Will Alicent Betray Rhaenyra in “House of the Dragon”? Here's What Happens in the Book
Early on in “House of the Dragon,” it seems like young Rhaenyra Targaryen has at least one friend she can count on: Alicent Hightower. It soon becomes clear, however, that the Hightowers have big plans for Alicent, which could doom her relationship with the young princess. In fact, despite being one of Rhaenyra’s closest friends in their younger days, Alicent is destined to become one of the architects of Rhaenyra’s greatest betrayal. Spoilers ahead for the book “Fire and Blood” and possibly for “House of the Dragon” as well!
What Role Do the Hightowers Play at Court?
In “House of the Dragon,” just like in “Fire and Blood,” the Hightowers occupy a powerful place at the Targaryen royal court. While they have an ancient history as “petty king” before the Targaryen conquest, their current status is largely due to the skillful maneuverings of Ser Otto Hightower, Alicent’s father, and the Hand of the King. Otto came to power during the rule of Jaehaerys I, the beloved king who is the predecessor and grandfather of Viserys I, the current king in “House of the Dragon.” In the waning years of Jaehaerys’s reign, he appointed Otto as his Hand to look after the realm, while Alicent, then only 13 years old, looked after the aging king.
Following Jaehaerys’s death and Viserys’s ascent to the throne, Otto continues to serve as Hand of the King. He clashes with the king’s brother, Prince Daemon, and some rumours (though never confirmed) suggest that the root of the grudge is that Daemon slept with Alicent. Despite these personal and political clashes, the Hightowers maintain a high place and a powerful influence at court.
Like so many of the noble houses, however, they’re always out for more power, and Otto is happy to use his daughter to gain another level of sway over the king and the kingdom alike. This is why, almost immediately after Queen Aemma dies, he tells Alicent to seduce the newly-widowed king.
Rhaenyra and Alicent’s Relationship in the Books
In “House of the Dragon,” Rhaenyra and Alicent seem to be closer than they are in the books, where Alicent is nine years older than Rhaenyra. Alicent does marry Viserys the year after the death of Queen Aemma. At first, she and Rhaenrya are reported to have a good relationship. She is, after all, closer in age to Rhaenyra than she is to her new husband and his advisors.
The relationship between the women deteriorates after Alicent gives birth to a son, Prince Aegon, followed by more children. By her father’s decree, Rhaenyra is still the heir, but Alicent, Otto, and the Hightower faction believe that Aegon should take precedence, as the male heir. A rift between queen and princess grows, and even while Viserys still lives, people begin to take sides. Otto even winds up being banished from court when he pesters Viserys one time too many about changing the inheritance to favour Alicent’s children.
When Viserys dies, Alicent, Aegon, and the Hightower faction choose to take power for themselves. Before Rhaenyra, who was still Viserys’s intended heir, even hears about her father’s death, the Hightower loyalists move quickly, and Aegon is crowned Aegon II.
Alicent, unlike Rhaenyra, does survive the civil war, but the two are never reconciled, and Alicent opposes the peace-making plan of marrying Rhaenyra’s surviving son (later Aegon III) to Alicent’s granddaughter Jaehaera. She dies during an epidemic, two years after Aegon III takes the throne and three years after Rhaenyra’s own death.
House Hightower survives for centuries and still exists in the era of “Game of Thrones.” By that point, however, they are no longer the power players they once were, and they have fallen to a second-tier noble house.