Unveiling the secrets of Westeros, the epic saga of Game of Thrones has etched a multitude of characters into our collective memory. Among them, Rhaegar Targaryen is a character of pivotal importance, despite never gracing the screen in person until the penultimate season. So, how did Rhaegar Targaryen die? This question holds the key to the labyrinthine plot of the acclaimed series. Let’s embark on a journey to unravel the tale of Rhaegar – a prince, a warrior, a lover, and a harbinger of a saga that would echo through the ages.
Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is a central character in George RR Martin novels about the Seven Kingdoms in Westeros. While he is not a huge character in the POV chapters, and doesn’t have a chapter, he definitely is central to the story.
A Prince’s Birth Amidst Tragedy
Rhaegar’s tale begins with his birth, which, unlike most princely births, was not marked by rejoicing. Instead, it was marred by the infamous tragedy at Summerhall. The grand castle of Summerhall was consumed by a conflagration, taking the lives of King Aegon V Targaryen and Ser Duncan the Tall. Despite the pall of doom that hung over his birth, young Rhaegar developed an eerie fascination with the ruins of Summerhall, often visiting the site alone.
A Song of Ice and Fire
The seeds of prophecy were sown in Rhaegar’s heart at an early age. As a boy, he discovered an ancient prophecy in an old scroll, which he believed referred to him. The prophecy spoke of “The Prince That Was Promised,” a savior born amidst salt and smoke. Convinced that he was this prophesied figure, Rhaegar began to prepare himself for his destined role.
That story is the catalyst for everything happening in House Targaryen. Even the new prequel, House of the Dragon, mentions Rhaegar. King Viserys Targaryen tells about it to his daughter, Rhaenyra Targaryen when he names her heir of the throne.
Everything began with Aegon I, called Aegon the Conquer. And continued with every Targaryen family member since.
While Prince Rhaegar Targaryen never saw the Night King in his visions, he believed House Targaryen is the only one able to stop the threat.
An Unlikely Warrior
Rhaegar was initially a bookish and musical child, showing little interest in the martial arts. However, the prophecy he read in the scroll spurred him to become a warrior. He trained diligently and was knighted at the young age of seventeen. His transformation into a capable warrior marked the first step towards fulfilling his destiny.
A Royal Marriage
As Rhaegar came of age, he was married to Elia Martell of Dorne in a strategic alliance. The couple had two children, but their marriage was strained by Rhaegar’s obsession with prophecy and his belief that he needed a third child to fulfill it. In Rhaegar’s mind, “the dragon has three heads,” referring to his need for three offspring.
The Fateful Tourney at Harrenhal
The fates conspired to bring Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, Ned Stark’s sister, together at the Tourney of Harrenhal. Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon, but Rhaegar was entranced by her. In a shocking breach of tradition, Rhaegar, after winning the tournament, crowned Lyanna as the “Queen of Love and Beauty,” bypassing his own wife, Elia. This public display of affection marked the beginning of a scandalous love affair that would change the course of history.
The Beginning of the End: Rhaegar’s Rebellion
What transpired next is a matter of perspective. According to popular belief, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna Stark, igniting the wrath of the House Stark and House Baratheon. However, recent revelations suggest that Lyanna willingly eloped with Rhaegar, leading to a secret marriage ceremony. This clandestine union was the spark that ignited Robert’s Rebellion, a war that ultimately led to Rhaegar’s downfall.
The Battle at the Trident
As the rebellion intensified, Rhaegar left Lyanna in the Tower of Joy to join the battle. The decisive battle took place at the Trident, where Rhaegar and Robert Baratheon engaged in single combat. In a clash of titans, Robert slew Rhaegar with a mighty blow from his warhammer, scattering the rubies adorning Rhaegar’s armor into the river. This event marked Rhaegar’s tragic end and the doom of the Targaryen cause.
Following Rhaegar’s death, King’s Landing was sacked by the Lannisters, and the Mad King was killed by Jaime Lannister. Rhaegar’s wife, Elia, and their two children were brutally murdered by the Mountain, effectively ending the Targaryen dynasty. However, unbeknownst to all, Rhaegar’s line lived on, thanks to his secret marriage with Lyanna.
The Legacy: R+L=J
Lyanna, on her deathbed, gave birth to Rhaegar’s son, who was later known as Jon Snow. She made Ned promise to protect the child, leading him to raise Jon as his own bastard. This secret, revealed in the seventh season of the series, confirmed the fan theory of R+L=J, making Jon Snow the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne.
Thus, the answer to “how did Rhaegar Targaryen die” is not just a tale of a prince’s fall in battle. It is a saga of prophecy, love, rebellion, and legacy. Rhaegar’s life and death had far-reaching implications, shaping the destiny of Westeros and setting the stage for the epic struggle for the Iron Throne. His death marked the end of an era, but his legacy lives on in Jon Snow, who stands as a testament to Rhaegar’s enduring influence on the Game of Thrones.