A Complete History of the 21 Kings and 2 Queens That Ruled Westeros
The history of Westeros, the setting of the “Game of Thrones” universe, is a sprawling one, filled with great battles, great houses, and great (and not so great) rulers. Between “Game of Thrones” and the prequel series, “House of the Dragon,” we’ve seen several kings and queens rise and fall at different points in Westeros’s history. As readers of George R.R. Martin’s novels know, however, that’s just a small sliver of the rich history that Martin has created for his fantasy world.
As “House of the Dragon” digs deeper into the history of House Targaryen, the royal house that rules through most of Westeros’s revealed history, it seems like the perfect time for a primer on every ruler that we’ve seen in the “GOT” universe so far. From the kings we know very well to those you might not know unless you’ve read all the extra books and bonus materials, many stories are left to be told. For the purposes of this history, we’re combining both the history from the books’ universe and the one from the TV show; in the cases where the TV universe goes further than the books have, we’re following the TV timeline to its conclusion.
If you’re ready for spoilers on all the rulers of Westeros, keep reading for a complete primer on everyone who has sat on the Iron Throne so far.
Aegon I Targaryen
Also known as Aegon the Conqueror, Aegon I was the first Targaryen king and the first to unite the kingdoms of Westeros under a single ruler. Aegon invaded Westeros and won his war of conquest, with the surviving great Houses bending the knee to his rule. His reign marked the beginning of centuries of Targaryen rule, although not everyone was pleased with the new government, and the reigns of his successors had to deal with the aftermath.
Aegon I died of a stroke at age 64 and was succeeded by his son, Aenys I.
Aenys I Targaryen
The elder son of Aegon I, Aenys inherited his father’s throne. With a reputation for being kind and bookish, he struggled with indecision, which made him ill-equipped to deal with several rebel uprisings. His era was marked by a divide between the Faith of the Seven and the Targaryen traditions, given that the Faith strongly opposed the Targaryen tradition of incestuous intermarriage.
Aenys died young, at just 35. years old. After his death, the Dowager Queen Visenya (Aegon I’s surviving wife), manoeuvred so that her son and Aenys’s half-brother, Maegor, took the throne rather than Aenys’s son Aegon.
Maegor I Targaryen
Maegor I was the half-brother of his predecessor, Aenys, and the younger son of Aegon the Conqueror. Unlike his soft-hearted, academically-minded brother, he was a warrior to his core and a cold, suspicious king. His ascension, passing over Aenys’ son Aegon, was controversial and led to violence, but he ultimately was able to hang onto the throne, even killing young Aegon in battle. Maegor’s reign was one of tyranny and torment for everyone from his six wives to the smallfolk.
Six years into his reign, the great Houses and the people of Westeros rose up against Maegor, and his call for soldiers to defend him raised only a very small army. He was found murdered one morning, still seated on the Iron Throne. The true circumstances of his death were never revealed, and he was succeeded by his nephew Jaehaerys.
Jaehaerys I Targaryen
Jaehaerys I was the third son of Aenys I, and the heir to Aenys’s line after his older brothers, Aegon and Viserys, were killed by their uncle Maegor. Ascending to the throne after Maegor’s death, Jaehaerys began the longest reign in Targaryen history, sitting on the throne for 55 years. Known as “the Conciliator” and “the Wise,” Jaehaerys’s reign started when he was just 14 years old, but was marked by thoughtfulness and wisdom. He was popular among the people of Westeros and was remembered for bringing stability and peace after the fraught years of his uncle’s reign.
Jaehaerys lived to the age of 69, having outlived many of his loved ones, including his sons, Aemon and Baelon. Because Aemon only had a daughter, whereas Baelon had three sons, the Great Council chose Baelon’s son Viserys as the new king.
Viserys I Targaryen
Viserys I succeeds to the throne after the death of his grandfather Jaehaerys I. Although he himself is a popular, generous king with a relatively peaceful and prosperous reign, his decisions lead to the civil war that would weaken the Targaryen dynasty permanently. His first marriage produces only one surviving child, Princess Rhaenyra, who he proclaims as his heir, even after a second marriage results in sons.
Viserys dies in his sleep at the age of 52. After his death, his second wife, Alicent, and her sons scheme to keep Rhaenyra off the throne, leading to a deadly civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons.
Aegon II Targaryen
Aegon II is the eldest son of Viserys I by his second marriage to Alicent Hightower. He ascends to the throne after his father’s death, hiding Viserys’s death from his half-sister Rhaenyra until he can secure the throne for himself. Rhaenyra won’t go down without a fight, and soon all of Westeros is engulfed in a civil war between the rival Targaryen claims.
Aegon’s entire reign and his legacy in history are taken up by the Dance of the Dragons, and he dies after suffering many injuries as the war winds down.
Aegon III Targaryen
Because Aegon II dies with no heirs living and many other potential Targaryen heirs are killed during the Dance of the Dragons, the succession is a bit murky after Aegon II’s death. Ultimately, it is Rhaenyra’s eldest surviving son, Aegon, who secures the throne. He further boosts his claim by marrying his cousin Jaehaera, the daughter of Aegon II, thus reuniting the warring Targaryen factions. Aegon tries to use his reign to restore peace and prosperity to Westeros, but his own intense traumas from the war leave him cold and distant. His reign is also remembered for the death of the last known dragon and several fakes pretending to be various Targaryen heirs.
Aegon III dies of consumption at the age of 36 and is succeeded by his teenage son, Daeron.
Daeron I Targaryen
Daeron I succeeds his father Aegon III when he is just 14 years old. He’s best known for his conquest of Dorne, the last of the Seven Kingdoms to remain independent. Although he successfully forces the Dornish lords to bend the knee and technically unites all Seven Kingdoms, the ordinary people of Dorne are not so easily conquered.
A Dornish uprising forces Daeron to return to put the rebellion down himself, but instead, he is killed in battle at the age of 18. He is succeeded by his younger brother, Baelor.
Baelor I Targaryen
Baelor I becomes king at age 17 after the death of his brother Daeron. Unlike Daeron, who was interested in conquest, Baelor focuses more on making peace. He works to heal the divide with Dorne and is noted for his piety. However, his religious zeal and acts of charity do not endear him to everyone. The noble houses are frustrated by his religious focus and the sway that the High Septon holds, while his decrees on morality result in book burning, the exile of prostitutes and their children, and the confinement of his own sisters.
Baelor gains the nickname “the Beloved” for his popularity with the smallfolk. He dies after a 40-day fast following his sister giving birth to an illegitimate child, though some suspect he was murdered. Since he dies childless, his uncle Viserys succeeds to the throne.
Viserys II Targaryen
Viserys, the younger brother of Aegon III and the son of Rhaenyra and Daemon, succeeds to the throne after both of Aegon’s sons die childless. He does not take the throne until age 49, and his reign is short and viewed with some suspicion, as some believe he poisoned his nephew to take the throne. During his one-year reign, he focuses on improving trade and instituting reforms and is known to be wise, if not especially warm.
After just a year on the throne, Viserys dies of a sudden illness, although – once again – some suspect poisoning. His son succeds him as Aegon IV.
Aegon IV Targaryen
Aegon IV succeeds his father Viserys II and soon earns the moniker of “the Unworthy.” He gains a reputation for being self-serving and self-indulgent, with a court full of corruption, scheming, and excess. Rather than being defined by great deeds or political manoeuvres, Aegon IV’s reign is best remembered for its soap-opera dramas over mistresses, favours to one house over another, and illegitimate children.
In terrible health, Aegon IV dies at the age of 49. The succession is muddled, however, by decrees he leaves that legitimize his illegitimate children, leading to the first of many Blackfyre Rebellions, in which his eldest illegitimate son, Daemon Blackfyre, declares himself the rightful heir to the throne.
Daeron II Targaryen
As the oldest legitimate son of Aegon IV, Daeron II takes the throne after his father’s death. He earns the nickname “the Good” for his efforts to return the Seven Kingdoms to peace and clear out the corruption of his father’s reign. He is able to bring Dorne fully and peacefully into the realm, allowing them to keep some princely privileges, and he treats his illegitimate Blackfyre half-siblings as well as he can, even though some repay him with a rebellion.
Known as a peace-loving and peace-making king, Daeron’s legacy is a positive one. He dies after 25 years on the throne from a plague that spread across Westeros, and he’s succeeded by his oldest surviving son, Aerys.
Aerys I Targaryen
Although he is the second son of Daeron II, Aerys becomes the heir after a jousting accident takes the life of his older brother Baelor. His reign is plagued by many problems, from a dangerous drought to rebellions by the Blackfyres and the Ironborn. Aerys also struggles to find an heir, with several recognized heirs dying before him.
Ultimately, Aerys dies after 12 years on the throne and is succeeded by his younger brother, Maekar.
Maekar I Targaryen
Maekar is the younger brother of his predecessor, Aerys I, and the youngest son of Daeron II. Known for his capable military leadership during the Blackfyre rebellions, Maekar is a stern, unyielding man, especially after a mishap during a tourney leads to him accidentally killing his own brother Baelor. His reign, however, is relatively peaceful, although many suffer from the effects of a seven-year summer.
Maekar dies in battle twelve years into his reign, while fighting off another uprising. He is succeeded by his son, Aegon V.
Aegon V Targaryen
Aegon V has the nickname “the Unlikely” for his unlikely rise to the throne. He is the fourth son of Maekar I and only ascends to the throne after a Great Council rejects several other heirs and his own brother, Aemon, rejects the throne to remain a maester. After the years of summer during his father’s reign, Aegon deals instead with a six-year winter, as well as many uprisings. He also tries to cease the Targaryen practice of incestuous marriages, instead marrying his children off to members of other great Houses.
Aegon, like other Targaryens, spends a great deal of time trying to bring dragons back. This proves to be his downfall, as an attempt to hatch dragon eggs goes tragically wrong and engulfs one of his castles in a brutal fire, killing him and his guests.
Jaehaerys II Targaryen
The second son of Aegon V, Jaehaerys II becomes king after his father’s death, since his older brother Duncan gave up the royal succession to marry a commoner. He ascends the throne at age 34, but only reigns for three years due to ill health. His reign is best known for the “War of the Ninepenny Kings,” a war launched by a band of mercenaries (and some Blackfyres) looking to carve out their own kingdoms. Against his father’s wishes, Jaehaerys marries his sister Shaera; he later forces his own children, Aerys and Rhaella, to also marry against their own wishes.
Jaehaerys is never a strong, healthy man, and he dies at age 37 after an illness. He is succeeded by his son Aerys.
Aerys II Targaryen
Known as the “Mad King,” Aerys II is the last Targaryen to truly rule over Westeros. Although his reign begins with promise and popularity, he suffers a series of setbacks that send things careening out of control. The loss of several of his children and an uprising and imprisonment cause his mental state to decline significantly. He becomes paranoid and cruel, leading to dissent among the noble Houses and the smallfolk.
The final straw comes when his son and heir, Rhaegar, is accused of kidnapping Lyanna Stark. In fact, the pair eloped together and had a son, but no one knows that. Aerys executes the Starks, who demand justice, leading to a rebellion led by Lyanna’s family and that of her betrothed, Robert Baratheon. Robert’s Rebellion succeeds, and Aerys is killed by a member of his Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister.
After successfully rebelling against the Mad King Aerys, Robert becomes the first king of Westeros to win the throne by conquest since Aegon the Conqueror. However, he is not as concerned with ruling as he is with the perks of power, spending much of his time hunting, feasting, jousting, and having affairs, leaving the actual ruling to his council. Despite still mourning Lyanna, he marries Cersei Lannister to cement their families’ alliance, but their three children are actually the products of Cersei’s affair with her twin brother Jaime.
After rumours begin to spread about the children’s true parentage, Cersei arranges for a hunting accident, which kills Robert. Although Joffrey is quickly named king, the rumours of his illegitimacy are enough to spark several rival claims, from the North under the Starks seceding, to both of Robert’s brothers, Stannis and Renly, attempting to claim the Iron Throne for themselves.
Raised as Robert’s son and heir, Joffrey is actually the eldest son of Cersei and Jaime. Unlike his two younger siblings, who are kind and gentle, Joffrey is a cruel, spoiled, sadistic monster from a very young age. He goes back on his word and executes Ned Stark as one of his first acts, forcing Ned’s daughter (and Joffrey’s intended) Sansa to watch. His reign is marked by his cruelty, as he keeps Sansa captive and torments her, abuses, and accuses his own family members, and rules with a care for his own whims and little else.
Ultimately, his arrogance and cruelty make him easy to manipulate, which leads to his downfall. He is persuaded to drop Sansa in favour of Margaery Tyrell. Then, at their wedding banquet, Joffrey is poisoned and dies almost immediately. Years later, Olenna Tyrell reveals that it was she who poisoned Joffrey.
Legally the third and youngest child of Robert and Cersei, Tommen is actually the youngest product of Cersei and Jaime’s affair. Tommen ascends to the throne when he is barely more than a child after his brother Joffrey is murdered at the Purple Wedding. He tries his best to be a good king, but is always overruled by the nobles and his mother, who hold the real power. After his wife Margaery and her family are accused and imprisoned, Tommen tries to assert his power, to no avail.
During a show “trial,” Cersei implements her plan and uses wildfire to blow up the Sept and everyone in it. Distraught, Tommen ends his own life, jumping out of a high window.
With all of her children dead and other potential claimants out of the way, Cersei seizes the throne for herself and becomes the first recognized queen to reign on the Iron Throne. Her reign is largely about consolidating her own power, seeking revenge, and fending off the growing threat from Daenerys Targaryen. She lies about sending troops to help fend off the White Walkers, planning instead to let them fight it out and then wipe out the weakened survivors. Instead, the alliance in the North wins and marches the south, and Cersei’s cruelty winds up being the tipping point to send Daenerys into full-fledged Targaryen violence and madness.
Cersei is killed during the sack of King’s Landing when Jaime comes to find her but is unable to get them out in time.
One of two surviving Targaryen royal children, Daenerys fled Westeros as a child along with her older brother Viserys. As she grew older, Viserys schemed to return to Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne for himself, marrying Daenerys to Khal Drogo, a Dothraki warlord, in hopes of securing an alliance. Instead, Daenerys comes into her own, and Viserys is killed for attempting to attack her. Over several years, she frees slaves, builds alliances, and puts together an enormous force to return to Westeros and claim the throne. Near the end of her quest, she meets Jon Snow, a bastard son of Ned Stark who turns out to actually be her nephew, Aegon Targaryen, and the true Targaryen heir to the throne.
After having a meltdown during her brutal invasion of King’s Landing, Daenerys finally reaches the Iron Throne, but Jon kills her before she can sit on it. Her body is flown away by her surviving dragon, Drogon, and never seen again. With her death and Jon’s exile, the Targaryen line is officially extinct.
Following Daenerys’s death, the surviving lords and ladies of Westeros convene a council. They ultimately take up a proposal suggested by Tyrion Lannister: the noble houses will elect a king rather than have hereditary succession. Bran, who has spent years developing supernatural abilities as the Three-Eyed Raven, is elected the first king of this elective monarchy.
Bran rules over the Six Kingdoms, rather than the Seven, with the North remaining independent under the rule of his sister Sansa.