The Real Game of Thrones - Historical Events that Inspired the Novels and Show

By Camille T. Tue, November 29, 2016
Daenerys Targaryen from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO
Daenerys Targaryen from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO
Cersei Lannister from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO
Cersei Lannister from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO
Jon Snow from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO
Jon Snow from Season 6 of Game of Thrones © HBO

Are you a fan of HBO’s television series Game of Thrones? The sixth season of the series based on George R. R. Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire ended in June, and has proven to be as exciting as the first five. The sixth season was even more intriguing to readers of the novels, because as we eagerly await Mr. Martin to release his sixth novel, The Winds of Winter (we’ve been waiting five years now!), the television show isn’t slowing down; they are continuing to tell the story where the novels left off. This has left many readers scratching their heads because many plot lines are diverting from the books, but it all adds to the fun.

Game of Thrones takes place in a setting where kings, queens, knights, lords, giants, magic, dragons, and even the walking dead, exists. What you might be surprised to know though is this fantasy world was actually inspired by historical events. Mr. Martin has stated that, "The War of the Roses was one of the original inspirations for A Song of Ice and Fire. The War of the Roses was fought between the Yorks and Lancasters and I have the Starks and the Lannisters."

The War of the Roses was a series of battles between the House of York and House of Lancaster in medieval England for the right to the throne, between 1455 and 1487. It’s called "War of the Roses" for the badge of each house: the white rose for York and the red rose for Lancaster (even though it’s said these particular badges weren’t often used). The war was won when Henry VII (a Lancaster and first monarch of the House of Tudor) defeated Richard III (the last king of House York). When Henry VII assumed the throne, he married Elizabeth of York and invented the double rose (white superimposed on red) to symbolize the union of the two warring houses (which encouraged writers to use the roses as emblems of the feud).

SPOILER WARNING: I discuss some events which take place in the novels and television show. If you haven't read the books or watched the show, I recommend you bookmark this post and come back after you're finished the show or novels. Read at your own risk! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some plot points from the show loosely based on historical events:

  • Cersi's Walk of Shame - Jane Shore was the mistress of King Edward IV. After his death, she was accused of witchcraft and forced to walk the streets of London barefoot, wearing a white sheet and carrying a lighted candle.
     
  • The Red Wedding - This scene is based on two events in Scottish history. The Black Dinner of 1440 where 16-year-old WIlliam Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother were invited to dine with the 10-year-old King James II of Scotland. During the meal the brothers are removed and beheaded on trumped up charges. The other event is the Massacre of Glencoe in 1691. The MacDonald clan of Glencoe were guests of the Campbells, with over 120 troops staying on their land enjoying food, drink, and shelter, when a decree was given that the Campbells had permission to "put all to the sword under seventy." 38 men, women, and children were killed in the massacre with many more dying of exposure after trying to escape.
     
  • Unsullied Soldiers - The eunuch soldiers were based on the Spartan army and Mamluks of Egypt.
     
  • Ned Stark - He may be loosely based on William, Lord Hastings, who was a loyal friend of the King Edward IV. After the king's death, he was killed by the King's brother Richard III for treason.

Have you noticed any additional historical events you think were inspired in the books or show? Please share them in the comments below!


Comments

The Battle of the Bastards was based largely on the Battle of Cannae, a great victory of the Carthaginians under Hannibal against the Romans in 216 BCE. (See here, for example: http://m.ign.com/articles/2016/06/20/game-of-thrones-the-real-life-battles-that-inspired-battle-of-the-bastards)
Adrienne - Visiting Philly from Virginia Thu, December 15, 2016
Thanks for the information Adrienne. I didn't know that!
Camille T. - Free Library Thu, December 15, 2016

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