Rhaegar Targaryen has been dead and cremated for 15 years and yet Westeros cannot forget the Last Dragon. He remains on the minds of secret loyalists, children’s stories, knights who admired him, the common people who loved him, and the women he charmed with his looks and skill at the harp. But one woman in particular cannot forget about Rhaegar. Her obsession continues to the current day and her position makes it all the more dangerous. Cersei Lannister just cannot get Rhaegar out of her head.
Many a night she had watched Prince Rhaegar in the hall, playing his silver-stringed harp with those long, elegant fingers of his. Had any man ever been so beautiful? He was more than a man, though. His blood was the blood of old Valyria, the blood of dragons and gods. When she was just a little girl, her father had promised her that she would marry Rhaegar. She could not have been more than six or seven. “Never speak of it, child,” he had told her, smiling his secret smile that only Cersei ever saw. “Not until His Grace agrees to the betrothal. It must remain our secret for now.” And so it had, though once she had drawn a picture of herself flying behind Rhaegar on a dragon, her arms wrapped tight about his chest. When Jaime had discovered it she told him it was Queen Alysanne and King Jaehaerys. – AFFC Cersei V
Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy. The prince is going to be my husband, she had thought, giddy with excitement, and when the old king dies I’ll be the queen. Her aunt had confided that truth to her before the tourney. “You must be especially beautiful,” Lady Genna told her, fussing with her dress, “for at the final feast it shall be announced that you and Prince Rhaegar are betrothed.” – AFFC Cersei V
Cersei’s love of the memory of Rhaegar mirrors the unrealistic love that Robert shows for Lyanna as shown by /u/somethingzosomething in their post A Bit of Cersei Parallelism I noticed
Robert had been handsome enough when they first married, tall and strong and powerful, but his hair was black and heavy, thick on his chest and coarse around his sex. The wrong man came back from the Trident, the queen would sometimes think as he was plowing her. In the first few years, when he mounted her more often, she would close her eyes and pretend that he was Rhaegar. – AFFC Cersei VII
However there’s a difference between their lusts for their young crushes. Robert largely pines over Lyanna in alcohol and abuse of his wife, harbors a grudge still against the Targaryens but it doesn’t really impact his rule. Cersei, however, continues to act on these feelings in realm business and informs her decisions on men she meets comparing them to Rhaegar. She named Aurane Waters, the bastard of House Velaryon and Driftmark, Grand Admiral of the Royal Fleet largely because of his resemblance to Rhaegar and wanting the imitation around.
Margaery was dancing with her cousin Alla, Megga with Ser Tallad the Tall. The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. His face is too narrow, and he has that cleft in his chin. The Velaryons came from old Valyrian stock, however, and some had the same silvery hair as the dragonkings of old. – AFFC Cersei III
Eventually the illusion is broken five chapters later,
“Your Grace is kind,” said Waters with a smile. A wicked smile, the queen thought. Aurane did not resemble Prince Rhaegar as much as she had thought. He has the hair, but so do half the whores in Lys, if the tales are true. Rhaegar was a man. This is a sly boy, no more. Useful in his way, though. – AFFC Cersei VIII
However this shows that Cersei is willing to favor and promote people to powerful positions that merely resemble Rhaegar in superficial ways. This gets dangerous for Cersei, however, as there as many pseudo-Rhaegars poised to descend on her and King’s Landing in TWOW.
Aegon VI, the supposed son of Rhaegar Targaryen, who is likely a fake but still has the features that Cersei favors. He has landed on the Eastern Coast of Westeros in the Stormlands and is poised to assault the Lannister stronghold of King’s Landing with the golden company and a number of rebel Westerosi houses For our purposes though, the important part is what will happen when Cersei sees him for the first time.
The lad was shorter than Duck, but his lanky build suggested that he had not yet come into his full growth. This beardless boy could have any maiden in the Seven Kingdoms, blue hair or no. Those eyes of his would melt them. Like his sire, Young Griff had blue eyes, but where the father’s eyes were pale, the son’s were dark. By lamplight they turned black, and in the light of dusk they seemed purple. His eyelashes were as long as any woman’s. – ADWD Tyrion IV
The blue dye Jon Connington uses on Young Griff implies the signature blonde/silvery features that the Valyrians and Rhaegar was known for.
Another pseudo Rhaegar is the spymaster of the Golden Company Lysono Maar,
The spymaster was new to Griff, a Lyseni named Lysono Maar, with lilac eyes and white-gold hair and lips that would have been the envy of a whore. At first glance, Griff had almost taken him for a woman. His fingernails were painted purple, and his earlobes dripped with pearls and amethysts. – ADWD The Lost Lord
There are also some theories that suggest that Gerold Dayne, the Darkstar, will seek out Arianne Martell who has gone North to see about an alliance with Aegon’s host in the Stormlands. And again, Darkstar has the typical Valyrian facial features that rings of Rhaegar.
Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean-shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry. – AFFC The Queenmaker
And of course, behind all these men is likely to be Danerys landing at some point with her Dothraki screamers and dragons after Aegon depletes the royal Lannister forces.
What this all adds up to is that Cersei, in love with Rhaegar since she was young, may start to see the dead Prince everywhere in the upcoming books. Paranoia and madness are already part of Cersei’s brand and people already don’t take her hunting of Tyrion seriously. Imagine how her advisors and commanders will react when she earnestly tells them as the battles and siege arrive on their doorstep that the Ghost of Rhaegar is coming back for revenge on her. After all, it’s her father’s forces that killed the Prince of Dragonstone’s wife, children, and father. This idea has already played out before with the the now legendary “Renly’s Ghost” that broke Stannis’ forces at the Blackwater and saved the city where Garlan Tyrell wore the slain Renly’s green armor to trick and rally his former bannermens’ loyalties in the heat of battle.
“They were, so long as I could give them two of your pennies for every one they had from the queen, but now she’s raised the stakes. Osney and Osfryd were made knights after the battle, same as me. Gods know what for, no one saw them do any fighting.”
My hirelings betray me, my friends are scourged and shamed, and I lie here rotting, Tyrion thought. I thought I won the bloody battle. Is this what triumph tastes like? “Is it true that Stannis was put to rout by Renly’s ghost?”
Bronn smiled thinly. “From the winch towers, all we saw was banners in the mud and men throwing down their spears to run, but there’s hundreds in the pot shops and brothels who’ll tell you how they saw Lord Renly kill this one or that one. Most of Stannis’s host had been Renly’s to start, and they went right back over at the sight of him in that shiny green armor.” – ASOS Tyrion I
A very similar trick could work on Cersei and any secret Targaryen supporters still nursing their grievances over the loss of Rhaegar as their monarch. Imagine the terror Cersei may feel as what looks to be her lost “love” charging her gates. Could make her do something desperate. Something hugely destructive in madness. Like light Wildfire under the feet of her returned love, return him to the ashes.
And even stranger, this very idea was hinted at early on in AGOT from Bran IV,
One wine-sodden taleteller even claimed that Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the dead and was marshaling a vast host of ancient heroes on Dragonstone to reclaim his father’s throne.
It’s already on George’s mind to have Rhaegar appear to return. With Cersei obsessing over the memory of the man and George positioning several pseudo-Rhaegars close around her, it’ll be very interesting to see how this plays out. The ghosts of the Dragon Prince are closing in on Cersei and the gates of King’s Landing. How will Cersei respond?