house of the dragon wasted no time before provoking the numerous conflicts that plague the Seven Kingdoms. But one of the greatest threats to King Viserys Targaryen’s rule lurks largely in the background.
[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for House of the Dragon and Fire & Blood.]
In the series premiere, we learn that Viserys has a small wound on his back from sitting on the Iron Throne. As the maesters tending to Viserys discover, the cut mysteriously refuses to heal. In fact, it’s spreading. Viserys receives a second cut from the throne in the same episode, which also becomes infected and results in the amputation of two of his fingers.
The reason Viserys’ wounds aren’t healing is more symbolic than something as routine as a bacterial infection. The meaning of being cut from the Iron Throne actually has deep roots in the history of Targaryen and game of Thrones Lore dating back to the creation of the throne.
What does it mean to be circumcised by the Iron Throne?
Visery’s ancestor, Aegon I Targaryen, built the Iron Throne from a thousand broken blades stolen from his enemies. The “ironworks monstrosity” as George RR Martin called it in game of Thrones, was built with intent to cause extreme discomfort. “A king should never sit still,” explained Aegon the Conqueror in the first book, A Song of Ice and Fire.
Aegon’s son Aenys succeeded his father, but was eventually killed by his brother, the usurper Maegor. Six years after Maegor’s notoriously cruel rule, his nephew Jaehaerys Targaryen raised banners against him. After very few Houses came to Maegor’s aid, he decided to spend the night alone on the Iron Throne. The next morning, one of Maegor’s many wives, Elinor, found him dead on the seat, one of the throne’s blades impaled through his neck and his forearms slashed by several other spikes.
There are several theories about Maegor’s death, including that he took his own life or that Elinor murdered him. But many believe that the Iron Throne itself killed Maegor. From this grew the popular superstition that the throne chooses who is worthy of ruling Westeros and that those deemed unworthy are wounded by its blades.
Does everyone who is cut on the Iron Throne die?
No – or at least not as a direct result of her wounds.
Maegor and Viserys aren’t the only two people injured by the Iron Throne. Daenerys Targaryen’s paranoid father, Aerys II Targaryen, was commonly known as The Mad King, but because he cut himself so many times on the Iron Throne, he was also nicknamed the King Scab. However, the Mad King was not found dead on the throne, nor of infection from any of his many lacerations. Rather, his death came at the end of Jaime Lannister’s sword.
So, while cutting through the Iron Throne can symbolize the unworthiness of a king or queen, the Iron Throne is not a supernatural judge, jury, and executioner who eliminates the ruler himself. That being said, anyone sitting on the throne is already at a higher-than-average risk of death. If they sit on the throne and are not a suitable ruler, these chances increase exponentially.
What does it mean that Viserys was cut from the Iron Throne?
Viserys doesn’t need to be cut off the Iron Throne to make it clear that he’s not necessarily a great king. Viserys, ascended in peaceful times, is driven by a desire to please, preferring to avoid problems rather than confront them head-on, such as his denial of the threat posed by the crab eater and the triarchy. When Viserys makes bold decisions—like naming Rhaenyra as his successor or deciding to marry Alicent Hightower—those decisions only sow more resentment against him.
Visery’s first cut from the Iron Throne came at an unknown date, but the timing of his second cut is of particular importance, as it came immediately after his decision to remove Daemon from the line of succession. This verdict is one of the key decisions that ultimately lead to the first civil war in Targaryen. The second cut could be a signal that Viserys’ poor judgment will only lead to ruin – for himself, his family and his kingdom. It could also be just another way to reinforce what Daemon told his brother – that Viserys is a weak king, unable to bear the burden of his own power. Either way, it bodes very badly for the future of Viserys.
For now, Viserys is less concerned with his health than with political machinations and the declining stability of Westeros. However, Viserys has already lost two fingers to his cuts from the Iron Throne. Only time will tell the true price he will pay for his mistakes as king.