Game of Thrones, the award-winning series based on George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novel series, has been renowned as the biggest drama on television attracting an average of 30 million viewers per episode in its 7th season. The medieval style drama is so believable that it sometimes feels like a retelling of real historical events… This may be because George RR Martin drew inspiration from British history when writing the novels! For those of you who haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones, WARNING: spoilers ahead.
The infamous Red Wedding was arranged by Lord Walder Frey as a malicious act of vengeance against Robb Stark for breaking the marriage pact between their respective houses. Robb, his wife Talisa and his mother Catelyn were brutally murdered after the marriage feast. Turns out, this iconic scene was based on the Glencoe massacre of 1692 where the MacDonald Clan of Glencoe were killed while they slept in Captain Robert Campbell’s abode. While not as brutal as the Red Wedding, there is a common theme of the victims enjoying hospitality from their murderer before their brutal deaths. Some also believe the Red Wedding was based on the Black Dinner. In 1440, the Earl of Douglas was invited over for a meal at Edinburgh Castle by King James II, after which he was killed by King James II himself.
While we’re at it, you might recall several characters mentioning the notion of guest right, a sacred tradition of Westeros which dictates that once a guest eats off the table of a host, neither the guest nor the host can harm each other. Some examples of violations of guest right include the Red Wedding, the Hound beating up the farmer that hosted Arya and himself, and Jaime Lannister’s attempt to kill Bran while he was a guest of Eddard Stark at Winterfell. George RR Martin has explained that guest right was based on the Hospitality Laws (also known as ‘the bread and salt’) of the Dark Ages. Hospitality Law dictates that even if they are enemies, hosts and guests are not to harm each other after sharing bread and salt. If the law is violated, the perpetrator condemns themselves for all time.
As the farmer from House Tully puts it after the Red Wedding:
“Walder Frey committed sacrilege that day. He shared bread and salt with the Starks. He offered them guest right. The gods will have their vengeance… Frey will burn in the seventh hell for what he did.”
The Wall, defended by the Sworn Brothers of the Night’s Watch, surrounds the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms to protect its people from the wildlings. Of course, now, they have bigger fish to fry (cough, cough, White Walkers). Surprisingly, the Game of Thrones universe was not the first to build a barrier between the north and south to protect its people. In AD 122, Roman emperor Hadrian ordered his army to build Hadrian’s Wall to separate the Romans from the barbarians (also known as the Northern British people). It’s hard to tell whether Donald Trump drew his inspiration from Game of Thrones or Hadrian’s Wall… funny how history repeats itself, isn’t it?
The White Walkers, the ancient race of humanoid pale, blue-eyed, gaunt ice creatures, are perhaps the most terrifying thing about Game of Thrones. The creatures were created thousands of years ago by the Children of the Forest to protect them from the First Men, but they managed to break loose and rise to prominence as the most feared creatures of Westeros. The White Walkers may have been influenced by the Aos Si, or Sidhe, the supernatural fairies or elves rooted in Scottish mythology. Like White Walkers, the Sidhe coexist in the human world and can be appeased with offerings like child sacrifices. Scottish mythology also influces stories of the Slaughe Sidhe, a hoard of evil spirits.
You might know this better as the battle between House Stark and House Lannister, which is more of an ongoing storyline rather than an individual event. The Battle of the Whispering Wood might be the least subtle of George RR Martin’s ‘inspirations’, known as the Wars of Roses which took place in England between 1455 and 1487. The wars were fought between the House of York and the House of Lancaster over who was the rightful heir to the throne…. Sound familiar? The name, Wars of Roses, is because House of York’s emblem was a white rose, meanwhile the House of Lancaster opted for a red rose. Similarly, the House Stark banner is a grey direwolf on a white background, while the House Lannister banner features a golden lion on a crimson red background.
Daenerys is the youngest child of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, who died before her birth during the Sack of King’s Landing, the closing act of Robert’s Rebellion, after which Robert Baratheon claimed his right to the throne. Daenerys and her brother, Viserys, were smuggled across the Narrow Sea to Dragonstone for protection, meanwhile their siblings were murdered by House Lannister. Like Daenerys, Henry Tudor was the last surviving member of the Lancastrian family with viable claim to the throne after the Wars of Roses when Edward IV of House York claimed the crown in 1472. He also lived most of his life across the Narrow Sea (better known as the English Channel) to avoid being murdered by Edward IV. After Edward IV’s death, Henry founded House of Tudor which was represented by a red dragon as their emblem.
Daenerys gained followers like Ser Jorah and former kingsguard Barristan Selmy from Westeros and freed mercenary slave soldiers to join her army. Meanwhile, Henry Tudor gained support from the Earl of Oxford, and 2000 French mercenaries in his army. Henry secured the throne in 1485, and later married Elizabeth of York to unite House York and House Lancaster to end disputes. Does this mean we will see Daenerys win the throne and marry Jon Snow to unite House Targaryen and Stark?