House of the Dragon Season 1 spent the first half of the season covering the early years of Viserys’ reign, from his being named heir in 101 AC to the marriage of his daughter and heir, Rhaenyra, to Ser Laenor Velaryon, in 119 AC. Episode 6, which begins the second half of the season, jumps 10 years to 129 AC and the birth of Rhaenyra’s third child, who looks nothing like her husband (same with the first two kids). So, why didn’t Rhaenyra and Laenor have biological kids together? It’s a puzzle.
Warning: Spoilers for House of the Dragon Season 1, Episode 6 follow. Even before House of the Dragon debuted, anyone who read Fire and Blood knew the legitimacy of Rhaenyra’s kids was up for debate. Laenor likes men; before their wedding, he and Rhaenyra made a pact to have their own lives in the bedroom. It seemed like everyone was on the same page, save Criston Cole, Rhaenyra’s then-lover. He refused to be the would-be queen’s paramour and murdered Laenor’s boyfriend, Joffrey, for no reason other than Joffrey trying to be friends who sleep with each half of a married couple.
But a decade into their marriage, Rhaenyra has not bothered with the “heir and spare” part of the marriage contract. There are three children, but to say they don’t look like Laenor is an understatement. It’s not just that the kids are white with black hair, while Laenor is Black with platinum hair. It’s that the biological father of the kids, the head of the City Watch, is literally hanging out in Rhaenyra’s bedroom, taking the kids from Laenor and openly parenting them.
Alicent isn’t wrong to think it’s ludicrous that everyone just goes along with this. Rhaenyra isn’t really trying to hide it, despite acting like a martyr when her children’s parentage is questioned. But wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if Rhaenyra and Laenor at least tried to have a biological child together?
Rhaenyra knew her position as Viserys’ heir was precarious; she spent her teen years waiting for her claim to the throne to be challenged. She knew sleeping around has consequences for women that it doesn’t for men; it’s how she ended up engaged to Laenor. She also knew the engagement was strategic — a grandson tied Lord Corlys to her tightly. It makes no sense for Rhaenyra to throw that away. And even if Laenor was unable to sire children, Rhaenyra could have picked to have kids with a guy who at least looked like Laenor, so that people would believe the kids were his.
Rhaenyra’s decision to flout convention is puzzling, a foolish miscalculation that undermines her in multiple ways. It opens her to lose the protection of House Valeryon; it gives Alicent a solid argument against her rule since her heirs are bastards. Most of all, it shows how questionable her judgment is; her children are living proof of her selfish decisions, suggesting she may not be fit to run Westeros. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.
House of the Dragon Season 1 continues with new episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.