Maiden's Day Ball

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The Maiden's Day Ball[1][2] was a royal ball held on Maiden's Day in 133 AC, in order to find a second wife and new queen for King Aegon III Targaryen, after the death of Queen Jaehaera Targaryen. The court fool Mushroom mocked the event as the Maiden's Day Cattle Show.[3]

Background

Young King Aegon III Targaryen's first marriage to his cousin Princess Jaehaera Targaryen had ended tragically in 133 AC, with Jaehaera's apparent suicide. Afterwards, Lord Unwin Peake, who was the king's Hand and regent, planned a betrothal between Aegon and his daughter, Myrielle Peake. Cregan Stark and Kermit Tully were among the lords that disapproved of the match, and Grand Maester Munkun's support began to waver, acknowledging that the match would be seen as advancing House Peake's interests rather than being for the good of the Seven Kingdoms. Lord Torrhen Manderly, Lady Johanna Lannister, Lady Elenda Baratheon, and Lady Sharis Footly wrote to the crown, proposing their own relatives as Aegon's bride (or themselves, in Lady Footly's case). Lady Samantha Hightower not only named her sister and sister-in-law, who she suggested could both marry Aegon, but thirty-one other eligible maidens of the Reach. (Mushroom unverifiably adds that she said she could name pretty boys as well, if Aegon should be so inclined, though that would not solve the issue of heirs.) Due to the opposition, Peake announced a ball in King's Landing, where the king himself would be able to choose his own bride.

To limit the attendance, Peake restricted the ball to maidens of nobility under the age of thirty, but more than one thousand young women from throughout Westeros and even Essos came to King's Landing in hopes of marrying the king. However, many women were injured, scandalized, or even died before the ball, and men spoke of the "Maiden's Day curse". Many of these events were likely engineered by Lord Peake, who still hoped to have his daughter be chosen queen.[3]

Maidens known to be present at the Maiden's Day Ball

Outcome

Daenaera Velaryon is presented by Corwyn Corbray at the ball, as depicted by Douglas Wheatley in Fire & Blood.

The maidens expected to flirt and dance with King Aegon, but the event was not a true ball. They appeared before the king in the Red Keep's throne room, in what Mushroom nicknamed the "Maiden's Day Cattle Show", with Aegon's herald announcing each lady's name and lineage as she curtsied before the king. Mushroom wrote that the bored king soon forgot each girl, and clever fathers likely sent their daughters through the queue again. Music played constantly, but the maidens, family members, and servants so overflowed the throne room — the second-largest hall in Westeros after Harrenhal — that they could not move. The building became "suffocatingly hot" despite the winter; people fainted and one lord died. The herald lost his voice and had to be replaced.

The daughter of the Prince of Pentos was the first to appear before Aegon. Some maidens boldly spoke to the king or, like Myrmadora Haen, wore scandalously scanty clothing, but Aegon only nodded to each before the Kingsguard led her away. His growing disinterest as hours passed benefited Lord Peake, as Myrielle had spent much time with the king before the ball.

When only a few maidens remained, the king's half-sisters Lady Baela Targaryen and Lady Rhaena Targaryen suddenly arrived, mounted on a pair of black chargers, dressed in Targaryen black and red rubies. They rode down the hall together and announced that they had brought his new queen. Rhaena's husband Corwyn Corbray presented their kinswoman Daenaera Velaryon, six years old and breathtakingly beautiful. The whole galley was said to have rejoiced when she smiled, and when Aegon returned her smile and told her she looked very pretty, all knew who his selection would be.

The last few women were brought forward hurriedly, and the king's desire to end the parade was so palpable that the final maiden, Henrietta Woodhull, sobbed as she curtsied. Afterwards, the king summoned his cupbearer, Gaemon Palehair, who announced that the king would marry Lady Daenaera.[3]

Quotes

For the good of his people, His Grace must take another wife, though no woman will ever replace our beloved Jaehaera in his heart. Many have been put forward for this honor, the fairest flowers of the realm. Whichever girl King Aegon weds shall be the Alysanne to his Jaehaerys, the Jonquil to his Florian. She will sleep by his side, birth his children, share his labors, soothe his brow when he is sick, grow old with him. It is only fitting therefore that we allow the king himself to make this choice. On Maiden's Day we shall have a ball, the like of which King's Landing has not seen since the days of King Viserys. Let the maidens come from every corner of the Seven Kingdoms and present themselves before the king, that His Grace may choose the one best suited to share his life and love.[3]

Unwin Peake, announcing the Maiden's Day Ball

At tourneys, fair maidens and high ladies vied for the honor of being named the queen of love and beauty, but such reigns lasted only for a night. Whichever maid King Aegon chose would reign over Westeros for a lifetime.[3]

—writings of Gyldayn

Each maid seemed lovelier than the last. Sparkling and spinning in their silks and jewels, they made a dazzling sight as they made their way to the throne room. It would be hard to picture anything more beautiful, unless perhaps all of them had arrived naked.[3]

Brother, if it please you, we have brought your new queen.[3]

She sparkled, and when she smiled, the singers in the galley rejoiced, for they knew that here at last was a maid worthy of a song.[3]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Gossip spread about this maiden beforehand may have prevented her from attending the ball.

References

  1. Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - The Voyage of Alyn Oakenfist.
  2. Fire & Blood, The Lysene Spring and the End of Regency.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - War and Peace and Cattle Shows.