Doctrine of Exceptionalism

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The Doctrine of Exceptionalism, or Exceptionalism for short, is the precept that King Jaehaerys I Targaryen worked out with the Faith of the Seven in order for them to tolerate the continued practice of incestuous marriages by House Targaryen. It was developed by King Jaehaerys, with help from Septon Oswyck and Septon Barth. The supporters of this doctrine are called Exceptionalists.[1]


The Doctrine of Exceptionalism's basic tenet was simple: the Faith of the Seven had been born in Andalos of old, where the laws laid down by the Seven in the holy texts decreed that incest was an abomination. The Doctrine of Exceptionalism confirmed this, but with one caveat: the Targaryens were not like other men as they rode dragons and were the only ones in the world since the Doom of Valyria. In addition, they did not have their roots in Andalos, but in Valyria, where different laws and traditions held sway. The Targaryens wed brother to sister as the Valyrians had always done, and as the gods had made them this way, it was not for men to judge.[1]

Apart from incest, one of the key beliefs of Exceptionalism was that the Targaryens were immune to common illnesses that could kill other men.[2][N 1]

The Seven Speakers preached the doctrine throughout Westeros.[1]


From the time the Doctrine was accepted till the fall of its dynasty, House Targaryen had nine incestuous marriages:[3][N 2]

Incestuous betrothals also occurred:


  1. This belief has been proven wrong as several Targaryens died of different diseases, such as the Shivers for Daenerys, greyscale for Maegelle, a burst belly for Baelon, infection and gout for Viserys I, consumption for Aegon III, the Great Spring Sickness for Daeron II, Valarr, and Matarys, and a short illness for Jaehaerys II.
  2. Marriages between cousins are not considered incestuous by Westerosi standards. Therefore the following unions do not hinge on the Doctrine of Exceptionalism:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Fire & Blood, A Time of Testing - The Realm Remade.
  2. The Rise of the Dragon, The Reign of Jaehaerys I: The Early Reign.
  3. The World of Ice & Fire, Appendix: Targaryen Lineage.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Fire & Blood, Heirs of the Dragon - A Question of Succession.