The Game of Thrones novels have many historical links and inspirations. In previous interviews, George R.R. Martin spoke about how the Wars of the Roses was something that inspired him to write, but he wanted to keep it fictional so he had more freedom. That makes sense, but he certainly kept some of the historical figures in his novels. Some of the historical figures have been meshed together for the characters, while some characters are just developed from one character and have led to the character families being developed from that. At least, that is how it seems to have happened.
Catelyn Stark is one of those developed from one main figure in history. Many believe she shares traits with Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. She was the wife of Richard, Duke of York, and mother of two kings: Edward IV and Richard III of England. While Cecily was a proud mother, she was also a centerpiece for conspiracy and scandal. Historians still debate over the legitimacy of her eldest son, Edward, and believe that he was really the son of an archer and not the Duke of York. In Game of Thrones, the belief is that Ned Stark had an affair and fathered Jon Snow. Catelyn admits that she could never bring herself to love Jon, believing that her husband was unfaithful.
The main historical link and inspiration for Game of Thrones certainly seems to be the Wars of the Roses. This was a 30-year war that took place in England and only ended when a princess and exile from the two warring households married, and the exile managed to execute any pretenders and possible threats to the throne. They were Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor—later Henry VII of England.
In Game of Thrones, House Stark and House Lannister are considered to be the Houses of York and Lancaster, often respectively. The main difference is the fact that the war has lasted much longer in the books than it did in real life, and there is a third family in the war—House Targaryen. Daenerys comes across as Henry VII in the way that she is exiled and having to rally her own army to get the throne. The question will be if she will marry someone in the Stark or Lannister household to join two families and bring an end to the war.
Speaking of joining two houses to bring an end to a war, that was something House Lannister and House Baratheon attempted. Cersei is married to Robert Baratheon to help place Robert on the throne, and secure his position there. Without the Bank of Lannister and Jaime Lannister’s position the Baratheon’s plans would have likely failed. There may have been hope that the Starks would have joined due to Ned Stark’s and Robert’s relationship.
Sansa Stark may have been inspired by Elizabeth of York. Despite finally becoming queen, Elizabeth was used as a pawn for alliances. Edward IV arranged various marriages for her, but they all fell through. At one point, Elizabeth was betrothed to the French Dauphin Charles, and would have known that marrying him would make her Queen of France one day. She was a typical daughter of the time by being under the control of her father or husband, which is very similar to Sansa. Elizabeth was also the eldest daughter, and ended up with her two brothers going missing (presumed dead) so she inherited her father’s lands. Sansa’s brothers are either dead or presumed dead and she is the eldest daughter, making her the heir to her father’s lands and fortunes.
There are many other links to history the more one reads Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire or watches the TV show adaptation. Some of the links are minor, and there are various figures mixed together to create other characters. Many of the historical links and inspirations for Game of Thrones can only be debated as Martin is now sharing where they all came from for his specific characters and storylines.
Opinion by Alexandria Ingham