Aerys II Targaryen

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House Targaryen.svg King
Aerys II Targaryen
the Mad King
House Targaryen.svg
Aerys II by Amok ©
Reign 262283 AC[1]
Full name Aerys Targaryen the Second of His Name
Predecessor Jaehaerys II Targaryen
Successor Robert I Baratheon
Personal Information
Born In 244 AC[9], at King's Landing[3]
Died In 283 AC[3], at the throne room of the Red Keep in King's Landing
Dynasty House Targaryen
Queen Rhaella Targaryen
Issue Rhaegar Targaryen
Shaena Targaryen
Daeron Targaryen
Stillborn child
Aegon Targaryen
Jaehaerys Targaryen
Viserys Targaryen
Daenerys Targaryen[10]
Father Jaehaerys II Targaryen
Mother Shaera Targaryen
Played by David Rintoul
TV series Game of Thrones: Season 6

Aerys II Targaryen, 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.[11] His children that lived to adulthood, by his sister-wife, Rhaella, were Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys Targaryen.

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.[3]

In the television adaptation Game of Thrones, Aerys is portrayed by David Rintoul in a flashback scene.

Appearance and Character

Aerys was a handsome young man,[3] with purple eyes[12] and gold-silver hair.[13] Later in his life, as his insanity grew, his appearance deteriorated, most notably after his captivity during the Defiance of Duskendale. He afterwards refused to wash, and would not allow anyone to cut his hair, trim his beard, or cut his fingernails due to his fear of being touched. As a result, his hair grew past his shoulders to his waist[13] and became matted, his beard tangled, and his fingernails grew to be yellow talons of almost a foot long.[3][14] As he was afraid of being poisoned, Aerys became very thin and gaunt, and he looked much older than he actually was.[3][15] Towards the end of his reign, Aerys would often cut himself on the blades of the Iron Throne. His arms and legs were always covered with scabs and half-healed cuts from the Iron Throne, and he became known as King Scab.[13][3]

Aerys wore the crown previously worn by Aegon IV[15] and Daeron II Targaryen:[16] a large and heavy crown of red gold, each of its points a dragon's head with gemstone eyes.[15]

In his youth, Aerys had an undeniable charm. He was generous, resolute, and ambitious, and during the early part of his reign was an active and lively king. Aerys liked music, dancing, masked balls, and young women. However, at the same time, Aerys was not the most intelligent or the most diligent person, and was somewhat quick to anger. He was vain, proud, and changeable, which made him an easy target for lickspittles and flatterers. As his reign continued, Aerys's mood swings became more frequent and his behavior increasingly erratic. He became more and more jealous, suspicious, and violent as the years went on, prone to furious outbursts. Aerys loved fair maidens and took multiple mistresses. Although most historians doubt the accuracy of it, some believe Aerys had as many mistresses as Aegon the Unworthy. Regardless, he would often quickly lose interest in these women. A notable change in his infidelity occurred in 274 AC, when Aerys renounced all women but his wife following the death of his newborn son. While a healthy son was born the following year, this only increased Aerys's obsessive behavior and fear for his child's life.[3]

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 was never a happy one, and became sexually abusive late in his reign.[3] According to Maester Yandel, Aerys, by 281 AC, would go "from mirth to melancholy in the blink of an eye", including spells of hysterical laughter, long silences, bouts of weeping, and sudden rages.[14]

Also following the Defiance of Duskendale, Aerys became more and more obsessed with dragonfire, and like his ancestors, Aerys too began to attempt to hatch dragon eggs. When these attempts proved futile, he became obsessed with wildfire. By 280 AC, Aerys took great pleasure in executing criminals by burning them alive.[3]


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 incestuous marriage (as he had been against incestuous 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.[17] According to Ser Barristan Selmy, who was present at the wedding, there was no fondness between the two siblings.[18]

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.[3]

In 259 AC, Rhaella gave birth to their firstborn son and heir, Prince Rhaegar, during the disaster known as the tragedy of Summerhall,[3] which killed King Aegon V, his eldest son Prince Duncan, and many others.[19] Aerys's father, Jaehaerys, ascended the Iron Throne after this tragedy. It would later be rumored that, on the night of Jaehaerys's coronation, Aerys took the maidenhead of Lady Joanna Lannister, who had come to court for the celebrations.[3]

Aerys was a squire during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, and fought on the Stepstones. There, at the age of sixteen, he received his knighthood. Aerys chose to be dubbed a knight by his friend, Tywin. When King Jaehaerys II passed away from illness in 262 AC, Aerys was crowned as King Aerys II Targaryen.[3]

Early reign

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

Aerys's reign began in 262 AC with great promise, when the new king replaced many of the prominent officials at court, most of them old men brought in during the reign of his father and grandfather. Aerys replaced many of them with younger men, including his friend Ser Tywin Lannister, impressed by the ruthlessness the man had shown in dealing with a rebellion against House Lannister. Aerys named Tywin his Hand of the King.[3]

Aerys declared upon his coronation that it was his wish to be the greatest king in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Some of his friends encouraged this by suggesting that one day he would be known as Aerys the Wise or Aerys the Great. During the early years of his reign, Aerys took an active part in his rule. He was ambitious during these years, and boasted about many grand plans, although he lost interest in them quickly as well. His plans, none of which would ever be carried out, included invading the Stepstones and adding them to his kingdom, building a new Wall hundred of miles north of the current one to extend his kingdom to the north after a visit from Lord Rickard Stark in 264 AC, building a city of white marble on the south bank of the Blackwater Rush after complaining of the smell of King's Landing in 265 AC, building a war fleet to "bring the Titan to its knees" after a dispute with the Iron Bank of Braavos in 267 AC, and building an underwater canal to make the deserts of Dorne bloom after visiting the southern kingdom in 270 AC.[3]

Aerys and his Hand Tywin Lannister

Regardless, the Seven Kingdoms prospered during these years, thanks to Aerys's Hand, Tywin Lannister. Shrewd enough not to make an enemy of the Iron Bank, Tywin settled the dispute with Braavos by paying back the loans owed to them by the Iron Throne with the gold of Casterly Rock. He appeased the high lords by repealing all the laws, rights and protections that were granted to the smallfolk by King Aegon V Targaryen. He also won the support of the wealthy merchants by reducing tariffs on shipping to Oldtown, Lannisport and King's Landing, which in turn increased trade. He sternly punished criminals, improved the infrastructure, and organized tournaments. Although Tywin remained little loved, 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, eventually causing Aerys to regret his choice of Hand.[20][3]

The relationship between Aerys and Tywin was further complicated due to Tywin's wife, Joanna Lannister. It was rumored that she briefly "reigned as his paramour" when Aerys first came to the throne. Whether or not this was true, the following year she married Tywin, with Aerys being present at the wedding. At the feast, a drunken Aerys joked that it was a great pity that the lord's right to the first night had been abolished and took certain liberties during the bedding ceremony. It is said that Tywin did not forget Aerys's behavior during this night.[21][3]

Aerys' 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 husband's infidelities, she objected heavily against "turning my ladies into whores". In 263 AC, Lady Joanna Lannister was dismissed by Rhaella, shortly after having married 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.[3] Aerys' many relationships were not the only strain on his marriage. Rhaella's difficulties with childbirth played their part as well. In 263 AC and 264 AC, Rhaella had miscarriages. 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 died the following year.[3] 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.[3]

Meanwhile, Aerys's relationship with his Hand was breaking down as well, the pair's 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 Volantenes. When House Bracken and House Blackwood had a border dispute, Lord Tywin wanted to act in the favor of 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.[3] He 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.[3]

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 the guard, Ser Ilyn Payne, had been overheard to repeat this statement, Aerys had the man's tongue torn out with hot pincers.[12][22] The angered king became determined to disprove the tales, and to humble Tywin, his "overmighty servant", putting him back into his place.[3]

Aerys deals with disturbing rumors 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 the capital. Lady Joanna Lannister returned to the court for this event, bringing with 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.[3]

Courtiers at the court who wished to win the king's favor and gain advancement soon learned the best way to gain the king's 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.[3]

The king's madness abated slightly with the birth of another son, who he named Jaehaerys, in 274 AC. In fact, Jaehaerys's birth almost restored the king to his old self. This changed when Jaehaerys died later that same year. In a black rage, Aerys had the boy's 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.[3]

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.[3]

In 276 AC, Rhaella gave birth to a son named Viserys. While the child was healthy enough, Aerys was paranoid about the boy's 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.[3]

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.[3] At this tourney, Lord Tywin proposed a marriage between his daughter Cersei and Prince Rhaegar to King Aerys. However, Aerys' 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.[23]

The Defiance of Duskendale

Aerys after the Defiance of Duskendale, as depicted by Marc Simonetti in The World of Ice & Fire

Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale 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 deteriorated 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 intended to decline the invitation, the king changed his mind when Lord Tywin advised him to refuse in the strongest possible terms. Eager to demonstrate his ability to handle the situation without the help of his Hand, Aerys decided to settle the issue personally and bring the defiant Lord Darklyn to heel. Informing Grand Maester Pycelle and the small council of his decision, Aerys traveled to Duskendale taking a small force led by Ser Gwayne Gaunt of the Kingsguard, against Lord Tywin's advice. The invitation proved to be a trap, however, and Aerys walked right into it. Some of his escort (most notably Ser Gwayne) were killed trying to defend their king, Aerys was taken prisoner.[3]

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 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.[24][3]

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 Iron 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 publicly 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 mutter 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.[3]

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.[3][25]

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.[3]

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 assassinated, 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 mutter that Rhaegar planned on deposing 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 at court, Queen Rhaella embraced her grandchild warmly, but Aerys refused to touch her, stating that "she smelled Dornish".[3]

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 than hangings and 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.[13]

Year of the False Spring

Aerys the Mad King, as depicted by Arthur Bozonnet in The World of Ice & Fire

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 Ser 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.[12]

Aerys had made his announcement during court, and Tywin had thanked him openly for the honor 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 Tywin's 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 officially join the Kingsguard in a ceremony at a later date.[3]

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.[26] At court, there 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.[3]

Those loyal to the king were Lord Qarlton Chelsted, the master of coin, Lord Lucerys Velaryon, the master of ships, Lord 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 king's madness to their own benefit, they had good reason to oppose Aerys' removal from the Iron Throne.[3]

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.[14]

It fell to Grand Maester 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 the prince would break out unless some accord could be reached that would satisfy both factions.[14]

Lord Walter Whent announced a tourney would be held at Harrenhal in 280 AC[N 1] 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 Ser Oswell, of the Kingsguard, visited his older brother.[27][14]

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 Ser Jaime Lannister into the Kingsguard.[14]

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.[14]

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.[14]

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.[14]

The next year, in 282 AC, sometime after the birth of Rhaegar's heir, Prince Aegon, Prince Rhaegar disappeared with Lyanna, apparently having kidnapped her.[14] 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, except Ethan Glover. 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.[28] 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.[4] 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.[14]

Robert's Rebellion

Aerys's Hand at the start of the rebellion was still Lord 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.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] This decision would ultimately lead to their brutal deaths at the hands of Ser Amory Lorch and Ser Gregor Clegane.

Sack of King's Landing

Jaime Lannister kills Aerys during the Sack of King's Landing, by Michael Komarck © Green Ronin

Hours before the vanguard of Lord Eddard Stark's rebel host would arrive, twelve thousand 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.[32]

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.[32] However, before the plot could be carried out, Jaime slew Lord Rossart and then King Aerys, slashing open his throat with his sword.[28][12][32] This prevented the orders from reaching anyone else, and thus saved the entire population of King's Landing, but earned Jaime the epithet "Kingslayer".[32] Robert Baratheon claimed the Iron Throne, and the reign of the Targaryen dynasty was ended.[33]

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 Ser/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
Grand Maester 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

Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes.[34]

—Aerys to Rossart

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.[12]

—Aerys to Jaime Lannister

You are my most able servant, Tywin, but a man does not marry his heir to his servant's daughter.[23]

—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![35]

Kingslayer. And such a king he was! To Aerys Targaryen, the Second of His Name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. And to the sword that opened his throat.[28]

Jaime Lannister, toasting Aerys, to Catelyn Stark

Aerys was mad, the whole realm knew it.[28]

Aerys was mad and cruel, no one has ever denied that.[12]

Somehow he had gotten it in his head that Prince Lewyn must have betrayed Rhaegar on the Trident, but he thought he could keep Dorne loyal so long as he kept Elia and Aegon by his side. The traitors want my city, I heard him tell Rossart, but I'll give them naught but ashes. Let Robert be king over charred bones and cooked meat. The Targaryens never bury their dead, they burn them. Aerys meant to have the greatest funeral pyre of them all.[32]

A crowned beast.[13]

Jaime Lannister's thoughts


Aegon V
of Oldstones
Jaehaerys II
Aerys II
House Baratheon.svg
zo Loraq


  1. The World of Ice & 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 is confirmed 280 AC is correct in later editions.


  1. Fire & Blood, The Targaryen Succession.
  2. The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 3.22 3.23 3.24 3.25 3.26 3.27 3.28 3.29 3.30 3.31 3.32 3.33 3.34 3.35 3.36 3.37 3.38 3.39 The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aerys II.
  4. 4.0 4.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 2, Catelyn I.
  5. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 66, Bran VII.
  6. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  7. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 66, Tyrion IX.
  8. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
  9. See the Aerys II Targaryen calculation.
  10. The World of Ice & Fire, Appendix: Targaryen Lineage.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Appendix.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 16, Jaime II.
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 So Spake Martin: Targaryen Kings (November 1, 2005)
  16. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Daeron II.
  17. The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V.
  18. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 23, Daenerys IV.
  19. George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Rhaegar Targaryen.
  20. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 38, Tyrion V.
  21. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 43, Daenerys VII.
  22. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 27, Jaime III.
  23. 23.0 23.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 24, Cersei V.
  24. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 55, The Queensguard.
  25. A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  26. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 24, The Lost Lord.
  27. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 67, The Kingbreaker.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 55, Catelyn VII.
  29. A Dance with Dragons, Epilogue.
  30. The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: Robert's Rebellion.
  31. The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The End.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 32.4 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
  33. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  34. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 48, Daenerys IV.
  35. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 12, Eddard II.

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