Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-5 of House of the Dragon.Although everyone is talking about the gruesome wedding in this week’s episode of House of the Dragon, “We Light The Way” started off on a violent note. After being banished from King’s Landing by his brother, King Viserys I (Paddy Considine), Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith) returns to the Vale. As he ventures home, he meets up with his estranged wife, Rhea Royce (Rachel Redford). Rhea Royce is the Lady of the House Royce and rules over their ancestral kingdom Runestone.
Daemon has admitted that he has no interest in his wife, claiming that she bores him. Daemon attempts to seduce his niece, Rhaenyra Targaryen (Milly Alcock), and proposes to Viserys that they are wed. He insists that Targaryens have married within their bloodline for generations. Either way, Daemon will be taking a new bride; although the scene cuts away before the deed, we can surmise that he murders Rhea and stages the scene of the crime as a hunting accident.
This immediately attracts suspicion, as Rhea and Daemons’ marital difficulties have become common knowledge. Rhea’s cousin, Ser Gerold Royce (Owen Oakeshott), attends Rhaenyra’s wedding to Laenor Velaryon (Theo Nate) in King’s Landing. There, he all but accuses Daemon of murder, making every insinuation that he knows Daemon was involved in Rhea’s death. Daemon callously insults the people of The Vale and simply asks Gerold when he will be given his inheritance. Without heirs, with Rhea’s death, technically Daemon is the heir to Runestone.
Although Rhea doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time in House of the Dragon, her role is fleshed out in George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Blood, and House Royce continues to play a pivotal role in Game of Thrones.
What Was Rhea and Daemon’s Marriage Like?
In the pilot episode, “The Heirs of the Dragon,” Ser Otto Hightower (Rhys Ifans) claims that Rhea is honorable, which draws the ire of Daemon. He was married to Rhea in an arranged marriage – like many of the other titled gentry in Westeros – and it is not one of his choosing. In “We Light The Way,” Rhea appears to be entirely self-dependent. She’s clearly a skilled horseback rider and seasoned hunter and even taunts her husband. Although she seems capable of defending herself, Daemon catches her by surprise. She reaches for her bow, but he startles her horse, causing her to fall and break her neck. Daemon steps on her arm and begins to walk away before she throws a final barb at him, leading him to pick up a rock and turn back toward her.
In Fire & Blood, Rhea takes control of The Vale after she succeeds Lord Yorbert Royce. Like in the show, Rhea and Daemon have no children together, though Daemon does have a child with the “White Worm,” Mysaria (Sonoya Mizuno). Similar to the show, Daemon and Rhea are separated while he is off fighting in the Stepstones. Although the book does not confirm that Daemon killed Rhea, it seems like he might have had something to do with it, given that Rhea was a talented hunter and would not likely have been thrown off her horse. When Deamon goes to Runestone to claim his inheritance, he is turned away by Lady Jeyne Arryn who refuses to give him anything, and banishes him from The Vale. The Vale is then inherited by Rhea’s nephew.
What Is the History of House Royce
Although House Royce rules in The Vale, they are fiercely loyal to their overlord, House Arryn (a family that appears prominently in Game of Thrones). House Arryn rules over The Eyrie. During the conquest of Aegon Targaryen I, House Arryn pledged their loyalty to King’s Landing. They have a close bond with the houses of the north due to their location. Later during A Game of Thrones, they are tied together by marriage.
House Royce is signified by the bronze color of their armor and sigil. The coat of arms they carry is black iron studs on a bronze field with runes bordering the outside. Daemon even notes the significance when he refers to his wife as a “bronze bitch.” The Royces work primarily in bronze and specialize their armor with runes from their homeland. This is an ancient tradition that is meant to protect their soldiers in combat.
In Game of Thrones
House Royce continues their loyalty to the North in Game of Thrones. It’s mentioned that the dynasty’s former leader, Kyle Royce, was executed by “The Mad King” during Robert Baratheon’s (Mark Addy) rebellion. In Season 4, we meet Yohn Royce (Rupert Vansittart), who attends the hearing held by Lord Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen). Yohn suspects that Littlefinger is responsible for the death of Lysa Arryn (Katie Dickie). He later guides Lysa’s son, Robin (Lino Facioli). Yohn’s elder son, Robar, serves as a Kingsguard for Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), but he is killed by Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) shortly after Renly’s demise.
Littlefinger succeeds in courting Robin to his cause. Suspecting Yohn of treason for betraying Littlefinger, Robin nearly throws him to his death. Like the other Northern lords, Yohn swears loyalty to Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) as the new King of the North. The forces of the Vale aid Jon’s army in retaking Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Yohn manages to get his revenge on Littlefinger as he watches as Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) executes him.
The forces of the Vale help John at Winterfell once more during the battle against the White Walkers. Sadly, Yohn’s other son, Waymar (Rob Ostiere), is killed during the battle. After the death of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), both Yohn and Robin cast their votes to elect Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) as the new heir to the Iron Throne.