The False Dawn
Following the death of King Aegon II Targaryen, Aegon the Younger was crowned as King Aegon III Targaryen. Despite Aegon II’s defeat and the Velaryon fleet once again serving the Iron Throne, this period was called the False Dawn.
The realm faced severe challenges. A harsh winter began the year before in 130 AC and lasted until 135 AC. Many parts of the realm had been ravaged by Dragonfire, especially due to Aemond Targaryen‘s destructive campaign riding Vhagar, which had devastated much of the Riverlands.
Broken men and outlaws roamed the countryside in large numbers, and public order had broken down in many areas. The Ironborn, led by Dalton Greyjoy, who had only nominally supported the blacks as an excuse to attack wealthy green kingdoms, now ignored the commands of the young King Aegon III and continued their raids.
Lord Cregan Stark and his northern army, made up of younger, childless, and homeless men, had marched to King’s Landing hoping for adventure. However, the sudden death of King Aegon II dashed their hopes, leaving Cregan deeply frustrated. He had intended to punish Storm’s End, Casterly Rock, and Oldtown for supporting Aegon II over Rhaenyra, but upon his arrival, Lord Corlys Velaryon had already sent out messages, seeking peace.
Hour of the Wolf
The term “The Hour of the Wolf” or “The Judgment of the Wolf” was coined by Grand Maester Munkun in his book The Dance of the Dragons, A True Telling. It refers to the six days in 131 AC when Cregan Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, governed in King’s Landing at the end of the Dance of the Dragons.
This phrase is derived from the concept of the “hour of the wolf,” which symbolizes the darkest and most ominous part of the night.
Judgment of the Wolf
After the initial excitement of Prince Aegon’s victory, Lord Cregan Stark arrived in King’s Landing with his army, intending to seek revenge against the main supporters of Aegon II, such as the Lannisters, Hightowers, and Baratheons. However, negotiations for peace were already underway, led by Lord Corlys Velaryon.
If these peace terms were accepted, attacking former Aegon II supporters would be considered a breach of the King’s Peace. Lord Cregan had to wait for their responses, which took six days. The peace was eventually accepted by the Three Widows, preventing Lord Cregan from continuing hostilities.
Although peace was secured, Lord Cregan still aimed to deliver justice for those guilty of regicide. He arrested twenty-two men, including Lord Corlys Velaryon, Lord Larys Strong, Ser Perkin the Flea, and Ser Gyles Belgrave of the Kingsguard.
Cregan, acting as the Hand of the King, presided over their trials. Aegon was persuaded by his half-sisters, Baela and Rhaena Targaryen, to reinstate Corlys to his position. To ensure this decision stood, Alysanne Blackwood agreed to marry Cregan, thus avoiding Lord Velaryon’s trial.
Nineteen of the accused chose to join the Night’s Watch, while Lord Larys and Ser Gyles accepted execution. Following Stark traditions, Lord Cregan personally executed them both using Ice, the Valyrian steel Greatsword of House Stark.
After the executions, Lord Cregan Stark stepped down from his role as Hand of the King, having served for just one day. He returned to the North, but not all of his army accompanied him back. Many were extra men whose return could cause their families to suffer during the winter months. Widow Fairs were organized in the riverlands, allowing hundreds of northerners to meet women who had lost their husbands during the Dance of the Dragons.
Lords and ladies from all over Westeros gathered to witness the wedding and coronation of Prince Aegon. On the seventh day of the seventh moon of 131 AC, the High Septon officiated the marriage between Prince Aegon and Princess Jaehaera Targaryen in a ceremony atop Visenya’s Hill. Later that same day, Aegon was crowned at the Red Keep and proclaimed as “Aegon of House Targaryen, the Third of His Name, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms.”
Although officially crowned, Aegon was only eleven years old when he began his reign. A council of regents was established to govern in his place until he came of age.
Regency of Aegon III
The regency of Aegon III lasted from 131 AC to 136 AC while King Aegon III Targaryen was underage. Numerous political conflicts among the council of regents and several Hands of the King marked this period.
Aegon ascended the Iron Throne at the age of ten, having lost most of his family during the internal conflict and civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. For the initial five years of his reign, several regents and Hands governed the realm on his behalf until he came of age. Throughout the regency, there were various political schemes, plots, and assassinations as the regents and their supporters competed for political power.
Following the war’s conclusion, a council of seven regents was established to govern on behalf of the young Aegon III Targaryen. This regency period was marred by numerous challenges as the realm struggled to recover from the devastating war. Among the original seven regents, only Grand Maester Munkun served the entire term. The initial regents included Lord Corlys Velaryon, Lady Jeyne Arryn, Lord Royce Caron, Ser Torrhen Manderly, Lord Manfryd Mooton, Grand Maester Munkun, and Lord Roland Westerling.
In the year 135 AC, the harsh winter that had gripped the realm finally came to an end. Then, in 136 AC, upon reaching the age of maturity, King Aegon III dismissed his final regents and Hand, taking direct control of the throne.
Changed views on inheritance
The events of the Dance of the Dragons had a significant impact on the future Targaryen succession. When King Baelor I Targaryen passed away in 171 AC without a clear heir, the succession to the throne became a matter of contention. As Baelor had no children and hadn’t designated an heir, some lords and common folk believed the Iron Throne should go to his eldest sister, Princess Daena Targaryen. However, others remembered the tumultuous period of Rhaenyra Targaryen‘s rule during the Dance of the Dragons.
The memory of the Dance played a role in the decision to choose Baelor’s uncle, Prince Viserys Targaryen, as the new King over the spirited Daena. This choice established a precedent where women would come after all men in Targaryen succession, a rule that persisted since the Dance.
During the reign of King Aerys I Targaryen, his niece, Princess Aelora Targaryen, was appointed Princess of Dragonstone even while her uncle and male cousins were still alive. However, her own tragic end prevented her from ascending to the throne. After Aelora’s passing, Prince Maekar Targaryen was named heir over Aelora’s younger sister, Princess Daenora.