7 real-life inspirations for Game of Thrones that are crazier than fiction

real life historical inspirations game of thrones us emmy 8
HBO
Game of Thrones has a reputation as being more grounded than other fantasy works. Yes, there are dragons and ice zombies and the occasional wizard, but for the most part, the show presents a world where pragmatism rules and fairy tale endings go to die. In part, this realism may stem from the fact that George R. R. Martin draws heavily on history for his stories.

Several of the series’ most shocking and outlandish events have their roots in reality. Rather than retell a particular historical story in a fantasy setting, Martin tends to take bits and pieces from some of the most fascinating time periods and cultures, creating a unique milieu. Even so, there are some clear sources of inspiration, particularly from the roots of British history. Truth may not be stranger than fiction here but it comes pretty close, and some of these stories seem almost too wild to be true — but they are.

Spoiler Alert! This article touches on events and details from Game of Thrones. Anything up through the end of season five may be discussed, so if you are not caught up, read on at your own peril.

The Wars of the Roses: the real Game of Thrones

At five seasons and counting, Game of Thrones’ sprawling story of treachery and warfare may seem endless and complex to modern audiences, but it’s still brief compared to its biggest historical parallel, the Wars of the Roses. A series of conflicts fought over the course of 30 years, the Wars of the Roses centered on two noble houses, the Lancasters and the Yorks, fighting for the English throne. If those names seem familiar to GoT fans, it’s because they’re pretty clear inspirations for the Lannisters and the Starks, the two biggest families at the center of the series. The name War of the Roses stems from the now iconic symbols of each house: a red rose for Lancaster, a white rose for York, thought the importance of these symbols is exaggerated by later writers such as Shakespeare.

Martin may have used the Wars of the Roses as a launching point for the War of the Five Kings, but their are some key differences. His tale establishes fairly clear moral distinctions, with the Lannisters being ruthless, pragmatic aristocrats and the Starks noble rebels. No easy distinction exists between the Lancasters and Yorks; both factions wanted the throne of England, and were willing to engage in all manner of scheming and slaughter to win it. Still, there are some common themes that run through both conflicts, chiefly the issue of whether power should pass through inheritance or conquest.

As in the show, claims to the English throne arose due to usurpation and issues of succession. At one point, England was ruled by the Plantagenets. In 1377, the Plantagenet king Edward III died, a year after the passing of his eldest son Edward, the Black Prince. Normally the crown would pass to the eldest son, but since he was dead, his own son, Richard II, inherited it. This angered Edward III’s other three sons, including John of Gaunt (the first Duke of Lancaster) and Edmund of Langley (the first Duke of York.) Eventually, Richard II’s Lancaster cousin, Henry of Bolingbroke, deposed him and crowned himself Henry IV.

Just as Robert Baratheon’s usurpation of the Iron Throne led to numerous claims for control of Westeros, Henry IV’s ascension would sow the seeds of war, as the Yorks would later claim that the Lancasters unlawfully took the throne. If this all seems confusing, rest assured, it doesn’t get any simpler; by the end of the wars, at least five men would sit on the throne of England, and many Henrys, Edwards, and Richards would take a turn.

Margaret of Anjou, a real life Cersei

margaret vs cersei

As the Queen of Westeros and one of the leading Lannisters, Cersei is a serious force. In a world of villains, she steals the show with her catty remarks, unsubtle scheming, and, of course, her incestuous relationship with her twin, Jaime. The Lancasters had their own prominent female leader in Margaret of Anjou, a French noblewoman who married the Lancastrian king Henry VI. Well educated and possessing a fiery spirit, Margaret was a shrewd manipulator. Whereas Cersei was born a Lannister, Margaret assumed control of the Lancaster faction, stepping up to lead while her husband experienced a mental breakdown. When tensions between the ruling Lancasters and the Yorks erupted into open warfare, she led the former to early victories. Her success didn’t hold, however, and her forces were eventually defeated at the Battle of Tewkesbury, after which she was taken captive and Edward IV, a York, took the throne.

Margaret, like Cersei, is remembered as an aggressive and merciless leader, supposedly executing Yorkist prisoners over the objections of her husband. Whether or not these accounts were true, many later writers would cement her reputation. Shakespeare, in particular, casts her as a domineering wife and villain at the center of his Henry VI plays. While Cersei’s ultimate fate has yet to be revealed, Margaret of Anjou’s is well documented. Her son died at Tewkesbury and the Yorkists imprisoned her, eventually turning her over to her cousin, King Louis XI of France, in exchange for ransom. She supposedly lived her remaining years impoverished in France.

Cars

Volkswagen is planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car will head to the Nürburgring for a lap-record attempt. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car with the I.D. R.
Photography

With 5-stop optical stabilization, Fujifilm GF 100-200mm is ready for adventure

Fujifilm revealed a new lens designed to deliver on the GFX system's promise of adventure-ready medium-format photography. The GF 100-200mm F5.6 R is a weather resistant, relatively lightweight, 2x telephoto with impressive stabilization.
Movies & TV

From premiere date to footage: Here's all we have on 'Game of Thrones' season 8

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Deals

Best tax software deals from TurboTax, H&R Block, and more

Do you dread doing your taxes? Luckily for you, there are plenty of tax software options available to guide you through the process. And guess what? Some of them are even on sale today! Check out deals from TurboTax, H&R Block, and…
Movies & TV

Jason Reitman’s ‘Ghostbusters’ sequel already has a creepy teaser trailer

Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman, has secretly co-written a follow-up to the 1984 supernatural comedy. Filming begins this summer, but it's not clear if the original Ghostbusters will reprise their roles.
Movies & TV

Netflix recruits Steve Carell for the Trump-inspired comedy ‘Space Force’

Steve Carell, Netflix, and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels are teaming up for Space Force, a workplace comedy poking fun at the Trump White House's plans to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military.
Movies & TV

The ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ trailer has finally arrived

Lionsgate has released the first, full-length trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, the third installment of the action franchise that casts Keanu Reeves as the world's greatest assassin.
Home Theater

Cutting the cord? Let us help you find the best service for live TV streaming

There's a long list of live TV streaming services available to help you cut the cord and replace your traditional TV subscription. Each is different in important ways, and this guide will help you find the best one for you.
Movies & TV

New trailer for 'The Punisher' season 2 teases a bloody showdown

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Movies & TV

Here's everything we know about 'John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum'

John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum, the third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Home Theater

What’s new on Amazon Prime Video (February 2019)

Amazon Prime Video adds new titles each month that are available for free to all Prime members. Check out our list to find all the content hitting Amazon Prime Video in January and February, from new original series to classic films.
Gaming

For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Podcasts

New Spider-Man, Old Ghostbusters, John Wick, and 'Glass'

This week on Between the Streams, we'll be talking about the Netflix price rise, the first trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home, a new (and possibly very old) Ghostbusters movie, the latest from Netflix and Steve Carell, Glass, and more.
1 of 4