Game of Thrones: Who are Jon Snow's parents, Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark? Is Daenerys his aunt?

Jack Shepherd

Throughout the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones, Jon Snow believed himself to be the son of the honourable Ned Stark and an unknown mistress. How wrong the former Night’s Watch leader was.

Jon Snow, played by Kit Harrington, is actually a Targaryen prince and the nephew of Daenerys Targaryen. But how does that work?

Before the events of Game of Thrones, Daenerys’s father Aerys II — better known as The Mad King — was the ruler of Westeros and sat on the Iron Throne.

While Aerys reigned, his son, Rhaegar Targaryen, was married to Elia Martell, sister of Oberyn Martell (the guy whose head was smashed by The Mountain).

Rhaegar, though, was not a faithful man and ended up running off with Ned Stark’s sister, Lyanna, who was betrothed to Robert Baratheon.

After believing that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna, the Baratheon waged war on the Targaryen family and vowed to overthrow the Mad King. This was later called Robert’s Rebellion.

During this time, Ned discovered where Lyanna was located – at a place called “The Tower of Joy” in Dorne. Viewers saw this location during one of Bran Stark’s Three-Eyed Raven flashbacks, when a young Ned fought the Kingsguard and climbed the tower.

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However, when Ned finally got to the top, it was too late – Lyanna was dying, having just given birth to a child. That child was Jon Snow – the son of Rhaegar. Lyanna then told Ned: ”If Robert finds out he’ll kill him. You know he will. You have to protect him. Promise me, Ned.” With that, Lyanna died and Ned agreed to keep Jon’s true identity safe.

Being the son of Rhaegar makes Jon not only a Targaryen, but also the nephew of Daenerys as the Queen of Dragons is the Mad King’s daughter and therefore Rhaegar’s sister.

Although the two are lovers, incest may be the last of their worries. Thanks to another of Bran’s visions, we know Jon actually holds a better claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys.

It was previously believed that Rhaegar had been unfaithful to Elia Martell, capturing Lyanna and enslaving her at the Tower of Joy.

Thanks to Gilly, who was with Samwell as he trained to be a Maester, we discovered that Rhaegar’s marriage was actually annulled and he likely married Lyanna.

“What does annulment mean?” Gilly asked upon reading the pages, to Samwell’s slight annoyance. Gilly then started talking about ‘Prince Raggar’, who married someone else — the name is not given — during a secret Dornish ceremony.

When Samwell heads to Winterfell, he informs Bran of this information. He then travels back to the ceremony, sees that the marriage between Lyanna and Rhaegar was official, and that they wanted to call their son Aegon Targaryen.

There was one major hint that Jon was the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne before Bran’s vision. Many fans had questioned why the Kingsguard protected Lyanna, when they should have been protecting the Mad King’s son, Viserys. Turns out, they were protecting the next true heir to the throne, Lyanna and Rhaegar’s child (Rhaegar being older than Viserys made him the heir, and then that passed down to his son rather than his brother).

How exactly this will pan out during season eight is anyone’s guess. Game of Thrones returns to TV screens 14 April. The show will be available on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK. Read everything you need to know about the new season here.