Hi, I'm not sure if this got through before so I'll try again. Bad internet. My question(s) revolves around Rhaegar and Elia. Why was she the only one fit to wed? Was she not known to be frail and considering the expectations of children, wouldn't her frailty impede that? Was Varys or Rhaella involved, because I don't see Aerys agreeing.
Why was Aerys II willing to accept Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia Martell, but not Cersei Lannister? Was he just trying to stick it to Tywin or is there some other explanation?
I assume this is the same Anon. I did get your earlier ask, I was simply debating on how to answer it. I feel like I’ve talked about this a bunch of times, but in lieu of directing you to a number of posts that all sort of say parts of the same thing, I’ll just write one final answer-post on this question.
To understand Aerys II’s choice of a bride for his son, I think one has to understand the times in which Rhaegar’s betrothal was made. The Aerys who sat the throne in 279 AC was a different man from the hopeful prince who had ascended in 262 AC. The thin veneer of charm and outgoing friendliness that had been characteristic of the young king had been forever dispelled by the Defiance of Duskendale; kept as a hostage for a year, aware that there was a very likely possibility of his being killed, the Darklyns and Hollards openly assaulting the idea of the body of the king being sacrosanct, the king slipped permanently into the violent suspicion and paranoia for which he has become known. That suspicion, according to Yandel, applied particularly to Rhaegar:
Prince Rhaegar, [Aerys] was convinced, had conspired with Tywin Lannister to have him slain at Duskendale. They had planned to storm the town walls so that Lord Darklyn would put him to death, opening the way for Rhaegar to mount the Iron Throne and marry Lord Tywin’s daughter.
Notably, what follows immediately in Yandel’s account is Aerys seeking a bride for his son:
Determined to prevent that from happening, King Aerys turned to another friend of his childhood, summoning Steffon Baratheon from Storm’s End and naming him to the small council. In 278 AC, the king sent Lord Steffon across the narrow sea on a mission to Old Volantis, to seek a suitable bride for Prince Rhaegar, “a maid of noble birth from an old Valyrian bloodline.“
Right there, we can see what Aerys wanted in a future daughter-in-law. One, the bride had to be of eminent Valyrian descent. That’s not so surprising: Aerys had tried for a long while, after all, to provide a sister for his son to wed (and, I think, in his last desperate attempt, even tried to get a daughter of Steffon and Cassana, just to have a second cousin; is it coincidence that Renly is born over a decade after next brother Stannis, and just a year after Prince Viserys?). Indeed, as the product of an incestuous union, and having married his own sister, Aerys might have been naturally inclined to go back to this traditional Valyrian practice for the next generation. However, after 14 years of trying, the sole surviving Targaryen was little Viserys, who happened to be the wrong sex; even if Rhaella produced a daughter the year after Viserys was born, Rhaegar would be at least 30 before he could even think about consummating his marriage with his sister-wife - and in the downtime, he could find himself a bride elsewhere. Aerys’ only option, if he wanted a Valyrian-blooded consort for his son, was to go looking for one already grown (hence that mission to Volantis).
Secondly, but not explicitly said, I think the other qualification was that the bride absolutely could not bring great wealth or strength to the marriage - and that specifically to avoid Cersei Lannister becoming crown princess. After almost two decades of having him as Hand, Aerys had grown hateful, suspicious, and fearful of Lord Tywin, and no less so after the Defiance of Duskendale (see the first section of this essay I wrote for more details on their relationship). As Yandel noted, Aerys was specifically afraid that Rhaegar, married to Lady Cersei, would take advantage of his father-in-law’s wealth and power to overthrow his own father and declare himself king. I think Aerys decided that any bride with a plump dowry and a powerful House backing her could potentially do the same. Perhaps this also inspired Steffon’s mission: as seen with Larra Rogare and Mellario of Norvos (and quite cruelly with Serala Darklyn), Essosi ladies married to Westerosi men can find life in their new home isolating and foreign, lacking familiar allies and the comforts of their native states.
However, when Steffon’s mission ended in failure, Aerys was left with a predicament. Rhaegar would plainly have to marry a Westerosi - but who could combine Valyrian heritage and relative lack of wealth? Skipping over any descendants of Aegon V’s sisters, the next closest (dynastic) relatives to the main-line Targaryens would be the descendants of Princess Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of King Aegon IV, who had married Prince Maron Martell, ruling Prince of Dorne. Conveniently for the king’s desires, Dorne is the poorest and least populous of the continental states. Elia’s dowry would be far less impressive than Cersei Lannister’s, and, if Rhaegar wanted to overthrow his father, the relatively small number of Dornish spears would have to march up through the loyalist and traditionally Dornish-hating Reach (and its enormous mailed fist) or the Stormlands, under the control of his Baratheon cousins (not specifically his good friend Steffon anymore, but Aerys might have thought he had no reason to distrust the young Lord Robert at this point). Elia had Valyrian blood in her veins, was of an age with Rhaegar, and had little promise of success in any attempted coup; she, to Aerys, was the perfect choice available for his son’s bride.
The Queen Regent (NFriel)