History and Legends of Game of Thrones: the legacy of the Targaryens

As I mentioned in the previous article Aegon had practically won his War of Conquest after the Field of Fire.  The final great battle that cemented his rule of Westeros occurred when he defeated the Iron Born by roasting their king alive in the great fortress of Harrenhal.

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After such a grisly reminder of the power the Targaryens held the rest of Westeros quickly fell into line and a strange form of peace settled over the land.  Now Aegon would face a much more difficult challenge, consolidating and administering his new conquest.

It is important to note that Aegon was a foreigner in Westeros and he knew it.  As a result he understood that the best way to rule seven massive kingdoms with a comparatively small force was to let them rule themselves.  As long as the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms accepted his rule, such as the famous “King who knelt” Torren Stark, Aegon would allow them to keep their title, lands, and vassals.

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Aegon performed another politically savvy move by adopting the Faith of the Seven, treating the members of the Church well by supporting them and building plenty of Septs (the Faith’s equivalent of modern churches), and building a new capital at the place where his army had originally landed, a place later known as the capital of Westeros, King’s Landing.  He also kept a good portion of the important advisory positions within the family and his most loyal subjects, having several children with his sisters (Targaryen incest was and is well known) and appointing his distant relative Orris Baratheon as the first Hand of the King.  All in all Aegon was a successful and wise king whose policies and precedents set the standard for the next hundred years of Targaryen rule.

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Like Aegon after the Field of Fire, William the Conqueror had the difficult job of consolidating and ruling Britain.  The Norman conquerors were comparatively small in number to the large population of Saxons, Celts, and Danes and they had a distinct culture and language from their new subjects.  They knew they would have a huge challenge ahead of them.

One of William’s first actions after he was crowned King of England was to appoint several of Harold’s former advisers back to their old positions.

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This would not be as successful as William had hoped resulting in a rebellion of English Earls against him, which he crushed with brutal force.  He also gained the favor of the Church in England by replacing most of the previous bishops with Norman clergy and allowing the Church to become a powerful united entity on its own.

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Unlike Aegon, who had built his new kingdom in Westeros almost exclusively, William still maintained and sought to expand his original holdings in France (England was nice since it gave him and his followers royal titles but it was cold, wet, and smelly unlike his much warmer and wealthier French holdings) so most of his time was spent consolidating his holdings in England and in France, which is a topic for another day.  By the time he was finished William’s empire stretched from the northern reaches of Britain to as far South as Paris.

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William was responsible for creating what we know today as the English monarchy.  His policies and precedents would set the standard for the kings and queens of England for the next thousand years and give rise to one of its longest ruling dynasties: the Plantagenet family.

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