When HBO first started its television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, fans of the book series couldn’t imagine how showrunners would be able to put all of the complex characters on the small screen. Yet, not only has HBO’s Game of Thrones series captured the obsession of viewers from around the world, but it also brought new fans to the books. Everyone seems to have their own favorite characters in both the television and book series, even though the HBO series has left out some of the most pivotal characters. The world created by George R. R. Martin is so vast and spans from the beginning of time to the current struggle to sit on The Iron Throne, so it’s virtually impossible to showcase each and every character in the series.
However, there are some characters that have had a profound effect on the show, even though they haven’t appeared on a single episode. While House Targaryen was all but wiped out during Robert’s Rebellion, a new revelation during Season 6 of Game of Thrones has created increased intrigue over Rhaegar Targaryen. Although he hasn’t been featured in the series, his storyline has been a driving force that has shaped the world of The Seven Kingdoms. At the end of Season 6, fans discovered that Rhaegar Targaryen was actually the father of Jon Snow, after having intimate relations with Lyanna Stark (the sister of Eddard Stark). This information has opened the floodgates for fans wanting to know even more about this character. Perhaps in Season 7, HBO showrunners will implement more flashback episodes to actually depict Rhaegar Targaryen while he was still alive, but until then we will have to settle for all of the things we’ve learned from both the book and television series. Check out our list of the 15 things you may not have known about Rhaegar Targaryen, and see how this influential character has shaped the Game of Thrones world as we know it.
15. Liked To Sing Amongst The Common People
While Cersei is utterly disgusted with the common people and feels much more at peace inside The Red Keep (and sitting on The Iron Throne), Rhaegar Targaryen actually enjoyed spending time amongst his subjects. In Season 5, Ser Barristan Selmy talked with Daenerys Targaryen about all the times he accompanied Rhaegar outside of the walls of The Red Keep. He stated, “He liked to walk among the people. He liked to sing to them. Rhaegar would pick a spot on The Hook or the Street of Seeds and he’d sing, like all the other minstrels.” This is very similar to Daenerys Targaryen’s attitude towards her subjects, since she also enjoyed walking amongst them. While she may not have taken up Rhaegar’s love of singing, she has always expressed her willingness to mingle among the common people. In Game of Thrones she even allowed the people to carry her through the crowd (even though her advisors didn’t think it wise), and in the book series she even mingled among her subjects that were stricken with disease. This love of the common people is something that Daenerys and Rhaegar definitely had in common.
14. He Was Generous And Kind
Game of Thrones fans have constantly been drilled about The Mad King, and how crazy the Targaryens were during the time of their reign. Yet, the majority of fans are rooting for Daenerys to take her rightful seat on The Iron Throne. The streak of madness within House Targaryen is most likely due to the incest factor, and even Cersei Lannister referenced the fact that “Every time a Targaryen is born the Gods flip a coin.” Yet, Rhaegar Targaryen seemed to be on the side of the sane during his time. Ser Barristan Selmy referenced his kindness in Season 5 when he said that he would actually be given money when he sang for the commoners in the streets of King Landing. When asked what he did with the money, Selmy replied, “One time, he gave it to the next minstrel down the street. One time, he gave it to an orphanage in Flea Bottom. One time, we got heartily drunk.” This showed a different side to Rhaegar Targaryen that was surprising to fans since House Targaryen wasn’t exactly known for its generosity and human spirit.
13. The Older Brother Of Viserys And Daenerys
Rhaegar Targaryen was the oldest son of King Aerys II Targaryen and Queen Rhaella Targaryen. Interestingly, Rhaella was also the sister of Aerys II, since their house was known to wed brother and sister in order to keep the bloodline pure. As the eldest son, Rhaegar was more than just the heir to House Targaryen but also the successor to The Iron Throne. As the heir to House Targaryen, he was also the Prince of Dragonstone. Yet, Rhaegar wasn’t born in the island castle of Dragonstone, and was actually birthed in Summerhall (the ruined castle in the stormlands). The story of Summerhall is actually intricate in itself because it came into ruin due to King Aegon V. In an attempt to hatch dragon eggs using wildfire, a massive fire ran through the castle and killed a great many people (including the famous knight, Ser Duncan the Tall). Born from tragedy, this might be the reason behind the immense age gap between him and his siblings, Viserys and Daenerys. In fact, both Viserys and Daenerys weren’t born until after Rhaegar’s death.
12. Rhaegar Kidnapped Lyanna Stark?
The Game of Thrones series started off with viewers hearing only the side of Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon when it came to Rhaegar Targaryen. It was said that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. This is what sparked Robert’s Rebellion, and thus set in place the chain of events that led to Rhaegar’s death. Yet, further inspection of the details make fans question whether or not it was a true abduction or if they were in love. It all started at the Tourney at Harrenhall when Rhaegar won the jousting contest and bestowed the title of Queen of Love and Beauty to Lyanna Stark. A year later, Rhaegar supposedly “kidnapped” Lyanna. Yet, from everything we know about Rhaegar, his kind heart and generous spirit doesn’t bode well with the image of a lust-driven kidnapper. In fact, by all accounts Rhaegar was extremely handsome, charming, and everything a woman would want in a prince. The theory that it wasn’t a kidnapping and most likely a Romeo and Juliet style romance was made even more evident by the fact that Rhaegar was so intent on protecting Lyanna throughout Robert’s Rebellion. While he was in battle at the Trident, he sent his three most distinguished Kingsguard members to protect Lyanna. The famed knight, Ser Arthur Dayne “the Sword of the Morning”, would have surely been a help to him while fighting at the Trident, but instead he chose to have him protect his beloved Lyanna and newborn baby.
11. Tywin Lannister Hoped Rhaegar Would Marry Cersei
Fans of the Game of Thrones series may not have agreed with Tywin Lannister’s parenting tactics, but they all could agree that he was a definite force to be reckoned with in furthering his house and keeping the other families in line. Although the HBO series didn’t start telling the story until Tywin was far beyond his prime, the book series showed that his ambition started at an early age. A young Tywin gained himself the title of Hand of the King due to his military prowess during the Reyne Rebellion, and served under Aerys II Targaryen. Hoping to even further the status of his house, Tywin planned to wed his daughter, Cersei, with the King’s eldest son, Rhaegar. Tywin felt that this was a suitable match that was for sure to come to fruition and even let Cersei know that she was to be betrothed to the future King. Yet, the notion was turned down by Aerys when he claimed, “No servant’s daughter was fit to marry a prince of royal blood.” While Tywin thought his station as Hand of the King made his house a suitable match for Prince Rhaegar, King Aerys II thought of him as just a servant of the crown.
10. Rhaegar Never Truly Loved Elia Martell
The practice of marrying noble lords and ladies to further alliances is common practice in the world of Game of Thrones. Although there have been matches that have turned into true love, not all of the marital unions have turned out like the intense bond between Catelyn and Eddard Stark. While they haven’t all turned out like Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton, it seems that the majority of the arranged marriages weren’t exactly the stuff that true romance novels are made of. Robert Baratheon seemed to loathe Cersei, Margaery Tyrell couldn’t stand King Joffrey, and even Little Finger wound up pushing Lysa Arryn out of the Moon Door. Due to the fact that Rhaegar didn’t have a sister at the time when they were looking for a suitable wife for him, Aerys II Targaryen arranged for him to marry Elia Martell in order to align their houses. Although the two were married and had two children together (Rhaenys and Aegon), there was no real love between them. This was made evident when Rhaegar publicly snubbed Elisa during the Tourney at Harrenhall when Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark with blue roses over his own wife.
9. He Was A Skilled Musician
While Game of Thrones loves trotting out a minstrel or two, the ability to pluck a few notes and make up a whimsical rhyme doesn’t exactly qualify someone as a true musician. There was one instance of true artistry at Joffrey’s wedding, but the performance wasn’t fully appreciated and ended with Joffrey abruptly stopping it just as it started to get interesting. However, the book series puts an emphasis on music, with a number of characters seemingly truly gifted. Dareon of the Night’s Watch has such an excellent singing voice that Jon Snow actually sends him on a mission to drum up some new recruits for The Wall, and Margaery Tyrell employed Blue Bard as her personal singer (even though it didn’t work out too well for him in the end). Yet, the true artist of all the Game of Thrones characters was Rhaegar Targaryen. He was said to have played the harp, which was intricately detailed and distinctly Targaryen. He could also sing so beautifully that he made people weep to hear him. There is a conspiracy theory surrounding his harp since it was referenced so much in the book series, and yet was never spoken of again after his death. People theorized that the harp is somehow connected to either Jon Snow or Lyanna’s tomb as to solidify the Targaryen connection. Only time will tell whether or not that harp will ever show up again.
8. Rhaegar’s Legacy To Carry On With Jon Snow
The prophecy of “The prince that was promised” states that he will be “Born amidst salt and smoke, beneath a bleeding star.” This prophecy has been quoted by a number of characters in the series, but Melisandre (who fans have seen is ancient in age) has said that it was prophesized 5,000 years ago. With a prophecy that ancient, it should come as no surprise that a number of people were thought to have been “The prince that was promised.” Rhaegar was thought to be the prophecy himself, due to the fact that he was born from the smoke of Summerhall during the great fire and the salt was from the tears of those who lost loved ones in the tragedy. Yet, his death marked that he couldn’t have been the one spoken of in the prophecy. That is, unless his son, Jon Snow, is able to fulfill it. Many believe that the son of Lyanna Stark and Jon Snow is most likely “The prince that was promised” since he would literally be born from ice and fire. Only time will tell as to whether or not Jon Snow is indeed Azor Ahai reborn amidst smoke and salt, but regardless of his actions, he has already achieved the goal of furthering Rhaegar’s legacy.
7. House Stark And House Targaryen Weren’t At Odds
While it’s known that Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon were best friends, the two had some very different feelings about House Targaryen. The beginning episodes of the series were filled with them bumping heads over what should be done about Daenerys Targaryen. Robert wanted to have her killed, along with her unborn baby. Yet, Ned Stark was willing to forego his title of Hand of the King in order to not be part of that murder. His connection to House Targaryen stems from his promise to his sister, Lyanna, that he would protect their son. The only way he could truly protect their son was by raising him as his own bastard, Jon Snow. Yet, there were hints in the book series that showed that Lord Stark probably had a mutual respect for Rhaegar Targaryen, at the very least. He didn’t seem to harbor the same hatred towards him like his friend, Robert Baratheon. Also, he made comments like, “You were not there. There was no honor in that conquest” (speaking about King Aerys II Targaryen’s death), and also came down hard on Jamie Lannister for killing the king by saying, “You served him well. When serving was safe.”
6. Jon Snow Wasn’t The Only Son Of Rhaegar
One of the biggest criticisms of HBO’s Game of Thrones was the fact that many of the characters were left out of the series. While showrunners could argue that there just wasn’t enough episodes in a season to feature the entire cast of characters, fans have become seriously distressed over the omission of Young Griff. While viewers of Game of Thrones are led to believe that Rhaegar’s children with Elia Martell were killed by The Mountain, the book series actually had Rhaegar’s son, Aegon, surviving and being cared for by Lord Jon Connington. In an effort to hide his identity, his silver hair was dyed blue and he was going by the name of Young Griff. When Daenerys entered the House of the Undying, one of the visions featured Rhaegar Targaryen naming his son, Aegon, and referring to him as “The prince that was promised.” This vision was left out of the TV series (as was the Red Wedding vision), presumably to not spoil any shock effect from future episodes. Yet, Young Griff was also left out of the series, and the entire voyage storyline with Tyrion Lannister was given to Ser Jorah Mormont instead.
5. His Close Friend Was Gay And In Love With Him
In a world filled with war hammers, swords with names, and badass dragons, you wouldn’t think homosexuality would be a huge part of the storyline. Yet, there are a number of homosexual characters throughout the series, and they aren’t just featured in Little Finger’s brothel. In fact, one of the fiercest warriors in the series, Oberyn Martell, was known to dabble on both sides of the gender line. While it shouldn’t be surprising that there were a number of homosexual characters in the series (Oberyn Martell, Renly Baratheon, Loras Tyrell, etc…), it might be a shocker that one of Rhaegar Targaryen’s closest friends was homosexual. Jon Connington, the head of House Connington, was one of Rhaegar Targaryen’s closest allies and even fought beside him at the Battle of the Trident. Yet, it’s widely accepted that he was a closeted homosexual man. George R. R. Martin confirmed that indeed one of the chapter characters in A Dance with Dragons is gay, and many of Connington’s statements insinuated he had a fascination with the silver-haired prince.
4. The Ruby Ford Was Named After Rhaegar’s Death
With all the detail that George R. R. Martin put into every character, noble house, and kingdom, it should come as no surprise that even the landmarks and structures have their own stories. From The Wall being enchanted by magic to the massive statue of The Titan of Braavos, all of these details only help to create added life into the world of Game of Thrones. One huge landmark that has yet to be depicted in the opening credits of the series is the Ruby Ford. This is the crossing of the Trident, where several east rivers come together and where the Battle of the Trident took place. This battle was hugely significant because it was the mark of the end of Robert’s Rebellion, and it was where Rhaegar Targaryen perished. This great battle between Robert Baratheon and Rhaegar Targaryen involved a number of other houses, but the true combat was the man-to-man contest between these two warriors. It was Robert’s infamous war hammer that was used to strike the killing blow to Rhaegar’s chest, which shattered the ruby-encrusted breastplate he was wearing. The rubies were knocked off and glittered the crossing, which they later named, the Ruby Ford.
3. Rhaegar Was The One To Blame For The Rebellion
Information on Robert’s Rebellion is slow to trickle in on Game of Thrones. Fans have yet to see flashbacks of the Battle of the Trident, and have only just seen the fight between Eddard Stark and Ser Arthur Dayne at the end of Season 6. The reason for the rebellion has been largely blamed on The Mad King since there has been so much talk about his love of burning people alive, and his willingness to kill every man, woman, and child in King’s Landing just to prove a point. Yet, the real reason behind the rebellion was Rhaegar’s love for Lyanna Stark. This was the huge catalyst that set into motion all of the factors that led to the rebellion. From turning Dorne against the crown to making an enemy of House Stark by burning Rickard and Brandon Stark, it wasn’t The Mad King’s crazy voices in his head that started the rebellion but it was the love Rhaegar had for the already-betrothed Lyanna Stark.
2. Rhaegar’s Death Was The Downfall of House Targaryen
When considering how strong House Targaryen was during Robert’s Rebellion, it seems strange to wrap your head around how they could have been defeated. The strength of their house, the background of having dragons, their use of wildfire, and the devotion of their subjects seem to be too much to overpower. This is made even more peculiar with the tales of The Mad King, since he was burning rebels alive at every turn towards the end. A ruler that was that ruthless doesn’t seem like he would be easily thrown over, especially since so many of the rebels were much younger and inexperienced. Yet, a further look at the dynamic of the subjects of Westeros show that it wasn’t The Mad King that was holding The Seven Kingdoms together, but it was actually Rhaegar Targaryen. Noble houses and common people alike were loyal to Rhaegar, and it wasn’t until his death at the hands of Robert Baratheon that the tide began to turn. Everyone was still hoping that The Mad King would die and the new king would be Rhaegar Targaryen, but his death meant that they would no longer stand for The Mad King’s rule. So, in truth, it wasn’t The Kingslayer’s dagger that was the true downfall of House Targaryen, but Robert Baratheon’s war hammer.
1. Believer Of Prophecies
As in life, there are those that are naturally skeptical and others that are superstitious in all things. Yet, in the world of Game of Thrones, it’s hard to be a skeptic when there are giants roaming beyond The Wall and dragons flying through the skies. Rhaegar Targaryen was known to be a true believer when it came to prophecies, and was even said to help to make them come true. In his youth, Rhaegar read the prophecy about “The prince that was promised,” which led him to put more effort towards his warrior skills. Rhaegar believed that he was the foretold prince that would deliver the world from darkness, and that was why he suddenly began honing his battle skills. Yet, later he might have changed his mind about the foretold prophecy, and instead believed that it was his son (Jon Snow) with Lyanna Stark that was “The prince that was promised.” This would make incredible sense since he was born of ice (House Stark) and fire (House Targaryen). Perhaps this is why he was so adamant in protecting Lyanna and his newborn son by placing them in the tower while guarded by his most trusted and skilled Kingsguard.