"House Martell, Princes of Dorne" is the ninth chapter of Conquest & Rebellion: An Animated History of the Seven Kingdoms, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season. It is narrated by Conleth Hill as Varys.
Varys: But while Aegon titled himself Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, in reality, he held only six. The seventh, Dorne, had never knelt. Visenya had flown into the Vale and returned with its crown. Mimicking her sister, Rhaenys had flown over the enemy force holding the passes into Dorne and landed in the castle of its ruling lady, Princess Meria of House Martell.
Meria was eighty years old, fat, bald, and blind. Behind her back, many sniggered at her as the "Yellow Toad of Dorne." The beautiful Rhaenys probably thought as much when they met. She demanded Princess Meria kneel to her brother Aegon, though she allowed that on account of Meria's age and health, a simple vow of submission would do.
But the princess told the queen that the Targaryens weren't wanted in Dorne, and no Martell would ever bow, bend or break no matter how badly they burned. Rhaenys could have mounted her dragon right then, and roasted Meria in the castle as her brother had done at Harrenhal. But whatever she saw in Meria's eyes scared her right back to King's Landing, with a dragon's tail between its legs.
After Aegon's coronation, Rhaenys returned to Dorne with Aegon and Visenya and their dragons. But no armies met them in the field, and no lords defied them in their castles. As the dragons approached, Dorne simply emptied. House Martell had learned from Harrenhal and the Field of Fire. The dragons were unbeatable in battle, but wars were more than battles.
Unopposed, Aegon claimed Dorne for his own. But as soon as he returned to King's Landing, his castellans were hurled off towers, and his royal garrison vanished in the desert, never to be seen again. Except, perhaps, when the winds change and the sands cough up old bones and armor. Rhaenys returned on Meraxes, intent on avenging herself against Meria Martell. But Dorne was no longer empty. The Dornish kept Meria's promise and fought even while burning under dragon flame. And they won.
One day a bolt pierced the eye of Meraxes and knocked the dragon out of the sky. House Martell remained unbroken, unlike the unfortunate Rhaenys. In their wrath, Aegon and Visenya set flame to every castle and city but Sunspear, trying to turn the people against House Martell. But the Dornish stayed loyal, and when Aegon returned to King's Landing, he found assassins waiting for him in the streets of his own capital.
When Meria died in her sleep, a weak and tired son sued for peace. But old Meria had exhausted Aegon as well, and he granted the request. The Targaryens still wanted Dorne, and eventually, they would have it, but not at the point of a sword. They would buy it the same way great lords buy anything: with a daughter.
- The failed Targaryen attempt to invade Dorne is known as the First Dornish War, and it dragged out from the year 4 AC to 13 AC. In-universe, some historians debate whether to consider it a separate war from the main Targaryen "War of Conquest" (which lasted two years, from 2 BAC to when Aegon was crowned by the High Septon in Oldtown, marking the beginning of the year 1 AC). Some think that the entire period from 2 BAC to 13 AC should be called the "Wars of Conquest".
- Apart from the Dornish, the Iron Islands still needed to be subdued: their leaders House Hoare and most of their armies were destroyed at Harrenhal, but their home garrisons refused to surrender. Yet without a united leadership, different local ironborn lords declared themselves king, and foolishly engaged in their own fratricidal civil wars with their meager remaining forces even as the Targaryens were consolidating rule over the mainland. Two years after his crowning, Aegon Targaryen came to the isles with his dragons. The priest-king Lodos called upon the Drowned God to send krakens from the deeps to destroy the Targaryen invasion fleet, but when they failed to appear, Lodos and many of his followers committed suicide by walking into the sea (as explained in the video on "Prophecies of the Known World"). After a brief show of force, the remaining Iron Islands submitted: rather than set one of his own lords to rule over them, Aegon gave the ironborn the choice to elect their own new ruling family (echoing their tradition of the Kingsmoot), and they selected House Greyjoy. Overall the submission of the shattered surviving ironborn went without incident.
- Two years after that, in 4 AC, the Targaryens had stabilized their rule over the rest of the Seven Kingdoms enough that they felt confident in launching an invasion of Dorne. The Dornish responded with guerrilla warfare, despite all of their castles and towns being fire-bombed by dragons (except Sunspear). Dorne was able to resist them better than some other kingdoms due to its harsh desert climate: the small handful of oasis castles and wells were easily sabotaged, and made it easy to harass the supply lines of large foreign armies.
- The lord who was thrown off the tower of Sunspear castle was Lord Rosby, whom Aegon had left behind as occupation governor of Dorne. The main occupation army was stationed in the middle of Dorne at Hellholt, but when it marched east it disappeared in the central deserts - its commander was actually Harlen Tyrell, the steward of House Gardener who had surrendered Highgarden to the Targaryens after the Field of Fire.
- Given that the Targaryens had violated the laws of peace when they invaded Dorne with no rightful claim to it, the Dornish didn't feel they had to honor the laws of war in response. Therefore the Dornish instigated a campaign of mass torture and mutilation against any unfortunate Targaryen soldiers or lords they took prisoner, even those who had surrendered in good faith. Orys Baratheon himself was captured, and when Aegon ransomed him back, the Dornish cut off Orys's sword-hand before returning him so he couldn't raise a weapon against them again (despite the fact that the ransom has specifically promised to return him unharmed).
- Queen Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon Meraxes were killed at Hellholt in 10 AC, when a very lucky shot from a scorpion-bolt managed to pierce the dragon's eye in mid-air, impaling into her brain and killing her instantly. Rhaenys's body was never returned, and some believed that she somehow managed to survive the fall from hundreds of feet, only for the Dornish to slowly torture her to death in secret. The truth of this is unknown. Rhaenys left behind Aegon's firstborn son and heir, her only child, three year old Aenys Targaryen ("Ae-gon" + "Rhae-nys" = "Ae-nys", pronounced like "A niece" - "A" as in the letter "A").
- The next two years were known as the "Dragon's Wroth" (not spelled "Wrath"), in which Aegon and Visenya avenged their sister by systematically burning out every castle and population center in Dorne (except Sunspear, in a failed attempt to turn the other lords against the Martells by making them think the Martells had bought their own safety). The population level of Dorne didn't recover from this for generations - if ever - but still they refused to surrender.
- The years of the Dragon's Wroth ended around 12 AC as Visenya became pregnant with Aegon's second son, Maegor the Cruel (also only the second child Aegon would ever produce - the incestuous marriages of the Targaryens may have resulted in a low birth rate due to various health problems).
- Maegor was born in 13 AC, and that same year old Princess Meria finally died (being then around 95 years old, blind for years, but still capably organizing the Dornish through their insurgency). Her son, mentioned in this video, then succeeded her as Prince Nymor Martell. Already old himself, he wished for peace, and the negotiations continued through 14 AC. Aegon I had also grown weary of the conflict, though apparently he agreed to peace because of a mysterious letter the Dornish envoys presented to him: some think it said that Rhaenys was still alive but tormented and they would only end her suffering if he withdrew from Dorne. Others suspect it said the Dornish were willing to spend all their gold to hire the Faceless Men to kill his young son and heir Aenys (possibly both, or neither).
- It is said that there were other "Dornish Wars" after the first one, through the time of Aegon's sons and grandsons, but the exact details are still unknown, and they apparently didn't match the first in scale - until nearly 150 years later, when King Daeron I Targaryen successfully led the Conquest of Dorne (exactly which number "Dornish War" that is considered is unknown), without the benefit of dragons. Yet Daeron I's invasion resulted in yet another protracted insurgency that ultimately drove the Targaryens out.
- Dorne later did join with the Iron Throne through peaceful marriage-alliance - but nearly two centuries later, during the reign of King Daeron II Targaryen.
- King Aegon I Targaryen
- Queen Visenya Targaryen
- Queen Rhaenys Targaryen
- Princess Meria Martell
- Prince Nymor Martell (indirectly mentioned)
- Lord Harlen Tyrell (indirectly mentioned)