- This article is about the fifth king of the Targaryen dynasty. For other uses, see: Viserys Targaryen (disambiguation)
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.
Viserys I is the grandson of King Jaehaerys I Targaryen. He immediately succeeded his grandfather as king because Jaehaerys I ruled for so long that his son (Viserys I's father) predeceased him. Jaehaerys I was himself the grandson of Aegon the Conqueror, who invaded and united Westeros and forged the Iron Throne.
Viserys inherited the realm after an unprecedented fifty years of peace and prosperity under his grandfather, a golden age that Viserys strives not to disrupt. A full century after the Targaryen Conquest, their dynasty's rule is unchallenged - save for still-independent Dorne, though relations with them have also been calm and stable for decades.
All is not stable within House Targaryen, however, as Viserys's first cousin Rhaenys contested their grandfather's succession. Rhaenys was the only child of Jaehaerys's first son, while Viserys was the eldest son of Jaehaerys's second son, but the relatively young Targaryen dynasty did not have firmly established succession laws. Moreover, if Rhaenys was to be passed over due to being a woman, others (including House Stark) argued that rule should pass to her son Laenor Velaryon. To address the issue, all the lords of Westeros gathered in the Great Council at Harrenhal: Viserys won the final vote by a wide margin, and Rhaenys grudgingly accepted the result. Nonetheless, this left a major rift between Viserys's new royal court and House Velaryon, led by Rhaenys's husband Corlys Velaryon, admiral of the royal fleets and the wealthiest man in Westeros.
Adding to these tensions, at the beginning of his reign Viserys had yet to produce a male heir with his beloved wife, Queen Aemma Arryn - despite Viserys's claim to the throne being based on direct succession from male to male. Their only living child is Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, but according to the precedent set by the council at Harrenhal, Viserys's heir should be his closest male relative - his younger brother Daemon Targaryen. Yet the lords of Westeros and even Viserys himself consider Daemon too wild and hot-headed to ever be a suitable heir to the throne.
The question of Viserys's succession leads to factions forming in the realm as ambitious lords compete for his favor, particularly the Velaryons trying to regain the throne they see as rightfully theirs, and House Hightower - the powerful family of Viserys's Hand of the King, Otto Hightower, the rulers of Oldtown who maintain deep ties with the leadership of the Faith of the Seven.
Behind the scenes
- "Viserys was chosen by the lords of Westeros to succeed the Old King, Jaehaerys Targaryen, at the Great Council at Harrenhal. A warm, kind, and decent man, Viserys only wishes to carry forward his grandfather's legacy, but as we've learned from Game of Thrones, good men do not necessarily make for great kings."
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Viserys I was the grandson of King Jaehaerys I, who was the longest-reigning King of the Seven Kingdoms in history, ruling for 55 years. Jaehaerys I ruled for so long that his son predeceased him, and he was directly succeeded by Viserys I, who then ruled for 26 years. Between the two of them, they presided over an 80 year golden age for the Targaryen dynasty, with entire generations that were born and died knowing only the peace and prosperity brought by the dragon-kings' unification of the continent.
Physically, Viserys I was a plump and pleasant man, amiable to those around him. He grew up in and ruled over a time of plenty, so he was fat and jovial, though he was still an effective monarch. He was loved by both the nobility and the smallfolk. As king, he wore the seven-jeweled crown of his predecessor, Jaehaerys I. Viserys was the last rider of the dragon Balerion the Black Dread. He did not ride him long or extensively, as the beast died of old age in 94 AC, late in the reign of Jaehaerys I and nine years before Viserys I succeeded him as king. Although at the time there were more Targaryen dragons than under the reign of any monarch before or since, Viserys I never bonded with another dragon.
Jaehaerys I and his sister-wife Good Queen Alysanne had nine children who grew to adulthood, of which four had (legitimate) children of their own - though two of them were in a brother-sister marriage. They had four grandchildren, of which two also married each other. Their eldest son Aemon married Jocelyn Baratheon, and produced one daughter named Rhaenys before his untimely death. Their second son Baelon married his own sister Alyssa, and they produced two surviving children: sons Viserys and Daemon. Younger sister Daella married Lord Rodrik Arryn, but died giving birth to Aemma Arryn - who eventually married her first cousin Viserys, and bore his daughter Rhaenyra.
Aemon was killed in a skirmish with pirates in 92 AC, after which Jaehaerys declared that his second son Baelon would replace him as royal heir - even though according to the traditional primogeniture laws followed by the Andals in Westeros, Aemon's child should have inherited instead of his younger brother. Later in 101 AC, Baelon suddenly died of a burst appendix: while under traditional law Baelon's own heir was his eldest son Viserys, the spurned Velaryons used the opportunity to again press their claim that Baelon never should have been considered the royal heir in the first place, and by right of primogeniture inheritance should pass to Rhaenys. Failing that, they insisted that the throne should at least pass to the next male produced from Rhaenys's bloodline, her son Laenor. Viserys and his supporters claimed he should be heir on the principle of male proximity, not primogeniture, as he could claim unbroken male descent from father to son (no major group in Westeros is known to have practiced proximity-based inheritance before, but many did not want to see a woman ascend to the Iron Throne).
To prevent a civil war, Jaehaerys convened the Great Council at Harrenhal in which all the great and minor lords of Westeros gathered to debate on the issue. It focused down to a vote between Viserys and Laenor, and Viserys won the final tally in a landslide of about twenty to one. Faced with such opposition, the Velaryons grudgingly accepted the result of the council, though they remained estranged from Viserys's new royal court.
- 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].
During Viserys I's reign, his wife Aemma Arryn died after giving him only one surviving child, his daughter Rhaenyra. Viserys raised Rhaenyra to be his heir but later remarried to Alicent Hightower and had three sons and a daughter by her - including the future king Aegon II Targaryen. Viserys I's brother Daemon married his cousin Laena Velaryon, Viserys I's daughter Rhaenyra married Laenor Velaryon. Laena bore Daemon twin girls, Rhaena and Baela, while Rhaenyra had three sons by Laenor - though many claimed that they were all bastards fathered by her alleged lover, Harwin Strong. Both Laenor and Laena later died, after which Rhaenyra and her uncle Daemon remarried - to each other. Rhaenyra bore Daemon two children, both of them future kings: Aegon III and Viserys II. Two rival factions formed at the royal court, one favoring Rhaenyra and their Velaryon allies, and the other favoring Aegon II and his Hightower supporters. At a tournament, Queen Alicent wore a stunning green dress, while Rhaenyra dressed in bold Targaryen colors of black with red highlights. Their followers started imitating their dress colors to display their loyalty, so that ultimately the pro-Rhaenyra faction became known as "the Blacks" while the pro-Aegon II/Alicent Hightower faction became known as "the Greens." Viserys was not blind to this rivalry and tried to maintain peace between the two factions, but it is possible that at this point, no one could stop the coming feud.
Upon Viserys I's death, the realm exploded into a massive civil war between the Blacks and the Greens known as the Dance of the Dragons. While he was still alive, Viserys I repeatedly and publicly made great lords of the realm, and particularly the leading Greens, swear oaths to confirm that Rhaenyra was his rightful heir. Despite all of these preventative measures, Queen Alicent, Aegon II, and their supporters promptly ignored all of these oaths, instead citing that the Great Council of 101 AC had ruled that within the royal family a younger brother would take precedence over an older sister. Fundamentally, of course, the "precedent" of the Great Council had only been established by Viserys I's immediate predecessor, Jaehaerys I. Under normal Andal custom, the children of his eldest son Aemon (sons or daughters) would have inherited, and the throne would have passed to Rhaenys. In the first two generations of Targaryen kings, Aegon I and his sons, there had simply been no official ruling on what succession laws the royal family would follow (given how different Valyrian inheritance was from Andal customs). The Blacks regarded the Greens' justification as obvious propaganda, though several who supported the Greens honestly felt that the relatively new Targaryen dynasty - now that it was established as the rulers of the Seven Kingdom) - should have adopted the standard inheritance law of the Seven Kingdoms. No one thought to make Rhaenys the new monarch. However, this was largely irrelevant given that Rhaenys was one of the Blacks: Rhaenys's son had been Rhaenyra's first husband, Laenor, and thus Rhaenyra's heir-apparent was Rhaenys's eldest grandson Jacaerys.
|Lord:||King Viserys I Targaryen||Heir:||Prince Daemon Targaryen|
|Seat:||The Red Keep, King's Landing ·
Dragonstone, Dragonstone island (secondary)
|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|
|Deceased members:||Rhaena Targaryen · Aegon Targaryen · Jaehaerys I, the Concilliator · Alysanne Targaryen|