It is often thought that before Robert’s Rebellion and the conflicts that followed, that Westeros was a land peacefully ruled by the Targaryen line. However, that is simply not true. One of the longest series of conflicts in the Seven Kingdoms was actually a series of wars instigated by strife inside the Targaryen bloodline itself. Though rarely talked about in the show, the conflict is known as “The Blackfyre Rebellions”
The conflict began little over 100 years before the War of the Five Kings. King Aegon IV, also known as the unworthy for several reasons, on his deathbed, legitimized all of his bastards. These bastards, also called Great Bastards, included Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers, Shiera Seastar, Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers, and most importantly Daemon Blackfyre. Daemon took the name Blackfyre (pronounced Black Fire) after he was presented with the sword Blackfyre, the ancestral Valaryen blade of the Targaryen line.
This was an important event, as Aegon IV had a legitimate heir, Daeron. Though Daeron was still considered the heir apparent, the gift of Blackfyre to Daemon caused a great amount of intrigue at court.
Daeron eventually did become King Daeron II, also called ‘the Good”. One of his most well known acts, was the actual joining of Dorne into the Seven Kingdoms. In order to win over the Rhoyar, Daeron betrothed his younger sister Daenerys to Maron Martell, Prince of Dorne. Daemon though was in love with Daenerys and she with him, so he sought to stop the betrothal. Daeron sent the Kingsguard to arrest him, but Daemon escaped with the aid of Ser Quentyn Ball, the master-at-arms of the Red Keep.
It is worth noting that Daeron’s own son, Baelor, advocated for Blackfyre, asking for leniency and a pardon. However his vote was drowned out by his uncle, the Grand Bastard BloodRaven, who had remained loyal to Daeron.
Using this as a pretext, Daemon mustered a large army with Bittersteel, his half brother. Though not joined by any major houses, the bulk of Daemon’s army was made up of minor houses looking to advance their positions.
The main bulk of the known fighting was in the Riverlands. Though the Westerlands were sacked by Ser Quentyn “Fire” ball. There he killed Lord Lefford at the gates of Lannisport and then defeated Lord Damon Lannister in turn. Ser Ball also was present at the battle of the Mander.
The most important event of the rebellion was the Battle of the Redgrass Field. At Redgrass Field, Bittersteel and Blackfyre led their force against a royalist army commanded by Prince Maekar, son of Daeron, and Lord Hayford, the King’s Hand. Ser Ball was killed by an arrow as he drank from a stream. During the battle Blackfyre came face-to-face with Ser Gwayne Corbray of the Kingsguard. Here the two dueled for over an hour, each wielding their own Valyrian blade, Balckfyre and Corbray’s Lady Forlorn. This allowed time for a second royalist force led by Prince Baelor to approach from the south.
During the battle, Bloodraven and his archers, the Raven’s Teeth, captured the Weeping Ridge, Bloodraven personally killed Daemon Blackfyre and his twin sons Aemon and Aegon. Though this should have routed the rebels, Bittersteel rallied them by leading a charge that decimated the Raven’s Teeth, taking out Bloodraven’s eye in the process. In the end, the battle was won by Prince Baelor’s newly won Dornish spearmen smashing the enemies by routing them into Maekar’s units. This became known as “The Hammer and the Anvil”.
With Daemon dead, the Rebellion was over. Bittersteel was able to rescue Daemon’s sword and smuggled it across the narrow sea. Where he founded the Golden Company, a company of sellswords. They became the largest, most famous, and most expensive mercenary company in the Free Cities.
Since this initial rebellion several others have occurred (There have been 5 mentioned). The last attack happened 43 years before the current events. Here, Maelys the Monstruous, head of the Golden Company, joined forces with 8 powerful men in Essos and invaded Westeros at the Stepstones. The Band of Nine conquered the Disputed Lands and Tyrosh, setting up Alequo Adarys, the Goldentongue as its ruler.
Aegon V sent an army that defeated them. This was the last time prior to the War of the Five Kings that the regional warden titles were activated. Maelys the Monstruous was killed in single combat by Ser Barristan Selmy. This accomplishment got Barristan Selmy named to the Kingsguard when the next opening presented itself. This ordeal became known as The War of the Ninepenny Kings.
With Maelys dead the last of the Blackfyre pretenders had been supposedly killed. This forever ended the Blackfyre threat to the throne.
Massive Book Spoilers ahead!
In the latest book “A Dance with Dragons” the reader is introduced to the character of Aegon “Young Griff” Targaryen, the once thought dead son of Rhaegar Targaryen and heir to the Iron Throne. It is oft speculated that Aegon is in fact one of the Blackfyre Pretenders, related to Bittersteel or one of the other Grand Bastards. Most importantly he has the support of the Golden Company, which as we have seen is dedicated to the Backfyre Pretenders.
Read Joe’s other articles:
Game of Thrones: Casting Roundup 1 and 2, Game of Thrones Primer II, Game of Thrones Primer I, Inn at the Crossroads Interview, Season 1 recap, The Greyjoy Rebellion, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.1, Robert’s Rebellion Pt.2, Robert’s Rebellion Pt. 3, The Religions of Westeros, The Races of Westeros, Tyrion and Richard, The Targaryen Curse