Rhaegar Targaryen on ‘Game of Thrones’: Theories & Analysis

tower of joy

Rhaegar Targaryen left the Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy to guard Lyanna. (HBO)

Rhaegar Targaryen could end up playing a huge role in Game of Thrones, even though he’s no longer alive. He ties directly into a theory involving Jon Snow and the Tower of Joy. Who is Rhaegar and what do we know about him? This is all the background about Rhaegar, along with spoilers through the season 6 finale and spoilers if any of these theories are true.

Here’s what you need to know.


Rhaegar Targaryen Is Daenerys’ Older Brother

Rhaegar is long dead by the time Game of Thrones starts. He is Daenerys’ and Viserys’ older brother, the oldest son of the Mad King. His mother is Rhaella Targaryen. Daenerys never knew him, because he died long before she was born. She was always told that Rhaegar was a great killer, but Barristan Selmy tells her more about Rhaegar. He said that Rhaegar used to disguise himself as a minstrel and play in King’s Landing. He usually gave the money he made to other minstrels or orphans. He said that despite Rhaegar’s history, he actually never liked killing and preferred singing.

Interestingly, Tywin originally wanted Cersei to marry Rhaegar. Aerys wouldn’t go for this idea and, instead, Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell of Dorne. They had a daughter, Rhaenys, and a son, Aegon.


Rhaegar Kidnapped Lyanna Stark, But Fans Long Suspected There Was Something More Between Them

The story is that Rhaegar was always infatuated with Lyanna Stark and ultimately kidnapped and raped her. However, fans have long theorized that there was actually a mutual attraction between the two and she may have left willingly to be with him.

Petyr Baelish told Sansa that during a tournament, after Rhaegar won, he rode past his wife, Elia, and put a crown of winter roses in Lyanna’s lap instead. This showed Rhaegar’s deep affection for Lyanna and how unlikely it was that he actually physically hurt her.


Rhaegar Was Killed By Robert Baratheon

Rhaegar was killed in “Robert’s Rebellion,” during a battle called the Battle of the Trident by Robert Baratheon, Lyanna’s betrothed. He killed Rhaegar with a single blow from his warhammer. Rhaegar was wearing armor encrusted with rubies, and the rubies were scattered under the water. Shortly after his death, Jaimie killed his dad, The Mad King.


Lyanna Died at the Tower of Joy

The Tower of Joy events take place at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, after Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna and left for the Battle of the Trident, where he was killed. When Rhaegar left the Tower of Joy, he left members of the Kingsguard to guard the tower. Ned, with his companions, showed up and fought to rescue Lyanna. According to the books, he found his sister in the tower in a “bed of blood.” Lyanna made Ned promise to take something, and she died in his arms. During the finale, we learned that this “something” was a baby boy, whom she said that Robert would kill if he knew the truth.

The theory that fans have long held is that this baby is Jon Snow, born to Lyanna and Rhaegar. At the end of the war, Ned returns to Winterfell with Jon, whom he claims is his bastard son.