The most recent episode of House Of The Dragon featured one of the most tense extended sequences we’ve seen on the show so far, and it didn’t involve dragons or a clash of swords on the battlefield. No, it was an event even more terrifying and dangerous in the world of George R.R. Martin’s Song Of Ice And Fire—a wedding. Or in this case, a pre-wedding feast. Between Rhaenyra and Laenor’s secret affairs, their respective paramours not even attempting to hide their jealousy, Daemon being Daemon, Alicent’s fashionably late entrance in battle-call green, and Viserys knocking on death’s door, hardly anyone was comfortable. It all culminated in Ser Criston’s brutal beating of poor Ser Joffrey Lonmouth, who was introduced and killed off in the same episode.
But if you’ve watched Game Of Thrones it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we got, as The A.V. Club once put it, yet another “matrimonial disasterpiece. Whether it’s two people marrying for love against all odds, or an arranged marriage in which feelings are irrelevant, weddings in George R.R. Martin’s world are seldom without consequences. At least, the ones we’ve been witness to in the books and on the shows. Sometimes those consequences are immediate, and other times it takes longer for the misery to arrive.
Either way, there aren’t many love stories with happy endings in Martin’s world. His most practical characters accept that marriage is a political arrangement. Those who are foolish or naive enough to believe in marrying for love are usually disabused of that notion pretty quickly. House Of The Dragon is carrying on that wretched tradition, but who could forget the greatest wedding disasters of the past (or, technically the future)?
As if to set our expectations for the weddings to come, this was the first wedding shown in Game Of Thrones, and one of the most savage. It was the result of an agreement between the Dothraki Khal and Dani’s brother Prince Viserys (not to be confused with his namesake, King Viserys on House Of The Dragon), who sold his sister in exchange for an army, thinking he was actually capable of retaking the Iron Throne. This was one of the rare instances of an arranged marriage actually working out, at least for a little while, despite a very rocky start. The Dothraki’s seemed to be having fun, at least. To quote Illyrio Mopatis, “A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is considered a dull affair.”
This particular wedding, from the Game Of Thrones season four episode “The Lion And The Rose,” is memorable not for its high body count but for the individual who was murdered. While Sansa Stark stood on the sidelines breathing a sigh of relief that she wasn’t the one getting married, King Joffrey Lannister—er, Baratheon—married Margaery Tyrell in an extravagant ceremony followed by a lavish outdoor banquet. The event even featured a pigeon pie so large it had to be carried on a litter by servants and cut with a sword.
We’ll never know how the marriage would have turned out, though, since the groom didn’t even make it through the meal. After drinking from a poisoned cup of wine, he collapsed and turned a shade of purple so memorable that this doomed matrimonial occasion would forever be associated with the color. And, let’s be honest, we weren’t exactly sorry to see the sadistic little tyrant get what he deserved.
This particular wedding massacre from “The Rains Of Castamere” in season three was so shocking it’s become a lasting pop-culture reference that even people who’ve never watched Game Of Thrones will get. In case you need a refresher on the circumstances beyond “a bunch of people were killed at a wedding,” here’s some background.
It actually starts with another wedding, between Robb Stark, King in the North, and Talisa Maegyr (called Jayne Westerline in the books). The two of them marry for love which, as we’ve mentioned, tends to lead to bad things in Westeros. The problem was that Robb was already promised to a daughter of Lord Walder Frey, who did not take the slight well. Attempting to smooth things over, Robb’s uncle Edmure Tully offers to wed her instead. It’s at their infamous wedding that Lord Frey takes his revenge, with the help of the Lannisters, while the band plays a song of Lannister revenge called “The Rains of Castamere.” Robb is killed, along with his wife and unborn child, his mother, and most of his bannermen. But at least the bride and groom survived.
- The wedding between young Tommen Lannister—er, Baratheon—and Margaery was less deadly than her first, but still resulted in tragedy, as it set off a clash between Cersei and the High Sparrow and led to both of their deaths. Margaery would be a casualty of Cersei’s fiery attack on the Great Sept of Baelor, while Tommen was so distraught he later jumped out a window to his death.
- It was long believed that Prince Rhaegar, son of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen II, had kidnapped Lyanna Stark and raped her, leaving her to die alone. That misconception became the premise for an entire war, with Robert Baratheon believing he was avenging her honor. But it was all fake news. Thanks to Bran’s “greensight” we saw the truth of it in “The Dragon And The Wolf”—that they were in love and had a secret wedding. It was also confirmation of the popular fan theory R + L = J (Rhaegar plus Lyanna equals Jon Snow). Perhaps no wedding, for love or not, in the history of Westeros ever caused more destruction and death than this one. But hey, we’ve still got a lot of House Of The Dragon to go.