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Would Rhaenyra have chosen Harwin?

Had Harwin Strong asked for Rhaenyra Targaryen's hand during her royal tour for a husband, would she have accepted him?

There was a time when Viserys Targaryen gave his daughter Rhaenyra the freedom to choose her husband, the kind of freedom a high born lady like her, or her erstwhile best friend Alicent Hightower, was often denied. Viserys backed this freedom with a royal tour, which allowed Rhaenyra to meet, albeit briefly, eligible lords across the kingdoms. As we saw in that scene at Storm's End, having lords stand in line and give their pitch to the bored princess was hardly a good way to pique her interest. But, this was more than most women would have gotten, and when it did not work, when Rhaenyra's reputation hung in the balance, Viserys simply ordered her to marry her cousin Ser Laenor Velaryon.

By now, we all know that Rhaenyra struck a deal with Laenor, and with her one night stand with Ser Criston Cole gone completely wrong, her paramour became the man who rescued her from the chaos at her wedding, a man who was actually among the eligible high borns who could have married her -- Harwin Strong.

Harwin Strong was heir to Harrenhal, not a particularly wealthy seat, but certainly a respectable one at that time. House Strong was amongst the oldest Houses in the Seven Kingdoms, and one of the few who traced their lineage back to the First Men. A Strong served as Hand to Aegon the Conqueror himself. At the time that Rhaenyra was being made to seek a husband, Harwin's father Lord Lyonel already served as Master of Laws in the Small Council. He would later serve as Hand to King Viserys, after Otto Hightower was fired and forced to return to Oldtown.

Whilst people were trying to position their own candidates for Rhaenyra's hand, Lord Lyonel chose not to advance his own House's interest. Instead, he counseled what he believed was the best for the realm -- marry Rhaenyra to Laenor, unite the two powerful Valyrian Houses, bring Lord Corlys and his massive fleet back into the royal fold. But what if Ser Harwin was a suitor at that time, as he was in Fire and Blood?

We don't know what Rhaenyra and Harwin's relationship was like because of the 10-year time jump, but it was strong enough so that they had three children together. If Rhaenyra had simply wanted a paramour to fill her nights whilst her husband was with his latest lover, she could have had several men. Instead, she chose one, and maintained a dangerous relationship with him for a decade. Perhaps there were feelings there?

From what we saw of young Rhaenyra in the first five episodes, she was not exactly the cautious type. In some ways, she was a lot like her uncle Daemon; they both did what they wanted when they wanted it. Rhaenyra's best friend at that time, Alicent, was weighed down by duty, her actions tempered by what society and her family expected of her. Rhaenyra had most of the same constraints as a woman in a man's world, but she felt freer to push against them. There was no way Alicent would have consented to a romp around Flea Bottom and almost have sex in the middle of a brothel. Rhaenyra did. Rhaenyra may feel the same fears Alicent did, but she did not react to them in the same way.

Whilst Rhaenyra may look to us as though she was risking it all for Harwin, from her point of view, there was a good chance she did not feel this way. She wanted Harwin and she got him, and that was that. She and Harwin must have been using the secret passageways she learnt from Daemon to be with each other; she must have felt that was enough to prevent discovery. She was Princess of Dragonstone, heir to the Iron Throne, rider of Syrax. Accusing her of what was tantamount to treason would be a very serious step for anyone. If anyone had doubts over her children's parentage, voicing those doubts could have very serious consequences, especially since her father King Viserys was solidly behind her, and her husband Ser Laenor Velaryon claimed the children as his own.

With all that in mind, and circling back to the question -- When she had the chance, had the show chosen to present Harwin as a contender for her hand, would Rhaenyra have chosen to marry him? My guess is, no. Rhaenyra was given a choice of a husband at a time when she was not yet ready to have a husband. She would have rejected any man who wanted to marry her, with the exemption of her uncle Daemon, the man she has held a deep fondness, perhaps even love, for most of her life. With Daemon out of the picture and now forced by her father to marry, the next best thing was her cousin Laenor, another one she has known since childhood, a fellow dragonrider of Valyrian heritage, and most importantly, a willing confidant who understood the game of thrones they needed to play.

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