Spoilers for Game of Thrones season 7 episode 5 follow.
The endless conspiracy of Jon Snow’s parentage has dominated Game of Thrones since its inception, and as we get further into Season 7, we’ve begun learning some explosive answers to all our questions. But if you weren’t paying attention during Season 7’s fifth episode, ‘Eastwatch’, you’ll have missed the bombshell answer we’ve been waiting for.
What did Gilly say?
As Sam Tarly was ranting and raving about having a shit time at the Citadel, his partner Gilly stumbled on the answer to one of Westeros’ biggest questions. Reading from a book penned by a maester in the thick of it at the time of King Aerys II reign, she dictates:
“Says here the High Septon annulled a marriage from ‘Prince Ragger’, and married him in secret, to another woman in Dorne” she said, before being interrupted.
It had been believed that Rhaegar was still married to Elia Martell at the time of his death. Wrong! Now we know Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia Martell (who you might recall was Oberyn’s sister) and married Lyanna Stark (Jon’s mother) before she died.
So what does that tell us?
Jon Snow is Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark’s legitimate son – he’s not a bastard, and his real surname is Targaryen. We still don’t know the real first name Lyanna Stark gave him – so for now he’s still Jon.
If you’re confused, here’s a quick explainer: we already knew that Jon Snow was the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark, thanks to season 6 flashbacks. HBO confirmed that Rhaegar (Daenerys’ brother) was Jon’s dad last June. Until now, it’s been believed that Lyanna was ‘kidnapped’ by Rhaegar, held captive in the Tower of Joy, where she died giving birth to Jon. We already knew that Ned took custody of Jon, claiming Rhaegar’s child was his bastard son, in order to prevent the soon-to-be-king Robert Baratheon from killing him.
Wait, does that mean…
The news that Gilly read out is huge for the series, because it means Jon is now officially heir to the Iron Throne. At the time Jon was born, the Targaryens were the ruling family in Westeros. Rhaegar and Daenerys’ father Aerys (Jon’s grandfather) was on the throne when his eldest son Rhaegar died. Rhaegar’s two siblings, Viserys and Daenerys, fled Westeros. But Rhaegar’s legitimate son Jon remained – and because of the patriarchal way the monarchy works in Westeros, Jon is officially next in line to the Iron Throne, above Daenerys.
The books allude to Rhaegar’s obsession with having this third child, given that Elia was warned that she would not survive another pregnancy. So it makes sense for him to seek assurances his third child would be legitimate. Their previous two children, Aegon and Rhaenys, were murdered by Ser Gregor Clegane during the Sack of King’s Landing.
What effect will this have on the rest of the show?
Potentially massive. It confirms that our little hero Jon Snow has been the legitimate King of Westeros the whole time. Whether he wants to be the ruler is a completely different story, but it at least puts him in the frame – and it could lead to a big clash with Daenerys once the news reaches her.