When Aegon I Targaryen embarked on the conquest of the continent from his seat on Dragonstone, he had to contend with seven independent realms. These were:
Kingdom of the North, ruled by House Stark of Winterfell.
Kingdom of the Mountain and the Vale, ruled by House Arryn of the Eyrie.
Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers, ruled by Harren Hoare of Harrenhal.
Kingdom of the Rock, ruled by House Lannister of Casterly Rock.
Kingdom of the Stormlands, ruled by House Durrandon of Storm's End.
Kingdom of the Reach, ruled by House Gardener of Highgarden.
Principality of Dorne, ruled by House Martell of Sunspear.
With the aid of his dragons, Aegon managed to conquer all of the kingdoms, except Dorne, which would join with his dynasty through marriage a century later. Houses Stark, Lannister and Arryn, which bent the knee to Aegon, were allowed to maintain their domains, no longer as Kings but as Lords Paramount of their respective regions - the North, the Westerlands and the Vale - and Wardens, subject to the authority of the King.
With House Hoare eliminated, the kingdom ruled by Harren the Black was divided, with the people of the Iron Islands choosing House Greyjoy as their rulers, the lands surrounding the Trident awarded to House Tully as Lords Paramount of the Riverlands, and the lords of the lands surrounding the new capital of King's Landing as direct vassals to the Iron Throne.
House Gardener was also obliterated when King Mern IX perished at the Field of Fire. Mern's steward, Harlen Tyrell, surrendered Highgarden and the Reach to the Targaryen conqueror and was thus appointed Lord of Highgarden and Warden of the South.
House Durrandon was extinguished in the male line when King Argilac was killed by Orys Baratheon in battle. As a reward for his loyalty, Orys was granted Argilac's domain, as well as his daughter. Thus House Baratheon, Lords Paramount of the Stormlands, was created.
The only one of the Seven Kingdoms not conquered was Dorne in the far south, whose lords learned from the mistakes of the other kings and refused to meet Aegon and his dragons in open battle. Dorne retained their independence for almost two more centuries before joining the realm through a dual marriage with the Targaryens.
Despite civil wars, rebellions and the death of the last of the dragons, the Targaryens remained at the head of the Seven Kingdoms for over 280 years until the actions of the Mad King, Aerys II, triggered the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion. At the end of this civil war, Aerys II and most of his family were slain and his surviving children fled into exile in the Free Cities. Robert Baratheon took the throne and ruled for seventeen years, beginning a new dynasty whose rule is now challenged.
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