned as well as Jaime and Tywin in that list).

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    21. Fantastic read. The excerpts from the books made me miss GRRMs writing.
      Can someone remind me again why Cersai didn’t end up marrying him?

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    22. Nina:

      You are completely ignoring the fact, that Aerys II made Viserys his new heir.
      Jon might have been born in wedlock, but he is heir after Daenerys.

      I don’t think it matters who’s in line for succession. Rhaenyra was named a successor, see how that turned out for her.

      And besides, even if Jon’s claim is stronger, he never ends up where he’s “supposed” to. Supposed to be in the night’s watch, ends up a wildling. Supposed to be a wildling, ends up commander of the night’s watch. Supposed to be a commander of the night’s watch, ends up King in the North. Supposed to be a bastard Stark, turns out to be a Targ.

      Hell, supposed to die, ends up alive.

      Yeah, you never know with this kid. One thing you do know is that he doesn’t want power for power’s sake and certainly wouldn’t argue Dany’s claim unless it was for a greater good.

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    23. As a non reader, I always took Rhaegar as a romantic character. After reading this (excellent) article, I feel that he was romantic in Henry VIII’s kind of romantic. Only with a touch of paranoia. And less politically shrewd.
      I don’t feel that he had much in common with Stannis though. At least not show Stannis. He was just paranoid.

      aiad,
      you are absolutely right by today’s standards, but it would seem that in Westeros (and generally in the era that the books/show depict) girls married pretty young. Like Catelyn Stark had a son at 17 and Cersei likewise. Or Daenerys got married at 13 (although that is not the best example). Or Sansa getting betrothed at something like 12. Hell, even Rhaegar’s mother was something like 14 when she had him. So I guess they have different standards – no wonder the show made everyone older, otherwise it would seem like a Disney movie with sex.

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    24. I think it’s safe to assume given all we know about how flawed each character is in these books that Rhaegar was in love with Lyanna and left his wife and children over it. Full stop. King David saw Bathsheba on her roof and sent her husband to the front line to die so he could marry her. Character flaws are inherent in these stories.

      Rhaegar was larger than life and talented and handsome and a prince. Let’s not confuse that with him being a good man. It’s a disservice to good men. Him being flawed makes for a better story. I disagree he’s hard to judge. He left his wife for a teen age girl. That’s easy to judge.

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    25. ManderlyPieCompany,

      It’ easy to judge if he was just a regular guy. But I think it’s kind of obvious that he, just like Jon and Dany, had some kind of prophetic purpose for the Lord of light and was guided, i were the best interests of the realm. and as we can see, those “best interests” were definitely not immediately seen, but in long term, we shall see. We are seeing with JS now there is some proof to the propheciy he followed so…

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    26. An excellent read, thank you Joe!

      I’m not a book reader but I have spend some time reading about the characters mentioned to have a better understanding of what’s going on.

      I would be reluctunt to judge Raegar’s actions without having all the information about what was happening. But it wouldn’t be crazy if he just fell in love with Lyanna and his love overpowered his sense of duty.
      The prophecy, I believe, came in second where Lyanna was concerned, and I don’t think he saw her exclucively as a potential mother of another of his children.

      As for what would happen, I think that no one could have predicted the reactions of everyone involved – there was no reason to kill Elia or her children for instance and/or they could have been smuggled to exile, with Dany etc. No one would expect such a turn -out for the women and children! But the Lannisters, like others, drove things got out of hand, as each had their own agendas that had little or nothing to do with Lyanna (except her family of course); the main agenda of most was to take anyone with claim to throne out and find a way to secure their place on I.T. (Cercei marrying Robert).

      (from wikia Rhaegar’s wife Elia of House Martell was kept in King’s Landing by Aerys to ensure the Martell’s loyalty during the conflict.Aerys was betrayed by his allies in House Lannister. He was slain by his Kingsguard Ser Jaime Lannister. His final words were “Burn them all.” The gates of King’s Landing were opened to the Lannister armies and they sacked the city. Elia was raped and murdered by Ser Gregor Clegane during the Sack of King’s Landing. Both of her children were also killed. That was Tywin’s choice. )

      I believe that if we throw the responsibilities for what happened to Raegar then we dangerously oversimplify the causes of this war, and the intentions and agendas of everyone involved. The aftermath of the war, shows exactly why each acted as they did.

      What we actually do know for sure is that Lyanna wanted her child to survive which is why she asked Ned to keep Jon’s existance and the entire circumstance a secret. That alone shows that Jon wasn’t born out of hate, but of love. And that his survival meant more to both Lyanna and Raegar than their reputation or anything else. The fact that Raegar got his past marriage annulled in order to marry Lyanna, shows a lot about how he felt about her: he was a prince and he certainly didn’t have to apologize to anyone for having 2 wives, or a mistress, to anyone. So his marrying Lyanna, shows that he didn’t see Lyanna as a passer-by, or just a passion of the moment.

      I don’t think that – with the info we have – Raegar was the bad guy. The fact that neither he or Lyanna cared about the bad PR of their actions, also shows that them being together was their first priority. Yes, Raegar was just a man and Man is inherently flawed. But that doesn’t make him the bad guy in the story, to my view.

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    27. First off I want to say I love the show, it’s by far my favorite of all time and I don’t think any other show comes close to this production. But…

      This is an example in my opinion of where the show can’t match the depth of the books. Of course if you’re a book reader you already know all about this stuff but for the show watcher I think some of it gets lost. The only thing that people think is cool is Jon Snow is a Targarayen.

      Just an opinion though, my wife is a diehard show fan but hasn’t read the books and she doesn’t really know what’s up with Rhaegar. However this article really does a fantastic job of clearing it up, great work.

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    28. Really nice essay on Rhaegar. You put a lot of thinking and care into this. That being said, I’m not going to say too much on whether or not Rhaegar was a good guy or bad guy, but poor Elia Martell Targaryen was one sad, unlucky lady. The things she experienced while in the company of the Targaryens in general, and married to Rhaegar specifically, are proof once again that marrying a “prince” rarely includes the happily-ever-after life that the fairy tales would have us believe.

      To be honest, Rhaegar sounds like a nut-case, not quite as bad as his father turned out to be, but far from an ideal husband to either wife. While I’m willing to be as entranced by an “all consuming love” as the next person, this particular love affair gives rise to a shit-load of caveats. The first might be: don’t believe so thoroughly in some bygone prophecy that you end up causing the harrowing deaths, one way or another, of two women you were supposed to love, the deaths of almost all your children and making your surviving son an orphan.

      It’s just as well that crazy Ellaria is gone, too. Even though she wasn’t directly related to Elia, she felt it her duty to carry out revenge on Oberyn’s enemies. His enemies were not only the Lannisters, it was absolutely the Targaryen’s, for their shabby treatment of Elia. Ellaria might have caused a lot of trouble for Jon, or at the very least, a lot of trouble between Dany and Jon. It seemed to me to be only a matter of time before she devised some plan to do away with Dany. Imagine how crazy she would be to find out another male Targaryen was around.

      It’s probably a good thing Jon was raised by Ned, otherwise he might have turned out to be a mooning, harp playing fool. As it is, Jon has an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and a true nobility, so the combination of the Targaryen and Stark blood turned out to be a good thing. He is a worthy person. IMHO, he has paid his dues, and the dues his parents racked up, multiple times over. There is no need for him to be ashamed. Luckily, there have already been conversations voiced on the show several times giving the opinion that children shouldn’t be judged for the mistakes of their parents. Jon will do well as a Targaryen, despite the deeds of Rhagar. I don’t think he’ll be making the same mistakes.

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    29. Ginevra,

      The problem with that justification is that Rickard Stark had no part in Brandon’s actions. He was in Winterfell when this happened and was summoned to KL to deal with his son. It also ignores that the Targaryens broke faith with House Stark when Rhaegar took/ran off with Lyanna.

      But even if we assume that Aerys was rational and justified in the brutal execution of Brandon and Rickard Stark, it’s much harder to justify the Mad King’s summons to Jon Arryn for not only Ned Stark’s head but Robert Baratheon’s as well. That was really what started the rebellion.

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    30. Excellent article! I too believe Rhaegar to be an incredibly interesting character, and he is certainly the source of much debate in the fandom. To me, he represents all that is good about GRRM’s writing – Rhaegar is incredibly grey, and the fragments we have of him speak of a man dealing with internal turmoil and conflict.

      He was not the monster Robert painted him as, and nor was he a perfect hero. Rhaegar is a tragic figure – a man haunted by the manner of his birth, and what he saw as the huge weight of destiny placed upon him. One of the most poignant quotes about Rhaegar is one from Barristan in Daenerys IV in A Storm of Swords:

      “But I am not certain it was in Rhaegar to be happy.”

      “You make him sound so sour,” Dany protested.

      “Not sour, no, but . . . there was a melancholy to Prince Rhaegar, a sense . . .” The old man hesitated again.

      “Say it,” she urged. “A sense . . . ?”

      “. . . of doom. He was born in grief, my queen, and that shadow hung over him all his days.”

      Personally, I tend to think that he did love Lyanna – and that the prophecy element was the excuse he used to justify what he did rather than the driving force behind it.

      I could spend hours talking about the parallels between Jon and Rhaegar, and between Jon/Ygritte and Rhaegar/Lyanna.

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    31. Nina,

      It’s actually really unclear when and how that happened. Aerys wanted Viserys to be his heir, rather than “Dornish smelling” Aegon, but unlikely Westeros would have accepted that if the Targs had won the civil war – its a Dance of the Dragons scenario. The chosen heir (Viserys filling Rhaenyra’s role) versus the lawful heir (Aegon VI in Aegon II’s role.)

      Also unclear if GRRM intended us to interpret the bits in TWOIAF and ASOIAF where Viserys is described as Aerys’ heir as Aerys bumped Viserys up the line of succession because he wanted to, or just GRRM being shit with details as he often is – Viserys *was* Aerys’ heir for so long because Aegon and Rhaegar predeceased him. I tend to assume author continuity error over convoluted succession plot, as GRRM tends to write verbosely about the latter!

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    32. Jon is very clearly now the Prince who was promised but I am excited to see how this plays out particularly with Dany. I think Jon will be the one to resolve the White Walkers but will he rule the kingdom after that? He’s probably the most likely right now but I wouldn’t guarantee he doesn’t die before that.

      As for Rhaegar do we feel we will see him in the show, via a Bran flashback?

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    33. ygritte:
      Nina,

      King’s decrees don’t count when they’ve gone mad 🙂

      Then why were Rickon and Brandon burned alive at his decree?

      I’m not sure that even kings have the authority to decree their heirs. The British monarchy doesn’t, at least. But the Westerosi monarchy might be different in that respect. Is Blackfyre’s bequeathment not what started the Dance of the Dragons because some felt the sword symbolized a bequeathment of regency?

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    34. I think it’s pretty easy to think, after things happened, that they had to happen, but that’s not true. It’s a historian’s fallacy, believing that people in the past had the same information we do.

      Brandon Stark going to KL and threatening the Prince was widely seen as a hothead thing to do, so not something they could have anticipated.

      And nobody suspected Aerys would just kill these young lords and their parents, which explains why these parents went there in the first place. Much less than he would ask for Ned’s and Robert’s heads.

      There are a lot of ifs in the situation. What if the Tyrells has decided to stay neutral, like Tywin did? Or the Tullys, who weren’t even related to the north yet? What if Rhaegar had one at the trident? What if the Lannisters hadn’t taken KL, or if Aerys decided not to open the gates? Rhaegar couldn’t have known how things would turn out.

      I do not understand why at this point Rhaegar didn’t show up and explained himself, saying that he and Lyanna were married, but I certainly hope it will be explained at some point.

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    35. Great freaking read! Got to work, drinking my coffee, reading some Watchers. Beautiful soul keep up the good work.

      Rhaegar is one reason why I hope we never get a prequel series about the Rebellion, while I would love to see answers I actually like the mystery and everything behind Rhaegar and his decisions. Makes for great discussions. As for people saying he’s a prick for abandoning his wife and kids to run away with Elia, I can’t remember the quote…but didn’t someone say in the books that Elia would of been okay with Rhaegar remarrying? I’ll see if I can find it.

      aiad,

      Pretty sure in the middle ages (time period this can be based on I guess) 15 would be the normal age to be married. I know I’ve read about some in our own history marrying at 13 or so to men much older, wasn’t marriage back then pretty much just alliances? Or have I been playing too much Crusader Kings and gather all those minor claims. (have to be 16 at least in CK lol).

      The original Stargaryen,

      I think Rhaegar told Jaime that when he got back from the Trident he was going to explain and try to change things, he knew his father was crazy. But Rhaegar died.

      And to be fair, everyone by this point knew Aerys was crazy. He had been burning people for a while now, after he was a prisoner is when he went really insane. Didn’t he wipe out that whole House and have the whole family killed horribly? Except for poor Dontos Hollard – who’s alcoholic state makes sense when you think about how his whole family was killed by the Mad King.

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    36. Nina:
      You are completely ignoring the fact, that Aerys II made Viserys his new heir.
      Jon might have been born in wedlock, but he is heir after Daenerys.

      Assuming this is true, it doesn’t matter as much as some think it might. Aerys allegedly disinherited Elia’s children, and Jon is not her child. To add to this, Jon wasn’t born at that time Aerys made Viserys his heir. You can’t name an unborn child as your heir, especially since nobody knows if the baby will even survive the birth. If baby Jon is born and he survives, he automatically becomes the heir over Viserys. It’s also likely Aerys didn’t even know Lyanna was pregnant to begin with.

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    37. ManderlyPieCompany,

      Rhaegar was larger than life and talented and handsome and a prince. Let’s not confuse that with him being a good man. It’s a disservice to good men. Him being flawed makes for a better story. I disagree he’s hard to judge. He left his wife for a teen age girl. That’s easy to judge.

      yes – and I’d much rather read about people who are flawed than about a perfect prince. Doesn’t excuse the behavior but makes him all that much more interested as a human being.

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    38. Mawk,

      As for people saying he’s a prick for abandoning his wife and kids to run away with Elia, I can’t remember the quote…but didn’t someone say in the books that Elia would of been okay with Rhaegar remarrying? I’ll see if I can find it.

      Yeah thats what they all say…..no I doubt this very much, unless it was written with her as the narrator thinking those thoughts or telling them to someone else. Be interested if you can find it. But as someone else said, she was very unlucky that childbirth almost killed her, her husband couldn’t use her to fulfill his prophecy and died because of it. I always feel for women characters like this when I read them…

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    39. It remains to this day a debated topic about what Rhaegar read in his scrolls that turned his life, but in a very dramatic way, from that day forward Rhaegar was different.

      I’ve just now read the extended theories Joe’s written about what Rhaegar read. I disagree that he talked to no one about his role in TPTWP and the SoIaF. We hear him talking to Elia about these very things, in fact, from Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying. And so he might likely talk, at least a wee bit, to a fellow Targaryen and PTWP-theorist. I am unconvinced that Aemon had a huge role in Rhaegar’s conversion experience, though.

      I suspect that Rhaegar became interested in TPTWP theories from the fact that his parents were married because the woods witch (Maggy the Frog, most like) foresaw that their offspring would include TPTWP and because Rhaegar might have been the only prince from that line at that time. That wouldn’t be enough for him to assume he was *the* prince, though, and so he must have stumbled across prophecies that pointed more specifically to him, like born amidst smoke and salt or even something that pointed toward the imminent return of the Others.

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    40. Puh-leaze. All this “I gotta father one more kid” is just an excuse to cheat on Elia with the hot Stark girl. And he gets to stick it to the Baratheon doofus.

      Until and unless I see proof that Lyanna consented to all this and wasn’t dragged to the septon like Tywin threatened Cersei with, I’m assuming he’s still a rapey kidnapping raper.

      Jackass Targaryen. I see you.

      If you’d kept it in your pants, or just cheated on Elia like a normal monarch, then Brandon and Catelyn would be happily married in Winterfell, Ned would be married to some Umber or Karstark chick (or even Asha Greyjoy) and your kids with Elia (remember them?) would be alive and well.

      And what of Viserys and Dany? Assuming Rhaegar bans them from marrying each other, perhaps Viserys would be a nice match for Cersei and Dany a match for one of the Tyrell boys.

      Fuck Rhaegar.

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    41. ash,

      Yeah you’re right, it was the quote I was thinking of where they mention that Elia might not have survived a third child combined with some other stuff said about her in the books…I need to do a re-read, but don’t want to until the show is done as it messes with my head when I’m thinking one thing that’s in one source and not another.

      The more I think about Rhaegar, the more I don’t want a definitive answer. I like that his character is kind of shadowed in secrecy. Did he and Lyanna run away for love or was it simply Rhaegar seeing her as the “Ice” in the ice and fire and his whole dream of fulfilling this prophecy took over. Everyone says he was a pretty smart guy, I would think he knew the consequences of what he was doing…

      Was talking with a buddy over pints about Rhaegar the other day – does him marrying Lyanna make what he did more for love or was he just making sure his Ice and Fire child would be legitimate and Rhaegar didn’t really care for anything else other then the PWTP prophecy?

      Either way, this whole mess was his fault. Maybe if Bran visits the past we’ll get some answers.

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    42. Great piece.
      I have always read Rhaegar as an example of the unreliable narrator in the books, for example,Robert’s and Barristan’s differing views of him. I have assumed that we will get clarification through Bran’s weirnet experiences at some point in the books and that the TV show will do the same thing.

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    43. Jon Snowed,

      Very clearly? I’m not sure. Why do they call him the ‘Prince that was Promised’ and not the ‘King that was promised’? He could never be a Prince because he is not the son of a King.

      And what if the Prophecy and Rhaegar conviction that he has something to do with the prophecy is not again misguiding? They are there to make us believe Jon Snow is the One. What if it was Daenarys. She is the only princess…and she is probably the Stallion Who Mount the World. Why couldn’t she be the one forging Lightbringer through Jon’s heart. Jon has already Longclaw….Daenarys has no sword.

      Or, their could be another explanation. The three headed dragon. Maybe there are three prophecies for three different person. Daenarys is The Stallion Who Mount the World. Jon Snow is the Prince that was promised. And Gendry is Azor Azhai. “Making dragons from stone”….or making dragonglass from stone.. Azor Azhai will forge Lightbringer….Gendry is a blacksmith. And since Gendry is a Baratheon, this is perhaps why Melisandre thought it was Stannis in the flame. They do look alike. Much more than Jon Snow look like Stannis. And the prophecy about Azor doesn’t mention ‘wielding the sword’. Only forging it. So it is very possible Jon Snow will wield the sword made by Gendry (from Daenarys heart)? What do you think?

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    44. Nina,

      Does that really matter? Viserys I made Rhaenyra his heir and she was eventually overthrown by her half brother. The King’s wishes are not always supported by council or vessels. And everyone knew Aerys was mad, everyone wanted Rhaegar to take over and overthrow his father. Had Robert ended his “justice” by ridding the crown of Aerys and Rhaegar without ousting Targaryens completely, who would have garnered support for the crown? Aegon or Viserys? Most likely Aegon, right?

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    45. Kay,

      That’s actually one of the few things the otherwise excellent article glossed over. The great tourney at Harrenhal that Rhaegar won the joust at (and fell in love with Lyanna at) was most likely part of Rhaegar’s plan to deal with his father’s madness.

      It was hosted by the Lord Whent of Harrenhal, but with prestige and prizes announced that he couldn’t possibly have afforded without significant backing from say, the Crown Prince. It was such an enormous event that it attracted all the major Lords of the Seven Kingdoms, and therefore made an ideal opportunity for Rhaegar to discreetly meet and gather support for a plan to force his father to abdicate and take the throne himself. The problem was Aerys, who had been all but hiding in the Red Keep for years (since a kidnapping attempt on him drove him deeper into madness and paranoia) , unexpectedly decided to make a surprise appearance at the event. Ironically, he turned up because he suspected his son and Lords of plotting against him, which was probably true.

      That tournament was probably the single most important event in the lead up to the events of the series. There’s still more to it I’ve not mentioned, including lots more involving the Lannisters. Well worth looking up even if you don’t intend to read the books.

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    46. And what about the 3 heads?

      It seems that Dany is one, Jon is another, so who is the third one?

      I believe that Martin originally intended Tyrion to be one. He could be the son of Aerys. But I don’t like this, it would ruin his paternal conflict with Tywin.

      I don’t remember the show ever mentioning the heads, or even the “song of ice and fire”, at best some little references to the prince that was promised. So will any of this be of any importance on the show?

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    47. Kay,

      Aerys was mad to the point that he started suspecting Rhaegar was conspiring to overthrow him. He saw enemies everywhere. When the Rebellion broke out, he retained Elia and her children in Kings Landing against her wishes to ensure the “loyalty” of the Martells and I guess Rhaegar. She was basically stuck there at the mercy of her father-in-law and later at the mercy of Tywin Lannister and his men. It was Tywin who ordered the murder of Elia and her children. Had it been Ned that found her, she might still be alive and in exile.

      I am not in any way defending what Rhaegar did to her though. It is also sad that despite his love for “his lady Lyanna” he was still willing to bring to the world a child with her with the sole purpose of sacrificing him to fulfill a prophecy. It reminds me to the moment when a disgusted Snape asks Dumbledore if he had raised Harry only to sacrifice him in the end. Dumbledore doesn’t deny it and it is painful even to Snape.

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    48. Kellie is Coming,

      Aerys hated Tywin for several reasons the main being he was obsessed with Johanna Lannister … Thus leading the theory that he raped her resulting in Tyrion (Who has Targ traits in the books…nearly white hair and different colored eyes) being born.
      This was also why he appointed Jamie to the King’s Guard taking away Tywin’s heir.

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    49. Danny:
      Kay,

      Aerys was mad to the point that he started suspecting Rhaegar was conspiring to overthrow him. He saw enemies everywhere.When the Rebellion broke out, he retained Elia and her children in Kings Landing against her wishes to ensure the “loyalty” of the Martells and I guess Rhaegar.She was basically stuck there at the mercy of her father-in-law and later at the mercy of Tywin Lannister and his men.It was Tywin who ordered the murder of Elia and her children.Had it been Ned that found her, she might still be alive and in exile.

      I am not in any way defending what Rhaegar did to her though.It is also sad that despite his love for “his lady Lyanna” he was still willing to bring to the world a child with her with the sole purpose ofsacrificing him to fulfill a prophecy.It reminds me to the moment when a disgusted Snape asks Dumbledore if he had raised Harry only to sacrifice him in the end.Dumbledore doesn’t deny it and it is painful even to Snape.

      Good point! I had forgotten about that conversation between Snape and Dumbledore! In that moment, you see Snape have pity and real emotion for Harry, not out of love and regret for Lily, but for HARRY. Snape was one of the best characters of the story.

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    50. WorfWWorfington,

      LOL, yeah, thank goodness they aren’t real people, but just characters in a story! For real life, I want every moment for every person to be “happily ever after”. But that is not what makes interesting stories.

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    51. ginny,

      I don’t need happy endings.

      I wrote it to establish that Rhaegar a) was a dick b) was a cheating dick c) was a selfish cheating dick whose actions indirectly led to his wife and kids getting killed, not to mention thousands of men on both sides d) until I’m shown that Lyanna went to the Septon willingly, a selfish cheating dick who is a rapist.

      I find none of it romantic. But then again, I’m the guy who was screaming at Robb that he was a moron.

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    52. rosiegamgee:
      Great piece.I have always read Rhaegar as an example of the unreliable narrator in the books, for example,Robert’s and Barristan’s differing views of him. I have assumed that we will get clarification through Bran’s weirnet experiences at some point in the books and that the TV show will do the same thing.

      Rhaegar was never a narrator in the books, reliable or otherwise. Robert would obviously have reason to be biased against the prince who gave his girl flowers and then who disappeared with his girl.

      Ned tells Robert that he didn’t really know Lyanna. Robert doesn’t wholly distrust his wife even though she’s been fucking her brother right under his nose for their entire marriage and had three children with her twin. And so it might be possible that Robert isn’t the best judge of character, in addition to having a natural bias.

      Elnauze:
      Jon Snowed,

      Why do they call him the ‘Prince that was Promised’ and not the ‘King that was promised’? He could never be a Prince because he is not the son of a King.

      Prince William is a prince even though his father has yet to be king. Prince Charles is a prince even though his father will never be king.

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    53. Robin Moss: That’s actually one of the few things the otherwise excellent article glossed over. The great tourney at Harrenhal that Rhaegar won the joust at (and fell in love with Lyanna at) was most likely part of Rhaegar’s plan to deal with his father’s madness.

      Interesting that you wrote “most likely”. Which tells me that perhaps it wasn’t spelled out/completely clarified in the books. If this was quite important, I hope Season 8 addresses this somewhat, through Bran’s all-powerful visions.
      In any case, I hope that Rhaegar was trying to do something at the Tourney. But he got side-tracked by falling in love/prophecy (very Stannis-like, IMO) and put his father’s madness on the back-burner and the terrible harm it was doing to the country. If Rhaegar was a responsible crown-prince, he would have dealt with his mad father first. Then he would have gone after Lyanna, divorced his first wife, and married her. There is also the matter of the “secret” marriage. Why was the annulment and remarriage such a secret? If it was known to the Starks at least, a ton of harm could have been prevented.

      Danny: Aerys was mad to the point that he started suspecting Rhaegar was conspiring to overthrow him. He saw enemies everywhere. When the Rebellion broke out, he retained Elia and her children in Kings Landing against her wishes to ensure the “loyalty” of the Martells and I guess Rhaegar. She was basically stuck there at the mercy of her father-in-law and later at the mercy of Tywin Lannister and his men. It was Tywin who ordered the murder of Elia and her children.

      Well, if it turns out that Rhaegar was indeed conspiring to remove his mad father (see discussion above) then Aerys was actually not so mad/wrong in suspecting it! Right? 😀
      OK, so Aerys retained Elia and her kids to ensure the Martell’s loyalty and Rhaegar’s too. Except Rhaegar didn’t have much loyalty to his own children, because if he did, he would have done his very best to first remove them to safety before pursuing his own desires with Lyanna. It certainly worked out that the Martells remained loyal due to Elia and her kids being at KL, and perhaps that may explain why Rhaegar didn’t inform Elia or anyone else of the annulment. Because then he would have had the Martell army at KL too! 😀

      All in all, till we know further, I am very, very happy that Jon is a MUCH BETTER man than his father was.

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    54. Kellie is Coming,

      Aerys had a long standing issue with Tywin. He was jealous of Tywin’s brains and that people thought Tywin was a more capable ruler. And Aerys was especially jealous of Tywin’s wife, who Aerys was obsessed with. So refusing the marry Cersei to Rhaegar was just another opportunity to screw Tywin, while claiming it was beneath Rhaegar to marry a “servants” daughter.

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    55. Just wanted to say excellent write-up on Prince Rhaegar. I’m only a show-viewer for now but I have been fascinated with him for quite some time. You ask some hard questions in your write-up that are tough to answer which the show also likes to do. It will be interesting to see if the show gives us a flashback of him or even more information.

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    56. aiad,

      But you are leaving out a very important factor in your modern times analogy. Yes you did flirt with the Chinese leader’s daughter and stole her from the no good Russian leader’s son and it caused billions of deaths… But why leave out the prophecy???? Without it, sure Rhaegar looks like scum. But let’s factor it in.

      Prophecy said that your Child with the Chinese princess would create and develop a technology that would save the world. Fast forward 20 years and here we have an asteroid hurtling towards us about to wipe mankind off the face of the earth but your son with the princess developed a laser that could disintegrate the asteroid in space…

      So when you look at the overall picture, you sacrificed your crown, your reputation, the love of your life, hell you sacrificed everything but the sacrifices you made saved the world.

      I’d call that a true hero. Rhaegar didn’t get to live to witness the salvation of mankind but he made the sacrifices that would eventually lead to the saving of the world. So it’s easy to judge him harshly without knowing the conclusion. But it sure looks like GRRM is showing us that Rhaegar & Lyanna’s union & subsequent son are mostly responsible for saving Westeros. So in that sense Rhaegar did the right thing.

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    57. In so many ways I think Rhaegar and Lyanna are the main characters of the entire series. Everything happening in the present still revolves around what they did and the choices they made/others made because of them. And we definitely don’t understand everything yet. But we have some clues, not just from the series and the show, but the World Book.

      About a year after the tourney (where they met -queen of love and beauty and KotLT) So many things were going on. You kind of have to lay it all out to look at it like a puzzle. If you’re obsessive like me.
      I think Rhaegar was traveling, getting support for a possible move against crazy dad.
      Brandon Stark was on the road on his way to marry Cat, Ned was in the Eyrie with Robert and Benjen was in Winterfell.

      Lyanna was in the Riverlands-Not at Winterfell-before she went off with Rhaegar.
      I don’t think she was kidnapped at all. And clearly due to Gilly we know they got married. (I didn’t think he’d annulled marriage with Elia but they say he did so there you go)

      So everyone was spread out all over the place when they made their decision. It was impulsive, yes, but I think she left word and that word didn’t get through for some reason…

      Imagine it. You go off to a private condo (tower) your friend loans you for your honeymoon-and right in the middle of the fun you get an email (raven) that your father just killed your new wife’s brother and father and now your wife’s ex thinks you kidnapped and raped her because they didn’t get the email she sent-and he started a giant f-ing war to destroy your family.
      That has to suck the joy out of the whole union between ice and fire prophecy fulfillment/make out session for both of you, right? (Would love to read about that conversation)

      So I don’t think Rhaegar is as dicky or Lyanna is as irresponsible as some people are painting them.

      Lyanna didn’t love Robert or want to marry him. She knew he was a cheater and he would never love her enough to be faithful. She did, however, love her family. Especially Benjen. I think she’d have sent word. Maybe she was betrayed.

      Rhaegar cared for Elia but theirs wasn’t a true love match “he was fond of her”. We don’t know how much he told her about the prophecies or what their relationship was really like.
      (think about how cool Ellaria was with sharing Oberyn for example. Dorne is a very open-minded kind of place)
      She might have supported him on his prince that was promised quest.
      There was no way for either of them to know until it was too late how badly things would go, or that she and her children wouldn’t be safe.

      Having said all of that-I’m still glad a stable, steady do-the-right-thing man like Ned raised Jon (though I wish Cat hadn’t been so mean to him)
      Everything he’s experienced has made him a remarkable, thoughtful, humble leader of the living/King of the Andals and the First Men 🙂

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    58. Sou,

      In the Middle Ages – a girl was considered a ‘woman’ when she had her first bleed. That is one of the reasons they died so often in childbirth. Their bodies weren’t developed enough at 14 or 15 to bear children and the mortality rate was quite high for that reason. Rheagar’s wife was a high born, she was likely taught that her principal job was to bear her husband heirs – she may not have been upset at having her marriage annulled as she may have felt she failed her husband. I’m just speculating on that part but there is precedent for it.

      Recall when Sansa had her first bleed and how she tried to hide it and what Cersei said to her about her change in status now that she was a woman. Martin is definitely incorporating those customs in his story. It was also common for young girls to be married off to older men – usually around 30 years of age as men back then went off to fight and sow their wild oats before they settled down and took over the reins of their father’s house so Rhaegars being older in this case would have been perfectly normal.

      It was also acceptable to the church for a man to put aside his wife if she couldn’t bear children or could no longer bear children if he only had one male heir. Given how children often died when young it was always safer – especially for royalty- to have as many sons as possible in case the first heir didn’t survive to adulthood. While Henry’s daughters did eventually secede Edward, that was a result of his dying young and not leaving any hears of his own body to ascend to the throne.

      In the real world case of Henry VIII – Rome’s refusal to grant him an annulment was strictly political. If they lost Catherine, they lost the country and they risked alienating her parents who were waging war against non-Catholics. Catherine’s inability to bear him a living heir was perfectly legal grounds for an annulment.

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    59. aiad,

      You know, Lysa Tully had the same age as Lyanna when she married Jon Arryn who was in his sixties.

      Age is the least of the problems here, especially because Rhaegar was 23, and Lyanna had reached the age of “maturity” in Westeros, which was 16.

      As for Robert, he held no value for any women’s honor, you can see it from the way he treated Cersei.

      Rhaegar and Elia though, is difficult to talk about them, since the only thing we know is that they married because they parents told them to do, a political alliance, pure and simple. They had children, they did their part. I don’t see anything else beyond it.

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    60. He gambled the fate of Westeros and the lives of untold numbers of people, including his own estranged wife and children.

      Estranged wife? i don’t remember Rhaegar and Elia being estranged from one another.

      Even when Aegon was born, they seemed to be on good terms, and that was pretty much their last time together before war broke out.

      Why they need to be estranged from one another? a man doesn’t need to have a bad relationship with wife to go after another woman.

      Also, isn’t it a little unfair to say that he gambled the fate of Westeros? that sounds a little “romantic” to me, as if he knew that when he took Lyanna, a bloody war would follow.

      There would be consequences(most likely), but a war on that scale? no one could ever predict that, not even him.

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