Welcome to the post in this blog that is about one specific person. The one man who united all of Westeros under his sole rule and shaped the modern day events of the book and show more than any one individual: Aegon I Targaryen more commonly known as Aegon the Conqueror.
Aegon was not a native of Westeros and did not claim to be a descendant of any ethnic group that made up the population of Westeros. He was from the neighboring continent of Essos and, unlike the Andals, he claimed to be one of the last surviving members of one of the continent’s last great superpowers, The Freehold of Valyria. We’ll talk about Valyria and Essos later but for now all we have to know is that Aegon saw that his homeland was dying and there was a large continent to the west that was divided among seven squabbling kingdoms and was ripe for conquering. With his two sister wives, Visenya and Rhaynes, Aegon looked west and headed towards Westeros.
After successfully sailing his army across the sea and making landfall at the spot that would eventually become the city of King’s Landing (the people of Westeros are many things but creative naming is not one of their forte) Aegon would set about the daunting task of subjugating and ruling the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. It would not be easy. Even though the Seven Kingdoms were not united and were fighting among each other they still possessed armies and resources that were vastly superior to his own and Aegon was a foreign king in a strange land who didn’t even speak the language of the people. However, he did have one distinct advantage over everyone else, one that would prove to be so successful and complete that it allowed him to conquer a continent and establish a legacy that would last for thousands of years: dragons.
After the Viking invasion of Britain, and their eventual assimilation into British culture, the cultural hodgepodge that was the British Islands would experience one final invasion that would forever change their culture and way of life: the invasion of William the Conqueror.
Now, while there are several parallels between Aegon and William there are several key differences. First and foremost, Aegon was Valyrian, a group of people who were ethnically and culturally different from the people of Westeros while William was the Duke of Normandy, a kingdom in Northern France that was founded by Viking settlers at the point of a spear. Fun fact: the name “Normandy” literally means “land of the Northmen”
Also, William had loose familial ties to the kings of England, and in fact the reason he invaded was over a dispute over who should hold the title of King of England while Aegon was completely separated from the culture and ruling class of Westeros. He was a foreign invader in every sense of the word.
That being said, there are still many similarities between the two. For example, while the Norman invaders of England did share the same ethnic background they had spent enough time apart to develop their own distinct culture and language. The Normans spoke an early version of French and had developed many ideas that we would later associate with the Medieval Ages. Ideas like chivalry, reverence for the sword as the weapon of choice, and the use of plate and mail armor. However, the biggest similarity is that both Aegon and William had a secret weapon up their sleeve. A weapon that would allow a comparatively small fighting force to conquer a large collection of many different kingdoms under their rule. While Aegon had his dragons William brought a new style of fighting from his home that would prove very effective: armored cavalry.
We’ll talk about how both rulers would use their innovations on Wednesday.