It is often said that it is a woman who is another woman’s greatest enemy. Why does that happen? One would think that being subjected to the unfair rules and dictionary of patriarchy would bring women together as a strong sisterhood instead of tearing them apart. But see, that’s the greatest scam of patriarchy—that it has successfully glorified and romanticized oppression. “You are a good woman if you follow the rules of being a good daughter, wife, and mother, and the world will reward you for it.” But that’s never what happens. There is no reward, and the appreciation is nothing more than an acknowledgment of how beneficial the “good woman” is to the lives of the men around her. And that is the greatest betrayal that Alicent Hightower has faced in “House of the Dragon” Season 1, Episode 7.
The Distinction Between Alicent And Rhaenyra
At the beginning of “House of the Dragon” Season 1, Alicent and Rhaenyra were two best friends who were as different as chalk and cheese but were together like two peas in a pod. Rhaenyra had always had a wild spirit, which was indulged in part due to her station. Back then, she was the only child of the King and was termed the “Realm’s delight.” It is not that the duties of a woman were not expected of Rhaenyra. She was reminded of them day-in and day-out. In front of her was Princess Rhaenys herself, as an example of what happens when a woman dares to dream. But Rhaenyra had seen her mother suffer due to her father’s desire for a male heir. The desire was inextricably tied with the need to establish a legacy and solidify the power of the House. Rhaenyra was extremely aware that despite being the Princess, she would most likely be a pawn in the game for power. That was not acceptable to her, and that is the reason she holds so dearly to her title of the heir—because it gives her an identity and agency beyond her biology. But Alicent was a different person. She was a good daughter who played by the rules, and Rhaenyra’s abandon always made her uneasy. She knew her father was a political man, but she probably never expected to be a pawn in his game. After Queen Aemma’s death, when he tells her to spend some time with the King, his motivations were not lost on her. But she did not believe in opposing her father. Prior to that, Alicent must have thought that she would marry a Lord and live a blissful marital life as the Lady of some castle. She readjusted her expectations to include the King. We doubt she ever felt any affection for him. She was also extremely aware that marriage to the King would mean that she would lose her best friend forever. Alicent definitely felt a hint of relief when the King told her that there was a proposal to marry Laena Velaryon. But destiny had other plans, and the King had better sense than to marry a child. That’s how Alicent became the queen, a position that cost her, her best friend. Life moved fast and she was soon a mother with another child on the way. Let’s remember that Alicent and Rhaenyra were not that far apart in age. Being a mother and a queen at such a young age had to have taken its emotional toll on her. In addition to the fact that she did not love her husband. On the surface, Alicent had everything one could want, but in reality, she had not a single thing that could make her happy. The loss of Rhaenyra’s friendship was the greatest blow for Alicent, as she was the only person, she had ever been able to confide in. She wanted that back and made an effort for it, but their relationship had changed forever.
Alicent’s Life After Becoming The Queen
Since Alicent Hightower became the queen, her father, Otto Hightower, kept telling her that she had a role, that of putting their blood on the throne. And that is what Alicent came to believe—that her unhappiness was the price to pay for seeing her children on the throne. However, she still felt a certain loyalty towards her old friend. Torn between her perceived duty and what she wanted, the standards she set for Rhaenyra were high. She believed her when she said that nothing had happened between her and Daemon at Flea Bottom because she wanted her loyalty towards her to be right. And that is why she felt so betrayed when she came to know that she had been lied to. Because the cost of the lie was her losing her father, her strongest ally at court.
Rhaenyra always knew what she wanted. She wanted love and respect for herself as an individual and not just for her child-bearing abilities. She also wanted to see her ambitions realized. Whether she ever got that or not is a debate for another time. But she knew. However, Alicent never figured out what it was that she wanted. She had been taught to expect only one thing from life, and that came with its own twists that left her feeling that it was her against the world. There is a desperation to her actions when she keeps questioning the parentage of Rhaenyra’s children. It is also evident in the way she teaches her son, Aegon, to hate his nephews. It is not just about what is right, but what is right for her. She says something along these lines to Larys Strong when she talks to him about wanting her father back at court because he would be “partial to her.”
Let’s remember that there is a play of privilege here as well. Like we said before, Rhaenyra has always done what she wanted, before and after her marriage to Laenor Velaryon. From the beginning, her claim to the throne was considered to be against common rule. And when she has the audacity to pass off her children as Targaryens, she is perceived as not living up to the high standards expected of her. But it is a bit more personal for Alicent. After the whole Criston Cole incident, she has no faith left in Rhaenyra, as she was the reason, she lost her father. Alicent doesn’t put it past her to kill her children to solidify her claim to the throne. And Viserys’s wilful blindness to the illegitimacy of his grandchildren is perceived by Alicent as an insult and disregard for herself. Her belief is validated when Viserys addresses her as Aemma. Despite her motivations, Alicent fulfilled her duty as a good wife. She had always been available at his every beck and call and had taken care of him in every possible way. She had given him the male heirs he had always wanted. According to her, unlike Rhaenyra, she had never lied to him either. As a woman, she probably knew that he was not in love with her. Maybe she had made her peace with it as she was not in love with him herself. But after all this time, after more than a decade of service, he couldn’t get her name, right? This was disregard personified. Alicent had given her life to fulfill her role as a good daughter and wife, and all she had was a father who underestimated her and a husband who ignored her. What did she have to her name if not even the respect of her name being remembered? It is not just men who fight wars so that their names are etched in history. Even women want to be remembered, or at least not misremembered.
The Tipping Point For Alicent Hightower
In “House of the Dragon” Episode 7, Alicent witnesses an attack on her son, Aemond. Rhaenyra’s son had slashed Aemond’s eye, but it is not just an injury that Alicent sees. She considers it another act of Rhaenyra doing whatever she wants and getting away with it. She sees it as a representation of her and her children being treated as second-class citizens. She sees the futility of her years of labor when all she was, was a pawn in a game that she did not seem to be winning. When she demanded an eye for an eye, it was not just justice for her son that she wanted. She wanted accountability for everything she had been through. Of course, Rhaenyra was not responsible for any of it, but that did not matter to Alicent. It all came down to this: why does she get to get away with it all?
It’s not easy to like Alicent Hightower, but it is not right to hate her either. A depressed child bride who never had the right emotional guidance or support and was constantly manipulated or ignored by those around her is not going to have the healthiest personality. Maybe we don’t sympathize with her, but there should be no hatred either. This is the universe of “Game of Thrones,” and we know that she will not get a happy ending. But that does not make us happy. All Alicent needs is some peace and maybe a friend. In a better world, she would have that. But this is not it. “House of the Dragon” has definitely added a lot more depth to her character than the books, and we applaud it as much as it breaks our hearts. We just want her to be happy once, at least. Keeping our fingers crossed that the makers of the show grant her character that much. Let us see what the future holds.