6

It was Rhaegar Targaryen's 'kidnapping' of Lyanna Stark and then King Aerys II's murder of her brother Brandon and father Rickard (who went to see Aerys, asking for the justice) that caused Robert's rebellion and eventually, the end of the Targaryen dyansty.
All of these could have avoided if Rhaegar or Aerys II has announced that Rhaegar didn't kidnap her but married her.
The Starks would have probably be happy as Lyanna was happy with Rhaegar (it was hinted that Lyanna didn't fancy Robert Baratheon at all). Only Robert would have created a fuss but no other would have joined him to oppose the King. Instead they chose to stay silent, kill Brandon and Rickard and order Jon Arryn to kill his then stewards Robert and Ned.

Calamities that could have been avoided if the 'announcement' path was taken by Rhaegar/Aerys II:

1) Deaths of Brandon & Rickard Stark
2) Robert's Rebellion (which resulted in the following deaths)
3) Death of Aerys II
4) Death of Rhaegar
5) Death of Lyanna (she died at childbirth, but she could have lived if she was given proper healthcare, rather than letting her to give birth in an isolated tower)
6) Deaths of Sir Arthur Dayne,Sir Gerold Hightower, Sir Oswell Whent (his character was not depicted in the TV show's battle of Tower of Joy) from Kingsguard
7) Deaths of Elia Martell, Prince Aegon & Princess Rhaenys
8) Deaths of countless people from both Targaryen forces & Rebels

It is plausible to say that either Aerys II didn't know the real story about Rhaegar and Lyanna OR he was not thinking wisely, but Rhaegar was a very wise man and he could have done everything to stop needless bloodshed.
My question is, is there any plausible reason for Rhaegar/Aerys II to act like the way they did?

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    This hasn’t been confirmed to have happened in the books and I’m pretty sure Aerys didn’t know. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 17 at 21:50
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    Show answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, Books answer: Hasn't happened in the books as carrot says. I am fairly certain the whole "annulment" deal won't happen in the books. – Aegon Jul 17 at 22:10
  • @TheLethalCarrot Didn't know, and most likely didn't give a sh*t. – Möoz Jul 17 at 23:27
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    You're assuming that none of the principals knew the truth, but can we be sure of that? Very few events in ASOIAF are reported to the world the way they actually happened; even fewer were remembered by history as they actually happened. If Robert had learned the truth while he was on the cusp of his victory, would he have just stopped his rebellion? Or would he have stuck to the original story? – tbrookside Jul 18 at 1:04
  • Because it wasn't a legal marriage. How could it be with Rhaegar already married. Meaning that Jon Snow is still a bastard and not a heir to the throne at all. That's just the TV show - it is not canon, at least not yet. – Amarth Jul 20 at 19:29
11

While R+L = J is pretty much confirmed, it still remains a theory as far as books are concerned in absence of any explicit confirmation from the author regarding Lyanna and Rhaegar's relation (Or lack thereof).

The Timeline

Here's what we know:

  1. Rhaegar outraged the whole realm by crowning the maiden daughter of Lord Rickard Stark, betrothed to Lord Robert Baratheon instead of his legal wife Princess Elia of Dorne. Polygamy is a no-no in faith of the Seven which the Royal family and most of the population adheres to. Only Aegon I's polygamy was tolerated by the faith, and when Maegor tried to follow his father he was exiled and declared a heretic, which eventually sparked the Faith's war against crown. And bear in mind, Aegon and Maegor had dragons.
  2. Rhaegar openly "abducted" Lyanna while she was travelling with her family. King's guards apparently helped him.
  3. Rhaegar goes off-grid and disappears following the kidnapping for reasons best known to him or his associates.
  4. Aerys had no idea what had transpired. Even if someone told him his son had abducted the Stark girl, He'd not mind his son taking up a mistress or two, the King was no stranger to carnal pleasures. Hardly a moral man, Aerys.
  5. Brandon rides to Red Keep and threatens to kill Prince Rhaegar.
  6. For crime of threatening the Blood of the Dragon, Aerys arrests Brandon and his friends and calls for their fathers to present themselves and explain the actions of their sons.
  7. Rickard goes to KL where Aerys burns him and kills Brandon and his friends (Except his squire). The seeds of the war are sown.
  8. Still not satisfied, the mad King commands Lord Jon Arryn to kill his wards Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon.
  9. Jon Arryn calls his banners and fighting begins in Gulltown.
  10. Robert and Eddard make it to their domains.
  11. Robert defeats his royalist vassals and marches his men to Riverlands.
  12. Tyrells defeat Robert at Ashford.
  13. Robert retreats into the Riverlands.
  14. Lord Jon Conington, Hand of the King, surrounds the town Robert was hiding in and Battle of the Bells happens.
  15. Robert is rescued by sudden arrival of Hoster Tully and Eddard Stark's men. Royal army is shattered and scattered to four winds. Rhaegar and Lyanna are still nowhere to be found.
  16. Aerys exiles Lord Jon Conington, commands Prince Doran Martell to send forth his armies, dispatches Sers Barristan Selmy and Jonothor Darry to regroup the shattered remains of Ex-Hand's army, sends Lord Commander Gerold Hightower to find Prince Rhaegar.
  17. Rhaegar finally returns after Ser Gerold finds him, rides to Ruby Ford and dies.

Relationship between Rhaegar and Aerys

There is no indication that Rhaegar and Aerys had any conversation between the abduction and his return. Furthermore, Aerys did not trust Rhaegar and suspected that Rhaegar was trying to usurp his throne with aid of Lord Tywin Lannister. Rhaegar on the other hand was aware that his father was unhinged and he most likely was in league with Lord Tywin Lannister to become Prince Regent for his father, just as Aerys suspected. It is unlikely that he confided in Aerys.

"Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honourably....and Rhaegar was thick as a brick"

As to why couldn't he send a raven? Did he send a raven? No one knows. I'd not make too much of Rhaegar's wisdom though. Pure speculation, Rhaegar was an idiot when it came to Lyanna.

"All men are knights and all men are fools when it comes to women".

His actions show that he didn't even expect it to blow up that much. He might have expected that if he disappears until things cool down a bit, he might have a chance of explaining himself in front of all the parties concerned.

Rhaegar's personality

He possibly didn't even know that his little stunt had caused a civil war until it was too late. Rhaegar had always been dutiful after all, it's unlike him to knowingly shirk off his duty to his family and the realm. Pure Speculation, I don't think Rhaegar told anyone. He was secretive by nature and his only real friend was Ser Arthur Dayne.

Why not go public?

He knew he had acted foolishly but he also knew the cost of going public; Condemnation and excommunication from the Sept (doubly so if he tried to marry her), Wrath of Houses Martell, Stark and Baratheon. Martells would be dishonoured by him taking Lyanna as a concubine just as Starks would be. Baratheons would be angered since Lyanna was promised to Robert. And if Baratheons and Starks are angry, that means Tullys and Arryns are also angry. Rhaegar could not set aside Elia to appease the Starks or take Lyanna as a concubine/second wife/mistress because:

  1. It would cause Martells to rise up in Rebellion.
  2. Faith doesn't allow a divorce or annulment if the marriage is consummated. High Septon would have been livid.
  3. It would sow seeds of another Dance of the Dragons, this time between Rhaegar's children from Lyanna and his children from Elia.
  4. Wrath of houses Stark, Baratheon, Tully and Arryn.
  • A very detailed answer, thank you very much Aegon. A couple of points. 1) Wasn't it Randyll Tarly who beat Robert at Ashford? 2) Now that you have mentioned Arthur Dayne, Dayne could have easily avoided the bloodshed at the Battle of Tower of Joy, if he simply has revealed Ned the truth! And what if Ned has lost that battle? Could Dayne has taken care of Jon by himself? 3) Martells were ALREADY furious because Rhaegar has abducted another woman while he was married to a Dornish princess. So would it has make any difference? 4) Same goes with the Faith. – evilMinion Jul 23 at 5:04
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    @evilMinion Indeed it was Randyll Tarly who was commanding the Tyrell Royalist army's vanguard. It was still a Tyrell army. As for Dayne, Kingsguards are sworn to protect not just the lives of the Royal family but their secrets as well. They fulfilled the last duty Rhaegar charged them with instead of bending the knee like Selmy and Jaime. Dayne was sworn to serve, if Rhaegar had commanded him to ferry Jon away and raise him up, he'd have done that. But according to them, Rhaegar wanted them to guard the tower. – Aegon Jul 23 at 6:56
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    Martells were furious which is why Prince Doran deliberately delayed sending forth the Dornish armies. Only thing that sped them up was Aerys' blackmailing that he'll kill Elia if they didn't stay loyal. Rhaegar abducting another woman was not a huge insult for Martells as long as Elia remained his legal wife. Rhaegar wouldn't be the first royal to keep a paramour and Dornish culturally don't find keeping paramours offensive. Marrying Lyanna would have been an insult too great to sweep aside. Faith doesn't care for paramours either, you'll be an adulterer, not a heretic - which is tolerable – Aegon Jul 23 at 7:00
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    At Best the faith could bar Rhaegar from taking part in any service at any sept of the realm for adultery and living in sin. That is much much different than trying to break an ironclad covenant of the faith. Lord Arryn loved Robert as much as he loved Ned. Even if Ned was placated with a second marriage, you'll have a rebel alliance of Dorne and Stormlands, very likely Vale as well and remember, Lord Arryn was married to Lysa Tully so Tullys as well. Only the alliances change. Perhaps things could have been fixed had Rhaegar not disappeared but we know that did not happen. – Aegon Jul 23 at 7:05
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    I wasn't aware of the Faith's and Martells' stance towards paramours. Excellent point. – evilMinion Aug 4 at 19:23

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