Aemma Arryn’s death explained: Why did Viserys sacrifice her?

Viserys and Aemma rule over Westeros but when Aemma has difficulty bearing a son to become Viserys’ heir, he’s left with a difficult choice. The first episode of House of the Dragon is streaming on HBO Max.

Viserys was chosen as the heir to Jaehaerys Targaryen’s throne because he was the oldest male descendant of the Targaryen family. Nine years into his reign, he is still waiting for Aemma to give him his own heir leaving the identity of his successor in doubt.

A woman’s battlefield

Viserys and Aemma do have a daughter named Rhaenyra but she isn’t considered an heir because she’s a female. When Rhaenyra visits her pregnant mother, she speaks out about how everyone cares about the baby more than the person carrying it.

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Aemma lectures her daughter about the royal duties of a queen.

Aemma tells her daughter that she will be in this position herself someday. They have royal wombs and they live to bear children, that is how they perform their royal duty and serve the realm. She even likens the childbed to a battlefield that one must face with strength.

A strong belief

Viserys is anxious for his child to be born because he is confident that Aemma will give birth to a boy. He begins preparations to host a tournament in honour of his future heir despite his council suggesting caution.

He visits his wife later that day and she tries to convince him to temper his expectations in case it’s a girl but Viserys is convinced that he will have a son to name his heir. He says that he dreamed of their son being placed on the throne in all pomp and glory.

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Aemma and Viserys discuss the birth of their future son.

Aemma tells Viserys that this will be the last time that she attempts to give birth to a child, as she’s had 5 unsuccessful attempts in the last 10 years and she cannot deal with the pain of losing yet another child in case this pregnancy fails as well.

All for nought

Aemma goes into labour on the first day of the tournament but when she takes too long, Viserys goes to check up on her. The Grand Maestor tells Viserys that the baby is in a breech position and they have been unable to turn it.

The Grand Maestor tells Viserys that there is one option that they can try but it will come at a cost. He speaks of a technique that maestors learn at the Citadel where the womb is directly cut into so that the child can be taken out.

However, the resulting blood loss would most certainly lead to the death of the mother. Viserys is torn by this situation but because of his desperation to have an heir, he tells the Grand Maestor to go ahead and carry out the procedure.

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Viserys is by Aemma’s bedside for her final moments.

He sits by Aemma’s side as the maestor cuts open her stomach and successfully takes the baby out of the womb but as predicted, Aemma does not survive. Viserys finally gets the male heir that he desired.

Her sacrifice is ultimately made in vain as the baby boy dies soon after his first breath leaving Viserys to mourn not one but two of his family.


Also Read: Who does Viserys Targaryen choose to be his heir in House of the Dragon?