This article includes content relating to the Dance of the Dragons, and therefore contains potential spoilers for House of the Dragon, as revealed in GRRM's writings. Anyone wishing to remain completely spoiler free for the new show should avoid any articles displaying this tag.
Rhaenys Velaryon is the granddaughter of Jaehaerys I Targaryen, and the first cousin of Viserys I Targaryen and Daemon Targaryen. Rhaenys Velaryon is named after her grandfather Jaehaerys's grandmother (her great-great-grandmother): Rhaenys Targaryen, the sister-wife of Aegon the Conqueror.
Rhaenys married Corlys Velaryon, admiral of the Targaryen fleets and currently the wealthiest living man in Westeros, having grown rich on trading expeditions he personally made to the far east. Rhaenys and Corlys have two children: their daughter Laena Velaryon and son Laenor Velaryon.
Rhaenys's father died before her grandfather King Jaehaerys did, after which Jaehaerys made the controversial decision to name his second son as his heir, Rhaenys's uncle - even though according to traditional inheritance law based on primogeniture, a lord's daughter should succeed ahead of his younger brother. For this, she is called "The Queen Who Never Was". Jaehaerys's younger son, however, himself died a few years later, also while Jaehaerys was still alive, leaving two rival male heirs to the Iron Throne: Rhaenys's own son Laenor (based on primogeniture), or Rhaenys's first cousin Viserys (son of Jaeherys's second son, and thus an unbroken male line). Fearing a civil war, Jaehaerys solved the issue by holding a Great Council at Harrenhal in which all the lords of Westeros held a vote, and elected Viserys as heir to the throne. Jaehaerys died of old age a few years later and Viserys acceded to the throne.
Having been passed over twice for the crown, Rhaenys and the Velaryons then became estranged from her cousin Viserys's royal court.
Behind the scenes
Rhaenys Velaryon was revealed to be a recurring character in House of the Dragon on December 8, 2020. On February 11, 2021, HBO announced that Eve Best had signed on for the series. The character breakdown reads as follows:
- "A dragonrider and wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon, "The Queen Who Never Was" was passed over as heir to the throne at the Great Council because the realm favored her cousin, Viserys, simply for being male."
There were actually three members of the Targaryen dynasty named "Rhaenys" over the three centuries of their rule. George R.R. Martin intentionally had names repeat like this because it's what happened in the real Middle Ages, i.e. all of the kings and princes in England named "Henry", "Edward", or "William". The first Rhaenys was the sister-wife of Aegon the Conqueror, while the second Rhaenys - wife of Corlys Velaryon - lived over a century after her death. This second Rhaenys is the granddaughter of Jaehaerys I, the first Rhaenys's grandson. The third Rhaenys was Rhaegar Targaryen's first child, with Elia Martell, who was killed during the Sack of King's Landing when she was only three years old. In the books, the second Rhaenys is usually distinguished by calling her "Rhaenys, daughter of Aemon", "Corlys's wife Rhaenys" etc., or the nickname "Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was". The House of the Dragon TV series seems to have approached clarifying this by simply referring to her by her married surname, "Rhaenys Velaryon". The books never actually call her that, but it is by no means inaccurate - George R.R. Martin himself said that whether married noblewomen drop their maiden name or not is usually up to personal preference, typically keeping their original surname if their family is more prestigious than their husband's. For example, "Cersei Baratheon" is hardly ever used for Cersei Lannister, though it isn't technically incorrect - while "Catelyn Stark" is also called "Catelyn Tully" more or less interchangeably.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Rhaenys Targaryen was the daughter of Prince Aemon Targaryen and Lady Jocelyn Baratheon, born in 74 AC on the seventh day of the seventh month. She was a great beauty with Baratheon black hair - for "the seed is strong" - but Targaryen pale violet eyes. By the age of fifty-five she had a lean lined face and her hair was streaked with white. She was clever, capable, spirited, proud, fierce and fearless, with a fiery temperament. In battle, she wore steel and copper armor that flashed in the sun.
Her father was the Prince of Dragonstone, and since she was his firstborn child many considered Rhaenys to be next in line for the Iron Throne. Her grandmother Queen Alysanne Targaryen called her "our Queen to be".
In 89 AC she joined her grandfather King Jaehaerys I Targaryen for part of his royal progress. She flew to Highgarden on her dragon Meleys to meet up with the king and together they flew to all four of the Shield Islands. During this trip she informed him of her intention to marry Lord Corlys Velaryon and he gave her his blessing. She married Corlys the following year, arriving at the wedding on Meleys at her own insistence, and two years later she learned that she was pregnant with her first child.
In 92 AC, Rhaenys' father died, and the king was forced to formally appoint a new heir to the throne. Rhaenys' uncle Baelon was chosen as the new heir, causing Rhaenys to protest the decision and her husband Corlys to give up his position as lord admiral and his place on the small council. Rhaenys' mother and grandmother were both angered by the decision, as was her uncle Boremund Baratheon.
Rhaenys and Corlys returned to Driftmark and in 92 AC she gave birth to a daughter, Laena Velaryon, and a son Laenor in 94 AC. Both House Velaryon and House Baratheon claimed that Laenor had a stronger claim to the throne, but Baelon remained King Jaehaerys' heir.
Balon died in 101 AC and King Jaehaerys held the first Great Council in Harrenhal to determine the line of succession. Rhaenys and her children were among fourteen claims considered, with her uncle Boremund and Lord Ellard Stark both outspoken in their support of her claim, along with House Dustin and House Manderly. Rhaenys and her daughter were rejected due to their gender and she and Corlys used their wealth to persuade the lords present to support Laenor's claim, gaining the backing of Lords Bar Emmon and Celtigar. Ultimately, Baelon's son Viserys was named as the heir, allegedly favored by the assembled lords by a margin of twenty to one. Following this, the fool Mushroom gave Rhaenys the moniker of "The Queen Who Never Was".
- This particular section contains MAJOR spoilers for House of the Dragon. Anyone wishing to avoid spoilers for the upcoming prequel series should not click [Expand].
Queen Aemma Arryn died in 105 AC, with Grand Maester Runciter suggesting to King Viserys that he take Rhaenys' twelve-year-old daughter Laena to wife, but he instead chose Alicent Hightower. Rhaenys and her family did not attend the wedding, angry that they had been passed over for the throne a third time. In 113 AC, King Viserys and his small council held discussions over the betrothal of his daughter Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, with them eventually agreeing on Rhaenys' son Laenor and the wedding taking place the following year. Tragically, both of Rhaenys' children died in 120 AC, with Laena and her child dying in childbirth and Laenor being killed by Ser Qarl Correy while attending a fair in Spicetown.
The Dance of the Dragons began in 129 AC, with Rhaenys sitting on the Rhaenyra's Black Council. The Velaryon fleet set sail from Dragonstone and Driftmark, blocking off the Gullet and preventing shipping to Blackwater Bay, with a plan for Rhaenys to fly overhead on Meleys and prevent the Greens from attacking their ships with dragons. Following the deaths of Rhaenyra's son Lucerys Velaryon at the hands of Prince Aemond Targaryen in the Dance Over Storm's End, Rhaenys and Corlys prevented his brother Joffrey Velaryon from mounting his dragon Tyraxes and seeking revenge. As Rhaenyra was consumed by death over her son's death, she granted Rhaenys and Corlys command of her war council.
Rhaenys made her last stand in the Siege of Rook's Rest, arriving on Meleys nine days after Lord Staunton called for help. They attacked Ser Criston Cole's soldiers, but it turned out to be a trap. King Aegon II Targaryen and Prince Aemond appeared suddenly on Sunfyre and Vhagar, and Rhaenys turned to meet them despite knowing that there was no chance of victory. The dragons attacked each other and became entangled, crashing into the ground. Meleys was killed in the attack, and a blackened corpse believed to be Rhaenys's was found next to hers, but it was so charred that it could not be said for certain if it was really her. Corlys was enraged that Rhaenyra had sent his wife to the battle alone rather than going herself or ordering her sons to accompany Rhaenys.
|Lord:||King Viserys I Targaryen||Heir:||Prince Daemon Targaryen|
|Seat:||The Red Keep, King's Landing||Lands:||The Crownlands|
|Titles:||King of the Andals and the First Men · Lord of the Seven Kingdoms · Protector of the Realm|
|Ancestors:||Aenar · Daenys · Aegon I, the Conqueror · Visenya · Rhaenys · Aenys I · Maegor I, the Cruel|
|Current members:||Rhaenys Velaryon · Aemma Arryn · Rhaenyra Targaryen · Aegon Targaryen · Aemond Targaryen|
|Deceased members:||Rhaena Targaryen · Aegon Targaryen · Jaehaerys I, the Concilliator · Alysanne Targaryen|
|Lord:||Corlys Velaryon||Heir:||Laenor Velaryon|
|Titles:||Lord of Driftmark|
|Current members:||Vaemond Velaryon · Rhaenys Velaryon · Laena Velaryon|
|Deceased members:||Daemon Velaryon|