The history of House Hightower plays an important role in House of the Dragon despite the family not being featured in Game of Thrones. While House of the Dragon primarily focuses on the Targaryen family dynasty 200 years before Game of Thrones, the prequel show also introduced several families that were cut from or went extinct before the original series. Alongside House Velaryon (led by Corlys Velaryon), the most powerful family in House of the Dragon (outside of the Targaryens) that wasn’t included in Game of Thrones is House Hightower.
House Hightower will be one of the three main families in House of the Dragon, which is due to their incredible power, wealth, and proximity to the Iron Throne. Two of the most prominent characters in House of the Dragon are Otto Hightower, the Hand of the King to Viserys Targaryen, and his daughter Alicent Hightower, who becomes Viserys’ second wife and the queen consort of Westeros. House of the Dragon’s Otto Hightower is portrayed by actor Rhys Ifans, while young Alicent Hightower is played by Emily Carey and adult Alicent by Olivia Cooke.
Considering House Hightower’s history and family tree were almost entirely ignored during Game of Thrones, HBO’s House of the Dragon is apt to be filled with the family’s lore and position within Westeros. The end of the Dance of the Dragons, which included the deaths of some notable Hightowers, will also give a bit of a clearer explanation as to why House Hightower has lost their prominence by Game of Thrones’ timeline. Here’s a breakdown of the history of House Hightower, their story in House of the Dragons, and their limited role in the Game of Thrones series.
Before Aegon’s Conquest, the ancient family existed in the dawn of days as petty-kings, with the sons of an ancient Hightower king being significant to the foundation of the Citadel. The Hightowers joined the realm upon marriage to the Kings of the Reach, House Gardner of Highgarden. The Hightowers became one of the first great lords in Westeros to embrace Game of Thrones‘ Faith of the Seven, supporting the building of the Starry Sept and establishment of the High Septon’s position. When Aegon Targaryen conquered Westeros, Lord Manfred Hightower yielded Oldtown to the King and the High Septon anointed Aegon as Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.
Ceryse Hightower became the first bride of Aegon’s eldest son Prince Maegor Targaryen, but when Meagor declared that Ceryse was infertile, he took another wife. During King Maegor Targaryen’s reign, Manfred’s son Lord Martyn Hightower was ordered to behead Maegor’s niece Rhaelle Targaryen, but refused and decided to support the claim of Maegor’s nephew King Jaehaerys I Targaryen instead. While serving as allies to the Targaryens during the reign of King Jaehaerys Targaryen under Donnel and his unnamed heirs, they remained even closer to the throne during the Dance of the Dragons under Otto and Ormund Hightower.
House Hightower’s role in House of the Dragon begins with Otto Hightower being Hand of the King to Viserys Targaryen, with the character suggesting that Viserys marry his daughter Alicent following the death of his wife Aemma. While Viserys’ daughter Rhaenyra Targaryen and Alicent Hightower had a very close relationship growing up together in King’s Landing, they began to feud more often following Alicent’s marriage to Viserys. Alicent and Rhaenyra’s feud separated the realm between the “Green” and “Black” parties long before the Dance of the Dragons, with the monikers being derived from the queen’s green dress and the princess’s black dress at a notable feast. The feud worsened as Rhaenyra’s sons and Alicent’s sons came of age around the same time, with King Viserys eventually separating the queen and princess by sending Rhaenyra to Dragonstone.
It was the conspiring of House Hightower that truly began the Dance of the Dragons, as Alicent and the small council decided to put her son Aegon Targaryen on the Iron Throne after King Viserys’ death. Since Rhaenyra Targaryen had already been Viserys’ named heir over her younger half-brother, a war began between the two Targaryen sects over who had the rightful claim to the throne. With Otto Hightower initially serving as the Hand of the King to Aegon II Targaryen and Alicent as the queen regent, the family’s power was at its height at the beginning of the Dance of the Dragons. However, Otto was beheaded by Rhaenyra for treason while all of Alicent’s children with Viserys would die during the wars. Meanwhile, Alicent’s cousin Ormund Hightower ruled at Oldtown and led the Reach’s forces for the greens during the war, with his son Lyonel succeeding him and coming into controversy for his intention to marry his father’s widow.
Following the Dance of the Dragons, House Hightower comes into opposition with the Faith of the Seven. Lyonel Hightower intended to marry his father’s widow, Lady Samantha Tarly, but the High Septon forbid the union due to incest. Lyonel still kept Lady Sam as a paramour and had six children with her, with their attendance at the coronation of King Aegon III Targaryen becoming a source of scandal with the Faith. Sam was even commanded to become a silent sister but refused, causing even further tension with House Hightower.
However, later in the reign of Aegon the Broken King, a new High Septon reversed his predecessor’s ruling and legitimized Lord Lyonel Hightower’s marriage to Samantha and thus all six of their children. Around the same time, Daemon Targaryen’s daughter Rhaena married Garmund Hightower, with whom she had six daughters. While there were still several important Lord Hightowers after House of the Dragon’s era, one of the most notable was Jon Hightower, who served as Hand of the King to Aegon IV Targaryen, the grandson of Emma D’Arcy’s character Rhaenyra Targaryen.
After watching her father, four children, and almost all of her grandchildren die during the Dance of the Dragons (129 AC-131 AC), Alicent Hightower miraculously survived the civil war. She opposed the marriage of her granddaughter Jaehaera to Rhaenyra’s son Aegon the Younger, so she was absent from the ceremony, and later suggested to her granddaughter that she slit Aegon’s throat. Alicent was confined to Maegor’s Holdfast for the remainder of her life with very little company, where she frequently wept, talked to herself, and began hating the color green. In 133 AC, House of the Dragon’s character Alicent Hightower died amidst the outbreak of Winter Fever.
While hardly mentioned during the Game of Thrones TV series, there are many members of House Hightower still alive at this time; they simply lost the power and prominence beforehand. The Lord of the Hightower during Game of Thrones’ timeline is Leyton Hightower, known as the “Old Man of Oldtown,” whose daughter Alerie is the mother of Game of Thrones’ Margaery and Loras Tyrell. Leyton’s daughter Lynesse Hightower is the former wife of Ser Jorah Mormont, who is mentioned by the disgraced knight in the series. At the beginning of Game of Thrones, House Hightower supported the claim of Renly Baratheon, later changing their allegiance to the “sons” of King Robert Baratheon alongside the Tyrells.
Only one member of the historic family is seen on-screen in Game of Thrones: Ser Gerold Hightower (Eddie Eyre), the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under Aerys “The Mad King” Targaryen. Even so, Gerold was only featured very briefly during Bran’s vision of the Tower of Joy in Game of Thrones season 6’s flashback. The Hightower descendant was one of the knights guarding Lyanna Stark, with the character being killed by Ned Stark and his fellow soldiers in the ensuing fight. Despite House Hightower being depicted so prominently in House of the Dragon, the family only had one scene’s worth of screen-time in Game of Thrones.