Why Did Aemon Targaryen Not Become King?

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When it comes to the question of why Aemon Targaryen didn’t take the crown, there are several theories and possibilities. And the true answer probably lies, to some extent, in all of them.

The first, and perhaps most important, was the man himself. As a man of honour and integrity, Aemon was not motivated by personal power and wealth. So, he most likely had no desire to be king.

And why would he? The likes of Aerys and Viserys are clear evidence that the power (and pressure) of ruling the kingdom can easily go to your head and send you mad.

But this didn’t make the decision to decline the Iron Throne a formality. Indeed, his sense of obligation meant there had to be an adequate alternative. Fortunately for Aemon, he had a brother just two years his younger. Aegon was already married with children and fit the profile of king perfectly. Crucially, he also had designs on the throne. This gave Aemon his ‘get out of jail free’ card. But there was more to his decision than mere convenience.

Aemon was wise. His rejection of the constant quest for personal power allowed him to take a step back from all that was going on around him and analyse the actions of others – and their consequences.

Had he agreed to be crowned king, Aemon knew that plotters would have pitted his brother against him. Aegon would have been manipulated into making a challenge for the crown that would have placed an irreversible wedge between the two.

Also, Aemon pledged his oath to the Night’s Watch at a young age. And he took this seriously. By the time he was offered the crown, he had already committed not to marry or father any children. Of course, he could have gone back on this and claimed the throne. He would certainly have had a compelling argument to say that his pledge to the kingdom was of greater importance.

But as we have already seen, he didn’t crave power. Maybe this was the reason that he committed to the Night’s Watch so early in his life. Not only because he truly believed in the role, but also because it gave him the get out clause he knew he may need at some point in the future.

Of course, there could be a much simpler reason than all of these. The moment a king is crowned in Westeros, they place a target on their back. The price of power is, almost inevitably, death. Aemon knew this. He understood both the rewards and the risks associated with being king. And he valued his own life.

And his decision is vindicated in both the reign of his brother that saw the establishment of the law of King's Peace that prevented conflict in Westeros without the agreement of the Iron Throne and his own long life. Aemon died at the age of 102 – outliving his younger brother (who died aged 64) by decades.

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