'Game of Thrones': The real-life history that inspired the show

It’s no secret that many of the scenarios and characters in Game of Thrones are inspired by real historical events and figures.

George R.R. Martin, author of the series, once claimed: “No matter how much I make up, there’s stuff in history that’s just as bad, or worse.”

So before you start blaming him for some of the awful goings-on in previous GoT series or wondering how he came up with some of the complex characters or their even more complicated storylines, here are a few of the big ones and their historical equivalents.

The Red Wedding: The Glencoe Massacre

Pretty much one of the biggest shockers so far, even season three’s Red Wedding has its own parallel in Scottish history – two in fact. It’s said that Walder Frey’s brutal slaying of the Starks at the wedding of Rosalind Frey and Edmure Tully was inspired by both the Black Dinner in 1440 and the Glencoe Massacre of 1692.

In the former, the king of Scotland guaranteed the safety of the Earl of Douglas as he welcomed him into his home for a meal. After dinner the Earl was served the head of a black boar on a plate, the symbol of death, then put to death in the courtyard.

In the second ‘inspiration’ for the massacre, in 1692 38 members of Clan MacDonald – who had offered shelter to members of Clan Campbell – were massacred as they slept. It was considered particularly ruthless as it was known as ‘Slaughter Under Trust’ – not dissimilar to Walder Frey’s attack on the Starks.

The Sparrows and Protestant Reformation

In much the same way Martin Luther and his supporters decided the Catholic Church was too focused on opulence and riches, the High Sparrow and his Sparrows decided the Westeros Church has lost its way.

They preach poverty and humility and often not in a particularly friendly way (remember Cersei’s humiliating naked walk?) and while it might not be an exact copy, their drive to do away with riches and material wealth is rather reminiscent of the Protestant Reformation.

The Wall: Hadrian’s Wall

If you look at a map of Westeros and one of the UK, you’ll see that ‘The Wall’ is pretty much in the same place as Hadrian’s Wall.

George RR Martin apparently visited the remains of the wall that divided the Romans from Scottish Barbarians, saying: “I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a Roman soldier… to gaze off into the distance, not knowing what might emerge from the forest.”

Stark v Lannister: The War of the Roses

The whole Stark vs Lannister rivalry is inspired by the Wars of the Roses, the fearsome battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster for England’s Throne.

The clue, you could say, is in the names, with the Lancasters the obvious inspiration for the wealthy Lannister family, while the northern Starks are much more akin to their ‘York’ inspiration.

The Night’s Watch: The Knights Templar

As the medieval Knights Templar protected pilgrims to Jerusalem, the Night’s Watch protects the realm from wildlings and white walkers.

While Jon Snow might not be the best example, traditionally the Night’s Watch are a chaste brotherhood, not unlike the Knights Templar who took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Daenerys Targaryan: Henry Tudor

So Daenerys has spent most of her life living across the “narrow sea” getting strong and ready to take back the Iron Throne. Not too dissimilar to Henry Tudor – an exiled nobleman who spent most of his life in France planning his invasion of Britain.

They might not look the same, but their stories are certainly similar. So far……. We might know Henry’s fate, but we have yet to find out whether Daenerys is successful in her battle to claim the Seven Kingdoms.

Battle of the Bastards: The ‘Battle of Cannae’/American civil war

It was probably one of the most impressive battle scenes we’d seen so far in GoT, but the Battle of the Bastards wasn’t just dreamed up – it took inspiration from two real-life battles at very different historical times.

One was right back in Roman times with the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC, where Hannibal’s army of Carthage defeated a much larger Roman army by encircling it and slaughtering the men trapped inside.

The Battle of the Bastards also harked back to accounts from the American Civil War, where men described incredibly tight spaces piled so thick that it was almost an obstruction in itself.

Cersei Lannister and Anne Boleyn

Cersei Lannister’s relationship with brother Jamie has fascinated GoT fans (and yes, made them squirm) since that first scene back in the tower in series 1.

It’s their incestuous relationship that brings the parallel with Anne Boleyn, who was accused of sleeping with her brother George – one of the reasons behind her beheading.

(Photos: Rex/HBO/Sky)