Wiki of Westeros

HOTD206 House of the Dragon: Season 2, Ep. 6: "Smallfolk" is now streaming on Max.


Wiki of Westeros
Wiki of Westeros
House Targaryen
House Targaryen

"He loved to watch people burn, the way their skin blackened and blistered and melted off their bones. He burned lords he didn't like, he burned Hands who disobeyed him. He burned anyone who was against him. Before long, half the country was against him. Aerys saw traitors everywhere."
―Jaime Lannister[src]

King Aerys II Targaryen,[c] commonly called the Mad King, was the sixteenth member of House Targaryen to rule from the Iron Throne. Although his rule began benevolently, he succumbed to the madness caused by his incestuous lineage, and was eventually deposed by Lord Robert Baratheon in a civil war. He was the last Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne.



Aerys fought for his father, Aegon V Targaryen, in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. He took on the tradition of Targaryen inbreeding in order to keep bloodlines pure by marrying his sister Rhaella Targaryen. After his father and brother died in the fire of Summerhall, he became Aerys Targaryen, the Second of His Name. While he was young, Aerys appeared to be generous, ambitious and wise, beginning his reign as peaceful and prosperous. Aerys was loved and respected by both lords and commoners.[citation needed]

He later became spiteful of the power of others, especially that of his Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister, who had once been one of his closest friends. He eventually grew paranoid of his own family members and his Small Council. During the Defiance of Duskendale, Aerys was imprisoned and tormented for six months, until he was rescued by Ser Barristan Selmy, his imprisonment marking the beginning of Aerys's madness. He executed all those who were involved in the rebellion; the worst punishment was given to Lord Denys's wife, Serala, first mutilated and then burned alive. Commonly remembered as "the Mad King", his reign became increasingly erratic and murderous.[citation needed]

Despite the fact that nobody expected Aerys to turn up, he suddenly arrived at the Great Tourney at Harrenhal. During this tourney, Aerys knighted Jaime Lannister and admitted him to the Kingsguard, but not for his valor and honor. Instead, he wanted to spite his Hand, Tywin Lannister. His eldest son, Rhaegar Targaryen, competed in the tourney, and after winning, he shunned his own wife, Elia Martell, and laid his winning roses in the lap of Lyanna Stark of Winterfell.[citation needed]

Aerys Rickard Brandon

Aerys watches Rickard and Brandon Stark die.

A final round of bloodletting began when Rhaegar allegedly kidnapped Lyanna, prompting many houses in the realm to rebel. Brandon Stark rode to King's Landing, protesting the abduction of his sister and demanding justice. Aerys had him arrested for treason and then offered to ransom him to his father. However, when Rickard Stark rode to King's Landing as he was bid to ransom Brandon, Aerys had him arrested too, and then brutally executed both father and son.[8]

Afterward, Aerys demanded Jon Arryn to turn over Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon (who were still in the Eyrie) to await the king's justice. Instead, Jon called his banners and rebelled, with the noble houses of Stark, Tully, and Baratheon following suit. The rebellion destroyed the royalist armies in several major engagements, culminating in the Battle of the Trident where Prince Rhaegar died at the hands of Lyanna's betrothed Robert Baratheon, the leader of the rebels.[citation needed]

Jamie Stabs Aerys

Aerys is slain by his Kingsguard Jaime Lannister.

King Aerys was betrayed by his former friend and Hand Tywin Lannister, who led an army under the false pretense of defending the capital at King's Landing. When Aerys opened the gates under Grand Maester Pycelle's counsel, Tywin proceeded to brutally sack the city. Aerys ordered Jaime to bring him Tywin's head, before ordering his pyromancer, Rossart, to initiate the wildfire plot. In response, Jaime killed Rossart, before stabbing Aerys in the back, who tried to flee, and then cutting his throat, ending his reign and thwarting his insane plot.[9]

Daenerys and Viserys

Aerys's lineage continued through his son, Viserys and daughter, Daenerys; both siblings and Aerys himself unaware of the birth of Rhaegar's second son.

Aerys's death is not avenged, as Robert Baratheon pardoned Jaime at the end of the war. It also brought an end to the Targaryen dynasty, which had ruled the Seven Kingdoms for three centuries. Aerys was replaced on the Iron Throne by Robert. However, the Targaryen bloodline survived through his grandson, Jon Snow (the product of Rhaegar's secret marriage to Lyanna, the two eloping in mutual love rather than the latter being kidnapped), who was passed off as a bastard of Winterfell by his maternal uncle Eddard, and his two youngest children, Viserys and Daenerys, who were spirited away to the Free Cities.[citation needed]

Game of Thrones: Season 1

Ilyn Payne losing his tongue

King Aerys orders Ser Ilyn Payne's tongue to be cut out.

As they travel to King's Landing, King Robert talks about having Aerys's daughter Daenerys assassinated after hearing of her marriage to Khal Drogo. When Eddard protests, Robert reminds him of what Aerys did to his family. Later at the Inn at the Crossroads, Sandor Clegane tells Sansa Stark about how Ser Ilyn Payne hasn't had much to say since Aerys had Ser Ilyn's tongue torn out.[10]

When Eddard arrives in the throne room of the Red Keep, he is confronted by Ser Jaime Lannister, who expresses his bitterness at Eddard for judging him over his killing of Aerys, especially after he killed Eddard's father and brother. Eddard counters that Jaime wasn't motivated by justice when he killed Aerys, and that he had served him loyally when serving was safe.[11]

Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard recounts to King Robert I Baratheon how Aerys ordered him to destroy the Kingswood Brotherhood. Selmy himself killed their leader, Simon Toyne. Bored and attempting to mock Ser Jaime, King Robert realizes that he never asked Jaime what King Aerys Targaryen's last words were, then taunts Jaime for killing a defenseless old man he had sworn to protect. Jaime tersely responds that the last thing the Mad King said was the same thing he'd been raving for hours, since the sack of the capital by the rebels began: "Burn them all!" This silences Robert's levity.[11]

Aemon, the maester sworn to Castle Black, the main fortress of the Night's Watch, reveals to Jon Snow that he is the uncle of King Aerys and, because of his oath to the Night's Watch, he could not interfere during the rebellion. Aemon warns Jon that he must live with whatever decision he makes for the rest of his life, and urges him to not abandon the Night's Watch after hearing of Eddard Stark's unjust imprisonment.[5]

Grand Maester Pycelle recalls that King Aerys was initially a good man. He then laments that he saw Aerys melt away before his eyes, as madness increasingly gripped his mind over the years and a once charming man was consumed by dreams of fire and blood.[12]

Game of Thrones: Season 2

When Tyrion Lannister publicly reprimands his nephew King Joffrey for his treatment of Sansa Stark, Joffrey retorts that he is king and he can do as he likes. Tyrion replies that Aerys did as he liked and his actions ultimately led to his downfall, mentioning his death at the hands of Joffrey's uncle Jaime.[13] Wisdom Hallyne of the Alchemists' Guild mentions Aerys as a fervent supporter of the guild. Aerys became obsessed with wildfire in his later years. He reminds Bronn that he would not have dared to insult the guild while Aerys was alive.[14] When Catelyn Stark confronts Jaime Lannister about his various crimes, including his regicide of Aerys, he sarcastically replies, "And what a king he was."[3]

Game of Thrones: Season 3

When held by Roose Bolton at Harrenhal, Jaime Lannister reveals the true story of the Mad King's death to Brienne of Tarth:[9]

As the Targaryens were losing the war, Aerys had his pyromancers place caches of wildfire all over King's Landing: under the Great Sept of Baelor, under the slums of Flea Bottom, under houses, stables, taverns, and even under the Red Keep itself. After Robert's victory at the Trident he marched on the capital city, but Jaime's father Tywin arrived there first, leading the entire Lannister army, and promising to defend the city. Jaime warned Aerys that his father was never a man to choose the losing side, that this must be a trick and he should surrender the city while he still could, but the Mad King refused to listen. Nor did Aerys listen to Varys when he gave the same warning that Tywin couldn't be trusted - but he did listen to Grand Maester Pycelle, who convinced Aerys the Lannisters were there to help.[9]

Aerys opened the city gates, and the Lannisters proceeded to sack the city. Jaime again begged Aerys to surrender, but the Mad King ordered Jaime to bring him Tywin's head, and his pyromancer (Wisdom Rossart) to set the city ablaze with the hidden wildfire, burning its five hundred thousand inhabitants to death, rather than lose the city to the rebels. "Burn them all," Aerys said, "Burn them in their homes. Burn them in their beds." Jaime makes it plain to Brienne that was his breaking point and asks her what she would do if her precious Renly commanded her to kill her own father and then stand by and do nothing as he murdered thousands of innocent people; she can only sit in shocked silence. Jaime goes on to say that he killed the pyromancer first, then drove his sword into Aerys's back as the Mad King tried to run for his life. Even as he was dying, the Mad King kept raving, "Burn them all...Burn them all..." Shaken at the memory, Jaime speculates that King Aerys didn't believe he would die in the blaze, and that in his lunacy, the Mad King believed he would be reborn as a dragon in the fire, granting him the power to burn his enemies to ashes. Jaime then finished Aerys off by slitting his throat in order to make sure he died, concluding that Eddard Stark found him at that point.[9]

Game of Thrones: Season 5

In Meereen, Ser Barristan Selmy grows increasingly concerned about the actions taken by Aerys's daughter Daenerys, who had earlier brutally executed 163 slavers after conquering Meereen. He discusses his experience while serving as a Kingsguard to her father. Despite Barristan's deep loyalty to the Targaryen dynasty, he reveals to Daenerys that her enemies did not lie when they called her father the "Mad King." Barristan recalls how Aerys set towns and castles aflame, murdered sons in front of their fathers, and burned men alive with wildfire, laughing all the while. These brutal actions led to a revolt that toppled the Targaryen dynasty. Daenerys insists she is not like her father, which Barristan agreed. Still, he states that like Daenerys, her father had ordered these brutalities because he too felt he was dispensing "justice" and it made him feel powerful and right, until the very end.[7]

Game of Thrones: Season 6

610 Sept of Baelor Destruction Promo

Aerys's legacy leads to the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor, orchestrated by Cersei Lannister and Qyburn.

While still looking into the past and fleeing from the White Walkers, Bran Stark sees the Mad King's final hours as king in the waning days of Robert's Rebellion. This vision reveals wildfire being placed around King's Landing, and Ser Jaime Lannister killing Aerys as he continuously screams, "Burn them all!"[1] The wildfire caches placed beneath the Great Sept of Baelor on Aerys's orders are later used by Cersei Lannister to destroy the Great Sept, killing many of her enemies in King's Landing as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people with one swift stroke.[15]

Game of Thrones: Season 7

Varys notes to Daenerys that her father was cruel and mad, and that Robert Baratheon was a vast improvement. Later, Olenna Tyrell explains how her father wasn't peaceful in the least, but Daenerys should be still be ruthless if she is to conquer the Seven Kingdoms.[16]

After receiving a letter from Daenerys, Jon debates whether to meet her at Dragonstone, but Sansa reminds him of her father's role in the death of their grandfather.[16]

Cersei then hosts the lords of the Reach at court, giving various hints that Daenerys will bring on the same tyranny as her father, as well as having a touch of the Targaryen madness.[16]

Jon Snow brings up the fact that he shouldn't claim fealty to Daenerys, based on what her father did to his uncle and grandfather. Daenerys, though, makes a point to apologize on behalf of her house for the crimes of her father.[17]

After the execution of Randyll and Dickon Tarly following the battle of the Goldroad, Varys compares Daenerys to Aerys, as he did the same with Rickard and Brandon Stark. Varys then implores Tyrion to make her listen, fearing that this will make her be viewed in a similar fashion to her father.[18]

When Jaime tries to leave Cersei and ride north to fight the army of the dead, after its existence has been proven true by Jon Snow, she prevents him from leaving by threatening to kill him as a traitor. In this moment Jaime can see Cersei as the power-mad tyrant she really is. It's possible that Jaime can see a great resemblance to the Mad King in her, as she's willing to let the whole realm perish if that means she can keep her crown.[19]

Game of Thrones: Season 8

When Jaime arrives at Winterfell shortly before the Battle of Winterfell, Daenerys remembers the stories that her brother Viserys would tell her about "the man who killed their father" and what they would do to him once they conquered the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys does not trust Jaime, but Sansa allows him to stay in Winterfell.[20]

The caches of wildfire, placed beneath King's Landing at Aerys's orders years ago, detonate during the Battle of King's Landing by dragonfire, unleashed by Drogon at Daenerys's command. During the battle, Aerys's killer is killed alongside his sister Cersei, crushed by debris under the Red Keep. In a way, Daenerys avenged her father's death, but also carried out his diabolic plan which Jaime prevented years ago.[21]

Ironically, Aerys's daughter suffers the same fate he did by being stabbed to death at the feet of the Iron Throne, and by his grandson no less. As Aerys's last child died, Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen is the last known living member of House Targaryen.[22]


"As the saying goes, "every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin." They must have dropped the one for King Aerys. For at first, he seemed to have dodged the family madness. But as he grew older, he began to see conspirators everywhere and where there were none, he worked to create them."
―Jaime Lannister about Aerys Targaryen descending into madness[src]

Out of all the kings to sit on the Iron Throne, none induced a level of tyranny, madness, and especially cruelty as Aerys Targaryen did during his rule. Dubbed the Mad King, Aerys seemingly began as a benevolent ruler until he was overwhelmed by the so-called "Targaryen madness" brought on by an incestuous bloodline. As a result, he began displaying traits of intense psychopathy, insanity, and sadistic intentions, exacerbated by hallucinations, schizophrenia, and paranoia regarding his own claim to the Throne, to the point where he burnt anyone he believed was against him, until half of the people whom he ruled were already against him.

Like many Targaryens, such as his son Viserys, Aerys was obsessed with the self-conception that he was a dragon in human skin. In regards to this, he killed his victims in a similar manner to that which a dragon would; burning them alive. Jaime Lannister once observed that he loved watching them char until their skin blackened, indicating he may have suffered from pyromania, and this, combined with sadism and hopeless delusions, spurred his already oppressive reign into complete tyranny. In a final bid where it appeared Robert Baratheon would take King's Landing, Aerys planted wildfire throughout the city, even the Red Keep where Aerys himself was staying. Not for one second, however, did he believe that it would result in his death, like his uncle Prince Aerion Targaryen, who killed himself by drinking wildfire. Instead, he thought he would be reborn as a dragon through a baptism by fire and burn his enemies in retribution.

Aerys's perceived lack of sanity and rational thinking seemingly caused his own death. Instead of listening to Varys or Jaime who warned him that Tywin Lannister possessed an ulterior motive when promising to defend his city for him, he only listened to the extremely sycophantic Grand Maester Pycelle who told him only what he wanted to hear. When he saw that Tywin tricked him, he foolishly ordered Jaime to execute his own father, confident that he would do so as no Kingsguard had ever disobeyed him before. Just before his death, however, Aerys showed shock and fear for the first time under his rule as Jaime approached him after killing his pyromancer. He even attempted to flee, proving that even he feared what all other tyrants cannot control nor escape; death.


Spoken by Aerys

"Burn them all! BURN THEM ALL!"
―The Mad King's final words[src]

Spoken about Aerys

Eddard Stark: "Is that what you tell yourself at night? You're a servant of justice? That you were avenging my father when you shoved your sword in Aerys Targaryen's back?"
Jaime Lannister: "Tell me, if I'd stabbed the Mad King in the belly instead of the back, would you admire me more?"
Eddard Stark: "You served him well. When serving was safe."
Eddard Stark and Jaime Lannister argue over the latter killing the Mad King.[src]
Robert Baratheon: "What about Aerys Targaryen? What did the Mad King say when you stabbed him in the back? I never asked. Did he call you a traitor? Did he plead for a reprieve?"
Jaime Lannister: "He said the same thing he'd been saying for hours...'Burn them all.' If that is all, your Grace."
— Jaime recalls the Mad King's last words to King Robert.[src]
"Aerys Targaryen. Of all the thousand thousand maladies the Gods visit on us, madness is the worst. He was a good man. Such a charmer. To watch him melt away before my eyes, consumed by dreams of fire and blood."
Pycelle remembers Aerys II Targaryen[src]
Joffrey Baratheon: "The king can do as he likes!"
Tyrion Lannister: "The Mad King did as he liked. Has your uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him?"
Tyrion Lannister to Joffrey Baratheon[src]
"And what a king he was! Here's to Aerys Targaryen, the second of his name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, and to the sword I shoved in his back!"
―Jaime to Catelyn Stark[src]
"Once again, I came to the king, begging him to surrender. He told me to... bring him my father's head. Then he... turned to his pyromancer. 'Burn them all,' he said. 'Burn them in their homes. Burn them in their beds.' Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father and stand by while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then? First, I killed the pyromancer. And then when the king turned to flee, I drove my sword into his back. 'Burn them all,' he kept saying. 'Burn them all.' I don't think he expected to die. He... he meant to... burn with the rest of us and rise again, reborn as a dragon to turn his enemies to ash. I slit his throat to make sure that didn't happen."
―Jaime explains his reasons for killing the Mad King to Brienne of Tarth.[src]
Barristan Selmy: "Your Grace? A word, please, I beg you."
Daenerys Targaryen: "About what?"
Barristan Selmy: "About your father. About the Mad King."
Daenerys Targaryen: "The Mad King? You're here to remind me of my enemies' lies? Consider me reminded."
Barristan Selmy: "Your Grace, I served in his Kingsguard. I was at his side from the first. Your enemies did not lie."
Barristan Selmy to Daenerys Targaryen[src]
Daenerys Targaryen: "Go on."
Barristan Selmy: "When the people rose in revolt against him, your father set their towns and castles aflame. He murdered sons in front of their fathers. He burned men alive with wildfire, and laughed as they screamed. And his efforts to stamp out dissent led to a rebellion that killed every Targaryen. Except two."
Daenerys Targaryen: "I'm not my father."
Barristan Selmy: "No, your Grace. Thank the Gods. But the Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved, and each time, it made him feel powerful and right. Until the very end."
— Barristan to Daenerys[src]
"I know what my father was. What he did. I know the Mad King earned his name."
―Daenerys to Tyrion[src]




Order of MaestersNight's Watch
Aegon V


Aerys II



House Martell

House Stark





Night's Watch



Behind the scenes

Liam Burke

Liam Burke

Brandon's execution

Aerys watches as Brandon Stark is executed.

According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Aerys Targaryen" is pronounced "AIR-eez Tar-GAIR-ee-in."

George R.R. Martin revealed that an actor had been cast as King Aerys II during Season 1 for filming a flashback scene of Rickard and Brandon Stark's executions, but the scene was cut for time and pacing.[23] Liam Burke was the actor in question.[24]

David Rintoul played Aerys in the brief flashback in "Blood of My Blood." Unlike in the books, Aerys is portrayed as having little to no facial hair towards the end of his life - apparently just a drastic oversight on the part of the TV production team, as the animated Blu-ray shorts produced in Season 6 itself explicitly mentioned the Mad King's bizarre, unkempt appearance.

In the books

Roman Papsuev - Aerys II Targaryen

Aerys II Targaryen by Roman "Amok" Papsuev.©

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, his reign began with great promise. Taking the throne at only the age of 20, Aerys installed a number of younger, vigorous and capable men in positions of power, while his own son Rhaegar showed promise of being a great king in his turn. Aerys, impressed by young Tywin's ruthlessness and effectiveness in crushing the Reyne-Tarbeck revolt, made him, then heir to Casterly Rock, his Hand of the King. Tywin served very effectively as Hand for twenty years, during which the Seven Kingdoms prospered.

Under Aerys's reign, the office of his Hand passed through five times and all of them suffered an unpleasant fate:

  • {Tywin Lannister} - killed by his son Tyrion
  • Owen Merryweather - exiled
  • Jon Connington - exiled
  • {Qarlton Chelsted} - executed by burning
  • {Rossart} - killed by Jaime Lannister

However, Aerys, who occasionally showed signs of a terrible temper, became erratic following the brief uprising known as the Defiance of Duskendale, when he was held prisoner for several months by a rebellious lord before finally being rescued by Barristan Selmy. Aerys's fury on that occasion was terrible: all of those involved in the incident were killed, several by being burned alive. After that, his rage could no longer be held in check.

Aerys's relationship with Tywin Lannister began to deteriorate in these later years, as Aerys grew ever more paranoid about Tywin's ambition. When Ser Ilyn Payne, captain of the guards for Tywin Lannister, made a joke that Tywin as Hand was the real ruler of Westeros, Aerys had his tongue cut out for the insult. Tywin could neither protest nor stop the punishment. The strains on their relationship were exacerbated by Aerys's well known lust for Tywin's wife Joanna Lannister, which the former crudely expressed during her bedding ceremony. (A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 43, Daenerys VII) His marriage with his own sister-wife, Queen Rhaella, which had never been happy (they were forced to marry against their will) became violent and abusive towards the end.

During Aerys's reign period there were various rumors about him and Joanna: that Aerys took Joanna's maidenhead on the night of his father Jaehaerys's coronation, and that Joanna was one of Aerys's many mistresses, which was the reason for her abrupt dismissal by the queen. Pycelle insisted those rumors were baseless. There were, however, occasions of improper behavior of Aerys toward Joanna: when she returned to the court with her six-year old twins, drunken Aerys asked her if nursing her children had ruined her breasts, humiliating her and Tywin. When she died giving birth to Tyrion, the king commented that was done by the gods to teach Tywin some humility at last. (The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II)

Over the years Aerys became increasingly gripped by madness, experiencing vivid hallucinations and delusional paranoia. He became obsessed with fire, frequently burning his perceived enemies alive. Eventually, he was having women and babies roasted on spits in the throne room because the voices in his head told him they were plotting his ruin. Aerys would often become sexually aroused after burning someone to death, at which he would savagely rape his wife Queen Rhaella (his daughter Daenerys was the product of one such attack, quite possibly the same day he killed Rickard and Brandon Stark). Attempts to restrain Aerys's delusional behavior only fueled his paranoia that all were against him.

Aerys's growing madness took a drastic toll on his physical appearance. Fearful of allowing blades in his presence (save those of his sworn Kingsguard), Aerys ceased to have his hair or nails cut for years. By the time of Robert's Rebellion, his fingernails had grown nearly a foot long, and his long, filthy, tangled hair and beard hung below his shoulders. Increasingly paranoid that someone would attempt to poison him, he ate so rarely that he became extremely gaunt. Combined with the stress from his madness, by the time of the rebellion, when Aerys was only forty years old, he looked as old and haggard as a man twice his age. Due to his insane meanderings, he accidentally cut his hands and thighs so many times on the Iron Throne that they were practically covered in scabs, leading some to refer to him as "King Scab" behind his back.

Tywin had long hoped that Aerys would reward his service with a royal wedding, between his daughter Cersei and Prince Rhaegar. However, he was infuriated when Aerys snubbed him by saying that he was a mere servant of the crown, and no servant's daughter was fit to marry a prince of royal blood. Instead, he agreed to a marriage between Rhaegar and Elia Martell of Dorne. The last straw came when Aerys appointed Tywin's eldest son and heir Jaime Lannister to his Kingsguard. Normally this was the highest honor a knight could achieve, and Jaime himself was eager to accept, but it meant that Jaime had to forsake all claims as Tywin's heir to Casterly Rock (leaving his stunted and hated younger son Tyrion as the new heir). Privately, Aerys had truly agreed to promote Jaime to the Kingsguard to keep him around the royal court at all times, essentially as an unwitting hostage in case Tywin ever decided to turn on him. Outraged by the continual insults he endured from Aerys, Tywin resigned as Hand of the King on some thin pretext; the Hands that followed were a succession of Aerys's cronies, who he later turned on for various failures, exiling or executing them depending on his whims.

After he burned several prominent lords alive and sanctioned his son's kidnap of Lyanna Stark, half of the realm rose in revolt against Aerys in Robert's Rebellion. Many who fought on the Targaryen side in the war weren't even fighting for the insane Aerys so much as for his promising son, Crown Prince Rhaegar. Indeed, one of the main reasons so many put up with Aerys's insanity for as long as they did was because they hoped they could simply wait out the few remaining years in Aerys's reign until Rhaegar took the throne, instead of having to face the serious moral dilemma of breaking their oaths against the currently ruling king. Robert Baratheon's victory over Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident was therefore a double-blow to the Targaryen side: not only had the main royal army been defeated and scattered, but with Rhaegar dead, lords who had been on the fence decided to openly side with the rebels rather than fight for Aerys. Chief among these was Tywin Lannister himself, who had stayed out of the war until that point, who marched with an army composing of 10,000 strong to the gates of King's Landing, and once let inside, promptly began to sack the capital city.

Before Rhaegar went to the Trident, Jaime begged him to come along, and to leave Darry or Selmy to guard the king. Rhaegar refused, explaining "My royal sire fears your father more than he does our cousin Robert. He wants you close, so Lord Tywin cannot harm him. I dare not take that crutch away from him at such an hour." Jaime did not like to be referred to as "a crutch", but obeyed. Many years later, recalling Rhaegar's words, the bitter irony does not escape from Jaime: "Aerys thought no harm could come to him if he kept me near. Isn’t that amusing?."

Aerys's manner of death is slightly different from book to series. In the TV series, it is mentioned several times that Jaime stabbed him in the back, whereas in the book he slit Aerys's throat at the foot of the Iron Throne. It is never mentioned that Aerys ever said the words "Burn them all." However, the Season 3 episode "Kissed by Fire" brought Aerys's death closer in line to the books, when Jaime recounts to Brienne of Tarth that he stabbed Aerys in the back when he tried to run, and then Jaime proceeded to slit his throat to make sure he was dead.

Another change is that Eddard Stark was not the first to find that Jaime killed Aerys: before Jaime could leave and let some braggart take the credit/blame, Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Roland Crakehall entered and saw him standing over Aerys's body. Crakehall was not surprised, figuring (incorrectly) that Jaime killed the king so the Lannisters could seize the throne. He asked Jaime, "Shall I proclaim a new king as well?" Jaime knew what he meant: either Tywin, or Robert Baratheon, or one of the surviving Targaryens. He considered for a moment to name either the boy Viserys or baby Aegon. But when he glanced down again at Aerys's body, he thought "his blood is in both of them." "Proclaim who you bloody well like" he told Crakehall. Then he climbed the Iron Throne and seated himself with his sword across his knees, to see who would come to claim the kingdom. As it happened, it had been Eddard Stark.

Even though the show says that Aerys II was the sixteenth King on the Iron Throne and the son of King Aegon V, in the books, Aerys was actually the seventeenth King, being the son of King Jaehaerys II and the grandson of King Aegon V. They omitted Jaehaerys II ruled for three years before Aerys succeeded the throne. The reason for the omission was possibly to make the connection of Maester Aemon to the rest of the family members easier to understand. In the books, Maester Aemon, formerly named Aemon Targaryen, was actually the grand-Uncle of Aerys, the great-grand uncle of Rhaegar, Viserys and Daenerys; and the great-great-grand uncle of Jon and his half-siblings, Rhaenys and Aegon.

Unlike in the show, Daenerys is never told the whole ugly truth about her father: what Ser Barristan Selmy tells her in the novels is a very "sugarcoated" version, sticking to positive facts, belittling greatly the negative facts, and entirely omitting the countless atrocities the Mad King committed (mainly the repeated brutal raping of the queen, the murder of every member of House Darklyn and House Hollard after the Defiance of Duskendale and the execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark). The worst thing Selmy ever tells Daenerys about her father is that he lusted after Tywin's wife and acted indecently at her bedding ceremony.

Aerys's character might have been inspired by two notorious Roman emperors, Caligula and Nero: both were initially benevolent rulers, but eventually became homicidal psychopathic tyrants; Nero set the capital city Rome on fire; Caligula was killed by his own bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard.




  1. 1.0 1.1 Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 6: "Blood of My Blood" (2016).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 1: "Winter Is Coming" (2011).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 7: "A Man Without Honor" (2012).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Histories & Lore: Season 1, Short 11: "Mad King Aerys - House Baratheon" (2012).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 9: "Baelor" (2011).
  6. Histories & Lore: Season 1, Short 14: "Robert's Rebellion - House Baratheon" (2012).
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 2: "The House of Black and White" (2015).
  8. HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Targaryen - Aerys II Targaryen entry
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 5: "Kissed by Fire" (2013).
  10. Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 2: "The Kingsroad" (2011).
  11. 11.0 11.1 Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 3: "Lord Snow" (2011).
  12. Game of Thrones: Season 1, Episode 10: "Fire and Blood" (2011).
  13. Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 4: "Garden of Bones" (2012).
  14. Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 5: "The Ghost of Harrenhal" (2012).
  15. Game of Thrones: Season 6, Episode 10: "The Winds of Winter" (2016).
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 2: "Stormborn" (2017).
  17. Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 3: "The Queen's Justice" (2017).
  18. Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 5: "Eastwatch" (2017).
  19. Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episode 7: "The Dragon and the Wolf" (2017).
  20. Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 2: "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" (2019).
  21. Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 5: "The Bells" (2019).
  22. Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 6: "The Iron Throne" (2019).
  23. Ryan, Maureen (April 9, 2012). 'Game of Thrones' Season 3 Characters And Scoop From Creator George R.R. Martin Huffington Post.
  24. Liam Burke CV at Frontline Actors Agency


  1. 1.0 1.1 Conjecture based on information from The World of Ice & Fire; may be subject to change.
  2. In "The Kingsroad," which takes place in 298 AC, Catelyn Stark states that Eddard Stark went to war with Robert Baratheon "17 years ago;" therefore, Robert's Rebellion occurred in 281 AC.
  3. High Valyrian: Aerys II Targārien

External links

Preceded by Prince of Dragonstone
? - 258 AC
Succeeded by
Preceded by King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men
258 - 281 AC
Succeeded by