It was never a secret that House of the Dragon was going to follow the events before, during, and after the Dance of the Dragons, which is the Targaryen civil war that broke the entire house apart and led to the extinction of the dragons in the world (before Daenerys brought them back in Game of Thrones). The civil war gave birth to two factions that fought for the Iron Throne: the Blacks (Rhaenyra’s faction) and the Greens (Alicent and Aegon II’s faction). So, who won the Dance of the Dragons? (POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD)
Officially, the history books say that the Greens won the Dance of the Dragons because Aegon II became the uncontested king of the Seven Kingdoms after killing Rhaenyra and striking her rule off the record books. But Aegon II died shortly after and was succeeded by Aegon III, who is the son of Rhaenyra and Daemon.
The way we look at it, no one won the Dance of the Dragons. Even though Rhaenyra and Daemon died and Aegon II became king, he didn’t have a long rule, as it was the son of his rivals that succeeded him. In the end, the entire house lost the Dance of the Dragons because the dragons died out and went extinct. This weakened the Targaryens and opened up their eventual downfall more than a hundred years later.
What Led To The Dance Of The Dragons?
Ever since House of the Dragon was announced, it was already clear that the series would revolve around the events that eventually led to the extinction of the dragons. We are talking about the Targaryen civil war that the singers affectionately call the Dance of the Dragons. It was this civil war that tore the house apart and killed most of the dragons that the Targaryens fielded during the different battles and skirmishes that they had against one another.
Of course, House of the Dragon is still in the early stages of what will eventually become a civil war. We will eventually reach a point where the two factions will eventually rise up to fight one another for the chance to sit on the Iron Throne. But what led to the Dance of the Dragons?
In House of the Dragon, we saw that King Viserys disinherited his brother, Prince Daemon, from the Iron Throne. Instead, he named his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra, as his sole heir because he didn’t have any other children at that point in time. The entire realm initially accepted Rhaenyra as the heir to the Iron Throne because Viserys didn’t have any other heir.
However, Viserys eventually remarried to Alicent Hightower, who bore him the sons that he never had. She gave birth to Aegon II Targaryen and Aemond Targaryen. Given that Viserys now had two male heirs, people were now wondering whether or not the king would now name Aegon II as his new heir instead of Rhaenyra. But Viserys never disinherited Rhaenyra and was firm with his decision of naming her the heir to the Iron Throne, to the dismay of many different lords and ladies in the Seven Kingdoms, including Otto Hightower, who used to be the Hand of the King.
Otto believed that Aegon II should be named heir because the realm was not ready to accept a woman as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. He wanted Aegon to sit on the Iron Throne to prevent the realm from breaking apart, as he believed that rebellions and wars would break out the moment Rhaenyra became queen. As such, in the book, he immediately installed Aegon II as the new king of the Seven Kingdoms following the death of King Viserys.
During this time, Rhaenyra was in Dragonstone, giving birth to her sixth child. As such, she wasn’t around in King’s Landing to take the throne for herself, as Otto, who was the Hand at the time of Viserys’s death, proclaimed his own grandson as the new king of the Seven Kingdoms. Upon learning of this, an enraged Rhaenyra gave birth to a stillborn daughter as she hastily arranged her own coronation. She wore her own father’s crown as Daemon Targaryen, who was her husband at that time, crowned her queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
What Are The Two Targaryen Factions In The Dance Of The Dragon?
The coronation of two different monarchs eventually led to the Dance of the Dragons. On one side, a faction was led by the rightful heir, Queen Rhaenyra, who led the Blacks. Meanwhile, on the other side was the usurper King Aegon II, who led a faction called the Greens. The names of the factions were derived from the different dresses that Rhaenyra and Alicent wore during a great tournament in the past, as the princess wore the traditional black and red Targaryen colors while the queen consort wore green.
The Blacks were led by Queen Rhaenyra and her husband, Prince Daemon Targaryen. This faction was also bolstered by the strength of the Velaryon fleet and dragons because both Rhaenyra and Daemon were once wed to the late children of Lord Corlys Velaryon and Princess Rhaenys Targaryen.
Some of the other supporters of the Blacks included Northmen, Rivermen, Men of the Reach, Stormlanders, and Valemen. There were also some houses from the Crownlands that supported the Blacks, but their most powerful allies were the Velaryons, the Arryns, and the Starks. In fact, there were more supporters that rallied to the side of the Blacks during the earlier part of the Dance of the Dragons.
The Greens were led by King Aegon II and were backed by Queen Dowager Alicent. This faction came about when Otto Hightower and Ser Criston Cole named Aegon II the king of the Seven Kingdoms against the late King Viserys’s wishes. In that regard, the Greens controlled King’s Landing at the time of Aegon’s coronation because Rhaenyra was over at Dragonstone to give birth to her sixth child.
Some of the most powerful allies of the Greens included the existing members of the King’s Small Council during the time of Viserys’s death. The Caltrops, which are composed of the allies of House Hightower, were some of the most prominent members of this faction. On top of that, the Lannisters, the men of the Reach, the Baratheons, and the Triarchy all supported the claim of the Greens to the Iron Throne.
What Happened To Rhaenyra Targaryen?
Initially, during the start of the Dance of the Dragons, Rhaenyra had the advantage over the Greens because the Blacks had a superior fighting force that was composed of some of the bigger houses throughout the realm. Of course, the Velaryons had a lot of ships and dragons under their command, and that made things easy for Rhaenyra during the start of her reign as queen.
Queen Rhaenyra was able to quickly take King’s Landing for herself during the earlier part of the Dance of the Dragons. The people were also quick to welcome Rhaenyra back to King’s Landing because they never cared too much for Aegon II and Aemond due to their rotten personalities. And during her first few days as queen, Rhaenyra heard apologies and pledges of loyalty from the different lords and ladies that were present in King’s Landing during the time she took the city. On top of that, she also had some of her men hunt down those who helped Aegon II escape the city during the time she took it.
While the first few weeks of her rule were well enough, Rhaenyra’s reign in King’s Landing eventually turned sour. First of all, she had no gold to spend because the Greens had either taken the gold or had spent it all during the time they controlled King’s Landing. As such, she had to increase taxes on the smallfolk, who eventually turned against her and called her King Maegor with teats in reference to Maegor the Cruel, who the smallfolk hated.
A few of her men also went on to betray her and defect to the Greens, and that was when Rhaenyra grew to become more paranoid of the possibility of more of her men betraying her during her reign in King’s Landing. Because Rhaenyra believed that her Hand’s son, Addam Velaryon, was going to betray her, Corlys assisted in Addam’s escape. This led to Corlys getting imprisoned, even though the Velaryons were her most powerful allies.
Helaena Targaryen, Aegon’s sister’s wife, who was held captive by the Blacks, eventually committed suicide. The smallfolk, who loved Helaena, rioted in King’s Landing because they believed that she had been killed by Rhaenyra. It was the rioting that eventually forced Rhaenyra to flee King’s Landing, as even the smallfolk stormed the Dragonpit.
The Storming of the Dragonpit led to the deaths of four dragons that were chained up and unable to fly and escape. Meanwhile, Rhaenyra’s dragon Syrax also died fighting off the rioters during the Storming of the Dragonpit.
All of Rhaenyra’s children, except for Aegon III, perished during the time she held King’s Landing. She no longer had any money and was forced to sell her crown so that she could get to Dragonstone. However, once she got to Dragonstone, she was betrayed by Ser Alfred Broome.
Broome surrendered Rhaenyra to Aegon II, who had her killed by feeding her to his dragon, Sunfyre. After that, Aegon became the uncontested king of the Seven Kingdoms and released a decree that proclaimed that Rhaenyra was never queen but was simply just a princess. Rhaenyra held King’s Landing for about half a year before she had to vacate due to the riots.
What Happened To Aegon II Targaryen?
Even before King Viserys died, Aegon II already wanted to be crowned king. He was an impatient man that wanted his coronation to be hastened, even though Otto Hightower and the rest of his supporters were still trying to win over some of the houses of Westeros to their side. As such, during the time of Aegon’s coronation, they weren’t as powerful as the Blacks, who were able to win some of the stronger and bigger houses to their side.
Aegon II was a cruel and impatient king during the time he held King’s Landing. Jaehaerys, his heir to his sister-wife Helaena, was killed by Mysaria’s agents hiding in the form of ratcatchers. As such, Aegon ordered all of the ratcatchers in the city to be killed because of this event. This was one of the events that made the smallfolk hate Aegon and his brother Aemond.
Even though he held King’s Landing, Aegon’s Greens suffered numerous losses to the Blacks. As such, Otto Hightower tried his best to gain allies in the east by hiring sellswords and talking to the Triarchy. But the impatient Aegon II thought that this was inaction on the part of his grandfather. As such, he stripped Otto of his role as Hand and gave it to Ser Criston Cole instead.
Criston Cole the Kingmaker set a trap that was meant for Princess Rhaenys, the Queen Who Never Was. This was one of the few times that Aegon himself went to the battlefield, as he and Aemond were able to kill Rhaenys and her dragon Meleys. However, Aegon and his dragon suffered terrible wounds and injuries from this battle. Aegon could no longer rule properly because of his injuries as he struggled to even stand up because of his burns and broken bones.
In Aegon’s stead, Aemond ruled King’s Landing as Prince Regent. But Aemond could not hold King’s Landing when Rhaenyra took it. It was this battle that killed Aemond and Vhagar, as they fought and killed Daemon and Caraxes in one of the most epic fights of the Dance of the Dragons. Meanwhile, Larys Strong smuggled Aegon and his children out of King’s Landing when Rhaenyra took the city and the Iron Throne.
Following the riots in King’s Landing, Rhaenyra fled to Dragonstone and was betrayed by some of her men. Aegon II fed her to Sunfyre. But Rhaenyra’s death and Aegon’s rise as the uncontested king did not end the Dance of the Dragons because the Velaryons were still very much against his reign. He pardoned Corlys Velaryon, who agreed to swear loyalty to him if he spared Aegon III.
Meanwhile, Alicent Hightower arranged a wedding between Aegon II and Cassandra Baratheon, all while some of the remaining Black armies were still marching on King’s Landing. Still, Aegon II remained oblivious to what was happening around him because he was much more focused on his upcoming marriage to Cassandra. However, on his way to the royal sept, Aegon was drinking a flagon of wine that was actually poisoned.
No one knew who poisoned King Aegon II, but the fact of the matter was that he had reigned as king for two years before his death. Corlys and Aegon III went out to meet the remaining Black armies to tell them what happened. Aegon III was crowned Aegon II’s successor as king of the Seven Kingdoms in the aftermath.
Who Won The Dance Of The Dragons?
History would say that it was King Aegon II who won the Dance of the Dragons because he was the one who was left standing between him and Princess Rhaenyra. In fact, he even decreed that Rhaenyra was never a queen, and that’s why the history books don’t recognize her six-month rule over King’s Landing as a legitimate rule.
However, in the end, Aegon II, though uncontested as king, couldn’t prevent the Blacks from continuing their war against him. There were still rebels all over Westeros because they had no love for Aegon II as their ruler. It was because he had rebels and haters throughout the kingdom that led to his death, although it is still unknown who actually poisoned his wine.
As mentioned, Aegon III, who is the son of Rhaenyra and Daemon, became the only successor to the Iron Throne after Aegon II’s death. In many ways, we could say that Rhaenyra had the last laugh in the afterlife because her son ended up becoming the uncontested king.
But the truth is that no one won the Dance of the Dragons because this Targaryen civil war only led to the extinction of the dragons. Only four dragons remained after the war, and the ones that hatched during the Dance of the Dragons had short lives. Meanwhile, Aegon III had little to no care for the dragons because of all of the traumatic experiences he had during the civil war. The fact that he had to watch his mother getting eaten by a dragon and his brothers getting killed by dragons made him unwilling to find a way to help the dragons thrive once more, as it was during his reign that the dragons went extinct.
In that regard, House Targaryen weakened after the Dance of the Dragons because they no longer had their greatest weapons—the dragons themselves. While it took a while for the entire house to crumble, it was clear that the Targaryen Dynasty’s days were numbered after the civil war. And that was clear when they had no dragons during the time of Robert Baratheon’s successful rebellion nearly 150 years after the end of the Dance of the Dragons.
Meanwhile, history was unkind to both Rhaenyra and Aegon II, as the history books saw them in a negative light due to the many different tragic events that happened during the Dance of the Dragons. As such, neither of them won in that tragic contest of power.