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When does King Viserys die? House of the Dragon could change book canon

Could the HBO's Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon, change King Viserys I Targaryen fate?

In Episode 1 of House of the Dragon, we meet King Viserys, the fifth Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne in King’s Landing. As portrayed by Paddy Considine, the fair-haired Viserys may not be the most strong-willed or macho-man leader to hang out The Red Keep, but he is amiable, level-headed, and — most of all — fiercely loyal to his daughter, Princess Rhaenyra.

As Protector of the Realm and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Viserys has the good fortune of a full treasury, a legacy of goodwill within Westerosi territory and beyond, peace among allies, and relative stability. Will it be enough? Spoilers for Episode 1 of House of the Dragon ahead.

“When this great winter comes, Rhaenyra, all of Westeros must stand against it. And if the world of men is to survive, a Targaryen must be seated on the Iron Throne, a king or queen strong enough to unite the realm against the cold and the dark. Aegon called his dream the song of ice and fire...” HBO

Viserys’ emotions often cloud his judgement, contributing to the death of his first wife and their baby son; his age-inappropriate bond with Alicent Hightower; weak boundaries with his brother Daemon; and his decision to name his first-born child Rhaenyra as his successor. But, all things considered, Viserys is not a bad man.

Unfortunately, for Viserys and for the people who have genuine love for him, the ruler is suffering from some sort of gangrenous, ulcerous skin disease that appears to be giving him flulike symptoms.

We already know that the first season of House of the Dragon focuses on the Dance of the Dragons, a merciless civil conflict that will ensue between Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Prince Aegon II Targaryen, both of whom will claim they are the rightful inheritors of the Iron Throne. The aftermath of the Dance leads to the decline of the Targaryen dynasty, and to the dwindling population of their dragons. The savage skirmish is triggered by the death of King Viserys I Targaryen, which will set in motion a timeline of events that are likely be the most critical to HOTD Season 1’s overall plot. So, when and how does their Viserys die?

How does King Viserys I Targaryen die?

In the George R.R. Martin-penned A Song of Ice and Fire prequel novellas and novelettes, Viserys is said to have been born in 77 AC in King’s Landing. His reign, which is better documented, lasts from 103 to 129 AC.

In the last decade-or-so of his reign, Viserys’ small council consists of the Hand of the King, Otto Hightower (father to Alicent); Lord Larys Strong as Master of Whisperers; Ser Tyland Lannister as Master of Ships; Lord Jasper Wylde as Master of Laws; and Ser Criston Cole as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. While Viserys is a well-intentioned ruler, we learn in Martin’s stories that he is surrounded by malicious men until the end of his time on the Iron Throne. His only trustworthy and informed ally was his daughter, Rhaenyra.

Unlike the show, which seems to be setting up a more painful death for Viserys, in literature he dies during a nap in the Red Keep. At 52-years-old, Viserys was elderly for a Targaryen (who often did not reach late-adulthood due to a slew of issues related to heavy inbreeding within their family House).

As in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire original series and its additions, King Viserys I Targaryen is seen on House of the Dragon enjoying a celebratory tournament. Throwing lavish tourneys were one of Viserys’ favorite ways to spoil himself and his court. HBO

Queen Alicent Hightower conceals Viserys’ death from the public and summons the small council to discuss the accession of their son, Aegon II Targaryen. This act ignores the wishes of her late husband, who wanted Rhaenyra to assume the Iron Throne after his death. As the small council negotiates the messy political situation, Alicent forbids anyone from treating Viserys’ body, which causes it to rot grotesquely. Eventually, his passing has to be revealed to the public, and his body is burnt via dragon breath in a traditional Targaryen funeral rite.

Meanwhile, at Dragonstone, Rhaenyra hears about her father’s demise, and refuses to recognize her half-brother Aegon’s claim to the title of King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Back at King’s Landing, “Aegon the Elder” and his mother Alicent have accrued a faction of supporters known as the Greens. Rhaenyra, on the other hand, has her own legion of believers who want Viserys’ will to be respected.

While we have no idea how House of the Dragon will adapt its source material for the screen, we do know one thing for sure: Viserys’ death, whenever and however it happens, will lead to ferocious sibling rivalry.

House of the Dragon airs Sunday nights on HBO.

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