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‘House of the Dragon’s House Hightower – A Brief History of the Family That’s Existed Since Dawn of Days

5 Minute Read
Jun 27 2024

House Hightower is at the center of the Dance of Dragons. They are one of the oldest families of Westeros and the original patrons of the Faith of the Seven.

The Hightower family’s history reaches back to at least the First Men. Maester Yandel (alive during the time of Robert I Baratheon) thought they were even older, coming over with the traders that settled traders the Whispering Sound. They likely founded the original Oldtown, one of Westeros’s largest and oldest cities. Their coat of arms features a white tower crowned with flames.

via HBO

Early Days & the High Tower Kings

The family resided in a black stone fortress before building the High Tower that gives them their name. The Kings of the High Tower erected stone walls, towers, and fortifications to protect Oldtown from invaders. They defended the city from ironborn raiders, Dornishmen, and the armies of the Kings of the Reach, and House Gardener of Highgarden. Because the city was so well defended, it was brought into the realm of Highgarden by marriage rather than conquest.

The Hightowers and Gardeners allied with the Andals (one of the three major ethnic groups the Weterosi descended from) in the Andal invasion from North Essos (around 2,000 years before the conquest). Due to their defenses and allegiance with Highgarden, the lords of Oldtown became rich in trade and commerce over the centuries. They were one of the richest and noblest families in Westeros. During the centuries of the Kingdom of the Reach, other houses boasted of marrying into the Hightower family.

art by Doug Wheatley from “Before the Dragons: An Illustrated History”

They were also among the first to accept the Faith of the Seven, giving their patronage to building the Starry Cept (built by Lord Triston Hightower) and establishing the office of the High Septon. King Urrigon Hightower built the Citadel that houses the archmeasters and their school.

During Aegon’s Conquest & Targaryen Rule

At this point, the house was known more for trade than battles (they held a large army). The High Septon of the time had a vision from the Crone of Oldtown burning. Unlike King Mern IX, Lord Manfred Hightower heeded the High Septon and did not take arms against Aegon Conquerer. He was rewarded by having the city spared from the Targareyn’s Field of Fire. They were the last to bend the knee. Aegon was anointed by the High Septon in the Starry Sept.

Oldtown Highlighted via Imgur

House Hightower’s next entry in Westerosi history was a marriage between Prince Maegor Targaryen (Aegon I’s son with sister wife Visenya) and Ceryse Hightower (Lord Manfred’s daughter). This was after the High Septon (who was a Hightower) put the kibosh on Meagor’s plan to marry his niece. The match was not a good one. Prince Maegor claims Ceryse is infertile after eight years of marriage and sends her back to Oldtown. Her father objects when Meagor marries a second wife.

Not long after, the Faith Militant uprising starts when Maegor’s half-brother, King Aenys (Aegon I’s son with sister wife Rhaenys), marries his sister. The marriage was normal to the descendants of Aegon the Conquerer but not so acceptable to the Sept and the faith. There’s a bunch of Targaryen infighting, which includes Maegor stealing the Iron Throne from his grandnephew. He became known as Maegor the Cruel.

Ceryse Hightower and Maegor Targaryen, art by Magali Villeneuve

During all of this, Lord Martyn Hightower became Lord Hightower. Martyn’s brother was the only knight sworn to the Faith of the Seven that Maegor pardoned after his war with the faithful and the suspicious death of High Septon. He yielded Oldtown to the Targaryens, and Ceryse was returned to King’s Landing, where she lived to old age.

Lord Martyn Hightower gave support to Jaehaerys Targaryen after King Meagor died. Toward the end of his fifty-five-year reign, Jaehaerys appointed Otto Hightower his Hand. As no one was available to care for the king in his old age, Otto asked his daughter, Lady Alicent Hightower, to care for him. Embedding himself in the family. The lord remained through the rest of the King’s life and continued as Hand for his replacement, his grandson Viserys Targaryen.

via HBO

The Dance of Dragons – Book and TV Collide

In Fire and Blood, Ser Otto is seen as an educated man – as well as arrogant, blunt, and domineering. As Hand, he basically ran the seven realms during the last two years of King Jaehaerys’ life and kept his position when Viserys took the throne. He and the king’s brother, Prince Daemon Targaryen, were constantly at odds. No matter where King Viserys placed his brother, Otto convinced him to force Daemon out. When Daemon was given command of the City Watch, Otto worried that the prince would become another Maegor the Cruel if he took the throne.

via HBO

At first, Otto wished for Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen to succeed her father—anyone was better than Daemon. When Otto’s daughter, Alicent, became King Viserys’ second wife (with a bit of encouragement on his part) and had a son, his mind changed. And he began to plot a coup.

And when the king died House Hightower acted, putting their blood on the Iron Throne and starting a civil war for the crown that would pull in all of Westeros. A war we’re seeing unfold in season two of the show. 

SPOILERS AHEAD – highlight the next several lines to how it ends for these two Hightowers. It does not go well for Otto, who is beheaded by Rhaenyra. Alicent is confined to her chambers at Maegor’s Holdfast, goes mad, and dies of Winter Fever at age 45.

House Hightower in The Game of Thrones

The Hightowers made it to 297 AC when A Song of Ice and Fire takes place. While they still rule Oldtown, they have taken allegiance to Tyrells of Highgarden. They are much farther from the crown than they once were. The family stuck by King Aerys during Robert’s rebellion and stayed aligned with the Tyrells as far as George R.R. Martin has written.


The most visible member of the show is Ser Gerold Hightower. He was Lord Commander of the Kingsguard for Aerys II Targaryen (who was born 267 years after Viserys I Targaryen).

via HBO

Author: Mars Garrett
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