Viserys I Targaryen
Viserys I Targaryen was the fifth Targaryen king to sit the Iron Throne, ruling from 103 AC to 129 AC. He succeeded his grandfather, the Old King Jaehaerys I. Viserys continued the prosperous peace and legacy of his grandsire, but the seeds for the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons that would much later engulf the realm were inadvertently sown in his reign.
Appearance and Character
Viserys was a peaceful man who hated conflict and was plump and pleasant. He was described as amiable, open-handed and eager to please. Though Viserys was never considered strong willed, he was not pliable or indecisive either, when he made a choice he was unwavering and firmly stood by his decision.
King Viserys's generosity was legendary, and the Red Keep became a place of song and splendor during his reign. He hosted countless balls, feasts and tournaments, and he lavished gold and offices and honors among those he favored. Viserys was well loved by lords and smallfolk alike.
In his midlife Viserys's stoutness caused him numerous health problems, including from gout, aching joints, back pain, and respiratory issues. Towards the end of his life his girth nearly kept him from ascending the steps to the Iron Throne.
Prince Baelon Targaryen, chosen by King Jaehaerys I as his heir in 92 AC, died before the Old King, leading to questions about the succession. Baelon's eldest son, Viserys, was eventually chosen by the Great Council of 101 AC. He was twenty-six years old and had been married for a decade to Lady Aemma Arryn.
The Old King, Jaehaerys I Targaryen, died in his bed in 103 AC. Viserys inherited a secure throne, a full treasury and a legacy of goodwill from his grandfather. House Targaryen was at its most powerful during Viserys's time, having the most members and dragons since the Doom of Valyria. Viserys was known as the Young King when he ascended the Iron Throne, and due to his amiable nature the smallfolk were optimistic about his reign. The fool at his court was a dwarf known as Mushroom.
Holding a splendid court with his cousin and wife, Queen Aemma Arryn, the Young King was determined to maintain the peace and goodwill of his grandfather, Jaehaerys the Wise. They had a son who died in infancy and a daughter, Princess Rhaenyra who was six when her father became king. The princess became his royal cupbearer at the age of eight and was always by her father's side at feasts, balls, and tourneys. Rhaenyra was dubbed "the realm's delight".
Viserys's younger brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen, considered himself his brother's heir and coveted the title Prince of Dragonstone. While Viserys loved his younger brother despite his flaws, he had no wish for Daemon to succeed him. Viserys was hopeful that his wife would give him a son soon and settle the succession issue. Viserys appointed his brother to the small council.
The rivalry between Daemon and the Hand of the King, Ser Otto Hightower, became so great that Viserys appointed Daemon to be Commander of the City Watch to remove Daemon from the council in early 104 AC. Fearful of Daemon becoming king, Otto tried to convince Viserys to make Rhaenyra his heir. Viserys refused, as he was confident he and his wife would one day have a son. Aemma later became pregnant, to the king's delight.
In 105 AC, Aemma died in labor birthing the king's son and heir, whom Viserys named Baelon after his late father, Prince Baelon the Brave, but the infant died a day after Aemma. While the king was bereaved, his brother Daemon was observed in a brothel in the Street of Silk making drunken japes with his cronies about the "heir for a day". When word of this reached the grieving Viserys, his grief turned to rage. After the mourning period was over Viserys held a lavish ceremony in 105 AC and had Rhaenyra declared the heir and Princess of Dragonstone in response to his ungrateful brother's ambitions. Hundreds of lords and landed knights did obeisance to the princess and swore solemn oaths to defend her rights of succession. Daemon left the capital in a fury.
Viserys began to groom Princess Rhaenyra to be the ruling queen, teaching her how to rule and made her part of his small council.
Since Viserys was not yet thirty, Grand Maester Runciter was the first to urge him to remarry, suggesting Laena Velaryon, daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon. Such a marriage would have healed the rift between the Iron Throne and Driftmark, since Viserys had been chosen as heir to the Iron Throne over Corlys's son, Laenor Velaryon, in the Great Council of 101 AC. Viserys instead chose Alicent Hightower, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Ser Otto Hightower, his Hand of the King.
Viserys and Alicent married in 106 AC. Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen poured for her new stepmother at the wedding feast, and Queen Alicent kissed her and named her "daughter". Rhaenyra and Alicent at first got on well, but that soon changed. Prince Daemon Targaryen, when he was told about his brother's marriage, reportedly whipped the messenger who brought the news nearly to death. When Daemon and House Velaryon fought a war for control of the Stepstones against the Triarchy, the peaceful Viserys was unperturbed.
The fertile Alicent bore a healthy son, Aegon, in 107 AC. A daughter, Helaena followed in 109 AC and another son named Aemond was born in 110 AC. The amity between Queen Alicent and Princess Rhaenyra soon ended as both desired to be the first lady of the realm. Though Alicent had given Viserys male heirs, the king did nothing to change the order of succession as he considered the matter already settled by naming Rhaenyra in his will. Otto Hightower hectored the king so much that Viserys sent him back to Oldtown, bestowing the position of Hand on Lyonel Strong, the Lord of Harrenhal.
Two parties began to form at court. The queen's party consisted of powerful lords friendly to Alicent and supportive of the rights of her sons. Against that was the party of the princess, those who supported Rhaenyra as heir. Envoys from the Free Cities made note of the coolness between the two in letters sent back to Braavos, Pentos, and Volantis. In 111 AC a tourney was held to celebrate the five year anniversary of Viserys and Alicent's wedding. Since the queen wore a green gown while the princess wore the Targaryen colors of black and red, it became the custom to refer to "greens" and "blacks" when talking of the two parties.
The tourney also saw the return to court of Daemon. The two brothers reconciled with Daemon offering Viserys the crown he claimed while fighting for the Stepstones, but six months later Daemon was exiled again from King's Landing. While Grand Maester Runciter claimed the two brothers simply quarreled, it was rumored that Daemon took Rhaenyra's virginity and that Lyonel Strong counseled the livid King Viserys that Daemon should be executed for treason. Septon Eustace reminded the council about the taint of kinslaying, thus Daemon was exiled instead.
Viserys hated conflict and made repeated attempts to cease the hostilities between the greens and the blacks, with many fights and false apologies issued on both sides. He loved his wife and daughter equally, but they only loved each other when he commanded. So long as Viserys ruled, peace prevailed in the Seven Kingdoms.
In 113 AC Viserys decided it was time for his daughter Rhaenyra to wed. Queen Alicent wanted the princess to wed her eldest son, Prince Aegon, so he could one day be king. Viserys would not hear of it as Aegon was ten years Rhaenyra's junior and the two had never gotten on well. The king and council chose Laenor Velaryon to wed Rhaenyra to regain the friendship between the Iron Throne and Driftmark. Rhaenyra however, protested the match, stating Laenor would prefer her "half brothers" instead of her. Only after Viserys threatened that if she did not accept the marriage, he would change the succession, did Rhaenyra yield. In 114 AC a reluctant Rhaenyra wed Ser Laenor, though it is questioned if the marriage was ever consummated. Laenor spent most of his time on Driftmark, surrounded by handsome squires and infrequently visited Rhaenyra on Dragonstone. Later the same year Rhaenyra gave birth to her first son, Jacaerys Velaryon. However, due to the babe not having the traditional Valyrian features of either of his parents, rumor spread that the child's real father was Lord Lyonel's son, Ser Harwin Strong, Rhaenyra's sworn shield who resided with her on Dragonstone.
Queen Alicent bore a third son, Daeron, the same year. Viserys had Jacaerys and Daeron share a wetnurse till weaned, hoping to prevent enmity by raising them as milk brothers. Rhaenyra gave her father two more grandsons years later, Lucerys Velaryon born in 115 AC and Joffrey Velaryon in 117 AC. All three of Rhaenyra's children had pug noses, brown hair, and brown eyes, further spreading the belief throughout the kingdom that the children's real sire was Ser Harwin Strong.
Prince Daemon and his wife, Laena Velaryon, had twin daughters named Baela and Rhaena. The brothers Daemon and Viserys reconciled a second time and with the blessing of the king, Princess Rhaenyra betrothed Jacaerys and Lucerys to Baela and Rhaena. This did not change Daemon's ways as the king had hoped, however.
Laena Velaryon, the wife of Prince Daemon Targaryen, died after a failed birth. At her funeral, a quarrel broke out between Aemond Targaryen and the sons of Rhaenyra, who he accused of being bastards from House Strong. Aemond lost an eye when Lucerys defended Jacaerys with a knife. The false apologies from the families of Rhaenyra and Alicent fooled no one but Viserys. The king issued an edict that anyone spreading the Strong rumor would lose their tongue, and ordered Ser Harwin Strong to depart from Dragonstone to Harrenhal. Afterward a massive fire at Harrenhal killed Harwin and his father Lyonel, the Hand of the King. While some blamed the inferno on the curse of Harrenhal, others whispered that Daemon, Lord Corlys Velaryon, Harwin's younger brother Larys Strong, and even Viserys were responsible for the blaze. The king recalled Ser Otto Hightower as the King's Hand.
The year also saw the death of Rhaenyra's husband, Ser Laenor Velaryon, killed in a fight between his companion and rumored lover, Ser Qarl Correy. Rhaenyra and Daemon shocked the realm by then wedding without Viserys's knowledge, a huge scandal as neither Laena nor Laenor had been dead for six months. The year ended with Rhaenyra and Daemon welcoming the birth of their first son, Prince Aegon the Younger. Another son, born in 122 AC, was given the name Viserys after Rhaenyra's father.
The forced closeness of Rhaenyra's and Alicent's children increased animosity between the blacks and greens. The royal children and grandchildren became dragonriders and court visitors observed the dragons of one faction snapping and spitting flames at the dragons of the other party.
In 126 AC, Rhaenyra argued her second oldest, Lucerys, officially be named heir to Driftmark. Several lesser cousins of House Velaryon, however, unsuccessfully protested to the Iron Throne that her sons were bastards fathered by Harwin Strong and had no claim to Driftmark. King Viserys heard them in stony silence and after issuing the order to remove their tongues, slipped and cut his hand to the bone on the Iron Throne. Grand Maester Mellos was ineffective at trying to heal the king, who suffered a fever from an infection and it was feared he would die. Viserys only recovered after two of his fingers were removed by Maester Gerardys, who was brought to King's Landing from Dragonstone by Princess Rhaenyra. Viserys never sat on the throne again.
After Mellos passed away, Rhaenyra recommended that her trusted Maester Gerardys take his place as Grand Maester. Queen Alicent, on the other hand, wanted Maester Alfador, who served House Hightower, named to the office. Beset from both sides, Viserys chose neither, reminding both his wife and daughter that the Citadel would decide who filled the office. Archmaester Orwyle was in the end selected by the conclave as the new Grand Maester.
Over the last decade of Viserys I's reign, the restored Otto Hightower nonetheless largely succeeded in stacking the small council with his own supporters. Though the exact timeline of when these men joined the council is unclear, by the last year of Viserys's reign in 129 AC Lord Larys Strong was master of whisperers, Ser Tyland Lannister was master of ships, and Lord Jasper Wylde was master of laws. Ser Criston Cole, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, was already a fervent member of Alicent's faction, while Orwyle was considered politically neutral (in part due to his vows as a maester). The only holdout who opposed them was old Lord Lyman Beesbury, who had served as master of coin since late in the reign of Jaehaerys I.
Viserys died on the third day of third moon of 129 AC during a nap in the Red Keep of King's Landing. Queen Alicent Hightower concealed Viserys's death from the public, however, and instead had Ser Criston Cole, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, summon the small council to Alicent's apartments in Maegor's Holdfast. Viserys had decreed his heir to be Rhaenyra Targaryen, Princess of Dragonstone, the daughter from his first wife, Aemma Arryn. The greens at the Red Keep supported Aegon the Elder, the eldest son of his second wife Alicent, however, and Criston took into custody any blacks remaining at court.
Alicent forbade septons and silent sisters from treating Viserys's body, which began to swell and rot. A week after Viserys' death, his passing was finally publicly revealed with the greens accounting the accession of Aegon II Targaryen. The silent sisters then prepared the late king's body for the traditional burning of a Targaryen.
At Dragonstone, Rhaenyra refused to recognize the claim of Aegon, her younger half brother, and the blacks instead supported her as queen. The rival claims to Viserys's inheritance led to the Dance of the Dragons, the civil war between the blacks and the green. Later during the war, Ser Perkin the Flea claimed that his squire, Trystane, was a bastard son of the late Viserys.
Small council under Viserys I
|Hand of the King||103 AC - 109 AC||Ser Otto Hightower|
|109 AC - 120 AC||Lord Lyonel Strong|
|120 AC - 129 AC||Ser Otto Hightower|
|Grand Maester||103 AC - 112 AC||Runciter|
|112 AC - 127 AC or 128 AC||Mellos|
|127 AC or 128 AC - 129 AC||Orwyle|
|Master of coin||103 AC - 104 AC||Prince Daemon Targaryen|
|Unknown - 129 AC||Lord Lyman Beesbury|
|Master of laws||104 AC||Prince Daemon Targaryen|
|105 AC - 109 AC||Lord Lyonel Strong|
|Unknown - 129 AC||Lord Jasper Wylde|
|Master of ships||Unknown - 129 AC||Ser Tyland Lannister|
|Master of whisperers||Unknown - 129 AC||Lord Larys Strong|
|Lord Commander of the Kingsguard||103 AC - 105 AC||Ser Ryam Redwyne|
|105 AC - 112 AC||Ser Harrold Westerling|
|112 AC - 129 AC||Ser Criston Cole|
Quotes about Viserys I
Viserys I Targaryen had a generous amiable nature and was well loved by his lords and smallfolk alike. The reign of the Young King, as the commons called him upon his ascent, was peaceful and prosperous.—writings of Gyldayn
Viserys I Targaryen was not the strongest-willed of kings, it must be said; always amiable and anxious to please, he relied greatly on the counsel of the men around him and did as they bid more oft than not.—writings of Gyldayn
He had ruled for six-and-twenty years, reigning over the most prosperous era in the history of the Seven Kingdoms but seeding within it the disastrous decline of his house and the death of the last dragons.—writings of Yandel
Behind the Scenes
George R. R. Martin considers the character of Viserys as presented in the television adaptation House of the Dragon to be a better character than the Viserys he wrote in Fire & Blood. He is also very impressed by the performance of Paddy Considine, the actor portraying Viserys on screen.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Jaehaerys I.
- Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.
- Fire & Blood, The Long Reign - Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny, and Pain.
- A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
- Not a Blog: The Rogues are Coming (March 12th, 2014) reply
- HBO.com: House of the Dragon Cast & Characters
- So Spake Martin: Targaryen Kings (November 1, 2005)
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Viserys I.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - The Blacks and the Greens.
- Fire & Blood, The Dying of the Dragons - Rhaenyra Overthrown.
- Not A Blog: Good Stuff, Bad Stuff, Strange Stuff (June 1, 2022)