Warning: This list contains spoilers for House of the Dragon from the Fire and Blood books.HBO’s House of the Dragon is a love letter to the Targaryens. Unlike Game of Thrones, where the dynasty was only the stuff of legends, save for the now-iconic but infamous Daenerys, House of the Dragon displays the Targaryens at the height of their power and influence.
Despite sitting on the Iron Throne for 300 years, not every Targaryen was fit to rule over the Seven Kingdoms. Indeed, while some were undoubtedly effective kings, others were outright embarrassing, confirming that having a famous last name is no qualification for being a good ruler.
10 Viserys III Targaryen
Viserys Targaryen was cruel and stupid, the worst possible combination. A man-child who believed himself better simply because he had the “blood of the dragon,” Viserys was reckless, impulsive, and self-deluded. He lacked any wit or strategic mindset, and his claim to the Iron Throne rested squarely on his famous last name.
His stupidity eventually killed him, proving how ridiculously unprepared he was to handle the court intrigue of King’s Landing. Indeed, Viserys would have been a terrible ruler, just as bad as his father, the Mad King, or perhaps even worse. However, it’s more likely that Viserys would’ve failed in his quest to retake Westeros.
9 Aerys II Targaryen
The Targaryens can be everything from deeply heroic to unbelievably villainous; Aerys II was the latter. Known far and wide as the Mad King, Aerys started his reign as a capable king, mainly thanks to Tywin Lannister’s considerable abilities as Hand of the King. Still, even if Aerys didn’t do much, he was smart enough to rely on those better suited for ruling without standing in their way.
The latter part of his reign was terrible. Aerys became dangerously unstable and paranoid, believing everyone was against him. He exercised his power in the cruelest ways, often burning men alive and empowering the pyromancers of King’s Landing, allowing them to stash wildfire caches throughout the city. Aerys was the last Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne, and with good reason.
8 Daemon Targaryen
Otto Hightower believed Daemon Targaryen could be a second Maegor the Cruel if he ever got to sit on the Iron Throne. Indeed, Daemon was cruel and cold, caring for very little outside his selfish interests. Daemon was willing to lie and kill to get his way, sacrificing everything and everyone that stood between him and his goal.
A good Westerosi king needs to be ruthless, but not on every occasion and not without cause. Daemon wasn’t stupid, but he was egotistical, believing himself superior because of his great skill in battle. Selfish people rarely make good rulers; had Daemon become king, he would’ve always favored his wishes over the greater good of the realm.
7 Viserys I Targaryen
Viserys I is a capable but ultimately weak king. He is understanding and level-headed, opting to think first and act second, if at all. Viserys maintained the peace and prosperity that his predecessor, Jaehaerys, the Wise, achieved but never did anything to strengthen the realm.
Indeed, Viserys’ fatal flaw was a chronic rejection of conflict. He disliked it so much that he went out of his way to avoid it, even if it meant sacrificing some of his pride and reputation. Viserys allowed everyone from his brother to his Small Council to slight him, accepting it to avoid further trouble. And while there is some value in taking the high road, his overly patient attitude made him and his legacy vulnerable in the cruel world of Westeros.
6 Rhaegar Targaryen
Many considered Rhaegar Targaryen the prototype of what a king should be. He was kind, caring, honest, and reliable but powerful, authoritative, and brave. Rhaegar was also a great warrior, capable of inspiring his armies while inspiring devotion from his banners and admiration from the smallfolk. Indeed, Rhaegar could’ve restored the Targaryen dynasty to greatness if only he had been less stubborn.
The idea of a prophecy is important in Game of Thrones, but many characters warn against taking them too literally. Rhaegar’s fatal flaw was his overwhelming obsession with prophecy, which led him to commit several miscalculations and mistakes — including his relationship with Lyanna Stark — that ultimately cost the Targaryens the Iron Throne.
5 Rhaenyra Targaryen
House of the Dragon is all about Rhaenyra Targaryen. Clever, insightful, and determined, Rhaenyra has many qualities that a good queen should have. She is a Dragonrider and naturally astute, showing remarkable ease in manipulating others into doing what she wants, thanks to a mix of charm and authority.
However, Rhaenyra is mostly a passive character in Fire & Blood. Although she is wise enough to listen to her Black Council in matters of war, she is also overly emotional. Her grief over losing her son leads her to seek retaliation, thus provoking the Blood and Cheese incident that arguably costs her the war. Her inability to earn the fealty of King’s Landing’s smallfolk was also a fatal blow to her claim.
4 Daenerys Targaryen
The Mother of Dragons is one of the most iconic characters in modern television. Dany was ruthless with her enemies but showed remarkable empathy for the dispossessed and oppressed. She was kind and willing to show mercy, and her dragons immediately made her one of the most powerful individuals in the known world.
Still, Dany was a conqueror more than a politician. The best Daenerys episodes in Game of Thrones showed she had a unique gift to inspire others, but her lack of experience in ruling always got the best of her. Tyrion was also an objectively terrible Hand, which didn’t help her cause. Indeed, had Daenerys had a more effective Hand, things might’ve gone better for her.
3 Rhaenys Targaryen
The Queen Who Never Was is among the most intriguing figures in House of the Dragon. Rhaenys lost the Iron Throne to her cousin, Viserys, but she might’ve been the best choice to rule over Westeros. The books and, to a lesser extent, the show prove that Rhaenys was capable, intelligent, and resourceful. She was polite when necessary but decisive and unafraid to stand her ground and speak her mind. Her husband, Corlys, would’ve probably been her Hand, and the two would’ve made an infallible pair.
Rhaenys was also a warrior and a Dragonrider, making her the ideal Targaryen to sit on the Iron Throne. Alas, fate wasn’t on her side, and she never got the chance to show her considerable political abilities.
2 Jon Snow
Many people say that the best leaders are the ones that don’t want power, and Jon Snow might be the perfect example. Jon had responsibility thrust upon him, and he did his best to handle the pressure. He proved himself honorable but decisive, willing to do what was necessary but still staying true to his honor as a Stark and displaying compassion, even for his enemies.
Jon would’ve needed considerable council, but he was wise enough to accept help from others. He also didn’t enjoy unnecessary adulation, meaning his Small Council would’ve been comprised of individuals with actual merit. Fans will see Jon Snow again in the recently-announced spin-off, so maybe they’ll see him as a King Beyond the Wall kind of figure.
Brynden Rivers is the best Targaryen politician by far. One of Aegon, the Unworthy’s Great Bastards, Brynden was Hand of the King for 20 years. He brought peace and stability to the realm thanks to a mix of cunning, strategy, and old-fashioned ruthlessness.
Bloodraven had an unfair advantage, thanks to his greenseer abilities, allowing him to be everywhere and see everything. Still, it was his mind that made him an excellent politician. Bloodraven was also a capable warrior, demonstrating all the qualities a king should have if they wanted to thrive on the Iron Throne. His shadow still looms large over the realm, and his influence is behind many of the saga’s main events.