Who is the father of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s sons? House of the Dragon’s biggest scandal, explained

Criston Cole who?

The cast of House of the Dragon.

Blink and you’ll miss him, but the father of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s three sons has been quietly smoldering in our midst since at least Episode 3 of House of the Dragon. Yup, we hate to break it to fans of the Criston-and-Rhaenyra ‘ship, but that ship has long since sailed past the Narrow Sea.

Major spoilers for House of the Dragon ahead.

Who does Rhaenyra Targaryen have children with?

By the time Episode 6 of House of the Dragon begins, a decade-or-so time jump will have transpired after the gruesome aftermath of Rhaenyra Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon’s wedding. While some actors will get switched for aged-up versions of their roles (Milly Alcock for Emma D’Arcy and Theo Nate for John MacMillan, respectively), the actor who plays Princess Rhaenyra’s actual father will remain the same.

If you think Inverse is spoiling this for you first, think again. HBO made the big reveal in the Episode 6 teaser. “A father, compromised by the acts of his son...” a voice states in the clip, showing first Lyonel Strong of Harrenhal (Gavin Spokes), Master of Laws on the small council of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), and then the face of his son, Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr).

In Episode 5 of House of the Dragon, Ser Harwin Strong rushes to save Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen from getting caught up in the deadly brawl that ensued on the dance floor of her wedding reception.


If that isn’t enough of a dead giveaway, we then see Harwin beating up Rhaenyra’s ex, Ser Criston Cole (Fabien Frankel) followed by shots of Rhaenyra’s children. (Notably, none of them have blonde hair, like Rhaenyra and her husband.) Furthermore, we are then shown a scene in which Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) complains that Rhaenyra having not just one but three illegitimate sons is making a mockery of the Iron Throne.

But did Harwin and Rhaenyra also hook up in the original books, or was this couple fashioned for dramatic effect by HBO? According to the A Song of Ice and Fire prequel novellas and novelettes authored by George R.R. Martin, everything is going according to canon.

Harwin Strong and Rhaenyra Targaryen

Ser Harwin Strong, Rhaenyra Targaryen, and their first-born son, Jacaerys Targaryen.


Ser Harwin Strong (aka, Breakbones) arrived at court after his father Lyonel started serving on King Viserys I Targaryen’s small council. Lyonel brings two daughters and two sons to court with him. The daughters become handmaids to Rhaenyra, while his youngest son, Larys (Matthew Needham), joins the Confessors, a group responsible for torturing the king’s prisoners.

Finally, Harwin is made a captain in the Gold Cloaks, the City Watch of King’s Landing. Harwin is nicknamed Breakbones because, well, he’s large and strong. We first see him in Episode 3 when he gazes in awe at Rhaenyra after she waltzes up to her baby brother’s celebratory hunt covered in the blood of a boar she just slaughtered.

Ser Harwin Strong was always taken aback by Rhaenyra’s spirit and beauty.


We get another scene in Episode 4 when Harwin spots Rhaenyra dressed as a peasant boy stumbling out of the infamous brothel “show” she attended with her uncle, Prince Daemon Targaryen. Harwin lets her sneak away back to the Red Keep but promises she won’t get away with it again. Then, in Episode 5, Harwin rushes to Rhaenyra’s aid when he sees the petite princess being thrashed around in the chaotic crowd that broke during Criston’s vicious outburst.

Because of the huge time jump between Episodes 5 and 6, we most likely will not see the love story between Harwin and Rhaenyra unfold, but the HBO series has already deviated from its source material in one major way. In the A Song of Ice and Fire prequel books, it is Harwin that Rhaenyra hops into bed with — not Criston — after she is spurned by Daemon that eventful night in the capital. However, the end result is the same.

Like Laenor Velaryon’s sexuality, it was a “known secret” in the Red Keep that Harwin Strong was the father to Rhaenyra’s three children: Jacaerys, Lucerys, and Joffrey. But this did not stop his own brother, Larys Strong, from threatening to reveal the truth to the general public. It also did not stop Alicent from using this fact to weaken Rhaenyra’s claim to the Iron Throne. Unsurprisingly, Harwin will be of the most out-and-proud members of the Blacks, the faction supporting Rhaenyra’s ascension as queen, and he was her sworn shield for many years.

Is Rhaenyra finally lucky in love? You’ll just have to watch and see for yourselves if tenderness can ever thrive in the Seven Kingdoms.

House of the Dragon airs Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.