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King Maegor I Targaryen, also known as Maegor the Cruel and Maegor the Wise, is an important character and protagonist/antagonist from the A Song of Ice and Fire universe. He is the third Targaryen king to sit on the Iron Throne. He is also the first Targaryen king to succumb to the infamous Targaryen Madness.
He was the son of King Aegon I Targaryen the Conqueror and his sister-wife, Queen Visenya Targaryen. Maegor's half-brother, Aenys I Targaryen, was instead the son of Aegon I and his favorite sister-wife, Queen Rhaenys Targaryen, who died around 10 AC at Hellholt, in Dorne.
Like Aegon IV Targaryen and Baelor I Targaryen, Maegor does not physically appear in any of the ASOIAF media (this includes Game of Thrones), and is only mentioned in A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords, as well as several of the Dunk and Egg novellas.
According to history, Maegor was larger than his father and a skilled warrior. He was bull-like with heavy shoulders, a thick neck, and huge arms. He kept his hair and his beard trimmed to his jawline. He wore Aegon the Conqueror's crown.
Maegor wasn't loved by the people and he's viewed as a negative historical figure in the World of Ice and Fire. The most despised Targaryen monarch until the more recent, and thus more easily remembered, King Aerys II Targaryen took that record from him. Maegor was often seen as cruel, never treating animals well and keeping to himself. He was poor company for events and he the things he really liked were war and battle, but it was violence the most craved, and death and absolute mastery over all he deemed his.
|“||Now people name Maegor "the Cruel", but I doubt any dared in his day. His strength was all too rare in the degenerate Targaryen blood.||„|
|~ Joffrey Baratheon in "The Red Keep", Histories & Lores|
|“||What demon possessed him none could say. Even today, some give thanks that his tyranny was a short one, for who knows how many noble houses might have vanished forever simply to sate his desire.||„|
|~ Maester Yandel in The World of Ice and Fire|
Maegor was the only son of Aegon the Conqueror by his sister-wife Visenya and the half-brother of Aenys I. Unlike his half-brother, Maegor was more like his father and grew up to become a strong warrior. He was a successful tourney and mêlée warrior. At the age of 16, in the royal tourney of 28 AC at King's Landing, he unhorsed 3 knights of the Kingsguard in successive matches in the joust, and later went on to win the mêlée. He was a better jouster than many grown men he met in the lists. He was knighted by his father and became the youngest knight in the realm at that time.
In 23 AC, Princess Rhaena Targaryen was born from Aenys and his wife Alyssa Velaryon, their eldest child. Visenya suggested that Maegor be betrothed to her, but the High Septon started protesting loudly against incest again and stopped any plan of marriage. Instead, Maegor was married to the High Septon's niece, Lady Ceryse Hightower, in 25 AC.
In 37 AC King Aegon I died of a stroke at Dragonstone, resulting with the ascension of King Aenys I. Aenys admitted to all assembled that he was not nearly the warrior his half-brother was and presented Maegor with Aegon's Valyrian blade, Blackfyre, proclaiming they would rule together. Maegor always wanted his father's dragon and unlike his half-brother, he refused to bond with any dragon other than Balerion, as he considered the Black Dread as the only dragon worthy of him and waited for his father to die to bond with the beast. Later, in 38 AC Aegon's cousin and only friend, Lord Orys Baratheon, died as well.
Aegon I's death had left chaos in the Seven Kingdoms and instability of the Targaryen reign, as the realm, who had been ruled by different kings and houses, still saw the family as usurpers. Several rebellions started breaking and would eventually evolve into the Faith Militant uprising.
Upon his half-brother Aenys' ascension to the Iron Throne, several rebellions broke out during the first year of the reign. In the Vale of Arryn, Jonos Arryn rose against his brother, Lord Ronnel Arryn, and had him imprisoned with his Stark wife and children. Maegor personally ended the rebellion by flying on Balerion to the Eyrie and once arrived there, he hanged Jonos and his followers. As a reward, King Aenys named his half-brother Hand of the King.
Tensions between the Faith of the Seven and the Targaryens were growing strong and dangerous. The High Septon was angered at the slights he kept suffering from the King and his family and was to the edge of a serious rebellion. Though Aegon the Conqueror himself had converted to the Seven, even having a sept at Dragonstone, and forsaken the ancient Valyrian gods, he was married to his own sisters and had children with them. Whilst the Faith accepted Aegon on the throne due to his strength and his conversion to the Seven, they could not stomach the thought of his sons, born of incest, following him. The first great slight began on the Iron Islands when a man who claimed to be King Lodos reborn was dispatched by Lord Goren Greyjoy. Goren sent the pickled head of the would-be king in a jar to Aenys, who in gratitude granted Goren a boon. Goren used it to oust the Faith from the Iron Islands to the despair of the rest of the realm and to the anger of the Faith.
Aenys I proved too weak and indecisive to handle the crisis with the Faith and the noble houses and appointed Prince Maegor as the Hand of the King, with responsibility for putting down one of the rebellions. Maegor helped Lord Aethon Velaryon during a campaign to the Stepstones against the pirate-lord Salassor Saan.
Maegor's marriage with Ceryse did not provide him any children and started taking further brides. He was stripped of his office in 39 AC, when he shocked the realm by taking a second wife, Alys Harroway. The Faith did not tolerate polygamy and this marriage angered them and the High Septon, who had also taken it as an insult to his niece Ceryse. Aenys tried to placate the Faith by stripping Maegor of his office and sending him into exile to Pentos. Septon Murmison replaced Maegor as Hand of the King, giving the Faith more power and influence to the realm.
During his exile, Maegor met Tyanna of the Tower, a pentoshi woman who would be later rumored to be a sorcerer and alchemist. Tyanna becomes Maegor's lover and was also rumored to be Alys' paramour.
In 41 AC, the Faith finally rose in rebellion against Aenys, and the King was too weak and unable to handle the pressure. The constant (though largely unintentional) slights the Faith of the Seven suffered by Aenys led to an armed rebellion against the Iron Throne by the High Septon. The final slight that enraged the faith and led to armed rebellion happened in 41 AC when Aenys had his daughter, Rhaena, wed to his son and heir, Aegon, receiving a denunciation from the Faith as "King Abomination". Pious lords and even smallfolk who once loved Aenys turned against him. Septon Murmison was expelled from the Faith for performing the wedding of Aegon to Rhaena and was later torn apart by smallfolk in a letter two weeks after he performed the ceremony. The uprising of the Faith Militant had begun This uprising would last for 7 years.
The weak King Aenys could not handle the course of events and in 42 AC he fell ill, and Dowager Queen Visenya took over his care. Initially, Aenys' health improved, but when the King learned that his eldest daughter and son, Rhaena and Aegon, were being besieged at Crakehall, he collapsed. He died 3 days later and, as a Targaryen, his body was burned and buried. Some say Aenys died due to illness caused by the strain he suffered. Many others claim he was killed by Visenya Targaryen so she could place her own son Maegor as king. Visenya flew to Pentos on the back of her dragon, Vhagar, to bring Maegor back to Westeros.
Ahead of his brother's eldest son and heir, Aegon, Maegor ascended the Iron Throne in 42 AC. He was crowned at Dragonstone, taking his father's Valyrian steel crown instead of Aenys' ornate one. Maegor was the King, despite Aenys having 3 sons. When Grand Maester Gawen protested Maegor's coronation, pointing out that by laws of inheritance the crown should pass to Prince Aegon, Maegor decapitated him with a single blow of Blackfyre, there being no further protests after that.
Maegor took the Dowager Queen of Aenys I, Alyssa Velaryon, as a hostage against Prince Aegon, as she was residing at Dragonstone when Maegor arrived. Alyssa was kept in the Dragonstone castle with her younger children, Jaehaerys and Alysanne, whilst her son Prince Viserys, was made Maegor's squire, to keep the boy a close hostage and ensure Alyssa's good behavior. Meanwhile, Aegon and his sister-wife Princess Rhaena, after suffering the siege by the Faith Militant at Crakehall Castle, sought refuge from Maegor. At one point, Lord Lyman Lannister protected them under his roof, extending guest right and refusing all the king's demands to turn them over. Lyman did not pledge his swords to Aegon and Rhaena, however.
Ravens flew everywhere, declaring a new King had been crowned and that those who defied him would suffer a traitors death. Chief among Maegor's foe was the Faith Militant. Maegor did not hesitate to rely on violence and went to King's Landing using his dragon Balerion, to crush the uprising in the capital. He landed on Visenya's Hill and there he started rallying his supporters. Visenya challenged those who questioned her sons right to rule to prove themselves. The Captain of the Warrior's Sons, Ser Damon Morrigen, accepted the challenge and answered by challenging Maegor to a Trial of seven, which Maegor accepted. Maegor and his 6 champions fought against Ser Damon and other 6 Warrior's Sons. All 13 of them died, except Maegor, who was the winner of the trial, though badly wounded. He took a blow to the head and collapsed just as the last Warrior's Son died. He went into a coma, which lasted a month.
20 days after Maegor's trial by seven, Queen Alys Harroway returned from Pentos, bringing with her Tyanna of the Tower. Dowager Queen Visenya gave Maegor over to Tyanna care, troubling the King's supporters. Tyanna took care of Maegor's comatose body and on the 30th day of his coma, he miraculously awoke, leading to rumors of sorcery and alchemy. Maegor mounted Balerion the Black Dread and without a warning, he flew over the Sept of Remembrance on Rhaenys's Hill, where he let his dragon burn the entire sept with the magical beast's flame. Some tried to flee but were shot by archers around the hill. The screams of burning and dying men were said to echo in the streets of King's Landing and for it was claimed for seven days a pall hung over the city. Even after this, the High Septon remained staunchly opposed to Maegor.
Tyanna marries Maegor in 42 AC. As a Targaryen, Maegor has the right to have more than a wife, a thing that always angered the Faith, along with the Targaryen's tradition of incest to keep their line pure. Later, Tyanna would also serve as mistress of whisperers in her husband's small council and was dubbed "the king's raven".
King Maegor's answer was to massacre those found rebelling against the crown, unleashing a wave of violence rarely seen in Westeros before or since. Tens of thousands, maybe more, died as Maegor set out to crush the rebels with every ounce of force he could muster. He accepted no parley and no pleas for mercy. He used the mighty Balerion to incinerate any rebel forces that opposed him. The conflict for control between the King and the High Septon and their supporters was the cause of brutality and bloodshed. Maegor fought many battles against the Faith Militant and in 43 AC, at the Battle of Stonebridge, he fought against a force made mainly of Poor Fellows. The battle was a pure bloody merciless massacre in which countless members of the Faith and the Faith Militant were slaughtered. Maegor made the Mander run red with blood for twenty leagues. The bridge and castle that commanded it was forever known as Bitterbridge thereafter, the seat of House Caswell, sworn to the Tyrells. Another fierce battle was fought at the Great fork of the Blackwater which was a decisive victory for King Maegor whose dragon left death in it's wake.
Despite all the fightings and bloody battles, the Faith and the Faith Militant were not defeated anyway. The bold High Septon of House Hightower kept opposing Maegor openly and the Faith Militant uprising was not crushed. The Swords and the Stars continued to remain Maegor's worst enemies. To crush the rebellion, Maegor tried more ruthless and brutal methods and instituted a new set of laws that became known as Maegor's law, forbidding Holy men from carrying arms. This law actually helped the King and his supporters to break the High Septon's political power. Maegor took brutal steps to put down the rebelling orders and the houses supporting them, including offering bounties for the heads of any who refused to comply offering a gold dragon for the scalp of a Warrior's Son and a silver stag for the scalp of a Poor Fellow, earning him his nickname "The Cruel".
Maegor later slews Aenys' eldest son and tortured another of his nephews to death. He continued the oppression wherever he could, earning him the name 'Maegor the Cruel'.
The Faith wasn't the only opposition Maegor had to deal with during his reign. Aenys's eldest son, Prince Aegon Targaryen, launched a rebellion against Maegor, to try and win back the throne that by law should have been his. His rebellion failed and ended in the Riverlands with the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye, in 43 AC. Forces led by Maegor, which included House Tully and House Harroway, surrounded Aegon and his dragon Quicksilver, resulting with both of them dying. Quicksilver was huge, but it was nowhere near the size and raw power of Balerion, who was by then around a century and a half old and of tremendous size. Balerion, with Maegor mounted on him, made short work of Quicksilver, killing both dragon and rider. Aegon's widow and sister, Rhaena, took refuge on Fair Isle, in the wastelands, under the protection of Lord Farman, who hid her and her twin daughters, Rhalla and Aerea.
In 44 AC Maegor's mother, Dowager Queen Visenya Targaryen died at Dragonstone. Her death devastated Maegor, as she had been his strongest supporter since the very begin. In the confusion after her death, King Aenys I's widow, Queen Alyssa Velaryon, fled from Dragonstone with 2 of her children, Jaehaerys, and Alysanne. She took with her the other Targaryen ancestral Valyrian longsword, Dark Sister, Visenya's sword. However, one of Alyssa's children, 15 years old Prince Viserys, was in King's Landing serving as Maegor's squire and because of Alyssa's escape, Maegor had Viserys tortured for 9 days of questioning before dying from it. Tyanna of the Towers personally tortured and killed him in terrifying ways for Maegor, possibly with magic. After that, they left Viserys's mutilated body on the courtyard of the Red Keep in the hope that Alyssa would return to reclaim his body, which never happened.
In 44 AC, Queen Alys gave birth to a deformed monstrosity. Queen Tyanna convinced Maegor that it was due to Alys having secrets affairs. This led to the extinction of House Harroway: in his fury, Maegor executes his wife Alys, as well as her father Lucas Harroway, Lord of Harrenhal and Maegor's Hand. He also killed Alys's bedmaids, her septas, Grand Maester Desmond—who had assisted with the birth—and every single member of House Harroway, ending the family.
After Maegor wiped out House Harroway he decreed that only the strongest of his knights would have the castle of Harrenhal, though not all the lands. 23 knights fought in the blood-soaked streets of Lord Harroway's Town for the prize. Ser Walton Towers, though gravely wounded in the melee was the victor, and House Towers was granted Harrenhal, though Ser Walton died soon after from the wounds he took in gaining his prize.
Beside Grand Maesters Gawen and Desmond, another unknown third Grand Maester was executed by Maegor, making 3 dead Grand Maesters by execution during Maegor's reign.
Still in 44 AC, the High Septon of Hightower who had been Maegor's archenemy for so many years, finally died under mysterious circumstances, leading to rumors of murder by either Maegor or Tyanna, or some other enemy. The High Septon was replaced by a more passive one, yet not even this ended the uprising of the Faith Militant. The Swords and the Stars refused to put down their swords, and thus in 45 AC Maegor continued his war against the Faith.
In 45 AC, Maegor's first wife and niece of the rival High Septon, Ceryse Hightower, suddenly fell ill and died. Rumor held that she had been killed at Maegor's own command, though it could just have been Tyanna poisoning her.
Despite all the death, terror, and violence that filled Aegon's reign, the construction of the Red Keep kept going, as Maegor's father had ordered. Lacking any heirs, Maegor had thrown himself on the project, personally overseeing everything. While he left the day to day task of running the kingdom to his Hand of the King and good father, Lord Lucas Harroway, while he himself had a host of tunnels and secret passageways hidden under the castle build. In 45 AC, Maegor saw the Red Keep completed, and Maegor's Holdfast was subsequently named after him.
But even the great accomplishment of completing the Red Keep was turned into horror by Maegor. Upon the completion of the Red, Keep Maegor threw a huge riotous feast for the builders, masons, craftsmen and all those who took part in the construction. After three days of revelry at the Kings expense, Maegor had them all put to the sword, in order to protect the secrets of the hidden passages he had constructed.
After the completion of the Red Keep, Maegor planned to have the ruins of the Sept of Remembrance cleared away from Rhaenys's Hill, and decreed that a large Dragonpit would be built on the hill for House Targaryen to stable its royal dragons. After all that had happened to the builders of the Red Keep, it should be unsurprising that Maegor had trouble finding new builders and masons to undertake the construction. As many fled the city, Maegor was forced to use prisoners from the city's dungeon's as his workforce supervised by builders brought in from Myr and Tyrosh.
In 46 AC Maegor brings back 2,000 skulls as trophies from his campaigns, which he claims were from outlawed Warrior's Sons and Poor Fellows. Many suspected they were the skulls of smallfolk who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Day by day, the Seven Kingdoms turned against its King.
In 47 AC, Maegor wed 3 women in one ceremony. All three women had been proven to be fertile and all were widows of men who had died in Maegor's wars, or at his command. They would be known as the "Black Brides":
- During 47 AC Ser Theo Bolling was arrested by knights of the Kingsguard, accused of conspiring with Queen Alyssa Velaryon to place her son, Prince Jaehaerys, on the throne, and was then executed—all on the same day. Bolling was married to Elinor Costayne and they had 3 children. After 2 weeks (or 7 days) of mourning, Elinor was summoned to wed Maegor. She was the youngest of the 3 Black Brides, 19 years old.
- Tyanna of the Towers had found Prince Aegon's widow and Maegor's niece, Princess Rhaena Targaryen, and her girls, Aerea and Rhalla, and Maegor had them brought to King's Landing. Rhaena was forced to marry her uncle, who also named Aerea as his heir (disinheriting Prince Jaehaerys).
- Lady Jeyne Westerling was the wife of Lord Alyn Tarbeck, who died with the rebels in 43 AC at the Battle Beneath the Gods Eye. She was tall and willowy and was a renowned beauty. Jeyne gave Alyn a posthumous son. She was courted by the Lannister son of the Lord of Casterly Rock when Maegor sent for her to be wed to him.
Still, in 47 AC, Queen Jeyne Westerling was with child, but three moons before the child was due her labor began, and from her womb came a stillborn monster. She did not survive the child for long and died after going into labor 3 months early.
Queen Elinor Costayne became pregnant too and gave birth to a stillborn abomination said to have been born eyeless and with small wings. She was one of the two wives who survived the king. What happened to her later in her life is unknown in history.
Tyanna would not bare Maegor any children. Eventually, she confessed her responsibility for the abominations that were born from Maegor's seed, claiming that she had poisoned her husband's other brides so that their children would be born deformed. She was killed by Maegor's own hand in 48 AC for this, her heart cut with his sword Blackfyre and thrown to his dogs.
By 48 AC Maegor's tyranny could no longer be borne by the realm. In the Riverlands, Septon Moon and Ser Joffrey Doggett led the Poor Fellows against Maegor and won Riverrun to their cause. Lord Daemon Velaryon, the admiral of Maegor's fleet, turned against him and many Great Houses joined him. Finally, Aenys I' last son, Prince Jaehaerys stopped hiding and declared open rebellion against his uncle with his new claim for the Iron Throne. He won who was in support of Lord Robar Baratheon of Storm's End, who Jaehaerys named Protector of the Realm and Hand of the King.
When Rhaena Targaryen learned of her brother's claim she managed to escape her forced marriage to Maegor. Stealing away in the night while her husband slept, she mounted on her dragon Dreamfyre and managed to smuggle the blade Blackfyre with her. The rebellion spread, with even two of Maegor's Kingsguard leaving him. These series of betrayals and the loss of his mother's guidance left Maegor a broken man. He called his banners but few answered and those who did were not enough to defeat his many foes.
During the hour of the wolf, those few who remained left the throne room leaving Maegor alone to brood. The King was later found dead seated on the Iron Throne the next morning, his robes covered in blood, his wrists slashed. His death is unknown, but some say he had been killed by a knight of his own Kingsguard who could no longer abide his tyranny, some say he had been killed by a builder that escaped the slaughter and desired revenge, and some whispered that Maegor had been killed by the throne itself. Perhaps the most likely explanation however is that Maegor killed himself by opening his wrists on the blades of the Iron Throne. He died with no issue. After his death, the Iron Throne passed to King Jaehaerys I Targaryen and his father's family no longer had to hide, though the history doesn't know what happened to Rhaena Targaryen and her twin daughters Aerea and Rhalla in their later lives after they survived Maegor's reign.
The war against the Faith Militant did not end until Maegor's death. Chaos and death in the Seven Kingdoms ended with King Jaehaerys I, who offered an immediate amnesty on pain of the Faith Militant's disbanding, which was accepted. For this, Jaehaerys I was given the name 'The Conciliator'.
During his reign, Maegor began the construction of a new keep within the main castle complex in King's Landing. Completed after his death, this fortressed was dubbed Maegor's Holdfast.
Despite Maegor's bloody and evil way of ruling, the Targaryens survived extinction thanks to the power and strength of their dragons, which allowed them to survive destruction from the Faith of the Seven and other enemies. It's not until the Dance of the Dragons, a war that was fought from 129 AC to 131 AC between Aegon II Targaryen and Rhaenyra I Targaryen, that the royal house really suffered a permanent damage that weakened them beyond repair. Rhaenyra was also known as 'Maegor with Tits' for her actions. Despite their wars, the Targaryens managed to hold power for centuries, even with King Aegon IV Targaryen's actions that caused the Blackfyre Rebellions, that ended with the War of the Ninepenny Kings. The Targaryen line eventually failed in 283 AC with King Aerys II Targaryen and his failing line without dragons.
Maegor is one of the Targaryen kings to historically suffer from "Targaryen madness". He was often seen as cruel and abusive, never treating animals well and keeping to himself. He enjoyed war and battle, but it was violence the most craved, and death and absolute mastery over all he deemed his. He is considered as the perhaps the earliest fearsome tyrant of Westros, much earlier than the later Mad Targaryens.
Maegor also became the proverbial tyrannical king to the people of the Seven Kingdoms: any time another potential ruler appeared to be brutal and oppressive, it was whispered that they would be "the next Maegor the Cruel". This only stopped in the last generation, when Aerys II "the Mad King" terrorized the realm, ultimately leading to his downfall in Robert's Rebellion - after which the proverb shifted to saying "he would be the next Mad King", or when Tyrion remarks that Joffrey is on his way to becoming "Aerys the Third".