Each week, we’re looking at a minor character from Game of Thrones. With the help of the books, we’re shedding some light on bit-players from the show without giving away plot spoilers.
Who is he? Maester Aemon is currently the oldest member of the Night’s Watch, serving as its maester, which means he’s a cross between a doctor and a priest. Samwell Tarly serves as his steward.
Who was he before? In the very first series, Aemon reveals to John Snow that his family name was Targaryen. He belongs to the Westeros’ previous royal dynasty and is the great-great uncle of Daenerys (the mother of dragons).
Born about 100 years before the first episode, he was the third son of King Daeron II’s fourth son, so there was very little chance of him ever sitting on the Iron Throne. As is the case with many third born sons in aristocratic families, he was sent off to a seminary of sorts. By the time he was 19, Aemon had completed his studies and earned the title of Maester.
Aemon was just 23 when his father, Maekar, ascended the throne following a string of unexpected deaths among his elder brothers. The young maester, now third in line to the throne, was summoned by his father to serve on his small council. Not wishing to upset the current Grand Maester, he politely declined and headed further away from the capital.
When King Maekar died, Aemon was left as his natural heir. His eldest brother had died of pox he caught from a prostitute years before; his second brother, Aerion, went mad and drank wildfire (that green bomb-liquid), thinking it would transform him into a dragon. (It did not.)
Once more, Aemon passed on King’s Landing. He quietly declined the crown, allowing his younger brother Aegon to become King of the Andals.
Wishing to remove himself entirely from the world of royal politics, he made the decision to head to the wall. He took the black and became a member of the Night’s Watch, which he has remained ever since. Even while Robert Baratheon set about exterminating the entire Targaryen family during his war to usurp the throne, Aemon never broke his vow and remained loyal to the brotherhood.
Over his seven decades at Castle Black, the brothers of the Night’s Watch have forgotten Aemon’s connection to his family name. Even Daenerys, his last remaining relative, remains unaware of his existence.
(Sources: A Song of Ice and Fire, The Hedge Knight)