One of the things that we learned early on in House of the Dragon was that King Viserys Targaryen was dying slowly but surely. He was suffering a disease that was steadily taking bits of him from the inside as he was rotting away and had become a shell of his former self by the time we reached episode 8. Meanwhile, his other peers never aged a single day, as he was the only one that looked older beyond his years. So, what was King Viserys dying of, and did it kill him?
King Viserys was suffering from a form of leprosy that he got when he got nicked by one of the blades on the Iron Throne and somehow got infected by this disease. This form of leprosy began affecting his skin and nerves as it began to slowly rot him from within. He eventually died due to how weak he had become.
The fact that King Viserys was suffering from some sort of leprosy weakened him to the extent that he looked a lot older than his age would suggest. That is why the king eventually became a deformed version of his former self by the time we reached episode 8 of House of the Dragon. As such, let’s take a deeper look at what Viserys is suffering from and how he died from it.
What Disease Was Viserys Suffering From?
Ever since the first episode of House of the Dragon, we already knew that King Viserys Targaryen was suffering from a disease that seemed unknown to the people of the Seven Kingdoms as they didn’t know exactly what it was. Nevertheless, he seemed to have contracted this disease when he got cut by one of the swords on the Iron Throne. And as we all know, those swords aren’t exactly clean and sterile, as they may contain several bacteria and micro-organisms.
Nevertheless, the disease that Viserys was suffering from began to tear away at him from the inside as it limited him in a physical sense throughout most of the entire series. Even though the king was only four years older than his younger brother Daemon, he looked like he was several decades older than the prince due to the effects of his disease. So, what disease was Viserys suffering from?
The series never explained what King Viserys was suffering from, but Paddy Considine, the actor playing Viserys, allowed us to learn more about what his character was suffering from when he spoke with Entertainment Weekly’s West of Westeros podcast. Considine said:
“He’s actually suffering from a form of leprosy. His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He’s still a young man in there. He’s just, unfortunately, got this thing that’s taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally.”
In that regard, based on what Paddy Considine said, King Viserys is actually the House of the Dragon version of a leper, as he is suffering from some sort of leprosy. And we all know how dangerous leprosy used to be during the older times when there were no treatments for this disease.
Leprosy is a disease that primarily affects the nerves and causes lesions and bumps on the skin. It can even cause deformities in a person as the cartilage in the skin shrinks. That is why lepers tend to have deformed appearances and may even have missing limbs. The good thing, however, is that leprosy is now a treatable disease as long as it is treated early.
However, considering that House of the Dragon takes place during a time when the people’s understanding of medicine and micro-organisms was still primitive, they didn’t know what this disease was and how they could treat it. As such, the maesters tried all of the different treatments on Viserys but somehow only delayed the inevitable, which is death.
In that regard, Viserys began to show signs of aging quite early because the disease was steadily yet slowly causing his body to rot as he even lost a hand due to it. Even as the other characters that were the same age as him didn’t seem to grow older, even though there were nearly 20 years between episodes 1 and 8, Viserys looked like he aged 50 years in between. And by the time he reached episode 8, he looked like a walking corpse that was skin and bones and was missing an eye.
This means that while leprosy can be treated in today’s modern times, the maesters back then struggled to understand what the king was suffering from and how they could treat his disease. That is why the king slowly but surely deteriorated ever since the early parts of the series. As Otto Hightower himself said, Viserys was not going to live to be an old man.
Did Viserys’s Disease Kill Him?
By the time we reached episode 8, which takes place six years after episode 7, King Viserys had already become too weak to the point that he could hardly walk on his own two feet and had to drown himself in the milk of the poppy so that he could manage the constant pain he was feeling due to this disease.
Nevertheless, he was still alive, albeit resembling a living corpse because of the effects of his disease. But the good thing was that he still managed to have enough wits to reject the milk of the poppy so that he could have a clear and unclouded mind to decide on the matter regarding the succession of Driftmark. And he also had enough energy to be able to have one final dinner with House Targaryen when the entire family was complete.
But at the end of the episode, the king had expended all of his remaining energy and could no longer go on living his life. He died on his bed after mistakenly telling Alicent all about Aegon and the Song of Ice and Fire. And before he died, the last thing he said was “my love,” as it is possible that he saw an image of Queen Aemma right before he passed away.