Game of Thrones Draws Inspiration From History

The hit series Game of Thrones is strongly based on the European Middle Ages, and many of the popular characters in the series are derived from historical figures.

Robb Stark

Robb Stark achieves one victory after another as army chief, but his decision to break a promise of marriage becomes fatal. He was to marry a woman from House Frey as part of an alliance but ended up marrying a woman from outside Westeros.

The English king Edward IV (1442–1483) did about the same. He should have married Princess Anne, daughter of the French King Louis XI, but married in the deepest secret Elizabeth Woodville.

The English nobles, who had allied with the French king, were furious and revolted. But unlike Robb Stark, Edward made it out alive and ruled until his death.

King Joffrey

King Joffrey, the evil tyrant, is, in fact, a mixture of the English King Richard II (1367–1400), and Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (1453–1471). Like Joffrey, Richard II came to the throne at an early age: in 1377, when he was 10.

Joffrey’s cruelty is copied from Edward of Westminster, who according to sources was very violent and possessed of war. The Ambassador of Milan wrote about him:

‘This boy, even though he is only 13, talks only of warfare and cutting off heads, as if everything is in his hands whether he is a god of war’.

His fighting spirit soon became fatal: he died at the age of 17 at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471

Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish

This mint master and board owner came to power through manipulation and his large network of spies. This description also fits the English military dictator Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658).

Cromwell was a descendant of the low nobility, but managed to climb up to Lord Protector, and was thus in charge in England.

Another source of inspiration for Littlefinger may have been Richard Neville (1428–1471), Duke of Warwick. His great wealth and nose for political intrigue earned him the nickname Kingmaker.

Daenerys Targaryen

One of the most important characters in the series, Daenerys Targaryen, has many similarities with the English Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603). Both were power-hungry, unmarried and possessed an iron weapon (dragons and the English Navy respectively).

Daenerys was married for a short time, but Elizabeth is known as the virgin queen because she was never married. Both women decide to remain unmarried to strengthen their power: Daenerys wants to recapture The Iron Throne, and Elizabeth wants to expand the English Empire.

Moreover, both of them punished a close advisor who had damaged their trust. Daenerys banishes Jorah Mormont when she hears about his past as a spy, and Elizabeth has her adviser Robert Devereux executed when he tries to incite an uprising against her.

Cersei Lannister

Queen Cersei is very much like Margaret of Anjou (1429–1482). Both were married off at an early age as part of an alliance. The French Margaret married the English King Henry VI in 1445 to establish peace between England and France.

Both women took over the government of the country because their husbands could no longer govern. Cersei ruled behind the scenes while her husband went hunting and shared the bed with other women, Margaret took over when Henry VI slowly became senile.

Moreover, there were rumours about both of them committing adultery, and both had a cruel, sadistic son (Joffrey and Eduard van Westminster).

Jaime Lannister

In season 4 of the series, Jaime Lannister gets a golden art hand because his own hand has been chopped off. This story shows strong similarities with that of Gottfried ‘Götz’ von Berlichingen (1480–1563) — a German knight and mercenary, who was known as Götz with the Iron Hand.

Like Jaime, Götz was of nobility and became a knight. In 1504 he lost his hand when it was hit by a cannonball during a siege. But Götz did not allow himself to be confined and had an iron hand made, with which he could throw himself back into battle.

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