House of the Dragon begins with King Viserys being chosen as the heir to the Iron Throne. King Viserys is placed in a similar situation following the deaths of his wife and would-be male heir. He breaks the patriarchal mold and picks his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra as his heir over his brother, Prince Daemon.
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Viserys’ decision is first supported. But when he marries a new woman (Alicent Hightower) and bears a male heir, the tides begin to turn. Viserys is under pressure from several Westerosi lords to marry off his daughter. And also by his advisor Otto Hightower to name his son as heir.
Complicating matters is the topic of unity in the realm. The people begin to question Viserys’ choice of heir, as well as Rhaenyra’s reputation, following the horrific episodes in House of the Dragon episode 4. Despite the numerous demands placed on Viserys due to his decision, he remains steadfast in his choice of successor and refuses to back down, perplexing many.
Why does Viserys still stand by Rhaenyra as his heir in House of the Dragon?
In a conversation with The Official Game of Thrones Podcast: House Of The Dragon, Sara Hess, author of House of the Dragon, talks about King Viserys’ reasons for sticking up for his daughter. Hess offers a deeper explanation for Viserys’ support of Rhaenyra, despite the fact that there are numerous elements at play in his actions. This includes his unstable brother and the need to look powerful and certain in his decision-making as king. She said:
Viserys was deeply in love with his wife Aemma, and never stopped loving her, and doesn’t ever stop loving her. And he realizes that his quest for a boy ended up killing her, and he feels horrible about it. And this is his way of making up to her.
Like, ‘I should have realized [that] you gave me Rhaenyra,’ and he says in episode 1 [to Rhaenyra] ‘You are the best of your mother.’ And she is Aemma’s daughter, she is Aemma’s child, she’s the only thing he has left of Aemma, so he’s going to make her heir and he’s never going to change his mind because he’s never going to stop loving Aemma. Putting Rhaenyra as his heir is his penance for what happened.
A war might come up!
Following the violent delivery scene in episode 1, Hess’ statements show that Viserys is trying to atone for his role in his wife’s death. This may provide some solace to viewers. After witnessing the king’s closeness with his new wife, who was formerly his daughter’s best friend, it would be easy to think that he had abandoned Aemma in the past. Especially because Alicent delivered him what he had so desperately desired – a son.
The past, however, is never really put to rest in House of the Dragon. It continues to influence their behavior in the present as they strive to amend their mistakes or are dominated by them. In Viserys’ situation, as the realm prepares for a conflict over his succession, his attempt to right the wrongs he committed with Aemma might lead to even greater disasters. Regardless of his motivations, the king’s endorsement of his daughter’s claim is momentous. It also aims to usher in a new era for which Westeros is obviously unprepared.