House of the Dragon Episode 5 introduces Rhea Royce for the first time – but who is she, and what is her relationship with Daemon?
Daemon (Matt Smith) has been the runaway MVP of the Game of Thrones prequel since its first episode. He’s the living embodiment of the blood of the dragon; restless and chaotic, as Viserys put it.
In four episodes, he celebrated the death of his brother’s baby, rebelled against the king, defeated the Crabfeeder’s army in the Stepstones, and got himself banished for a second time after trying to have sex with Rhaenyra (Milly Alcock).
Episode 5 finds Daemon returning to the Vale, where we finally see Rhea Royce in the flesh – but who is she, and what happens to her?
Rhea Royce, played by Shadow and Bone’s Rachel Redford, is Daemon’s wife.
She’s also the Lady of Runestone and the head of House Royce, having served in the role since the rule of Jaehaerys I Targaryen, Viserys’ grandfather.
As you’ve probably guessed from Daemon calling Rhea his “bronze b*tch” – a reference to the Royce’s ancient armor – the pair never had a happy marriage.
As per George R.R. Martin’s Fire and Blood, the source material for the show, they got married in 97 AC at the behest of Alysanne Targaryen, Daemon’s grandmother. However, while their match made sense politically, they didn’t fall for one another.
In fact, Daemon’s boredom with her soon grew contemptuous, even while Rhea had success in Runestone, succeeding Lord Yorbert Royce on the island. Despite Rhea standing to inherit all of Runestone, Daemon had no interest in her and asked Viserys to set aside his marriage, which he denied.
As we’ve seen, Daemon served on the small council and soon became enamored with Lady Mysaria, even stealing a dragon egg for her. He eventually returned to King’s Landing after teaming up with Lord Corlys in the Stepstones, where he was met with Viserys’ graces – until he found out about him taking Rhaenyra to a pleasure house.
The king banished him to exile in the Vale of Arryn, where the Royces and Runestone are based, but Daemon had no intention of spending any more of his life with Rhea, clearly having his sights set on Rhaenyra.
This is where there’s a slight difference between the show and book: in House of the Dragon, Rhea finds Daemon while hunting on her horse. Believing he’s there to kill her, she pulls her sword, but her horse rears up, falls backwards, and crushes her neck. It’s then implied Daemon used a rock to “finish” her.
Her death in Fire and Blood is similar, albeit she survived the fall at first. She stayed in bed for more than a week before feeling well enough to get up, only to collapse and die an hour later. Daemon then flew to the Vale to lay his wife to rest, before claiming all of House Royce for himself.
The show seems to be following the latter trajectory, with Daemon telling Rhea’s cousin in Episode 5 that he plans on taking his inheritance; given they didn’t produce an heir, he’s owed all of Runestone.
House of the Dragon Episode 6 will be available to watch on September 25 in the US and September 26 in the UK.