How House Of The Dragon Changed Aegon's Coronation From George R.R. Martin's Book, And Why It Matters

Ser Criston Cole and King Aegon II in House of the Dragon
(Image credit: HBO)

HBO’s House of the Dragon will end the first season on October 23, and the early renewal for Season 2 doesn’t mean that viewers won’t be in for a long wait to find out what happens next. For some clues about the finale and even beyond, however, we can look to Episode 9 and how the Game of Thrones spinoff made changes to how George R.R Martin wrote Aegon’s coronation (and the Green Council beforehand). How certain key events happened could be very big for the future, so let’s dive into what Fire & Blood said happened vs. what we saw in the show!

For those who haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, the book is actually an in-universe history text written about the Targaryens and compiled by Archmaester Gyldayn more than a century after the era of Aegon II and Rhaenyra, drawing on a variety of sources. So, there are often contradictory accounts and unreliable narrators, but they sometimes agree on the Targaryen family tree drama. 

To avoid spoiling specifics for what could happen in Season 2, this breakdown will only go as far as Aegon’s coronation in the “The Dying of the Dragons” chapter of Fire & Blood

Bill Paterson as Lord Beesbury in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

How Lord Beesbury Died

The Greens arguably passed the point of no return in Episode 9 with the death of Lord Beesbury after he defied Alicent’s claim that Viserys wanted Aegon to be his heir in his dying breath. On the show, he died when Ser Criston Cole shoved him down in his seat, and he struck his head on the table so hard that he died immediately. It’s a matter of debate regarding whether or not Cole intended to kill him. Although Fire & Blood provides three different versions of Beesbury’s death, all agree that it was murder. Orwyle, who was Grand Maester at the time, had one take:

Grand Maester Orwyle tells us that Lord Beesbury was seized at the door by the command of Ser Otto Hightower and escorted to the dungeons. Confined to a black cell, he would in time perish whilst awaiting trial.

Otto didn’t exactly weep for Beesbury after his death on the show, but also didn't have time to give any orders about the lord before Cole killed him. (The show did feature a lot of people being taken to the dungeons to prevent the secret of Viserys’ death from getting out, though.) A septon by the name of Eustace told the death differently:

In his account, Ser Criston Cole forced Lord Beesbury back into his seat and opened his throat with a dagger.

While blood was certainly shed in Episode 9, it wasn’t so gruesome as Cole slitting the lord’s neck at the table. This version did clearly lay the blame with the Kingsguard knight, as does the version from the court fool known as Mushroom. Fire & Blood relates: 

Mushroom charges Ser Criston with his lordship’s death as well, but in his version Cole grasped the old man by the back of his collar and flung him out a window, to die impaled upon the iron spikes in the dry moat below.

While some of Mushroom’s accounts – like those of what happened between Daemon and Rhaenyra at the brothel – hold some truth for what happened in an episode, Cole flinging Beesbury out of a window wouldn't exactly hide that the council was up to something, so this version of his death was never the most likely. But the three accounts agree that the death was murder, not accident, and two lay the blame with Criston Cole.

Aegon and Alicent in a carriage on House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Aegon Defended Rhaenyra's Claim

Episode 9 involved a lengthy sequence of two groups – comprised of Ser Arryk and Ser Erryk vs. Cole and Aemond – on the search for Aegon, so that he could be crowned king, even though he clearly didn't want the job. In the show, both he and Aemond immediately assumed that Aegon would be king upon Viserys' death as the late king's firstborn son; that wasn’t the case in the book, which relays this version of what happened after Aegon was located: 

Moreover, the prince at first refused to be a part of his mother’s plans. ‘My sister is the heir, not me,’ he says in Eustace’s account. ‘What sort of brother steals his sister's birthright?’ Only when Ser Criston convinced him that the princess must surely execute him and his brothers should she don the crown did Aegon waver.

Aegon ultimately changed his mind about stealing Rhaenyra’s birthright when he was convinced that his sister would have him, Aemond, and Daeron (who exists but has not yet appeared on House of the Dragon) killed to protect her dark-haired sons. Aegon’s only defense of Rhaenyra in the show was reminding Alicent that Viserys had plenty of time to name him heir instead of his daughter, but never publicly did so. 

Alicent standing over Viserys' body on House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

How Long Viserys Was Left To Rot

While the Greens didn’t exactly rush to spread the news that Viserys had died (and in fact started imprisoning those who found out too soon and killing those who stuck by Rhaenyra), they were practically speedy compared to how they handled the aftermath in the book. Episode 9 seemed to happen over the course of about two days; in Fire & Blood, Alicent and Co. left Viserys to rot for a week without letting anybody come and take care of the corpse. After Viserys died “on the third day of the third moon of 129 AC,” this is what happened: 

The bells began to ring on the tenth day of the third moon of 129 AC, tolling the end of a reign. Grand Maester Orwyle was at last allowed to send forth his ravens, and the black birds took to the air by the hundreds, spreading the word of Aegon’s ascension to every far corner of the realm. The silent sisters were sent for, to prepare the corpse for burning, and riders went forth on pale horses to spread the word to the people of King’s Landing, crying ‘King Viserys is dead, long live King Aegon.’

Viserys’ body was left untended for long enough that “the stink from the dead king’s bedchamber had wafted all through Maegor’s Holdfast.” Alicent showed genuine grief and respect toward her husband’s body on the show; that was not the case in George R.R. Martin’s lore. 

Aegon raising his sword after coronation on House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

The Smallfolk Expected Rhaenyra To Rule

Aegon’s rushed coronation on House of the Dragon was attended by enough smallfolk to pack the building, and they burst into cheers after he was crowned with no sign that they expected anything else to happen, even though Rhaenyra had been heir for around two decades. Reactions were more mixed (to be generous) in Fire & Blood, according to a maester writing later. George R.R. Martin wrote that this happened after the news that Viserys was dead: 

Hearing the cries, Munkun writes, some wept whilst others cheered, but most of the smallfolk stared in silence, confused and wary, and now and again a voice cried out, ‘Long live our queen.’

Even though the show presented the smallfolk as supporting Aegon as far back as Episode 4 during Daemon and Rhaenyra’s trip to Flea Bottom, the smallfolk in the book remembered the princess as Viserys’ chosen heir. There were also conflicting reports of how many attended Aegon’s Dragonpit coronation in the book: 

How many came to see the crowning remains a matter of dispute. Grand Maester Munkun, drawing upon Orwyle, tells us that more than a hundred thousand smallfolk jammed into the Dragonpit, their cheers so loud they shook the very walls, whilst Mushroom says the stone benches were half-filled.

In a way, Episode 9 honored both accounts of how many people attended the coronation. While the venue was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the smallfolk were forced to attend by gold cloaks in the streets. Who knows how many people would have been present for the coronation if the City Watch had made it optional?

Eve Best as Rhaenys on Meleys dragon in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Rhaenys Crashing The Ceremony

The most obvious difference from book to show may not be the most important in the long run, but it’s certainly what had fans talking after Episode 9 aired. Rhaenys was still in King’s Landing after coming to the capital to help settle the question of Driftmark’s succession, and locked in by the Greens (and cut off from her dragon) unless she agreed to pledge House Velaryon support for Aegon. 

Instead, with the help of Ser Erryk, she escaped, freed Meleys, and quite literally crashed the coronation from below, probably killing more than a few smallfolk and giving her the prime opportunity to take out the Greens. In Fire & Blood, Rhaenys wasn’t even at the Red Keep, let alone riding in on Meleys in a show of force before flying off to Dragonstone to warn Rhaenyra. 

Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk in House of the Dragon

(Image credit: HBO)

Which Kingsguard Defected

Two members of the Kingsguard resisted the Greens in Episode 9, with the Lord Commander removing his white cloak and refusing to obey Ser Otto’s orders to go to Dragonstone to kill Rhaenyra and Co., and Ser Erryk became so disillusioned with Aegon that he turned on Alicent’s son (and his own twin brother), helped Rhaenys escape, and presumably defected from the Greens. Something similar happened in Fire & Blood, but not with Erryk. George R.R. Martin wrote:

Aegon II had suffered his first defections the night before, when Ser Steffon Darklyn of the Kingsguard had slipped from the city with his squire, two stewards, and four guardsmen. Under the cover of darkness they made their way out a postern gate to where a fisherman’s skiff awaited to take them to Dragonstone. They brought with them a stolen crown: a band of yellow gold ornamented with seven gems of different colors.

Ser Steffon Darklyn hasn’t actually appeared in House of the Dragon, so it seems that the HBO show simply swapped him for Ser Erryk. The trailer for the season finale also suggests that, like Ser Steffon did in the book, Erryk left King’s Landing with Viserys’ crown in hand. In the book as in the show, Aegon wore the crown of Aegon the Conqueror for his coronation. 

As for why all of these changes matter... well, in the grand scheme of things, the changes from book to show leading to Aegon’s coronation actually make the Greens look a lot better than they do at this point in Fire & Blood, which raises the question: is the show trying to persuade viewers to support the Greens rather than Rhaenyra’s side? 

Watch the Season 1 finale of House of the Dragon on Sunday, October 23 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and streaming with an HBO Max subscription. The last episode will introduce a dragon from Fire & Blood for what looks like a very risky Daemon scene (after neither Daemon nor Rhaenyra appeared in Episode 9), so be sure to tune in!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.