In S07E05 of Game of Thrones

Gilly finds out that Rhaegar Targaryen secretly married Lyanna Stark, which makes Jon the only surviving legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen.

Since Jon was born after Rhaegar Targaryen and the Mad King were killed, at the time of his birth, Viserys Targaryen was the only surviving son of the king, so Viserys was the legitimate heir.

If during the time between the Mad King's death and the birth of Jon, Viserys would have ascended to the Iron Throne, would he continue to stay on the throne once Jon was born? Or, would Jon's birth depose him and make Jon the king?

Clarification: I think you don't fully understand my meaning in the question. I understand that Jon has priority over Viserys, if they were both alive when Rhaegar was killed. But, Jon wasn't born yet, so during that time Viserys could become the king before Jon was born. If Viserys had ascended to the throne before Jon is born, would that leave Viserys as king until his death and put Viserys' sons (if any exist) before Jon in the line of ascension, or would Jon dethrone Viserys and become king himself upon his birth? (Assuming that everyone is acting lawfully)

  • Possible dupe: Is there any tangible proof of Jon Snows lineage
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:41
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    @Edlothiad, this is not a duplicate of that question, this doesn't ask about why would people accept Jon as the heir, but was he the heir on birth, it's actually a question about title inheritance laws.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:44
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    Answered in the linked answer: "By law, (If Lyanna and Rhaegar married, which we do not know they did, see update below.), a grandson (Jon) by eldest son (Rhaegar) comes before a daughter (Daenerys) in succession for a King (Aerys II). If Jon is not a bastard, he is infact the rightful King of Westeros as heir of the mad King, not just North."
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:49
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    You are overlooking the fact that this was war period. In a normal case, even if both the Mad King and Rhaegar were killed, everybody would know that Lyanna was pregnant. So even though the only rightful living heir would be Viserys, Jon would ultimately ascend to the throne; they would wait for him to born. The fact that you are discussing is valid only because the Targaryen dynasty was cast away and Jon's existence was hidden in order for him to be protected (as also as Viserys's). Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 13:17
  • "Gilly finds out that Rhaegar Targaryen secretly married Lyanna Stark, which makes Jon the only surviving legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen." In the show, only Bran potentially knows that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna, rather than the son of Ned Stark. No one else knows (except Howland Reed), and it's unknown if the maester's records even included the pregnancy, let alone any knowledge of birth or the sex of the baby. In fact, Gilly doesn't even say Lyanna's name; she says "got an annulment to marry someone else" or something along those lines. So even Sam/Gilly can't be sure it's Lyanna.
    – TylerH
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Law of inheritance

The law is Agnatic Primogeniture, not Agnatic Seniority.

A Grandson by an elder son comes before a younger son in line of succession for a King.

If the elder son has no sons, the throne then passes to his younger brother.

We don't have anything in Targaryen history where King died and Grandson took the throne (Except when Jaehaerys I died and Viserys I took the throne) but we see that is the westerosi law, Agnatic Primogeniture. Lord Elmo Tully became Lord of Riverlands when his Grandfather died (His father had already died).

It goes like this:

  1. Eldest son
  2. Sons of Eldest son in order of their age
  3. Younger son

This Agnatic Primogeniture law is the reason why we have a Free Company named Second Sons. Second Sons don't inherit, so they join that mercenary company sometimes to carve their own fortunes. Viserys is a second son, so is Bran. Bran told Ser Rodrik that he will never be Lord of Winterfell because After Eddard that will be Robb and after him, Robb's sons.

What happens once the cup has passed?

So what happens if Viserys inherits the throne before Jon is born?

Regardless, even if Viserys took the throne, Jon would still be heir of his uncle until a son is born to Viserys. Jon's mere birth wouldn't cause Viserys dethronement but he would be an attractive option for Lords seeking to depose his uncle.

If Viserys becomes King, the succession line shall be determined with regard to him, not his father. So by Agnatic Primogeniture, Jon would still be heir to his uncle as closest male kin. But as soon as a Son is born to Viserys, Jon will go down in line of succession. Since Jon did not exist when his uncle was crowned and anointed Lord of the seven Kingdoms, he can't claim the succession was invalid. Or Perhaps he can, if he wants to press his claim but opponents will point out that since Jon didn't exist back then, the cup has passed and now shall pass to Viserys' brood.

That is however my speculation not canon as there is no such case in canon where an uncle took the throne while a nephew was in womb.

Closest example would be that of Torgon Greyiron the Latecomer. When his father Urragon III died, he was outside of Iron Islands. Iron Islanders choose their Kings via Kingsmoot. His brothers called a Kingsmoot without inviting their eldest brother. The Ironborn elected Urrathon IV Goodbrother as King.

When Torgon returned, he claimed that he wasn't there to make his claim so succession is invalid, as he was the strongest claimant. He successfully deposed Urrathon IV albeit with force of arms.

That's the closest possible example of a claimant appearing once succession is done. But Ironborn are different. Their laws are different. Greenlanders follow bloodlines instead.

Great Council

This seems like a good case for a fourth Great council.

If the succession is unclear, a Great Council is convened at King's Landing where all Lords elect the new heir or King. There have been three Great Councils so far (Only two aimed at electing new Heir/King), which resulted in election of Viserys I and Aegon V.

Now let's assume everyone knew about Lyanna and Rhaegar and that she was pregnant and Lords decide to wait until their child is born (To determine the sex, if its a female, throne passes to Viserys in any case) and convene a council to elect the heir.

From the precedent of 3rd Great Council, it is clear that Lords prefer to choose elder uncles rather than infant nephews with better claims like they elected King Aegon V instead of his nephew Prince Maegor even though Maegor was son of Aegon's elder brother Aerion.

So in that case, Viserys would win most likely. But trouble here is, Lords feared that Maegor may have inherited his father Prince Aerion's madness, which lead them to turn to his uncles Aemon and Aegon. Viserys was known to be a frightened child, hiding behind his mother's skirts and prone to erratic behavior. Not to mention, Viserys was a minor himself unlike Aemon and Aegon who were adults. So in our case, Viserys is more like Maegor, so Lords might be inclined to choose Jon instead and form a regency council to take care of statecraft until Jon could reach adulthood.

But that will happen only if Viserys hasn't been crowned. If he were crowned, it would be up to him to convene a Grand Council on Jon's birth. If he doesn't, then line shall be established w.r.t him.

Real world closest case

We have a real world case. That is of Shapur II of Persia. When his father Hormazd II died, he was still in his mother's womb. His elder brother Prince Adur Narseh inherited the throne.

As a result of revolts and conspiracy by nobles against cruelty of the Emperor, Shah Adur Narseh was murdered, his second brother was blinded, third was imprisoned but escaped to Roman Empire. Bereft of any other option, Lords of Persia turned to the unborn Shapur II.

The crown of Persian Empire was placed on his pregnant mother's pudenda as per the tradition and throne was reserved for the unborn child. (That is disputed by some historians given that sex of the child could not be known and if it was a girl, she couldn't take the throne).

The unborn child would go on to rule for seventy years, longest reign of any Persian Emperor and become one of the Greatest Emperors of Persia.

  • Is this related to the fact the Viserys wasn't officially crowned? Or would Jon be crowned upon his birth and Viserys dethroned, even if Viserys was already serving as the acting king?
    – SIMEL
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:29
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    There was a period of time when Rhaegar was dead and Jon wasn't born yet. During that time, Viserys was the rightful heir and if he would ascend during that time, what would happen upon Jon's birth?
    – SIMEL
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:35
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    @SIMEL Yes Viserys was the Crown Prince during that brief period between Trident and Sack of King's Landing. After that he was Viserys, third of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the first men.
    – Aegon
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:36
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    @Aegon, but in this case, the cup of "head of the house" was already passed to Viserys when the Mad King was killed, wouldn't it work the same with this?
    – SIMEL
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 10:57
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    For more, similar real world examples, see this history stackexchange question. The case of the UK, where Queen Victoria would have been dethroned if her uncle had a posthumously born child, is described in more detail here and here.
    – aplaice
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 13:37

Yes, But The Succession Still Isn't Clear

By and large Westerosi succession tends to follow European law, and there are cases where the former King dies in a period in which his widow-Queen is still fertile, and the Heir Apparent is a woman. There was a case in recent English law where a Queen would have ascended the throne immediately, but they said "hey, if the King's widow happens to be pregnant and gives birth to a boy, that boy would replace you as King immediately." (The same hubbub happened when Queen Elizabeth II ascended because it was not impossible her mom was pregnant with a boy).

Obviously very few people in Westeros knew that the annulment had taken place and that Lyanna had a claim to be Rhaegar's legitimate wife, but this is examining from a perspective of us, the viewers, who know The Truth, and puts the Crown as a high-concept thing that is always with the legitimate heir by law, even if nobody knows it.

The position of King by the Crown was temporarily in limbo because Lyanna was pregnant, and the second the boy who would be known as Jon Snow popped out he immediately became the rightful King by Targaryen claims. The Crown followed him, even if, just like Jon Snow, everyone knew nothing about it.

So wait, he's the heir, why do you say the succession isn't clear?

Because it's all Ned Stark's fault.

The only person in Westeros we can know for sure knew this was Ned Stark. He knew Robert would murder the baby on the spot, and he couldn't let that happen to his nephew, so he passed the boy off as his own bastard son.

The Crown still never left Jon Snow, he was still always the rightful heir... until the moment he took the Black.

As always, Jon Snow knew nothing, but Eddard Stark was likely greatly relieved, because at that moment Jon Snow ceased to be the rightful King and it passed to the presumed holder all along, Viserys Targaryen.

Under the principles of the Monarchy Never Dies, There Is Always A Ruler, and the Targaryen claim that they were still the rightful Kings (actually sitting the Iron Throne is irrelevant), Jon Snow had been king from the moment of his birth, and his technical heir ascended to the throne the moment that black cloak hit Jon Snow's shoulders and he became a sworn brother of the Night's Watch.

Viserys, of course, died, and since Jon Snow was still in the Watch, it passed to his heir, Daenerys Targaryen.

But Jon died (and got better), why isn't he the rightful heir, since his vows ended?

Because there is no legal precedent for making a monarch who rightfully and legally inherited the throne to immediately abdicate just because someone popped up along the former line of succession.

The fact that none of these kings sat on the Iron Throne is irrelevant. Coronation doesn't make a person the monarch, they become monarch the moment they inherit it from the former one (or else they wouldn't style themselves Kings and Queens, even in exile).

Don't get me wrong, Jon Snow has a very strong claim, and he could press it in either a legal proceeding (and probably lose) or on the field of battle (and probably lose), or through murder (which doesn't seem Jon's style).

But given that there is no precedent for Jon Snow actually escaping the vows of the Night's Watch, from which only death allows escape, it's unclear if Daenerys would legally be forced to abdicate immediately, or if Jon would merely be re-added to the line of succession (conveniently as Dany's heir, assuming she doesn't give birth to a male child (or female, given that Dany would probably press for a change to the succession laws)).

This is all setting aside the problems Jon would have actually proving his claim, from which all the people in universe would know is, Jon's 'brother' is having visions, and a single book that was conveniently stolen from Oldtown by Jon's best friend (and could therefore be a forgery). We, as the Viewers, know is claim his true and just. But the characters aren't blessed with our omniscience (except maybe Bran...).

  • 3
    The only person in Westeros we can know for sure knew this was Ned Stark... and Howland Reed.
    – Möoz
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 4:13
  • After reading the source about queen Victoria, which was very interesting and informative, and learning that for the coronation of Elizabeth II they decided to not proclaim that a possible unborn male heir will get the crown if born and the criticism of that proclamation for queen Victoria, I get that whether or not Jon would get the crown depends on the will of the Lords more than anything, but he can theoretically. So I go with Aegon's answer as the accepted answer. But I still think this is a very good answer and I wish it got more up votes.
    – SIMEL
    Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 21:30
  • Thank you @SIMEL! I agree that the issue would be a bit of a thing about "whatever Westeros decides", but given that it's both unlikely Jon Snow would want to sit on the Iron Throne and that he'll (assuming the current obvious things are obvious) be VERY close to Daenerys, he would presumably have to press the issue, it probably wouldn't create a succession crisis. Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 21:40

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