House of the Dragon: Three kings worse than Aegon II Targaryen

King Aegon II Targaryen may be House of the Dragon's version of Joffrey Baratheon, but there were worse rulers of Westeros than him.
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO
Photograph by Ollie Upton/HBO /

The second season of House of the Dragon is about to start, and we'll be spending a lot more time with King Aegon II Targaryen, played by Tom Glynn-Carney. In the first season, Aegon came off as feckless, slovenly, and indulgent, not qualities you want in a newly minted king. Season 2 will show him in power, and it seems like he's being set up as this show's version of Joffrey Baratheon, a cruel young ruler with far more power than sense.

However, there are several other kings throughout the history of the Targaryen dynasty who could be considered worse than Aegon II, and we hope to see them onscreen at some point. Until that happens, here's what you should know about about three of Westeros' very worst kings:

1. King Aerys II Targaryen

Aerys II Targaryen, often referred to as the Mad King, is a central character in the backstory of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. As the last Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne before Robert Baratheon rebelled and took over as king, his reign marks a period of significant turmoil and tragedy for Westeros. Aerys II ascended to the throne with high hopes and potential, but his rule quickly deteriorated due to his increasing paranoia and erratic behavior. Initially, he was a promising ruler with a vision for a prosperous and peaceful kingdom. However, a series of personal and political failures, including the defection of trusted allies and mounting threats to his power, exacerbated his descent into madness.

A defining moment in Aerys' reign was the Defiance of Duskendale, where he was captured and held prisoner for six months by rebels. This experience left him deeply scarred and significantly contributed to his paranoia. He became increasingly distrustful, violent, and delusional, often resorting to brutal and sadistic measures to maintain control. After his son Rhaegar disappeared with Lyanna Stark, the Northern lords demanded her back with her brother Brandon Stark riding to King's Landing with his personal detachment. Aerys imprisoned him and demanded that his father Lord Rickard Stark come to King's Landing to answer for his crimes.

The affair turned into an atrocity when Aerys "complied" with Rickard's demand for a trial by combat. Instead of one of the Kingsguard, Aerys chose fire as his champion and suspended Rickard from the ceiling over a fire. Brandon was placed nearby with a noose around his neck and a sword just out of arm's reach. Rickard burned alive inside his armor while Brandon choked himself to death trying to free his father.

These events sparked a rebellion led by Robert Baratheon, Eddard Stark, Jon Arryn, and others, known as Robert's Rebellion. The rebellion culminated in the sack of King's Landing, where Aerys was betrayed by his own Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister, who killed him to prevent the king from setting the city ablaze with wildfire in one final act of brutality.

Aerys serves as a prime and recent example of the adage that the gods flip a coin when a Targaryen is born to determine their sanity. It's hard to imagine a worse Targaryen king than him, but we can try...

2. Aegon IV Targaryen

King Aegon IV Targaryen, known as Aegon the Unworthy, was the eleventh king of Westeros. His reign is remembered as one of the most corrupt and decadent in the history of the the Targaryen dynasty.

Aegon IV ascended to the throne with a reputation for indulgence and excess already established. His administration was marked by a series of scandals, widespread favoritism and gross mismanagement of the realm. Known for his insatiable appetite for pleasure, Aegon IV indulged in numerous affairs and fathered several illegitimate children, the most prominent of which were known collectively as the Great Bastards. Among these were figures such as Daemon Blackfyre, Aegor Rivers (Bittersteel), Brynden Rivers (Bloodraven) and Shiera Seastar.

Aegon IV's governance was largely characterized by his self-serving nature and lack of concern for the welfare of the kingdom. He bestowed lands, titles, and honors upon his favorite lords and mistresses, often at the expense of the realm's stability and prosperity. His extravagant lifestyle and poor decisions weakened the royal treasury and eroded the respect and loyalty of his subjects.

One of Aegon IV's most infamous acts was his decision to legitimize all his bastards on his deathbed. This act sowed the seeds for future strife, as it created multiple rival claims to the Iron Throne and set the stage for the Blackfyre Rebellions. These conflicts would plague the Targaryen dynasty for generations, as the legitimized bastards and their descendants vied for power against the rightful heirs.

Aegon IV's legacy is one of infamy and lasting turmoil. His reign is often cited as a period of moral decay and political instability, leaving a deeply divided kingdom and a troubled succession. His actions and decisions had far-reaching consequences, impacting the history of Westeros long after his death and highlighting the perils of unchecked power and indulgence.

3. Maegor I Targaryen

King Maegor I, known as Maegor the Cruel, is arguably the most infamous and feared ruler in Westerosi history. His reign was marked by extreme brutality, fierce resistance, and a relentless pursuit of power. Maegor was the second son of King Aegon the Conqueror and Queen Visenya Targaryen. Unlike his older brother Aenys I, who was considered weak and indecisive, Maegor was known for his strength, martial prowess, and ruthlessness. When Aenys died, Maegor seized the throne, sparking a bloody conflict over the legitimacy of his claim.

One of the hallmarks of Maegor's reign was his fierce suppression of any opposition. He faced significant resistance from various factions, including the Faith of the Seven and numerous noble houses. In response, Maegor employed extreme measures to quell dissent, earning his epithet "the Cruel." His brutal tactics included the use of dragonfire, mass executions and murdering the builders of the Red Keep in order to preserve the building's secret passages.

Maegor's reign was also marked by his numerous, often violent, marriages in his quest for a male heir. He married six women, including Alys Harroway, Tyanna of the Tower, and Rhaena Targaryen. His relationships were marred by tragedy, with many of his wives and their children meeting untimely and mysterious deaths.

Despite his efforts to consolidate power, Maegor's tyranny alienated many of his subjects and supporters. His rule spread fear and unrest, and he failed to secure lasting loyalty from the major houses. The discontent culminated in a series of rebellions and uprisings against his harsh regime. Maegor's death remains shrouded in mystery. He was found dead on the Iron Throne, impaled by its blades. Some believe he was assassinated by his own Kingsguard, while others speculate he took his own life, unable to withstand the mounting opposition and his own growing madness.

Maegor's six-year reign is remembered as one of the most difficult times in the history of Westeros. He abused his prowess as a warrior and his father's dragon Balerion the Black Dread to take what he wanted, including the Iron Throne itself. Since his older brother Aenys had a male heir, Maegor unlawfully usurped the throne and killed his nephew in battle, cementing his reign as one of fire and blood.

King Aegon will get up to some shady stuff in the second season of House of the Dragon, but he is at least conflicted about a lot of it. Whatever happens, it's unlikely he'll be as poorly remembered as these three kings.

All 18 Targaryen monarchs in Game of Thrones history, ranked worst to best. All 18 Targaryen monarchs in Game of Thrones history, ranked worst to best. dark. Next

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