- The biological father of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s first three sons is a subject of controversy and scandal during the Dance of the Dragons.
- Both Fire & Blood and House of the Dragon provide differing explanations for Jacaerys’, Lucerys’ and Joffrey’s parentage.
- The father of Rhaenyra’s sons was often used by her enemies to discredit her claim to the Iron Throne.
Rhaenyra Targaryen is a highly controversial figure in Westerosi history, even if modern audiences of House of the Dragon are rightfully sympathetic toward her. She was named heir to the Iron Throne, which many lords of Westeros didn’t swallow well, and she was nicknamed “Maegor with teats” during the war with her brother Aegon II. But the biggest controversy surrounding Rhaenyra was actually the true father of her three eldest sons.
In total, Rhaenyra had six children and was the step-mother to Daemon Targaryen’s two daughters from his previous marriage with Laena Velaryon. While no one denied that Rhaenyra’s last three children were fathered by Daemon due to their obvious Targaryen features, her first three sons (Jacaerys “Jace,” Lucerys “Luke” and Joffrey “Joff”) is another question entirely. The question of the boys’ parentage creates a massive scandal before and during the Dance of the Dragons, which the Greens attempted to use to their advantage.
The Father of Rhaenyra’s Sons Is Ambiguous in Fire & Blood
In George R. R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, Rhaenyra’s first three sons are fathered by Laenor Velaryon, the heir to Driftmark. However, it was rumored that the children’s biological father was Rhaenyra’s alleged lover Ser Harwin Strong. Many people believed this because of the boys’ brown hair, brown eyes and pug-like nose, all of which were not considered Valyrian features that Laenor and Rhaenyra had.
Even if their parentage was slightly obvious, King Viserys I took no care to the rumors. He once sat Jace on his lap while holding court, telling him that the Iron Throne would be his someday. The rumors were further diffused when all three boys became dragonriders, as many doubters didn’t believe that their dragon eggs would hatch. However, other people close to Rhaenyra continued to spark speculation. Her half-brother Aemond (who was around the same age as Jacaerys and Lucerys), accused of them of being bastards, which led to a fight where his eye was cut out.
Viserys declared that anyone who would question the father of Rhaenyra’s children would have their tongue removed, and Ser Harwin was ordered to leave Dragonstone for Harrenhal. Still, the issue came up again when cousins of House Velaryon disputed Lucerys’ claim as the future Lord of Driftmark, to which Viserys shot down again. The rumors were never confirmed, so it’s still up in the air in Martin’s writing if the three were truly illegitimate.
House of the Dragon Explicitly Confirms the Father of Rhaenyra’s Sons
House of the Dragon took liberties to clear up several instances of hearsay in Fire & Blood, the biggest of which being the father of Rhaenyra’s sons. When Jacaerys confronts his mother about whether Harwin is his biological father, she slightly avoids the question by claiming that being a Targaryen is all that matters. Later, in conversations between Rhaenyra and Laenor, they discuss how difficult it’s been to deal with the gossip surrounding their sons, with Laenor expressing regret that he couldn’t consummate the marriage with Rhaenyra. Jacaerys also tells Rhaenyra during Laena’s funeral that he wishes to grieve Harwin after his death, because he has good reason to.
Another factor that practically confirms that Harwin is the father of Rhaenyra’s children in the show is that the Velaryons are re-imagined as Black, as opposed to them being white in the book. It isn’t just their hair or eye color that gives their parentage away, but the fact that they don’t look Black or mixed race. Despite this, it’s genetically possible for a mixed race child to look white, which is likely what Rhaenyra holds onto to prove that her sons are true Velaryons. The real evidence that could harm Rhaenyra’s reputation and claim that her sons are true Velaryons is that Laenor is confirmed to be gay, and that he couldn’t physically have children with Rhaenyra.
Knowledge of Laenor’s sexuality alone, if exposed to the public, would’ve been enough to end the debate over the boys’ parentage once and for all. From the audience’s perspective, knowing Rhaenyra has confirmed her relationship with Harwin behind closed doors, it’s hard to argue that he fathered the boys. For the Greens, on the other hand, they’re just running of Alicent’s jealous hatred for Rhaenyra and Otto’s years-long plotting to dismantle the Targaryens’ control.
The Father of Rhaenyra’s Sons Ultimately Doesn’t Matter
As the true heir to the Iron Throne, the father of Rhaenyra’s children should have no effect on her claim. All that should matter is that a person with Targaryen blood inherits the throne, which Jacaerys should because he’s half Targaryen. Rhaenyra was practically a single mother to her children since Laenor was always off pursuing male lovers, even if he did love the boys as his own. Harwin was only able to “parent” his sons from afar as their trainer-in-arms, but couldn’t show affection for them as a father would. Rhaenyra acted as both the mother and father figure to the boys, leaving any man out of the picture.
This doesn’t mean the parentage of her sons is unimportant though. The paternal scandal of Rhaenyra’s first three sons was heavily exploited by the Greens. Rather than admit they didn’t want a woman on the Iron Throne, they used her sons’ father(s) to accuse her of treason, bringing shame to her name. This worked quite well to an extent, because as Rhaenrya said to her father, she could’ve “fathered a dozen bastards but no one in your court would blink an eye.” Aegon II did allegedly father illegitimate children, yet Alicent nor anyone on the small council have taken extreme measures to confirm this. It goes to show that the controversy surrounding the Velaryon children had nothing to do with the father himself, but the fact a woman broke tradition and never suffered any repercussions.
House of the Dragon Season 1 is available to stream on Max.
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