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Crowned at four-and-ten by the High Septon with his father’s own crown, he began his reign under the regency of his mother, the Dowager Queen Alyssa, and the guidance of Lord Robar of House Baratheon, Lord Protector of the Realm and Hand of the King in those early years. Once in his majority, the king wed his sister Alysanne, and theirs was a fruitful marriage.
Though young to the throne, Jaehaerys revealed himself from an early age to be a true king. He was a fine warrior, skilled with lance and bow, and a gifted horseman. He was a dragonrider as well, riding upon Vermithor—a great beast of bronze and tan who was the largest of the living dragons after Balerion and Vhagar. Decisive in thought and deed, Jaehaerys was wise beyond his years, always seeking the most peaceable ends.
His queen, Alysanne, was also well loved throughout the realm, being both beautiful and highspirited, as well as charming and keenly intelligent. Some said that she ruled the realm as much as the king did, and there was some truth to that. It was at her behest that King Jaehaerys at last forbade the right of the First Night, despite the many lords who jealously guarded it. And the Night’s Watch came to rename the castle of Snowgate in her honor, dubbing it Queensgate instead. They did this in thanks for the treasure in jewels she gave them to pay for the construction of a new castle, Deep Lake, to replace the huge and ruinously costly Nightfort, and for her role in winning them the New Gift that bolstered their flagging strength.
FROM THE HISTORY OF ARCHMAESTER GYLDAYN
The great tourney held at King’s Landing in 98 AC to celebrate the fiftieth year of King Jaehaerys’s reign surely gladdened the queen’s heart as well, for all her surviving children, grandchildren, and her great-granddaughter returned to share in the feasts and celebrations.
Not since the Doom of Valyria had so many dragons been seen in one place at one time, it was truly said. The final tilt, wherein the Kingsguard knights Ser Ryam Redwyne and Ser Clement Crabb broke thirty lances against each other before King Jaehaerys proclaimed them cochampions, was declared to be the finest display of jousting ever seen in Westeros.
For forty-six years, the Old King and Good Queen Alysanne were wed, and for the most part it was a happy marriage, with children and grandchildren aplenty.
Two estrangements are recorded, but they did not last more than a year or two before the pair resumed their customary friendship. The Second Quarrel, however, is of note, as it was due to Jaehaerys’s decision in 92 AC to pass over his granddaughter Rhaenys—the daughter of his deceased eldest son and heir, Prince Aemon—in favor of bestowing Dragonstone and the place of heir apparent on his next eldest son, Baelon the Brave. Alysanne saw no reason why a man should be favored over a woman … and if Jaehaerys thought women of less use, then he would have no need of her. They reconciled in time, but the Old King outlived his beloved queen, and in his last years it was said that the grief of their parting hung over his court like a pall.
Yet if Alysanne was Jaehaerys’s great love, his greatest friend was Septon Barth. No man of humble birth ever rose so high as the plainspoken but brilliant septon. He was the son of a common blacksmith and had been given to the Faith while young. But his brilliance made itself known, and in time he came to serve in the library at the Red Keep, tending the king’s books and records. There King Jaehaerys became acquainted with him, and soon named him Hand of the King. Many lords of great lineage looked askance at this—and the High Septon and Most Devout were said to be even more concerned over questions of his orthodoxy—but Barth more than proved himself.
With Barth’s aid and advice, King Jaehaerys did more to reform the realm than any other king who lived before or after. Where his grandsire, King Aegon, had left the laws of the Seven Kingdoms to the vagaries of local tradition and custom, Jaehaerys created the first unified code, so that from the North to the Dornish Marches, the realm shared a single rule of law. Great works to improve King’s Landing were also implemented—drains and sewers and wells, especially, for Barth believed that fresh water and the flushing away of offal and waste were important to a city’s health. Furthermore, the Conciliator began the construction of the great network of roads that would one day join King’s Landing to the Reach, the stormlands, the westerlands, the riverlands, and even the North— understanding that to knit together the realm it must be easier to travel among its regions. The kingsroad was the greatest of these roads, reaching hundreds of leagues to Castle Black and the Wall.
The great tourney of 98 AC. (illustration credit 44) Yet some say the most important achievement of the rule of Jaehaerys and Septon Barth was a reconciliation with the Faith. The Poor Fellows and Warrior’s Sons, no longer hunted as they had been in Maegor’s day, were much reduced and officially outlawed thanks to Maegor, but they were still present. And still restless, in their eagerness to restore their orders. More pressingly, the Faith’s traditional right to judge its own had begun to prove troublesome, and many lords complained of unscrupulous septries and septons making free with the wealth and property of their neighbors and those they preached to.
The Great Council of 101 AC. (illustration credit 45)
Some counselors urged the Old King to deal with the remnants of the Faith Militant harshly—to stamp them out once and for all before their zealotry could return the realm to chaos. Others cared more for ensuring that the septons were answerable to the same justice as the rest of the realm. But Jaehaerys instead dispatched Septon Barth to Oldtown, to speak with the High Septon, and there they began to forge a lasting agreement. In return for the last few Stars and Swords putting down their weapons, and for agreeing to accept outside justice, the High Septon received King Jaehaerys’s sworn oath that the Iron Throne would always protect and defend the Faith. In this way, the great schism between crown and Faith was forever healed.
And so the greatest problem of the later years of Jaehaerys’s reign was the fact that there were simply too many Targaryens, and too many possible successors. Ill fate had left Jaehaerys lacking a clear heir not once but twice, following the death of Baelon the Brave in 101 AC. To resolve the matter of his heir once and for all, Jaehaerys called the first Great Council in the year 101 AC, to put the matter before the lords of the realm. And from all corners of the realm the lords came. No castle could hold so many save for Harrenhal, so it was there that they gathered. The lords, great and small, came with their trains of bannermen, knights, squires, grooms, and servants. And behind them came yet more—the camp followers and washerwomen, the hawkers and smiths and carters. Thousands of tents sprang up over the moons, until the castle town of Harrenton was accounted the fourth largest city of the Realm.
At this council, nine lesser claimants were heard and dismissed, leaving only two primary claimants to the throne: Laenor Velaryon, son of Princess Rhaenys—who was the eldest daughter of Jaehaerys’s eldest son, Aemon—and Prince Viserys, eldest son of Baelon the Brave and Princess Alyssa. Each had their merits, for primogeniture favored Laenor, while proximity favored Viserys, who was also the last Targaryen prince to ride Balerion before the dragon’s death in 94 AC. Laenor himself had recently acquired a dragon, a splendid creature that he named Seasmoke. But for many lords of the realm, what mattered most was that the male line take precedence over the female line— not to mention that Viserys was a prince of four-and-twenty while Laenor was just a boy of seven.
But against all this, Laenor had one shining advantage: he was the son of Lord Corlys Velaryon, the Sea Snake, the wealthiest man in the Seven Kingdoms. The Sea Snake was named for Ser Corlys Velaryon, the first Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, but his fame did not come from his skill with sword and lance and shield but for his voyages across the seas of the world, seeking new horizons.
He was a scion of House Velaryon: a family of old and storied Valyrian heritage who had come to Westeros before the Targaryens, as the histories agree, and who often provided the bulk of the royal fleet. So many Velaryons served as lord admiral and master of ships that it was, at times, almost considered a hereditary office.
Lord Corlys traveled widely, both to the south and to the north, and once sought for a rumored passage around the top of Westeros—though he turned back his ship, the Ice Wolf, when he found only frozen seas and giant icebergs. But his greatest voyages were upon the Sea Snake, by which name he would later be known. Many ships of Westeros had sailed as far as Qarth to trade for spices and silk, but he dared to go farther, reaching the fabled lands of Yi Ti and Leng, whose wealth doubled that of House Velaryon in a single voyage.
Nine great voyages were made upon the Sea Snake, and on the last, Corlys filled the ship’s hold with gold and bought twenty more ships at Qarth, loading them with spices, elephants, and the finest silk. Some were lost, and the elephants died at sea, according to Maester Mathis’s The Nine Voyages, but the wealth that remained made House Velaryon the richest in the realm—richer even than the Lannisters and Hightowers, for a time.
Corlys Velaryon became a lord after his grandsire’s death and used his wealth to raise a new seat, High Tide, to replace the damp, cramped castle Driftmark and house the ancient Driftwood Throne— the high seat of the Velaryons, which legend claims was given to them by the Merling King to conclude a pact. So much trade came to flow to and from Driftmark that the towns of Hull and Spicetown sprang up, becoming the chief ports of trade in Blackwater Bay for a time, surpassing even King’s Landing.
In the eyes of many, the Great Council of 101 AC thereby established an iron precedent on matters of succession: regardless of seniority, the Iron Throne of Westeros could not pass to a woman, nor through a woman to her male descendents.
His fame, his reputation, and his wealth did much to support his son Laenor’s claim. Boremund Baratheon also supported Laenor’s claim, as did Lord Ellard Stark. So, too, did Lord Blackwood, Lord Bar Emmon, and Lord Celtigar. But they were too few. The tide was against them, and though the maesters who counted the results never gave numbers, it was rumored that the Great Council had voted twenty to one in favor of Prince Viserys. The king, not present for final deliberations, named Viserys the Prince of Dragonstone.
In his last years, King Jaehaerys named Ser Otto Hightower as his Hand, and Ser Otto brought his family to King’s Landing with him. Among them was young Alicent—a clever girl of fifteen years, who became Jaehaerys’s companion in his age. She read to him, fetched his meals, and even helped to bathe and dress him. It is said that, at times, the king thought her to be one of his own daughters.
Unkinder rumors claimed that she was his lover.
King Jaehaerys, the First of His Name—known as the Conciliator, and the Old King (being the only Targaryen ruler who lived to such an advanced age)—died peacefully in his bed in 103 AC, while Lady Alicent read to him from his friend Barth’s Unnatural History. He was nine-and-sixty at his death, and had ruled wisely and well for five-and-fifty years. Westeros mourned, and it was claimed that even in Dorne men wept and women tore their garments in lament for a king who had been so just and good. His ashes were interred with that of his beloved, the Good Queen Alysanne, beneath the Red Keep. And the realm never saw their like again.
King Jaehaerys I and Good Queen Alysanne with their son, Prince Aemon. (illustration credit 46) The children of Jaehaerys I, the Conciliator, and Good Queen Alysanne, who lived to adulthood
PRINCE AEMONKilled in battle against Myrish pirates who had seized the eastern side of Tarth.
PRINCE BAELON (called the Spring Prince for the season of his birth, and Baelon the Brave) When Septon Barth passed away in his sleep in 99 AC, the famed Kingsguard knight Ser Ryam Redwyne was made Hand. But his valor and prowess with sword and lance proved to not be matched by his ability to rule. Baelon followed him as Hand less than a year after, and served admirably. But while hunting in 101 AC, Prince Baelon complained of a stitch in his side, and died within days of a burst belly.
† In her grief, Queen Alysanne followed her to the grave less than a year afterward.
V ISERYS I AFTER THE LONG and peaceful reign of Jaehaerys I, Viserys inherited a secure throne, a full treasury, and a legacy of goodwill that his grandfather had cultivated over fifty years. House Targaryen was never again so powerful as it was in Viserys’s reign. More princes and princesses of the blood existed than at any other time since the Doom, and there were never so many dragons at one time as there were in the years 103 AC to 129 AC.
King Viserys I upon the Iron Throne. (illustration credit 47)
But the great upheaval of the Dance of the Dragons had its roots in Viserys’s reign, and it was chiefly due to the blood royals. In the early part of his reign, Viserys I’s chief annoyance was his own brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen. Daemon was mercurial and quick to take offense, but he was dashing, daring, and dangerous. He was knighted at six-and-ten, like Maegor I, and Jaehaerys I himself gave Daemon the Valyrian steel blade Dark Sister for his prowess. He had been among the brashest of Viserys’s supporters prior to the Great Council and had even gathered a small army of sworn swords and men-at-arms when rumors claimed that Corlys Velaryon was readying a fleet to defend the rights of his son, Laenor. King Jaehaerys avoided bloodshed, but many remembered that Daemon had been ready to come to blows over the matter.
FROM THE HISTORY OF ARCHMAESTER GYLDAYN