The War of the Roses and Game of Thrones
There have been a number of references to the fact that George RR Martin drew inspiration from the historical War of the Roses, but nothing in great detail about what historical counterparts the characters might represent.
I realized that Lancaster was similar to Lannister, but beyond that, I didn’t think much about it. Then I picked up Phillipa Gregory’s book The White Princess and began to see a great many parallels between her fictional biography and Martin’s fantasy.
A long time ago in a land far away, specifically England in the 1400s, two cousins vied for the throne of England. Thus began the true life Game of Thrones. The players were the Yorks in the North (Starks) and the Lancasters in the South (Lannisters.) Interesting note, the Tudors were known for their red hair, as the Lannisters were known for their blond locks in The Game of Thrones or rather the series A Song of Fire and Ice.
Henry VI was known to have a history of mental illness, like the Mad King. After several battles, Henry was captured. His wife Margaret of Anjou is a scheming woman, not unlike Cersi. Though I believe Cersi is more like Margaret Beaufort.
Edward of York is crowned King, as Eddark Stark could have been. However, the French Army, Lancasters and Neville’s attack the Yorks until Edward and Henry VI are killed. Hence, Eddark Stark’s death. However, his beheading his more like Richard of York’s death than Edward’s death. And Edward’s sons, who were 12 and 8 years old, were captured, much like Bran and Rickon Stark are.
Edmund Tudor is similar to Robert Baratheon who marries Margaret Beaufort who is similar to Cersi. Cersi’s brothers Jamie and Tyrion are perhaps a split of Edmond’s brother Jasper.
Anyway, Edmond and Margaret have a son named Henry the VII. Henry the VII, who marries the York Princess Elizabeth, is similar to Joffery, who forces Sensa into the family. Martin twists the plot a bit by having Joffery marry Margery Tyrell instead and pawning Sensa off on his uncle Tyrion. History shows that Henry VII fell in love with Katherine Huntley despite still being married.
Now Robert Baratheon had several bastards that had more entitlement to rule than Cersi and her twin brother’s children. That particular story line is similar to how Henry VII was obsessed with finding “the boy” who was known as Perkin Warbeck. Could Gendry’s counterpart be Perkin, the pretender?
It is my thought that The Wall in Game of Thrones could be representative of the boarder between England and Scotland. Though there are no wildlings or white walkers in Scotland, England was always fearful of an invasion from the Scots. Both the Irish Celts and the Scottish Picts were considered unrefined barbarians compared to the dignified and highly civilized England and could have been seen as wildlings by many during those times.
Caitlyn Tully is clearly a nod to the Scottish. I think her counterpart would be Elizabeth Woodville. Thomas Grey, Elizabeth of York’s half brother, is similar to Theon Greyjoy. Are the Iron Lands representative of Ireland? Perhaps. Not sure who Rob, Bran and Rickon’s counterparts would be. Maybe Robb is Edward Earl of Warwick and his brothers Bran and Rickon are George and Richard. And Sir Thomas and Sir William Stanley could easily be Stanos in Game of Thrones.
I am not sure who Daenary would be. She is the displaced Queen who was the rightful heir. Khal Drogo echoes the sort of man one might have found riding with horse tribes that once roamed Russia.
Although, Martin clearly uses the War of the Roses for a template, he does have fun enhancing the real world with witchcraft, paganism, zombies and dragons. He is better able to examine the issues of gender roles, patriarchy, sexuality, religion and politics under the guise of fiction. And truly, his fictional characters are free to live, feel and breath free because he isn’t tied down to trying to get the historical portrait correct.
Pingback: Lannister=Lancaster? | ferreavirago
I really enjoyed your article. I can see echoes of Margaret Beaufort in Cersei, too. I recently posted on the similarities between Cersei and Margaret of Anjou (there are some odd coincidences to be sure!), though I’m not sure every character needs a historical equivalent. I think it’s enough that the powerful queens in GoT were likely influenced thematically by some of the powerful queens and paraqueens of late medieval England, even if the tiny details don’t all exactly line up. You’re much more diligent with your tags than I am. I should take notes!
Interesting article. I think Daenerys is the parallel character of Henry Vii. They are both exiled and claiming the throne. Henry fled across the English channel. Daenerys across the Narrow Sea. Also Henry was nicknamed the Dragon Prince because his family was from Wales and he claimed he was a direct descendant of King Arthur .And just as there was a sign in the sky when Daenerys’s dragons were born there was a solar eclipse in England just before Henry arrived in England. These are but a few similarities between the two.
I never thought about her that way, but you draw some excellent parallels!