In House of the Dragon, it was revealed that King Viserys Targaryen has a skin disease that "refuses to heal." I'm wondering if it's one of the fictional diseases in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, or if it's a real-life disease.

Related dialogue:

Viserys: Is it healing?
Grand Maester Mellos: It has grown slightly, Your Grace.
Viserys: Can you say yet what it is?
Young maester: We've sent inquiries to the Citadel. They are searching the texts for similar cases.
Viserys: It's a small cut from sitting the throne. It's nothing.
Mellos: The King has been under heavy stresses preparing for the birth. Bad humors of the mind can adversely affect the body.
Otto Hightower: Whatever it is, it needs to be kept quiet.
Mellos: We should leech it again, maester.
Young maester: It's a wound that refuses to heal, Grand Maester. Might I suggest cauterization?
Mellos: Cauterization would be a wise course of treatment, Your Grace.

- House of the Dragon S01E01 "The Heirs of the Dragon"

Viserys' wound looks like a skin ulcer. Viserys would later get another cut, on his finger, from the iron throne. In episode 2, the maesters attempt to treat the wound with maggots.

Grand Maester Mellos: This is our best chance to save the digit, Your Grace. The maggots will remove the dead flesh and hopefully stop the advance of the rot.

- House of the Dragon S01E02 "The Rogue Prince"
Normally, cuts should heal over time and not grow, without the need for cauterization or having maggots eat the dead flesh. It seems that Viserys has a serious disease aggravating his wounds. What is the nature of King Viserys Targaryen's skin disease?

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    Apart from TLC's excellent answer, re the 'it needs to be kept quiet' bit -> that seems to be a nod to the myth prevalent in the 7 Kingdoms that if the King gets cut on the Iron Throne, it means the throne has rejected him and he is not fit to sit it.
    – Aegon
    Sep 2, 2022 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


To further this up now the season is over it would seem that Paddy Considine has answered this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. In his mind Viserys had leprosy and that was what was causing his deterioration and illness.

The weight of the crown is eating away at him, as symbolized in the festering cut Viserys received from sitting the Iron Throne. By episode 3, the king had lost two fingers. That deterioration continues in episode 4 and will continue moving forward. "He's actually suffering from a form of leprosy," Considine says. "His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He's still a young man in there. He's just, unfortunately, got this thing that's taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally."

Entertainment Weekly, Brothers in arms: Matt Smith and Paddy Considine unpack their 'complicated' arc on House of the Dragon

I will reiterate though, as I do below, that this would appear to mostly be a creation for the TV show and that in the books he weakens more quickly from a few wounds rather than from a disease and several wounds.

This would appear to be a slightly different retelling of the story from the books. In the show they seem to be putting emphasis on multiple cuts from the Iron Throne slowly weakening Viserys over time. The wounds shown all seem to come from cutting himself on the Iron Throne and they're just not healing all too well.

In the books all we see is one cut to his hand, but it is pretty bad:

Yet as he was descending, His Grace stumbled and reached out to right himself, and sliced his left hand open to the bone on a jagged blade protruding from the throne. Though Grand Maester Mellos washed the cut out with boiled wine and bound up the hand with strips of linen soaked in healing ointments, fever soon followed, and many feared the king might die. Only the arrival of Princess Rhaenyra from Dragonstone turned the tide, for with her came her own healer, Maester Gerardys, who acted swiftly to remove two fingers from His Grace’s hand to save his life.


King Viserys did seem to recover some of his old vigor once the new Grand Maester arrived at court. Septon Eustace tells us that this was the result of prayer, but most believed that Orwyle’s potions and tinctures were more efficacious than the leechings Mellos had preferred. But such recoveries proved short-lived, and gout, chest pains, and shortness of breath continued to trouble the king.

Fire and Blood, "Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession"

This serves two main plot purposes moving forward:

  1. It weakens Viserys for his slightly later demise because he never really fully recovers from the wound.
  2. It keeps driving the wedge further between Rhaenyra and Alicent.

Essentially if the show continues this line of thought and stays mostly faithful to Fire and Blood the nature of the wounds are exactly what we think they are: just stubborn cuts from the Iron Throne.

To add onto this though from episode 5 we see an illness on Viserys that doesn't appear to be exactly the same as those from the throne wounds. Some have speculated that it is greyscale but that is pretty well known in the Seven Kingdoms and surely the Maesters would not be touching it directly or using leeching to try and heal those wounds. The show itself doesn't really do much here to explain what it is, however, Paddy Considine, the actor for the king, has stated it would appear to be a form of leprosy.

He's actually suffering from a form of leprosy. His body is deteriorating, his bones are deteriorating. He is not actually old. He's still a young man in there. He's just, unfortunately, got this thing that's taken over his body. It becomes a metaphor for being king, and the stress and strain that it puts on you, and what it does to you physically, what it does to you mentally.

Screen Rant, House Of The Dragon Star Reveals What Disease King Viserys Has

  • Oh man, and here I was thinking it was supposed to be greyscale... (In my defense, I have yet to read the books lol or see episode 2, that is the plan for after work today xD).
    – Daevin
    Sep 2, 2022 at 16:23
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    This answer is not outdated, is it not? It looks a lot like grayscale in episode 5. His whole arm is covered in a gray crust...
    – Andres F.
    Sep 21, 2022 at 23:36
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    @AndresF. Was thinking the same. Looks like he has a real disease and not only some cuts. But LethalCarrot's answer is IMO still relevant concerning the book (which I have not yet read) if there is no other disease mentioned. They might've decided for something more visible in the series.
    – Shade
    Sep 22, 2022 at 15:13
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    @AndresF. It's certainly not greyscale. The Maesters would not be touching him so freely, and not treating him like they did and he would likely have been quarantined; king or no. It also didn't really look like greyscale to me or affect him the same way it affects others we've seen with it. Greyscale is also highly contagious and we did not see that in this case either.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 25, 2022 at 15:24
  • @TheLethalCarrot yes, agreed it wasn't greyscale after all.
    – Andres F.
    Nov 2, 2022 at 5:27

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