Aerys II Targaryen

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Aerys II
House Targaryen.PNG
by Amoka©
Biographical Information
Reign 262 AC - 283 AC
Full Name Aerys Targaryen the Second of his Name
Alias Aerys the Mad
The Mad King
Scab King
Titles King of the Seven Kingdoms
Born in 243 AC
Died in 283 AC The Red Keep in King's Landing
Royal House House Targaryen
Predecessor Jaehaerys II
Heir Rhaegar Targaryen
Successor Robert Baratheon
Queen Rhaella Targaryen
Issue Rhaegar, Viserys, Daenerys.
Father Jaehaerys II

Aerys Targaryen, the second of his name (also called "Aerys the Mad," "the Mad King," and "King Scab") was the seventeenth and the last member of Targaryen dynasty to sit the Iron Throne, ruling from 262 AC to 283 AC. He showed great promise at the start of his reign, bringing peace and promise but grew mad and became increasingly unstable following the brief uprising known as the Defiance of Duskendale, when he was held prisoner for several months by a rebellious lord. After that, his rage could no longer be held in check. After he burned several prominent lords alive and sanctioned his son's alleged kidnap of Lyanna Stark, several noble houses rebelled against him. which led to his death and most of House Targaryen with him.

Early life

Aerys was born to Prince Jaehaerys, the second son of King Aegon V. While still a teenager, Aerys was married to his sister Rhaella in the Targaryen tradition. The marriage was arranged by his grandfather, Aegon V Targaryen, after he heard a prophecy that the Prince that was Promised would be born from their line. According to Ser Barristan Selmy who was present at the wedding there was no fondness between the two in the marriage. Soon Rhaella became pregnant and gave birth to their son Rhaegar in 259 AC in the Targaryen summer palace at Summerhall (Later in life they will have another son Viserys, and daughter Daenerys).

Rhaegar was born in blood and grief during the blaze known as the Tragedy of Summerhall that killed King Aegon V, his heir Prince Duncan and many others. Aerys' father only ruled for three years before he passed away, and Aerys became king as Aerys II Targaryen.

Early reign

Aerys's reign began in 262 AC with great promise. Under his father and grandfather, the court at King's Landing had become stuffy, filled with old men, so he brought sweeping changes, replacing many at court with younger faces. Impressed by the ruthlessness of the young Lord Tywin Lannister with dealing with houses rebelling against Casterly Rock, Aerys named Tywin as the King's Hand.

The first ten years of Aerys' rule were peaceful. The realm recovered from the tragic events at Summerhall and grew both rich and strong. Closer ties were established with Dorne when Prince Rhaegar was married to Princess Elia Martell (to the disquiet of Lord Tywin, who had hoped to marry his daughter Cersei to Rhaegar). Around 270 AL some problems arose which turned the character of Aerys' reign into something very different.

The Defiance of Duskendale

Aerys had heard disturbing rumours regarding his rule and even a boast that it was the Hand who truly ruled the realm (a boast that coast Lord Tywin's captain of guard his tongue[1]). Jealous of the respect and even fear afforded to Tywin, Aerys resolved to rely less on his Hand and solve some problems himself. He soon had the chance when Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale decided to withold port taxes from the crown. Taking a small force, Aerys personally marched to Duskendale to arrest and execute Lord Denys. Lord Denys panicked and took Aerys as prisoner. The king was held for six months while Tywin amassed an army and besieged the town in what became known as the Defiance of Duskendale. Eventually Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard managed to rescue the king. In his fury, Aerys ordered every last branch of House Darklyn to be utterly destroyed, its members tortured at excruciating length before being burned alive.

Many attribute Aerys' madness to his experience with rebels during the Defiance of Duskendale, which began the rot in his reign. Aerys no longer trusted his son Rhaegar, his wife and especially his Hand of the King, Tywin Lannister. Hearing about the talents of Varys from across the Narrow sea, Aerys appointed the eunuch as the master of whisperers, so he could alert the king to any perceived threats. Aerys did not leave the Red Keep for many years, and he became brutal and capricious, indulging his fascination for fire, notably the magical and highly flammable substance called wildfire. He had many enemies burned alive, including Rickard Stark and Lord Qarlton Chelsted. According to Jaime Lannister, Aerys would have bathed in wildfire himself if he dared.

During this period the Alchemists' Guild of King's Landing gained unprecedented power and authority after burning alive Lord Qarlton Chelsted . Aerys made the head of the Alchemist's Guild, Lord Rossart, his final Hand of the King.

The War of the Usurper

After the defiance Aerys did not leave the Red keep for many years. He attended the Tourney at Harrenhal at 281 AC only because Varys claimed Prince Rhaegar planned on using the tournament as an excuse to gather Lords to him to cast down his father (it is unknown whether this is true or not).

A year after the tourney at Harrenhal, Prince Rhaegar supposedly 'kidnapped' Lyanna Stark and took her south. Her eldest brother Brandon and several friends, the sons of prominent northern lords rode to King's Landing. Brandon on arriving roared for Rhaegar to... "come out and die", Rhaegar however was not present, but Aerys was. Aerys had them all arrested for plotting his son's murder and demanded their fathers present themselves at court to answer the charges against their sons. They did so, but Aerys capriciously had them all executed. This brutal act, accompanied by Aery's seeming sanction of Lyanna Stark's abduction, started a chain of events that later became known as the War of the Usurper.

Aerys's Hand at the start of the rebellion was Lord Owen Merryweather, who was soon replaced for his failure to contain the unrest in its early stages. Aerys next turned to Lord Jon Connington, a close friend to Rhaegar, but he lost to rebel forces at Stoney Sept in the Battle of the Bells and was replaced by Lord Qarlton Chelsted.

Following the rebel victory at the Battle of the Bells, Aerys now fearful that the rebels might actually win, had his pyromancers create a huge reserve of wildfire and secret it around the city of King's Landing, planning to burn the entire city down (and kill all of its half million inhabitants) rather than surrender the city intact. Jaime Lannister stated that Aerys in his madness did not believe he would die, but like Aerion Targaryen believed the fire would allow him to be reborn as a dragon so he could crush his enemies. After the royal army was defeated and his son and heir Rhaegar slain at the Battle of the Trident, Aerys sent his pregnant wife Queen Rhaella and Prince Viserys to Dragonstone, though he kept Princess Elia and her children at the Red Keep as hostages to ensure House Martell and Dorne remained loyal to the Targaryens.


Mere hours before the lead elements of the rebel host led by Eddard Stark arrived, 12,000 Westerland forces under Lord Tywin Lannister reached the city and pledged themselves to the Targaryen cause. Aerys ignored Varys' plea that he not admit Tywin's forces to the city. Instead, he acted on the advice of Grand Maester Pycelle and made the mistake of opening the city gates. However, the Lannisters were lying about their faith from the beginning, and they proceeded to sack the city.

Aerys, aware that it was the end, ordered his pyromancers to burn the city in order to deny it to the rebels. However, before those orders could be carried out, Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard slew the pyromancers. He then betrayed his Kingsguard oath and slew King Aerys at the foot of the Iron Throne, so he could not give the orders to burn the city to someone else. Jaime's actions stopped the plan.[2]

Character and appearance

In his youth, Aerys II, was charming, handsome and resolute, although quick to anger. As he grew older, Aerys became crueler and more manic, prone to furious outbursts and tirades. He became jealous and suspicious. After the Defiance of Duskendale these characteristics became more pronounced. He developed a fascination with fire, and burning people alive. His marriage to his sister-wife Rhaella while never happy became cruel and, he took to forcing himself upon her when she was not receptive to his advances.

During the last years of his life, Aerys was very thin (he was fearful of being poisoned), and gaunt with a long, straggly beard and fingernails which grown to several feet in length. He refused to let blades or razors in his presence, even to shave or trim his fingernails. He wore the big, elaborate dragon-emblazoned crown of Aegon IV.[3] [4]


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

TV series

The Game of Thrones TV series, deviated from the books, by removing Aerys II father Jaehaerys II Targaryen and making him son of King Aegon V Targaryen, rather than his grandson. The reason for this appears to be to simplify the relationship between Maester Aemon and the other Targaryens. Additionally an actor was cast to play Aerys II in flashback in Season 1, but the scene was cut for time and pacing.

References and Notes

  1. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
  2. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  3. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  4. Targaryen Kings. (November 1, 2005) So Spake Martin