Can you guess 15 ‘Game of Thrones’ characters and their historical inspirations?
“Game of Thrones” is nearing an end, soon live in the pages of history. But did you know that “Game of Thrones” and its characters are based on actual people? We’ll provide clues for the historical figure, and see if you can guess which character they are in “Game of Thrones.” Good luck!
Charles VI of France was born to the house of Valois in 1368, during the bloodiest turmoil of the Hundred Years’ War. It was also 20 years after the plague arrived on France’s shores, so this made for a terrible time, though it was less atrocious than the rule of the king who lost his mind.
In his twenties, he randomly killed four of his knights during a hunting trip. Then, he forgot his name, refused to bathe for a year, and didn’t let anyone touch him because he said he was made of glass. Do you need anymore hints as to who his parallel character is in Game of Thrones?
The ‘Mad King’ is Charles VI
Early on in his life, Charles VI was known as “Charles the Beloved,” but, by the time he died, he became known as “Charles the Mad.” The “Mad King” in Game of Thrones, or King Aerys II of House Targaryen, was based on this Charles VI, as George R. R. Martin’s basis for this character was no accident.
During the reign of Charles VI, France would descend into chaos. What preceded in England was no more orderly, however. The differing factors between the two are that after King Aerys screamed “Burn them all,” one of his bodyguards, a young Jaime Lannister, killed him. Charles VI couldn’t be touched, however (because he was made of glass, duh), and died of natural causes.
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was born in 1430, and became Queen of England by the time she was just 15 years old (when she married Henry VI). Speaking of mad kings, Henry VI was just that, as the grandson of the mad King Charles VI. Because of his madness, Henry VI was deemed unfit to rule, so Margaret largely presided over the realm… or, ahem… England.
Margaret called a Great Council in 1455, and brought together England’s allies to defend against threats to the crown. What followed was the War of the Roses, and if you know your Game of Thrones, much of what happened in Westeros is modeled after that conflict. So where does Margaret of Anjou fit in?
Cersei Lannister is Margaret of Anjou
Oh yes, it is she, Cersei Lannister, who at the time of this writing is sitting on the Iron Throne. Margaret of Anjou was confronted by very troubling times as well, and just like Cersei, she was extremely unpopular. Margaret effectively played the role of kingmaker as the head of the House of Lancaster.
Where the similarities stop, however, is Margaret’s reaction to her son’s death. While the loss of all of her children only seemed to embolden Cersei, Margaret was beside herself when her son (and heir to the throne) was killed in battle. She was later imprisoned in the Tower of London, which is strikingly similar to when Cersei was a prisoner in her own kingdom.
Richard of York
The two Henry’s that preceded Henry VI gained control of vast amounts of territory in France during the Hundred Years’ War. Henry VI, however, was so inept that much of it was taken back during his reign. Richard of York came to help, and became Lord Protector of England when Henry VI was nothing short of catatonic.
Richard was trying to help, and one of first actions was to rid the court of corrupt advisers. The only problem was that Margaret of Anjou hand-picked those advisers, and was not happy about their removal. When Henry VI emerged from his catatonic state, he ordered Richard to leave, reinstating his advisers.
Ned Stark is Richard of York
Richard of York felt that the crown had been hijacked, and saw it as his mission to save it, which is very similar to Ned Stark’s actions in Season I. Ned was summoned to help restore order to the realm, and became Lord Protector of the crown for about five minutes. Richard then went home to raise an army and marched against the king.
Margaret of Anjou proved to be a worthy adversary, for no matter many how many times she was beaten back, she was still able to raise armies against Richard of York. Richard was defeated and beheaded, just like his son Richard III years later, which was the same fate suffered by Ned and his son, Robb. His head was even placed on a spike for the public to view.
Edward IV was Richard III’s brother, as both were sons of Richard of York. But when the King of the North… er, excuse me, Richard of York, was killed, it was Edward who was charged with raising an army and avenging his fathers death. All of this happened during the Little Ice Age in Europe, when unseasonably cold weather must’ve felt like, “winter is here.”
In the winter of 1461, he avenged his father (at least for a time) when he won the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. He won another stunning victory in a snowstorm later that year, in the Battle of Towton with a total of 50,000 warriors, 28,000 of whom died. Still need a hint as to who this is in Game of Thrones?
Robb Stark is Edward IV
The “Young Wolf” won a string of victories in the early seasons, after Ned was beheaded. Unlike Edward IV, who became king, lost the crown, then won it back, Robb Stark never got the chance to sit on the Iron Throne (thank you very much, Walder Frey).
Further parallels are developed between the two, as Edward infuriated his family and supporters when he chose a common woman for his bride, just like Robb Stark. It’s not known how Edward IV died, but Robb Stark did suffer the same fate as Edward’s brother Richard III, who was defeated and promptly beheaded.
Cecily Neville, Duchess of York
Cecily of York was the wife of Richard of York (are you confused yet?), and mother to Edward IV and Richard III. Edward IV was a good man, but her other son, Richard III, was more like Theon Grayjoy in the first two seasons. When Edward died, Richard III became king, and sent Edward’s sons to live in the Tower of London.
They became known as “Two Princes in the Tower,” and, to this day, nobody can say for sure what happened to them. As for Cecily, she was known as “Proud Cis,” for her temper and virtue. She was also the mother of twelve children, including two that became kings.
Catelyn Stark is Cecily Neville
No one, with the possible exception of Cersei, fought for their children harder than Catelyn Stark. She also fought right alongside her son, Robb, supporting him just like Cecily Neville did to get Edward the throne of England. In this sense, we can see that Margaret Anjou (Cersei) and Cecily Neville (Catelyn) played the role of Kingmakers.
Each was deeply entrenched in the War of the Roses, as they sought to supplant each other’s sons so they could become king. Cecily outlived 10 of her children, but just like in Game of Thrones, only two of her daughters survived (or so she thought). Her House of York donned the white rose as their symbol, and Margaret of Anjou’s House of Lancaster used the red rose, thus, the War of the Roses.
Edward of Westminster
Edward of Winchester was the son of Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI. From the very beginning, he led a troubled life. Because he was an only child, born eight years after they married, and Henry may have been out of town when Edward was conceived, nasty rumors spread that Margaret slept around to get pregnant (we’re looking at you, Cersei).
An Italian ambassador once said of Edward, “This boy, though only thirteen years of age, already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne.” Come on… this one’s pretty obvious.
Joffrey Baratheon is Edward of Westminster
When Edward of Westminster was just 17 years old, encouraged by his mother, he led an army against the House of York at the Battle of Tewkesbury. He ended up dying in battle, thus never ascending to the throne. Joffrey — the little twit — got to reign for at least a little while, until Olenna Tyrell did us all a favor and had him killed.
An account of Edward of Westminster’s death tells a story of the prince being found by enemy troops, far away from the battlefield and crying over losing the battle. He was immediately beheaded, which had previously been his favorite thing to do to enemies.
Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York was the daughter of Edward IV, making Cecily of Neville her grandmother. She had an important role to play in the War of the Roses, and, in a lot of ways, her story directly ties into the narrative created by George R. R. Martin.
When it was clear that Henry VII (son of, you guessed it, Henry VI) and the Lancasters won the War of the Roses, they sought to reconcile their differences with the House of York. And if we’ve learned anything from Tywin Lannister, nothing heals old wounds and brings houses together like marriage. Thus, Elizabeth of York was wedded to her rival, Henry VII.
Sansa Stark is Elizabeth of York
Robb Stark should have learned the previous lesson, because his sister Sansa certainly did via her proposed marriage to King Joffrey Lannister… I mean Baratheon. In a sense, Elizabeth was more like Sansa’s sister Arya at a young age, in that she avoided the limelight. However, staying on the sideline as much as possible ensured that she was alive at the end of the game.
So if the Lannisters are the Lancasters, and the Starks are the Yorks, then you can see why Tywin wanted to marry Joffrey to Sansa. For a brief moment, it seemed like he succeeded to do so, until Joffrey had the father of the bride-to-be’s head chopped off. In reality, their marriage created Henry VIII, and a dynasty that lasts to this day.
Henry VII was eventually succeeded by Henry VIII (peacefully this time), and Anne Boleyn became the notorious ruler’s second wife. She is generally considered the most famous of Henry VIII’s wives, and in case you’re in need of a history lesson, Henry had six of them.
Anne and Henry got along famously until their first child, Elizabeth, was born. Several miscarriages unfortunately followed, and due to Anne’s inability to produce a male heir, their relationship was severely strained. Henry then found an affection for Jane Seymour, which obviously made Anne extraordinarily jealous. Things went from bad to worse, as false charges were brought against her, following with her beheading shortly thereafter (which seems to be a common theme on this list).
Margaery Tyrell is Anne Boleyn
Margaery Tyrell’s historical parallel was Anne Boleyn, and it is somewhat fitting given Anne’s known propensity for charm and politics. Although things ended rather differently for Margaery and Anne, both died at the hands of the royal court. While Margaery never gave birth to a child, Boleyn’s progeny carried on her legacy.
Anne Boleyn’s surviving child was crowned Queen Elizabeth I, and unless you’ve been living under a rock, you should know who that is. Margaery played her cards well in Game of Thrones, but in the end, just like Anne, there was no way she could have predicted that her enemies would go to such lengths to see her demise.
Now, we arrive at Henry VIII, and through him you can see how the lineage of the English crown influenced the story of Game of Thrones. Henry VIII wasn’t necessarily a bad king as far as England’s governance is concerned, but he did stir up chaos and controversy over the handling of his six wives.
Ever heard of the Protestant Reformation? Well, in short, it was caused by Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife, and the Pope’s unwillingness to grant it. Bloodshed ensued, and the church was forever divided. That fact rings true when compared to the character Henry VIII is based on…
Robert Baratheon is Henry VIII
The physical resemblance between the two kings is nothing short of uncanny, and that was most likely by design. The hard-drinking, temperamental “King of the Realm” left his house full of dysfunction, and when he died, he left a world far more chaotic than the Protestant Reformation. While the two are closely related in appearance, their marital woes differed a little bit.
Another similarity between the two men is that they had wives that were either accused, or actually did, engage in incest. Whereas Henry VIII made it up to get rid of his wife Anne Boleyn, Robert Baratheon’s wife no doubt did engage in it, bearing three children from her brother Jaime.
All the dysfunction and discord stops with our next historical figure, as the reign of Elizabeth I was a highly fruitful period for England. In 1588, the Spanish decided to settle a score with England once and for all, and sent an armada to take control of the island.
A freak storm derailed their efforts, however, and the armies under Elizabeth defeated the Spanish invaders. What ensued was a reign that saw a renaissance of art and culture, including the rise of William Shakespeare. She never took a husband, believing they would rival each other, thus giving her the nickname “Virgin Queen.”
Daenerys Targaryen is Elizabeth I
Daenerys Targaryen is decidedly not a virgin, but after the death of her husband, Khal Drogo (which was out of necessity and love), she never took another husband. That still didn’t stop her from having some steamy moments with Daario Naharis and Jon Snow. But, honestly, what are cooler than dragons?
Elizabeth did find a suitor in her childhood friend, Robert Dudley, but the two were never married. Daenerys has not been alive during one moment of peace, but, just like Elizabeth, when conflict arises, she does what it takes to win. The “Mother of Dragons” also claims that she can’t produce children, just like Elizabeth.
William Cecil, First Baron of Burghley
Elizabeth had a crucial adviser during her time as queen, but don’t go getting too excited, as William Cecil, 1st Baron of Burghley was not history’s equivalent of Jorah Mormont. William Cecil was as skilled as he was cunning, and quickly rose in the royal court, for he aided in Elizabeth’s enjoyed success.
William Cecil’s legacy is difficult to understand, however. Just like Richard III, William Cecil is both celebrated and hated, depending on who you ask. This is due, in part, to his rivals catering history to their liking. But there is no doubt that the character based on him is indeed a bad man.
Little Finger is William Cecil
You can almost hear Little Finger begging for his life in the photograph below, and you’d be lying if you said you didn’t rejoice when Arya put a dagger to his throat. His desire to sit on the Iron Throne is well known, but it is highly unlikely that Cecil had such aims.
A main reason why people hate Cecil is due to his treatment of Catholics during the Protestant Reformation, while Protestants tend to give him a pass as a “product of his times.” But even so, Cecil, just like Little Finger, was an extremely shrewd statesman and aid to the throne, managing to die in a more peaceful manner.
We’re beyond the War of the Roses, but George R. R. Martin certainly borrowed characters from other historical figures. Claudius was installed as the Emperor of Rome after the Praetorian Guard killed his nephew, Caligula. The Praetorians believed Claudius to be dimwitted and easily manipulated, but they were quickly proved wrong.
Some historians assert that Claudius acted unintelligent in order to protect himself, and that might hold true. The second he became emperor, he suddenly had a brain. He’s rumored to even having admitted perpetuating the myth. Also, despite physical abnormalities at a young age, he overcame his handicap and vastly expanded the Roman Empire.
Tyrion Lannister is Claudius
Caligula was also an inspiration for the character of Joffrey Baratheon, with his wanton killing and torture. Caligula habitually bullied and embarrassed his uncle Claudius, just like Joffrey did to his uncle Tyrion Lannister, but, as in the historical record, Tyrion gained the upper hand.
It’s rumored that Claudius’ mother once stated that he was, “a monstrosity of a human being, one that nature began and never finished.” There’s also speculation that Caligula ordered citizens to throw dates and olive pits at Claudius if he slept during dinner. Claudius and Tyrion certainly went through their share of humiliation, but it seems like a stretch to imagine Tyrion perched on the Iron Throne at the end.
In case you didn’t know, George R. R. Martin based the the Ironborn after the Vikings, the Dothraki after the Mongols, and the Knights Watch after the Knights Templar. With all that history context, as well as the multitude warfare, it would be criminal to leave out Roman emperor and military genius, Julius Caesar.
Julius Caesar led successful military campaigns in Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Macedonia, as well as conquering the Gauls (France). He used to say, “veni, vidi, vici,” or, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Having an empire demands an emperor, and the decision to become that person ended up costing Caesar his life.
John Snow is Julius Caesar
Perhaps more well-known than Julius Caesar’s life is his death. On the “Ides of March” (March 15 on Roman calendar), he was betrayed by his friends and compatriots, brutally stabbed to death on the floor of the Roman Senate. Not long after, Jon Snow became “Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch,” and his own men did much the same thing.
Fortunately, Jon Snow had the magic of Melisandre (okay, so she’s done some good) and came back to life. The parallels between Jon Snow and Julius Caesar are mostly closely associated with their deaths. However, Jon Snow, like Julius Caesar, successfully unified the kingdoms of Westeros to fight together, much like Julius Cesar conquered Europe.
In 1903, a holy man named Rasputin tramped into St. Petersburg, Russia. With a reputation for healing powers, and known as a divine clairvoyant, he dazzled the city’s residents with his abilities, even impressing Princess Anastasia of the ruling Romanov family. While many know of Rasputin’s “immortality,” few are aware that he inspired a character on GOT as well.
Five years later, he was summoned to Moscow to help Anastasia’s brother, Prince Alexei. Alexei was a hemophiliac from birth, and the Romanovs were desperate for help. Rasputin summoned his divine powers and healed the boy — several times over. After that, he gained the trust of the Tsar and Tsarina, becoming the Romanov’s most trusted adviser.
Melisandre is Rasputin
When Melisandre came into the life of Stannis Baratheon, he might as well have started counting the days until his death. The spiteful Melisandre not only placed poison in his ears, leading to Stannis’ untimely demise, but also convinced him to burn his daughter at the stake.
Rasputin made a correct prediction that if he were killed, the Romanov’s would follow suit. That proved true, as the entire Romanov family were deposed, then murdered on July 16, 1918. As for Rasputin, he was poisoned, shot, and ultimately drowned. We’ll see if the writers for Game of Thrones are kinder to Melisandre.
Once upon a time in Italy, there was a man named Niccolo Machiavelli, and he wrote a book for his prince, Lorenzo de Medici of Florence. The book, “The Prince,” contained a series of lessons that are still relevant to this day, none of which are more famous than “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
Machiavelli found his inspiration for “The Prince” directly from the exploits of Cesare Borgia. Borgia was a skilled soldier and even better general. He was known for his ruthless tactics too — during a revolt by his own people, he called for a truce, then promptly killed all of his enemies. He also had the help of a very powerful father, Pope Alexander VI.
Jaime Lannister is Cesare Borgia
Jaime has undergone a transformation as a character, but we must remember that it was his antics that started Game of Thrones in the first place. The Borgia family has been linked to the Lannisters, as Cesare had a powerful father, like Jaime had Tywin. Also, both Cesare and Jaime became major generals during their respective lifetimes.
Cesare and Jaime both pledged their allegiance at a young age, as Cesare became a bishop, and Jaime became part of the King’s Guard. Later on, both would break their oaths. The similarities don’t stop there, however, as Cesare is rumored to have had a love affair with his sister, thought to be his one and true love.