Game of Thrones in 1483

7 books

60 hours + of TV

1 year of history

Warning: Massive spoilers!!!

Game of Thrones is perhaps the most epic novel and TV series ever created. George RR Martin has woven a world Tolkien would have been proud of, managing to be filled with fantasy, but just recognisable enough to pull us in, to tug at some memory we have of something similar. So much has happened (I’m going to talk TV series for the sake of ease) that going back to the start seems like an age ago with long forgotten faces and actions with consequences still sending ripples through the Seven Kingdoms. There are many figures from the book and from history who can be paired together in different time periods. It’s amazing, though, how much of six series of world re-shaping can be crammed into the events of 1483 in England.

It’s not much of a secret that GRRM is interested in the Wars of the Roses and draws heavily on it in his writing. That is part what makes it feel so tangible. Several characters often represent a single real life person, and just as often, a character has traits that can be traced back to several real figures. The story begins with a larger than life king, more interested in hunting, feasting, drinking and womanising that the boring minutiae of government. He used to be a formidable warrior but not his armour doesn’t fit and he’s a bit too wheezy to fight. Edward IV, then. He goes to visit his best mate, most loyal subject, the man who fought at his side to win the throne and has since kept the wild north tamed in the king’s name. A man of honour, a strange kind of heightened honour some seem to find it hard to comprehend. Edward’s brother, the future Richard III fits that bill. The king dies in an accident – or is it an accident – matching Edward’s death in April 1483, which has since drawn unproven rumours of his wife’s mischief. His wife, the blonde from a family getting ideas above its station who wants to work its members into everything possible, fits with Queen Elizabeth Woodville and her family, who were viewed by the older nobility as commoners and interlopers, even though they weren’t.

Martin then seems to explore a few ‘what if’ scenarios as Robert’s young son prepares to become king. Joffrey = Edward V. Ned Stark, our fist Richard III, comes south and uncovers Joffrey’s illegitimacy. He is given a choice between covering up the truth and living or exposing it, backing a true king, a dying for his troubles. So, Martin suggests, Richard was in very real danger in the spring of 1483 and blind honour might get him killed. Rob Stark emerges as a King in the North, leading a military campaign south to enforce his rights. Another option for Richard, but one that also leads to Rob’s death. Rob is also an interesting parallel to the young Edward IV – undefeated in battle, seemingly charmed and invincible, his success is undone when he abandons an agreed marriage in favour of a commoner he falls in love with. Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s story played out almost like a flashback, with the pre-arranged marriage perhaps a reference to Warwick the Kingmaker’s efforts to secure a French marriage or the pre-contract story that would lead to so much trouble in 1483.

In Martin’s 1483, Edward V becomes king, followed by his younger brother, who would be Richard, Duke of York. Both are overwhelmed and overtaken by the events and end up dead. Does Martin think the Woodville matriarch would have been unable to keep her hands out of the government and destroyed her sons’ chances? Jaime, as Cersei’s brother, would have to be Anthony Woodville, who, whilst there was no hint of incest (that, surely, refers to Anne Boleyn’s story), was a key influence in the early life of Edward V as his guardian. There is also the incident of Theon burning two farm boys and passing them off as the Stark boys, so that everyone thinks the Stark heirs are dead, only for them to have survived in secret. Another theoretical line for the Princes in the Tower.

The penultimate episode had a sense of a flashback to earlier Wars of the Roses events. The Battle of the Bastards, two men fighting for one thing – Edward IV and Henry VI? – pile onto a field in massive numbers, as they did at Towton in 1461, when 28,000 dead were reported by heralds to be piled on the field, with men crushed and suffocated. The battle was won for Edward by the late arrival of the Duke of Norfolk to the field – see instead the Knights of the Vale. At the Battle of Losecote Field in 1470, Edward IV had brought Richard Welles, father of Robert, leader of the men opposing him, onto the field before the battle. After ordering Robert to surrender and hearing his refusal, Edward had Richard executed in front of his son, much as Jon watched Rickon’s death.

The last episode of series six was probably the most epic yet, as Kings Landing imploded, almost literally, and even more ended than started. My head was spinning, but I was back in 1483, perhaps in the autumn now. Jon is that son of Lyanna Stark and, presumably, Rhaegar Targaryen, though we don’t know if they were married. The question of legitimacy is left open but clearly impacts the notion of who is the ‘rightful’ heir. Legitimate or not, Jon is Daenerys Targaryen’s nephew (we presume). Does that make his claim better as it is through a male line? What if he isn’t legitimate? Is he the one figure who could unite north and south? Many may have thought that about Richard III in 1483. Then there is the Mother of Dragons herself. She ends the episode at the dead of a fleet of ships, heading back to Westeros, a land she hasn’t seen since childhood, surrounded by dragons and the hopes of those disaffected by the politics of Westeros – the selfless Lord Varys and Tyrion Lannister (who might well bring another element of Richard III in the examination of the perceptions of being physically different on a man’s life from childhood to adulthood). Could it be any clearer that this is Henry Tudor, with his red dragon of Cadwaladr, crossing to challenge for the throne? We have Little Finger, too, a man who prides himself on being untrustworthy, yet seems to get himself trusted, admitting that he wants the Iron Throne. I think we just hit Buckingham’s Rebellion in October 1483.

Martin makes so many connections and suggestions that it is possible to pick every plot line into a thousand pieces. Therein lies his genius. Perhaps the point about 1483 and the Song of Fire and Ice series in that so much can happen in a short space of time. There aren’t goodies and baddies. Motives shift and morph and are revealed as the political landscape changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes seismically. I think it is safe to say that GRRM has a deep interest in Richard III, the politics of 1483 and even the Princes in the Tower. He may not have any more answers than anyone else, but his expansive worlds give him free reign to explore what might have happened in a number of permutations that all seem to revolve around ideas of legitimacy and the shades of light and dark in men’s (and women’s) souls. GRRM just might be the most famous Ricardian around at the moment.

32 thoughts on “Game of Thrones in 1483

  1. Thanks Matt but I’m pretty sure Edward IV didn’t die in an accident so a bit tenuous. Also Henry VI was nowhere near Towton yet you seem to have him battling Edward IV?

    1. Hi Ben. There have been rumours Edward IV was poisoned to explain his sudden death rather than catching a chill fishing. Henry was not at Towton, that’s true. I meant they were fighting each other in terms of being two claimants and that the Lancastrians fought in Henry’s name. Perhaps that explains Jon challenging Ramsey to a duel before the battle and asking why his men would follow a coward?

      1. Aha. Thanks for that. I’d never heard that about Edward I have to say and thanks for clarification re Towton

  2. This is the second time that I type this,because there are always problems with Word Press too.
    My book will be published –to begin with,only on Kindle Direct as an ebook,–this week. Only this week because my technician could not help me before because of the stupid local festivities of Alicante.

    Matt,you are one of the persons who could research some of the issues I suggest in the book.There are many of them, some in connection with young Edward too—who was NOT Edward V. But I insist that the real problems are the ones AFTER,not before or during Richard III’s reign.Shakespeare and his misinterpration is a clue,very important and partly deliberately overlooked because tricky things come to the surface if we look at this issue.
    You are actually mentioned in my book,Matt,I hope you’ll like it

  3. Thanks to you. As you can see I’m in a bad situation without a proper desktop computer, to write this book was very difficult for me. Only in a post like the above one several silly mistakes,like the word ‘misinterpretation’ which I use 100 times in my book,and here it looks as if I didn’t know how to write it. Because I have a limited time on the desktop computers of public libraries,or I use my tablets which change words…
    So I wish very much to urge people in better situations to do the research I cannot do,and I like your stuff,you are independent as far as I know,so you could do it. I actually praise several other authors and film directors in my book whose stuff didn’t receive the attention it should have received just to keep Shakespeare misunderstood and the tricky questions he raises overlooked….

  4. My Shakespeare book is alive and available on Kindle Direct Publishing. At the same time–today!– I received a scary email from Amazon accusing me of having paid( !!) to someone to manipulate customer reviews. It should have been about my previous book which is on Kindle,and about which I declare in the description of my Shakespeare book,that it is ordinary,and it does not matter to me,that only the Shakespeare one matters.Then how could I have paid 1 cent to anyone to ‘manipulate’ reviews about that unimportant book?
    Naturally, I wrote to Amazon right away complaining about this horror. Someone may have really manipulated my Amazon account.
    I post all this here because it is a new evidence of the fact that there are some people who want to block the truth about Shakespeare from becoming recognized.
    Still, I don’t think anyone should have any problem buying or reading my book—and perhaps even researching some of the issues I suggest.
    These people who want to block the truth from coming to the surface,are probably square-headed old ‘scholars’ who wrote the stupid things about Shakespeare and this is why they don’t want to become publicly ridiculous,as each time more persons recognize the truth. They silenced some previous ones,now at least one of them is trying to silence me–don’t let them to silence you,Matt,please.
    We are right. Shakespeare was not pro- Tudor,he was a Ricardian. And by now I have no doubt that the misinterpretation has been in great part deliberate.

  5. I received an email from them that it is available.
    Oh,my God! It won’t be this blocking thing ,I hope ? Someone really paid to a hacker to break into my Amazon account to do things I don’t know about,but this way destroying my relationship with them too? Is this possible? After all it can be,because if a guy wrote and taught stupid things all his life, earning so much money with this that he can really pay for dirty manipulations,he is not happy if other people expose his stupidity
    Could you ,please,post here,if you have access to the book?

    1. Hi,Matt

      Now it is confirmed again that my Shakespeare book is available in the Kindle store.Amazon is investigating the mysterious,scary email I received. Maybe, it haven’t even come from them. Anyway,it shows that there are sinister things happening that I would not have thought possible. But ytying to find help with the references,I wrote to several people and places like libraries in England,so someone who had been previously completely wrong and brainwashed about the subject,may actually want to scare me and make my book disappear.
      Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth’s age in general are more important than it was recognized before.Have a look at it,Matt,please,and everybody else who is open-minded.

      1. Isn’t this a conspiracy theory, Eva? Most scholars welcome exciting and unusual ideas.

      2. Hi,
        If you are the woman with who was my mate at the university ,we can be in touch through my sites,not using poor Matt’s blog for this.You are absolutely welcome.
        As far as the ‘conspiracy theory’ is concerned, I deal with this question precisely on my site. The whole thing is far more complicated than it seems.
        I hate the expression ‘conspiracy theory’,because everybody is afraid of it—such a stupid thing! But in reality,conspiracies exist,square-headed old ‘scholars’ who wrote stupid things all their lives DO NOT WANT new theories to be recognized. Did the scholars of the Church welcome the new ideas of the scientists who were humiliated like Galilei,did the theorists of art welcome new forms of art when modern painters were ridiculed by them. Or,if you are Hungarian,you know what happened to Ady,the greatest poet of the 20th century.(his poems available in English). I actually mentioned him in one of my articles published in Ricardian Bulletin in 2014. You can read it online.Was he,and the theorists,like Hatvany,who backed him,were they received with enthusiasm by the representatives of official science?
        Stupid ‘conspiracy theories’ are presented to the world to make people think that conspiracies don’t exist only in stupid people’s minds.
        But Richard himself is a victim of a very dark conspiracy,and yes–all the great writers who pointed out the truth about him and about Tudor,founder of the posterior establishment.
        I am not as important as that—with peoplke like me the most comfortable thing is to marginalize them ,not let them make their new ideas recognized. Now my book is available on Kindle Direct Publishing,later it will be in paper form too—but I was scared to see all the obstacles after the yes,deliberate blocking of my relationship with my original,traditional publisher. This year on Kindle Direct,now I know,A spanish guy was behind it,it was sheer blunder,silly ,but not malicious,I think. He wanted to help me sending reviews about my previous book and they realized that it was the same guy,not serious reviews of several people.At the worst time,almost destroying my rewlationshipwith Amazon too.
        Matt,sorry for using your blog for this,but the general conclusions perhaps may be interesting. I hope you could download the book.

      3. As one historian has shown, Galileo was not well recieved because he was on obnoxius, arrogant git who went around rubbing it in, and because HE was the one going against the scientific reasoning of his age. Not any conpiracy. I totally blame Ptolemy- he invented that whole geocentrism hogwash.

        Tell I’m not a conspiracy theorist can’t you. Mind, I am thinking of inventing one…….

      4. Only hard people got on,and only hard people get on now.It is funny,I would have liked my book to be published by the traditional publisher,precisely because I hate self-publicity,I haven’t even got a Facebook account.And now I have to do not only the editing,but even the publicity of my book on a ‘do it yourself’ basis.Even the editing is a great problem.I cannot edit the text on this tablet,when I noticed that there were several errors in the originally published text,I had to go to libraries,where then browsers aren’t updated,my technician went on holiday, so only now that he has come back,we are trying to republish the corrected version.In this book I try to ask people not to treat the case of Richard s nephews as a unique detective story.History is full of similar cases.What about the accusations against the present royal family?
        In Richard s case,the ‘mystery’ to investigate is what Shakespeare portrayed and what happened to Shakespeare’s misinterpretation. How could it happen and why?
        My book will be hopefully in a better format on Kindle soon,and I will try to offer it free,please,have a look.I am sure that anyone can discuss the details,that is what the whole thing is about,but basically Richard ‘s whole case should have been looked at from a point of view totally different from the traditional one.
        Several authors and film directors pointed to this,and they were ignored.I mention them in my book which because of my situation and my problems of editing ,is on its way to join them in the limbo.

      5. How do we know that Shakespeare’s version was a ‘misinterpretation’? I see the biggest misinterpretation as the silly argument that Richard could not have done it because he was so nice, and sweet and kind and gentle and loyal. Hogwash.
        ‘Only hard people got on’ and people throughout the ages have been inclined to interpret many illegal and immoral acts in terms of loyalty. We should not assume Richard was some Saint, above the rest of the human race and immune from selfishness, greed, ambition, or the simple expedients of self-preservation. If we do, we are deluding ourselves.

        Too many people denigrate Shakespeare. I think he had a very good understanding of not just politics, but human nature and the seducing and corrupting influence of power. He portrayed all that very well in his plays.

      6. @Lady of Winchester: Um, you do know that Shakespeare was writing FICTION? I’m pretty baffled by your apparent view of him as some sort of a historical source. He’s as much of a historical source for Wars of the Roses as ‘Braveheart’ is for William Wallace and Edward Longshanks.

        What’s more, Shakespeare wasn’t even trying to be historically accurate, not even to his own, already questionable sources – therefore things like Richard killing people in battle in 1455, when he was actually 2 years old, or Richard not having any children, apparently, or Henry Tudor personally fighting and killing Richard, or the events of 1471-1485 apparently happening over the course of a few months, etc.

        As to the story about the murder of the “Princes in the Tower’ that Shakespeare used, it happened to originally come – via other 16th century chroniclers – from Thomas More, who wrote it down admitting it was a rumor he heard, and just one of the many different and conflicting rumors about what happened to them. Oh, and that account by More includes such delightlfully reliable “historical information” as Richard giving orders to kill the boys while he was sitting on a privy (nice touch!), or Richard not knowing James Tyrrell at all before he needed an assassin, and James Tyrrell apparently being some nobody at the time (when in fact, Tyrell had been a trusted landed knight in service of Edward IV and Richard III for years knighted in 1471 by Edward), not to mention the fact that one of the men involved was supposedly named… “Black” Will Slaughter. Hilarious. Either More had a great sense of humor, or his sources did.

        Oh, and supposedly, Miles Forrest, who allegedly confessed to murdering the boys alongside Tyrrell (but no traces of any such confession exist, and Henry VII never mentioned it -odd. huh?), was alive and walking freely, according to More himself, and nobody was arresting him for murder and regicide. How strange. And how convenient that this story was spread, without a shred of evidence to it, about a man who had been executed by Henry VII for helping one of his Yorkist rivals escape abroad, and wasn’t alive to defend himself.

      7. I suppose that it has been the usual error of the system that I received a message from WordPress saying that the above comment of ‘timetravellingbunny’is a reply to one of my old posts.It does’t seem to be the case,this is another topic,not mine,which is Shakespeare.the first and greatest Ricardian,the first grotesque playwright of world literature,whose message about the fact that ‘fair is foul and foul is fair’ (Macbeth)has never been more real and current than today.

  6. There are again very stupid errors in my post above,but it —again– has to do with my bad situation.Being nervous,I dropped my good tablet,it broke to pieces,so now I only have the bad one. Right now I’m in an internet cafe,and writing hastily insted of ‘relationship’ I write what can be seen above.Why doesn’t Word Press allow the correction of posts? Perhaps this is not only my problem

    1. What on earth are you talking about? That Shakespeare under rstood human nature and history,this is IN MY BOOk.But he was misinterpreted,don’t you understand? I am not evahopeless,I am Eva Burian,you can read some of my articles online too.Don’t you understand that Shakespeare was misinterpreted, lies and stupid things have been taught about him to veil the fact that he portrayed,and Q keen Elizabeth tolerated that Tudor was an unmitigated villain,the real life model of the character named Richard iii,the product of his mind.
      I have the username ‘hopeless’here,because I am really hopeless.People who recognize the truth,are ignored and marginalized.This was what happened to some of Shakespeare’s correct interpreters.And now,after my articles that you can read online,somebody blocked my whole book from being published by a good traditional publisher.The details are in the book and on my website the link is here on Matt’s blog.He himself,very nicely,I appreciate it,published it in a previous post somewhere.
      I have the Spanish citizenship,but I will renounce it,because in this superficial,stupid country I could only give le ssons of English,the creative and more scholarly work,which I am interested in,is a continuous struggle for me,as I mentioned yesterday.
      And in connection with Shakespeare,I have discovered two things. One is that the clue is grotesque drama.Other people,Matt too,noticed that his oeuvre is misinterpreted, what I add to it is this clue.It explains everything.
      The other thing is tricky.I claim that the misinterpretation has been partly deliberate to please the British establishment. But please,read my stuff before discussing. Shakespeare would have been a very bad stupid playwright if the character named Richardiii had been the real person s portrayal.It is Henry Tudor,the vile product of his vile mind.
      Why would I be such a Ricardian,if Shakespeare had not portrayed this? In Hungary,knowing nothing about the subject,Shakespeare’s grotesque play,and his whole oeuvre triggered it.
      You,sorry to say this,but you are under the effects of Tudor==establishment propaganda.And not as stupid conspiracy theories work,but as it works in reality,they have everything their way.
      What you say about the Ricardian version is true about Tudor. His registered vi!llainy was overlooked,his unjustifiable deeds accepted. Shakespeare portrayed this.

  7. I always thought Olanna Tyrell was an Elizabeth Woodville-Margaret Beaufort blend. Cersei was more Isabella of France Margaret of Anjou to me. Joffrey could be more like Edward of Westminster/Lancaster. Edward IV I see in Robert Baratheon and Robb Stark.

    1. I don’t think Olenna is particularly based on anyone, certainly not on either of these two women, who were never known for their wit and humor, and Elizabeth most certainly never reached Olenna’s age.

      Cersei strikes me as a blend of a number of historical queens, or rather, myths/popular perceptions about them – from Isabella of France to Isabeau of Bavaria to Margaret of Anjou to Elizabeth Woodville to a little bit of Anne Boleyn (but Margaery Tyrell is a stronger Anne Boleyn parallel, mixed with Jane Seymour).

  8. Personally, my research on all things regarding church law and marriage law is leading me to doubt the pre-contract and its treatments. It was nowhere near as straightforward as ‘betrothals were binding, end of story’. I think its a bit suspect that it was not tried before a church court.

    I believe old Edward IV probably took ladies for down the garden path with promises that were so vague, they could never be enforced as a marriage in any court- it it was just used as a pretext to get rid of the Princes. Still definately don’t think Henry Tudor or Margaret Beaufort had anything to do with any demise though. They’d have been better off killing Richard.
    Not did 15th century Kings did not get very far by being too nice. Even if they were called Richard III. Ducks the rotten vegetables…….

    1. No rotten vegetables here! They were hard times and only hard people got on. I’ve never denied that Richard has to be the prime suspect in the disappearance of the Princes, but that doesn’t mean all other possibilities should be ignored. I just enjoy exploring all the potential avenues, but I don’t claim to have any answers.

      1. No way- don’t you know Margaret Beaufort did it! Philippa Gregory said so. It was on TV so it must be true! Surely!

        Can I propose- Charles Dance, in the drawing room, with the Revolver? He just looks evil.

  9. As a big fan of George R.R. Martin’s epic book series, I’ve participated in a lot of interesting discussions about the historical inspirations for the series. You mentioned some of those. There are many more (although some of it is debatable and has been debated among fans).

    But, I also have to beg you: 1) please don’t call it “Game of Thrones series” if you’re referring to Martin’s work. Sorry if it comes of as a nitpick, but it is called A Song of Ice and Fire. A Game of Thrones is just the first book. 2) Please, please, please, for the love of old gods and the new and all that’s holy, don’t conflate the books and the show. They are, at this point, completely different stories, with completely different characters (even if they have the same names), plots, themes, style and messages. Martin himself has pointed that out, and that things that are happening in seasons 5 and 6 have nothing or very little to do with what has happened or will happen in his books. And since I’m also one of the people who thinks that the show has really gone downwill and been terrible for the last couple of seasons, turning into a big mess of illlogical plotlines, inconsistent characterizations and obvious reliance on the shock value, not to mention a bunch of sexist and racist stereotypes combined with hollow and shallow nihilism, I’m really bothered by people mixing up the two and the possibility that people who haven’t read the books will think that the books are also like that.

    /Rant over.
    Regarding GRRM’s historical inspirations, I agree that they are not 1:1, and there is usually one character inspired by multiple historical figures, or one historical figure inspiring multiple characters. GRRM also relies of historical myths and historical fiction as much as actual history (for instance, Tyrion is clearly a subversion of Shakespeare’s Richard III, while several other characters have traces of the historical Richard; I agree that the situation after the death of Edward IV was clearly the inspiration for the plot of the first book and Robert Baratheon’s death, but Richard’s role in the events is, in a way, collectively played by Ned Stark and both of Robert’s brothers, Stannis and Renly). But while Edward IV – Robert Baratheon and Edward IV – Robb Stark are the most obvious parallels, there are significant differences as well. I’ve also seen people try to link Stannis to Richard and Renly to George, Duke of Clarence. But those parallels, IMO, just don’t work on a 1:1 basis. Especially Renly and George – that just falls apart the moment you start really comparing the two (if anything, Renly is the anti-George: Renly managed to gain a huge following because of his charisma and outward showing of a great candidate for a king, while George didn’t seem able to get almost anyone to support him, and Renly’s words to Stannis that nobody wants him for their king would really apply more to George), and in fact, in some ways Richard is more like Renly than George is, while in other ways Richard is like Stannis, but then in other ways Stannis is like George (the middle brother who is jealous and constantly unsatisfied and feels passed over), and in other ways Stannis isn’t like anyone from the Wars of the Roses and has more in common with maybe Oliver Cromwell or Constantine; or if we look at the sibling rivalry between Stannis and Renly, and see Renly as George because he tried to take the throne away from his elder brother with the help of his powerful father-in-law (which is the main reason why people compare Renly to George), then Stannis becomes his Edward IV, responsible for his treacherous younger brother’s death.

    Bottom line: GRRM uses history as inspiration, but he doesn’t just translate it exactly like that. He merges characters, mixes things up. writes alternative, what if? scenarios. Therefore anyone who’s trying to predict the outcome of the series based on history is on the wrong track.

    One thing I strongly disagree with you is that Daenerys is Henry Tudor. No, no and no. Daenerys is the only surviving child, and, as far as she and almost everyone else knows, only surviving descendant of the late king Aerys II. She is the rightful heir to the Targaryen claim to the throne. Henry Tudor had no real claim to the throne of England, and wasn’t even a viable candidate for it until 1483. Daenerys has, at the age of 16, achieved an incredible amount – she has hatched three dragons, something no one has achieved in centuries (I want to laugh when people say that Dany is Henry Tudor because of dragons – yes, because putting a dragon on your banner is the same as hatching live dragons at a great personal risk), she’s led her people, conquered cities, abolished slavery, gained thousands of followers, become a legend on an entire continent, with thousands of people adoring her as a savior figure. Henry Tudor, by the age of 27, had achieved pretty much nothing, except staying alive in exile. He hadn’t even ever been in a battle. And Daenerys achieved all of that on her own – as a young girl, she never had people with her to mentor her and help her, other than her abusive brother (she only gains Barristan Selmy as a loyal right hand man after she’s already achieved things and proven herself, and Jorah Mormont spying on her to begin with). She didn’t have a loyal older mentor figure like Jasper Tudor, or any other retinue to help her, and she also never had people working on her behalf in Westeros and trying to get her on the throne, as Henry had his mother and John Morton.

    A much better Henry Tudor parallel is a character from the books (who has been apparently cut from the show, even though that has caused ripple effects on the entire structure of the story), introduced in the latest, 5th book, A Dance with Dragons: Young Griff, or “Aegon Targaryen” – the young man that Varys and his friend Illyrio Mopatis have been plotting to put on the Iron Throne, and who is, according to them, the son of prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell, who supposedly wasn’t really killed by Gregor Clegane, but smuggled beforehand and switched with another infant. This story sounds incredibly contrived – because it’s probably false and made up by Varys and Ilyrio. But ‘Aegon’ has the right look and about the right age, and really believes he is Rhaegar’s son and rightful Targaryen heir, as does his mentor, Jon Connington, exiled lord and Targaryen supporter and friend to prince Rhaegar, who’s devoted his life to putting Rhaegar’s son on the throne. Of course, Aegon is also an obvious parallel to ‘Perkin Warbeck’. There are also very strong similarities to other historical pretenders, such as “False Dmitry”, who even managed to become Russian Tsar Dmitry I (and whose eventual fate I see as being probably most similar to what I think will happen to Aegon). But I think he also has more similarities to Henry Tudor than Dany does: unlike Dany, he’s had a loyal older mentor/uncle figure with him all along to help him, and people around him training him and other people in Westeros secretly plotting to get him on the throne (Varys), but he didn’t do anything of note while in exile – before he staged his – so far successful – invasion, with the help of mercenaries (the Golden Company; Henry, of course, had French mercenaries). The parallel gets stronger if Aegon is, as many speculate, in fact a descendant of Blackfyres, the line descendant from a legitimized Targaryen bastard, who had caused trouble and civil wars and been attained and therefore barred from the throne (Beauforts were, after all, also the line descended from legitimized bastards barred from the throne). Although Aegon’s personality – a teenager who’s experienced but hotheaded and wants to prove himself in battle – sounds very unlike Henry, and more like Edward of Lancaster. In any case, the very fact that the same character has parallels both to Henry Tudor and his long time rival and nemesis, “Perkin Warbeck”, shows how pointless is to try to make 1:1 parallels and predict the outcome based on it.

    There are also many other historical parallels that can be drawn based on the stuff from the books that isn’t on the show. For instance, in the books (unlike in the show), Roose Bolton was, for a long time, in charge of one half of Robb’s army, and in another geographical part of Westeros (he was in the Riverlands, while Robb was fighting in the Westerlands). Long before the Red Wedding, Roose was already planning to betray Robb and negotiating with Tywin Lannister (probably even before the Freys decided to jump ship), and he used the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by sending a bunch of troops, led by some of the most prominent northern lords, to a march to Duskendale, on the far east of Westeros, supposedly under orders from Robb (that was a lie), where Tywin’s forces were waiting to slaughter them. But this didn’t just make it impossible for a big part of northern forces to help Robb at the Red Wedding – it was also a great opportunity for Roose to get his northern rivals killed or captured. As it happens, those same northern lords who got killed or captured at Duskendale were earlier Roose Bolton’s rivals for a lucrative piece of land in the North which used to belong to the family called… Hornwood. (Ramsay Bolton, then still Ramsay Snow, tried to take it over by forcibly marrying widowed Lady Hornwood, and then locking her up and letting her die of hunger.) Hornwood sounds a lot like Hornby, the estate which Thomas Stanley took from the Harrington family, by abducting the young Harrington girls so he could later marry them to his sons. Roose Bolton certainly used battles as an opportunity to kill off his northern rivals for lands and control over the North (he did that again at the Red Wedding, in addition to betraying and killing Robb). which makes me think of Thomas Stanley. (Ramsay’s more hotheaded personality and less careful actions may be more like William Stanley – and I’m one of the many people who think that, unlike in the show, Roose is likely to outlive Ramsay.)

    The fictional history of Westeros also has obvious historical inspirations. Not just Robert’s Rebellion, which has other Wars of the Roses parallels (there was a rebellion against a mad king – though Aerys was completely different from Henry VI; young Robert Baratheon was also a handsome, charismatic great warrior like young Edward IV – though it was Eddard Stark whose father and brother, Lord Rickard and Brandon Stark, had been shockingly killed, the way Edward lost his father and brother at Wakefield). The Targaryen civil war known as “Dance of the Dragons” between queen Rhaenyra and her half brother Aegon II is obviously inspired by the Anarchy and Empress Maud/her cousin Stephen – but it’s even more tragic, and it has dragons fighting each other. The pious, sexless, “saintly” and revered, but actually incompetent and possibly mad king Baelor the Blessed strikes me as an Edward the Confessor/Henry VI mix. And Aegon IV the Unworthy, aka the worst Targaryen king ever (in Martin’s own words) and possibly worst and most selfish person ever, was clearly inspired by Henry VIII, and Aegon’s mistresses by Henry’s wives, but Martin somehow managed to make Aegon even worse than Henry. Another terrible king, Maegor the Cruel, also has parallels to Henry VIII, with his multiple marriages, problems with stillborn children, and obsession with getting an heir.

  10. I forgot to comment on the issue of Targaryen succession.

    If Jon is legitimate (and people acknowledge him as legitimate) and if he is considered released from his Night’s Watch vows, then he is definitely ahead of Daenerys in the succession to the Iron Throne. It has nothing to do with male/female – he is the son of Aerys’ eldest son/Dany’s elder brother. If Dany were male, he is still ahead of her.

    If Jon is not legitimate, then he has no claim to the throne at all, unless a king legitimizes him, and I don’t see which king would do that. Now, I think that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married, because the Kingsguard members at the Tower of Joy clearly thought they were guarding their king. They wouldn’t have been there just to guard Rhaegar’s mistress and bastard child, instead of going into exile to guard Viserys. But there may be people who would still deny Jon’s legitimacy even if they were married, because not everyone would probably be OK with polygamy – the Targaryens did practice it, but the last one who did that was Maegor the Cruel, two centuries earlier, and he had problems with the Faith of the Seven over it (though Aegon the Conqueror and his sister wives Visenys and Rhaenys had no such problems with the Faith).

    There’s also the issue of his Night’s Watch vows. As a member of the NW, he should not be heir to anything, as his vows prohibit him from owning any lands or titles.

    Now, the show handwaived it, apparently because we’re supposed to think his vows don’t apply now that he’s died and been resurrected (?). Which makes no sense to me – I don’t think they have a law or custom on resurrections, so why is everyone OK with that? In fact, how is everyone OK with and blase about Jon’s resurrection in general? Shouldn’t they be shocked, surprised, confused, curious, afraid, convinced that something weird and unholy is going on…? And how is everyone just accepting that Jon’s death releases him from his vows? Is he legally dead now? Then how can he be chosen as King in the North? Which also makes no sense because he’s a bastard, as far as anyone knows, he hasn’t been legalized by anyone, and his legitimate sister was right there next to him, so how could they ignore Sansa, who’s Robb’s legal heir if Bran is considered dead, and chose Jon, who has no claim to Winterfell or the North? And why are both Jon and Sansa ignoring the fact that Bran, Robb’s legal heir, is alive, which they both know?

    But I’m ascribing this all to the show’s recent tendency to not make any sense, and to indulge in fanservice and cheap storytelling ploys. They wanted to have Jon acclaimed King in the North in a ripoff of the season 1 scene where Robb was, so it didn’t matter if it made sense, or that making Jon’s death a total non-event (seriously, people get more upset by spraining an ankle than he did by dying), other than as an easy way out of his vows, was a really cheap and lazy storytelling device. I really don’t believe any of it will happen in the books. If Jon is made King in the North, I’m sure it won’t be like that. (In the books, there’s Robb’s will where he probably legitimized Jon and proclaimed him his heir, which would explain how something like that could happen.)

    Of course, if Jon is revealed to be a legitimate son of Lyanna and Rhaegar, that would mean that he has a legitimate claim to Winterfell and the North (if he is released from his vows), but only after Bran, Rickon (still alive in the books!), Sansa and Arya, since he’s not Ned’s son, but the son of Ned’s younger sister.

    Now, in the books there’s also “Aegon Targaryen”, supposed son of prince Rhaegar. I’m one of the many who think that he’s just an impostor (though he doesn’t know that), but if he were really who he says he is, he would be ahead of both Jon and Daenerys in the succession to the Iron Throne, as Rhaegar’s eldest (and undoubtedly legitimate) son.

  11. I was never really happy about Word Press–and really,now with other things on my mind,all of a sudden,’out of the blue,I received a message that an old comment of mine was commented,but the last post here was about another topic.Now,that I answered that it must have been an error,I see that my answer was actually put to the Shakespeare problem.
    Word Press having started this again with this error,I ask you all to take the misinterpreted Shakespeare as a historic source–like every grotesque playwright,meaning the opposite of what his ridiculed stories seem.The above mentioned Tyrell scene is one of the best ones.I think you can read on my Amazon site what I think of it without buying the book,because it is–if I remember well–in the sample.
    The misinterpreted Shakespeare is the greatest topic in connection with this.I hope Matt will keep on dealing with it,because he also recognized that Shakespeare-and More too!–are not what what has been taught about them.There is much more to discover here.

  12. Having been greatly influenced by your Richard III book, I believe that it’s possible that Ned Stark, just like Richard, was kind of out of his depth once he assumed power of the country, whether as a Hand of the King or King. In Richard’s case, instead of just Littlefinger and Ceresi, it’s many many people (Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort, Buckingham, Stanley, Morton, and maybe Northumberland). Another major parallel I see is that Richard might’ve been honorable as the Stark boys, judging from his motto “Loyalty Binds Me” and some of his real-life actions; I now kind of wonder whether GRRM is a Ricardian himself… (I also see Jon Snow killing Janos Slynt the equivalent of Richard III executing Hastings and Anthony Woodville, though I’ll admit the controversy regarding those actions taken by Richard up to the present).

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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