Alicent Hightower’s (Olivia Cooke) evolution from being just Otto Hightower’s (Rhys Ifans) daughter and Rhaenyra’s (Emma D’Arcy) friend to the most powerful woman in Westeros marks one of the best character developments in House Of The Dragon. Being a villain means that she isn’t a fan-favorite character, but the goodness in her as a person is undeniable. Her marriage to Viserys (Paddy Considine) was unexpected, and their relationship complicated, to say the least, and HOTD fans are still wondering if she ever loved the ailing king.
Olivia Cooke, who plays Alicent, said she believed that Alicent genuinely loved Viserys and grew fond of him with time, especially after they had their first child. She told the House Of The Dragon podcast that the only thing Alicent lost was respect for Viserys as a leader. She didn’t like the fact that he failed to recognize her children the same way he did Rhaenyra and openly took his grandsons’ side after they attacked his children with Alicent.
Alicent’s marriage to Viserys wasn’t the happiest one, and judging by how it came about; it is hard to say true love was involved. However, a closer look at Alicent’s treatment of Viserys before things got out of control at the end suggests that she had love or at least pity for Viserys. It wasn’t so romantic at the end because Viserys was a walking corpse with no mind of his own. So, were Alicent’s feelings real, or was it just tricks to control the king? Let’s look into it.
Did Alicent really love Viserys?
While Alicent’s marriage played straight into Otto Hightower’s plans, it wasn’t without attraction between the king and Alicent. Alicent made Viserys happy and helped him relax when everyone in court pressured him. She was his happy place since the death of his first wife.
Otto had a hand in how it all played out by ensuring that she was with the king all the time after he lost his wife and, later, his son. Alicent didn’t have any malicious motives when she consoled the king, and some of her liked him even before they married.
When Viserys asked her for advice about the marriage, she said Laena would be a kind queen and that she would enjoy his company just like she herself had. Her words prove that she wanted Viserys to be happy and not just take a queen because the small council wanted him to.
Their relationship cannot be described as having been head over heels for each other, but it was the closest anyone came to genuinely being in love in House Of The Dragon. Although Otto had a sinister motive for the marriage, Alicent was honest about her feelings for Viserys and only wanted to be the queen the realm needed.
After their marriage, Rhaenyra drifted away from Alicent because she thought her father had replaced her mother. Alicent didn’t bear hatred for Rhaenyra at the time.
The animosity between Alicent and Rhaenyra was fueled by Otto’s advice and Viserys taking his daughter and grandchildren’s side. Alicent then stopped respecting Viserys because she saw he was a weak leader and failed as a father as far as her children were concerned. Combining the instinct to protect her children and Otto’s advice led her to hate Rhaenyra and participate in the coup.
How old was Alicent when she married Viserys?
Despite being portrayed to have a huge age difference and Viserys looking far older than Alicent, the two have an age difference of just 11 years in the books.
The books state that Viserys was born in 77AC (After Conquest) and married Alicent Hightower in 106AC. That would make him 29 years old by the time he married her. Paddy Considine, who plays Viserys, was 49 years old at the time, which makes him 20 years older than the actual Viserys.
The age gap can be accounted for by Viserys’ illness which made him look way older than his actual age. The illness was also the reason why the marriage failed because Viserys was on Milk of the Poppy most of the time, which affected his mind.
Alicent, on the other hand, was born in 88AC, making her just 11 years younger than Viserys. She was 18 years old in 106AC when she got married to Viserys. Olivia Cooke, who plays the character, was 28 years old when she played the role, making her just over a decade older than the book version of Alicent.
Why didn’t Viserys marry Laena Velaryon?
Laena Velaryon represented a stronger match for the Targaryens than Alicent, but Viserys was keener on retaining control and his dignity as a king. Marrying Laena would have made him a puppet to the powerful Velaryons.
Laena was only 12 years old, and despite being smarter than her age, she wouldn’t have made the type of queen to keep the peace. She was also younger than Rhaenyra, and the fatherly instinct in Viserys kicked in, causing him to refuse the match.
He had already created a strong bond with Alicent, whom Otto sent to his chambers daily for six months after his wife died. So, although Laena represented the best alliance for the realm, Alicent was the better choice for him as a king and would also make a better queen.
Alicent was also close friends with Rhaenyra, which means the king hoped it would be easier for Rhaenyra to accept her as a stepmother and a queen than Laena. He was ultimately wrong because the ambitious Otto Hightower turned the king’s two families against each other.
What disease was Viserys suffering from?
Paddy Considine told the House Of The Dragon Podcast that Viserys suffered from Leprosy. Some of the symptoms are not consistent with the known types of the disease, but that is understandable because it was done for entertainment.
Viserys’ sickness would have killed him sooner in real life than it did in the show, especially when it reached the level where his entire jaw fell off. He didn’t have a cheek either, meaning he should have lost the ability to speak by that time.
He was already suffering from the disease when Alicent married him, which proves she didn’t care about his illness. She actually sent away his nurses and tended to his wounds at one point.
Alicent was always there for Viserys, ensuring he was comfortable when the pain was too much. She misused her access to the king at the end by using his incapacitation to take control of the court and the realm at large.
Did Alicent kill Viserys?
Viserys’ fate was pretty much sealed by the seventh episode of the first season of House Of The Dragon. However, he could still rule and make decisions were it not for the overdose of Milk of the Poppy that Otto and Alicent kept him on.
When he refused to take it before judging Lucerys’ claim to the throne of Driftmark, he could sit on the throne and deliver the right judgment. He even remembered his conversations with Lord Corlys Velaryon, something he couldn’t do while on Milk of the Poppy.
It was obvious that Otto and Allicent colluded with the Maesters to ensure the king lost his ability to rule, allowing them full control of the court.
The disease took many years before it reached the final stage in the eighth episode, which gave the Hightowers years to rule the Seven Kingdoms while claiming to speak for Viserys.
Alicent also gave the king a big dose of the Milk of the Poppy moments before the king died, just after she asked him to change his chosen heir to Aegon. The animosity between Alicent and Rhaenyra was at its peak then, and Viserys needed to be saved from his misery, but his death was too convenient for Alicent.
Therefore, she may have poisoned him to extradite his death and consolidate power before Rhaenyra could do anything about it.