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House Arryn
House Targaryen

"I know it is my duty to provide you an heir, and I'm sorry if I have failed you in that. I am. But I've mourned all the dead children I can."
―Aemma Arryn[src]

Queen Aemma Arryn was the first wife of King Viserys I Targaryen and queen consort of the Seven Kingdoms. She is the mother of Rhaenyra Targaryen.

Biography[]

Background[]

Aemma is originally from House Arryn, and married Prince Viserys sometime prior to the Great Council at Harrenhal. She has a daughter with him, named Rhaenyra, and is heavily pregnant with a second child at the time of the Great Council.[1]

Aemma is half-Targaryen on her mother's side, and thus has Valyrian silver-gold hair. Her mother, Daella, was a younger sister of Viserys's father Baelon, making them first cousins.[citation needed]

At some point, Aemma arranged a marriage for her brother-in-law Daemon Targaryen with Rhea Royce, perhaps due to the Royces being trusted vassals of the Arryns. The match proved to be loveless, however, and Daemon soon avoided Rhea altogether.[4]

After producing the healthy daughter Rhaenyra, Aemma went on to have one child who died in the cradle, two stillbirths, and two miscarriages - five failed attempts in ten years at producing a healthy male heir for Viserys. Aemma felt duty-bound to keep trying, and became pregnant for a seventh time with a child that Viserys was convinced by a prophetic dream would be his male successor.[1]

House of the Dragon: Season 1[]

Viserys times a great royal tournament to be held on the due-date of Aemma's pregnancy, to celebrate the planned birth of his son and heir.[1]

Rhaenyra visits Aemma in the Red Keep, telling her she worries about her health from this most recent pregnancy. Aemma insists to her daughter that as royal women, the childbed is their battlefield. She then playfully tells Rhaenyra to take a bath before seeing the council, as she smells of dragon after a day of riding.[1]

Later in private, Viserys visits Aemma while she is taking a bath. He reiterates to her that he is convinced this pregnancy will finally result in a healthy son, because he had a dragon dream, more real than any memory, in which he saw his son born with Aegon the Conqueror's iron crown and seated him on the Iron Throne. Aemma lovingly tells Viserys that if this pregnancy does not succeed she doesn't want to try again, because she cannot bear to mourn another dead child. Viserys gently concludes that not necessary because he's convinced this will be a male heir.[1]

As the Heir's Tournament begins, Aemma goes into labor as predicted on this date. In the middle of the tourney, however, a maester recalls the king to the Red Keep. Viserys finds Aemma has taken a turn for the worse, and Grand Maester Mellos informs him that the baby is in breech. Pulling him aside, Mellos tells Viserys that as the father he is now faced with an impossible choice: to sacrifice Aemma or lose both her and the child. Mellos informs the king that a technique taught at the Citadel involves cutting the babe directly out of the womb, and that the resulting blood loss will kill Aemma without a doubt.[1]

Horrified, Viserys reluctantly tells him to try to save his potential son. Viserys holds Aemma's hand and tells her that he loves her. Viserys does not inform Aemma of the impending caesarean section, only saying that they're "going to take the babe out" - the midwives then pull Aemma down on the bed and she sees Mellos holding a scalpel, and she realizes what is happening. Aemma screams and pleads "No!" and tries to struggle free, but the midwives pin her arms and legs down. Aemma wildly howls in pain as Mellos makes the first incision, until she fades from consciousness from shock.[1]

Aemma finally goes limp and dies, as the devastated Viserys stands over her. Mellos declares that the child is alive and a boy - the male heir that Viserys let his beloved wife die for. Stunned, he says they planned to name him "Baelon" after his father.[1]

Unfortunately, Baelon dies only a matter of hours later, making Aemma's agonizing death all for nothing. At their funeral pyre, Viserys is left stunned and near catatonic. Rhaenyra weeps bitter tears, telling her uncle Daemon that she wonders if in the brief hours her brother lived her father was finally happy, and she will never be a son: the pressure for the past decade to produce a male heir killed her mother. Daemon urges her that her father in his grief needs her now more than ever. Rhaenyra signals her dragon Syrax to set her mother and brother's combined funeral pyre ablaze, and their bodies are cremated.[1]

Aemma's death haunts Viserys for years, even after he remarries to Alicent Hightower. About three years later, in the midst of a drunken vent, a grieved Viserys says to Alicent that his obsession over the dragon dream of his son sitting the Iron Throne killed Aemma.[5] Additionally, when her time to be married comes, Rhaenyra worries that she will suffer the same fate for some other Lord: to churn out heirs and then die. In a private conversation with his niece, Daemon insists his sister-in-law's death was a tragedy.[6]

During Laena Velaryon's funeral at Driftmark, Viserys mistakenly calls Alicent "Aemma" when he tells her that he is going to bed.[7]

When Viserys dies, his last words are "my love," calling out to Aemma.[8]

House of the Dragon: Season 2[]

During his occupation of Harrenhal, Daemon sees a vision of Aemma shortly after her death, having been prepared for her funeral by the Silent Sisters, with a sobbing Viserys standing at his wife's side. Recognizing that he should have been there for Viserys in his grief, Daemon embraces and consoles his weeping older brother over Aemma's death.[9]

Family[]

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Famtree-RhaenaTargaryen
Rhaena
Targaryen

Deceased
 
Famtree-AegonTargaryenSonOfAenys
Aegon
Targaryen

Deceased
 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Viserys
Targaryen

Deceased
 
Famtree-JaehaerysI
Jaehaerys I
Targaryen
1
Deceased
 
Famtree-Alysanne Targaryen
Alysanne
Targaryen

Deceased
 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Vaella
Targaryen

Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Aemon
Targaryen

Deceased
 
House-Baratheon-Main-Square
Jocelyn
Baratheon

Deceased
 
House-Arryn-Square
Rodrik
Arryn[d]
Deceased
 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Daella
Targaryen

Deceased
 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Baelon
Targaryen

Deceased
 
Famtree-Alyssa Targaryen
Alyssa
Targaryen

Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Famtree-CorlysVelaryon
Corlys
Velaryon
House Velaryon

 
Famtree-RhaenysVelaryon
Rhaenys
Targaryen

Deceased
 
Famtree-AemmaArryn
Aemma
Arryn
House Arryn/House of the Dragon
Deceased
 
Famtree-ViserysITargaryen
Viserys I
Targaryen
2
Deceased
 
Famtree-AlicentHightower
Alicent
Hightower
House Hightower/House of the Dragon

 
Famtree-DaemonTargaryen
Daemon
Targaryen
Daemon Targaryen

 
Famtree-RheaRoyce
Rhea
Royce
House Royce
Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Famtree-DaemonTargaryen
Daemon
Targaryen
Daemon Targaryen

 
Famtree-LaenaVelaryon
Laena
Velaryon
House Velaryon
Deceased
 
Famtree-LaenorVelaryon
Laenor
Velaryon
3 House Velaryon

 
Famtree-RhaenyraTargaryen
Rhaenyra
Targaryen
2

 
Famtree-DaemonTargaryen
Daemon
Targaryen
Daemon Targaryen

 
Famtree-Aegon Targaryen
Aegon II
Targaryen
Aegon II Targaryen

 
Famtree-HelaenaTargaryen
Helaena
Targaryen


 
Famtree-AemondTargaryen
Aemond
Targaryen


 
House-Targaryen-HotD-Square
Daeron
Targaryen


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Famtree-Baela Targaryen
Baela
Targaryen


 
Famtree-Rhaena Targaryen
Rhaena
Targaryen


 
Famtree-Jacaerys Velaryon
Jacaerys
Velaryon
House Velaryon

 
Famtree-Lucerys Velaryon
Lucerys
Velaryon
House Velaryon
Deceased
 
Famtree-JoffreyVelaryon
Joffrey
Velaryon
House Velaryon

 
Famtree-AegonIII
Aegon
Targaryen


 
Famtree-ViserysII
Viserys
Targaryen


 
Famtree-PrinceJahaerysTargaryen
Jaehaerys
Targaryen

Deceased
 
Famtree-JaehaeraTargaryen
Jaehaera
Targaryen


1 Jaehaerys had thirteen children in all. For simplicity, only the direct ancestors of future generations are on this family tree and they are not in the exact order of birth. The thirteen children in correct order are: Aegon, Daenerys, Aemon, Baelon, Alyssa, Maegelle, Vaegon, Daella, Saera, Viserra, Gaemon, Valerion, and Gael.

2 Due to the nature of their respective births and deaths, Baelon Targaryen, son of Viserys and Aemma, and Visenya Targaryen, daughter of Rhaenyra and Daemon, are not included on this family tree.

3 While Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey are officially Laenor's, he and Rhaenyra never had any biological issue. Their three sons were in fact fathered by Harwin Strong.

Behind the scenes[]

Aemma Arryn's character description reads as follows:

"The queen consort and wife of King Viserys Targaryen."[3]

Aemma Arryn's death in childbirth is only mentioned in one sentence in Fire & Blood - because it is an in-universe history book: "Queen Aemma was brought to bed in Maegor's Holdfast and died whilst giving birth to the son that Viserys Targaryen had desired for so long." The TV series expanded this to show in graphic detail her death in an emergency caesarean section. In their July 2022 cover story with The Hollywood Reporter,[10] as well as the Inside the Episode video, the showrunners said they wanted to emphasize - realistically, but without being gratuitous - just how dangerous childbirth was with medieval levels of medical technology. Cast and crew elaborated in interviews that Aemma's death in childbirth was meant to be traumatic, because it hangs like a cloud over Viserys and Rhaenyra for the rest of their lives. Viserys is haunted by guilt, while Rhaenyra blames him for essentially "murdering" her mother, and the impression this makes on her of what the defined role for women in their medieval society is supposed to be, it and drives her not to accept these constraints.

  • Emma D'Arcy (adult Rhaenyra) said: "For Rhaenyra, that traumatic event is also something that defines a journey about what type of woman she wants to be. She perceives what happens to her mother to be a form of abuse...Her mother loses control. She loses bodily autonomy. And I think Rhaenyra is sure as hell not [going] to let that happen to her."''[11]
  • Aemma Arryn's actress Siân Brooke said: "It's quite hard to think now, as a woman, to put yourself in [Aemma's] position. It's so vulnerable to think, 'That's what you are: a vessel for childbirth.' You've got this battle showing man's eternal quest for power and status. And then within that, you've got this woman who's at the mercy of a man's decision. You think you've made this huge leap forward, with women being able to make decisions about their own bodies. It's quite shocking, that, sadly, there is some similarity between that and centuries ago."[12]
    • Sapochnik confirmed that the exact wording of the line to Viserys that "sometimes a father has to make an impossible choice" was specific and intentional, "the idea being that Queen Aemma doesn't get to choose her fate even though she’s right there. King Viserys and the Grand Maester never think to consult her, and so she is powerless over a decision about her own body."[13]
  • Director Miguel Sapochnik said in THR: "In medieval times, giving birth was violence. It's as dangerous as it gets. You have a 50/50 chance of making it. We have a number of births in the show and basically decided to give them different themes and explore them from different perspectives the same way I did for a bunch of battles on Thrones." In an interview with Popsugar, Sapochnik elaborated: "We gave themes to the births, and that theme for that birth was 'torture'. Then there's a birth where the theme is 'the agony and the ecstasy'. There's a birth where the theme is 'impasse', and there's a birth where the theme is 'a battle'. So we are trying to look at them in different ways."[14]
  • Sapochnik continued in an extensive interview with LA Times: "The hope and intention of the show — beyond the primary one of entertainment — is to shine a light on how the experience of men and women in this world has parallels to our own past and present...I know it may sound extreme, but we wanted it to be difficult to watch. We wanted people to remember that no matter what they thought of Viserys, he did this and he could never take it back. It is the story's inciting incident and needed to be strong and unflinching."[15]
  • Sapochnik continued in the LA Times interview to explain their efforts to refine the scene to be both realistic and not gratuitous for the audience:[16]
    • Two professional midwives were present on set, "to talk us through the reality of a Caesarean without anesthesia or modern instruments and medicine. We also tried to make sure to represent the effect of the resulting blood loss on the mother so that it was clear what killed her." One of the two real midwives plays one of the midwives on-screen.
    • Sapochnik's goal was "not to shy away from what was happening but also not to sensationalize it". This resulted in a "painstaking" editing process, which began with an "all-in version", after which they began "slowly whittling away...what was too much, or felt gratuitous, or a repeat beat." Once they juxtaposed it with the jousting sequence several shots became redundant so further cuts were made.
    • During this editing process, they tweaked the scene's point of views, "shifting away from Viserys's experience of the birth onto Aemma's, until we felt we’d found the right balance that neither glorified nor shied away from the point we were trying to make."
    • Finally, the showrunners played the scene for as many women as possible to get their feedback: "We were anxious not to get it wrong. And unanimously, the feedback was positive. Some felt it wasn't violent enough."
  • George R.R. Martin himself weighed in on the scene in a post-episode interview with Vanity Fair and said that he thought how it was handled was well-done: "That scene is...you don't want to use the word 'enjoyable' for a scene like that, but it's incredibly powerful. It's visceral and it'll rip your heart out and throw it on the floor. It has the kind of impact that the Red Wedding had. It's a beautifully done scene of something horrible." Martin then responded to accusations that it was "gratuitous" by comparing it to the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars: "I want to live the book. I want to be there. I want my emotions engaged. Those are the kind of novels I love to read and the kind of things I love to write. That's what affects you emotionally. I've been accused of being a particularly bloody person. Star Wars kills more people than I do...In the first Star Wars movie, here comes the Death Star. They blow up the planet of Alderaan — 20 million people are dead." - [Note: the actual death toll was 2 billion] - "Does it have any impact on you? Do you care that 20 million people are dead? Six movies later, you find out, I guess, that Jimmy Smits was one of them. Then you retroactively go, 'Oh, they've killed Jimmy Smits!' but you don't feel anything at the moment. It's just, 'Oh, okay.' It's a statistic. What would it mean if Viserys was watching the tournament, and a messenger comes running in and says, 'Your wife has died'? Is that going to have any effect on you? I don't think so."[17]

In the books[]

In Fire & Blood, Aemma Arryn was the daughter of Lord Rodrik Arryn and his wife Princess Daella Targaryen, who was herself the daughter of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and his sister-wife Alysanne Targaryen. In 93 AC, at the age of 11, she married her cousin Viserys I Targaryen, who was 16 at the time, and who ascended to the Iron Throne following the death of her grandfather, as he had been chosen as the heir to the throne during the Great Council of 101 AC.

She became pregnant several times during the early years of their marriage, but suffered several miscarriages and gave birth to one son who later died in the cradle. She eventually gave birth to a healthy daughter, Rhaenyra, in 97 AC, and both of her parents adored her. Aemma became pregnant again in 105 AC, though she died in childbirth and her son Baelon died the following day.

Aemma's death in the series is similar to that of Queen Alyssa Velaryon in the books. Like Aemma, Alyssa is unable to give birth to her child, and is given sedatives to slightly ease her pain. The maester, Kyrie, tells King Jaehaerys and Queen Alysanne that Alyssa is dying, and that cutting open her womb is the only way to save the child. Her husband Rogar Baratheon agrees. It is different however, in that many accounts claim that Alyssa consented to the procedure, and others claim that she was not awake.

In the first Targaryen family tree drafted by George R.R. Martin, the mother of Rhaenyra was called "Amma Arryn," without the E.[18]

Appearances[]

References[]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 1: "The Heirs of the Dragon" (2022).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Aemma Arryn. HBO. Retrieved March 15, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Unknown author (Unknown date). House of the Dragon S1 | Character Descriptions. Warner Bros. Discovery. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  4. Ryan Condal (2021). "The Heirs of the Dragon." Retrieved June 26, 2023.
  5. House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 3: "Second of His Name" (2022).
  6. House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 4: "King of the Narrow Sea" (2022).
  7. House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 7: "Driftmark" (2022).
  8. House of the Dragon: Season 1, Episode 8: "The Lord of the Tides" (2022).
  9. House of the Dragon: Season 2, Episode 6: "Smallfolk" (2024).
  10. THR, June 20, 2022
  11. PopSugar, August 22, 2022
  12. LA Times, August 21, 2022
  13. LA Times, August 21, 2022
  14. PopSugar, August 22, 2022
  15. LA Times, August 21, 2022
  16. LA Times, August 21, 2022
  17. Vanity Fair, "House of the Dragon Birth Scene", August 21, 2022
  18. Elio Garcia (July 4, 2024). House of the Dragon: Odds and Ends Part 1. Westeros.org. Retrieved July 4, 2024.

Notes[]

  1. Aemma Arryn is stated to be in her 30s in the script for "The Heirs of the Dragon;" therefore, she was born between 73 and 82 AC.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Conjecture based on information from Fire & Blood; may be subject to change.
  3. House of the Dragon starts in the year 112 AC according to the reference book Game of Thrones: House of the Dragon: Inside the Creation of a Targaryen Dynasty.
  4. Conjecture based on information from The World of Ice & Fire; may be subject to change.

External links[]

Preceded by Queen consort of the Seven Kingdoms
103 - 112 AC
Succeeded by


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