In its last episode before another apparent time jump, House of the Dragon delivered game-changers that ranged from Aemond losing an eye (and gaining Vhagar) to Laenor faking his death, but the event that was the longest-time coming was the marriage of Rhaenyra and Daemon. Since the Targaryens can get away with incest in Westeros (as explained by author George R.R. Martin), the blood relation between uncle and niece wasn’t a problem, but the political ramifications are bound to be great. While the marriage may have seemed all but inevitable once Laena died, the show made changes from how it happened in George R.R. Martin’s lore in some key ways.
In fact, the changes from the Fire & Blood book to the show (beyond the sequence of events) may provide some clues about what to expect from Daemon and Rhaenyra moving forward. So, let’s dive into what Fire & Blood tells us about the wedding and events that led up to it, and how House of the Dragon changed the story.
Warning: spoilers through Episode 7 of House of the Dragon and the "Heirs of the Dragon – A Question of Succession" chapter of Fire & Blood.
The Age Difference
One element of the wedding that is true in both the book and the show is that Daemon and Rhaenyra married on Dragonstone after both of their Velaryon spouses were out of the way. This is an event where House of the Dragon aging up Rhaenyra actually makes a big difference, as this is what Archmaester Gyldayn (the in-universe writer of Martin's Fire & Blood) tells us in the "A Question of Succession" chapter:
After all of the time jumps in the first six episodes, Rhaenyra was around 29 when she married her uncle in Episode 7. If the age difference between the two is approximately the same, then Daemon was 45. The aging up of Rhaenyra means that she had plenty of experience as an adult in the political intrigue of the Red Keep before relocating to Dragonstone, and knew from that experience that she needed Daemon on her side.
Laenor's Death And Timing
In the book, Laenor died when he was stabbed by Ser Qarl Correy after quarreling while attending a fair together, and Lord Corlys went to collect his son’s body. So, in the lore, Laenor quite definitively died not too long before his widow and former brother-in-law married. Fire & Blood shares:
In the show, Daemon and Rhaenyra helped Laenor to fake his death and escape the rules of Westeros by going across the sea with Ser Qarl. Technically, Rhaenyra now has two husbands, although with the loophole that she married Laenor in the Faith of the Seven and Daemon in a Valyrian ceremony. They still seemed to marry scandalously quickly, as Luke's nose still looked busted in the wedding scene!
Why It Was A Secret
Fire & Blood gives two explanations for why they married quickly and secretly, from two different sources: a septon named Eustace and a court fool named Mushroom. They had very different versions of events, but notably, the history book couldn’t cite anybody who had actually witnessed the marriage:
Daemon and Rhaenyra’s sex on the beach does mean it’s possible that she was pregnant when they married (and it's true that Viserys probably wouldn’t have approved), but Episode 7 made it very clear that she was proposing their marriage to strengthen her claim, not quiet a scandal. There were also witnesses to the wedding: the Valyrian officiant, the Dragonstone maester, and Daemon and Rhaenyra’s kids.
Daemon Clearing The Path To Rhaenyra
Although Daemon certainly earned a dark reputation in Fire & Blood (and House of the Dragon actually had him commit a murder that he was innocent of in the book with Rhea Royce’s death), he was suspected of two more plausible charges that cleared the path for him to marry Rhaenyra.
Daemon was suspected by at least some in the book of arranging Laenor’s death for his own purposes, and definitely not faking it to give Laenor a happily-ever-after in Essos. Fire & Blood says:
Honestly, after seeing him dispose of his first wife so that he could take another shot at marrying Rhaenyra in Episode 5, Daemon arranging Laenor’s murder and then killing the assassin seemed possible on the show before the events on Driftmark. House of the Dragon also cleared his name of another crime from the book: the death of Harwin Strong. It reads:
As fans now know, it was actually Larys Strong who was responsible for the fire at Harrenhal that killed his father and older brother. While there can be no doubt that Daemon was proactive in clearing the path to marry Rhaenyra (including killing an innocent man at Driftmark to pull off their ruse), he didn’t kill Laenor and he certainly didn’t kill Harwin.
Only time will tell how loving Daemon and Rhaenyra’s marriage will be, but House of the Dragon cleared their names of some of the charges against them in the book. Did they secretly marry way too quickly after their spouses were no longer in the way? Absolutely, and my biggest regret about the fast pace of the series is that we probably won't get to see Viserys’ reaction to the news that his daughter and his brother married basically as soon as they were both single and left alone together.
See what happens next now that Daemon and Rhaenyra are married with new episodes of House of the Dragon on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and streaming with an HBO Max subscription. For some more details about George R.R. Martin’s lore and the show, check out our breakdown of the Targaryen family tree.
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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. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).