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Babies or no, theirs was the same cursed blood that flowed within the Mad King's veins. They were 'dragon-spawn', and couldn't be allowed to survive. What would they grow to be, loyal subjects?...Was it a crime to put an end to a family of lunatics born of incest?
In A Song of Ice and Fire novels and its TV series adaptation, the Mad Targaryens refers to insane members of the royal family faction House Targaryen affected by the so-called "Targaryen Madness", given to the extremely deranged members of the house, caused by members of the family traditionally inbreeding with their close relatives, especially siblings, to keep the Targaryen bloodline pure, in order to have the ability to control the dragons. Under these insane family members as kings, House Targaryen has acted as a villainous faction at times due to the catastrophic events caused by the more mentally unstable monarchs in the dynasty. The Targaryen madness became a cycle of chaos for all of Westeros.
Known Mad Targaryens
King Maegor the Cruel was perhaps the first mad Targaryen in Westerosi history. He usurped the throne from his nephew and promptly decapitated the one Grand Maester who protested. As king, Maegor turned to brutal tactics to suppress the Faith of the Seven, even riding on his dragon Balerion to burn down a Sept with all worshipers inside, using archers to pick off stragglers. He was found dead seated on the Iron Throne, his wrists slashed by the blades.
King Baelor the Blessed was overzealously obsessed with religion and purity, to the point that he starved himself into an early grave because he believed that food is of this world, and the material world is sinful. However, even with his madness, Baelor himself was neither a corrupt king nor a tyrant, making him by far the most pious of all the Targaryen kings. According to history, he starved himself to death, by the prolonged fasting to cleanse himself of lust, but some believe he was poisoned by his Hand and uncle, Viserys.
Prince Rhaegel, older brother of King Maekar, was meek, mad, and sickly. He had massive delusions and was known to randomly take off his clothes and dance naked through the halls of the Red Keep. However, he was described as kind and gentle. He died whilst choking on a lamprey pie.
Prince Aerion Brightflame, son of King Maekar and nephew of the also-mad Prince Rhaegel. Aerion killed himself by drinking wildfire, believing it would turn him into a dragon, instead he died screaming. A year later, after the death of his father, Aerion's infant son Prince Maegor was passed over by a Great Council in favor of Maekar's youngest son Aegon, partially out of fear that Maegor had inherited his father's madness.
King Aerys the Mad, great-nephew of Aerion. The infamous Mad King and arguably the infamous monarch in the Targaryen dynasty overall. In his youth, Aerys was strong, charismatic and ambitious with the desire to become the greatest king in history, until he slowly turned into a perverted, paranoid man, due to both jealousy of his Hand Lord Tywin Lannister and trauma from his wife Rhaella's multiple miscarriages, with Aerys fearing the loss of heirs. He had violent visual and auditory hallucinations, as well as a near-permanent feeling of persecution and jealousy, which drove him to execute anyone who slighted him out of fear that they were conspiring against him. He eventually attempted to blow up King's Landing with jars of wildfire, believing he would rise from the ashes as a dragon... and it eventually killed him. Betrayed and slain by his own Kingsguard, Ser Jaime Lannister the Kingslayer. The death of Aerys marked the end of the original Targaryen reign of the Seven Kingdoms, which lasted for nearly three hundred years after Aegon's Conquest.
Viserys, the Beggar King, second son of Aerys II, suffered from childhood trauma and grew into a broken bitter boy in denial. As a young boy, he was nice and caring to his sister, Daenerys, but the difficult circumstances of their exile would turn Viserys into a resentful brother who abused Daenerys and he developed delusions of greatness. Viserys had frequent, violent outbursts of jealous anger towards Daenerys and sold her into marriage to Khal Drogo in exchange for an army to take back the Iron Throne in Westeros. Viserys died as an exile in Essos, at the Dothraki Sea, after being "crowned" with melted gold on his head by Khal Drogo.
Queen Daenerys Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt and the Breaker of Chains, as well as the youngest child of Aerys II, had been longing to take back the Seven Kingdoms and return it to her family's dynasty ever since she was exiled with her older brother, Viserys. Although she had abolished slavery in Essos and sought to become a well-intentioned ruler for Westeros, she could not escape from her father's legacy in the TV show. In the beginning, she was gentle, ambitious, brave and compassionate towards the weak and innocent. But after suffering from the loss of her closest friend Ser Jorah Mormont and witnessing the deaths of Missandei, Rhaegal, and Viserion at the hands of her enemies, Daenerys snapped and laid waste to King's Landing with Drogon alongside her ground forces after the city surrendered to her, killing thousands of innocent people and turning King's Landing into a burning ruin, just like what her father swore to do. Delivering her victory speech to her forces, Daenerys declared she "liberated" the dead people of King's Landing from the tyrant, Cersei, and will "liberate" the entire world. Though her lover and nephew Jon Snow (born Aegon Targaryen) pleaded with her to opt for mercy over destruction, Daenerys felt her actions are necessary to build her vision of a better world. To stop her destruction, Jon reluctantly assassinated Daenerys with a dagger to the heart and she died in his arms as he wept. Daenerys Targaryen is the last known Targaryen to succumb to the "Targaryen madness" as her house will die out with Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen.
Possible Mad Targaryens
King Aegon II Targaryen, son of Viserys I and Queen Alicent Hightower, was known to be a lazy and somewhat sulky boy, who at first refused to take the Iron Throne from his half-sister Rhaenyra Targaryen. But after being convinced by his mother, Aegon claimed the Iron Throne for himself, this starting the Dance of the Dragons. In a battle between Rhaenys Targaryen and her dragon Meleys, Aegon was badly maimed and suffered from burns that covered half his body, a broken hip, and numerous broken ribs. Forced to take daily doses of milk of the poppy, his mind began to change. When he captured Rhaenyra and her son Aegon (Aegon III), the king burned his half-sister alive with the help of his dragon Sunfyre, in front of her son. Aegon II was later poisoned by his own small council to secure the Iron Throne to Aegon III.
Prince Aemond Targaryen, also known as Aemond One-Eye, younger brother of Aegon II, was said to be half the size of his older brother, though twice as fierce. At the age of ten, Aemond lost his right eye during a fight with his nephew Lucerys Velaryon, replaced it with a sapphire. Aemond murdered Lucerys in the Stormlands with his dragon Vhagar. After Rhaenyra had recaptured King's Landing, Aemond later set fire to several villages who he believed were loyal to Rhaenyra. Aemond was slain by his uncle prince Daemon Targaryen at the Gods Eye, when Daemon drove the Valyrian steel sword Dark Sister into his remaining eye, during a fierce battle between their dragons.
Queen Helaena Targaryen, younger sister and wife of Aegon II, were never born mad, a pleasant and happy woman, loved by the smallfolk. But following the death of her eldest son Jaehaerys at the hands of "Cheese" and "Blood", Helaena became depressed and descended into madness. After Rhaenyra had retaken King's Landing from Aegon II, Helaena committed suicide by flinging herself from the Red Keep, and was impaled on iron spikes that lined the moat of Maegor's Holdfast.
All the same, his descendants continued to threaten the Targaryens until half a century later, when Barristan the Bold slew Maelys the Monstrous on the Stepstones, extinguishing Daemon's line.
~ Varys, referring to the Blackfyre rebellions after Daemon Blackfyre's death
Members from the infamous House Blackfyre, which originated from Daemon Blackfyre, a bastard of Aegon IV Targaryen, were possibly affected by the madness with Targaryen blood, so that they rebelled five times to usurp the Iron Throne. Maelys Blackfyre, known as "Maelys the Monstrous", who is the last Blackfyre usurper, was also described as an extreme and unpleasant savage.
Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King
Daenerys succumbs to the Targaryen madness she had long sought to escape during the Battle of King's Landing.
Even though House Targaryen was filled with madness, savage and disgrace it brought, this does not mean that all Targaryens were as a rule mentally unstable, as seen with how Daenerys Targaryen is still mostly mentally stable while her own brother Viserys is highly disturbed. However, Daenerys can be ruthless killing horrible people who angered her, especially during her frustrating rule as Queen of Meereen, where she allows the Shavepate to torture rich families for being suspects of treason and abandons Meereen and Astapor to chaos and death, while thinking only of Daario Naharis's body, her TV series counterpart is a bit more reasonable as less violent though. Daenerys's oldest brother Rhaegar was considered a great man by all who knew him, though him escaping with Lyanna Stark can be considered a scandalous action that only caused a war and the death of Rhaegar's family. Maester Aemon became a wise and revered advisor to the Night's Watch for many decades, until everyone forgot his true identity as a Targaryen. The cunning manipulating Targaryen bastard known as Brynden Rivers, or Lord Bloodraven (three-eyed crow or three-eyed raven), disappeared shortly after bringing Aemon to the Wall.
Daenerys is not thought to be insane, though her merciless treatment of slave masters in Meereen might be a hint that she would succumb into the "Targaryen madness". Even so, her actions were ultimately against a group who were mistreating others (seeing this as an echo of how she herself was mistreated), and she thought she was helping to secure freedom for the slaves of the region. She was trying to learn how to rule, yet she was failing at every step also due to her quick temper and lust for the manipulating and dangerous Daario.
However, Barristan Selmy notes that the Mad King also genuinely believed his actions were just, even though others knew he was a madman, which compels Daenerys to become more merciful.
She also became known by most cultures in Essos as 'the Mad King's Daughter', due to her destroying their economy and trying to replace an ancient culture with her own.
She shares some similarities with her father in his youth. In his youth, Aerys was ambitious, charismatic and gentle, but was often vulnerable to manipulation and schemes, which soon led to his imprisonment during the Defiance of Duskendale. Later Aerys became paranoid, fearful and ruthless. Both Aerys and Daenerys "Targaryen madness" were triggered by psychological trauma.
Daenerys's actions after she supposedly succumbed into "Targaryen madness" during the The Bells episode received notable backlash against the writers from both fans and critics alike. Many fans feel that her character had not been developed to the massive turn that happened in the final 2 episodes of Season 8, even if her fall had been foreshadowed throughout the series. Furthermore, although "Targaryen madness" is a possible explanation for her abrupt turn, many fans view it negatively because it reduces her character to her lineage, turning her into a tragic hero destined to be evil despite her previous choices and her effort be a fair and good ruler. In other words, all efforts her to save and free the innocents, to help the common folk, and her struggle to develop and balance herself to use her powers were pointless and doomed to failure from the beginning because of her bloodline.