From Fire and Blood to Game of Thrones, many have sat upon the Iron Throne. Wise, mad, or otherwise, which were most important and influential?
There are two prevailing beliefs in the study of history. Some believe that history is formed by social movements, while others contend that it is created by the actions of great individuals. We see several social movements on Game of Thrones and in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, many of which mirror actual movements from the real history of Europe: there’s the religious movement of the Faith Militant, for example. Yet there is little doubt that the individuals who sit the Iron Throne are absolutely central to both the narrative of A Song of Ice and Fire and the lives of the people of Westeros.
But just who were the most important monarchs to ever sit on that throne?
By “most important,” we don’t mean the wisest or the most popular, but those kings whose legacy changed the very makeup of Westeros, in terms of politics, society and the monarchy itself. Baelor the Blessed may have been the most beloved king in the entire Targaryen dynasty, but can he claim to be one the most important.
We shall see. We shall also see that there is no room on this list for pretenders, rebels, or those like Tywin Lannister who wield the power of a king from the shadows. Only crowned monarchs here.
So like a maester dusting off the ancient scrolls, let us open the history books of Westeros and count down the ten most significant kings to ever sit on the Iron Throne, starting with a very unlikely candidate…
10. Aegon V Targaryen: The Unlikely (233 AC – 259 AC)
The fifteenth Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne, Aegon V was once a squire for Ser Duncan the Tall, nicknamed Egg. By the time of the War of the Five Kings, his reign is beginning to fade from memory, yet his brother Maester Aemon survived at the Wall, having rejected the throne during the harsh winter that enveloped Aegon’s coronation.
It’s hard to ascertain what might have become of Westeros had Aemon Targaryen not refused to rule. He is likely to have dealt with the many rebellions during the reign of Aegon V very differently. While both men had the interests of the smallfolk at heart, this beneficence could not be balanced with keeping the lords of Westeros happy. Attempts at reform to improve the lives of ordinary citizens were rejected out of hand by many houses, and without the backing of dragons — by the time of his reign they had already died out — Aegon was often forced to compromise against his will.
While many saw this as weakness, the smallfolk loved their king all the same. They were more than ready to back him when the Iron Throne was forced to intervene in the Westerlands on three separate occasions, each time because of the inept leadership of Lord Tytos Lannister at Casterly Rock. However, the support of the masses was not enough, and Aegon was determined to acquire dragons to force through his reforms. Such was his obsession that while trying to hatch dragon eggs at Summerhall, Aegon somehow set the castle aflame, killing himself, his son, and his lifelong friend Ser Duncan the Tall.