Warning: contains very VERY large spoilers
I was raised on English court drama. I could recite all six of Henry VIII’s wives by the time I was ten, and I can list every British king from William the Conqueror to James I from memory. In other words, keeping track of all of the noble families in A Song of Ice and Fire hasn’t been too difficult for me. Thankfully, George R.R. Martin took a lot of ideas from British history, so I can usually just replace a British name with a Westerosi name and I’m set.
Still, figuring out who the proper King/Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men should be is not an easy task. Based on British and Westerosi law, let’s explore the possible candidates. I’ll be going with the books instead of the show here; the show may or may not delete some of these characters. Additionally, the following reads like a history essay and may be considered very dry to some viewers. You have been warned.
Here’s a really quick rundown of Westerosi history:
Three hundred years prior to the start of the books, Aegon the Conqueror united six of the seven kingdoms with his sister/wives Rhaenys and Visenya Targaryen. The seventh kingdom, Dorne, was brought into the fold later through marriage of the Prince of Dorne to Daenerys (not the Mother of Dragons) Targaryen.
Thirteen years prior to the start of the first book, Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark defeated the reigning Targaryen king, Aerys. Aerys’ son, Rhaeger was killed, along with Rhaegar’s wife and two children. Aerys’ other children, Daenerys (Mother of Dragons) and Viserys, escaped to the Continent. Robert, who claimed Targaryen ancestry through his grandmother, was crowned king. He married Cercei Lannister and had three children. If you get confused, I’d suggest looking up both the British royal family tree and the Targaryen family tree on Google. Anyways, onward with the potential candidates!
At first glance, Danaerys (Mother of Dragons) seems the obvious choice as heir to the Iron Throne. After all, she’s the only remaining child of Aerys and Rhaella; unfortunately, she’s also female. Under Salic Law – the law that governs inheritance in the Middle Ages – states that inheritance can never go through the female line. This led to several crises in England, most famously with Henry VIII, as he went through several queens in an attempt to have a son. He did eventually, but this resulted in a major shift in both politics and religion, as he had to break with the Catholic Church in order to do so.
Shortly after William the Conqueror conquered England, his son inherited the throne and had his own son and daughter. Sadly, his son died before him, leaving Henry I with only a daughter. He had his barons swear fealty to Maude, but when he died, his nephew Stephen was crowned king. The English throne was eventually passed to Maude’s son Henry II, but only after decades of bloody battle.
This story is reflected in Targaryen history as well: Rhaenyra, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Aegon the Conqueror, was designated heir; when her father died, her half brother was crowned. Only after decades of battle was Rhaenyra’s son finally crowned king. If Daenerys were to finally invade Westeros, it’s possible some would refuse to recognize her, because the Targaryens also followed Salic Law. She could, however, fight to have her son crowned…if she could have a son. The last chapter of A Dance with Dragons suggests she may have been pregnant, but from what we know so far, Daenerys is barren.
Remember though, she has dragons. If she invades Westeros with her dragons, I sincerely doubt anyone’s going to say a word against her right of inheritance. But what happens when she dies? If Daenerys truly is barren and takes the Iron Throne, her closest heir turns out to be Stannis Baratheon, which brings us to the next entry.
Stannis is Robert Baratheon’s younger brother. Robert derived his claim to the throne through his grandmother, Rhaelle Targaryen; he proved that having blood ties to the throne isn’t really important when you’ve killed almost everyone else with a claim. His character is partially based on Edward IV, who defeated Henry VI and was crowned king. Edward IV claimed inheritance through his Yorkist blood, being descended from Edward III’s second and fourth son. However, he didn’t murder the entirety of the royal family, leaving a few claimants to strike back.
With Aerys, Rhaegar, Aegon, and Rhaenys dead, the only surviving Targaryens were Daenerys and Viserys, both living in exile. Robert’s death was followed by the coronation of Joffrey, and eventually Tommen Baratheon – but as we learn early in the series, Joffrey and Tommen are actually bastards fathered by Jaime Lannister. Robert left no legitimate children, leaving Stannis as his heir, a claim that Stannis presses throughout the series; unfortunately, with Daenerys still alive, his claim is weak at best.
As mentioned, these three are all Lannister bastards; while not openly acknowledged, most people understand this to be true. Tommen’s bastard ass may sit in the Iron Throne at the moment, but this won’t last long. According to Dornish Law, where the eldest child regardless of gender inherits, Myrcella actually has a stronger claim than Tommen. This point is pressed, with disastrous results, by Arianne Martell.
There’s a fan theory that states that Jaime and Cercei are actually Targaryens, though. It’s stated during Tywin’s and Joanna’s wedding, as Aerys complained loudly that the lord’s right of First Night (where the king gets to shag the bride before the groom does) had been abolished, but he went on anyway to take certain liberties during the bedding. Maybe Aerys is really the father of the golden twins. Regardless, bastards can’t (usually) inherit shit.
Dorne was finally united with the other six kingdoms when the Prince of Dorne married Daenerys (not the Mother of Dragons) Targaryen. As Robert proved, slight blood claims can get you the throne if you kill everyone else. Technically, one of the Martells could press their claim, but this is extremely unlikely.
If Doran wanted to take that route, he wouldn’t have bothered sending Quentyn to marry Daenerys. Still, with Targaryens constantly marrying Targaryens, the pool of royal blood is much smaller than it was in England, so any blood claim may become important.
This huge plot twist was tossed into Dance With Dragons. It turns out that Varys swapped babies when King’s Landing was stormed. Instead of Aegon’s head being splattered by Gregor Clegane, it was some peasant baby. Aegon was smuggled across the Narrow Sea and was raised by Jon Connington, Rhaegar’s best friend. Seventeen years later, Aegon and Jon Connington are ready to retake the Iron Throne. This actually gives Aegon a better claim than Danaerys, but how can he prove it? Varys is a known liar, and according to his story he is the only living person who saw the peasant and prince swapped. Jon Connington’s been taking Varys at his word for the last seventeen years.
After Henry VII defeated Richard III and became king, a few random men calling themselves Richard of York started invading England; they claimed that Edward IV’s son, Richard, had actually survived and returned to England to reclaim the throne. One man in particular, Perkins Warbeck, managed to convince several European royals that he really was Richard, but he was eventually executed by Henry VII. In other words, recognition of his identity may be possible for Aegon, but recognition alone won’t win him the Iron Throne.
However, it’s entirely possible Aegon isn’t even Aegon. Sure, he looks like a Targaryen – but so do several Voluntines, and so do the Blackfyres. House Blackfyre is a side branch of House Targaryen, created when Aegon IV legitimized his bastards on his death bed.
In England, bastards can be legitimized by both an act of the king and a Papal dispensation; this was most famously reflected with House Beaufort. John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III, had several bastards with his mistress, Katherine Swynford. When John’s second wife died, he said “f*ck it” and married Katherine. By both the act of his nephew Richard II and the pope, the Beauforts were made legitimate through this marriage.
Legitimizing bastards in Westeros is significantly easier, as it just requires the act of a king. We see this when Ramsay Snow is made into Ramsay Bolton by King Tommen, and both Stannis Baratheon and Robb Stark offer to make Jon Snow into Jon Stark.
The Blackfyres have been a serious thorn in the Targaryen side for several generations. There were several wars fought over the Iron Throne known as the Blackfyre Rebellions. The male Blackfyre line is supposedly dead, but it has been suggested that Aegon is actually a Blackfyre, which would explain why the Golden Company – a sellsword company formed by the Blackfyres – so easily backs Aegon. If that ends up being the case, Aegon does still have a claim to the throne, but not nearly as strong of a claim as Daenerys. Marrying Daenerys would, however, give him the throne.
Henry VII, who defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, derived his claim to England’s throne through his marriage to Elizabeth of York (daughter of Edward IV), not through his Beaufort ancestry. He did, however, have to abolish the Titulus Regius, which was an act put through by Richard III making Elizabeth of York a bastard. So technically, until he made Elizabeth legitimate, Henry VII didn’t have a claim to the throne.
There was also an act put through by Henry IV barring the Beauforts from the throne; this wasn’t repealed until Henry VII’s grandson, Edward VI, became king. Henry VII, like Robert Baratheon, proved that small blood claims to the throne don’t mean much when you kill everyone else. Henry VII was a pretty big dick, dating his kingship to the day before he killed Richard III, making everyone who fought for Richard a traitor.
Edric Storm/Gendry/Mya Stone/several others
Robert Baratheon had tons and tons of bastards. He only recognized one, Edric, but several others are identified throughout the series. As previously explained, bastards can be made legitimate through an act of the king. However, that would mean the king would have to want to do this, and there’s no way a rival king/queen (such as Tommen or Daenerys) would legitimize Edric Storm. That being said, there are two cases of a bastard becoming queen of England:
When Mary I became queen, she was still considered a bastard by the English parliament. Although the Catholic Church wouldn’t grant Henry VIII an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, he went ahead and did it anyway. English parliament declared Mary a bastard, and only overturned the judgment when Mary became queen. When she died, she left her sister Elizabeth as her heir. Technically, Elizabeth was also still considered a bastard, both by the Catholic Church and by British parliament.
The Catholic Church considered Elizabeth a bastard because Henry had already been married to Catherine of Aragon when he tried to marry Anne Boleyn, and British parliament made her a bastard by dissolving Henry’s marriage to Anne. However, she still became queen and overturned parliament’s decree of bastardy. The Catholic Church never changed their position, but by that point, England had split from Rome so no one cared.
Still, the Baratheon bastards’ claim is basically non-existent.
This one relies heavily on fan theory.
It is theorized that Tyrion isn’t actually Tywin’s son, but rather that Aerys raped Joanna and Joanna died giving birth to his deformed bastard. Believe it or not, there is a tiny bit of evidence for this: Half of Tyrion’s hair is so blond it could be white, and one of his eyes is so dark it could be purple; he’s also obsessed with dragons and is the only Lannister who wasn’t at any point a huge dick (although I think Jaime redeemed himself).
Unfortunately, this presents again the problem of bastardy. Tommen is not going to legitimize his uncle if it turns out he’s a dragon bastard, and even if he somehow overcomes that hurdle, how can he prove he’s a Targaryen? Well, that may prove easier than you’d think.
When in Qarth, Daenerys hears a prophecy about a dragon with three heads. It’s assumed that this means she’s going to have two helpers to ride her other two dragons, and these three will save the world. Dany can already ride a Dragon; if Tyrion turns out to be one of the heads of the dragon, he may not need to prove anything – just ride to Westeros on one of the dragons.
If Daenerys and the dragons accept him, the seven kingdoms may even be forced to serve the dwarf. GRRM has stated that Tyrion is his favorite character and he’s managed to charm many fans. Maybe this isn’t as far-fetched of a theory as it seems.
This is my favorite theory in the series and the primary reason why I read the books. It’s theorized – and more or less proven – that Jon is not Ned Stark’s bastard, but rather the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaeger Targaryen. I could write an entire article explaining the proof here, but let’s just leave it at R+L=J. If this is the case, then Jon is a Targaryen, and I don’t even think he’s a bastard. If Rhaegar married Lyanna – something he could do, given that Aegon the Conqueror married two women – then Jon is a legitimate Targaryen heir.
More importantly, Jon may be the Prince who was Promised, or Azor Ahai reborn. Both of these heroes are prophesied to raise dragons and defeat the darkness. This also ties in with the three-headed dragon Daenerys hears about. It’s pretty obvious that Jon is going to be one of the heads of the dragon.
That being said, he does have a few hurdles to overcome if he wants to inherit the throne. He’s been declared a bastard, but both Stannis and Robb Stark have offered to legitimize him. If he is to become king, Stannis will probably back out and Robb is already dead, but Daenerys could do it. Jon would also still have to prove that he’s Rhaegar’s son.
Just like Tyrion, he could easily do this by riding one of Daenerys’ dragons. He is a warg, after all. Bran Stark, who can see through weirwood trees and into the past, may stumble on a marriage between Lyanna and Rhaegar, if they were married in front of a heart tree. Bran’s already almost stumbled onto Ned admitting that Jon isn’t his son, but the word of a crippled boy is not going to convince the seven kingdoms of Jon’s parentage.
Howland Reed knows, though – he was the only other man, besides Ned, to leave the Tower of Joy alive after they found Lyanna dying. If Ned left the tower with Jon Snow, then Howland could keep the secret alive. There’s some theory that the new High Septon is actually Howland Reed; if this is the case, then the High Septon can easily declare Jon the son of Rhaegar.
The easiest solution would be for Jon and Daenerys to marry. Daenerys could declare him legitimate and together they could save the world from the coming darkness.
No, Hodor doesn’t have any claim to the Iron Throne. But this would be an awesome ending to the series. The roof has caved in, snow is falling on the throne and Hodor is slowly rocking back and forth, singing “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor.”
So there you go. If Aegon is really Aegon (and I think this is far too convenient), he has the strongest claim to the throne. However, he’ll have to prove he’s really Aegon first. Besides which, I really want to see Jon, Daenerys, and Tyrion fly to King’s Landing on dragons and set Cercei on fire.
This post was written by Guest Contributor Rhydnara