Aerys II Targaryen

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Aerys II
House Targaryen crest.PNG
Aerys II by Amok©
Biographical Information
Reign 262 AC - 283 AC
Full Name Aerys Targaryen the Second of His Name
Alias The Mad King
King Scab
Other Titles King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men
Lord of the Seven Kingdoms
Protector of the Realm
Born in 244 AC[1], at King's Landing[2]
Died in 283 AC, at the Red Keep in King's Landing
Royal House House Targaryen
Predecessor Jaehaerys II Targaryen
Heir 1st: Rhaegar Targaryen
2nd: Viserys Targaryen
Successor Robert I Baratheon
Queen Rhaella Targaryen
Issue Rhaegar Targaryen
Shaena Targaryen
Daeron Targaryen
Aegon Targaryen
Jaehaerys Targaryen
Viserys Targaryen
Daenerys Targaryen.
Father Jaehaerys II Targaryen
Mother Shaera Targaryen
Books The World of Ice and Fire (mentioned)
A Game of Thrones (mentioned)
A Clash of Kings (mentioned)
A Storm of Swords (mentioned)
A Feast for Crows (mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (mentioned)

Aerys II, also called the Mad King and King Scab, was the seventeenth and last member of the Targaryen dynasty to sit the Iron Throne, ruling from 262 AC to 283 AC.[3] His children that lived to adulthood, by his sister-wife, Rhaella Targaryen, were Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys.

Aerys showed great promise at the start of his reign, bringing peace and prosperity to the Seven Kingdoms, but later descended into insanity, caused by, amongst other factors, multiple miscarriages and stillbirths, the deaths of three sons, and a brief uprising known as the Defiance of Duskendale, in which he was held prisoner for half a year by a rebellious lord. His paranoia and cruelty grew out of control. He was eventually killed by a member of his own Kingsguard, Ser Jaime Lannister, during Robert's Rebellion.

Appearance and Character

See also: Images of Aerys II Targaryen

In his youth, Aerys II while not being the most intelligent, nor the most diligent of Princes he was described as a youth as having an undeniable charm, he was generous, handsome and resolute, although somewhat quick to anger. He was also vain, proud, and changeable, traits that made him easy prey for lickspittles and flatterers. As he grew older, Aerys became increasingly jealous, suspicious and cruel, prone to furious outbursts.[4]

After the Defiance of Duskendale, these characteristics became more pronounced. He began to see every unexplained event or act of minor defiance as evidence of fearful conspiracies against him, and devised sadistic punishments for those he imagined to be his enemies. He developed a fascination with fire, which eventually grew so consuming that he could only become sexually aroused by watching someone burn to death. His marriage to his sister-wife Rhaella, while never happy, became sexually abusive late in his reign.

By the end of his life, Aerys's madness had taken a serious toll on his appearance, so that although only forty years old at the time of his death, he looked much older. He ate little and became gaunt as a result of his fear of poison.

After repeatedly cutting himself on the Iron Throne Aerys developed a phobia of blades, and forbade any sharp implements in his presence other than the swords of his Kingsguard, refusing even to trim his nails or hair. His fingernails grew to cracked yellow claws nine inches long; His beard was matted and unwashed, and his silver-gold hair hung down to his waist in wild tangles. His arms and legs were always covered with scabs and half-healed cuts from the Iron Throne. He wore the elaborate dragon-emblazoned crown of Aegon the Unworthy.[5] [6]


Early life

Aerys and Rhaella's unhappy wedding

Aerys was born to Prince Jaehaerys, the second son of King Aegon V, and his sister-wife, Princess Shaera. While still a teenager, Aerys was married to his sister Rhaella, in accordance with the family tradition of dynastic incest. While Aerys's grandfather, King Aegon V Targaryen was against this incestous marriage (as he had been against incestous marriages for his own children), Jaehaerys was allowed to arrange it. Jaehaerys's motivation for the marriage was a prophecy, made by a woods witch, which had been interpreted to mean that the prince that was promised would be born of the line of Aerys and Rhaella.[4] According to Ser Barristan Selmy, who was present at the wedding, there was no fondness between the two siblings.[7]

During his youth, Aerys befriended the young heir to Casterly Rock, Tywin Lannister, who served as a page at the royal court. Aerys also befriended the heir to Storm's End, his cousin, Steffon Baratheon. The three became inseparable.[4]

In 259 AC, Rhaella gave birth to their firstborn son and heir, Prince Rhaegar. He was "born in blood and grief" during the disaster known as the tragedy of Summerhall, which killed King Aegon V, his eldest son Prince Duncan, and many others.[8] Aerys's father, Jaehaerys, ascended the Iron Throne after the tragedy. It would later be rumoured that, on the night of Jaehaerys's coronation, Aerys took the maidenhead of Lady Joanna Lannister, who had come to court for the celebrations.[4]

Aerys was as a squire during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, and fought in the Stepstones. There, at the age of sixteen, he received his knighthood. Aerys choose to be dubbed a knight by his friend, Tywin. When King Jaehaerys II passed away from illness in 262 AC, after having ruled for only three years, Prince Aerys was crowned as King Aerys II Targaryen.[4]

Early reign

Aerys on the Iron Throne during his early reign, as depicted by Jennifer Drummond in The World of Ice and Fire.

Aerys's reign began in 262 AC with great promise. Over the peaceful first dozen years, the realm recovered from the tragic events at Summerhall and the War of the Ninepenny Kings, growing strong and prosperous. However, this would not remain.

Under his father and grandfather, the royal court at King's Landing had grown stuffy and conservative, filled with hidebound old men. Aerys brought sweeping changes, replacing many prominent officials with younger faces. Impressed by the ruthlessness of the young Tywin Lannister in dealing with rebellion against Casterly Rock, he named Tywin as the Hand of the King.[4]

Aerys was very active in the early years of his reign and held a splendid court. He loved music, dancing and masked balls, and was exceedingly fond of young beautiful women, filling the court with fair maidens from across the kingdoms. Some say he had as many mistresses as Aegon the Unworthy, though most historians highly doubt that. Whatever the case, Aerys always lost interests in his lovers fairly quickly.[4]

King Aerys was full of schemes, boasting about his grand plans, then quickly forgetting about them in less than a moon's turn. Aerys boasted upon his coronation about invading the Stepstones and adding them to the Seven Kingdoms. When Lord Rickard Stark of Winterfell visited King's Landing in 264 AC, the king hatched a plan to build a new Wall hundreds of miles north of the current one and claim all the lands in between. After complaining about the stink of King's Landing in 265 AC, Aerys wanted to build a new city of white marble on the south bank of the Blackwater. In 267 AC, after a dispute with the Iron Bank of Braavos, Aerys claimed he would build a war fleet and bring the Titan of Braavos to its knees. When he visited Dorne in 270 AC, he told the Princess of Dorne that he would build an underwater canal and make the deserts bloom. Nothing ever came from any of these grandiose schemes, as Aerys was changeable and grew as bored with his ideas as quickly as they came to him.[4]

Still, the Seven Kingdoms prospered during Aerys's reign, due to his Hand of the King, for Tywin Lannister was everything Aerys was not. Lord Tywin was diligent, decisive, tireless, fiercely intelligent, just and stern. Eventually, Aerys came to regret his choice for Hand – not because of any lack of competence on Tywin's part, but rather the opposite.[4] He proved to be a brilliant administrator, and as Hand his reputation for brutal effectiveness became so well-known and so widely respected that popular rumor held it was Tywin, not Aerys, who truly ruled the realm.[9][4]

It was Tywin who settled the dispute with the Iron Bank of Braavos in 267 AC, as Tywin was shrewd enough not to make an enemy of the Iron Bank. He paid the Bank back the loans owed to them by the Iron Throne with the gold of Casterly Rock. Tywin also appeased the High Lords by repelling all the laws, rights and protections that were granted to the smallfolk by King Aegon V Targaryen.[4]

Tywin won the support of the wealthy merchants by reducing tariffs on shipping to Oldtown, Lannisport and King's Landing, which increased trade. He sternly punished any baker caught mixing sawdust with bread, built new roads and repaired old ones, held splendid tournaments about the realm to the delight of knights and commons both. Despite these accomplishments, Tywin was little loved for he was also humorless, unforgiving, unbending, proud and insensitive. Traits that earned him many rivals, even his bannermen while greatly respecting him and loyally following him to war, bore him little love.[4]

The relationship between Aerys and Tywin was always complicated. When he was still a prince, Aerys had developed a crush on Joanna Lannister who was to marry her cousin Tywin. Aerys was present at the wedding in 263 AC and drank too much during the feast, leading to him joking that it was a great pity that the lord's right to the first night had been abolished and to taking certain liberties during the bedding. It is said that Tywin did not forget Aerys's behavior.[10][4]

Aerys's marriage to his younger sister, Rhaella, was less happy than Tywin's. Aerys was known to keep many mistresses, and whilst Rhaella turned a blind eye to her husbands infidelities, she objected heavily against "turning my ladies into whores". In 263 AC, Lady Joanna Lannister was dismissed by Rhaella, shortly after having married Lord Tywin. Whilst no official reason was given for Joanna's abrupt dismissal, she was not the first of Rhaella's ladies to be dismissed in this fashion, nor was she the last.[4]

Aerys's many relationships were not the only string on his marriage. Rhaella's difficulties with childbirth played their part as well. In 263 AC and 264 AC, Rhaella had a miscarriage. In 267 AC, whilst Aerys was away in the westerlands, Rhaella gave birth to the stillborn Princess Shaena. Prince Daeron, born in 279 AC, survived for only half a year. After Daeron, a second stillbirth followed in 270 AC, and a miscarriage in 271 AC. In 272 AC, Prince Aegon was born two months premature. He would die in 273 AC.[4]

While Aerys was compassionate at first, comforting Rhaella in her grief, he turned suspicious in time. By 270 AC, he had decided that Rhaella had been unfaithful to him, and that none of the stillbirths, miscarriages and dead princes had been his, as the gods would not want a bastard to sit the Iron Throne. He soon confined Rhaella to Maegor's Holdfast, and ordered that two septa's would sleep in her bed from that moment forth, to ensure she would remain faithful.[4]

Meanwhile, Aerys's relationship with his Hand was breaking down as well, the pairs friendship fraying. Where previously Aerys had heeded Tywin's counsel, he now often disagreed with his Hand and did the opposite of what Tywin suggested. When Myr and Tyrosh became involved in a trade war against Volantis, Lord Tywin suggested that Westeros remained neutral. King Aerys, in response, provided gold and arms to the Volantenese. When House Bracken and House Blackwood had a border dispute, Lord Tywin wanted to act in favor for House Blackwood, leading to Aerys siding with House Bracken. Over Tywin's objections, Aerys doubled the port fees for Oldtown and King's Landing and tripled them at Lannisport and other ports in Westeros. Trade suffered and a delegation of merchants arrived before the Iron Throne to protest. Aerys lied to them and blamed the matter on his Hand of the King stating,

Lord Tywin shits gold, but of late he has been constipated and had to find some other ways to fill our coffers[4]

Aerys restored the port fees to the previous levels, which won him much popularity and acclaim for himself, whilst the King's lies and actions left Tywin with nothing but scorn. Aerys objected to many of Tywin's appointments and filled the offices with men of his own choosing. When Tywin suggested his own brother, Ser Tygett Lannister, as master-at-arms for the Red Keep, Aerys appointed Ser Willem Darry instead.[4]

By now, Aerys had become aware of the tales being told in his Kingdoms; that it was Lord Tywin who truly ruled the Seven Kingdoms and that Aerys was but a hollow figurehead. These statements greatly angered the King. When Lord Tywin's captain of guard, Ser Ilyn Payne, had been overheard to repeat this statement, Aerys had the man's tongue torn out with hot pincers.[11][12] The angered King became determined to disprove the tales, and to humble Tywin, his "overmighty servant", putting him back into his place.[4]

Aerys deals with disturbing rumours by taking Ser Ilyn Payne's tongue with hot pincers

In 272 AC, to celebrate Aerys's tenth year on the Iron Throne, Tywin hosted the Anniversary Tourney in King's Landing. Lady Joanna Lannister returned to the court for this event, bringing with her her six-year old twins, Cersei and Jaime. Drunkenly, Aerys asked Joanna if nursing her children had ruined her breasts. Whilst the question was a great amusement for Lord Tywin's rivals, it humiliated Lady Joanna. Lord Tywin attempted to resign the next morning, but Aerys refused to accept. And thus, Tywin Lannister remained Hand of the King.[4]

Courtiers at the court who wished to win the kings favor and gain advancement soon learned the best way to gain the Kings eye was to mock and make japes about Lord Tywin. King Aerys continued to undermine and slight his Hand, which amused many Lords who were rivals of Lord Tywin or who simply disliked the humorless man. Tywin Lannister suffered all these slights in silence, never showing any public display of weakness. When Joanna Lannister died in childbirth in 273 AC, the King had been heard to remark that Joanna had died, and Tywin had begotten his dwarf son instead from the gods, "to teach him some humility at last". These reports would reach Casterly Rock, where Lord Tywin was in mourning. From that moment on, all the old affection between the old childhood friends was gone. Yet still, Lord Tywin continued to serve the realm as Hand of the King, whilst King Aerys grew increasingly violent, suspicious and erratic.[4]

The Kings madness abated slightly with the birth of another son, who he named Jaehaerys, in 274 AC. In fact, Jaehaerys's birth which almost restored the king to his old self. This changed when Jaehaerys died later that same year. In a black rage, Aerys had the boys wet nurse beheaded, convinced it had been her fault. He soon had a change of heart, and declared that his mistress was to blame, having poisoned the young babe. Aerys had her and her entire family tortured and eventually executed. Under torture, all confessed to murdering Prince Jaehaerys, though their accounts on Jaehaerys's death greatly differed from one another.[4]

After this deed, however, Aerys changed his mind yet again. He fasted for a fortnight, and made a walk of repentance across the city, to the Great Sept of Baelor. There, he prayed with the High Septon. When he returned, he announced that he would remain true to his wife and marital vows from that moment forth. From that day on in 275 AC, King Aerys II Targaryen lost interest in all other women.[4]

In 276 AC, Rhaella gave birth to a son named Viserys. While the boy was healthy enough, Aerys was paranoid about the boys safety. Kingsguard knights were ordered to stand over the babe, day and night. No one, not even Queen Rhaella, was allowed to be alone with Viserys. Gifts that came from all over the realm for the new Prince were piled up in the yard and burned on Aerys's orders, as the king feared they might be cursed or ensorcelled. When Rhaella's milk dried up, Aerys made his own food taster suckle on the nipples of the wet nurse, to ensure there was no poison on them.[4]

Later that year, Lord Tywin Lannister staged a tournament in honor of Viserys's birth at Lannisport. It has been suggested by history that this tourney was arranged as a gesture for reconciliation.[4] At this tourney, Lord Tywin proposed a marriage between his daughter Cersei and Prince Rhaegar to King Aerys. However, Aerys's fear of Tywin's power and ambition led him to reject the offer rudely, saying that Tywin was a mere servant of the crown, and no servant's daughter was fit to marry a prince of royal blood. The tourney ended without a final feast and Aerys departed in a chilly atmosphere. Tywin would not forget the insult.[13]

The Defiance of Duskendale

Main article: Defiance of Duskendale
King Aerys II Targaryen after the Defiance of Duskendale - by Marc Simonetti ©

Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale had desired to win a charter for Duskendale, which would give him more autonomy from the crown. He made his proposal to the crown in 277 AC, but Lord Tywin Lannister, however, refused the proposal, but Lord Denys would not give up so easily. Having noticed the detoriated relationship between Aerys and Tywin, Lord Denys decided to withhold his payments to the crown, and instead invited the king to Duskendale to hear his petition for a new charter. While Aerys had planned to refuse the invitation, the king changed his mind when Lord Tywin suggested Aerys refuse the invitation. Eager to demonstrate his ability to handle the situation without the help of his Hand, Aerys decided to settle the issue personally. Taking a small force that included only one Kingsguard knight, Ser Gwayne Gaunt, Aerys personally marched to Duskendale to end the defiance of Lord Denys. The invitation proved to be a trap, however, and Aerys walked right into it. His escort killed trying to defend their king, Aerys was taken prisoner.[4]

Outrage was the response to this news from Duskendale. As Hand of the King, it fell to Lord Tywin Lannister to resolve the crisis. He massed an army and laid siege to the town in what became known as the Defiance of Duskendale. The situation remained in a stalemate for six months, with Lord Denys threatening to execute the king at the first sign that Tywin intended to storm the town. In the end, it was Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard who staged a daring infiltration and managed to rescue the king.

Lord Denys immediately surrendered and begged for mercy, but in his fury Aerys immediately had him immediately beheaded. His rage still not sated, the king next ordered House Darklyn utterly destroyed, along with House Hollard, which had sided with them. Every last member of both families was tortured at excruciating length before being burned alive, with the sole exception of the child Dontos Hollard, who was spared only at Ser Barristan's pleading. Ser Barristan later developed doubts about his actions at Duskendale, wondering whether Aerys's death in Lord Denys's dungeon and Prince Rhaegar's ascent to the throne would not have spared the Seven Kingdoms much grief.[14][4]

Following the Defiance

The Defiance of Duskendale plunged Aerys deeper into his descent into madness. Deeply shaken by his imprisonment, he refused to leave the Red Keep for the next four years. His jealous and suspicious nature deepened into paranoia and eventually outright delusions, seeing evidence of treachery everywhere.

Aerys's relations with Lord Tywin deteriorated even more rapidly. The King felt his Hand had wanted him to perish in the dungeons of Duskendale. Aerys also no longer trusted his wife or his heir. In his paranoia, Aerys believed that Tywin and Rhaegar had conspired to have him killed by storming Duskendale, so Rhaegar would ascend the Throne and marry Tywin's daughter.

To prevent such conspiracies between Rhaegar and Tywin, Aerys summoned his old childhood friend, Lord Steffon Baratheon, to court, making him a member of the small council. Aerys publically announced Steffon would go to Volantis, to find a bride for Rhaegar of "proud Valyrian blood". The fact that Aerys entrusted this task to Steffon instead of Tywin or Rhaegar caused many to whisper that Aerys intended to make Steffon his new Hand of the King, upon the successful completion of this mission, and that Aerys planned to have Lord Tywin arrested and executed for high treason. Many lords took delight in the prospect.[4]

Fate had other plans. Lord Steffon's mission turned out to be a failure and on the return voyage his ship was caught in a storm and sank, just off the coast of Storm's End, in sight of his two eldest children, Robert and Stannis. Aerys got the notion in his head that Tywin had somehow assassinated Lord Steffon. He even stated to Pycelle that he could not dismiss Tywin as Hand, as Tywin would have him killed then as well. In the final years of his reign where Tywin was still Hand, Aerys never met with Lord Tywin unless all seven of the Kingsguard knights were present.[4][15]

His paranoia and hysterical madness ever deepening, Aerys heard word of the talents of a certain eunuch named Varys. The eunuch was brought to court, and appointed as Aerys's master of whisperers on the small council. The king reasoned that only a foreigner with no competing loyalties in Westeros could be trusted to alert him of potential threats. The Spider, as Varys became known to the smallfolk, used the crowns gold to form a vast web of informers. Varys was always seen crouching at the king's side whispering in his ear.[4]

Aerys also resolved the matter of Rhaegar's marriage. In early 279 AC, Prince Rhaegar was betrothed to Princess Elia Martell. In early 280 AC, the two were wed in a lavish ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor. Fearing to be assasinated, Aerys refused to attend. Neither did he allow Prince Viserys to attend. Rhaegar and his new bride decided to take up residence on Dragonstone, instead of remaining in King's Landing, which led some to whisper that Rhaegar planned on disposing his father and seizing the Throne. Others claimed that Aerys II meant to disinherit Rhaegar and name his younger son, Prince Viserys, the new heir. The birth of Princess Rhaenys, Aerys first grandchild, did not unite the estranged father and son. When Rhaegar presented the girl to court, Queen Rhaella embraced her grandchild warmly, but Aerys refused to touch her, stating that "she smelled Dornish".[4]

Aerys grew brutal, capricious and increasingly fascinated with fire, especially the highly flammable substance known as wildfire which was said to be a cousin to dragonflame. By 280 AC, Aerys had taken to using wildfire for executing alleged traitors, rather then hangings or beheadings. The pyromancers became a fixture at the king's court and Wisdom Rossart, who carried out the executions, was eventually named to the small council. All the executions by fire aroused the king and, while he and his wife had slept in separate chambers for some years and avoided each other by day as well, Aerys would always claim his marriage rights after such an execution by fire, brutally abusing his wife in bed.[5]

Year of the False Spring

When a place in the Kingsguard became available, after Ser Harlan Grandison died in his sleep, Aerys decided to appoint Lord Tywin Lannister's eldest (and only able-bodied) son Jaime as the youngest knight ever to join the order. Tywin, and later his son Jaime, came to believe that Aerys had intended this not as an honor but a slight to House Lannister, meant to deprive Tywin of his heir and allow Aerys to hold Jaime hostage for his father's loyalty. Unknown to Tywin, this scheme had originally been hatched by Tywin's very own daughter, Cersei, who had proposed the idea to King Aerys as she wished for Jaime to join the order as to prevent Tywin from betrothing him to Lysa Tully, as Tywin and Lord Hoster Tully had been discussing.[11]

Aerys had made his announcement during court, and Tywin had thanked him openly for the honour the king bestowed upon his House. In reality, he had been furious, and pleading illness, Tywin resign his position as Hand and returned to Casterly Rock, with his daughter. Aerys accepted Tywins resignation and appointed Lord Owen Merryweather as his replacement, an amiable but not especially competent old man whose main qualifications as Hand were his willingness to throw lavish feasts and offer the king constant flattery. The young knight Jaime would offically join the kingsguard in a ceremony at a later date.[4]

With Lord Tywin now gone from court, the new focus of Aerys mistrust was his own son and heir Prince Rhaegar, who had become wary of his father's behavior.[16] At court their was growing tension between the factions loyal to the king and those loyal to his heir Prince Rhaegar. Aerys may have been mad and cruel to those he deemed his enemies, but he was lavish with wealth and titles to those who enjoyed his trust.[4]

Those loyal to the king were Qarlton Chelsted, the master of coin, Lucerys Velaryon, the master of ships, Symond Staunton, the master of laws, Varys, the master of whisperers, and Wisdom Rossart. All enjoyed the king's trust and at court held great power and they had learned how to twist the kings madness to their own benefit, they had good reason to oppose Aerys removal from the Iron Throne.[4]

Rhaegar's supporters were young Lord Jon Connington, Ser Myles Mooton, Ser Richard Lonmouth, and the Dornishmen who accompanied him at court, including Princess Elia's uncle, Prince Lewyn Martell of the Kingsguard and Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning also of the Kingsguard and who was Rhaegar's dearest friend.[17]

It fell to Grandmaester Pycelle and the Hand of the King, Lord Owen Merryweather the unenviable task of trying to keep the peace between the factions, Pycelle even dispatched a letter to the Citadel writing that tensions and division at court strongly resembled those before the Dance of the Dragons, Pycelle was fearful of a civil war between those loyal to the king and those who supported Rhaegar would break out unless some accord could be reached that would satisfy both factions.[17]

Lord Whents announced a tourney would be held at Harrenhal in either 280 AC or 281 AC[18] to rival any previous tournament. The tourney was to be held in 281 AC. It is believed by some that the tournament was secretly arranged and financed by Prince Rhaegar, as a pretext, so Rhaegar could meet up with the Great Lords of the realm to discuss arranging a Great Council and the removal of his father. The tournament was announced by Lord Whent shortly after his brother Oswell, of the Kingsguard, visited his older brother.[19][17]

Aerys at first was counseled by Lord Chelsted to forbid the tourney, while Lord Staunton went as far to suggest the king should outlaw all tournaments. Lord Merryweather intervened by pointing out such events were extremely popular with the highborn and lowborn and that attempting to ban or outlaw tourneys would make King Aerys unpopular and strengthen Rhaegar. Aerys decided to attend the tournament, the first time he left the Red Keep since the Defiance of Duskendale, he also decided that the tournament would be the perfect place to initiate Jaime Lannister to the Kingsguard.[17]

Aerys also hoped his presence at the tourney would win back the love of his people. If that was his intention it backfired horrifically. Since the Defiance of Duskendale, the King had not taken care of his appearance. His fear of blades meant he would not permit his hair to be cut, or his nails to be groomed. His hair and beard were unwashed, matted and tangled, and his nails were yellow and grew nine inches in length. His fear and paranoia of poison had made him thin and gaunt. The Lords and knights at the tourney were appalled at what their monarch had become. Nor was his behavior that of a sane man, going from mirth to melancholy at a snap of the fingers. His bouts of hysterical laughter, long silences, sudden rages and constant weeping made all present weary.[17]

In contrast, Prince Rhaegar looked every inch a leader and warrior. Tall, clean, handsome, well groomed, this Prince was unstoppable in the lists, winning bout after bout. The young Jaime Lannister said his vows before the king with the realm looking on, a cheer went up as the young handsome knight joined the Kingsguard, a cheer that Aerys, at the time, believed to be for him.[17]

A mystery knight, the Knight of the Laughing Tree, competed in the tournament. Certain the knight had concealed his identity because he was an enemy of the crown, Aerys ordered Rhaegar to discover his identity, but the mystery knight could not be found. Prince Rhaegar went on to win the tournament, and shocked all those present by crowning Lyanna Stark, rather than his wife, Princess Elia Martell, his Queen of Love and Beauty.[17]

The next year, in 282 AC, some time after the birth of Rhaegar's heir, Prince Aegon Targaryen, Prince Rhaegar disappeared with Lyanna, apparently having kidnapped her.[17] Her eldest brother, Brandon, rode to King's Landing with several friends when word of his sister's disappearance reached him. Upon arriving at the Red Keep, Brandon roared for Rhaegar to "come out and die." As it turned out, Rhaegar was not present – but Aerys was. The king had Brandon and his companions arrested on charges of conspiring against the life of the crown prince, demanding that their fathers present themselves at court to answer for their sons' crimes. When they did so, Aerys had them all executed without a fair trial. When Lord Rickard Stark demanded a trial by combat, King Aerys chose fire as his champion. Lord Rickard was burned alive by wildfire as Brandon was forced to watch, strapped into a torture device that caused him to strangle himself in his attempts to save his father.[20] His paranoia still unsatisfied, the king ordered Lord Jon Arryn to send him the heads of Lyanna's next brother, Eddard Stark, now the Lord of Winterfell, and Lyanna's fiancé, Lord Robert Baratheon, who were present at the Eyrie. Arryn refused, and raised his banners in revolt.[21] Thus, the king's brutal acts triggered a chain of events that would become known as the War of the Usurper to Targaryen loyalists and Robert's Rebellion to those who fought on the rebel side. House Arryn, House Stark and House Baratheon, and later on in the war also House Tully, unified in rebellion against the Iron Throne.[17]

Robert's Rebellion

King Aerys has a man burned to death. © FFG
The Mad King enjoying a wildfire display. © Goran Gligovic
Main article: Robert's Rebellion

Aerys's Hand at the start of the rebellion was still Owen Merryweather, but he was quickly replaced for his failure to act to contain the unrest in its early stages. Aerys next turned to Lord Jon Connington, a close friend of Rhaegar's, who promised him to deliver Robert's head. However, Connington lost to rebel forces at Stoney Sept in the Battle of the Bells and was exiled by Aerys because of it. As his new Hand, Aerys chose Lord Qarlton Chelsted.[22] By this point, the king was becoming fearful of a rebel victory, and hatched the wildfire plot, a plan to gain a final revenge against his enemies in the event that they took the capital. He ordered pyromancers to create a massive reserve of wildfire and secrete it around King's Landing, plotting to burn down the entire city and kill all its half a million inhabitants rather than allow Robert to have it intact. Upon discovering the plot, Lord Chelsted confronted Aerys and, when he realized the king could not be dissuaded, resigned his position in disgust, flinging his chain of office at the king's feet. Aerys had him burned alive. The Alchemists' Guild had enjoyed royal favor ever since the Defiance of Duskendale owing to the king's obsession with wildfire, and Aerys appointed the head of the guild, Rossart, his final Hand.

After the Battle of the Trident, in which Prince Rhaegar was slain and the royal army defeated, a rebel victory was all but certain. Aerys sent Queen Rhaella (then newly pregnant with Princess Daenerys) and Prince Viserys to Dragonstone to escape the coming Sack of King's Landing. However, he kept Princess Elia and her young children Rhaenys and Aegon with him at the Red Keep, believing they were necessary as hostages to ensure the loyalty of House Martell and Dorne. This decision would ultimately lead to their brutal deaths at the hands of Ser Amory Lorch and Ser Gregor Clegane.


Hours before the vanguard of Eddard Stark's rebel host would arrive, 12,000 westermen under Tywin Lannister reached King's Landing and pledged their loyalty to King Aerys. Varys advised the king not to admit them to the city, but Grand Maester Pycelle argued that the Lannisters should be trusted. Aerys made the fateful choice to listen to Pycelle, and opened the city gates. The Lannister forces promptly began sacking the city in the name of King Robert.

Realizing this was the end, Aerys summoned Lord Rossart and Ser Jaime Lannister, the last remaining Kingsguard knight. Aerys had retained Jaime throughout the war to ensure Tywin's loyalty, though up until that point House Lannister had been neutral in the rebellion. Jaime would later remark upon the irony of the Mad King's belief that he could not be harmed if he kept Jaime close. Aerys commanded Jaime to kill his father, then gave Rossart the long-awaited order to ignite the wildfire caches and burn the city to the ground.[23]

Jaime later suggested that much like his mad great-uncle Aerion the Monstrous before him, Aerys held the delusional belief that he would not die in the inferno, but rather would be transformed by the flames into a dragon, giving him the power to crush his enemies. However, before the plot could be carried out, Jaime slew Lord Rossart and then King Aerys, preventing the orders from reaching anyone else and thus saving the entire population of King's Landing, while earning himself the epithet Kingslayer. Robert Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne, and the reign of the Targaryen dynasty was ended.[24]

Small Council under Aerys II

During the reign of King Aerys his small council had the following known members:

Office Duration Name
Hand of the King 262 AC - 281 AC Lord Tywin Lannister
281 AC - 282 AC Lord Owen Merryweather
282 AC - 283 AC Lord Jon Connington
283 AC - 283 AC Lord Qarlton Chelsted
283 AC - 283 AC Wisdom Rossart
Grandmaester 262 AC - 283 AC Pycelle
Master of Coin Unknown Lord Qarlton Chelsted
Master of Laws Unknown Symond Staunton
Master of Ships Unknown - Unknown Lucerys Velaryon
Master of Whisperers ±278 AC - 283 AC Varys
Lord Commander of the Kingsguard 262 AC - 283 AC Ser Gerold Hightower

Quotes by Aerys

The traitors want my city ... but I’ll give them naught but ashes. Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat.[23]

I want him dead, the traitor. I want his head, you’ll bring me his head, or you’ll burn with all the rest. All the traitors.[11]
– Aerys, to Jaime Lannister

You are my most able servant, Tywin, but a man does not marry his heir to his servant's daughter.[13]
– Aerys, to Tywin Lannister

Quotes about Aerys

Aerys was dead on the floor, drowned in his own blood. His dragon skulls stared down from the walls. Lannister’s men were everywhere. Jaime wore the white cloak of the Kingsguard over his golden armor. I can see him still. Even his sword was gilded. He was seated on the Iron Throne, high above his knights, wearing a helm fashioned in the shape of a lion’s head. How he glittered![25]
Eddard Stark, to Robert Baratheon

Aerys was mad, the whole realm knew it.[20]
Catelyn Stark, to Jaime Lannister

Aerys was mad and cruel, no one has ever denied that.[11]
Brienne, to Jaime Lannister

A crowned beast.[5]
Jaime Lannister's thoughts


Aegon V
of Oldstones
Jaehaerys II
Aerys II
stillborn child
zo Loraq

References and Notes

  1. See the Aerys II Targaryen calculation.
  2. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire.
  3. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 The World of Ice and Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  6. Targaryen Kings. (November 1, 2005) So Spake Martin
  7. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 23, Daenerys IV.
  8. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Rhaegar Targaryen.
  9. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 38, Tyrion V.
  10. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 43, Daenerys VII.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
  12. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
  13. 13.0 13.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.
  14. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 55, The Queensguard.
  15. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  16. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 17.5 17.6 17.7 17.8 The World of Ice and Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring.
  18. The World of Ice and Fire lists 280 AC in "The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II", but 281 AC in "The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring". It has not yet been confirmed which date is correct
  19. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
  20. 20.0 20.1 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  21. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  22. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  24. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  25. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.

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