Warning: contains major spoilers for House of the Dragon episode 6: ‘The Princess and the Queen’
In ‘The Princess and the Queen’, House of the Dragon whipped through a great deal of information in a short space of time. There were new royal heirs and new dragons; new allies, new enemies and brand-new cast members to play them. We saw that Alicent and Rhaenyra’s friendship had not been repaired in the past decade at King’s Landing – far from it. The battle lines between the Queen and the King’s heir are now firmly drawn. Rumours (rightly) questioned the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s sons, bursting the bubble she’d formed with paramour Ser Harwin Strong, and forcing her family to relocate to Dragonstone.
After Alicent’s father Otto’s banishment from court and her estrangement from Rhaenyra, the Queen was friendless, her only allies the bitter, devout Ser Criston Cole and the scheming psychopath Ser Larys Strong. The question of succession to the Iron throne put all of the royal children in danger. Over in Pentos, we met Prince Daemon’s family and witnessed the dramatic end of his second wife Laena. And at Harrenhal, Larys Strong arranged the murders of his father and brother and leap-frogged his way to his inheritance.
If anything passed you by in the rush, here’s a spoiler-filled summary of what went on off-screen during the 10-year time-jump.
Princess Rhaenyra Had Three Sons (with Ser Harwin Strong)
Jacaerys (known as ‘Jace’), Lucerys (known as ‘Luke’) and baby Joffrey – the latter named after Laenor Velaryon’s male lover, who was beaten to death by Criston Cole a decade earlier at Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding celebrations. It’s an increasingly open secret that Ser Laenor is not the biological father of any of his and Rhaenyra’s sons – that honour went to Ser Harwin Strong, Commander of the City Watch.
Rhaenyra and Laenor’s marriage was a political union designed to unite two powerful Valyrian houses and quell a simmering rebellion against the crown by Laenor’s father Lord Corlys. Rhaenyra and Laenor are second cousins who grew up together and, knowing that he was a closeted gay man, Rhaenyra proposed that each would be free to pursue whatever sexual relationships they wished in private after marriage. After her brief teenage affair with Ser Criston Cole ended in abrupt violence at her wedding, Rhaenyra found comfort in the arms of Ser Harwin Strong and gave him three biological sons, all of whom bear their legal father’s name of Velaryon (until such time as they inherit the throne, when they’ll be named Targaryen, as per King Viserys’ deal with their grandpa.)
Queen Alicent and King Viserys Had a Second Son, Aemond
Before the time jump, Alicent had two children with her husband King Viserys: Prince Aegon II and infant daughter Helaena. Ten years on, they now have three children including youngest son Aemond, who is bullied by his older brother and nephews. Aegon II is played by Ty Tennant (War of the Worlds), incidentally the son of actor-writer Georgia Tennant and former Doctor Who star David Tennant. Helaena is currently played by Evie Allen but after the show’s next time jump will be replaced by Phia Saban, who was Lady Aelfwynn in Season 5 of Netflix’s The Last Kingdom. (Coincidentally, the grown-up version of Helaena’s younger brother Aemond will be played by The Last Kingdom’s Osferth aka Ewan Mitchell.)
The Queen and the Princess’ Rivalry Deepened
After growing up as firm friends in the Red Keep – one the daughter of the king, the other the daughter to the hand of the king – the first wedge between Rhaenyra and Alicent came when Viserys chose Alicent as his second wife (after no small amount of deft manoeuvring by her father Otto Hightower) after the death of Rhaenyra’s mother in childbirth. The second wedge came in the form of Alicent and Viserys’ first son Aegon, who, as a boy, was thought by many to be Viserys’ rightful royal heir instead of his daughter. The next wedge came when Alicent discovered that Rhaenrya had lied to her about having cavorted with her uncle in a Flea Bottom brothel and didn’t confide in her about having seduced her bodyguard Ser Criston Cole.
Ser Criston Became Alicent’s Personal Bodyguard…
Before the time-jump, we last saw Ser Criston savagely beat Joffrey Lonmouth to death at Princess Rhaenyra and Ser Laenor Velaryon’s wedding feast, and then go to the Godswood to atone for his sins by taking his own life. That’s where Queen Alicent stopped him and recruited him as her ally, having been impressed by his honesty with her about his sexual relationship with Princess Rhaenyra, despite the admission putting his life in mortal danger. In the intervening years, their alliance has clearly grown, as has Ser Criston’s extreme prejudice towards the Princess and her illegitimate sons.
…And Alicent Started Having Cosy Suppers with Larys Strong
You can’t very well blame Alicent, lonely as she is, but Larys Strong is clearly a dangerous man to know. In the 10 years since he first alluded to her isolation by drawing a comparison between Alicent and the transplanted red flower growing in the Red Keep gardens – both of them “an outsider among natives” – the Alicent/Larys alliance has developed greatly, to the point that Alicent now keeps that same red flower in her floral bouquets and has regular cosy suppers with the scheming, murderous villain.
Viserys’ Health Went Massively Downhill
We’ve explored the gradual septic poisoning Viserys appears to be suffering from due to repeated cuts on the Iron Throne here. In the ten years since we saw that he’d lost two of his fingers to the illness, his overall health has much diminished. Despite only being in his late 50s – early 60s, the King is increasingly frail and suffering, making the question of his eventual succession more urgent by the day. When Viserys named his daughter heir, he did not know that he would father two sons with his second wife. As part of a (fictional, obviously) medieval society that favours male over female heirs, his progressive-seeming act has created an irresolvable situation and enmity between his sons, their half-sister and her children.
The Queen and the Princess Joined the Small Council
At some point in the last ten years, Rhaenyra was promoted from the role of her father’s cup bearer to take a proper seat at the table, and the Small Council has expanded to include seats (and those little bureaucratic marble spheres) for both her and her deadly enemy the Queen. Progress!
Laena Velaryon and Daemon Targaryen Had Twin Daughters Baela and Rhaena
After Daemon did away with his first wife Lady Rhea Royce and was refused the hand of his niece Rhaenyra in marriage, he found his second wife in a match his brother King Viserys had rejected: Laena Velaryon. The younger sister of Rhaenyra’s husband Ser Laenor, Laena is the daughter of Lord Corlys Velaryon and the Princess Rhaenys Targaryen (known as the Queen that Never Was to her supporters). She and Daemon married and had twin daughters Baela and Rhaena, the former is a dragonrider-in-training and her father’s clear favourite, while the latter has yet to bond with a dragon. The family has been living an itinerant life away from Laena’s father’s home of Driftmark, and have travelled across the Narrow Sea to Pentos in Essos.
The Stepstones Were Neglected After Daemon’s Victory
Since Daemon and Laenor Velaryon pulled off the death-from-above strategy that defeated the Crabfeeder and his army, Essosi island group ‘the Stepstones’ have been neglected by King Viserys I, who’s done nothing to prevent the reforming of the Triarchy (a political and military alliance between the free cities of Myr, Lys and Tyrosh) and a fresh threat to Westeros from the East.
Episode Timeline: How Much Time Has Passed?
According to the TV series, here’s an approximate timeline of what’s happened so far:
- Episode one ‘The Heirs of the Dragon’ opens at The Great Council in 101 AC, when Viserys I is named heir to King Jaehaerys, succeeding over his cousin Princess Rhaenys Targaryen, wife to Lord Corlys Velaryon.
- Then it jumps forward to nine years into Viserys’ reign to about 110 AC when his beloved wife Aemma dies giving birth to son Baelor, who lives for one day. Viserys banishes his brother Daemon from King’s Landing and names his daughter Princess Rhaenyra his heir.
- Episode two ‘The Rogue Prince’ starts six months later (110 – 111 AC) when King Viserys marries his daughter’s childhood friend Alicent Hightower, and Prince Daemon pretends he’s having a son with Lady Mysaria.
- Episode three ‘Second of His Name’ jumps ahead three years to Alicent and Viserys’ son Prince Aegon’s second Name Day, on which Alicent is already heavily pregnant with their daughter Helaena. Ser Jason Lannister proposes to marry Princess Rhaenyra, who is attacked by a wild boar but defeats the beast. Now we’re in around 113 – 114 AC.
- Episode four ‘King of the Narrow Sea’ jumps another six months or so to 114 AC or thereabouts. Alicent has had baby Helaena and Princess Rhaenyra is meeting with potential suitors when the return from the Stepstones of her uncle Daemon (now styled ‘King of the Narrow Sea’) unlocks her sexuality and she secretly beds Ser Criston Cole. Rhaenyra lies about it, which leads to Ser Otto Hightower being expelled from his role as Hand to the King. Viserys insists Rhaenyra marries Ser Laenor Velaryon and she agrees.
- Episode five ‘We Light the Way’, in which Rhaenyra and Laenor’s wedding is rushed due to Ser Criston’s violent attack on Joffrey Lonmouth, takes place a short time after episode four.
- Episode six ‘The Princess and the Queen’ jumps forwards by 10 years, taking the TV series timeline to somewhere around 124-5 AC.
House of the Dragon airs on Sunday nights on HBO in the US and on Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.