Having not read the books, I'd be interested to know of any references that detail how the two felt about each other.

From everything I've learned about both characters, they seem to have moral values and personalities that don't jibe. It's also true that Rhaegar's actions led to the downfall of Aerys' reign, and almost the end of the Targaryen dynasty.

What was their relationship with each other? What did Rhaegar think of his father and Aerys II think of his son? What did Rhaegar think about his father's choices? What did Aerys II think of Rhaegar "kidnapping" and going on an escapade with Lyanna Stark?

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    I'd say that Aerys' actions led to the downfall of Aerys' reign, not Rhaegar's. The whole "kidnapping" thing could have been resolved with some talks (after all, the relationship was consensual), but the Mad King burning Lord Stark and his heir when they wanted to have said talk.. not so much.
    – Annatar
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 7:09
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    @GhotiandChips: Brandon Stark's request was based on a kidnapping having occurred. Brandon was not slandering Rhaegar, he was asking for justice. If anything, the fact that Brandon talks to Aerys implies that Brandon expects Aerys to act justly, even if not by sentencing Rhaegar to death. Aerys could deny Rhaegar's guilt, or even refuse to kill him even if it is true. Burning Brandon is a massive overreaction on Aerys' part. Similarly, Cersei did not kill Ned on the spot when he argued the illegitimacy of Joffrey's ascension to the throne. Ned was only killed when caught leading a rebellion.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 9:40
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    @GhotiandChips: Asking for justice cannot be a crime in and of itself. Brandon is essentially arguing that the execution of Rhaegar would be just (if he is indeed guilty of kidnapping Lyanna). You're probably right that Aerys considered Brandon's request a crime, but that only goes to show the fascist nature of Aerys' rule. He disallows any discussion that he doesn't like or that blemishes the Targaryen name, rather than providing counterarguments, dismissing Brandon's request or trying to get him to drop his case.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 12:59
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    @GhotiandChips: If StackExchange were run by Aerys, a question would not simply be closed because its topic is disallowed, but the OP would be killed on the spot (or more analogously, have his account banned immediately). That's the difference here. Instead of disabling the request, Aerys disabled the requester. This doesn't necessarily reflect on Aerys' opinion of Rhaegar, it could just have to do with the family name. Similarly, Tywin also argues that Tyrion is still a Lannister, regardless of how he feels about Tyrion.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:01
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    My point was that while Rhaegar's actions were the initial domino stone, it was Aerys who took everything past the point of no return (with remarkable speed) and thus is the only one responsible for his downfall: Had he not acted like the did, the whole rebellion could have been averted.
    – Annatar
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 13:23

3 Answers 3


The relationship between Aerys II and Rhaegar worsened paralleling his growing madness and paranoia. He became suspicious and distrusting of everyone, including his own son Rhaegar, that he suspected to be plotting against him to take the throne.

According to The World of Ice & Fire, Aerys II completely lost his sanity after the events called The Defiance of Duskendale, when he was held prisoner by House Darklyn

Captivity at Duskendale had shattered whatever sanity had remained to Aerys II Targaryen. From that day forth, the king’s madness reigned unchecked, growing worse with every passing year.
Once safely returned to King’s Landing, His Grace refused to leave the Red Keep for any cause and remained a virtual prisoner in his own castle for the next four years, during which time he grew ever more wary of those around him, Tywin Lannister in particular. His suspicions extended even to his own son and heir. Prince Rhaegar, he was convinced, had conspired with Tywin Lannister to have him slain at Duskendale. They had planned to storm the town walls so that Lord Darklyn would put him to death, opening the way for Rhaegar to mount the Iron Throne and marry Lord Tywin’s daughter.
The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings. Aerys II chapter

Another episode that set them apart was the wedding between Rhagar and Elia Martell, that Aerys did not attend, for fear of being assassinated

Meanwhile, King Aerys was becoming ever more estranged from his own son and heir. Early in the year 279 AC, Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone, was formally betrothed to Princess Elia Martell, the delicate young sister of Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne. They were wed the following year, in a lavish ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing, but Aerys II did not attend. He told the small council that he feared an attempt upon his life if he left the confines of the Red Keep, even with his Kingsguard to protect him. Nor would he allow his younger son, Viserys, to attend his brother’s wedding.
The World of Ice & Fire, The Targaryen Kings. Aerys II chapter

But probably the event that made evident to everyone their damaged relationship was the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, one of the most important events of recent Westerosi history, whose consequences shaped basically everything that happened since then. The court was already divided into factions supporting either Aerys II or Rhaegar, and Rhaegar was believed to be the real responsible for the tourney, that he used as a mean to gather like-minded nobles to deal with the issue of the madness of his worsening father.

His lordship [Lord Whent] lacked the funds to pay such munificent prizes, they argued; someone else must surely have stood behind him, someone who did not lack for gold but preferred to remain in the shadows whilst allowing the Lord of Harrenhal to claim the glory for hosting this magnificent event. We have no shred of evidence that such a “shadow host” ever existed, but the notion was widely believed at the time and remains so today.
But if indeed there was a shadow, who was he, and why did he choose to keep his role a secret? A dozen names have been put forward over the years, but only one seems truly compelling: Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince of Dragonstone.
The prince, it is said, had no interest in the tourney as a tourney; his intent was to gather the great lords of the realm together in what amounted to an informal Great Council, in order to discuss ways and means of dealing with the madness of his father, King Aerys II, possibly by means of a regency or a forced abdication.
The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons. The Year of the False Spring chapter

The victory of the Tourney by Rhaegar also contributed to raise the suspicions of the King

Prince Rhaegar emerged as the ultimate victor at the end of the competition. The crown prince, who did not normally compete in tourneys, surprised all by donning his armor and defeating every foe he faced, including four knights of the Kingsguard. In the final tilt, he unhorsed Ser Barristan Selmy, generally regarded as the finest lance in all the Seven Kingdoms, to win the champion’s laurels.
The cheers of the crowd were said to be deafening, but King Aerys did not join them. Far from being proud and pleased by his heir’s skill at arms, His Grace saw it as a threat. Lords Chelsted and Staunton inflamed his suspicions further, declaring that Prince Rhaegar had entered the lists to curry favor with the commons and remind the assembled lords that he was a puissant warrior, a true heir to Aegon the Conqueror.
The World of Ice & Fire, The Fall of the Dragons. The Year of the False Spring chapter

As we know, the Tourney at Harrenhal set in motion all the event that lead to Robert's Rebellion and the end of the rule of House Targaryen, so from that point on, Aerys II and Rhaegar had to worry more about their external enemies rather than furthering their own plans about each other. In the end, their bad relationship ended with their own lives.

Summarizing, we can say that Aerys II and Rhaegar had a bad relationship that originated from the King's madness, and that kept worsening in parallel to the worsening of the monarch's conditions. The factions of the nobles that were behind both of them, and that had something to gain from the prominence of one of the other, also were a factor in making their bad relationship even more bitter and uneasy.


A World of Ice and Fire goes into this a bit.

The short answer is that, regardless of how he felt about his heir at first, Aerys II's paranoia grew severe over time. He didn't attend the wedding of Rhaegar to Elia Martell, fearing an assassination attempt, and also did not permit the young Viserys Targaryen to attend either.

Over time, Aerys came to suspect that Rhaegar may have been plotting against him as well (There is reason to believe that was true, and that Rhaegar planned to use the Tourney at Harrenhall to call a Great Council and have his father removed from power.)

So I suppose you could say that their relationship wasn't exactly cordial.


What did Aerys II think of Rhaegar "kidnapping" and going on an escapade with Lyanna Stark?

No one else seems to be addressing this, but we actually have some canon references to parse. In particular, Aerys executed Rickard and Brandon Stark (Ned's father and brother) rather than condemn Rhaegar's actions. Beyond that, he sent Ser Arthur Dayne, the best of the Kingsguard, to protect Lyanna and her unborn child.

Of course, we could also explain the burning as Aerys being crazy and liking to burn people. But that wouldn't explain Dayne. It's conceivable that Dayne was more loyal to Rhaegar than Aerys, but it doesn't seem to fit his other statements. While Aerys lived, right or wrong, Dayne was the king's man.

Dayne's presence meant that Aerys endorsed his grandchild, even if it didn't say anything about his relationship with his son.

  • IMHO the fact that Aerys burned his enemies rather than letting them kill his son speaks more of family loyalty rather than his feelings about the whole Rhaegar & Lyanna affair. He could be suspicious of Rhaegar, but he would never let his enemies get him. Also, Arthur Dayne is often said to have been a very close friend of Rhaegar, so his presence at the Tower of Joy does not necessarily imply that the King himself sent him there to protect the baby; I think that probably he was generally commanded to protect Rhaegar and do his will, so it was probably the Prince that sent him there.
    – Sekhemty
    Commented Sep 1, 2017 at 18:20

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