The Real Life Game of Thrones Part Two: War of the Roses
During the Late Medieval Period, a series of conflicts took place in England which were more destructive than the Hundred Years War had been in the previous century. One of the bloodiest civil wars in British history, it marked the end of of medieval England and ushered in the beginning of the Renaissance. Known as the “War of the Roses” it was ultimately a struggle to claim the throne between the families descended from Edward III and those descended from Henry IV. This real life, historical conflict serves as the basis for the book and television series, Game of Thrones .
The House of Lancaster/Lannister VS the House of York/Stark
The two houses in conflict with one another in the War of the Roses were the House of York and the House of Lancaster. In Game of Thrones , the House of Lancaster is thought to be the Lannisters while the House of York, the Starks. The war between the Starks and the Lannisters is similar to the Wars of the Roses between the English houses of Lancaster and York that took place between 1455 and 1487. Like the Starks the York were northerners, while the Lancasters, like the Lannisters, were from the south. Not only do the Lancasters and Lannisters share almost the same name, they also share an almost identical symbol: a Lion(s) on a red background. The names of the wars comes from the symbols associated with the two families; the white rose belonging to the Yorks and the red rose to the Lancasters. To this day, the historic counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire in northern England are associated with these colors.
The Death of a King and the Beginning of a War
The cause of the War or the Roses dates back to the reign of Edward III. Edward III died in 1377 A.D. and his eldest son, Edward, the Black Prince, died of the plague in 1376. Thus, his 10 year old grandson, Richard, became king, succeeding to the throne ahead of Edward’s three other surviving son’s.
Because Richard II was only ten years old, his uncle, John of Gaunt, ruled the country. In 1399 Richard’s uncle died and John of Gaunt's son, Henry, raised an army and took the throne as Henry IV. Richard was imprisoned and died in February 1400. This is when the Lancasters gained the throne. Henry managed to keep his place on the throne and when he died in 1413, his son, Henry V, succeeded without problem. Henry V died in 1422 and Henry VI became the only king to be crowned king of England and France. He was named king at nine months old and is believed to be the inspiration for Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones.
Marriage to a Strong Queen
Henry VI ended up marrying Margaret of Anjou of France where he frequently relinquished governance to her. It is also said he had frequent bouts of insanity and would not acknowledge the birth of his own son. Margaret of Anjou is believed to be the Cersei Lannister, queen to Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones and distrusted Richard of York most all. Richard of York had disagreements with Margaret of Anjou just like Ned Stark does with Cersi Lannister in Game of Thrones. Historians view her as a prime driver in the the Wars of the Roses, just as Cersei is seen as largely responsible for the War of the Five Kings.
- Battered remains of medieval knight who died in bloodiest battle of England go on display
- Rene of Anjou - the Littlefinger of the pre-Renaissance Game of Thrones
- Archaeologists believe they have found first ever skeleton of Battle of Hastings warrior
From a Distrustful Advisor to Protector of the Realm
Richard, Duke of York, fought in the Hundred Year's War in France and became protector of the Kingdom during Henry VI’s bouts of madness. He was King Henry’s close advisor, and loyal general. Richard and his followers blamed Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, for losing the Hundred Years War to the French and was eventually excluded from the court and transferred to Ireland. Later he would return with an army to reform the court but was unsuccessful in his grab for power.
This is similar to the scene in Game of Thrones when Ned Stark tries to take the throne from the boy king Joffrey. Henry VI would succumb to another bout of madness and Richard was named Protector of the Realm in 1453. However, the King would eventually recover his sanity, reverse Richard of York’s power grab whereby Richard was forced to gather his army and declare his right to rule. This led to the first open battle of the War of the Roses: the First Battle of St. Albans (1455).