One of my favorites hobbies is watching movies and series, I also love reading about history and learning new things. This is why I’m going to dedicate this post to one of my favorite series: Game of Thrones.
It’s no secret that Game of Thrones has been a massive success around the world and it is a series filled with historical facts and amazing characters. The author created a magical and creative universe and he actually took some inspiration from real life events to build this world. Therefore, today I want to show you some of those historical facts so next time, when you are watching an episode you have in mind that maybe what you’re watching is based on something that really happened.
Before I start:
- This may contain spoilers.
- If you haven’t watched GOT, but you enjoy history keep on reading!
The war of the Roses
The whole story in Game of Thrones is closely based on a bloody event that happened around 1455 to 1460 in England called ‘The war of the roses’.
This war was held between two noble English families called the Lancasters (the Lannisters), who were represented by a red rose, and the Yorks (the Starks) who were represented by a white rose. Just like in the series the Lannisters are represented by a lion and the Starks by a wolf.
Basically, both families were able to claim the throne and that started a long war through generations, where both families gained and lost several times, so both the Lancasters and the Yorks sat on the throne. Although we haven’t seen the Starks sitting on the Iron Throne we don’t know what might happen in the upcoming season.
This video actually inspired me to make this post and it explains the relation between the War of the Roses and GOT.
Henry VI and the Mad King
The Mad King of Game of Thrones was inspired by Henry VI (Lancaster), who was King of England during 1422 to 1461. He didn’t have the qualities of a Medieval King, instead, he was very shy, gentle and naive, but after losing some of his French possessions he had a mental breakdown and started to suffer from depression and melancholy. People started to say he was insane and his nervousness made him very dangerous.
His inability to rule was what started the War of the Roses, just like Aerys Targaryen’s (Mad King) lack of ability to rule the kingdoms caused people to start claiming the throne and the whole situation in Game of Thrones.
Henry VI was married to Queen Margaret and they had a son called Edward of Lancaster (of whom we will talk next).
Edward of Lancaster and Joffrey
Yes, there was a real Joffrey. I know it’s a horrible thing to think but it’s true.
Like I previously said, Henry VI had a son with Queen Margaret. Edward was conceived during Henry’s period of mental illness which is what started rumors saying that Queen Margaret might have been with another man to get pregnant. This is very similar from the (true) rumors in Game of Thrones concerning Cersei’s sex life and Joffrey’s real father, and in fact, Queen Margaret shares a few traits with Cersei.
Edward wasn’t on Joffrey’s level of violence but with only thirteen years of age he used to only talk about cutting off people’s heads and starting wars, saying he was the rightful heir of the throne.
Now, if you have watched GOT, you might be a bit confused. Not all the characters line up directly to history, Queen Margaret (Cersei) gave birth to Edward of Lancaster (Joffrey) and that’s fine, BUT if we follow the story in the series Henry VI should have been Robert Baratheon and not the Mad King, as he was Joffrey’s “father” and Cersei’s husband. But, like I said not everything lines up completely and the author must have had his reasons.
The Black Dinner & the Glencoe Massacre and the Red Wedding
Everyone was shocked at the Red Wedding episode, it wasn’t easy to watch. The author, George R.R Martin stated that the events in that episode were based on two real life stories: The Black Dinner and The Glencoe Massacre.
Basically, Earl of Douglas and his brother were invited to have dinner with the King of Scotland in the Edinburgh Castle in 1440. They were getting along at the dinner when suddenly it was dropped on the table the head of a black bull, this was supposed to mean the death of the Black Douglas. The story ends with the two brothers being dragged out of the room and beheaded. Apparently, the Douglas family was growing too strong and they had to be stopped.
On the other hand, the Glencoe Massacre happened in 1692 when Captain Robert Campbell sent 120 of his men to the home of Clan MacDonald in Glencoe, where they kindly received the soldiers. After two weeks of being guests Robert Campbell and his men murdered their hosts, in this way, breaking an important Scottish rule of hospitality.
Found any similarities with the Red Wedding?
The Dothraki and the Mongols
The Dothraki are the nomad warriors Daenerys obtained in season 1. They are strong, extreme, violent and ride horses, and they were actually inspired on a real group: the Mongols.
The Mongols were an ethnic group who rode horses through East-Central Asia in the 13th century. They were also nomad, had their own language, didn’t care much for other cultures and like the Dothraki they were afraid of the sea. Genghis Khan was their ruler and they used to call him only ‘Khan’, very similar to the ‘Khal’ Khal Drogo has.
Wildfire and Greek fire
In the series, wildfire is an incendiary weapon that can burn on water. Greeks had their own fire that was used in naval battles. They used it in many battles, against many other armies, like the Second Arab Siege, which was a specific battle where Greeks used their fire to defeat the Arab army. That particular event was what inspired GOT’s episode: the Battle of Blackwater Bay.
The composition of Greek fire is sort of a mystery; some say it was made of: naphtha, calcium phosphide, sulfur, niter, lime and other combinations.