Would you mind talking about each of the Targaryen crowns, their meanings and why each of the kings wore them?
Aegon the Conqueror’s crown was a circle of Valyrian steel set with square-cut rubies. The use of Valyrian steel accomplished a few goals. For one, it served as a reminder of the Targaryens’ Valyrian, dragonlord origins, of the race “above the common run of men”. For another, it recalled the power of Valyrian steel in weaponry, a fact any Westerosi House with a cherished family blade would know well; Aegon the Conqueror was a warrior, and his crown would be made of the same material as his fearsome sword Blackfyre. Setting the dark Valyrian steel with red rubies also nicely echoed the new red-on-black royal sigil, a uniform approach to the imagery of the new regime. Altogether, Aegon’s crown was Valyrian and martial in nature, the crown of a dragonlord who ruled by right of conquest rather than right of birth.
Aenys wore a “different” crown from his father’s, “all gold, much larger and more elaborate”. It was typical of Aenys’ love of courtly pageantry and the arts that he would favor an elaborate, showy crown. He was distancing himself from his warrior father; this was the crown of a peace king, a courtly king, a king to be seen in his splendor rather than in a suit of mail.
Maegor wore the Conqueror’s crown, a move I would think was partially if not entirely Visenya’s idea. With Maegor being far more a warrior than his brother Aenys - the youngest-made knight in Westeros in his day, the bearer of Blackfyre, the rider of terrifying Balerion, a man who relished in bloodshed - a crown with war-like overtones would be far more fitting for Maegor. Too, and this I think would have appealed to clever Visenya, by wearing the Conqueror’s crown Maegor emphasized the point that he, and not Aenys or his sons, was the true heir of his father Aegon. He carried his father’s sword, and wore his father’s crown; he was the true successor to Aegon, not weak Aenys.
Jaehaerys I was crowned with his father’s crown, a neat move which stressed his claim as coming from his father, skipping over usurping Maegor. However, the crown Jaehaerys wore as king was one of his own design, a simple gold band set with seven gemstones of different colors. The rainbow of gems was an obvious reference to the Faith of the Seven, which is fond of using rainbows in its imagery, and indicative of the Conciliator’s famed peace with the Faith. Jaehaerys’ crown was an advertisement of his reign’s central policy: he was a peacemaking king, but an active peacemaker (unlike Aenys), one who would work so that the realm would not bleed again.
Viserys I also wore his grandfather’s crown, probably to emphasize that he was the true successor of Jaehaerys the Wise. With the succession problems that had plagued the dynasty in the closing years of Jaehaerys’ reign, and Viserys succeeding to the throne only two years after the Great Council of 101 AC had confirmed him as the heir, loyalties might still have been divided over who was the rightful heir to the great Jaehaerys. Wearing the Conciliator’s crown implied a continuity of succession, reminding onlookers that Jaehaerys had chosen Prince Baelon, that the Great Council had named Baelon’s son, and that that son now sat the Iron Throne in that right.
Aegon II, as noted by Gyldayn, wore the crown of the Conqueror. Being that he had been named explicitly in homage to Aegon I, wearing the Conqueror’s crown further served to underline the connection between the first Aegon and the second. He was the successor to Aegon the Conqueror, another warrior-king wed to his sister-queen who would fly out on dragonback to meet any threat against his dynasty.
Aegon III wore his own crown, “a slender gold band, no ornament”. As with the crowns of Aenys I and Jaehaerys I, the Dragonbane’s crown perfectly matched the personality of its ruler. Somber, withdrawn Aegon III desired no grandiose ornament for his crown. Westeros had bled under his mother and uncle, and he himself was deeply scarred by the horrors he had witnessed during the Dance. His rule would be a simpler time of healing and reunification, and he would set the example with his simple, sober crown.
Daeron I was the last of the Targaryen kings to wear the Conqueror’s crown (it was lost when he was slain in the Red Mountains). A precociously talented warrior and commander, Daeron I saw himself as a new Conqueror, the one Targaryen who could “complete the Conquest” and finish the work of his great-great-great-great grandfather. He was the Young Dragon, the heir in talent and vision to Aegon I, a new warrior-king who would give the kingdom the martial glory it had not seen since the days of the Conqueror.
Baelor I wore a “crown of flowers and vines”. Less a formal king than any Targaryen before or after him, Baelor believed himself to be a septon as much as a king, whose weapons were prayers and whose rule would be used to further the tenets of the Faith of the Seven. The wealth of the crown, as he saw it, was to be used for charity toward the poor, not toward the adornment of his own person. His floral crown would remind his subjects that there was as much beauty to be found in nature, crafted by the Seven, as there was in a crown of gold.
Viserys II wore his brother Aegon III’s simple crown. Having served admirably as Hand for three kings, Viserys was ready by the time he inherited the crown to put all his administrative and bureaucratic talents and ideas to work. An ostentatious crown would have been simply a distraction; he was a king who wanted to work, and a simple crown conveyed his preference for work over display.
Aegon IV designed his own crown, “huge and heavy, red gold, each of its points a dragon’s head with gemstone eyes”. Aegon IV was a man of excess, someone whose quest in life was the constant pursuit of pleasure, and his court was a school of decadence and corruption. Doubtless Aegon IV loved the idea of an ostentatious crown, the biggest and most ornate of any Targaryen crown in the nearly two centuries of the dynasty, as it fit his desire for excess in all things. Additionally, as Aegon IV hated everything about his father and constantly rebelled against his father’s strictures, his crown would be the ultimate symbol of rejecting Viserys II: the huge and heavy crown was about as far away from the simple band of the Dragonbane as one could get.
Daeron II wore his father’s crown, but not for the reasons Aegon IV had designed it. Aegon had done his best to cast doubt on Daeron’s legitimacy, and had died undermining it; when he succeeded, Daeron II had to remind his subjects that he was truly Aegon’s son, the rightful heir of his father.
Aerys I also wore the crown of Aegon IV, although GRRM described the crown as “atop a pile of books, as if [Aerys] has forgotten to put it on”. Given how little he cared about ruling - preferring arcane texts, refusing to consummate his marriage to his queen, and leaving the rule of the state to Bloodraven - Aerys I probably spent little time deciding on what crown he would use. His father and grandfather had worn it, and that was good enough for Aerys; choosing another or designing his own would have meant putting effort into his rule, and that was something Aerys I patently did not want to do.
Maekar designed his own crown, “a warlike crown with black iron points in a band of red gold”. That Yandel names it “warlike” is fitting for Maekar’s personality and the attitude he would take toward his reign. Maekar was a warrior, a prince who had made a name for himself leading royal forces in the First and Third Blackfyre Rebellions. His would be a reign reversing the absenteeism of Aerys I, reinvigorating the role of king as a strong leader in war as well as peace. Neither the ostentatious crown of Aegon IV nor the simple band of the Dragonbane would fit Maekar’s designs; he was a warrior, he would live and die as a warrior-king, and his crown would fit that policy. (It’s interesting how much this crown resembles the old crown of the Stark Kings of Winter, another circlet surmounted by iron spikes, though whether that was intentional is impossible to say.)
Aegon V wore the crown of the Dragonbane, the simple gold circlet. The Unlikely King spent his reign trying to help the common men of Westeros, undermining the powers of the great lords in order to better the lives of the smallfolk. His crown was the symbolic representation of his policy, deemphasizing the grandeur of the monarchy and focusing his energies on reform.
Jaehaerys II wore the crown of grandfather Maekar. In part, this was probably a problem of choice: the only extant Targaryen crowns were those of Maekar, Aegon IV, and possibly Aenys, and the latter two were associated with very ill-remembered kings. Additionally, the War of the Ninepenny Kings began at the immediate outset of Jaehaerys II’s reign, so the martial crown of Maekar was a nice symbol that the monarchy intended to fight and win against the last of the Blackfyre pretenders as much as Maekar did against Daemon Blackfyre and Haegon Blackfyre. Plus, being personally sickly and frail, Jaehaerys II might have wanted a strong king’s crown to mask his lack of physical ability.
Aerys II wore the huge, ornate crown of Aegon IV. He came to the throne as a young man full of wildly grand (if woefully impractical) ideas for the monarchy, and I think he would have liked the Aegon IV crown for the power it conveyed. He was king now, and needed a grandiose symbol that would show everyone he was king and could do as he pleased; the crown of Aegon IV filled that need nicely for him. Given that he was also a king who loved pleasure and entertainment nigh as much as Aegon IV did, the crown of the Unworthy was a fitting mark of where his priorities lay.