If House Hightower had married into the Targaryen dynasty, and House Velaryon was such an instrumental seafaring family, then why do we barely hear about them in Game of Thrones?
The Hightowers and the Velaryons aren’t extinct when GoT begins, but they aren’t at their peak glory, either. Spoilers ahead.
House Hightower, as portrayed on House of the Dragon, is one of the oldest noble houses in all of Westeros, and its vast influence can be attributed not only to Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke) marrying King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine), and her father Otto (Rhys Ifans) serving as Viserys I’s hand, but also to its unique positioning in Oldtown. Oldtown is the home of the Citadel, the central home to the Order of Maesters, and before Game of Thrones it was also home of the Starry Sept, the seat of the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven.
Meanwhile, House Velaryon’s ties to the Targaryen bloodline are even thicker, as the Targaryens and Velaryons are both descendants of the peoples of Old Valyria and have been marrying each other for centuries to keep their dragonriding talents in the family. During House of the Dragon, some of the most prominent players are Velaryons. Corlys Velaryon (Steve Toussaint), the Lord of the Tides and the Master of Driftmark, and wife Rhaenys Targaryen (Eve Best) are some of Rhaenyra Targaryen’s (Emma D’Arcy) fiercest supporters, and three of Rhaenyra’s children bear the Velaryon name.
We know of the fate of the Hightowers and the Velaryons thanks to George R.R. Martin’s texts. Without spoiling too much, we can reveal that by the end of the Dance of the Dragons, both the Hightowers and the Velaryons are significantly weakened.
The Hightowers in Game of Thrones
The Hightowers remained loyal to the Targaryen dynasty through Robert’s Rebellion, the war that ended the Targaryen dynasty in the Seven Kingdoms. Ser Jorah Mormont’s (Iain Glen) second wife was Lynesse Hightower, although we don’t see her because, as Jorah explains to Daenerys Targaryen, Lynesse left Jorah for a merchant prince in Lys.
When Game of Thrones kicks off, the Hightowers are still the main patrons of both the Citadel and the Faith of the Seven, and are as rich as House Lannister. But the head of their house, Lord Leyton, was a hermit who hadn’t descended from the High Tower in Oldtown in over a decade. The Hightowers had essentially sworn off getting involved in politics after the Targaryens were toppled.
While we may not hear much about the Hightowers in GoT, we do hear about the Tyrells, who married into the family. Leyton’s daughter, Alerie Hightower, marries a Tyrell, and is the mother of Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). That means Alicent and Otto Hightower are ancestors of Margaery and Loras, major power players in Thrones.
In the books, the Hightowers swear allegiance to Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony), given their Tyrell connections and Margaery’s betrothal to him. The Hightowers later swear fealty to the Baratheons when Margaery marries Joffrey I Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and, shortly thereafter, Tommen I Baratheon (Dean Charles-Chapman).
The Velaryons in Game of Thrones
Although the Velaryons’ allegiances will shift and sway many times during the Dance of the Dragons, they’ve always remained sworn to Dragonstone, the seat of House Targaryen, and their own noble house’s seat has always rested on Driftmark.
However, Robert’s Rebellion leads to King Robert I Baratheon granting the castle Dragonstone to his brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane). The Targaryens lose Dragonstone, but the Velaryons remain faithful to this Old Valyrian ancestral stronghold. Therefore, they’re sworn to House Baratheon by the onset of Game of Thrones.
The head of Driftmark at the beginning of Game of Thrones, Lord Monford Velaryon, pledges numerous ships to Stannis’ royal fleet after Stannis makes a play for the Iron Throne. The Velaryons fight hard for Stannis, and they remain loyal to him until his death.
Monford’s half-brother Aurane Waters, the Bastard of Driftmark, takes another path. He surrenders to King Joffrey I Baratheon, and wins the favor of Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) with his charm and beauty. He’s named the new Master of Ships, which traditionally went to the head of Driftmark. When Aurane hears word of Cersei’s imprisonment by order of the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), he flees to sea. It’s later suggested by Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) that he may have sailed to the Stepstones to set himself up as a pirate, which is an ironic, full-circle loop for the Velaryons, who had conquered the Stepstones from pirates under Corlys’ and Daemon Targaryen’s leadership centuries prior.
Monford Velaryon and Aurane Waters, like Leyton and Alerie Hightower, are never portrayed on-screen.
The Inverse Analysis — We have no doubt that House of the Dragon will continue to (mostly) stick to its source material, so we’ll see how and why House Hightower remains faithful to the Targaryens, and why House Velaryon is forever devoted to Dragonstone no matter which house claims the island as its seat. It may be a while before we see it all transpire, but just as HotD will chronicle the rise and fall of House Targaryen, so too will we see the peaks and valleys of House Hightower and Velaryon.
House of the Dragon Season 1 is available to stream now on HBO Max.