"Rhaegar fought valiantly,
Rhaegar fought nobly.
And Rhaegar died."
Game of Thrones | Robert and Lyanna
Rhaegar and Lyanna
BackgroundPrince Rhaegar Targaryen was the eldest son and heir to the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, by his sister/wife Queen Rhaella Targaryen. Tywin Lannister, who served as Aerys's faithful Hand of the King for nearly twenty years, desired that he would agree to a marriage between Rhaegar and his own daughter Cersei. Young Cersei herself hoped that she would marry Rhaegar some day. King Aerys denied the request, however, and insulted Tywin by indicating that such a match would be beneath Rhaegar.
Instead, Rhaegar was married to his distant cousin Princess Elia Martell of Dorne, with whom he had a daughter named Rhaenys and then a son named Aegon.
During the great Tourney of Harrenhal, where all the prominent lords of Westeros assembled, Rhaegar faced off against Ser Barristan Selmy in the final tilt and won. Instead of giving the victor's wreath to his own wife Elia, however, the entire crowd of hundreds of people fell silent as he rode past her and gave it to Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, to name her as the tournament's Queen of Love and Beauty. This was doubly controversial, as Lyanna was herself already betrothed to marry Robert Baratheon. Some months later, under as-yet unknown circumstances, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna.
Shortly before the sack, however, Rhaegar's heavily pregnant mother Queen Rhaella had been sent to safety on Dragonstone island, along with his younger brother Viserys. Not long after they arrived, however, Rhaella died giving birth to Rhaegar's younger sister, Daenerys Targaryen. Viserys and his newborn sister then fled into exile in the Free Cities, across the Narrow Sea, before Robert's soldiers could arrive on the island.
Eddard raced inside only to find that Lyanna was dying from childbirth to Rhaegar's last child and heir. Lyanna made Eddard promise to keep him safe because if Robert ever found out that Rhaegar had a surviving son, he would kill him. Eddard departed with Rhaegar and Lyanna's newborn son and took him back to Winterfell, where he passed him off as his own bastard son fathered on the campaign: Jon Snow.
Barristan Selmy: "Viserys never told you?"
Daenerys Targaryen: "He told me Rhaegar was good at killing people."
Barristan Selmy: "Rhaegar never liked killing. He loved singing."
— Ser Barristan recounts his time with Rhaegar.
Before his alleged abduction of Lyanna Stark, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen is said to have been a very popular figure in the Seven Kingdoms in contrast to his erratic father, King Aerys. Despite the superb skills he displayed while participating in the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, where he mysteriously crowned Lyanna as the Queen of Love and Beauty instead of his own wife Elia Martell. Ser Barristan Selmy (whom Rhaegar had unhorsed in the final joust) described Rhaegar as a peaceful man who much preferred singing over fighting and killing.
Rhaegar was a highly intelligent person who loved to read, so much that he was late in his decision to take up swordsmanship. He was an extremely charismatic man, shown by the fact that those who followed him were loyal to him and some believed him to be the finest man they ever met. However, this loyalty would come at a cost to some people, including Rhaegar himself. For example, Ser Arthur Dayne and Ser Gerold Hightower did not accompany Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident because Rhaegar had ordered them to stay at the Tower of Joy and guard Lyanna thus Rhaegar had ultimately doomed them to die at the hands of Lyanna's brother, Eddard.
"In my dreams, I kill him every night."
―Robert Baratheon shows his undying hatred of Rhaegar.
"Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon."
―Jorah Mormont to Daenerys Targaryen
"When your brother Rhaegar led his army into battle at the Trident, men died for him because they believed in him, because they loved him. I fought beside the last dragon on that day, your Grace. I bled beside him."
―Ser Barristan Selmy to Daenerys
Daenerys Targaryen: "Did you know him well, Ser Barristan?"
Barristan Selmy: "I did, your Grace. Finest man I ever met."
Daenerys Targaryen: "I wish I had known him, but he was not the last dragon."
— Rhaegar Targaryen remembered.
The queen of love and beauty ~
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Love and light,