Aerys II Targaryen

In the latter years of his reign, King Aerys II Targaryen’s cruelty advanced as he tormented his pregnant wife, Queen Rhaella Targaryen.

The Definitive Glossary for Game of Thrones

Aerys II Targaryen was the King of the Seven Kingdoms and the last member of House Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne before the ascension of the Baratheons. After giving into madness, he became a terrible and cruel King who would kill anyone that opposed him due to paranoia. Because of his insanity, King Aerys Targaryen sparked a conflict that led to his dethronement and the ascension of Lord Robert Baratheon onto the Iron Throne. He got paranoid and mistrusted everyone around him due to his arrest during the Defiance of Duskendale. As the rebellion against the Iron Throne heightened, he sent his son Viserys Targaryen and his pregnant wife to Dragonstone.

Personal Details

  • Name: Aerys Targaryen, Second of His Name.
  • Year of Birth: 244 AC at King’s Landing.
  • Year of Death: 283 AC at the Red Keep.
  • Aliases: The Mad King, Mad Aerys, King Scab.
  • Family: House Targaryen.
  • Hair Color: Blond.
  • Eye Color: Purple.


  • Titles: Ser, Prince of Dragonstone, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm.
  • Year of Reign: 262 – 283 AC
  • Predecessor: King Jaehaerys II Targaryen.
  • Heirs: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, Prince Viserys Targaryen.
  • Successor: Robert I Baratheon.


  • Queen: Rhaella Targaryen
  • Parents: King Jaehaerys II Targaryen and Shaera Targaryen.
  • Sister: Rhaella Targaryen.
  • Children: Rhaegar Targaryen, Shaena Targaryen, Daeron Targaryen, Aegon Targaryen, Jaehaerys Targaryen, Viserys Targaryen, Daenerys Targaryen.

Appearance and Personality

In his early years, Aerys Targaryen was an attractive man with silverish-golden hair and purple eyes. He liked music, dancing, and women and was ambitious. He loved flattery and was not as intelligent as the people around him. Though comely, he gave in to anger and would have bursts of rage. Aerys got worse with time and started getting mood swings becoming a sadistic man. After his captivity by Lord Denys Darklyn of Duskendale, his paranoia increased, and his good looks vanished. Aerys refused to wash or trim his hair and nails, leading to a hideous-looking man with matted hair, tangled beards, and yellow foot-long nails. 

Though he allegedly had many mistresses, Aerys renounced them all after the death of his newborn son in 274 AC. With his insanity worsening, the once calm Aerys, who would comfort his wife and sister Rhaella, became terrible. He sexually assaulted and mocked her, blaming her for the deaths of their children. To him, she had miscarriages because she slept with other men, and the god would not allow a bastard to sit on the Iron Throne.

The King also grew obsessed with hatching dragon eggs believing he had special powers. When hatching eggs seemed futile, he turned to wildfire and got obsessed with it. His addiction to fire grew so terrible that he could only get sexually aroused when a person got burned in his presence.


Early Life

Aerys was born in King’s Landing to Prince Jaehaerys Targaryen, King Aegon V’s son. As a teenager, he got married to his sister Rhaella against the wishes of his grandfather Aegon, who did not like the incestuous traditions of House Targaryen. As Jaehaerys had believed his son was the Prince Promised, he wed his children together even though they were not fond of each other, according to Ser Barristan Selmy of the Kingsguard.

Aerys became friends with Tywin Lannister while he served as a page and squire at the royal court. He also befriended his cousin, Steffon Baratheon, the heir of Storm’s End, and developed a brotherly bond with them. In 259 AC, Rhaella gave birth to Prince Rhaegar, and after the tragedy of Summerhall that led to Aegon V’s death, Aerys’s father became King. During the War of the Ninepenny Kings, Aerys served as a squire and fought in the Stepstones. He became a knight at sixteen with his dearest friends. After Jaehaerys died from an illness, he got crowned King.

Early Reign

On becoming King, Aerys replaced the older man on the small council with more ambitious younger men. He made Tywin Lannister the Hand of the King. At the start of his reign, he got involved in the kingdom’s governance. He proposed many great ideas for Westeros, including invading the Stepstones and Braavos, rejuvenating the deserts of Dorne, expanding the Wall, and building a new capital made from white marble to replace the smelling King’s Landing. Though his ideas were great, he quickly lost interest in them. However, with Tywin as the Hand of the King, the Seven Kingdoms immensely prospered. 

After having a dispute with the Iron Bank, Tywin, the Lord of Casterly Rock, used his wealth to repay the debts of the crown, and with his political intelligence, he boosted trade, built infrastructure, reduced crime, and heightened revenue for the throne, leading to a rumor that he was the true King of Westeros, making Aerys jealous.

As time passed, the King and Tywin grew apart, and things got worse when the Lord of Casterly Rock married Lady Joanna Lannister. At the wedding feast, Aerys joked about being sad that the lord’s right to the first night got abolished. After her marriage, Queen Rhaella dismissed Lady Joanna from her company.

The King’s relationship with his wife got strained by many affairs. Their relationship got worse because of the miscarriages Rhaella had. She gave birth to a stillborn, Shaena, and though her son Daeron lived, he died six months later. Aegon lived for a year before dying. By 270 AC, the compassion Aerys had for his wife faded, and he started blaming her for the miscarriages stating she was sleeping around and the gods would not let a bastard sit on the throne.

With the wedge between Aerys and Tywin, the King started going against his friend. He did the opposite of everything the Hand of the King suggested, including supporting the Volantenes against the Free Cities Myr and Tyrosh and crippling trade in the Seven Kingdoms. When merchants protested against his idea, Aerys blamed Lord Tywin Lannister. He also replaced the men at the offices of the royal court with those he preferred. When Ser Ilyn Payne got heard mocking the King, his tongue got cut off with hot pincers.

After Joanna’s death, Tywin heard rumors of Aerys remarking her son Tyrion Lannister was born as a way for the gods to teach Tywin humility. Though his madness increased, Aerys became calm when his son Jaehaerys was born. However, he lost his sense when the boy died and killed the boy’s wetnurse and her entire family.

After her death, Aerys fasted and made a walk of repentance across King’s Landing. He promised to remain faithful to his wife, and in 276 AC, Viserys was born. With his son’s birth, the King’s paranoia increased as he tasked a taster to check the milk from the boy’s wetnurse. When Tywin proposed that his daughter Cersei Lannister, marry Viserys or Rhaegar, the King insulted him.

The Defiance of Duskendale

When Lord Denys Darklyn of House Darklyn tried to win a charter enabling Duskendale to get autonomy from King’s Landing, Lord Tywin rejected the proposal. On learning of the relationship between the King and his adviser, Lord Darklyn invited the King over.

To show his independence from Tywin, the King informed Grand Maester Pycelle and the small council of his decision to travel to the city. However, he got arrested, and his escorts got killed. The King got held prisoner for six months before Ser Barristan traveled to the castle and saved him. After the Defiance, Lord Darklyn got beheaded, and Houses Darklyn and Hollard got wiped out.

After the Defiance, Aerys grew crazier and believed his son, Rhaegar and Tywin conspired to kill him. He sent for Varys and made him the master of whisperers. When Rhaegar married Princess Elia Martell, the King refused to attend their wedding feast. With time, he grew fond of wildfire and got aroused by it. On arousal, he would rape his wife.

When Aerys agreed for Jaime Lannister to become a member of the Kingsguard, Tywin Lannister got furious and resigned as the Hand of the King. With the Lord of Casterly Rock gone, Aerys turned to his son Rhaegar. As tensions grew between the crown prince and his father, the fear of civil war thrived throughout the royal court.

The Tourney at Harrenhal

Though Rhaegar showed great promise, the Tourney at Harrenhal changed everything. After winning the event, Prince Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark his Queen of Love and Beauty, and a year later, he vanished with her. On learning of his sister’s alleged kidnap, Brandon Stark traveled to the Red Keep and demanded the prince come out and die. However, he got arrested on charges of conspiracy. 

When Lord Rickard Stark demanded a trial by combat for his son, Aerys chose fire as his champion, and the lord got burnt alive while Brandon watched, and the heir to Winterfell got killed after. After their deaths, King Aerys ordered Lord Jon Arryn to deliver Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon’s heads. However, he refused, and Robert’s Rebellion began.

Robert’s Rebellion

As the rebellion against the Iron Throne increased, Aerys replaced the Hand of the King, Lord Owen Merryweather, with Lord Jon Connington. When Jon failed at the Battle of the Bells, he got banished. Realizing the rebellion was worse than he anticipated, Aerys began plotting to destroy King’s Landing with wildfire. 

After Robert killed Rhaegar in the Battle of the Trident, Tywin Lannister matched on King’s Landing, and Maester Pycelle convinced the King to open the gates. When he agreed, the Lannister forces sacked the city. During the sack, Aerys called Jaime and Lord Rossart and ordered the knight to kill his father. The King also told Lord Rossart to ignite the wildfire, but Jaime killed him and proceeded to kill the King.

Relevance in Adaptation

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, Aerys got portrayed by Liam Burke and David Rintoul. He was the last King of the Targaryen line to sit on the Iron Throne. Though Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow were of Targaryen descent, they never became the Queen or King as Dany got killed and Jon got banished.

Aerys II Targaryen: The Mad King

Without Aerys, the world of ice and fire would have never happened. He ruined everything the Targaryens worked to achieve. After the Dance of the Dragons, House Targaryen remained in charge, but Aerys’s terrible reign led to their downfall. His madness and paranoia led to decisions that destabilized the Seven Kingdoms. After his death, Westeros never remained the same as the scars of the past lingered.


Will Cersei Lannister become like Aerys?

As she is already showing signs of madness, Cersei Lannister may likely become the next King Aerys. The former King was a sadistic man who enjoyed torturing people by burning them. Cersei Lannister is on the same path because jealousy and paranoia are rapidly growing.

Why did Aerys become mad?

Aerys’s madness only skyrocketed after his imprisonment at Duskendale. His captivity made him see everyone as an enemy out to get him, and when anyone objected to his idea, they automatically became a villain.

Who killed King Aerys?

Jaime Lannister killed Aerys II Targaryen. When King’s Landing got sacked by the Lannister forces, Jaime knew there was no way he could fight them all off and asked the King to permit him to negotiate the safety of those at the Red Keep. However, the King ordered him to kill his father and wanted to give orders to the Pyromancers to destroy the city; this made Jaime take action into his hands.

What happened to Aerys’s children?

Though most of his children were either stillborn or miscarriages, Aerys had three living children who went past childhood. They were Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys. However, Viserys got killed by Khal Drogo in ‘A Game of Thrones,’ and Rhaegar got killed by Robert Baratheon.

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